College Football Bowl Season Preview

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas college football bowl season. While the majority of the United States is preparing for the wonderful holiday season and getting in any last minute shopping for their loved ones, the rest of the country is struggling to contain their excitement for the upcoming weeks for a different reason. It’s bowl season, baby! The most frantic and enthralling time in all of college football is upon us and this year’s slate of games offer yet another array of compelling matchups. My name is Justin Fried and I will be joined by my friend and colleague Jake LeBlanc as we break down the nation’s top clashes and give our picks for the remaining bowl games.

Cotton Bowl: #5 Ohio State vs. #8 USC – Dec. 29th, 8:30 p.m.

Justin’s Pick: Ohio State

It’s hard to pick against a quarterback who possesses the clutch game heroics that Sam Darnold does. Time and time again he has proven that he can step up when his team needs him and he’s a large part of the reason USC has faired so well in close contests. Unfortunately for Trojans fans, that mantra might end with this year’s Cotton Bowl. Ohio State’s pass rush is one of the best in the country with studs like Nick Bosa and NFL-hopeful Sam Hubbard. This could spell trouble for Darnold if he isn’t able to get adequate time in the pocket. Expect the Buckeyes to pull this one off behind their Greg Schiano-led defense as J.T. Barrett adds one more bowl victory to his impressive legacy at Ohio State

Score: Ohio State 24 – USC 21

Jake’s Pick: USC

I feel like this is going to be a very high scoring game with both of these teams having high powered offenses. But I feel like a high scoring game falls into what USC wants to do. With players like Sam Darnold, Ronald Jones II, and Deontay Burnett, this team is built to play in an offensive shootout. Ohio State is a high powered team, with some big weapons, but I like USC to win the Cotton Bowl in a very high scoring, close game.

Score: USC 38 – Ohio State 34

Fiesta Bowl: #9 Penn State vs. #11 Washington – Dec. 30th, 4:00 p.m.

Justin’s Pick: Penn State

This game is a matchup between two fairly similar teams, despite the fact that Washington remains 4.5 point underdogs. Those 4.5 points could be directly attributed to potentially the nation’s most dynamic offensive weapon and projected top-10 NFL draft pick, Saquon Barkley. The Huskies sport the number one run defense in the country so if any team is going to stop Barkley it’s going to be Vita Vea and Wahington’s defensive line. That being said, Penn State just has too much offensive talent for Washington’s defense to handle. Expect the Huskies to stack the box as teams have been doing all year long against Penn State, but also expect the Nittany Lions to find creative ways to get Barkley the football and for quarterback Trace McSorley to step up and make some big-time plays.

Score: Penn State 28 – Washington 20

Jake’s Pick: Penn State

Saquon Barkley will be too much for this Washington defense. I look for him to score multiple times. I think that Penn State will overpower Washington and will be able to slow down their offense. Washington will not be able to hang with Penn State in this game. I feel like Penn State will have no issues with Washington in this one.

Score: Penn State 24 – Washington 13

Orange Bowl: #6 Wisconsin vs. #10 Miami – Dec. 30th, 8:00 p.m.

Justin’s Pick: Wisconsin

On paper, this game seems like a matchup that could heavily favor Miami. The Hurricanes are, of course, known for their ability to force turnovers on defense while Wisconsin is one of the most turnover-prone teams in the nation with southpaw quarterback Alex Hornibrook being the main culprit. Despite this, Miami has been reeling as of late with back-to-back losses including a blowout against Clemson in the ACC title game. The X-factor in this one is Wisconsin running back Jonathon Taylor who may very well be the most talented player on either team. Look for the Badgers to escape with the victory behind the strength of their dominant defense and by controlling the time of possession. If they could keep the ball out of Hornibrook’s hands and in the arms of Taylor the Badgers will ultimately find success.

Score: Wisconsin 20 – Miami 17

Jake’s Pick: Miami

Both of these teams went very deep into the season before losing their first game. Miami, losing to Pitt in the last week of the regular season, then losing to Clemson in the ACC Championship game. Wisconsin lost its only game this season in the Big 10 Championship game to Ohio State. I look for Miami to come out playing with fire, given that this game is being played at Hard Rock Stadium, which is where the Hurricane play their home games. Miami will pull away at the end and win by a couple of possessions.

Score: Miami 27 – Wisconsin 17

Peach Bowl: #7 Auburn vs. #12 UCF – Jan. 1st, 12:30 p.m.

Justin’s Pick: Auburn

The storybook season of UCF will in all likelihood end in heartbreak come January 1st as the Knights simply don’t have the talent to match up with Auburn. Running back Kerryon Johnson has been banged up as of late but he has been given ample time to rest up and prepare for this contest. When healthy, he’s one of the premier running backs in the nation. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham is also one of the most underappreciated QB’s in the country so look for him to make some plays as well. Although this may be close in the beginning, this is ultimately Auburn’s game to lose. Expect a bounce-back performance from the Tigers in a game that has the highest potential for a blowout out of all the New Year’s Six Bowls.

Score: Auburn 45 – UCF 24

Jake’s Pick: Auburn

As much as I would love to see a non-power five team take down an SEC powerhouse, but I just don’t see it happing. Auburn took down two No. 1 teams this year, Alabama and Georgia (both of these teams made the playoff… just saying). I think this is going to be a fun game to watch, might be close early, but I’m not giving UCF much of a shot.

Score: Auburn 30 – UCF 10

Rose Bowl: #2 Oklahoma vs. #3 Georgia – Jan. 1st, 5:00 p.m. (CFP Semifinal Game)

Justin’s Pick: Oklahoma

This game has the potential to be one of the highest-scoring contests of this bowl season. Oklahoma has one of the best offenses in the country led by the ever-controversial Heisman winner Baker Mayfield under center. He is joined by running back Rodney Anderson and a pair of high-profile receiving targets in Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews. Georgia is led by freshman quarterback Jake Fromm who is paired alongside the powerful one-two punch of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in the backfield. This game will come down to the talented Georgia defense, captained by uber-athletic linebacker Roquan Smith, versus Baker Mayfield. Expect Mayfield to pull out one too many tricks on offense for the Bulldogs to be able to hang. The Sooners win a tight contest and advance to their first national championship since 2000.

Score: Oklahoma 42 – Georgia 38

Jake’s Pick: Oklahoma

Baker Mayfield is riding high after winning the Heisman Trophy and I look for him to ride that all the way through this game and to the national championship. Mayfield is going to have one of his best games in this one. He lives for the spotlight, as we have seen and you can’t get much bigger than the Rose Bowl. It will be interesting to see what happens with Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma’s starting running back who was recently accused of sexual assault. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets suspended for this game if anything is proven. But, I still say Oklahoma will take this one in a relatively close game.

Score: Oklahoma 34 – Georgia 27

Sugar Bowl: #1 Clemson vs. #4 Alabama – Jan. 1st, 8:45 p.m. (CFP Semifinal Game)

Justin’s Pick: Alabama

This game could very well be the polar opposite of the other semifinal matchup. While Oklahoma/Georgia could be a shootout, the Clemson/Alabama game is between two teams that field elite defenses with NFL prospects aplenty. Clemson’s pass rush could spell trouble for Alabama as the Tigers are one of the most proficient teams at getting to the passer behind the play of Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant, and Christian Wilkins. Alabama’s secondary features two safeties likely to be drafted in the first round of this year’s NFL draft in Ronnie Harrison and Chuck Bednarik Award winner Minkah Fitzpatrick. The difference in this game will come down to experience. Both Kelly Bryant and Jalen Hurts are similar, dual-threat quarterbacks. However, Hurts has the edge over Bryant in the fact that he’s played in games with this much at stake before. He also has elite receiver Calvin Ridley to bail him out if need be. Expect the Crimson Tide to come away with the victory in what could be the most entertaining game of the bowl season.

Jake’s Pick: Clemson

Clemson vs. Alabama part 3. This is the rubber match between these two teams in the last three years. This is going to be a fantastic football game, probably more exciting than the national championship will be. BUT, let me say this, I do not think Alabama should be in the playoffs. Ohio State got robbed. Do I think Alabama is better than Ohio State? Yes. But I am a firm believer in that if you are a power five team and you win your conference, you should be in the playoffs. But I’m given a slight edge to Clemson in this game. Kelly Bryant has really stepped up big for them this year. And we were all shown how much he means to this team when he got knocked out in the game against Syracuse just before halftime. Without Bryant, Syracuse was able to beat Clemson. I think this game will be very close all the way through, just like last year’s championship game.

Score: Clemson 31 – Alabama 30

National Championship: Jan. 8th, 8:00 p.m.

Justin’s Prediction – #2 Oklahoma vs. #4 Alabama

Justin’s Pick: Oklahoma

This is the game that the media is secretly hoping happens. The boastful, pompous attitude of college football’s hottest star, Baker Mayfield, up against the nation’s powerhouse Alabama coached by the one-and-only Nick Saban in a matchup between two of college football’s most renowned programs. The ratings here would be through the roof. People’s eyes would be glued to the screen as Mayfield would lead his Sooners, riding an eight-game winning streak at this point, to victory on the biggest stage of them all forever cementing his legacy in Norman. Alabama’s defense and team discipline is scary and if they’re able to contain Mayfield and Oklahoma’s offense then it’s their game to lose. But injuries have plagued the Crimson Tide all year long and it will finally catch up to them in this one as the Sooners will reign supreme and be on top of the college football world in their first year under head coach Lincoln Riley.

Score: Oklahoma 35 – Alabama 31

Jake’s Prediction – #1 Clemson vs. #2 Oklahoma

Jake’s Pick: Clemson

I’m saying Clemson wins their second national championship in a row this season over Oklahoma. I think this is going to be one of the highest scoring national championship games of all time. I expect Baker Mayfield and Kelly Bryant to have massive days on the biggest stage in college football. I think in the end, Clemson’s defense has a few big plays to seal the deal, specifically looking at defensive end Clelin Ferrell. He is having a monster year and I expect him to play big roles in the playoffs and championship. Clemson wins this one in another close game.

Score: Clemson 45 – Oklahoma 42

Here is a list of our picks for the remaining slate of bowl games:

Bowl Game

Justin’s Pick

Jake’s Pick

 Grambling State vs. North Carolina A&T  North Carolina A&T North Carolina A&T
 Troy vs. North Texas  Troy  Troy
 Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State  Western Kentucky  Western Kentucky
 #25 Boise State vs. Oregon  Boise State  Boise State
 Marshall vs. Colorado State Colorado State          Marshall
 Middle Tennessee State vs. Arkansas State Arkansas State Middle Tennessee State
 Akron vs. Florida Atlantic Florida Atlantic Florida Atlantic
 Louisiana Tech vs. SMU SMU SMU
 Temple vs. FIU  FIU  FIU
 UAB vs. Ohio  UAB  UAB
 Central Michigan vs. Wyoming  Central Michigan  Wyoming
 Texas Tech vs. USF  USF  USF
 San Diego State vs. Army San Diego State Army
 Appalachian State vs. Toledo Toledo Toledo
 Fresno State vs. Houston Fresno State Fresno State
 Utah vs. West Virginia West Virginia West Virginia
 Duke vs. Northern Illinois Norhern Illinois Northern Illinois
 Kansas State vs. UCLA UCLA UCLA
 Southern Miss vs. Florida State Florida State Florida State
 Iowa versus Boston College Iowa Iowa
Arizona vs. Purdue Arizona Arizona
Texas vs. Missouri Texas Missouri
 Virginia vs. Navy  Navy Navy
 #22 Virginia Tech vs. #19 Oklahoma State Oklahoma State Oklahoma State
#13 Stanford vs. #15 TCU Stanford Stanford
 #18 Washington State vs. #16 Michigan State Michigan State Michigan State
Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M Texas A&M Texas A&M
#24 NC State vs. Arizona State NC State NC State
Kentucky vs. #21 Northwestern Northwestern Northwestern
New Mexico State vs. Utah State Utah State Utah State
Louisville vs. #23 Mississippi State Louisville Mississippi State
Iowa State vs. #20 Memphis Memphis Memphis
Michigan vs. South Carolina South Carolina Michigan
#14 Notre Dame vs. #17 LSU Notre Dame LSU

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