In & around SEC football

December 29, 2016 chris
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By Cole Frederick

Friday, Dec. 30
Liberty Bowl
TCU vs. Georgia (-2.5)
Kirby Smart’s first season in Athens didn’t pro-duce the results many hoped it would, but the Bulldogs at least have a foundation in place moving forward. Jacob Eason made strides at quarterback in his freshman season, while running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel announced that they’re returning for their senior seasons. A bowl win over the 6-6 Horned Frogs would be a positive sign for the program for the future. Prediction: Georgia 34, TCU 31.

Sun Bowl
North Carolina vs. Stanford (-3.5)
Stanford’s star running back Christian McCaffrey opted not to participate in the bowl game to prepare for his future in the NFL, so the Cardinals will be without one of the best player in school history. North Carolina fell short of reaching the ACC title game for a second straight season, but quarterback Mitch Trubisky has been one of the best in football this year. Prediction: North Carolina 38, Stanford 34.

Arizona Bowl
South Alabama vs. Air Force (-12.5)
The Jaguars’ season began with an upset victory over Mississippi State, and they also knocked off Mountain West champion San Diego State. South Alabama has been inconsistent, however, and the Mobile squad is facing an Air Force team with a prolific rushing attack. Prediction: Air Force 41, South Alabama 31.

Music City Bowl
Nebraska vs. Tennessee (-6)
Before the season, the Volunteers had aspirations of winning the SEC East. After big injuries and inexplicable losses, Tennessee finished as the runner-up in the division to Florida. It was a disappointing season for Tennessee, but a bowl win over the Cornhuskers would be a nice consolation prize. Prediction: Nebraska 37, Tennessee 31.

Orange Bowl
Florida State vs. Michigan (-6.5)
The Wolverines lost what was essentially a playoff game to Ohio State in the last game of the regular season, but it was still an impressive year for Jim Harbaugh’s team. Florida State had playoff aspirations at the beginning of the year, but early losses to North Carolina and Louisville ended those chances. The Seminoles are still very talented, and this should be one of the best matchups of the bowl season. Prediction: Florida State 27, Michigan 24.

Saturday, Dec. 31
Citrus Bowl
Louisville vs. LSU (-3.5)
Leonard Fournette announced he would skip LSU’s bowl game, so backup Derrius Guice will be responsible for carrying the Tigers’ offense against the Cardinals. LSU will have the task of stopping Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and the Louisville offense, which had one of the most prolific offensive attacks in all of college football. Prediction: Louisville 38, LSU 34.

TaxSlayer Bowl
Kentucky vs. Georgia Tech (-3.5)
Early in the season, it appeared as if Mark Stoops’ job was in jeopardy. Kentucky blew a winnable game against Southern Miss and was blown out by Alabama and Florida. The Wildcats responded with a string of SEC wins and an impressive win over Louisville, however, and they reached a bowl game for the first time under Stoops. Georgia Tech has already defeated two SEC East teams this year in Vanderbilt and Georgia. Prediction: Kentucky 27, Georgia Tech 24.

Peach Bowl
College Football Playoff Semifinal
Washington vs. Alabama (-14)
Alabama’s quest to become the first collegiate team to finish a season 15-0 starts only a few hours away from Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide takes on Pac 12 champion Washington in Atlanta, and Nick Saban’s team has now appeared in all three years of the College Football Play-off. Washington coach Chris Petersen has been a consistent winner throughout his entire career, and he turned the Huskies into a championship team in only three years. Washington’s lone loss came to USC, but the Huskies have been dominant for most of the year. This might be Saban’s best defense since arriving in Tuscaloosa, and the defense features possibly as many as seven first round picks. Alabama’s defense will be the difference in this game and should be able to force Washington quarterback Jake Browning into making mistakes. As long as Jalen Hurts continues to play with poise, Alabama should be playing in its second consecutive national title game on Jan. 9. Prediction: Alabama 38, Washington 17.

Fiesta Bowl
College Football Playoff Semifinal
Clemson vs. Ohio State (-3)
Both teams and coaches are familiar to the College Football Playoffs. Clemson was the runner-up last season, and Ohio State won the national title game during the first year of the playoff system. Clemson’s Deshaun Watson is the best quarterback in college football, and Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett isn’t far behind. The Buckeyes are the first team to make the playoff field without winning its conference and have the only coach in college football whose resume can rival Nick Saban’s. Meyer is 61-5 in nearly five complete seasons at Ohio State and has three national titles in his career. Prediction: Clemson 33, Ohio State 31.

Monday, Jan. 2
Outback Bowl
Iowa vs. Florida (-3)
The Gators reached the SEC title game for the second straight season but also suffered another loss to Alabama. Florida can still end the season on a positive note with a win over Iowa, and both of these offenses might have trouble finding the end zone. Prediction: Iowa 19, Florida 16.
Cotton Bowl
Western Michigan vs. Wisconsin (-8.5)
Western Michigan and Alabama are the only two undefeated teams remaining, and the Broncos’ biggest win of the season was retaining P.J. Fleck for at least one more season as head coach. Wisconsin nearly won the Big 10 title and had another solid year under coach Paul Chryst. Prediction: Wisconsin 37, Western Michigan 31.

Rose Bowl
Penn State vs. USC (-7)
USC had a putrid start to the season – including a 52-6 loss in the season opener to Alabama – but rebounded nicely to earn a berth in the Rose Bowl. Ohio State and Michigan were supposed to be the contenders from the Big 10, but a youthful Penn State team won the Big 10 East and the Big 10 title game over Wisconsin. Prediction: USC 38, Penn State 28.

Sugar Bowl
Auburn vs. Oklahoma (-3)
Though Auburn finished 8-4, the Tigers were the second best team in the SEC this season and earned its first berth to the Sugar Bowl since 2004. Sean White and Kamryn Pettway are both healthy for Auburn, and the Tigers will likely need a plethora of points as they are facing a potent Oklahoma offense. The Sooners have two Heisman finalists in quarterback Baker Mayfield and receiver Dede Westbrook but will have their hands full with Auburn’s dominant defensive line. Prediction: Auburn 34, Oklahoma 31.