In & around SEC football – bowl previews part III


By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent

Saturday, Dec. 29
College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: Clemson vs. Notre Dame (+12.5). Clemson has been in the playoff field for the last four seasons under Dabo Swinney, so the Tigers are no strangers to the playoffs. While most pundits project a fourth straight meeting between Clemson and Alabama, the Tigers must first navigate past a perhaps overlooked Notre Dame squad. The Fighting Irish were embarrassed in the 2012 national title game in a loss to Alabama, but Brian Kelly has a more physical and athletic team this season. Clemson is the favorite for a reason, but the Irish are good enough to win this outright. Prediction: Clemson 27, Notre Dame 17.
College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl: Alabama vs. Oklahoma (+14). Nick Saban has led Alabama to the playoffs in every year of its five-year existence, and the Crimson Tide have won two of the last three national championships. The Alabama defense will be tested against Oklahoma’s high-powered offense, which is led by Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray. The Sooner defense is porous, however, and Tua Tagovailoa should have no problem dissecting that unit in Miami. Prediction: Alabama 52, Oklahoma 31.
Monday, Dec. 31
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech (+5.5). After the Hokies finished the season with an upset win over Virginia and a win over Marshall, they extended their bowl streak to 26 straight seasons. Virginia Tech now owns the longest bowl streak in the country as Florida State failed to reach the postseason this year. Luke Fickell led Cincinnati to an impressive 10-win season and is now searching for his first bowl win as a head coach. Prediction: Virginia Tech 23, Cincinnati 20.
Hyundai Sun Bowl: Stanford vs. Pitt (+5.5). It was a bit of a down year for David Shaw and Stanford, though he has yet to win less than eight games in a season since taking over in Palo Alto in 2011. Pitt won the ACC Coastal Division, though the Panthers are only 7-6 on the year. Still, winning the division is an accomplishment for Pat Narduzzi and his program. Prediction: Stanford 26, Pitt 22.
Redbox Bowl: Michigan State vs. Oregon (-2.5). Regardless of whether the Ducks beat the Spartans or not, they already earned a huge win when star quarterback Justin Herbert announced he is returning for another season in Eugene. Herbert was projected to be a first round NFL pick but is coming back to potentially led Oregon to a conference title. Both Oregon and Michigan State struggled at times this year, though the Ducks were slightly more consistent. Prediction: Oregon 27, Michigan State 20.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Missouri vs. Oklahoma State (+8.5). This year’s Liberty Bowl should be a high-scoring affair when two of the top offenses in the country square off in Memphis. Missouri quarterback Drew Lock is projected to be one of the first signal callers selected in next year’s NFL draft. Mike Gundy always has prolific offenses at Oklahoma State, and this year is no different, even in a rebuilding year. Prediction: Missouri 41, Oklahoma State 34.
San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: Northwestern vs. Utah (-7). Two of the most underrated coaches in college football are facing each other in Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald and Utah’s Kyle Whittingham. Fitzgerald led the Wildcats to their first division title in school history this season. Meanwhile, Whittingham guided Utah to the Pac-12 title game and is an astounding 11-1 in bowl games during his coaching career. Prediction: Utah 24, Northwestern 23.
TaxSlayer Gator Bowl: North Carolina State vs. Texas A&M (-7). Jimbo Fisher is in the process of trying to turn Texas A&M into a national contender, and the Aggies finished 8-4 in his first year. The season-ending 74-72 win over LSU in seven overtimes was a stellar way to end the regular season, and the Aggies look to cap things off with a bowl win. NC State had another successful season under Dave Doeren, and the Wolfpack have a chance to earn their 10th win of the season. Prediction: Texas A&M 34, NC State 26.
Tuesday, Jan. 1
Outback Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Iowa (-7). After a shaky start to the season, Joe Moorhead guided Mississippi State to an 8-4 campaign, including impressive wins over Auburn and Texas A&M. The Bulldogs have one of the best defenses in the nation and should have success against the Iowa offense. The Hawkeyes are a very efficient team under Kirk Ferentz, however, and they have the potential to pull off the upset. Prediction: Iowa 16, Mississippi State 13.
VRBO Citrus Bowl: Kentucky at Penn State (-6.5). No one on the Kentucky roster had been born the last time the Wildcats won 10 games in a season. It has not happened since 1977, but Mark Stoops is one win away from achieving that feat this year. Kentucky had a fantastic season and a bowl win would be the icing on the cake for Wildcat fans. Penn State had another solid year under James Franklin, though the Nittany Lions struggled against quality opponents. Prediction: Penn State 24, Kentucky 17.
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: LSU vs. Central Florida (+7.5). For the second straight season, UCF has a chance to beat a team from the SEC to finish undefeated on the year. Last year, the Knights upset Auburn to finish 13-0. This year, they will be without starting quarterback McKenzie Milton against LSU. The Knights won the AAC title game over Memphis without Milton, however, and they certainly are capable of pulling off another upset. Ed Orgeron led LSU to a solid nine-win season, though Tiger fans would feel better if LSU earns a win over UCF in Arizona. Prediction: LSU 34, UCF 17.
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual: Washington vs. Ohio State (-6.5). After the Buckeyes won the Big 10 cham-pionship, Urban Meyer announced he is retiring from coaching. Meyer has left football and returned in the past, so it’s impossible to say whether this is really it for him. But he won’t be coaching next season, and if this is his final game, he’s leaving behind an impressive career. Meyer is 186-32 in his career, including three national championships, seven conference titles and an 11-3 record in bowl games. He is 82-9 at Ohio State and led the Buckeyes to a national title in 2014. His team will face a solid Washington squad that just won the Pac-12 again under Chris Peterson, so this game will include two of the best coaches in the sport. Prediction: Ohio State 40, Washington 31.
Allstate Sugar Bowl: Texas vs. Georgia (-13). The Bulldogs were close to returning to the playoffs before Jalen Hurts and Alabama knocked them out of contention in heartbreaking fashion. Georgia’s consolation prize is a trip to the Sugar Bowl, where the Bulldogs will take on Texas. UT head coach Tom Herman is trying to turn the Longhorns back into a contender. Herman has been very successful as an underdog during his career, and Texas has the potential to pull off the upset in New Orleans. Prediction: Georgia 37, Texas 31.

Latest News

WEEKEND PLANS: Pedal boat operation now open in Gadsden
Annual Memorial Day event planned for Monday
City of Gadsden launches new text-based 911 feature to assist callers, first responders
City of Gadsden honors nation's fallen with memorial flag displays
Outstanding students honored at Honors Day in Gadsden

Latest Sports News

Locals make all-state soccer teams
All-Etowah County Schools softball released
All-Etowah County Schools baseball announced
Local players named to all-area baseball team
Local athletes, coaches named to compete in North/South games