Just Enough Bowl/Playoff Info to Impress Your Friends this Bowl Season.....
For this bowl edition we deliver quick hits and fast takes on the 12 best bowl games over the next 5 days. Keep in mind that there are no guarantees that all of these bowls will in fact get played…so any changes post-publication date are in no way the fault of the author. Note the Two Playoff semi-finals have their own write-ups at the end.
Tuesday 12/29: The Cheez-It Bowl: #21 Oklahoma State vs #18 Miami: Miami fans are excited that their QB D’Eriq King will be returning next year. In the three games against teams currently ranked in the Top 25 the Canes are 1-2 with blowout losses to Clemson and UNC and a narrow win over NC State. This is a chance to showcase what King and the Canes can be next year….The Alamo Bowl: #20 Texas vs Colorado: This is the 4th trip to the Alamo Bowl in 9 years for the Longhorns. With the Longhorns staying with Head Coach Tom Herman this would be a big win for him to start rewarding that trust.
Wednesday 12/30: The Dukes Mayo Bowl: Wake Forest vs Wisconsin: The Badgers finished December by winning Paul Bunyan’s Ax against Minnesota and signing an historically strong recruiting class. They’d love to sandwich that with a bowl win (with extra Mayo of course)……The Cotton Bowl: #7 Florida vs #6 Oklahoma: The Gators offense was going to be the best OU faced this year with great WRs…but those WRs have opted out. The weight of the offense falls on Florida QB Kyle Trask.
Friday 1/1: The Peach Bowl: #9 Georgia vs #8 Cincinnati: For those who think Georgia was overrated by the committee and that Cincinnati was underrated the proof will be in the pudding when these two teams square off…..The Citrus Bowl: Auburn vs #14 Northwestern: The Wildcats defense is good. They kept Ohio State from making explosive downfield plays in the passing game. But the Buckeyes did find their footing running the ball. Expect Auburn to hit the ground running from the game's first drive.
Saturday 1/2: The Gator Bowl: #23 NC State vs Kentucky: The Wolfpack have made great strides this season. A win over Kentucky would stamp this as a season to remember for them. Do not underestimate Kentucky. If they can get their RBs going they’ll have a chance to control the tempo of this game….The Outback Bowl: Ole Miss vs #11 Indiana: The Hoosiers really feel like a team that deserved to be in a New Year’s Six game. For IU a win in the Outback would help them "Steak Out" a rare spot in the final Top 10 . IU QB Jack Tuttle did a nice job filling in for the injured Michael Penix in a win over #18 Wisconsin. The Ole Miss offense put up big numbers against teams like Alabama (48 points) and Florida (35 points). Indiana’s secret weapon is a complex defense that grabbed an incredible 17 INTs in just 7 games….The Fiesta Bowl: #25 Oregon vs #10 Iowa State: The Pac 12 North runner-up and Pac 12 Title Game Champion plays the Big 12 Regular Season Champ and Big 12 Title game runner-up. Confused? Join the club. But Oregon will look to save some Pac 12 pride here……The Orange Bowl: #5 Texas A&M vs #13 UNC: The list of UNC Opt-outs for this bowl game is notable and will severely test UNC’s depth. The Tarheels' last outing against Miami produced a 300+ yard rusher, a 200+ yard rusher, a 200+ yard passer and a 150+ yard receiver in the same game. The A&M defense is at a whole other level than Miami. The Aggies are also resentful that Notre Dame got in the playoff over them. I agree with them.
The Semi-Finals Friday 1/1: The Rose Bowl: #4 Notre Dame vs #1 Alabama: For just the second time in history the “Granddaddy of Them All” will be played away from Pasadena. The game was once played at Duke’s Wallace-Wade Stadium during WW II. This fall when Notre Dame beat Clemson in the regular season it seemed to exorcise the demons of recent big-game embarrassments against the top tier college teams. Then came an ACC Title game blowout that brought all those doubts back to the surface. Alabama has so much firepower on offense, including 3 of the Top 5 Heisman Trophy finishers. If Notre Dame can stop that group it will mark the biggest surprise of the playoff era. The key for Notre Dame’s defense may reside with their offensive line. If they can run the ball, avoid turnovers and dominate time of possession they can stay in this one (see notes below)……
The Sugar Bowl: #3 Ohio State vs #2 Clemson: Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney has written a lot of checks for this game with his final ballot in the coaches poll (Ohio State at #11) and with some follow-up commentary. The Buckeyes had this game in control last year before Trevor Lawrence found another gear and OSU lost their slot defender Shaun Wade to a questionable targeting call. OSU’s defense is not as stromy as last year’s and that puts a lot of pressure on the Buckeye’s offense to score a lot of points. That will be a challenge because Clemson may have the best defense of the 4 playoff teams.The key to this year’s game may be the same as last year's game: Ohio State's ability to score touchdowns and not field goals in the red zone.
1. What is Best For The Playoff? The best thing that could happen for the playoff and for people who want to see the playoff expanded would be for Notre Dame and Ohio State to win to break the Alabama/Clemson stranglehold on the playoff era.
2. Who needs a Bowl win the most? All Big Ten fans should be rooting for Ohio State. After the late start and the disrespect heaped upon the Buckeyes, a win over Clemson would be a big statement for the conference. Texas also fits in this category along with Notre Dame.
3. Notre Dame Could Take a Lesson In Truly Complimentary Football: The term complimentary football gets thrown around a lot these days but most don't really knows what it means. Here’s an example. Under Barry Alvarez there were games when Wisconsin’s offense would use every second on the play clock between plays to slow the game down. All that extra time they ran off was designed to help/compliment their defense. It lowered the number of possessions for the opponent’s offense, kept the other team’s offense off the field and kept their own defense from getting tired. That may be the best way for Notre Dame to beat Alabama.
1. Pump The Brakes: We do NOT need an 8-team playoff and here is the case.
a. Exhibit A: Through six years the average margin of victory in the semifinals is 21+ points. The previous 12 semifinals have seen just 3 one-score/close games. The idea that we should add games to make the playoff more competitive as it currently stands lacks credible supporting evidence
b. Exhibit B: The 5 seed, the one team that complains every year about being “left out” and deserving of that final slot