The final week of bowl games, and the national championship are upon us. So far bowl season has rendered some upsets and some complete dominations. With the start of the college football playoffs a year ago, New Year’s Day bowl games don’t serve the same hype that they used to, but they still bring some great games. This year the Big 10 dominates the start of the new year with appearances in four of five games on Jan. 1.
I am currently 18-10 on predictions, not counting the games on New Year’s Eve.
• OUTBACK BOWL: NORTHWESTERN (10-2) VS. TENNESSEE (8-4)
Although Tennessee is on a five-game winning streak, it’s a five game winning streak against weak competition. Northwestern is 10 spots higher in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Wildcats had a season-opening win against Stanford and beat Wisconsin.
The Big Ten opponent has more high profile wins than its SEC challenger. Northwestern has never won 11 games in a season with its No. 7 scoring defense, but it stands a good chance.
• CITRUS BOWL: MICHIGAN (9-3) VS. FLORIDA (10-3)
Both programs made it to postseason under first year head coaches. Jim Harbaugh returned to his alma mater to make some people believe the Wolverines are back to being a power house. UM lost to Utah, Michigan State and Ohio State this season; all top-25 teams.
Florida’s Jim McElwain was recently voted SEC coach of the year for getting the Gators to the SEC championship. They were 10-1 in the season before hitting a two-game losing streak against in-state rivals Florida State and SEC champ Alabama. The Gators’ three losses all come from top-25 teams as well. Their first loss was to LSU.
Florida’s strength is on defense, but the Gators will fall short in comparison to the defensively ranked No. 4 Wolverines.
• FIESTA BOWL: OHIO STATE (11-1) VS. NOTRE DAME (10-2)
This matchup brings us two teams that just barely missed the college football playoffs. The defending national champion feels it needs to prove itself after being stuck on the outside looking in with one loss. Running back Ezekiel Elliott will help the Buckeyes to do so. Elliot ran for 1,672 yards with 19 touchdowns in the season. This would be Ohio State’s fourth year with 12 wins.
Prediction: Ohio State
• ROSE BOWL: IOWA (12-1) VS. STANFORD (11-2)
This will be a battle between Stanford’s offense and Iowa’s defense. Stanford had to work its way back into contention after a season-opening loss to Northwestern. If the loss to Oregon had come a couple weeks earlier, Stanford may not have been able to revive itself. Iowa came almost out of nowhere shocking most of the country when the Hawkeyes entered the Big 10 championship as one of two undefeated teams left in college football.
Stanford takes the gridiron with Heisman finalist Christian McCaffrey. He broke Barry Sanders’ NCAA single-season record with 3,496 all-purpose yards. Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan looks to lead his team to victory. This season he threw for 2,644 yards and 24 touchdowns and had seven interceptions.
McCaffrey may have some trouble against the Hawkeyes, who only let up 18.5 points per game. Hogan will need to watch out for Iowa junior defensive back Desmond King. King was just awarded the Jim Thorpe Award for best defensive back in the country.
• SUGAR BOWL: MISSISSIPPI (9-3) VS. OKLAHOMA STATE (10-2)
The Cowboys are looking to return to the feels they had in the beginning of the season. Oklahoma State won its first 10 games but is heading into bowl season on a two-game losing streak. The Cowboys fell 45-35 to Baylor and 58-23 to Oklahoma.
Although Ole Miss didn’t have the most impressive season, expectations were much higher after upsetting Bama for the second year in a row, but it beat the Tide, Auburn and LSU for the first time all in the same season in 2015. The Rebels offense may be able to run away with a win over a Cowboy defense that has allowed 45 points in three of their last five games.
Prediction: Ole Miss
• TAXSLAYER BOWL: PENN STATE (7-5) VS. GEORGIA (9-3)
Four of Penn State’s five losses came to top-20 teams, and its fifth loss came to Temple. Georgia hasn’t scored more than 30 points in the last six games. Georgia is also dealing with the loss of head coach Mark Richt, who is headed to Miami. The Bulldogs also lost their defensive and offensive coordinators. Interim coach Kirby Smart would like to start his era off with a win. The Nittany Lions are 3-0 against teams with interim coaches.
Prediction: Penn State
• LIBERTY BOWL: KANSAS STATE (6-6) VS. ARKANSAS (7-5)
Arkansas takes the field with John Mackey Award winner Hunter Henry. The junior has 46 catches for 647 yards and three touchdowns this season.
Kansas State pulled off a narrow 24-23 win over West Virginia to be bowl eligible, and it would like to prove that it does actually belong in the postseason. Although the Razorbacks lost to Toledo and Texas Tech, they pulled off wins against Auburn, Ole Miss and LSU.
• ALAMO BOWL: TEXAS CHRISTIAN (10-2) VS. OREGON (9-3)
This is going to be a high-scoring game with neither team having a strong defense. It will be a matchup of quarterbacks with TCU’s Trevone Boykin and Oregon’s Vernon Adams Jr.
Boykin completed 257 passes for 3,575 yards and 31 touchdowns. He had 10 interceptions this season. Adams completed 155 passes for 2446 yards and 25 touchdowns. He had six interceptions.
The Ducks are coming off a six-game winning streak but haven’t played in over a month. TCU, although not playing for a conference championship, had a game that very weekend.
• CACTUS BOWL: WEST VIRGINIA (7-5) VS. ARIZONA STATE (6-6)
The Cactus Bowl will basically be a home game for Arizona State. The Sun Devils were a top-ranked contender heading into the season but fell short. Their No. 25 ranked offense should be able to find ways to put points on the board against a West Virginia team that has allowed almost 41 points in each of its five losses. If the Mountaineers pull off the win, this would mean ASU’s first losing season in three years.
Prediction: Arizona State