With the college football season coming to an end, we finally get to one of the most exciting parts of the season, the bowl games. With bowl games we get to see interesting matchups of teams we’ve never seen go up against each other and a battle of conferences. The last several years, we have been lucky enough to have the introduction of the College Football Playoff where we get the top four teams fighting it out to make it to the National Championship. It has made the regular season more exciting and has given us some of the best games in recent memory. They aren’t the only important ones though. This year has been one of the most interesting when it came to quality teams vying for that final spot. One made it while several others didn’t, but those others now find them matched up with each other that looks to give us some very intriguing games. I’m going to go over each of the New Years Six Bowl Games and one extra bowl game and give my predictions for each one. I hope you enjoy!
Honorable Mention: Citrus Bowl
14 Michigan vs 13 Alabama
This was supposed to be the year Michigan finally beat Ohio State and were set to make a great run for the playoffs. It didn’t take long at all for us to worry, starting with a close game against Army where they managed to pull out a win. They then dropped their next game against Wisconsin and looked to be very overmatched. Everyone counted them out until it seemed that they were picking up steam towards the end of the season, unfortunately they ran into a juggernaut that is Ohio State and continued their losing streak against them. They now find themselves in a great matchup of two great programs with Alabama. Alabama on the other hand is a team that was coming off an embarrassing loss in the National Championship last year against Clemson, but were going to ride the Tua wave into the playoffs again. It seemed clear that this wasn’t the same Alabama that we’ve seen in years past and it was the match against LSU that really showed their weaknesses. An injured Tua only drove the nail into the coffin for their chances at the playoffs dropping a game against their rival Auburn. Both of these two teams dropped their final games against a rival and have had ups and downs all season. It should make for a great matchup with head coaching alone getting to see Harbaugh vs Saban, but in reality I still see Michigan in over their heads. They have looked the best all season towards the end, but still don’t seem to have a great chance against Bama. While it seems that they could be on equal ground due to record, Alabama had closer losses and has looked a lot more competitive than Michigan in those losses. It could make for a great game, but I see Alabama coming out on top.
10 Penn State vs 17 Memphis
In a year where it seemed Penn State would be in a rebuild, we were all proven wrong when they jumped to the top four of the rankings when they were first revealed. They had some impressive wins and looked to be making a strong statement for possibly getting into the playoffs. It wasn’t until they had their hotly anticipated matchup with Minnesota that they finally dropped a game and we saw some of their flaws. They were overmatched in that game and the rebuild needs certainly showed. They would go on to give some great competition a bit of a run, but aren’t quite playoff caliber yet. On the other side, many of us assumed maybe UCF would be the Group of Five team this year as they have been for the last few years, but they quickly fell off the board. It came down to the last game of the season and then a rematch the next week against Cincinnati for the Group of Five team to be decided and Memphis came out on top. There have been years where we could confidently say that the Group of Five team has a serious chance at winning, but for me I just can’t see Memphis coming out on top against a tough Penn State defense. There is a bigger gap than what you may see on paper. Memphis can definitely score, but they haven’t played the same level of competition. I can see Memphis giving a good challenge early on, but the experience against competition and the rising young talent Penn State has will pull them ahead for the win. Look for this game to be a possible tight game in the event that Penn State takes them likely, but Penn State is the better team.
Prediction: Penn State
9 Florida vs 24 Virginia
Florida has been a bit of a sleeper team going into the season. I had assumed like some that they would have a decent season, but they made a big statement with a big win against Auburn and some close games against LSU and Georgia. They are definitely a team on the rise and should be proud of how well they played tough competition this year. They are a great team that seemed to be overlooked towards the end of the season. Virginia on the other hand is ranked barely in the top 25. I have a strong feeling that they’re only ranked for the fact that they’re in this game and no other ACC team was good enough except for Clemson. The ACC has been terrible all year and Virginia has some bad losses. They managed to have a good win against Virginia Tech that gave them the chance to play in this game, but they don’t have a chance. They’re a team that is in this game because of circumstance and are completely outmatched against a Florida team that has the opportunity to end the season on a high note by making a major statement in a high profile bowl game. Look for Florida to absolutely dominate in this game and to keep the pedal to floor to let people know they’re serious about next season. I predict a blowout and statement against the ACC and the quality of the conference.
6 Oregon vs 8 Wisconsin
Oregon was riding high on high profile quarterback prospect Justin Herbert. He elected to stay for another year to make a run for the playoffs. They lost their first game against Auburn and then lost once more against Arizona State. Unfortunately they missed out on their chance to make the playoffs, but they are still a quality team and would have been an interesting matchup with anyone if they made it into the playoffs. Wisconsin on the other hand is a quality team with two losses against Ohio State. They certainly made a big statement in the first half of the Big Ten Championship, but Ohio State came back and proved just how much better they were. Wisconsin has a stout defense that is going to make it very tough for Herbert and the Oregon offense. On the offensive side for Oregon, they have a quarterback who is coming around and has become better all season. The quarterback matchup and overall offense is in Oregon’s favor, but the edge is going to be how well Wisconsin can hold up on the defensive side of the ball. Jonathan Taylor has been one of the best backs in the country all year and could have skipped out on this game, but he decided to stick with his team and could be the big difference in this game. If Wisconsin can get the ball moving with him than they should be able to pull out a win. I also think their defense will slow Herbert down and will give Wisconsin the upset.
5 Georgia vs 7 Baylor
Baylor could go down as the biggest sleeper team this year along with Minnesota. Baylor managed to put together a solid year scarred only by its two losses to Oklahoma, both of which were close and at a time there was a chance they were going to make it into the playoffs. Georgia is a team that came into this year with a lot of optimism, but ended up dropping a hot steamy egg against South Carolina early in the season. They bounced back and had some quality wins only to get blown out against LSU. I don’t think Georgia ever looked the same as they have in the last few years and quite honestly looked to be a little overrated and vulnerable. Baylor looked to be an absolute Cinderella team until they ran into the veteran program Oklahoma. This may be one of the closest matchups in all of the bowl games. The SEC is overall a better conference than the Big 12 and Georgia does have more quality talent and experience, however Baylor has proven to be a tough challenge against anybody all year. Look for a close game they may come down to the run game which Georgia has the advantage. Georgia is the favorite to win this game, but I’m going to have to go the other way and say that Baylor pulls off a close upset.
1 LSU vs 4 Oklahoma
The first matchup in the College Football Playoff semifinals gives us one of the most impressive teams in the country with LSU and a team that may have gotten in due to circumstance of other teams ahead of them losing. Now I’m not saying that Oklahoma isn’t a quality team, but they certainly have not shown they have the same amount of experience or skill as their opposition LSU. Oklahoma boasts a high power offense with one of the most dynamic playmakers in the country, Jalen Hurts. On top of that they have a great coach in Lincoln Riley who may be able to devise a game plan that could give LSU a challenge. Their biggest problem? Defense. They don’t have even close to a good enough defense to stop the LSU offense. This brings me to LSU and honestly what is there to say about them? They have the best quarterback in the country, with the most impressive wins of any team, and an offense that is an absolute nightmare to prepare against. Their offense with Joe Burrow under center is a force to be reckoned with that will likely only fail against a stout defense. LSU also doesn’t have the best defense, but it is a quality defense, so it’s going to be tough for Oklahoma to find a crack in this team. It’s going to come down to defense and the turnover battle. The best chance for Oklahoma is to get turnovers and to get stops. They especially can’t let Burrow loose on 3rd and long. I really just think Oklahoma is completely outmatched, but there are some things they can do to make it challenging. Look for a lopsided win for LSU.
2 Ohio State vs 3 Clemson
Keep in mind that Ohio State is my college football team. I have grown up all my life with my family rooting for the buckeyes so there’s going to be some bias in here. With that said, I believe this is going to be the most competitive match of all of the major bowl games. Clemson is coming off of a National Championship win and another undefeated season, while Ohio State is coming in with one of the most complete teams all season with quality wins and some of the best players at position in the country. With Clemson progressively getting better the further into the season we got, they really started to look like their former selves with their new young talent. Ohio State has been dominant all season long and has proved it against multiple ranked teams. They also showed the ability to come back from behind and completely turn a game on its head when going up against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship. This is such an even matchup when you look at the two teams on paper that you can’t really pick one major thing out as an advantage or disadvantage for the opposing team. This is one of those games that’s going to be close and an absolute fist fight from start to finish. I think either one of these teams can come out on top and either one will give LSU the biggest challenge of the year. Look for the Ohio State run game with Dobbins and Fields being the only slight advantage.
Prediction: Ohio State