Happy New Year, everyone!
As For Football has had a GREAT first year, and we hope that you’ve enjoyed hanging with us. We’ve got one last set of bowl games over these next few days. But I love them. This is my favorite part of the college football season.
— Army Football (@ArmyWP_Football) December 24, 2018
You are, of course, free to watch whichever games you want. My Top 5 are as follows.
5. Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: #10 Florida vs. #7 Michigan
This is a battle of two teams that thought they maybe had College Football Playoff aspirations. Granted, Michigan’s lasted a little longer than Florida’s, but both teams have to be disappointed at having been relegated to the Peach Bowl.
Florida (9-3, 5-3 SEC-East) and Michigan (10-2, 8-1 Big 10-East) look about even on offense with solid, run-first approaches. Both teams have thrown for about 215 yards/game and run for about 210. The difference is defense. Florida is allowing about 50 yards/game more on the ground, and that may be a problem.
The line is Michigan (-5.5). It strikes me as a little high. The game itself is on ESPN at noon on Saturday, December 29.
— Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (@CFAPeachBowl) December 3, 2018
4. Allstate Sugar Bowl: #15 Texas vs. #5 Georgia
On the podcast, Rob talked about the reason we have so many bowl games. To paraphrase, he said essentially, “These are really good teams that almost won their conference, and… what? Is their season just over? No, they go to a bowl game and play another really good team that they don’t normally see.”
That’s this game exactly. Texas (9-4, 7-2 Big 12) beat Oklahoma in the regular season and almost won the Big 12. Georgia (11-2, 7-1 SEC East) made Alabama look mortal for a minute and almost won the SEC. Alas, the Bulldogs have been the better team on both offense and defense–by quite a bit–which is why they’re favored by 13.
The Sugar Bowl is Tuesday, Jan. 1, at 8:45 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
#SugarBowlHOF @SteveSpurrierUF: arguably the most successful player/coach in #SugarBowl history. Only player from losing team 2 earn MVP after leading @FloridaGators' miraculous 4th Q comeback in a 20-18 loss 2 Missouri. Coached 5 UF teams to the game, earning wins in '94, '97 pic.twitter.com/J6sJdKQI2z
— Allstate Sugar Bowl (@SugarBowlNola) December 26, 2018
3. Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: #2 Clemson vs. #3 Notre Dame
I wasn’t super-interested in this game until I learned that AFFer John Szott is an Irish super-fan. Now, well, I don’t want John to be miserable, exactly, but I did pick Clemson to win, and it’s very nice to be right.
The Irish (12-0, Independent) have had a great season. They’re putting up 456 yards of offense and almost 34 points/game while allowing just 331.5 yards/game. And they’re undefeated! The problem is that Clemson (13-0, 8-0 ACC-Atlantic) has put up 530 yards on offense and 45 points against just 277 yards on defense, and they’re also undefeated. Were the Irish to somehow pull out the win here, it would be an amazing story, perhaps leading to record-breaking ratings for the National Championship. Alas, that’s just not the way I’d bet.
The line is Clemson (-13). The Cotton Bowl starts at 4 pm Eastern on Saturday, Dec. 29, on ESPN.
The next chapter of the @Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic is here… 83 years have led to this moment… @NDFootball & @ClemsonFB square off on December 29th at 3 p.m. CT at AT&T Stadium to earn a trip to the @CFBPlayoff National Championship. History will be made! #GoodyearCottonBowl pic.twitter.com/lRuGk54T9h
— Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (@CottonBowlGame) December 3, 2018
2. PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: #11 LSU vs. #8 UCF
I’m in a hotel in Vermont as I write this, and the game that folks are talking about is this one, the Fiesta Bowl. UCF has been so good for the past two seasons, and if they ever want to get to the next level, they absolutely have to have this game.
The thing is, while UCF (12-0, 8-0 AAC-East) has been one of the best offensive teams in the country, they haven’t been nearly that good on defense. Yes, the Knights put up 44 points/game and 545 yards. Yes, that includes nearly 300 yards/game rushing. But they’ve been allowing 200 yards/game passing and 227 yards/game rushing, and that is a lot for a would-be elite team.
On the other side, LSU (9-3, 5-3 SEC-West) has been putting up nearly 200 yards/game rushing and 32 points. That’s not elite, but it’s usually been enough. In this game in particular, I expect the Tigers to control the clock and thus the game itself, but we’ve seen the Knights pull off miracles before. Nevertheless, Vegas likes LSU (-7.5).
The Fiesta Bowl is Tuesday, Jan. 1, at 1 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
— PlayStation Fiesta Bowl (@Fiesta_Bowl) December 2, 2018
1. Capital One Orange Bowl: #1 Alabama vs. #4 Oklahoma
Can anyone stop Alabama (12-0, 8-0 SEC-West)? Their defense has been damn-near elite this season, and their offense has been absolutely unstoppable. They’ve put up more than 300 yards/game passing and more than 200 yards/game rushing while allowing less than 300 yards of offense overall. Really, up until the SEC Championship Game, they’d vaporized everyone.
The argument for Oklahoma (12-1, 8-1 Big 12) is that they can score on anyone, and they’re perfectly comfortable getting into shoot-outs. The Sooners top the Tide by 50 yards/game rushing, putting up an unreal 254 yards/game on the ground. They’ve averaged almost 50 points/game. But the Sooners have allowed 32 points/game and almost 450 yards on defense, and that’s tough against an offense like Alabama’s.
Vegas likes the Tide by two touchdowns. The Orange Bowl is Saturday, Dec. 29, at 8 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
— Capital One Orange Bowl (@OrangeBowl) December 27, 2018
TaxSlayer Gator Bowl: NC State vs. #19 Texas A&M. This whole year has been an SEC coming out party for Texas A&M. Not that they’re necessarily the best team in the SEC, but they finally look legit in the power conference. That matters quite a bit.
The game is Monday, Dec. 31, at 7:30 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. The line is Aggies (-7). Against an inconsistent NC State team, I think they cover easily.
VRBO Citrus Bowl: #14 Kentucky vs. #12 Penn State. Both these teams started hot but faded. Most of the intrigue is therefore at the conference level. Can the Big 10 hang with the SEC in the postseason? They haven’t made it into the College Football Championship in years now.
Penn State is favored by 6.5. I’d take Kentucky and the points. Kickoff is Tuesday, Jan. 1, at 1 p.m. Eastern on ABC.
Rose Bowl: #9 Washington vs. #6 Ohio State. What I just said about the Big 10 goes triple for the Pac-12. Plus, Ohio State thought they maybe had a shot at the playoff.
The line is OSU (-6.5). ESPN has the game at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 1.