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Carges College Primer: Bowl Bonanza

Bowl season is just around the corner in college football, and Pete has you covered with the best games to watch

December 15, 2017 - 11:59 am

Pete Carges

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No I’m not talking about presents and carols; I’m talking about MAC and Mountain West schools duking it out on a blue turf field on a Tuesday afternoon.

That’s right, it’s Bowl Season! That magical month stretch where teams you don’t care about play in places you’ve never heard of. Student Athletes of the gridiron locking horns for gift baskets full of beats headphones and Dave and Busters gift cards. I’m here to be your tour guide on this roller coaster of college football the next month, giving you hard hitting analysis and my best bet on ALL 41 Bowl games.

I know the Primer has been lacking over the past few weeks. Hand up, my bad on that. But I have fed you some serious winners this season and I intend to keep that stretch going.

If my calculations are correct (there’s no way they are), my picks are teetering on the .500 range at 26-24-2. The upsets have been my calling this season, nailing five outright winners, and seven of 13 overall. Stick with me for these Bowl matchups, its’s going to get wild and you’re going to definitely want to be a part of it.


2017 Bowl Schedule (lines subject to change)

  • R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Matchup: Troy (10-2) vs. North Texas (9-4) - 12-16 at 1 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to Watch: Marcus Jones - CB/KR - Troy

The first bowl matchup of the year should actually be an entertaining one as the Sun Belt Champs from Troy take on the Conference USA runners up in North Texas.

You might remember Troy as being the last team (not named Alabama) to beat LSU way back in October. North Texas meanwhile, got walloped by Lane Kiffin and FAU in the C-USA championship game two weeks ago.

Both of these teams can score, so the over is tempting, but I like Troy laying the 6.5, though I’d be weary if it hops to seven.

BEST BET: Troy (-6.5)


  • Autonation Cure Bowl

Matchup: Western Kentucky (6-6) vs. Georgia State (6-5) - 12-16 at 2:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
Player to watch: Penny Hart - WR - Georgia State

Here we go, in another battle of titans from the Sun Belt and Conference USA; we’ve got your classic 6-6 vs 6-5 Bowl game NOT on CBS, but rather on CBSSN. This one is assuredly bound to shape the national landscape of college football.

I’m going with the Panthers here though, as it’s tough for me to back a favorite that comes into a bowl game at .500 on the season. Georgia State may only be 6-5 because a game got canceled due to hurricanes, but nonetheless, it’s the AutoNation Cure Bowl, drink it in.

BEST BET: Georgia State (+6.5)


  • Las Vegas Bowl

Matchup: 25 - Boise State (10-3) vs. Oregon (7-5) - 12-16 at 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
Player to watch: Justin Herbert - QB - Oregon

Well what do we have here? Two west coast college football staples on the first day of Bowl Season? Sign me up.

These two teams haven’t met since LeGarrette Blount cold cocked that Boise State defensive end in the face after a Thursday night loss, and you better believe that film is on repeat in the Broncos locker room.

Keep your eye on Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, who went 6-1 as a starter this year and will be on the short list for the Heisman next season. Oregon scored a billion points in their last game, while Boise State's defense locked it down in the Mountain West championship. The fellas of the smurf turf usually show up big for bowl games, but I’m not sure they can win this one.

BEST BET: The UNDER (59.5)


  • Gildan New Mexico Bowl 

Matchup: Marshall (7-5) vs. Colorado State (7-5) - 12-16 at 4:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to Watch: Michael Gallup - WR - Colorado State

Who wins in a fight between a Thundering Herd and a Ram? The Thundering Herd right? What if that Ram played Alabama and covered the spread early in the season and that is my only recollection or information on either of these teams? You go with the Ram.

BEST BET: Colorado State (-5)


  • Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

Matchup: Middle Tennessee State (6-6) vs. Arkansas State (7-4) - 12-16 at 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to watch: Justice Hansen - QB - Arkansas State

Just when you thought we were done, we get treated to a third helping of C-USA vs. #FunBelt football on opening Bowl Saturday.

A hat trick of mediocre football, with yet another 6-6 team gracing our presence. This one could be the most fun though, with the highest O/U total of the day, and points assuredly flying off the board left and right.

It’s a patriotic mascot battle as the Red Wolves take on the Blue Raiders, but the white lightning captured in this matchup will be on the scoreboard.

BEST BET: The OVER (62.5)


  • Cheribundi Tart  Cherry Boca Raton Bowl

Matchup: Akron (7-6) vs. Florida Atlantic (10-3) - 12-19 at 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to watch: Devin Singletary - RB - FAU

Well congratulations, you made it through the first Saturday of Bowl season, suffered through two NFL days and you’ve been rewarded with Lane Kiffin hosting a Bowl game in his home stadium.

This might be the easiest pick of the entire bowl season. You lay the points with Lane, EVERY TIME.

Kiffin’s Owls average over 39 points per game this season, and you better believe he is sour that he didn’t even get a sniff at any of the open coaching vacancies this offseason. This game started out with FAU as a 17.5 point favorite and has jumped 5 points since then. That is unheard of. FAU will demolish the MAC runners-up, UNLESS the Lane Train decides to get cute with the spread again.

BEST BET: FAU (-22.5)


  • DXL Frisco Bowl

Matchup: Louisiana Tech (6-6) vs. SMU (7-5) - 12-20 at 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to Watch: Courtland Sutton - WR - SMU

College Football history in the works as SMU and Louisiana Tech square off in the inaugural Frisco Bowl on December 20th. A pair of Red, White and Blue teams duking it out in what is sure to be a scoring fest in San Francisco.

SMU will not have their head coach, as offensive guru Chad Morris has taken his talents to Arkansas. However, there will still be plenty of sparks flying,as the Mustangs averaged 40 points a game during the regular season. Keep your eye on wideout Courtland Sutton, a projected top-15 NFL draft pick.



  • Bad Boy Mowers Gaspirilla Bowl

Matchup: Temple (6-6) vs. Florida International (8-4) - 12-21 at 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to Watch: Delvon Randall - Safety - Temple

Of all the Bowlsiest Bowl games of 2017 this one is certainly the Bowlsiest. It checks all the boxes. A hilarious, way too long name, a disgusting venue (Tropicana Field) and two average teams that have no history whatsoever. This is why we put in the work folks.

I watched Temple earlier this season against USF. They were awful. They lost their coach to Baylor in the offseason and somehow squeaked out a .500 record.

I’m going with the FIU Panthers in this one. Butch Davis of former Miami fame is their head man and seems to know what he is doing.



  • Bahamas Bowl

Matchup: UAB (8-4) vs. Ohio (8-4) - 12-22 at 12:30 p.m. (ESPN 2)
Player to watch: Nathan Rourke - QB - Ohio

You have to love the story of UAB football. Completely wiped off the map for two years due to budget cuts and then in their first season back, they post an 8-4 record and go bowling. Not only bowling, but bowling in the Bahamas of all places.

This game is usually a ridiculous back and forth affair, as about 37 fans watch from sunny Nassau. I’m sticking with the Blazers in this one, because who doesn’t love an underdog story, especially in paradise.

BEST BET: UAB (+7.5)


  • Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Matchup: Central Michigan (8-4) vs. Wyoming (7-5) - 12-22 at 4 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to watch: Josh Allen - QB - Wyoming

I don’t have to tell you, but you all know the Spud Bowl is all about one player and one player only. The only problem is, Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen might not be suiting up.

As of right now, it looks like he’s on track to play, but you never know with these bowl games. If he does play, it will be one last chance for all you amateur draft experts to make your call on where the Junior quarterback should end up in late April.

Regardless of whether or not he plays, this one should be a defensive slobberknocker on the blue carpet.

BEST BET: The UNDER (46.5)


  • Birmingham Bowl 

Matchup: Texas Tech (6-6) vs. South Florida (9-2) - 12-23 at 12 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to watch: Quinton Flowers QB South Florida
Hold on to your hats, we’ve got a high noon shootout on the horizon in Birmingham. Anytime a Kliff Kingsbury team takes the field you know points will be a plenty, and it just so happens they’re playing one of those AAC juggernauts that averages almost 40 points per game. Texas Tech’s defense HAS cleaned it up a little bit over the final few weeks of the season, but they have not seen a machine like Quinton Flowers and the Bulls. Get your calculators ready, this one is going to be in the 80’s.



  • Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

Matchup: San Diego State (10-2) vs. Army (8-3) - 12-23 at 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to Watch: Rashad Penny - RB - San Diego State

If you are a fan of the forward pass (looking at you Teddy Roosevelt) then I’m sorry, this game is not for you.

As you might expect, a service academy boasts one of the best ground games in the country. And for the second straight year, San Diego State comes in with a top-five running back in Rashad Penny, and a 10-2 team that has a win against Stanford under their belt.

It’s tough to go against Army in the Armed Forces Bowl, but I think the Super Bowl for this team was last week when they took down Navy, and I expect the Aztecs to pull out a lopsided victory.

BEST BET: San Diego State (-7)


  • Dollar General Bowl

Matchup: Appalachian State (8-4) vs. Toledo (11-2) - 12-23 at 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to Watch: Logan Woodside - QB - Toledo

We’ve got #MACtion on a Saturday night as the conference champs from the MAC take on Appalachian State in Alabama.

The Dollar General Bowl is not just a Bowl Game, it will be an awakening as I think the sleeper quarterback in the 2018 draft will be under center for Toledo. Logan Woodside has been torching defenses all season and now he’s got a national stage to put on a show one more time.

The Rocket Man will be spinning the bean all over the yard in Mobile, and Toledo will take care of business.

BEST BET: Toledo (-8)


  • Hawaii Bowl

Matchup: Fresno State (9-4) vs. Houston (7-4) - 12-24 at 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to Watch: Ed Oliver - DT - Houston

Look, I know it might anger some of your family members, but you’re going to have to turn off Frosty and Rudolph on Christmas Eve and lock in for some AAC vs Mountain West action from America’s 50th state.

Coaches in Hawaiian shirts and sunny football on your TV when its 20 degrees outside your house, a Christmas Eve tradition unlike any other. This will be a nice, relaxing game to fall asleep to. So grab an eggnog and enjoy.



  • Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl

Matchup: Utah (6-6) vs. West Virginia (7-5) - 12-26 at 1:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to Watch: David Sills - WR - West Virginia

You’ve made it through the Christmas holiday and are still standing, so why not take in a few up and down Power-5 teams in Texas.

Both of these teams have playmakers on each side of the ball, but both fell short in the biggest games this season. Two talented wide receivers take the stage in David Sills for the Mountaineers and Darren Carrington for the Utes, so I’m expecting a heavy air attack. 

BEST BET: The Over (57)


  • Quick Lane Bowl

Matchup: Duke (6-6) vs. Northern Illinois (8-4) - 12-26 at 5:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to Watch: Sutton Smith - DE - Northern Illinois

Duke and Northern Illinois?!? Man I thought we were done with gross Bowls like this after Christmas. I’m taking the Huskies, never bet on Devils around the holidays.

BEST BET: Northern Illinois (+4.5)


  • Cactus Bowl 

Matchup: Kansas State (7-5) vs. UCLA (6-6) - 12-26 at 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to Watch: Josh Rosen - QB - UCLA

Another quarterback showcase in this one as Josh Rosen has said that he will be playing, if healthy, in the coveted Cactus Bowl.

UCLA has a new coach, and with these lame duck coach bowl games it's always interesting to see which team shows up. I really like UCLA’s offense in this one. Kansas State will try to slow the game down, but I like Rosen to put on a show in his final college contest.



  • Walk On’s Independence Bowl

Matchup: Southern Miss (8-4) vs. Florida State (6-6) - 12-27 at 1:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to Watch: Derwin James - Safety - Florida State

No, this is not a misprint, the Florida State Seminoles, my National Champion pick, are actually playing in a December 27th Bowl game against Southern Miss in Shreveport, Louisiana.

You might say the ‘Noles underperformed this year, but with losing their starting quarterback in Week 1, they actually rebounded nicely over the last month of the season just to become bowl eligible. They too have a new coach in place, and in their last game of the season showed some heart in a dismantling of Louisiana Monroe. I think the show of pride continues and FSU begins to right the ship for next season.

BEST BET: Florida State (-15.5)


  • New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Matchup: Iowa (7-5) vs. Boston College (7-5) - 12-27 at 5:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to Watch: A.J. Dillon - RB - Boston College

For a 7-5 team, Iowa certainly made a lot of waves this year as it was their double nickel explosion on Ohio State that kept the Buckeyes out of the Playoff. The Hawkeyes' offense has been up and down this year, but their defense has remained rock solid.

Boston College, meanwhile, completed its best season in years as this team is no longer a doormat in the ACC. Freshman tailback A.J. Dillon is the real deal and it will be interesting to see him try to run against the Hawkeyes defense. I’m pretty conflicted on this one, but I think Kirk Ferentz’s experience wins out in a close one.

BEST BET: Iowa (-3)


  • Foster Farms Bowl

Matchup: Arizona (7-5) vs. Purdue (6-6) - 12-27 at 8:30 p.m. (FOX)
Player to Watch: Khalil Tate - QB - Arizona

It was an encouraging year for both of these squads as Purdue heads back to the Bowl scene for the first time since 2013, while Arizona rebounds from a 3-9 season a year ago to get back in the over .500 territory.

The Wildcats have found their quarterback of the future as dynamic Sophomore Khalil Tate put up eye-popping numbers through the month of October until slowing down as the season came to an end. The Boilermakers can score as well, as new coach Jeff Brohm has instilled his gunslinging mentality to West Lafayette.

This one has the makings of a shootout, and should be the best game of the day.



  • Academy Sports+Outdoors Texas Bowl

Matchup: Texas (6-6) vs. Missouri (7-5) - 12-27 at 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to Watch: Drew Lock - QB - Missouri

Texas is BACK folks. Not really, but at least back in the Bowl picture after a roller coaster 6-6 season.

The team that is BACK in this matchup is definitely Missouri, as their offense went bonkers this year, averaging over 36 points per game after putting up 27 a year ago. Quarterback Drew Lock is the truth, but he may have some struggles against an opportunistic Texas secondary.

I’ve ridden the Tom Herman cover train all year, and it has not failed me yet. Texas might not get the win, but you better believe the Longhorns will be making it close.

BEST BET: Texas (+3)


  • Military Bowl pres. by Northrup Grunman 

Matchup: Virginia (6-6) vs. Navy (6-5) - 12-28 at 1:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to Watch: Malcom Perry - QB - Navy

Anybody who watched the Army/Navy game a week ago could see the best playmaker on the field was Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry. He only attempted two passes, but his speed and athleticism showed even through the roughest of conditions.

Virginia has had a fine season, but Navy’s triple option attack will get the best of them, as they gave up over 200 yards a month ago to a similar rushing attack in Georgia Tech.

BEST BET: Navy (-1)


  • Camping World Bowl

Matchup: 22 - Virginia Tech (9-3) vs. 19 - Oklahoma State (9-3) - 12-28 at 5:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to Watch: James Washington - WR - Oklahoma State

Well, it took 12 days and over 20 games but we’ve finally made it to our first ranked vs. ranked matchup of the Bowl season. This one is a beaut as Virginia Tech’s vaunted lunch pail defense will try to slow down the aerial attack of Oklahoma State.

The Hokies have had a solid season, but every time they’ve been on a big stage they have failed miserably. The Pokes run it up big, and think about what could’ve been if they could’ve played a lick of defense against Oklahoma.

BEST BET: Oklahoma State (-4)


  • Valero Alamo Bowl

Matchup: 13 - Stanford (9-4) vs. 15 - TCU (10-3) - 12-28 at 9:00 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to Watch: Bryce Love - RB - Stanford

An Old School battle in the Alamo Dome as TCU’s nasty front seven clashes with Stanford’s ground game and hogmollies up front. This will be the final game for quarterback Kenny Hill, who seemed like he started 10 years ago on a Thursday night for Texas A&M.

Bryce Love’s status remains up in the air for this one, but regardless of whether or not he plays, points will be at a premium in this defensive struggle.



  • San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl

Matchup: 18 - Washington State (9-3) vs. 13 - Michigan State (9-3) - 12-28 at 9 p.m. (FOX)
Player to Watch: Luke Falk - QB - Washington State

There’s no other way to put it, Sparty got screwed. MSU finished with a better record than their in-state rivals in Ann Arbor, AND beat them straight up, yet they are tucked away in a December 28 Holiday Bowl while Big Blue plays on New Year's Day.

All that said, I think Michigan State has a tough matchup on their hands with the air raid offense and Washington State. This Cougar team has been up and down this year, and finished on a negative note, but I think Mike Leach’s squad gets back on track against their overachieving foes out of the B1G 10.

BEST BET: Washington State (-2.5)


  • Belk Bowl

Matchup: Wake Forest (7-5) vs. Texas A&M (7-5) - 12-29 at 1 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to Watch: Christian Kirk - WR - Texas A&M

Here we are again, another team with a new coach that won’t be on the sidelines for their bowl game. Texas A&M had their moments this year, but was wildly inconsistent with a young quarterback in Kellen Mond and eventually Nick Starkel under center.

Wake Forest isn’t typically thought of as a football school but put together a few impressive wins this year and their program seems to going in the right direction. I think Wake has a little more motivation this game, as Texas A&M is still shaking off the stink of a 7-5 Kevin Sumlin season.

BEST BET: Wake Forest (-3)


  • Hyundai Sun Bowl

Matchup: 24 - North Carolina State (8-4) vs. Arizona State (7-5) - 12-29 at 3 p.m. (CBS)
Player to Watch: Bradley Chubb - DE - N.C. State

Déjà vu in the Sun Bowl as the coachless Sun Devils go up against N.C. State in a battle of offense vs defense. N.C. State started off the season hot but faltered once they faced stronger competition.

Meanwhile, not much was expected from Arizona State this year but they salvaged a winning record but ultimately were not able to keep their coach from getting fired. Herm Edwards' Sun Devils may show some promise in years to come but I don’t see it starting this Bowl season.

It’s tough to pick against the Sun Devils in the Sun Bowl so I’ll just focus on the points being racked up in this one.

BEST BET: The OVER (59.5)


  • Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl 

Matchup: Kentucky (7-5) vs. 21 - Northwestern (9-3) - 12-29 at 4:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to Watch: Clayton Thorson - QB - Northwestern

SEC vs B1G 10 in the Music City Bowl as one of the hottest teams in the country in Northwestern looks to make it eight wins in a row.

NU hasn’t lost since the first week in October, but they have been skating on thin ice, notching three overtime victories during their win streak. I see no reason why this one doesn’t continue the close game trend, as this battle of Wildcats will come down to a field goal at the end.

BEST BET: Kentucky (+7)


  • Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl

Matchup: Utah State (6-6) vs. New Mexico State (6-6) - 12-29 at 5:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
Player to Watch: Dominik Eberle - K - Utah State

Who the hell snuck this game in here?

BEST BET: Take the Aggies


Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
Matchup: 8 - USC (10-2) vs. 5 - Ohio State (10-2) - 12-29 at 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to Watch: Sam Darnold - QB - USC

Well here we are, finally we’ve made it to the New Year's Six…starting on December 29th.

I’m not sure why the two best conference champs NOT in the Playoffs are playing three days before New Year's Day, but they are and I am thankful for it.

Ohio State has been so wildly inconsistent this year it is impossible to pick a winner in this game. J.T. Barrett has looked like a fifth year starting Heisman winner at times, and he has also looked like a junior-varsity backup. There’s one thing that has been consistent all year for the Bucks though, and that is speed. Their skill position players can fly, and they will be tough to matchup with on the outside.

USC brings that California speed with them as well, and they seem to be hitting their stride with the team as healthy as it’s been all year. Quarterback Sam Darnold has also been inconsistent this season, but he’s cleaned up his turnovers as of late, and he knows the world will be watching his final college game. This one is bound to go back and forth and will come down to whichever defense can control that good old fashioned speed the best.

BEST BET: The OVER (64.5)


  • Taxslayer Bowl

Matchup: Louisville (8-4) vs. 23 - Mississippi State (8-4) - 12-30 at 1 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to Watch: Lamar Jackson - QB - Louisville

It has been a treat to watch Lamar “The Eel” Jackson over the past three years, and I will be sad to see him leave should he turn pro. The team around him hasn’t always been able to pick him up when times were tough, but his individual plays will live in college football forever.

On the other side of the ball, Mississippi State has a playmaking quarterback of their own, but unfortunately Nick Fitzgerald will not be available for this game. His foot nearly broke in half on Thanksgiving night.

I like "The Eel" to be sent off right in his final game, with a blowout win and finally some protection.

BEST BET: Louisville (-6.5)


  • Autozone Liberty Bowl

Matchup: Iowa State (7-5) vs. 20 - Memphis (10-2) - 12-30 at 12:30 p.m. (ABC)
Player to Watch: Anthony Miller - WR - Memphis

This is definitely one of the more intriguing matchups of the bowl season as the question of what happens when an immovable object meets an unstoppable force should be answered at the Liberty Bowl.

Memphis’ offense is a well-oiled machine, averaging over 48 a game and knifing through opponents left and right. Iowa State meanwhile, boasts one of the country’s most consistent defenses, led by quarterback turned linebacker Joel Lanning.

Iowa State is used to these monster offenses, having made their living in the Big 12, and I see this going similar to the Oklahoma game where points will come off the board, but the defense will tighten up late.

BEST BET: The UNDER (66.5)


  • Playstation Fiesta Bowl

Matchup: 11 - Washington (10-2) vs. 9 - Penn State (10-2) - 12-30 at 4 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to Watch: Dante Pettis - WR - Washington

It’s the “What-If” Bowl in Glendale as both of these teams feel like their seasons could’ve been vastly different had a few things gone their way.

Saquon Barkley had the Heisman locked up in October, but his tires spun out when the weather cooled down. Washington, meanwhile, was again a victim of soft scheduling as they couldn’t overcome two Pac-12 losses.

Washington has a solid defense, but I don’t think they can score enough points to stay with the explosiveness of the Nittany Lions.

BEST BET: Penn State (-2)


  • Capital One Orange Bowl

Matchup: 6 - Wisconsin (11-1) vs. 10 - Miami (10-2) - 12-30 at 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to Watch: Jonathan Taylor - RB - Wisconsin

A battle of Conference Championship game disappointments in the Orange Bowl as Miami will look for their home cooking to help them rebound after a tough end to the year.

The Badgers got a reality check during the B1G 10 Championship game, but I wouldn’t expect any significant changes in this offense. Miami will have to get their Turnover Chain back in action if they want to have a shot as I don’t see many points coming off the board.

It’ll be ugly, and I think Wisconsin gets the win, but the turnover X factor scares me away from picking against the spread.



  • Outback Bowl

Matchup: Michigan (8-4) vs. South Carolina (8-4) - 01-01 at 12 p.m. (ESPN2)
Player to Watch: Maurice Hurst - DT - Michigan

Michigan vs. South Carolina on New Year's Day. The mere mention of it gets Jadeveon Clowney salivating as visions of blasting running back’s heads off comes creeping into his mind.

This is a total reach of a Bowl Game for a mediocre Michigan team that hasn’t beaten anyone of note this season. South Carolina meanwhile, is a rising team in the SEC East which looked dreadful in their last game against Clemson.

Both of these teams need a win here to get some positive momentum moving into next season, but I expect an ugly, close game.

BEST BET: South Carolina (+7.5)


  • Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl 

Matchup: 12 - UCF (12-0) vs. 7 - Auburn (10-3) - 01-01 at 12:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Player to Watch: Kerryon Johnson - RB - Auburn

In the four year history of the playoff, the team that has made the New Year's Six from the group of five has won twice, and been within a score all three times. What does that have to do with this game? Probably not a whole lot, because I think this UCF team is the best of the previous four group of five squads to play in the “Big Boy Bowls”.

The Knights lead the country in offense, scoring 48 points per game, and have been running roughshod over opponents all year. Yes, they haven’t faced much competition in terms of Power 5 teams, but I think most would agree the AAC is just notch below the best conferences in the land.

On the other side, Auburn was riding high before an SEC championship game loss to Georgia, but Tigers quarterback Jarrett Stidham has been on a tear in the second half of the season, and the running of a healthy Kerryon Johnson is almost impossible to stop.

I’m not predicting an outright win for UCF, but 9.5 points is way too much for them to get, and if they do pull out the win, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

BEST BET: UCF (+9.5)


  • Citrus Bowl pres. By Overton’s

Matchup: 14 - Notre Dame (9-3) vs. 17 - LSU (9-3) - 01-01 at 1 p.m. (ABC)
Player to Watch: Derrius Guice - RB - LSU

It’s the third Bowl Matchup in the last eleven years for these two blue bloods of college football, the teams have split the past two, with Notre Dame taking the Music City Bowl three years ago.

LSU’s offense has been impressive under new offensive coordinator Matt Canada, with Ed Orgeron’s defense holding steady as you would expect down in the bayou. No matter what happens in this game, this season has been a rousing success for Brian Kelly, who was looking in the want ads after a Week 2 loss to Georgia.

These two teams went in opposite directions over the past month of the season, and I expect that trend to continue in the Citrus Bowl.




Matchup: 3 - Georgia (12-1) vs. 2 - Oklahoma (12-1) - 01-01 at 5 p.m. (ESPN)
Oklahoma Offensive Player to Watch (other than Baker Mayfield): Mark Andrews - TE 
Oklahoma Defensive Player to Watch: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo - LB
Georgia Offensive Player to Watch: Nick Chubb - RB
Georgia Defensive Player to Watch: Roquan Smith - LB

The first playoff game of the year pits the Heisman Trophy winner and country’s most explosive offense against a tenacious defense, a grueling rushing attack and a Freshman quarterback who looked like anything but a first year starter in the SEC Championship game.

The question of this game really comes down to one thing: Can Baker Mayfield make enough plays to overcome Georgia’s ferocious pass rush?

Oklahoma’s defense was a huge concern at the beginning of the season, but they tightened up as the year went on. They’ll face a rushing attack that they’ve never seen before with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel carrying the load, but as long as they can keep Georgia under 30 points, I have faith that the Heisman winner can score enough for the Sooners to get the win.

BEST BET: Oklahoma (+2)



Matchup: 1 - Clemson (12-1) vs. 4 - Alabama (12-1) - 01-01 at 8:45 p.m. (ESPN)
Clemson Offensive Player to Watch: Kelly Bryant - QB
Clemson Defensive Player to Watch: Christian Wilkins - DT
Alabama Offensive Player to Watch: Calvin Ridley - WR
Alabama Defensive Player to Watch: Minkah Fitzpatrick - DB

Terminator 3, Back to the Future 3, Oceans 13. All of these trilogies left a lot to be desired in the third chapter. Alabama and Clemson get set for their third straight playoff matchup on New Year's Day, and the hope is this third installment will live up to the excitement produced by the previous two.

It’s a bit of a different feel than in years past, as Clemson comes into this game riding high, and Bama enters as the fourth seed coming off of their first regular season loss since September 2015.

All history aside, this figures to be a low scoring, defensive slugfest, a stark contrast to the shootouts of the past. Clemson’s defensive unit is among the best in the country, and although they don’t have Deshaun Watson leading the offense, Kelly Bryant has filled in spectacularly, getting better as the season has gone on. Offensively for Bama, Jalen Hurts may have regressed a bit in his second year as a starter, but has never been one to shy away from the bright lights of a big game, and has the potential to break the game open at any time.

The deciding factor here may be the injury report, where the Tide has a banged up linebacking core, and haven’t looked quite right all season. It’s still a Nick Saban coached team, so I don’t feel comfortable betting against them, but I would stick with the under in this one, as both of these defenses have a lot to prove.


National Championship game: Oklahoma - 28 vs. Clemson - 24

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