Weekend watch list

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The two games on my must watch list this weekend have the potential to really shake up the rankings. As we enter the second half of the season and get closer to playoff season, game outcomes are event more important.

The first Saturday match up is in SEC country with No. 1 Alabama traveling to No. 9 Tennessee.

Tennessee has put up quite the impressive performance this year. It has just one loss and that was in Week 6 against Texas A&M in double overtime. But perhaps the most notable Vol stat is that in five of six games this season, they have turned up the heat in the second half to come from behind and either win or force overtime.

Alabama has been the undoubted favorite since the beginning of the season. Nick Saban’s Roll Tide won’t go down easy, but this is their second straight road trip. Last week they were at No. 16 Arkansas, which actually put up a challenge. Bama only won 49-30.

I believe Roll Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts will decide the game. Hurts has 256 yards of total offense this season and he could be a real struggle for a Vol defensive line down two starters.

The Vols have more on the line with this game than the Tide. If Tennessee loses, the University of Florida is right back in the mix for the SEC East. If that is the case, Tennessee would need Florida to lose one more time. With both teams having two losses, the Vols would own the tiebreaker.

It wouldn’t be a huge deal to Bama if they lost to the Vols. Suffering just one loss the Tide would most likely still be in playoff contention but the pressure would be on to win out the season. Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m.

A few hours later is the biggest match up in the Big Ten: No. 8 Wisconsin versus No. 2 Ohio State. A Badger win could heavily change the playoff picture, but this game is more about the Buckeyes and other Big 10 opponent, University of Michigan, than it is the Badgers.

The Buckeyes need the win in order to cement themselves over the Wolverines until they face off on Nov. 26. Plus a Buckeye win over the Badgers on the road would be much more impressive than the Wolverines’ win over the Badgers at home, 14-7.

The loss to the Wolverines is the only loss for Wisconsin this season. A win over the Buckeyes and winning out the remainder of the season is needed to keep the Badgers’ playoff hopes alive. If Wisconsin wins on Saturday, it will be the third win over a top-10 team this season.

This game will come down to defense (Wisconsin) versus speed (Ohio State). Wisconsin has one of the best defenses in the country, but Ohio State has more playmakers, including one named J.T. Barrett. The Badgers have proved themselves a lot more than the Buckeyes this season as well, with games against LSU, Michigan State and Michigan. Ohio State’s toughest opponent was Oklahoma, who maybe wasn’t as big of a deal as we thought.

MLB

In case you haven’t heard, it’s postseason in Major League Baseball. Friday night starts the race for the American League pennant and Saturday for the National League pennant.

In the American League Championship Series, we have the Toronto Blue Jays and the Cleveland Indians. Both teams are unbeaten in the postseason. Toronto started by having to beat Baltimore in the AL wild card game, and the Indians had to beat the Red Sox at Fenway. This should be a series for the books with both teams red hot, not to mention on July 1 they competed through 19 innings to determine a winner. Cleveland has home field advantage to start, and first pitch is at 6 p.m.

In the National League Championship Series we have the headline winners of the month: the Chicago Cubs. If anyone has heard anything about the MLB postseason, it has most likely been about the Cubs. Chicago had to take down San Francisco in order to enter the pennant race, and not many thought it was possible — it is an even year mind you — but they got the job done. Joining Chicago is the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers and Washington Nationals faced off Thursday night in the NLDS Game 5 with Los Angeles taking it, 4-3.

Satellite Camps Back On

Last week I was up in arms after hearing that the NCAA voted to ban satellite camps. Now a week later my hope has been restored. The NCAA board of directors met Thursday and decided to rescind the original April 8 vote.

The original ruling was upsetting for I knew the consequences it would have on football players hoping to play at the collegiate level. I don’t know this because I was a player myself. I know this because I grew up with brothers — three brothers by blood and a whole lot more by association. I have witnessed time and time again the hardships families go through trying to help their sons reach their goals. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter where in the country you are from. The biggest obstacle for players trying to reach the collegiate level is money.

When one camp costing upward of $200, not including travel and the expenses for family members that need to tag along, the idea of attending more than one camp can become impossible.

Players at satellite camps have the opportunity to be seen by multiple college coaches and recruiters in one visit and often for less money. Without satellite camps, I saw the dreams of hundreds of players become more out of reach. Luckily with Thursday’s decision, players and parents can rest easy. This year will run like years past.

Along with Thursday’s ruling, the NCAA “hopes for initial recommendations for improving the football recruiting environment.” So NCAA, here are some of my recommendations.

LIMIT NUMBER OF CAMPS

My first suggestion would be to limit the number of camps that college coaches are allowed to attend or host. The banning of satellite camps would hurt the non-power five conferences the most. These programs — including schools on the NCAA Division II and III and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics level — benefit the most from the ability to attend camps at other universities or third-party camps.

With that being said, I think putting a cap could help the recruiting circuit. The need for satellite camps aren’t as vital for power five conferences. Clearly the SEC and Atlantic Coast Conference didn’t think they were important at all when they put their own conference bans on it previously. So perhaps the cap should be the lowest for the power five schools.

MAKES CAMPS MORE AFFORDABLE

Imagine the players who really want to play at Florida State. They figure out how to pull together a tuition fee of $350. But then they realize that they need an additional $400 because they aren’t from Florida. And then they learn being 15 years old mean a guardian needs to come.

I understand that these players are staying in dorms where they are using electricity and air conditioning. These players need to be fed and campus workers need to be working to make things run smoothly. I understand that coaches need to be paid for being away from their families for an additional four days. But the reality is these camps don’t need $400 a head to run. And for universities like Alabama, Michigan, Florida State, most of the money is going to paying their head coach’s already ridiculously large paycheck.

If the reason behind rescinding the April 8 vote was because the NCAA saw how the decision would hurt athletes and hinder scholarship opportunities, camp tuition fees should be lowered for the exact same reason.

Satellite ban to hurt athletes most

“The National Collegiate Athletic Association is a membership-driven organization dedicated to safeguarding the well-being of student-athletes and equipping them with the skills to succeed on the playing field, in the classroom and throughout life.”

That is the mission statement of the NCAA, and with its newest ruling that statement has been thrown out the window once again.

The NCAA Division I council met April 8 to vote on an issue that has been of pressing concern through this school year: satellite football camps. A representative from each of the 10 Division I conferences met to vote on whether the camps should be allowed or banned. The verdict — satellite camps will be no more.

This ruling isn’t shutting down third-party camps such as The Manning Passing Academy, but it is forbidding college coaches from attending. The ruling also forbids universities from hosting camps off campus grounds.

Satellite camps are nothing new on the college recruiting circuit, but came under criticism as the University of Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh set up camps throughout the south in his first year as head coach of the Wolverines.

The criticism came from one direction only though, the SEC. The SEC and the Atlantic Coast Conference have implemented their own satellite bans in years past to make sure they weren’t stepping on each others toes. Now feeling threatened by Harbaugh and the potential of other coaches coming into their region, they felt the need to try and enforce their rule on everyone, and they got their way.

The NCAA has been receiving a ton of backlash in regards to the issue, and it should, but it is also not 100 percent at fault. In this case the NCAA is the universities that make it up. The ACC, Big 12, Mountain West, Pacfic-12, SEC, and Sunbelt voted for the camp ban, while the American Conference, Big 10, Conference USA and Mid-American voted against it.

The criticism of satellite camps is that they allow coaches to grab recruits from regions other than their own, but the benefits of them are triple fold.

First off, we all know the top recruits in the country. We know the five-star and the four-star players. Coaches know about them without having to visit their home states and are offering scholarships whether they came to their camp or not. These kids have the ability to go anywhere in the country they choose, whether that’s close-to-home University of Alabama or across-the-country University of Oregon. This ruling doesn’t affect them.

This ruling affects the football players on that three-star level and lower — the players that maybe never even got ranked and the players that can’t afford to visit multiple university camps every year in hopes of being a match.

In years past, when a school like Ohio State hosted a summer camp, Buckeye coaches weren’t the only ones in attendance. There were coaches from the state’s smaller schools such as Toledo and Bowling Green. Out of the hundreds of players that attend an Ohio State camp, maybe a handful are considered future Buckeyes. The ones that aren’t just might be what the MAC programs are looking for. Satellite camps allow these kids to get noticed and to have a chance at a free college education and the opportunity to continue playing the sport they love.

College camps are expensive. If a player wants the chance to be seen by Nick Saban, he’s headed to the University of Alabama football camp, where an overnight tuition is $400. If a player wants the opportunity to become a University of Southern California Trojan, parents are looking at a tuition fee of $350. For a player from out of state, that’s a huge fee for the chance to be seen by one coaching staff.

Third-party camps broke the mold with coaches from multiple institutions in attendance. These third-party camps aren’t much cheaper, some are even more expensive, but they hold a greater possibility for players with coaches from different conferences and divisions taking note.

The ruling isn’t set in stone just yet. On April 28, the NCAA board of directors can adopt or rescind. The board is mainly made up of university presidents and chancellors, allowing each program to place its own vote.

I hope for the sake of football players everywhere that this ruling gets rescinded. I also hope it gets rescinded for the sake of the NCAA, which has continued to lose credibility over the years, and if not I call for a new mission statement:

“The National Collegiate Athletic Association is a membership-driven organization dedicated to money and keeping the money within the universities and coaches’ pockets. The well-being of the athlete only goes as far as making sure they are able to supply that income.”

Small Changes Big Impact?

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War Memorial Stadium at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyo.

Growing up in Hawaii the high schools sport and those played at University of Hawaii at Manoa always took center stage. That is something my home state and Wyoming have in common — despite a plethora of differences.

Similar to Hawaii, Wyoming only has one university. Everyone is cheering for the same team. It’s not like where I went to school in Michigan where neighbors may not speak to each other due to the college flag hanging off their front porch.

University of Wyoming football is coming off a tough season. The Cowboys went 2-10 finishing sixth in the Mountain Division. In the Mountain West Conference, only the University of Hawaii played worse having zero wins, and UNLV and Fresno State in the West Division had the same conference record.

I went to four UW games this past season, all of which they lost, and the thing I noticed as time went on was that attendance went down and the stadium started clearing out earlier and earlier.

The 2016 college football season starts up in seven months and the Cowboys will have a lot to prove. Head coach Craig Bohl enters his third season with the Cowboys and he’s got a lot riding on this season. Everyone would like to see improvement.

There are several things that go into making a program successful. One of those is the strength and conditioning staff.

On Thursday, UW announced the hiring of a new Director of Sports Performance Russell Dennison. Dennison comes from the University of Oklahoma where he has been the assistant strength and conditioning coach for the past five years. A former Sooner football player himself, a fullback from 2002-2005, he brings a lot to the table.

Dennison was responsible for designing speed, strength and conditioning programs for the OU football team. A friend of mine who recently graduated from the University of Oklahoma and used to train with Sooner football had nothing but praise for Dennison, but did mention his focus on running. The Big 12 Conference is known for its speed, known for its offense, so it will be interesting to see the different dynamics Dennison can bring to the table.

I want to highlight and focus in on the “CAN” and not necessarily the “WILL.” The reason I say “CAN” is because much of Dennison’s success lies on the football coaching staff’s shoulders. Will they allow him to run the type of program that he thinks will be best? Is a speed-focused program what will be best for the Cowboys? Will Dennison and Bohl see eye to eye?

I’m sure Dennison has done his research and has an idea for the program and I’m excited to see if he will remain speed focused or take a more weight-room approach.

“Tell your brother to get ready for a lot of running and not so much weight lifting,” said my friend.

Sizewise Oklahoma is bigger than Wyoming. The Sooners’ have fewer players standing under 6 feet and more players standing over 6 foot, 5 inches. Oklahoma’s roster weighs an average of 65 pounds more than Wyoming’s. So my question becomes do smaller teams need more speed or more size? Sacrificing speed for size is never the answer.

I’m excited to see what Dennison can add to the program and I look forward to seeing an improved Cowboy team come August. The question is, just how much of an impact can a change in the strength and conditioning staff have?

Disclaimer: I am the sister of University of Wyoming sophomore linebacker/nickel Tim Kamana.

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

• 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.

Prediction: Northwestern

• 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.

Prediction: Michigan

• 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.

Prediction: Iowa

• 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

JAN. 2

• 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.

Prediction: Arkansas

• 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.

Prediction: Oregon

• 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

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

• ST. PETERSBURG BOWL: CONNECTICUT (6-6) VS. MARSHALL (9-3)

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

• SUN BOWL: MIAMI (8-4) VS. WASHINGTON STATE (8-4)

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

• HEART OF DALLAS BOWL: WASHINGTON (6-6) VS. SOUTHERN MISS (9-4)

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

• PINSTRIPE BOWL: INDIANA (6-6) VS. DUKE (7-5)

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

• INDEPENDENCE BOWL: TULSA (6-6) VS. VIRGINIA TECH (6-6)

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

• FOSTER FARMS BOWL: UCLA (8-4) VS. NEBRASKA (5-7)

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

• MILITARY BOWL: PITT (8-4) VS. NAVY (10-2)

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

• QUICK LANE BOWL: CENTRAL MICHIGAN (7-5) VS. MINNESOTA (5-7)

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

• ARMED FORCES BOWL: AIR FORCE (8-5) VS. CALIFORNIA (7-5)

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

• RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL: NORTH CAROLINA (11-2) VS. BAYLOR (9-3)

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

• ARIZONA BOWL: NEVADA (6-6) VS. COLORADO STATE (7-5)

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 BOWL: LSU (8-3) VS. TEXAS TECH (7-5)

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

• BIRMINGHAM BOWL: AUBURN (6-6) VS. MEMPHIS (9-3)

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

• BELK BOWL: NC STATE (7-5) VS. MISSISSIPPI STATE (8-4)

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

• MUSIC CITY BOWL: TEXAS A&M (8-4) VS. LOUISVILLE (7-5)

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

• HOLIDAY BOWL: USC (8-5) VS. WISCONSIN (9-3)

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

• CHICK-FIL-A PEACH BOWL: HOUSTON (12-1) VS. FLORIDA STATE (10-2)

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

• CAPITAL ONE ORANGE BOWL: OKLAHOMA (11-1) VS. CLEMSON (13-0)

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

GOODYEAR COTTON BOWL: MICHIGAN STATE (12-1) VS. ALABAMA (12-1)

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