Happy Friday, friends.
I’d hoped to get this preview up yesterday, but I’m up in Vermont with my family, and the skiing has been pretty good. All that clean mountain air can be a little distracting to say the very least.
The As For Football crew sincerely hopes that you had an excellent Christmas or Hanukkah or whatever, and that you’re now ready to refocus and watch a Hell of a lot of really great college football over the next few days. This year’s calendar puts New Year’s Day on a Wednesday, and that’s done some weird — and in a few cases, unfortunate — things to the New Year’s bowl schedule. As a result, we decided not to break this preview down strictly by weeks like we did last year. Instead, this preview covers this weekend — Friday to Monday. After that, we start getting into New Year’s Bowls, and there are so many that covering just the Top 5 misses quite a few good games.
No one wants that.
— Drunk Old Grad (@DrunkOldGrad) December 21, 2019
As For Football’s Top 5 Bowls Before New Years
5. Military Bowl: North Carolina (-5) vs Temple
These teams look pretty even on the stat-line, but the Tarheels are just a little better on offense. North Carolina also has — arguably — the better strength of schedule, though this is exactly the kind of game that Temple has been winning all season.
The real reason to watch this game? It’s your last chance to watch former Army DC Jay Bateman’s defense in action in 2019.
ESPN has the coverage starting this afternoon at noon. The Military Bowl is played at the House of Evil in Annapolis, Maryland.
— #militarybowl (@MilitaryBowl) December 14, 2019
4. Cotton Bowl: #17 Memphis vs #10 Penn State (-7)
Memphis has the better offensive statistics in this one because, amazingly, they have the better passing attack. However, the Nittany Lions have given up just 97.7 yards rushing/game, and although the Tigers haven’t been quite as run-heavy in 2019 as they were in years past, that’s probably still gonna be enough to decide the contest. By way of comparison, Memphis has given up a whopping 171.6 yards rushing/game. That’s not terrible, but it’s not exactly good, either, especially against a talented Penn State rushing attack.
Folks, this means that the Nittany Lions will be both run the ball and stop the run. That’s how you win at football.
This is gonna be a blowout.
The Cotton Bowl is on ESPN on Saturday, December 28th at noon.
— Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (@CottonBowlGame) December 8, 2019
3. Camping World Bowl: Iowa State vs #15 Notre Dame (-3.5)
Pretty interesting contest. Notre Dame comes in 10-2 while the Cyclones are just 7-5, but the betting line is close, and I can’t think of anyone who believes the Irish will run away with this one. Iowa State owns a win over Texas and close losses to both Iowa and Oklahoma. They have every chance despite not necessarily owning a signature victory this season.
By comparison, Notre Dame has beaten Virginia, Virginia Tech, USC, and Stamford. That’s better than losing to those teams, but they the Irish did lose to Georgia, and they got blown out by Michigan. This has not quite been the same Irish squad from 2018, unfortunately.
Iowa State has the better passing offense; Notre Dame has — by far — the better passing defense. That probably means the Irish win it, but these teams look pretty even otherwise.
The Camping World Bowl is Saturday, December 28th at noon on ABC.
— Cheez-It Bowl (@CheezItBowl) December 8, 2019
2. Fiesta Bowl: #3 Clemson vs #2 Ohio State (+2)
The Fiesta Bowl is the late game Saturday evening. It’s the second of the College Football Playoff games, and it may well be the most exciting game of the weekend. Certainly, we’re getting two of the very best teams in the country.
Both teams are undefeated. In fact, save for a swoon against Jay Bateman’s North Carolina defense, the Clemson Tigers have murdered pretty much everyone. They murdered Virginia in the ACC Championship just a few weeks ago. But, you know, the Buckeyes have murdered everyone, too. Yeah, they stumbled in the first half against Wisconsin in the Big 10 title game, but it’s not like the game was actually close at the end.
Statistically, these teams are playing nearly identical defense. Both squads give up just a fraction less than 4 yards/play. However, the Tigers have been good for 7.5 yards/play on offense versus Ohio State’s 7.0. I don’t know that I would bet my house on that tiny offensive edge, but it does probably explain the betting line. It’s worth noting, though, that Ohio State has played an exponentially harder schedule.
The ACC Champ meets the Big 10 Champ on Saturday, December 28th at 8:00 p.m. on ESPN. This should be a legitimately great contest.
— PlayStation Fiesta Bowl (@Fiesta_Bowl) December 27, 2019
1. Peach Bowl: #1 LSU (-13.5) vs #4 Oklahoma
The Peach Bowl gets the top spot because of my personal rooting interests. I’ve been on the LSU bandwagon all season, and I’m sure as Hell not jumping off now.
LSU is undefeated. I don’t know if they get an asterisk beside their record for beating ‘Bama without Tua, but they did, and here they are. The Tigers have always been great on defense, but this year they’ve had an offense to match. Save for the Iron Bowl, they’ve blown out pretty much everybody.
By comparison, Oklahoma started red hot behind Alabama transfer quarterback Jalen Hurts, but they’ve cooled over the course of the season. They even dropped a game to Kansas State. But they beat a very good Baylor team in overtime in the Big 12 Championship, and with Utah losing the Pac-12 Championship, they get their shot in the playoff.
Everybody likes LSU in this game, including me. I’m just gonna enjoy it more.
The Peach Bowl is on ESPN of Saturday, December 28th at 4:00 p.m.
Competition is king at the #CFAPeachBowl, even when it's not on the football field.
— Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (@CFAPeachBowl) December 27, 2019
Pinstripe Bowl: Michigan State vs Wake Forest (+3.5)
Wake Forest has been sneaky good on offense. I think they probably win this one against a Michigan State team that struggles to score.
The Pinstripe Bowl kicks off at Yankee Stadium this evening at 3:20 p.m. on ESPN
Texas Bowl: #25 Oklahoma State (+5.5) vs Texas A&M
The Texas Bowl pits two teams I dislike. Oklahoma State fraudulently claims a national championship that actually belongs to Army, and Texas A&M is Texas A&M. If you can get past that, the game kicks off at 6:45 p.m. this afternoon on ESPN.
The Aggies are somehow the favorites. I have no idea why. The Cowboys are going to kick their asses up between their ears.
Holiday Bowl: #16 Iowa (-2) vs #22 USC
I’ve got nothing special on this one, but it should be a close contest. It’s tonight at 8:00 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.
Cheez-It Bowl: Air Force vs Washington State (+3)
Get your Zoomie fix, if you need one. They kick off tonight at 10:15 p.m. on ESPN.
That’s all I’ve got. Enjoy the games.
* Cover image via Bleacher Report.