They say the holidays are a time for giving but lately it must be obvious I’m not in the holiday spirit since I’m not giving you any winners. The picks last week were brutal but I’m not going to stop trying. Another 14 bowl games are on tap this week so I went back to the lab and this is what I came up with
Last week bowl games ATS: 3-11 (1-8 National, 2-3 B1G)
Overall bowl games ATS: 9-15 (7-12 National, 2-3 B1G)
Season ATS: 95-110-1 (47-51-1 National, 48-58 B1G)
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl: #9 Mississippi v. #6 TCU (-3.5) – 12/31 12:30 PM EST – ESPN
TCU heads to Atlanta to play in the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Eve, but you have to think they feel like they should be playing in one of the College Football Playoff semifinals on New Year’s Day. Only a 61-58 loss to Baylor, where the Horned Frogs had a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter, kept TCU from playing in either the Rose or Sugar Bowl this year. TCU’s offense found the endzone early and often this year, scoring at least 30 points in every game this season, and 82 points against Texas Tech in the middle of the year. Trevone Boykin had an outstanding year for the Horned Frogs, throwing for 3,714 yards and 30 touchdowns and adding another 642 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.
Aside from trying to gauge TCU’s motivation level for this game, the other question is can TCU’s offense find success against the Ole Miss defense? The Rebels were tops in the country in scoring defense, only allowing opponents 13.8 points per game this year. Earlier in the season Ole Miss had their eyes on the College Football Playoff semifinals as well, but close losses to LSU and Auburn ended any of those hopes. Since then the Rebels have been decimated by injuries, and will be without stars such as LaQuon Treadwell and Denzel Nkmediche for this matchup.
Even with the disappointment TCU has to be feeling with missing out on the playoff, I think Gary Patterson gets his team up to play this game. While Ole Miss have had defensive success this year, I think TCU doesn’t struggle as much as some of the opponents of the Rebels have this season. It could be close for a bit, but I think TCU puts some distance on Ole Miss via a couple Bo Wallace turnovers.
TCU 37 Mississippi 27
Vizio Fiesta Bowl: #20 Boise State v. #10 Arizona (-3.5) – 12/31 4:00 PM EST – ESPN
Arizona doesn’t have too far to travel to get to the Fiesta Bowl, but Boise State is pretty familiar with playing in the Fiesta Bowl. The Broncos won the Fiesta Bowl back in 2006 and 2009 and they’ll be looking to add another to their trophy case this year. Bryan Harsin had a productive first year back in Boise, leading the Broncos to a 11-2 record and the “Group of 5” bowl bid. A major reason the Broncos are heading to Glendale is because of the legs of Jay Ajayi, who rushed for 1,689 yards and 25 touchdowns this year.
How sweet must this year have been for Rich Rodriguez? While his former employer didn’t even make a bowl, and had to go looking for a new coach, Rodriguez was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year. The Wildcats won their first five games, including going into Eugene and upsetting Oregon, before struggling a bit in the middle of the season. Arizona rebounded before Oregon got some revenge against them in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Anu Solomon showed the future is bright at quarterback for Arizona, throwing for 3,458 yards and 27 touchdowns.
Arizona may look strong in the near future, but I don’t know if I like them that much to beat Boise State today. Even with Scooby Wright doing everything on defense for the Wildcats, Arizona had their issues on defense this year. I think Ajayi and quarterback Grant Hedrick will do enough to help the Broncos find glory in Glendale for a third time.
Boise State 34 Arizona 27
Capital One Orange Bowl: #7 Mississippi State (-7) v. #12 Georgia Tech – 12/31 8:00 PM EST – ESPN
Mississippi State may have fallen just a bit short of the College Football Playoff, but Dan Mullen and the rest of the Bulldogs should be proud of their efforts this year. This marks the third time Mississippi State has played in the Orange Bowl, but the first time since 1941 when they defeated Georgetown. The major reason why Mississippi State won their first nine games of the year was because of quarterback Dak Prescott. The junior quarterback accounted for 3,935 total yards and 37 total touchdowns on the season.
Georgia Tech was almost to do a number of college football teams around the country a favor on December 6th when they took Florida State to the brink and dropped a 37-35 decision to the Seminoles in the ACC Championship Game. When many think about Georgia Tech the first thing that comes to mind is the triple-option, but Justin Thomas can throw it a bit. The Tech passing attack did take a hit when they lost DeAndre Smelter to a torn ACL against Georgia.
The Bulldogs looked like they wore down a little bit as the season went on, but these couple weeks off should’ve given them some time to recover. The bigger issue is how will the loss of defensive coordinator Geoff Collins to Florida affect Mississippi State? Even with the loss though, and the time to prepare, I think Dan Mullen’s team caps off the big year with a nice win.
Mississippi State 38 Georgia Tech 24
Outback Bowl: #19 Auburn (-6.5) v. #18 Wisconsin – 1/1 12:00 PM EST – ESPN2
Both these teams will try and put rough ends to the season behind them when they square off it Tampa in the Outback Bowl. Auburn lost three of their last four games, with the only win coming against Samford. The good news is the Tigers still have Nick Marshall and Cameron Artis-Payne to try and put on some points against a Wisconsin defense that was just demolished by Ohio State. Marshall threw for a career-high 458 yards against Alabama in the Iron Bowl, as Auburn couldn’t keep pace with the Crimson Tide.
Not only was the loss to Ohio State devastating enough for Wisconsin, but things got even worse for the Badgers when Gary Andersen announced he was going to take the head coaching job at Oregon State. That means Barry Alvarez will dust off his interim head coach tag to lead Wisconsin before he makes way for Paul Chryst next year. Melvin Gordon will try to rebound from getting bottled up by the Buckeyes, and add to the 2,336 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns he accumulated during the season.
Even with how dominate the Wisconsin defense was for most of the year, the Ohio State game could’ve exposed some holes that Auburn has the talent to take advantage of. The Tigers run a similar up-tempo read-option offense, which caused Wisconsin fits. If Wisconsin gets behind they might not be able to dig out of the hole with the lack of a passing game. It may not be a 59-0 result, but I think Auburn at least covers the number in this one.
Auburn 31 Wisconsin 21
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: #8 Michigan State v. #5 Baylor (-3) – 1/1 12:30 PM EST – ESPN
Much like TCU, Baylor comes into their bowl game this year feeling like they got snubbed in missing out on the College Football Playoff. The bad news for Baylor is they have to take on a very good Michigan State team whose only two losses on the season came to teams that will be participating in the playoff. The Spartans have to be wondering if they might be the ones that grabbed the playoff’s fourth spot had they took care of business against the Buckeyes in East Lansing in early November. While many years under Mark D’Antonio the defense took the spotlight for the Spartans, this year it was the offense that was the brighter star. Jeremy Langford against ran for over 1,000 yards and Connor Cook threw for 22 touchdowns and 2,900 yards. The Spartan defense is still very tough to crack, so Baylor might not get things so easy in this matchup.
Baylor beat TCU in Waco but followed that up with a loss to West Virginia in Morgantown, which ended up being what kept them out of the playoff. Still the Bears have the top scoring offense in the country, averaging 48.8 points per game. It remains to be seen how the Bears will respond now that offensive coordinator Phillip Montgomery took the head coaching job at Tulsa. Art Briles’ son Kendal will move from passing-game coordinator and take over the play-calling duties. The younger Briles will have the luxury of having not only Bryce Petty, but also Shock Linwood at his disposal when trying to put up points against Michigan State.
This game could be one of the more exciting non-playoff games considering how good both teams are at putting points on the board. The one thing that worries me about taking Baylor in this one is how bad the Big 12 has looked in the early bowl games this year. I’ll stick with a little bit of conference solidarity here and take Michigan State to win their second bowl game in as many years.
Michigan State 41 Baylor 34
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: #16 Missouri (-5) v. #25 Minnesota – 1/1 1:00 PM EST – ABC
The SEC must be feeling like they got a steal with the addition of Missouri three years ago. In the last two seasons Missouri has made consecutive appearances to the SEC Championship Game, and while they lost both of them they have been exceeding expectations. Before losing to Alabama in Atlanta, Missouri had won six games in a row after getting throttled by Georgia in Columbia. Maty Mauk and Bud Sasser have proved to be a potent combination for the Missouri offense, but the real star for Missouri is defensive end Shane Ray, who has 14 sacks and 21 tackles-for-loss on the season.
If Minnesota is able to take down Missouri, they could cap off one of the best seasons in school history. A win in Orlando would give Minnesota only their second nine-win season in 109 years. Just Minnesota playing in a January bowl is an achievement for the program, since the last time they did so was in 1962 when they took on UCLA in the Rose Bowl. The offense of the Golden Gophers isn’t always pretty, especially in the passing game, but David Cobb has been the work horse, rushing for 1,545 yards and 13 touchdowns on the season.
During their win streak late in the season, Missouri made a habit of winning tight games, with their last five wins coming by 10 points or less. With that and Minnesota hoping to finish off such a good season for Jerry Kill I think the Golden Gophers keep it close, but don’t have quite enough offense to earn the victory.
Missouri 27 Minnesota 24
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Houston v. Pittsburgh (-3) – 1/2 12:00 PM EST – ESPN
Since most of us will probably be hungover from all the playoff footballin’ on Thursday night, I’ll keep this short. This would be fun if this game featured Tom Herman against Pat Narduzzi, but both Houston and Pitt will feature interim coaches in this bowl. Houston didn’t quite have the high-powered offense that we’ve become accustomed to after Greg Ward Jr replaced John O’Korn in October. Pitt does have James Conner who ran for 1,675 yards and 24 touchdowns. When Pitt’s not running Tyler Boyd has been money through the air, becoming the second player in ACC history to surpass 1,000 yards receiving in his freshman and sophomore years. Pitt has a little too much for Houston to handle in this one.
Pitt 28 Houston 17
Taxslayer Bowl: Iowa v. Tennessee (-3.5) – 1/2 3:30 PM EST – ESPN
Tennessee is back…..well in a bowl game at least. This marks the first time since 2010 the Volunteers have reached bowl eligibility. Justin Worley went down to injury during the year so Joshua Dobbs takes the snaps for Butch Jones’ team in the bowl game. Kevonte Martin-Manley needs just three receptions to become Iowa’s all-time leader in catches. The Hawkeyes lost their last two games by a combined five points and their only loss of the season by more than seven points came against Minnesota. The Volunteers are on the right track, but Iowa is just a little more battle-tested when it comes to bowl games. I’ll take the points in what should be a physical battle.
Iowa 23 Tennessee 20
Valero Alamo Bowl: #11 Kansas State v. #14 UCLA (-1.5) – 1/2 6:45 PM EST – ESPN
Aside from the College Football Playoff Championship Game, the Alamo Bowl is the best bowl that’ll be played after New Year’s Day. UCLA gets back on the field since they were blown out by Stanford 31-10 the day after Thanksgiving. Brett Hundley will be playing his final game for the Bruins and is just one of two quarterbacks in the country to complete 70% of his passes, throw at least 20 touchdowns, and no more than five interceptions. Paul Perkins provides some tough running for the Bruins with 1,378 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground.
Sure Kansas State lost to Auburn, TCU, and Baylor but how can you not love Bill Snyder? Somehow he just keeps winning football games and I hope he coaches for as long as possible. His football team isn’t too shabby to watch either. Tyler Lockett caught 93 passes for 1,351 and the Wildcat defense is underrated. I’m wondering if Hundley and the rest of the Bruins have checked out on the season while I have a feeling the Wildcats will put up a big effort for Snyder.
Kansas State 35 UCLA 30
TicketCity Cactus Bowl: Washington v. Oklahoma State (-6) – 1/2 10:15 PM EST – ESPN
Why is this bowl? I know this sounds impossible but by the time this bowl is played I might just be sick of college football. If you are excited about this bowl you might just need to go outside for a while. Shaq Thompson is about the only reason to watch this game, so for that I’ll take Washington to win by double-digits.
Washington 31 Oklahoma State 20
Birmingham Bowl: East Carolina v. Florida (-6.5) – 1/3 12:00 PM EST – ESPN
Another slopfest of a bowl game. I can’t tell what’s going to be the worse football game on Saturday, this one or the Arizona/Carolina NFL playoff game. Early in the year I thought East Carolina might be a pretty good team after they played South Carolina tough and beat Virginia Tech, but as the weeks went on I thought less and less of them. Watching Florida football should be illegal right now. They lost by 29 to Missouri earlier this year despite holding the Tigers to like four yards of total offense. The defense of the Gators is really good, but their offense is putrid, which is why I’m going to take Shane Carden and the Pirates to hang around.
Florida 28 East Carolina 24
GoDaddy Bowl: Toledo (-3.5) v. Arkansas State – 1/4 9:00 PM EST – ESPN
Arkansas State will be playing in their 38th consecutive GoDaddy Bowl. I think Toledo is the better team, but Arkansas State has won three straight GoDaddy Bowls. I’ll take the points and keep this short because I really have no idea in this matchup. I’ll keep my “better” analysis for the College Football Playoff games.
Arkansas State 38 Toledo 31
College Football Playoff Games:
Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual: #2 Oregon (-7.5) v. #3 Florida State – 1/1 5:00 PM EST – ESPN
What a matchup that is on tap for the first ever College Football Playoff semifinal game. The last two Heisman Trophy winners will square off. 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota was a run-away winner in the voting and it’s easy to see why. Mariota put up Playstation numbers this year, throwing 38 touchdowns passes and running for another 14 touchdowns as Oregon won all but one of their games this year, and most of those wins weren’t close at all. Mariota has a wealthy of receivers to pass the ball to, most notably former running back Byron Marshall. Marshall moved to receiver after the emergence of Royce Freeman who ran for 1,299 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Oregon defense hasn’t always been sharp this year, but when they have an offense like they have supporting them you don’t always need to be.
2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston wasn’t nearly as sharp this year, but the Seminoles kept finding a way to win games that it looked like they were going to lose. Florida State has now accumulated 29 straight wins, and they’ll be looking to hit 30 wins in a row to make the playoff final. Winston may have thrown 17 interceptions this season, but he won’t have to deal with Oregon’s All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who won’t play in the game due to a knee injury. With the loss of Ekpre-Olomu, Rashad Greene should benefit and be able to build on the 93 catches and 1,306 yards he amassed during the season.
It seems easy to take Oregon in this game, but Florida State just keeps winning and it’s hard to go against that. The knee injury to Epkre-Olomu has pushed me into taking Florida State with the points and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if they pulled the “upset”, but is it really an upset when you have won 29 straight games. I like how Florida State should be able to exploit the passing game with Greene and O’Leary. Dalvin Cook looks like he has tons of talent too and could be the deciding factor in the game. I’ll go against the grain and call the upset here and even if it doesn’t come to pass at least I still think it’s a tight game.
Florida State 41 Oregon 38
Allstate Sugar Bowl: #1 Alabama (-9) v. #4 Ohio State – 1/1 8:30 PM EST – ESPN
Now for the main event that everybody came here for. Nick Saban against Urban Meyer with a spot in the College Football Playoff Championship Game on the line. It doesn’t get any bigger than that. Alabama comes in coming off a 42-13 thrashing of Missouri in the SEC Championship Game. After a couple of down games earlier in the season where the Crimson Tide lost to Mississippi and was nearly upset by Arkansas, Alabama has regained their form and looks to be operating at full power right now. Amari Cooper is a beast and the Buckeyes will have to be on top of their game if they want to slow Cooper down. The Alabama defense is even scarier, especially when considering they’ll be going against a quarterback who’ll only be making his second career college start.
While Cardale Jones may only be making his second start for the Buckeyes but he has all the tools to succeed. The redshirt sophomore has great size for a quarterback and can keep defenses honest not only with his ability to run but also with his cannon-like arm. The good news for Jones is he has some help on the offensive side of the ball, with Ezekiel Elliott seemingly getting better as the year goes on, and Curtis Samuel also improving on a weekly basis. Joey Bosa and Michael Bennett lead a Buckeye defensive line that is probably the best Alabama has seen all year long. The combination puts pressure on quarterbacks that has helped to not only force fumbles during the year, but has also made opposing quarterbacks make some bad decisions which has resulted in Ohio State picking off 21 passes this season.
My heart wants to call a Ohio State upset in this one but I think they’ll come up just short in this one. Urban Meyer with this much time to prepare for this game will put together a gameplan that will give his team an incredible shot to win the game but I just think the Buckeyes might be a little too young to pull this game out. While they don’t win, Ohio State covers the number and sets the table for what will hopefully be a deeper run into the College Football Playoff next season.
Alabama 34 Ohio State 31
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