Capital One Orange Bowl (December 30): #6 Michigan (10-2) vs. #11 Florida State (9-3)
This matchup is a very intriguing one because of the history that is behind these two programs and the playoff intentions of each team at the beginning of the year. Each team was projected to make the playoff, which ended in vain for both teams. Florida State had a shaky start to the year after losing in Week 3 to Louisville and then suffering two other losses to Clemson and North Carolina. But they finished the year out strong, especially with a big win against in-state rival Florida.
Michigan looked like they would cruise into the Big Ten Championship Game and a playoff bid, but then the Iowa game happened. Losing to the Hawkeyes on the road on a last second field goal gave the Wolverines their first loss. Then there was The Game at Ohio State, a controversial yet thrilling double overtime game that handed Michigan their second loss, which cost them their bid to the Big Ten Championship Game and the College Football Playoff. Both teams are looking for redemption after a season that fell short of high expectations. One key that is forgotten is that the game is played in Florida, which should make this game close. Still, give the edge to Michigan.
Prediction: Michigan 27, Florida State 21
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual (January 2): #5 Penn State (11-2) vs. #9 USC (9-3)
Probably the most anticipated game in this year’s bowl season (other than the CFP games) is between arguably the two hottest teams in college football. For Penn State, after being projected to go 5-7 by ESPN and a 2-2 start to the year, many people doubted that Penn State would be back to the “Old Penn State” and the Head Coach James Franklin was on the hot seat to be fired. Then the Ohio State game happened, featuring the blocked field goal that changed the Nittany Lions season and might have saved the program. Penn State finished out the regular season with 8 straight wins and a bid to play in the Big Ten Championship vs. Wisconsin where they came back from down 28-7 to win 38-31 and finish the year at 11-2 and as Big Ten Champions.
For USC, after Week 1 smackdown against Alabama and a losses to Stanford and Utah, the Trojans started 1-3. The Trojans are also on a huge winning streak of 8 games to finish 9-3, including a win at the #4 playoff team Washington. Both teams are riding high coming into this game, but again the home field advantage could be a factor for the Trojans as the game is played in Los Angeles. Quarterback play will be the biggest factor and no one has been better than Trace McSorley this season giving the Nittany Lions the edge.
Prediction: Penn State 42, USC 38
Goodyear Cotton Bowl (January 2): #8 Wisconsin (10-3) vs. #15 Western Michigan (13-0)
This is an interesting matchup between a deserving Wisconsin team who has 3 quality losses to top 6 teams of Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State (in the Big Ten Championship Game). They are one of the leading defenses in the country, led by T.J. Watt, younger brother of J.J. Watt. It will be interesting to see how this defense goes up against the high powered offense that Western Michigan brings. The undefeated Broncos have a so-so resume with one quality win coming against Northwestern in a thriller. This is the difference in this matchup. Wisconsin plays in a better conference and has beaten better teams and has more quality losses than Western Michigan has quality wins.
Prediction: Wisconsin 45, Western Michigan 14
Allstate Sugar Bowl (January 2): #7 Oklahoma (10-2) vs. #14 Auburn (8-4)
The Sugar Bowl usually brings some classic games throughout the years and hopefully this year brings the same. A somewhat surprising matchup is in store this year with the addition of the Auburn Tigers as the opponent to play against the Oklahoma Sooners. Auburn, who had a difficult year of a record of 8-4, started the season out shaky but has turned it around with some great offensive play leading the team to key wins against LSU and Ole Miss. For the Sooners, a preseason favorite to make the CFP, started the season with devastating losses to Houston and Ohio State. After those losses the Sooners went to rack up 10 wins and a Big 12 Conference Title. They are led by Heisman finalist Baker Mayfield, and he is the key to this ball game, giving the Sooners the edge.
Prediction: Oklahoma 49, Auburn 35
College Football Playoff
National Semifinal: Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl (December 31): #1 Alabama (13-0) vs. #4 Washington (12-1)
This is an huge matchup to start the 3rd College Football Playoff, with the “unstoppable” Alabama Crimson Tide going up against the surprising Washington Huskies who no one thought would make it to the playoff this year. Even until the final rankings of the College Football Playoff rankings many people still had the Huskies out of the semifinals because of the strength of their non-conference schedule mainly. Their only loss was to USC at home, but some key wins were against Washington State and Colorado in the Pac 12 Championship.
Washington is coming into the game as huge underdogs against the Crimson Tide because of how dominant Alabama has been this year. The undefeated Tide have had only one really close game, which was at LSU 13-3. The key to the Tide’s success was the play of true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts and the dominance of the Alabama defense, who did not give up a single touchdown the whole month of November. This is what gives Alabama the huge advantage and an easy win vs. Washington.
Prediction: Alabama 38, Washington 10
National Semifinal: PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: #2 Clemson (12-1) vs. #3 Ohio State (11-1)
These two teams were pretty much locks to make the Playoff this year. Clemson had one blip in their season with a last second field goal loss at home vs. Pittsburgh. The Tigers have been a strong force this year, and many people believe they have the best shot of beating Alabama, with key wins vs. Virginia Tech and Florida State. The ACC Champion Tigers are led by Heisman finalist Deshaun Watson who has been unstoppable this year through the air.
Ohio State is also led by another great quarterback, J.T. Barrett, who’s been having another great season. The Buckeyes have had a strong season with their only loss coming to Big Ten Champion Penn State. Even though the Buckeyes did not win their conference, they’ve had many quality wins against Oklahoma, Michigan and Wisconsin. Clemson does have the slight edge on the defensive end and this is a huge key in this game.
Prediction: Clemson 27, Ohio State 24
The National Championship Game is not part of the New Year’s Six Bowl games so that prediction will occur after these games happen.