Movie quote of the day:
“We go together like cocaine and waffles.”
– Cal Naughton Jr., “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” (2006)
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
No. 8 USC (11-2) vs. No. 5 Ohio State (11-2)
Line: OSU -7.5
Even though Ohio State is more than a touchdown favorite, I’m having a hard time picking the Buckeyes. Despite winning the Big Ten championship, they didn’t end the regular season great – struggling against both Michigan and Wisconsin in their last two games. My gut says to take USC because of Sam Darnold and the fact that J.T. Barrett has been untrustworthy at times this year. However, I can’t bring myself to pick against Urban Meyer – who has a career record of 10-3 in bowl games. I feel like if he has almost a month to prepare for a team, he’s going to have a good game plan and his team is going to play well. The weakness of the Trojans’ offense is probably the offensive line and the strength of Ohio State’s defense is in the front seven. I think USC is going to have a hard time trying to get a good push up front and its offense will struggle trying to move the ball against the Buckeyes.
Prediction: Ohio State 31, USC 26
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
No. 11 Washington (10-2) vs. No. 9 Penn State (10-2)
University of Phoenix Stadium
Line: PSU -2
I’ll be honest, I really like Washington to win this game. Penn State’s offense leans heavily on running back Saquon Barkley and the Huskies are excellent defensively – ranking in the top six in the country in total defense, scoring defense, rushing yards per game, and yards per attempt. I think the Nittany Lions are going to have a hard time trying to get Barkley going against Washington’s defense already, but I think if you factor in how he ended the regular season, it might be even tougher. In Barkley’s last five games, he rushed for 100 yards or more just once and averaged just 4.6 yards per carry, compared to rushing for 100 yards or more three times and averaging 6.5 yards per carry through his first seven games. If Penn State can’t get Barkley going, it might be a long game because I’m not sure if Trace McSorley can outperform Jake Browning and Washington’s offense by himself. The Huskies’ offense is one of the more complete units in the country, and I’m not sure Penn State has faced an offense of that kind of caliber this season. Washington can score points quickly both through the air and on the ground. The Nittany Lions have a pretty good defense, but I think the Huskies are too balanced offensively and will keep Penn State’s defense confused.
Prediction: Washington 33, Penn State 24
Capital One Orange Bowl
No. 10 Miami (10-2) vs. No. 6 Wisconsin (12-1)
Hard Rock Stadium
Line: WIS -4.5
I really think this game is a coin flip, I could see either team winning. Even though this is essentially a home game for Miami, I’m going to give the very slight edge to Wisconsin mostly because Las Vegas has set the Badgers as the favorite. Wisconsin is fantastic defensively (No. 3 in the country in points per game behind only Clemson and Alabama) and Miami quarterback Malik Rosier has been very average at times this season – just look back at that game against Pitt back in November. I really don’t feel good about it because I have zero faith in Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook to play well enough to win this game, but Wisconsin has the healthier offense and better run game behind Jonathan Taylor. I’m going to take the Badgers to win a close, low-scoring game.
Prediction: Wisconsin 17, Miami 13
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
No. 12 Central Florida (12-0) vs. No. 7 Auburn (10-3)
Line: AUB -9.5
Something tells me that Central Florida is going to keep this game very close. Honestly, I think the Knights are a legitimate team and can play with just about every Power Five team in the country. They have the nation’s top scoring offense – averaging 49.4 points per game – and a young, offensive-minded head coach in Scott Frost that should be hungry to leave UCF with a bang before heading to take the head coach position at Nebraska. However, I don’t have the guts to call for an upset in this game. I don’t think the Knights have faced a defensive front as talented as Auburn’s all season, which could be problematic and cause their offense to struggle. The Knights’ defense should also be a question mark going into this game considering it’s allowed 42 points or more and 432 total rushing yards in each of its last two games. If Kerryon Johnson is healthy, he could have a big game against UCF. I think the Knights keep it close, but Auburn squeaks out a win.
Prediction: Auburn 34, Central Florida 28
Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual – College Football Playoff semifinal
No. 3 Georgia (12-1) vs. No. 2 Oklahoma (12-1)
Line: UGA -1.5
When it was originally announced that Georgia and Oklahoma were going to meet in the College Football Playoff, I really liked Georgia’s chances of getting the win. I feel like the Bulldogs have the right personnel to knock off Oklahoma. They have a strong run game with a stable of powerful running backs that could be able to keep the clock running and keep Baker Mayfield off the field. However, the closer we get to this game the more I’ve changed my opinion. I’m giving the edge to the Sooners. First, Oklahoma’s defense has actually been much better at stopping the run this season than I originally thought – ranking in the top 50 in the country in rushing yards per game and yards per attempt. Second, while Georgia does have a really good defensive front, the Sooners probably have the biggest and most talented offensive line in the country to help counter Georgia’s front seven. If the Bulldogs can’t get to Mayfield though it might be a long day for them because their secondary has struggled defending the pass at times this season. Lastly, I’m just struggling to see freshman quarterback Jake Fromm outperforming Mayfield in a bowl game of this magnitude.
Prediction: Oklahoma 31, Georgia 24
Allstate Sugar Bowl – College Football Playoff semifinal
No. 4 Alabama (11-1) vs. No. 1 Clemson (12-1)
Line: ALA -3
My first thought was to take Clemson in this game. The Tigers are solid in the trenches (particularly in the defensive front), have great weapons on the perimeter, and a quality quarterback in Kelly Bryant. However, I don’t think people realize just how special Deshaun Watson was against Alabama the last two years. In the last two meetings between these teams, Watson accounted for 941 of Clemson’s 1,061 total offensive yards and eight of Clemson’s 10 total touchdowns. I just have this nagging feeling that Bryant won’t be able to duplicate that type of performance, and I’m having a hard time believing that Dabo Swinney can best Saban for a second-consecutive year in the College Football Playoff. The Crimson Tide should be the healthier team since they’ve had an extra week off after not playing in a conference championship, and are also expected to be getting some key defensive players in time for this game. I feel pretty confident that Alabama will get it done and advance to the national championship for a third-straight season.
Prediction: Alabama 27, Clemson 19
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