It’s been a pretty good week of football, my friends. I’ll admit that I’ve been a little more caught up in the NFL’s race to the playoffs than I have been in college bowl season, but yesterday’s games were all terrific. Western Kentucky won an instant classic in the First Responder’s Bowl against Western Michigan, and even the Orange Bowl, which pitted Florida against what most expected to be a severely overmatched team from Virginia, turned out to be pretty damned exciting. The Cavaliers didn’t win, but they sure didn’t disappoint.
Also, this happened:
— Army Hockey (@ArmyWP_Hockey) December 30, 2019
This post marks our sprint to the finish. We’ll not cover the CFB Championship Game this week, but this is our Top 5 for New Year’s Eve and beyond.
As For Football’s Top 5 New Year’s-plus Bowl Games
5. Gator Bowl: Indiana vs Tennessee (-2)
I don’t know that either of these teams is good necessarily, but the Vols certainly played better after getting off to that atrocious start. They still finished just 7-5, which isn’t exactly up to par for Peyton Manning’s alma mater, but it’s a decided improvement.
Indiana has by far the better offense, especially passing, but Tennessee is giving up just 191.3 yards/game through the air. If the Vols can avoid giving up too many big plays, they ought to win a slugfest.
Is Tennessee back? It’d be cool if they were.
We’ll find out Thursday, January 2nd, at 7:00 pm on ESPN.
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) December 31, 2019
4. Rose Bowl: #6 Oregon vs #8 Wisconsin (-3)
Pac-12 winner Oregon takes on Big 10 runner up Wisconsin. That’s a pretty good match-up. These teams are surprisingly even on offense, though the Ducks tend to throw a good bit more than do the Badgers. The difference may come on defense, where Wisconsin is giving up just 191.2 yards/game passing.
If Wisconsin can run the ball and get a pass rush going, they ought to win handily. But then, that’s what Utah thought, no?
The Rose Bowl is New Year’s Day at 5:00 pm on ESPN.
Free games and music? ✅
Team bands? ✅
Photos with the trophy? ✅
Custom t-shirts and exclusive merch? ✅
— Rose Bowl Game (@rosebowlgame) December 30, 2019
3. Alamo Bowl: Texas (+7) vs #11 Utah
Utah ought to be the runaway favorite here, but I’m just not feeling it. The Longhorns have played a lot of close games against a whole bunch of good teams. Yeah, they finished just 7-5, but would they have done worse than the Utes against the same schedule?
The Longhorns throw for nearly 300 yards/game, while the Utes give up just 185.9 yards/game through the air. Utah’s defense has been even better against the rush. And yet, I’ll still take Texas.
Forget New Year’s Eve, folks. The real action is tonight at 7:30 pm on ESPN.
— Texas Football (@TexasFootball) December 31, 2019
2. Outback Bowl: #12 Auburn vs #18 Minnesota (+7)
I want to believe in Auburn, but I can’t take them to cover a full touchdown against a Minnesota team that’s been great against good teams all year long.
Minnesota has been slightly better in every category than Auburn has been save one, points-allowed. By comparison, Auburn has only really succeeded when they’ve been able to run right at people. That ought to make this one a slugfest. Personally, I’d like to see Auburn pull it out, but I’ll take the Gophers and the points.
The Outback Bowl is tomorrow at 1:00 pm on ESPN.
— Outback Bowl (@outbackbowl) December 8, 2019
1. Sugar Bowl: #7 Baylor (+5.5) vs #5 Georgia
This might not be the game we wanted, but folks, it’s the game we deserve.
No seriously. Raise your hand if you had Baylor in the Big 12 Championship before the season started. And yet, they’ve been one of the best, most consistent teams in all of college football all season long on both sides of the ball. Against that, Georgia has been elite on exactly one side of the ball, defense.
I think the Bears get it done. They’re great on offense, but they’re also very good on defense going against a mediocre Georgia offense. Not necessarily expecting a lot of points, but I’ve got a strong enough lean for the Bears here that I’m actively hoping Coach Matt Rhule makes his stop at the Meadowlands with the New York Giants.
The Game of the Week is tomorrow at 8:45 pm on ESPN.
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— Allstate Sugar Bowl (@SugarBowlNola) December 31, 2019
Citrus Bowl: #13 Alabama vs #14 Michigan
It’s heresy to put these guys here, right? And yet, ‘Bama is gonna stomp a mudhole in this one, and who wants to watch that?
The slaughter begins in earnest tomorrow, starting at 1:00 pm on ABC.
Birmingham Bowl: Boston College vs #21 Cincinnati
Fascinating match-up. If we were doing a Top 6 instead of a Top 5, this game would’ve made the cut. It’s awkwardly scheduled, but it’s still a definite must-watch.
Kickoff for the Birmingham Bowl is Thursday, January 2nd, at 3:00 pm on ESPN.
Belk Bowl: Kentucky vs Virginia Tech
This game makes it to the Honorable Mention section on the strength of Power 5 bias. Kentucky is trending the wrong way, but I think Tech might be back to full power next year against a mediocre ACC. But I guess we’ll see.
The game is today at noon on ESPN.
Liberty Bowl: Kansas State vs #23 Navy
Good God, didn’t we hear enough from Navy this year? I certainly did. Alas, K-State has one of the worst rushing defenses in the country.
Watch QB Malcolm Perry rush for 700 yards today, starting at 3:45 pm on ESPN.
* Cover image via Baylor.edu.