The new bowl season is upon us! With 42 college football games in the next three and a half weeks, how can anyone not be excited?! On the first day, we got to witness five separate games – some more exciting than others. In the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, Utah defeated Brigham Young 35 to 28, a lot closer than we expected after the first quarter. Utah jumped out to a big lead in the first quarter where all their points were scored off of two pick-sixes. BYU made a run for the rest of the game but couldn’t come back.
The Raycom Media Camellia Bowl had a lot of excitement at the end. Ohio lost to Appalachian State as a result of a game winning field goal on the final play of the game. In the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Louisiana Tech defeated Arkansas State 47 to 28, where we also got to see a little bit of history – Kenneth Dixon became the all-time TD leader for a career in the NCAA. The Gildan New Mexico Bowl was an interesting one with Arizona taking down New Mexico by only eight points in a 45 to 37 victory. It was pretty surprising since this was basically a home game for the Lobos. San Jose State took down Georgia State 27 to 16 in the Autonation Cure Bowl.
It was an exciting first day for the bowl season, and there are sure to be even more exciting games in the following days. On December 23rd, Northern Illinois takes on Boise State in the Poinsettia Bowl. We aren’t used to seeing Boise State struggle like they have these past couple of years, and that is primarily due to the loss of Chris Petersen. My prediction is Northern Illinois takes down Boise State in a close one 34 to 31 and that will be one based on Northern Illinois’ running game. Duke takes on Indiana in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl on December 26th. Duke has been a surprising team the past couple of years posting a winning (or even .500) season the past four years in a row and making a bowl each of those four years.
The Blue Devils struggled to do so before then, having 16 straight seasons dating back to 1996 without making a bowl and not even having a winning record for those 16 seasons. The Hoosiers started the year off well winning their first four games and then struggling through conference. They played Ohio State tough, only losing by seven points. They also gave Iowa and Michigan a scare by only losing by eight and seven points respectively. My prediction is the Blue Devils will win 38 to 27 with the X-factor being in Sirk from Duke who leads the team in passing and rushing as the quarterback.
Let’s jump ahead to the games that everyone will pay the most attention to, the College Football Playoffs. Clemson plays Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl and that will sure be an exciting one. The two quarterbacks were in the Heisman talk toward the later part of the season and I am sure whoever has the better game between Baker Mayfield and Deshaun Watson will determine the outcome of this game. My prediction is Oklahoma will win 45 to 34 while Mayfield and Shepard excel for the Sooners. The second semifinal gives us Alabama against Michigan State. The Tide are in their second straight year in the playoffs and hope to not have an early exit like last year when they lost to the eventual champion Buckeyes. Both teams have done very well this year and that has normally been attributed to their defense and I feel this will be no different.
My prediction is that Michigan State will win 24 to 21. When it comes to leaders on both sides, Michigan State has the edge when it comes to quarterback and receiver in Cook and Burbridge. Alabama will dominate the run game with Henry unless that front seven of the Spartans can keep the running back to around four yards a carry.
In the national championship, I predict Oklahoma and Michigan State will face each other in the finals. If this holds true, we are in for an amazing game. My prediction is that Oklahoma wins their first championship since 2003. Connor Cook has been anything but disappointing this year for the Spartans, throwing for just under 3,000 yards and throwing 24 touchdowns compared to five interceptions, however, Baker Mayfield has had an even better season throwing for just under 3,400 yards, 35 touchdowns, and matching Cook with five interceptions.
Sterling Shepard is an amazing receiver for the Sooners catching 11 touchdowns, and I think Mayfield and Shepard will be the difference maker. If the Spartans can limit those two, I see no reason as to why the Spartans could not win this game as well. Assuming that they won’t however, Oklahoma wins 34 to 28 scoring on the final drive of the game.