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College Football Bowls Preview
Updated: January 2020

COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL PREVIEWS

 

Camping World Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Iowa State
Brian Kelly led Notre Dame (10-2) to its fourth straight ten-win season. Iowa State (7-5) is getting used to bowl games under third-year head coach Matt Campbell. The Cyclones are 0-4 when they rush for less than 100 yards, so running the football will be important. QB Brock Purdy is the type of guy who can take over a game and the Irish’s pass defense is suspect at time. Notre Dame’s run defense has allowed fewer than 130 yards in six of its last nine games.

 

Motivation is a key factor as well. The Irish, who played in the College Football Playoff last year, might not enjoy the Camping World Bowl swag. Iowa State could grab a marquee win for the program. The Cyclones will battle, but the Irish will come out on top… Notre Dame 33, Iowa State 29

 

Vrbo Citrus Bowl: Michigan vs. Alabama
For the first time since its inception, the College Football Playoff will not have Alabama among the semifinalists. Instead, the Crimson Tide heads to the Citrus Bowl to take on Michigan (9-3). The Tide is second in the nation in scoring averaging over 48 points per game, but Alabama has an uncharacteristically mediocre defense. That defense is why Nick Saban’s team finished 10-2.

 

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The Wolverines have yet to beat Ohio State under head coach Jim Harbaugh. In fact, the Wolverines don’t do very well in games where they are not favored. Michigan is 0-16 under Harbaugh when playing the role of underdog. Even with Alabama starting QB Tua Tagovailoa out, Mac Jones will lead the Tide to victory… Alabama 35, Michigan 27

 

Outback Bowl: Minnesota vs. Auburn
It’s been a special season at Minnesota where the Golden Gophers started the season winning their first nine games in a row. But, head coach P.J. Fleck’s team has lost two of its last three. Now, Minnesota is faced with Auburn, one of the nation’s better rushing teams. The Gophers gave up 173 rushing yards in a loss to Wisconsin to close the regular season.

 

Auburn lost just three games this season. All three were to teams ranked in the top-7 of the final coaches’ poll - LSU, Georgia, and Florida. The Tigers lost those three games by an average of just seven points. The Minnesota defense was solid all season, but the Gophers will be without senior LB Kamal Martin who has opted not to play as he prepares for next year’s NFL draft… Auburn 25, Minnesota 19

 

Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual: Oregon vs. Wisconsin
Oregon appeared headed to the College Football Playoff until a late-season loss to unranked Arizona State. Wisconsin wasn’t even in the preseason discussion as one of the favorites to win the Big Ten, but that’s exactly where they were until an upset loss to Illinois. Now, the Badgers find themselves in a New Year’s Six Bowl.

 

Wisconsin will pound the ball with the nation’s No. 2 rusher Jonathan Taylor (1,909 yards). Oregon counters with a balanced attack led by QB Justin Herbert (3,333 yards passing, 32 TDs). The Ducks defense limited opponents to 15.7 points per game, the ninth-best mark in the FBS. Two big time defenses battle. Wisconsin has won its last five bowl games… Wisconsin 23, Oregon 20.

 

Allstate Sugar Bowl: Georgia vs. Baylor
Two years ago, Baylor finished 1-11. Head coach Matt Rhule has restored the program to greatness as the Bears went 11-2 with both losses to College Football Playoff entrant Oklahoma. The biggest question for Baylor is at quarterback where freshman sensation Charlie Brewer has not yet been cleared from a concussion suffered in the Big 12 title game.

 

Georgia also finished 11-2 this season with losses to South Carolina and to LSU in the SEC title game. The blowout loss to the Tigers cost the Bulldogs a shot at the CFP. This will be Georgia’s second straight trip to the Sugar Bowl. They lost last year to Texas, but expect QB Jake Fromm to play better than his outing in the SEC championship game. Georgia gives up just 12.4 points per game. Brewer or no Brewer, Baylor is going to have troubles against the Bulldogs… Georgia 20, Baylor 17

 

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson
For the first time this season, Ohio State will play the underdog facing defending national champion Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. The Buckeyes were the top-scoring team in the nation (48.7 ppg) but were also the second-best defense in the country allowing just 12.5 points a game. QB Justin Fields threw for an amazing 40 touchdowns with just one interception in his first season as the Buckeyes starter.

 

Clemson allowed more than two touchdowns in a game just once - in a 21-20 win over North Carolina. Since that game, the Tigers have outscored their opposition 415-78. The Tigers allowed just over 10 points a game and the trio of QB Trevor Lawrence, WR Tee Higgins, and RB Travis Etienne helped the Clemson offense average 46.5 points per game. This could be the best game of the season… Ohio State 39, Clemson 38

 

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: No. 1 LSU vs. No. 4 Oklahoma
The Peach Bowl scoreboard operator will be busy in the first of two CFP semifinals when two of the nation’s best offenses square off. Top-ranked 8SU averaged 43 points a game led by Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow. What many don’t realize is that the Tigers defense ranks 27th in the nation in scoring allowing 21.2 points per game. LSU is tasked with slowing down a Sooners offensive machine that averages nearly 44 points per game.

 

The Sooners scored 30 or more points in all of their games except one - a 28-24 win over TCU. Quarterback Jalen Hurts was a Heisman Trophy finalist after completing 71.8 percent of his passes for 3,634 yards and 32 touchdowns and rushing for another 1,255 yards and 18 more scores. The Tigers played the 16th-most difficult schedule in the country and have thrived in games against top opponents… LSU 49, Oklahoma 48

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2018 College Bowl Previews:

 

Rose Bowl: Penn State v. USC
There might not be two hotter teams in the country right now than Penn State and USC, the two that will face off in the Granddaddy of them all, the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual. The Nittany Lions lost two of their first four games and haven’t lost since. Among head coach James Franklin’s wins are a 24-21 upset of then second-ranked Ohio State and an incredible 38-31 comeback victory over No. 6 Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game.

The Trojans (9-3) have a similar story. After many thought they would be a College Football Playoff contender, USC got blown out in its opener with Alabama and then started the season 1-3. Head coach Clay Helton’s squad has not lost since either defeating a No. 21 Colorado and No. 4 Washington along the way.

The last time either team played in the Rose Bowl was in 2008 when USC beat Penn State 38-24. This time around, it will be USC’s defense trying to slow down the up-tempo spread attack of the Nittany Lions led by sophomore QB Trace McSorley. The Penn State quarterback set a Big Ten title game record for passing yards and has 25 touchdowns on the season. On the other end, the Nittany Lions secondary will have to deal with the Trojans receivers led by All-Everything Juju Smith-Schuster.

Orange Bowl: Michigan v. Florida State
Both Florida State and Michigan started the 2016 season with high expectations and the Seminoles and the Wolverines were among those teams favored to make the College Football Playoff. But, Florida State was blown out early by Louisville, lost to North Carolina, and lost a third game to Clemson. The ‘Noles were probably out of the CFP after the loss to the Cardinals. Michigan was upset by Iowa but still appeared to have a shot at the playoff if it could only beat its biggest rival – Ohio State. When the Wolverines lost in double overtime to the Buckeyes, their playoff hopes were gone.

Now, the two perennial powers will meet in the Capital One Orange Bowl. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh would like nothing more than to end the season by making a statement. FSU mentor Jimbo Fisher would like a win to give the Seminoles some momentum as they head into the offseason. They will get superstar defender Derwin James back. The hybrid safety/linebacker missed most of the season and was a big reason why the ‘Noles had problems defending anyone.

Florida State did win their last four games in a row and did so by not allowing more than 20 points in a game. Running back Dalvin Cook rushed for 1,620 yards and 18 touchdowns and redshirt freshman QB Deondre Francois got better through the season and finished with 3,128 yards passing. Cook, Francois, and the rest of the FSU offense will go up against one of the best defenses in the country in Michigan. The Wolverines are second in the nation giving up just 12.5 points per game. On offense, they will rely on a powerful running game that averages 223 yards a game. Quarterback Wilton Speight should be ready for the bowl game after missing the Wolverines final two games.

Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma v. Auburn
With two losses in their first three games, seventh-ranked Oklahoma played itself right out of the College Football Playoff . The Sooners won nine straight games, all in the Big 12, and won the conference title for the second consecutive season to earn a trip to the Allstate Sugar Bowl and a date with Auburn. Quarterback Baker Mayfield (3,669 yards, 38 TDs) and WR Dede Westbrook (1,465 receiving yards, 16 TDs) were invited to the Heisman Trophy presentation. The Sooners have two excellent running backs in Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine.

The Tigers (8-4) started the season much the same way Oklahoma did losing two of the first three games of the season, both to ranked opponents. Head coach Gus Malzahn’s job was on the line when Auburn responded with six straight wins including a 56-3 pasting of a No. 17 Arkansas. The Tigers did lose two of their last three games though the losses were to Georgia and Alabama.

While the Auburn offense isn’t what it is used to, the defense has improved by leaps and bounds. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has Auburn ranked fifth in the nation in scoring defense (15.5 points per game) and 20th in total defense (343 yards per game). Defense is what has allowed the Tigers to finish in second place in the SEC West Division. That defense will have its hands full trying to stop the likes of Mayfield, Westbrook, Perine, and Mixon.

Cotton Bowl: Wisconsin v. Western Michigan
It is one of this college football season’s great stories. Western Michigan and energetic head coach P.J. Fleck have ‘rowed the boat’ to a 13-0 season and a MAC championship. As a reward, the Broncos get a date with eighth-ranked Wisconsin in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. While WMU does have two wins over Big Ten teams, those wins were over Northwestern and Illinois, not the elite of the conference.

The Broncos have a wealth of offensive talent led by senior quarterback Zach Terrell who has 3,376 passing yards and 32 touchdowns. Wide receiver Corey Davis has caught 18 of those scores and has 91 receptions for 1,427 yards. Western Michigan also runs the ball well with RB Jarvion Franklin who has gained 1,300 yards this season. The Broncos are not just an offensive machine. Fleck’s defense is 16th nationally in scoring defense yielding just 19.5 points per game.

For all the great accomplishments and hype, WMU has not faced an opponent like Wisconsin. The Badgers are consistently one of the best defenses in all of FBS. This year, head coach Paul Chryst’s defense is fourth in scoring defense (15.5) and second to only Alabama against the run (96.9 yards per game). Offensively, senior running back Corey Clement (1,304 yards, 14 TDs) leads a powerful running game. Quarterbacks Alex Hornibrook and fifth-year senior Bart Houston will likely both play as they have for most of the latter half of the season. As good as they are, a Broncos win would be an upset of epic proportions.

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