On a Sunday full of fantasy football goodness, a huge Packers win, and more Cardinals embarrassment against the Rams, I didn’t have a chance to take a look at the entirety of the bowl matchups. So while I take a look at the schedule for the first time, here are 25 initial stream of consciousness impressions on the bowls
1. The playoff committee got it right by placing Alabama over Ohio State. While the Buckeyes had a much more difficult schedule and an extra loss compared to the Crimson Tide, losing by 31 to a slightly-above average Iowa team in early-November was unforgivable. Based on the eye test, at least as I see it, Alabama appears to be the more talented team on both sides of the ball. Sorry Buckeyes fans…you were lucky to make it to the playoff both in 2014 and last season; no such luck this time.
2. Based on the Alabama inclusion, it’s apparent that scheduling tough non-conference games is useless. Had Ohio State gone 12-1 with only the Iowa loss and a win over let’s say Ohio U instead of a loss to Oklahoma, there wouldn’t be any debate right now. They’d be in the final four.
3. If you think Clemson is excited to play Alabama for the third straight postseason, this time in the Sugar Bowl, you’re crazy. Brutal draw for the worthy #1 Tigers but Dabo Swinney seems to have his old alma mater’s number based on last season’s National Championship Game and a near upset the year before.
4. The Oklahoma-Georgia game is the one postseason matchup I’m most looking forward to, however. An incredible offense (OU) vs. a stacked defense and awesome rushing attack (UGA). While I’ll be rooting for the Bulldogs I’m sure, I’ll be picking likely-Heisman winner Baker Mayfield and company to make the National Championship Game.
5. Rich Rodriguez says Khalil Tate is healthy and will start the Foster Farms Bowl against Purdue. While I’m a bit skeptical that’s the case for now, if so, expect an offensive explosion from the Wildcats in San Francisco. If they don’t score 40 points on a below-average Purdue D, I’d be surprised.
6. I watched NC State a few times this season and never came away too impressed. I expect ASU to play very hard for departing coach Todd Graham and win the Sun Bowl going away. Whatever the spread ends up being, take the Sun Devils and don’t look back…
7. One thing about both the ASU and UofA bowl games…they are two of only a handful of games televised on broadcast TV (CBS & FOX respectively). It’s great added exposure for both schools, our state, and the conference.
8. I like the Fiesta Bowl matchup of Washington-Penn State but was really hoping to see the Cotton Bowl teams, USC and Ohio State instead. I’m hesitant to make a pick on the Big 10-Pac-12 runner-up bowl until I see whether star PSU RB Saquon Barkley will play or sit out due to risk of injury in a fairly meaningless game.
9. Bill Snyder always gets his Kansas State teams to play hard in the bowl games…this Cactus Bowl (at Chase Field) might mean a bit more for him as the 78 year-old coach may step aside after the game. For UCLA, they’re playing for an interim coach with a lame duck QB, Josh Rosen, who I wouldn’t be shocked if he sat out also due to preventing injury.
10. The Cotton Bowl matchup between the Big 10 and Pac-12 champs will be awesome! The key to this game is motivation – which teams wants to be there more? If the Buckeyes show up with emotion, they should roll due to the major speed advantage they maintain over the Trojans.
11. Miami gets a literal home game against Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl – pitting two teams who very likely were overrated all season against each other. Something tells me this game will be low-scoring and fairly ugly.
12. Auburn is going to ROLL (no pun intended) Central Florida in the Peach Bowl. If the Tigers win by any less than three touchdowns against the Knights and their ragged defense, it’s only due to lack of motivation. Then again, UCF coach Scott Frost has already moved on to Nebraska so not sure of how the AAC Champions will represent themselves.
13. Who will be coaching Oregon against Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl? If Ducks coach Willie Taggart takes the Florida State job as has been discussed, I wouldn’t expect a big effort from a team playing with max effort. The Broncos might be a sneaky pick on Day 1 of bowl season on December 16th.
14. The Birmingham Bowl is one of the rare early season matchups with two interesting teams, Texas Tech and South Florida. This one could be a fun shootout as both teams have a habit of playing little defense in certain games. Either way, I’d say the Bulls are a clear favorite with QB Quinton Flowers playing in his final collegiate game.
15. Take the under in the Hawai’i Bowl. Both Fresno State and Houston have above average defenses. Usually this game on Christmas Eve tends to be high-scoring…not this year I predict.
16. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is 10-1 in bowl games. The trend will continue this year when the Utes face a West Virginia team in the Heart of Dallas Bowl that likely won’t be able to slow their strong rushing attack.
17. My preseason national champion, Florida State, is playing in the Independence Bowl against Southern Miss. Considering coach Jimbo Fisher just abandoned the Seminoles for Texas A&M, do you think FSU wants to be in this game? Not so much. Once again, think about motivation or lack of it when making a pick.
18. A cool former Big 12 matchup in the Texas Bowl between Missouri and Texas. Look for a lot of points on the board and a Longhorns win as a springboard to a potentially big season in 2018.
19. Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State in the Camping World Bowl is one of the rare non-CFP Bowls featuring two really good teams that would’ve been considered top-12 contenders earlier this season. It would be fitting to see the Cowboys close out the careers of star QB Mason Rudolph and WR James Washington with a convincing win.
20. TCU is playing essentially a home game in the Alamo Bowl (in San Antonio) against Stanford. While the Cardinal are damn good, initially I’m leaning towards picking the Horned Frogs in what should be an entertaining matchup.
21. Washington State stunk up the Holiday Bowl last year in a loss to Minnesota while Michigan State will be motivated to be back in the postseason after a lost 2016 campaign. WSU has struggled on the road this season so I’ll most likely be taking the Spartans to slow down Cougs’ QB Luke Falk in San Diego.
22. Two defensive-minded teams with major QB issues meeting in the Outback Bowl. I think we’ve seen this before…and if I remember correctly, one of the best defensive plays I’ve ever seen happened in that previous matchup…
Michigan vs South Carolina in the Outback Bowl.
The last time that happened….. pic.twitter.com/DHhYJ9ywZd
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) December 3, 2017
23. I love this New Year’s Day matchup between Notre Dame and LSU! Will either star RB, LSU’s Derrius Guice or ND’s Josh Adams play…or will both sit out and protect themselves from injury? Either way, look for LSU’s defense to be the deciding factor in this game. Another small prediction: the losing coach will open up 2018 on the hot seat.
24. Early prediction part I (very much subject to change), the Pac-12 posts a losing bowl record (3-5) with only wins by Arizona, ASU, and Utah.
25. Early prediction part II (also subject to change): Clemson wins the National Championship in blowout fashion over Oklahoma in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.