It is time to go bowling. College football bowling that is. All in all, there are 41 bowls in total. In the grand scheme of things, the “New Year’s Six” are the only bowls that matter. Here is a breakdown of the big bowls.
Playoff Semifinal: Capital One Orange Bowl – #1 Alabama vs. #4 Oklahoma
The Oklahoma Sooners grabbed the fourth College Football Playoff spot after Alabama’s comeback win over the Georgia Bulldogs. This matchup pits two Heisman finalists against each other under center. Alabama will roll out Tua Tagovailoa, assuming he recovers from an ankle injury, to take on Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray.
The offenses could wash each other out, so the game will be won on defense. The porous Sooner defense has been the team’s Achilles’ heel. On the other side, the Crimson Tide have future first-round picks at every level of their defense. ‘Bama should get enough stops to move to the National Championship.
Playoff Semifinal: Goodyear Cotton Bowl – #2 Clemson vs #3 Notre Dame
Experts all season long have picked Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers as the team most capable of toppling Alabama, but they first must get through Brian Kelly’s undefeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish squad.
Led by the strength of its defense, the Fighting Irish are hoping to play spoiler to Alabama vs. Clemson IV. These teams are alike in multiple ways: both had early-season quarterback shuffling; both are led by experienced coaches and both feature elite college football defenses.
Again, defense will be the key in Dallas. The Tigers feature the best defensive line in the country, and Notre Dame isn’t far behind. A grind of game is expected, and whoever can convert on third down and get turnovers will take the win.
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl – #10 Florida vs #7 Michigan
A tale of two teams asking, “What could have been?” Michigan was in the playoffs two weeks ago, but they were shut down by Ohio State. Florida got beat handily by Missouri and fell too far back.
Now, both teams get to battle it out in what might fell like a consolation game. If both teams play to their potential, then this could be a barnburner. The Wolverines were hot all year except for their loss to the Buckeyes. Any hangover from that disappointment will put the ball in the Gators’ court.
Led by quarterback Feleipe Franks, Florida has put up 46 points on average over the last month. This is a team back on the upswing.
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl – #11 LSU vs. #8 UCF
For the believer of the football gods, UCF must have done something to get in their bad graces.
A second consecutive undefeated season ended in heartbreak, as the Knights lost starting quarterback McKenzie Milton to a gruesome leg injury. Backup Darriel Mack led a comeback against Memphis to claim another American Athletic Conference title.
But No. 8 was probably as high as the Knights could get this year. Now another New Year’s Six bowl sits on the horizon.
Cue an SEC opponent this time around. LSU lost two games this year, against Florida and Alabama, and have not been convincing otherwise. Mack will have a chance to pick on a pair of backup corners for LSU in the game.
Rose Bowl Game – #6 Ohio State vs #9 Washington
For the 105th time, the granddaddy of them all is set to take place on New Year’s Day.
The biggest story heading into this game is the retirement of Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer. Meyer will be leaving the program after the game, and the Buckeyes will want to send him off with a win.
Leading that charge will be the third Heisman candidate, Buckeye quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Brilliant all season, he will need to be again against the Pac-12 champions.
Washington slightly crushed the dreams of their in-state rivals, Washington State. The Huskies enter with a four-game win streak and were solid against the Cougars. Jake Browning has plenty of experience to go around, and the stage won’t be too big for him.
Allstate Sugar Bowl – #15 Texas vs. #5 Georgia
The first team left out of the playoffs after a loss to Alabama was Georgia. The Bulldogs played the Tide and led most of the way. Jalen Hurts’ heroic relief appearance coupled with conservative play calling doomed the Bulldogs in Atlanta.
But Jake Fromm and the Georgia offense should bounce back. The Bulldogs made ‘Bama look mortal, something no other team has done this season.
On the flip side, Texas is a program that is getting back to the height of its powers. The Longhorns beat Oklahoma early in the season, but lost the important rematch in the Big 12 Championship. It will be a tall task to beat the Bulldogs in the New Year’s Day nightcap.