Friday Jan. 1st
Outback Bowl: Tennessee (8-4) vs. Northwestern (9-3) 12:00 pm EST
Analysis and Pick:
The speed of Tennessee on both offense and defense is the difference in this game. Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs has the ability to run and stretch the Wildcats defense vertically in this game. Dobbs has completed 59% of his passes for 2,125 yards with 15 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. On the ground Dobbs has added 623 yards with 9 touchdowns and has averaged 4.6 yards per carry. Tennessee has lost four games this season to Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alabama and Florida by a total of 17 points or 4.2 points per game. Tennessee is averaging 34 points per game and is rushing for 223 yards per game. The Volunteers have a balanced offense and can run the football between the tackles rushing for 199 yards per game against their opponents. Northwestern has struggled with physical rushing attacks this season as the Wildcats lost to Michigan (38-0) and Iowa (40-10). Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd is the X-factor and is a rare combination of size and speed. On the year, Hurd leads the Volunteers with 1,158 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. Tennessee head coach Butch Jones has just received a $500,000 bonus for this season. Expect the Volunteers to be focused entering this game.
Update: Starting Northwestern CB Nick VanHoose (Big 10 2nd team selection) is out for this game with a finger injury.
Tennessee 30 Northwestern 14
Citrus Bowl: Michigan (9-3) vs. Florida (10-3) 1:00 pm EST
Analysis and Pick:
This game features two top defenses in the Michigan Wolverines (17 points per game) and the Florida Gators (16 points per game). The Gators have a physical defense led by defensive tackle Johnathan Bullard (63 total tackles, 6.5 sacks) that is very good at stuffing the run. On the year, Florida is giving up 121 rushing yards per game while surrendering 174 passing yards to their opponents. Florida has a solid secondary led by Vernon Hargreaves III that can challenge Michigan wide receiver Amara Darboh (56 receptions, 703 yards with 5 TD’s). Michigan wants to run the football and work off of play action with quarterback Jake Ruddock (2,739 yards, 17 TD’s). However, the Gators strength is the middle of their defense that can create penetration in running lanes and allow linebacker Antonio Morrison to fill the gaps. Florida can make Michigan one dimensional and force Ruddock to throw over the top which the Wolverines offense has not been able to do consistently this season. The Gators are very good at forcing turnovers and enter this game +10 in turnover margin (+8 on the road) while the Wolverines have struggled winning the turnover battles this year (-6 in turnover margin, -6 on the road). The Gators also have a top ranked pass rush that has recorded 40 sacks on the year and can pressure Ruddock into short throws underneath coverage. Look for Gators head coach Jim McElwain to have an offensive game plan that stretches Michigan’s front seven early on to open up the running lanes for Kelvin Taylor. While Florida has struggled offensively this season (24 points per game, 210 passing yds., 128 rush yds.) the Gators will find enough to reach the end zone a few times and win the ball game.
Florida 24 Michigan 20 (Best Pick)
Fiesta Bowl: Notre Dame (10-2) vs. Ohio State (11-1) 1:00pm EST
Analysis and Pick:
Ohio State defensive lineman Adolphus Washington has been suspended and kicked off of the team for this game. Even without Washington in the lineup, this is a bad matchup for Notre Dame. Defensively, the Buckeyes are very solid in the secondary led by safety Vonn Bell (2 interceptions) and are allowing 14 points per game this season to their opponents. Ohio State is surrendering 127 rushing yards per game and will be able to put pressure on Notre Dame quarterback DeShon Kizer (63% completions, 2,596 yards with 19 touchdowns) in forcing mistakes in the passing game for the Irish. Ohio State has recorded 34 sacks and still has defensive end Joey Bosa (5 sacks) in the lineup to create havoc in the Notre Dame backfield. Ohio State is giving up 176 passing yards per game and has been able to force long third down situations for opposing offenses. On the year, the Buckeyes have allowed their opponents to convert 34% of their third down attempts and will be able to force the Notre Dame offense into their defensive strengths in this game. Ohio State is averaging 35 points per game and are led by quarterback J.T Barrett. Barrett has completed 63% of his passes for 781 yards with 10 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. On the ground, he has added 585 yards with 11 scores and his ability to catch the edge of the Irish defense will be the difference in this game. Running back Ezekiel Elliott leads the team with 1,672 yards with 19 touchdowns and will most likely be playing his last game in a Buckeyes uniform. Ohio State is passing for 186 yards per game and is rushing for 242 yards on the ground this season. This game will be won on the offensive and defensive lines in which I believe the Buckeyes hold a superior advantage. Notre Dame has struggled with teams like Stanford and Boston College this year. Ohio State is a team that is built with very strong interior lines and look for the Buckeyes to rout the Irish in a high scoring game.
Ohio State 49 Notre Dame 31
Rose Bowl: Iowa (12-1) vs. Stanford (11-2) 5:00 pm EST
Analysis and Pick:
Similar “blue collar” teams that resemble each other on the offensive side of the ball with run heavy offenses and physical defenses. Stanford comes into this game averaging 37 points per game pounding the football for 224 yards on the ground and passing for 210 yards per game. Running back Christian McCaffrey broke Barry Sanders All-purpose yards record with 3,496 yards (Sanders had 3,250 in two less games in 1988) and will look to get him the football early and often against a Hawkeyes defense that is surrendering 18 points per game. McCaffrey leads the Cardinal with 1,847 yards with 8 touchdowns and leads the team with 41 receptions for 540 yards (4 TD’s receiving). Iowa’s defensive strength is in the interior line that is allowing 114 rushing yards per game and has a veteran secondary led by Desmond King (tied for 1st in FBS with 8 INT’s) that is yielding 219 passing yards per game. Iowa has played very well on the road this year and is +12 in turnover margin entering this game (+6 on the road). This will be the first Rose Bowl for the Hawkeyes since 1991 (lost to Washington 46-34) and the team has sold their allotment of tickets (22,000 tickets) for this game. The Cardinal have played in three of the last four Rose Bowls and are the veteran team in terms of preparation for this game. However, in my opinion, the Hawkeyes match up very well against the Cardinal defensively which can put pressure on Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan to throw over the top of the Hawkeyes defense. Iowa has registered 18 interceptions on the season and is able to play man to man coverage on the outside. Iowa is averaging 32 points per game and has a balanced offensive attack that is rushing for 192 yards per game while passing for 210 yards per game. Quarterback C.J Beathard is a smart quarterback that plays well within the system and makes solid choices in the passing game. On the year, Beathard has completed 61% of his passes for 2,570 yards with 15 touchdowns. This game comes down to which team can run the ball effectively and create turnovers. Look for Hawkeyes to win the battle with their secondary and load the box against McCaffrey in minimizing big plays by Stanford. In the end, the Hawkeyes wear down the Cardinal in a very close game.
Iowa 21 Stanford 17
Sugar Bowl: Ole Miss (9-3) vs. Oklahoma State (10-2) 8:30 pm EST
Analysis and Pick:
Ole Miss starting defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche was injured in a fall last week and was charged with possession of marijuana. His status for this game is uncertain. However, with or without him, the Ole Miss Rebels have the advantage is this game. Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly has completed 65% of his passes for 3,740 yards with 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Kelly is a dual threat signal caller that has stepped up in big games this year and has added 427 rushing yards with 10 scores on the ground. The Rebels are averaging 40 points per game and are passing for 333 yards per game. The Rebels utilize different formations to create one on one match-ups with their playmakers. On the season, the team is rushing for 181 yards per game and has a shifty underrated running back in Jaylen Walton-who leads the team with 690 yards and 5 touchdowns on the ground. Ole Miss will look to attack an Oklahoma State defense that is allowing 29 points per game and is giving up 244 passing yards along with 185 rushing yards to their opponents this season. Ole Miss has speed at every position that can create pressure on the edge of the Cowboys defense and allow Ole Miss to hit big plays in the Cowboys secondary. Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell is a big receiver that can take the top off of the secondary and leads the team with 76 receptions for 1,082 yards and 8 touchdowns. Oklahoma State struggled with teams like Texas Tech and Baylor that challenged the edge of their defense. The Rebels are a team that is built the same way and has a more physical running game than both of those teams that can wear down a smallish Cowboys defensive front seven. Defensively, the Rebels are allowing 22 points per game and are surrendering 255 passing yards per game along with yielding 132 rushing yards per game to their opponents. Last year, the Rebels were embarrassed by TCU in the Peach Bowl and were not a focused football team entering that matchup. However, expect a different group in a primetime game that the Rebels will dominate from start to finish.
Ole Miss 50 Oklahoma State 34 (Best Pick)
Saturday Jan. 2nd
Taxslayer Bowl: Penn State (7-5) vs. Georgia (9-3) 12:00 pm EST
Analysis and Pick:
Georgia will not have head coach Mark Richt (new head coach at Miami), offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer (not retained by new head coach Kirby Smart) and defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt (hired by Alabama) for this game. That is a lot of personnel to not have for the team entering this bowl game. Also, Georgia starting defensive end Chauncey Rivers has been suspended and will not play in this game.
This game will come down to defense and the Nittany Lions are a very solid group that is led by defensive end Carl Nassib that leads FBS in total sacks with 15.5. Penn State is allowing 21 points per game while yielding 174 passing yards per game and 149 rushing yards to their opponents this season. Penn State has recorded 44 total sacks and ranks in the top 10 for total sacks in FBS. Offensively, the Nittany Lions have a veteran quarterback Christian Hackenberg that will likely be playing his last game in a Penn State uniform. Hackenberg has struggled with consistency under second year head coach James Franklin because of the offensive line (39 sacks allowed) and will look to take his talents to the next level before he has a major injury. This could be the perfect stage for Hackenberg against a Georgia defense that is giving up 16 points per game and 146 yards in the secondary. The Bulldogs are yielding 151 rushing yards per game and will be challenged by Penn State in this game. Penn State is +5 in turnover margin (-3 on the road) while Georgia is +3 in turnover margin (+5 on the road). Georgia quarterback Greyson Lambert has struggled this season in taking control of the offense and has completed 64% of his passes for 1,844 yards with 11 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Lambert has been turnover prone in big games and has not progressed consistently in stretching defenses vertically. Georgia is averaging 26 points per game and the Bulldogs love to run between the tackles averaging 1ng 194 rushing yards per game. However, the team is passing for 187 yards per game and will be facing a tough secondary in Penn State. This game will come down to which quarterback can make plays and in my opinion, I feel that Hackenberg can step up and lead his team to the bowl victory. Coupled with the loss of coaches for the Bulldogs, the team is facing an uphill battle in terms of game planning for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State 28 Georgia 24 (Best Pick)
Liberty Bowl: Kansas State (6-6) vs. Arkansas (7-5) 3:20 pm EST
Analysis and Pick:
Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman left for the position at Georgia for new head coach Kirby Smart. Arkansas have a very physical offense and defensive lines that can wear down an undersized Kansas State team. Arkansas is averaging 35 points per game and is led by senior quarterback Brandon Allen. Allen has completed 65% of his passes for 3,125 yards with 29 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Arkansas is averaging 264 passing yards per game and 193 rushing yards per game. The Razorbacks will want to pound the football behind their “heavy offensive line that averages over 300 pounds per man and has a physical running back in Alex Collins (1,392 yards with 17 TD’s). Collins was banged up in the last half of the season and the extra time off in the bowl preparation will benefit him to get 100% entering this game. Defensively, the Razorbacks are allowing 27 points per game and are very good at stopping the run allowing 117 rushing yards per game to their opponents this season. Kansas State has struggled to stretch teams vertically this year and is passing for 177 yards per game. Wildcats starting quarterback Joe Huebner is completing less than 50% of his passes (47%) and is prone to turnovers (9 interceptions). Defensively, the Wildcats are a porous defense that has allowed 30 points per game and is giving up 159 yards per game The unit has not faced an offensive line this big in size and stature all season long which could take a toll on them as the game progresses. Look for Arkansas to establish the line of scrimmage early on and wear down the Wildcats in the second half. The Razorbacks have the better quarterback and passing attack and will dominate this game.
Arkansas 39 Kansas State 20
Alamo Bowl: Oregon (9-3) vs. TCU (10-2) 4:45 pm EST
Analysis and Pick:
Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost left to become the head coach at UCF. This game features two great quarterbacks in Trevone Boykin for TCU (64% completions, 31 passing TD’s) and Vernon Adams (64% completions, 25 passing TD’s) for Oregon. Both teams can score points with TCU averaging 41 points per game and Oregon averaging 43 points per game. Oregon is averaging 260 passing yards per game and rushing for 287 yards per game. Oregon likes to show different formations to create one on one match-ups and run sideline to sideline which can exploit mismatches on the perimeter of the defense. TCU is averaging 345 passing yards and is rushing for 218 yards per game. The Horned Frogs have shown the ability to play both styles an up-tempo attack and a slow methodical attack in games against Minnesota (first game of season) and Baylor (rain game with an emphasis on the running game) this season. TCU is -6 in turnover margin (-6 on the road) entering this game while Oregon is +5 (+5 on the road). Oregon has recorded 36 sacks as a defensive unit compared to the Horned Frogs 28 total sacks. This game comes down to preparation and in the past TCU head coach Gary Patterson has stepped up in big games having his teams prepared mentally and physically for the competition. Last season, the Horned Frogs dominated Ole Miss in the Peach while Oregon head coach Mrk Helfrich was outcoached by Urban Meyer in the National Championship. Expect a very close game early on and then look for the Horned Frogs to take control in the fourth quarter in a great game.
TCU 40 Oregon 37
Cactus Bowl: West Virginia (7-5) vs. Arizona State (6-6) 10:15 pm EST
Analysis and Pick:
West Virginia head coach Dana Holgerson was retained by the university which should be a positive heading into this game.
West Virginia enters this game averaging 33 points per game and passing for 228 yards per game along with rushing for 235 yards per game. Led by quarterback Sylar Howard (54% completions, 21 TD’s), the Mountaineers have a wide open offense with two solid running backs (Wendell Smallwood and Rushel Shell 17 rushing TD’s combined). The Mountaineers love to run the football between the tackles with Smallwood being the back with the explosive speed and Shell the physical back that can move the chains in the fourth quarter. Arizona State has a solid defense that is allowing 32 points per game and is very good at stuffing the run this season allowing 124 yards per game to their opponents. The Sun Devils have a speedy front seven that has recorded 44 sacks as a unit and ranks in the top 10 for total sacks in FBS. Arizona State is allowing 321 passing yards per game and has not been able to win turnover battles consistently this season (even in turnover margin). The Sun Devils have a high powered offense that is averaging 34 points per game and will look to challenge a West Virginia defense that is surrendering 23 points per game this year. Led by senior quarterback Mike Bercovici (3,436 passing yards with 26 TD’s) , the Sun Devils are averaging 288 passing yards per game and 185 rushing yards per game. The Sun Devils offensive line has been an issue this season and has allowed 39 sacks as a unit which could be a factor against a Mountaineer front seven that has recorded 29 sacks. West Virginia has been very opportunistic this season and enters this contest with +11 in turnover margin (-2 on the road). This will be a close high scoring game that will come down to turnovers. Look for the Mountaineers to win the turnover battle and run the football consistently in this game as West Virginia wins in the dessert.
West Virginia 35 ASU 30
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Joseph Lisi a former ABC Sports college football researcher, is the owner of www.GOFORTHE2.COM. He is a member if the FWAA (Football Writers Association Of America),Maxwell Football Club and is currently the content editor atwww.2FiveSports.com.He contributes regularly to www.Sid-Rosenberg.com and has been a featured guest every Tuesday night from 10:30-11:30pm EST on Yahoo Sports Radio With Ken Thomson (www.sportsxradio.com). Joe has been featured on the FNTSY Sports Network andThe Sid Rosenberg Sports Radio Show 640AM Sports (South Florida). You can follow him on Twitter:@Goforthe2. Joe has a weekly radio show on www.blogtalkradio.com with former Georgia Bulldogs WR Corey Allen called: THE NCAA WEEKLY BLITZ.