DECEMBER 26 – JANUARY 2
Lending Tree Bowl (12/26)
Western Kentucky (5-6) vs Georgia State (5-4)
Georgia State -4 / 55.5
The Lending Tree Bowl features a matchup of two teams coming off multiple wins. Western Kentucky has won their last 3, while Georgia State is coming off back-to-back wins. These teams met back in the 2017 Cure Bowl, with Georgia State winning the game 27-17. I look for a similar result, as Georgia State’s superior ability to move the ball will be too much for Western Kentucky to keep up with.
Georgia State 27
Western Kentucky 21
First Responder Bowl (12/26)
#19 Louisiana (9-1) vs UTSA (7-4)
Louisiana -12.5 / 60
Louisiana may have lucked out with the Sun Belt Conference championship game being canceled. They were named co-champion with Coastal Carolina, a team that the Ragin’ Cajuns lost to in the regular season. They will meet a UTSA team currently on a 3-game win streak. I believe Louisiana will be able to end that streak in the First Responder Bowl.
Cure Bowl (12/26)
#12 Coastal Carolina (11-0) vs Liberty (9-1)
Coastal Carolina -6 / 60
There is no doubt that this bowl game is a disappointment for the Chanticleers. After an undefeated season, not only were they denied an NY6 bowl, but they were also denied the chance to prove their mettle against a P5 opponent in a bowl game. Instead, they will face the Liberty Flames, a team they were slated to meet in the regular season. That game was canceled due to COVID-19. I don’t mean to knock Liberty; they are a quality opponent who is looking to end an impressive season with a win. However, Coastal was surely looking for a bigger stage to make a statement. Instead, they will try to make that statement against Liberty, though the same fire that would come with a P5 opponent may not be there with the Chanticleers.
Coastal Carolina 38
Cheez-It Bowl (12/29)
#18 Miami (8-2) vs #21 Oklahoma State (7-3)
Oklahoma State -3 / 58
Oklahoma State will need to find another source of offense as RB Chuba Hubbard will be sitting out of the Cheez-It Bowl to prepare for the NFL Draft. This puts a little more pressure on QB Spencer Sanders against a Miami team with a stout pass rush. The same could be said for Miami QB D’Eriq King, as Oklahoma State is averaging over 3 sacks per game. Luckily for both teams, their QB’s are mobile. Especially King, who was in the top 10 in Heisman odds just six weeks ago. This appears to be a close game on paper, but I believe Miami has the edge talent-wise.
Oklahoma State 27
Alamo Bowl (12/29)
#20 Texas (6-3) vs Colorado (4-1)
Texas -12.5 / 62.5
The Longhorns sideline will be littered with holes, as they have had multiple opt-outs. Luckily QB Sam Ehlinger was not one of them. They have had 4 players opt out on defense, which may make the task of slowing down Colorado RB Jarek Broussard. Texas should have no problem getting up for this game. This is Ehlinger’s final start as a Longhorn, and with head coach Tom Herman’s job security being questioned over the past couple weeks, you can bet that they will want to make a statement here in the Alamo Bowl.
Duke’s Mayo Bowl (12/30)
Wake Forest (4-4) vs Wisconsin (3-3)
Wisconsin -6.5 / 53
What started out with so much promise has been turning into ash for Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz. After he burst onto the scene with big wins against Illinois & Michigan, he has gone 1-3 in the Badgers last 4 games. He will now try to end his first season as the Wisconsin starter on a positive note against Wake Forest. We may get to see that high-level play again as Wake Forest has one of the worst pass defenses in the nation.
Wake Forest 24
Music City Bowl (12/30)
#15 Iowa (6-2) vs Missouri (5-5)
Iowa -15 / 50
Iowa is looking to cap off this season with a 7th consecutive victory after starting the year 0-2. To do so they will have to slow down a Missouri team who is putting up over 400 yards per game. The good news for Iowa is that Missouri is trending in the wrong direction. The Tigers have lost 2 straight. While they will be without LB Nick Bolton, the good news for Missouri is that they are starting to get healthy again in time for this game. I don’t think it will be enough, however, as the Hawkeyes are flying high.
Cotton Bowl (12/30)
#7 Florida (8-3) vs #6 Oklahoma (8-2)
Florida -2.5 / 68.5
The Cotton Bowl features a matchup between two high-scoring teams with prolific passing attacks. Florida QB Kyle Trask will try to outdo his Oklahoma counterpart Spencer Rattler. These teams are currently trending in the opposite direction. Florida is coming off two disappointing losses, while Oklahoma has won 7 straight after beginning the year 1-2. These teams match up very evenly on paper, but I have to go with Florida’s experience when it comes to determining who may have the upper hand.
Armed Forces Bowl (12/31)
#24 Tulsa (6-2) vs Mississippi State (3-7)
Tulsa -3 / 50
Tulsa suffered a tough loss in the rain soaked AAC Championship Game. They will have a chance to bounce back and secure a victory over an SEC team in the Armed Forces Bowl. It’s odd to see a G5 team favored over an SEC opponent. However, that is what happens when the opponent is 3-7. Despite posting over twice as many losses than wins, Mississippi State was given the nod for a bowl bid due to the need to fill slots thanks to COVID-19. I believe that Mike Leach’s squad will make the most of this opportunity and come out the victor by way of Leach’s signature air-raid attack.
Mississippi State 31
Arizona Bowl (12/31)
#22 San Jose State (7-0) vs Ball State (6-1)
San Jose State -7 / 62
The Arizona Bowl comes with some extra intrigue this year, as it features two G5 conference champions. Mountain West champion San Jose State will look to best Ball State, who upset Buffalo in the MAC championship. Ball State may have a tougher time moving the ball than they do in the MAC, against a stingy San Jose State defense.
San Jose State 34
Ball State 24
Liberty Bowl (12/31)
West Virginia (5-4) vs Army (9-2)
West Virginia -9 / 44
Justice was done for Army when Tennessee dropped out of this game against WVU. Prior to the Vols opting out, Army was without a bowl bid, despite posting a 9-2 record. Army’s singular offensive attack rushing the football may not bode well for them against the Mountaineers. Despite playing in the Big 12, a conference with a reputation of big offensive numbers, WVU is only allowing 308.6 yards per game, good for 9th best in the nation.
West Virginia 28
Texas Bowl (12/31)
Arkansas (3-7) vs TCU (6-4)
TCU -5.5 / 58
The Texas Bowl features another sub-.500 SEC team who lucked out with a bowl bid. Arkansas got the nod to take on TCU despite their 3-7 record. This unique season gives Razorbacks coach Sam Pittman an opportunity to win a bowl game in his first year at the helm of the program. To do so they will need to slow down TCU’s run game which has been coming on as of late. Luckily for Arkansas, they should be up for the task as LB Zack Morgan posted 111 tackles in only 9 games. This should be the matchup to watch.
Peach Bowl (1/1)
#8 Cincinnati (9-0) vs #9 Georgia (7-2)
Georgia -7.5 / 50.5
Georgia will remain in their home state for their bowl matchup against Cincinnati. There is no doubt that this is a statement game for the undefeated Bearcats, who felt they deserved a playoff berth after their perfect regular season and conference championship. They will try to take advantage of a Georgia team who may be a bit short handed due to players opting out. The key to doing that will be their ability to continue running the ball well. I am skeptical as to whether they will be able to do that against an SEC defense who allows only 69.3 rush yards per game, 4th best in the country. On top of that, Georgia has found some additional offense in USC transfer QB JT Daniels.
Citrus Bowl (1/1)
#14 Northwestern (6-2) vs Auburn (6-4)
Northwestern -4 / 43.5
Auburn will be entering this game with plenty of distractions. The Tigers fired coach Gus Malzahn on December 13th. What ensued was strange. Auburn appointed DC Kevin Steele to the interim position, and many thought his “interim” title would be promptly removed, as Steele wanted the job and had backers. Auburn AD Allen Greene did not agree with this plan, however, as he created a search committee for a new coach. The Steele camp still believed he would wind up with the gig, but the committee slowly lost interest in the idea due to complaints from fans and boosters. The situation became even more twisted when reports came out that Bill Clark and Steve Sarkisian took their names out of the running and that Louisiana coach Billy Napier turned the job down. This put a dark cloud over The Plains. This spectacle ended when Auburn hired Boise State coach Bryan Harsin. This chaos can in no way be good for Auburn who takes on a fierce Northwestern defense. This may be evident on the field in the Citrus Bowl.
Rose Bowl – CFP SEMIFINAL #1 (1/1)
#1 Alabama (11-0) vs #4 Notre Dame (10-1)
Alabama -19.5 / 67
The Rose Bowl was already going to feel hollow this season without a stadium full of fans taking in the College Football Playoff semifinal game between Alabama & Notre Dame. Now it won’t even be recognizable as it has been moved to Arlington, Texas in order to allow a limited capacity. Notre Dame comes into this game with a chip on their shoulder after they got humiliated by Clemson in the ACC title game. However, they now face an arguably tougher opponent in Alabama. The Crimson Tide’s offense is rolling with the trio of QB Mac Jones, RB Najee Harris & WR Devonta Smith. Jones & Smith are both Heisman hopefuls, while Harris is at the top of most RB draft boards. I expect Notre Dame to put in a much better effort than they did against Clemson, but it just won’t be enough against the top-ranked team in the nation.
Notre Dame 20
Sugar Bowl – CFP SEMIFINAL #2 (1/1)
#2 Clemson (10-1) vs #3 Ohio State (6-0)
Clemson -8.5 / 64.5
Is it just me or is Clemson vs Ohio State starting to become a little bit of a rivalry game? I suppose that is what happens when two teams meet each other in the postseason 4 times in a span of 7 years, especially when 3 of those games are playoff games. The fact that Clemson won all 3 of their meetings since 2014 surely has Buckeyes fans feeling a little bitter. The fact that QB’s Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields are playing each other for a 2nd consecutive year definitely adds a bit of intensity – especially for Fields, as he fell to Lawrence’s Tigers 29-23 a year ago. I believe this year will be different. I believe Fields has more to prove in this game than almost any other player in the nation, and I will tell you why. It almost feels odd to say this because Justin Fields is such a phenomenal player, but he is currently in Lawrence’s shadow. He has been for a long time, actually. Fields lost the head-to-head last season. These two QB’s are 1-2 on the draft boards, with Lawrence almost unanimously being ranked ahead of Fields. Lawrence has a National Championship. Fields does not. Believe it or not, it goes deeper than college. These two were in the same recruiting class, playing merely 20 miles apart in Georgia. Their high school recruiting rankings? 1-2. Who was rated higher across almost every platform? You guessed it. Lawrence. It feels like Fields has been playing second fiddle to Lawrence for ages. This will be his last chance to top his longtime adversary before they go pro. I expect him to leave it all on the field when they meet in the Sugar Bowl. Also, as if that isn’t enough motivation, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney recently stated that Ohio State is only the 11th best team in the country. That should get the Buckeyes fired up.
Ohio State 34
Taxslayer Bowl (1/2)
#23 NC State (8-3) vs Kentucky (4-6)
Kentucky -2.5 / 52
NC State’s season seems to be overlooked by many. They quietly put together a solid 8-win season. They will try to slow down Kentucky’s run game, which has been the only successful aspect of their offense this season. This should make for an easy week of preparations, though that may not transfer to the field necessarily, as the Wolfpack defense has been anything but strong. However, NC State is still on the rise and I believe they will find a way to get it done with their passing attack.
NC State 31
Outback Bowl (1/2)
#11 Indiana (6-1) vs Mississippi (4-5)
Indiana -6.5 / 66.5
The Hoosiers will be playing January football for a 2nd straight year when they take on Mississippi in the Outback Bowl. Neither of these teams have had much trouble finding scoring. Unfortunately for Lane Kiffin’s Rebels, they have not had much luck stopping the other team from scoring. I believe this will give Indiana a competitive edge, as their defense is a quality group.
Fiesta Bowl (1/2)
#10 Iowa State (8-3) vs #25 Oregon (4-2)
Iowa State -4.5 / 57.5
Oregon took complete advantage of Washington dropping out of the PAC-12 Championship. The Ducks took their place, promptly disposed of USC, and now find themselves in an NY6 bowl. They will take on Iowa State in the Fiesta Bowl. Led by young QB Tyler Shough, Oregon will be tasked with stopping the Cyclone duo of QB Brock Purdy & RB Breece Hall. Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeux will be crucial for Oregon if they wish to limit Iowa State’s scoring. The former #2 overall recruit according to 247Sports composite rankings, is coming off a performance that won him MVP honors in the PAC-12 Championship. He will have a tough time, as Purdy can run the ball as well as sling it. I believe Purdy will (presumably) end his Iowa State career with a win in this prestigious bowl game.
Iowa State 27
Orange Bowl (1/2)
#5 Texas A&M (8-1) vs #13 North Carolina (8-3)
Texas A&M -6 / 68
Both of these teams may come into this game a little deflated. Texas A&M is coming off the Selection Committee’s disappointing decision to go with Notre Dame for the final playoff berth over the Aggies. Meanwhile the Tar Heels will have to replace a few starters including RB Michael Carter. The key to victory for the Tar Heels will be run defense, a category that they have struggled in this season. I look for QB’s Kellen Mond & Sam Howell to both put up numbers, with Texas A&M edging out the Tar Heels.