Tigers vs. Tide: Fighting an inner battle to predict a winner

And yet another college football bowl season is almost behind us. There is one game standing between today and a long seven month wait: the college football national championship.

After extremely one-sided semifinal match ups on New Year’s Eve, we were presented with the two contenders, the Tigers out of Clemson University and the Crimson Tide of the University of Alabama.

I was beyond excited for the semifinal matchups. I predicted one high scoring extremely offensive game, Clemson vs. Oklahoma; and one low-scoring defensive heavy game, Alabama vs. Michigan State; and, well, I got neither. And above all, both teams I predicted to win fell and fell ugly.

Sometimes I catch myself being that sports fan who loses all interest when my team loses, and currently I am walking the tightrope with that issue.

The only way I have learned to snap out of this mindset is to pick a new team, go all in. Unfortunately that has presented another issue for me. I am not an SEC fan; never have been, and that makes me want to march straight to the Clemson sidelines. But comparing the two teams and having watched them play all year, I just don’t think the Tigers have what it takes to stop the Roll Tide in their tracks.

Despite the fact that Clemson is undefeated, entering the championship game at 14-0, the Tigers are still the underdogs. It comes down to can Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and the rest of the offense get past Alabama’s intense defensive line and then also stop Heisman trophy winner Derrick Henry?

Clemson will be the strongest offensive opponent the Tide will face to this date, but Bama displayed against Michigan State that it has the toughest defensive line in the country. Its front seven also all come in with more than one season of experience.

While you can’t say the Tigers don’t have a defense, we can say that they are young. Clemson had the top defensive line in the country in 2014, but then its entire front seven went and graduated. If Alabama’s Jake Coker shows up and completes at least 75 percent of his passes like he did against Michigan State, the Tigers will have a lot more to stop than just Henry.

No. 1 Clemson and No. 2 Alabama will meet on the gridiron Monday at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The winner will go down as the best team in the 2015-16 season, the loser a strong second, but as my dad always told me, second place is first loser.

With a 40 bowl game postseason, minus the only game that matters, I am 23-17 with predictions. Fifty-seven percent is not the greatest but definitely not the worst either. At least I am above even.

I’m not predicting a blowout by any means, but I think betting against Bama is the wrong decision here. As much as I dislike the SEC and would love for Clemson to win it all, 15-0, Roll Tide whatever the rest of it is.

Prediction: Alabama


Bowl Season: Week 3

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.

JAN. 1


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.

Prediction: Northwestern


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.

Prediction: Michigan


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.

Prediction: Iowa


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

JAN. 2


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


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.

Prediction: Arkansas


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.

Prediction: Oregon


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

Bowl Seaon: Week 2

With Week 1 of bowl games wrapped up, we venture into Week 2. This next week brings some bigger name bowl games along with some bigger name teams into the lineup. Greatest of all, we end this rundown with the college football playoffs semifinal games.

I am currently 5-5 on predictions, not counting Christmas Eve games.

DEC. 26


The Huskies’ Jamar Summers is third in the nation with seven interceptions, helping his team rank in at No. 17 for FBS scoring defense. UConn allows 10.8 points per game, but while its defense is tight, the offense is where the team will struggle.

Offensively the Huskies are averaging just 13 points per game. If you thought UConn’s defense was strong, Marshall’s is even better, ranking it at No. 14.

Prediction: Marshall


Washington State hasn’t won a bowl game since 2003 but is hoping quarterback Luke Falk can help change that. The Cougars went 6-7 with Falk as their starting quarterback with their only loss coming to Stanford. Falk has thrown for 4,266 yards and 36 touchdowns this season.

Falk went down with an injury half way through the season but is expected to be ready to go against the Canes. Miami hasn’t won a bowl game since 2006 and has made five postseason appearances since. Former Georgia head coach Mark Richt will take over in the 2016 season.

Prediction: Washington State


Washington has the best defense in the Pac-12 and should be able to slow down Southern Mississippi’s offense led by Nick Mullens. He connected with the end zone for 36 touchdowns this season.

The Huskies’ rookie quarterback should be able to continue his successful campaign against a weaker defense. Jake Browning completed 62.9 percent of passes for 2,671 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Prediction: Washington


Both teams struggled down the final stretch, but overall Indiana had a tougher schedule. Two of the Hoosiers losses came from two of the nation’s best teams: Michigan State and Ohio State. Indiana lost by only one score in both matchups.

All-Big Ten Indiana running back Jordan Howard also looks to return after missing the regular season finale. Howard ran for 1,213 yards and scored nine touchdowns.

Prediction: Indiana


There is no better way for the Hokies to send head coach Frank Beamer into retirement than with a bowl win over Tulsa. Tulsa has a stronger looking quarterback than Virginia Tech with Dane Evans calling the plays, but the VT’s special team units will make all the difference. All of Tulsa’s losses have been by more than 13 points this season.

Prediction: Virginia Tech


Nebraska is another one of those teams that is not deserving of a bowl opportunity, but the 5-7 Cornhuskers are being underestimated because of it. Nebraska almost pulled off wins against Wisconsin, Northwestern and Iowa. It beat Michigan State.

UCLA came out strong with wins over BYU and Arizona, but in September the Bruins couldn’t seem to pull it off. A surprising loss to USC kept UCLA out of the Pac-12 championship game against Stanford.

Prediction: Nebraska

DEC. 28


Pitt has one of the best run defenses in the country but it is going to have some trouble stopping Navy’s triple option offense. The Midshipmen averaged 319.2 yards per game with quarterback Keenan Reynolds at the helm. Reynolds broke the NCAA Division I career record this season with 85 rushing touchdowns. He also has 1,229 yards and 21 touchdowns in the season.

Some other things Navy has going for them: home-field advantage and a shorter break due to the Army vs. Navy game.

Prediction: Navy


Central Michigan has won five of its last six games to finish the season 8-5 after a 2-4 start. Minnesota is on a seven-game losing streak. The matchup pits the Chippewas’ No. 21 defense against the Gophers’ No. 105 offense.

Minnesota is the third and final team to play in a bowl game with a losing record this season.

Prediction: Central Michigan

Dec. 29


California looks to potential top QB draft pick Jared Goff to lead it to a win. Goff has 4,252 yards and 37 touchdowns in the season. Air Force is coming off two tough losses to New Mexico and San Diego State.

Prediction: California


These two teams are expected to deliver a high-scoring game to viewers. Both teams have top-rated spread offenses. Baylor has the No. 1 offense in the country but injuries at multiple positions looks to be deathly. The Bears averaged 48 points and 605 yards a game, but in their last two games scored a grand total of 31 points.

The Bears announced that they will be playing without three key offensive components: wide receiver and Biletnikoff Award winner Corey Coleman, running back Shock Linwood and QB Jarett Stidham.

Prediction: North Carolina


The Arizona Bowl brings up a Mountain West Conference matchup. Due to different divisions, this will be the first meeting this season for the two teams. It’s almost like a second conference championship. Colorado State enters the game with a higher-ranked defense and offense.

Prediction: Colorado State


Texas Tech will have some difficulties trying to slow down LSU’s Leonard Fournette. He averaged 271.8 rushing yards per game and needs just 259 more yards to reach a season total of 2,000.

The Red Raiders allowed 271.8 rushing yards per game. In their worst loss of the season, 63-27 defeat at the hands of Oklahoma, they allowed 405.

Prediction: LSU

DEC. 30


It’s the attack of the Tigers as this game features one of the seasons’ biggest disappointments, Auburn, and one of the seasons’ biggest surprises, Memphis. With Will Muschamp leaving Auburn for South Carolina, the Tigers will attempt the win without a defensive coordinator. Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch is another QB looking to go high in the draft, and with 3,670 yards, 28 touchdowns and three interceptions, that may just happen.

This is Memphis interim coach Darrell Dickey’s big opportunity to prove himself.

Prediction: Memphis


It will be a battle of quarterbacks between Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott and NC State’s Jacoby Brissett. Prescott had 3,413 yards, 25 touchdowns and four interceptions this season. Brissett had 2,448 yards, 19 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Prescott is the bigger asset. He was also the Bulldogs’ leading rusher with 541 yards and 10 end-zone appearances.

Prediction: Mississippi State


The Aggies are dealing with some issues as quarterback sophomore Kyle Allen has already left and now rumors are flying that freshman Kyler Murray is considering transferring.

Aggies receiver Christian Kirk is one of the country’s top freshmen, leading the team with 70 catches for 925 yards and six touchdowns, but without a QB, Kirk won’t be seeing success.

Prediction: Louisville


USC has had a strong second half of the season with losses only to top-15 opponents. The Trojans also won impressively against city rivals UCLA and Utah. Wisconsin has no wins against top-ranked opponents, making me think it won’t be able to outscore Cody Kessler and the rest of the Trojan offense.

Prediction: USC

DEC. 31


Florida State’s Dalvin Cook ran for 1,658 yards and 18 touchdowns. He had more than 100 yards in eight games, four of which closed out the regular season. Houston is 12-1 under first season coach Tom Herman. If the Cougars win, it will be their first 13-game winning season since 2011. Can wins against Navy and Temple sway you enough to bet against the 2013 national champions and last year’s playoff finalist? Herman did work under Urban Meyer; I’m going with the upset.

Prediction: Houston


With a win in the college football playoff semifinals, the Tigers will be a stunning 14-0. Clemson is lead by sophomore quarterback and Heisman finalist Deshaun Watson. He had a completion percentage of 69.5 and passed for 3,512 yards with 30 touchdown and 11 interceptions. He also ran for 887 yards for 11 scores.

But Oklahoma is coming in with a strong offensive attack as well. Since their loss to Texas, the Sooners have won out and beat all but one opponent, TCU, by more than 10 points. October proved that the Big 12 Conference was tougher than the ACC.

Prediction: Oklahoma


The key to shutting down Alabama in the college football playoff semifinals will be shutting down Heisman winner and Alabama running back Derrick Henry. He set an SEC record this season with 1,986 rushing yards. Michigan State enters the game with the seventh ranked run defense in the nation, allowing only 113.1 yards per game.

Michigan State will have to try and force the Tide to put the ball in quarterback Jake Coker’s hands. Coker has only had one game where he’s thrown for more than 250 yards. If the Spartans can shut down Bama’s offense, there will be no stopping them. Michigan State’s Connor Cook is one of the top quarterbacks in the nation. Cook has thrown for 2,921 yards and 24 touchdowns this season, and is 34-4 as a starter.

Prediction: Michigan State

A Merry Bowl Season

Saturday kicks off the happiest time of the year — BOWL SEASON. 2015 brings a record-breaking 41 bowl games. With the high number of spots to fill, organizers had to welcome in three teams with losing records (5-7) — Minnesota, San Jose State and Nebraska.

The bowl schedule brings some great matchups, including ones that may turn out to be a bit surprising, cue teams with losing records pulling off the upset.

For the next three weeks I will be bringing you all of my hopefully correct predictions.

DEC. 19

New Mexico Bowl: Arizona (6-6) Vs. New Mexico (7-5)

These two teams come in with very similar playing styles. Both are run-heavy teams, rushing the ball more than 45 times per game and yet neither team has a running back that is averaging more than 15 carries per game.

The Wildcats have had a hard time stopping the run this season ranking in at 89th in rushing yards allowed. The Lobos are even worse at 97th.

New Mexico enters the contest with a stronger passing game than the Wildcats which will be put to use if needed. The Lobos’ triple-option rushing attack will be too much for Arizona, like it was for other opponents not familiar with it this season.

Prediction: New Mexico

Las Vegas Bowl: BYU (9-3) Vs. Utah (9-3)

Utah began the season almost too impressively. I knew they weren’t going to hold on to their playoff spot but I also didn’t expect the Utes to drop all the way to No. 22. Utah has lost two of their last three games and lost starting running back, Devontae Booker — the momentum is in BYU’s favor. The in-state rivalry wasn’t supposed to be reprised for another year though, so either way it is bound to be a strong fight on both sides.

Prediction: BYU

Camellia Bowl: Ohio (8-4) Vs. Appalachian State (10-2)

Bowl Season say hello to Appalachian State who is making its first appearance ever. Appalachian State showed dominance against a fairly weak schedule but ranking 13th in scoring defense and 19th in scoring offense. Ohio has been blown out by three non-Power Five teams — Western Michigan, Buffalo and Bowling Green. Both teams are coming off three-game win streaks.

Prediction: Appalachian State

Cure Bowl: San Jose State (5-7) Vs. Georgia State (6-6)

Despite a losing record, San Jose State is the nation’s No. 2 pass defense and Georgia State’s No. 8 passing offense is going to have some trouble. Georgia State also comes in at No. 73 in yards allowed per carry leaving plenty of opportunity for San Jose State’s running back Tyler Ervin. Ervin has a total of 1,469-yards this season and averages 5.6 yards a carry.

Prediction: San Jose State

New Orleans Bowl: Arkansas State (9-3) Vs. Louisiana Tech (8-4)

Arkansas State lost their season opener against the USC Trojans but finished off the season with the better record. The Red Wolves have won eight straight scoring more than 40 points in all but one matchup. Louisiana Tech, with the help of running back Kenneth Dixon, should be able to move the ball. Dixon has scored 83 career touchdowns, 22 this season. I’m just not sure about Louisiana Tech’s defense and their ability to stop the Red Wolves offense — Arkansas State may be too much to handle.

Prediction: Arkansas State

Dec. 21

Miami Beach Bowl: Western Kentucky (11-2) vs. South Florida (8-4)

Like New Mexico, South Florida has what looks like home-field advantage. The Bulls had a rocky start but finished out its final eight games with only a loss to Navy to get that 8-4 record. Western Kentucky has a high-powered offense backed by sixth-year senior quarterback Brandon Doughty, who has passed for 45 touchdowns this season. The Hilltoppers are averaging 23 points a game against Power Five opponents, and 50.6 points against everyone else.

Prediction: Western Kentucky

Dec. 22

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Akron (7-5) vs. Utah State (6-6)

This is Akron’s first trip to a bowl game since 2005. Utah State has a slightly more difficult schedule than Akron which contributes to the difference in record (not much). The Akron offense I’ve seen throughout the season has been shaky at best. If they don’t show up at kick-off, Utah State will run circles. Plus, the Aggies are no stranger to the Potato Bowl, this is Utah State’s third appearance in five years.

Prediction: Utah State

Marmot Boca Raton Bowl: Temple (10-3) vs. Toledo (9-2)

Temple has put up some strong fights and some impressive wins this season. The Owls almost beat the Fighting Irish, held Houston to just 24 points and beat Penn State for the first time in 74 years. With Toledo players knowing head coach Matt Campbell is surely heading to Iowa State next season, there could be some emotions running on the field.

Prediction: Temple

Poinsettia Bowl: Boise State (8-4) vs. Northern Illinois (8-5)

Boise State, despite wins against Washington and Virginia, isn’t too happy with its performance this season. They are looking to end the season on a high note and their offense has the ability to deliver. Northern Illinois cornerback, Shawun Lurry, leads the nation with nine interceptions this season, so the Broncos will want to watch out for him. But the Huskies haven’t been the same since they lost starting quarterback Drew Hare to injury.

Prediction: Boise State

GoDaddy Bowl: Georgia Southern (8-4) vs. Bowling Green (10-3)

Without their coach, Dino Babers (moving to Syracuse), it’s hard to pick Bowling Green. Georgia Southern is another school making history with its first-ever bowl appearance and they hope to continue making history with their first-ever bowl win.

Prediction: Georgia Southern

Dec. 24

Popeyes Bahamas Bowl: Middle Tennessee (7-5) vs. Western Michigan (7-5)

Western Michigan enters the game with two receivers totaling more than 1,100 yards in 2015, Corey Davis and Daniel Braverman. Middle Tennessee doesn’t stand a chance with a defense ranking in at No. 91.

Prediction: Western Michigan

Hawaii Bowl: San Diego State (10-3) vs. Cincinnati (7-5)

I grew up attending the Hawaii Bowl every Christmas Eve, at least if my grandma allowed it. It was always interesting to see which team brought in a stronger crowd, because more times than not, the team with the larger fan base pulled off the win.

Due to location, San Diego State most likely will be the winner in traveling fan base, they also have a few local players on the team to draw in the Hawaii crowd from the parking lot. But the Aztecs haven’t lost a game since Sept. 26 and are bringing the nation’s No. 15-ranked rushing offense.

Cincinnati’s biggest weakness is its rushing defense.

Overall, both teams win for having a destination Christmas.

Prediction: San Diego State Bowl