Bowl season ATS: 15-12 (12-11 National, 3-1 B1G)
Season ATS: 107-105-2 (54-53 National, 53-52-2 B1G)
We wrap up our season with another loaded slate of bowl picks. MC&J nailed the Peach Bowl and the College Football Playoff semifinals, and hopefully the momentum rolls over to what is left of the New Year’s Six and the CFP National Championship Game. It was a tough early start to the season but it is looking like we saved some of our best for last. Thanks for coming along for the ride!
Bowl games (12/31/18 – 1/7/19):
Military Bowl: Cincinnati (-7) v. Virginia Tech – Monday 12/31 12 p.m. ET – ESPN
I’m wondering if Virginia Tech already feels like they won just for the fact that they extended their streak of making a bowl game to 26 seasons. The Hokies needed an overtime win over rival Virginia, as well as a win against Marshall that was added to their schedule late after a meeting with East Carolina earlier in the season was cancelled.
Luke Fickell has to feel like he is ahead of schedule at Cincinnati, with the Bearcats winning 10 games in his second season. It feels like Fickell has Cincinnati playing a high-powered Tresselball, as the Bearcats have a dominant defense and an offense that is averaging nearly 460 yards per game. Running back Michael Warren II figures to get plenty of touches after rushing for 1,163 yards and 17 touchdowns this year.
This isn’t the Virginia Tech team that you have become accustomed to. The Hokies are pretty awful defense this year, which is out of the ordinary. Virginia Tech will put up a fight, but I think Cincinnati will pull away a little in the end and win by double digits.
Cincinnati 34, Virginia Tech 23
Sun Bowl: Stanford (-4.5) v. Pittsburgh – Monday 12/31 2 p.m. ET – CBS
Running back Bryce Love won’t be playing today for Stanford, but honestly last year’s Heisman Trophy runner-up has either been injured or ineffective this year, missing three games and only topping 100 yards in one game this year. This has allowed quarterback K.J. Costello and wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside to flourish.
Shutdown the run and you shutdown Pitt. Running backs Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall both ran for over 1,000 yards this season, but the Cardinal have the tools to at least slow down the duo. If that still isn’t enough to make you side with Stanford, just remember David Shaw is coaching against Pat Narduzzi. Are you back on the side of the Cardinal? I thought so.
Stanford 30, Pitt 17
Redbox Bowl: Michigan State v. Oregon (-3) – Monday 12/31 3 p.m. ET – FOX
Coming into this season, a quarterback battle between Brian Lewerke and Justin Herbert actually sounded pretty fun. After watching both in 2018 it looks like a huge mismatch. After throwing 20 touchdowns and just seven interceptions last year, Lewerke tossed just eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions this year. The junior quarterback had to not only deal with his own injuries, but lost several key offensive weapons to injuries, too.
Justin Herbert shocked many around college football by declaring he would be returning to Oregon next season. A big performance against a solid Michigan State defense could kickstart a 2019 Heisman Trophy campaign. The Ducks put together an 8-4 season in Mario Cristobal’s first season as head coach, and even bigger things look like they are in the near future for the Ducks.
Michigan State has been very good in bowl games under head coach Mark Dantonio, winning five of their last six bowl appearances. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Spartans win, but I’m not banking on it, especially with Oregon being a small favorite. The Ducks are a better team right now, and will end the season on a high note.
Oregon 33, Michigan State 21
Liberty Bowl: No. 23 Missouri (-9) v. Oklahoma State – Monday 12/31 3:45 p.m. ET – ESPN
I’m pretty sure I’ve never picked a game right that Oklahoma State was involved in, so whatever I end up picking here it’s probably in your best interest to go the opposite way. Really the main reason I’m rooting for Missouri here in the battle between former Big Eight/Big 12 foes is so Mike Gundy has to stomach his first losing season at Oklahoma State since 2005, which was his first year with the school. Hopefully the Cowboys get taken to the woodshed and Gundy cries about millennials after the game.
Missouri 48, Oklahoma State 34
Holiday Bowl: No. 22 Northwestern v. No. 17 Utah (-7) – Monday 12/31 7 p.m. ET – FOX Sports 1
If you really want to make sure you are asleep before the ball drops at midnight, just put this game on and let it works its magic. This game feels like it is going to feature as much offense as the Cheez-It Bowl, just without the hilarity. Take the points just to be safe.
Utah 17, Northwestern 13
Gator Bowl: NC State v. No. 19 Texas A&M (-7) – Monday 12/31 7:30 p.m. ET – ESPN
Now if you want to stay up until midnight on New Years Eve, this game should give you the boost that you need. Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher is mighty familiar with NC State from his time at Florida State. The Aggies finished up their regular season with a thrilling 74-72 win over LSU in seven overtimes.
Texas A&M was certainly tested with their SEC West schedule, but the same can’t be said about NC State, who played six bowl teams, but only Clemson and Syracuse finished the regular season ranks. There is no question the Wolfpack have some talent with quarterback Ryan Finley and running back Reggie Gallaspy II, but they are going to need more to beat the Aggies.
The difference in this game is going to be Texas A&M running back Trayveon Williams, who ran for 1,524 yards and 15 touchdowns this year. The Wolfpack were good at stopping the run this year, but I think their numbers were a bit inflated (or I guess you could say deflated when it comes to defense) by playing largely weaker competition. Fisher wraps up a solid first season in College Station with a two touchdown victory.
Texas A&M 41, NC State 27
Outback Bowl: No. 18 Mississippi State (-7) v. Iowa – Tuesday 1/1 noon p.m. ET – ESPN2
Mississippi State found a lot of success when they let quarterback Nick Fitzgerald do what he does best: run the football. Fitzgerald broke Tim Tebow’s SEC record for most rushing yards by a quarterback. Entering his final college football game, Fitzgerald has rushed for 3,504 yards and 45 touchdowns in his career.
The bad news for Fitzgerald in this contest is he’ll be playing one of the best rush defenses in the country. The Hawkeyes are allowing just over 100 yards per game to opponents on the ground. The question will be if the Hawkeyes have enough offense to keep up with any points the Bulldogs are able to put on the board. When quarterback Nate Stanley is on his game, the Hawkeyes are really tough to beat, but when he is bad Iowa is extremely ordinary.
The Bulldogs ended the season winning four their last five games, with the only loss during that span coming to Alabama. With both teams sporting tough defenses, I think this is going to be a close game throughout. Mississippi State wins their 10th bowl game in their last 12 appearances, but it won’t be by more than a touchdown.
Mississippi State 23, Iowa 20
Citrus Bowl: No. 14 Kentucky v. No. 12 Penn State (-7) – Tuesday 1/1 1 p.m. ET – ABC
Penn State won nine games this year, but they don’t quite strike fear in opponents like they did last season. Quarterback Trace McSorley has had a decent season, but he has had to do more work on the ground this year after losing weapons like Saquon Barkley, DaeSean Hamilton, and Mike Gesicki from last year’s team that won the Fiesta Bowl.
Kentucky shocked a lot of people this year by winning nine games. Running back Benny Snell Jr. has already declared for the NFL Draft, but he could help his draft stock with a big performance against a Penn State defense that had some issues against the run this year. If the Nittany Lions are able to bottle up Snell, it could be a long day for the Wildcats.
I could see this game playing out a lot like the Outback Bowl, just with a little more offense. The difference here is the Big Ten will squeak out a win over the SEC, as Penn State wins their second bowl game in a row.
Penn State 28, Kentucky 24
Fiesta Bowl: No. 11 LSU (-7.5) v. No. 8 UCF – 1/1 1 p.m. ET – ESPN
Aside from former Ohio State quarterback Joe Burrow, I’m not sure who won’t be skipping this bowl game for LSU. Burrow played his best football of the season in LSU’s last two games, but one of those games was against Rice, and the other saw his stats inflated because the Tigers went to seven overtimes against Texas A&M.
I’m impressed with how UCF handled themselves after losing McKenzie Milton to a terrifying knee injury. The Golden Knights could have folded up after falling behind Memphis big early on in the American Athletic Conference title game, but quarterback Darriel Mack Jr. regained his composure to extend UCF’s winning streak to 25 games.
The Golden Knights are going to shock the SEC yet again. I don’t think LSU’s focus will be where it needs to be with so many players skipping this game. On the other hand, UCF has something to prove. I’d be a little more confident if Milton was at quarterback, but I think Mack can get the job done.
UCF 31, LSU 27
Sugar Bowl: No. 15 Texas v. No. 5 Georgia (-13) – Tuesday 1/1 8:45 PM EST – ESPN
This feels like the type of game that Texas head coach Tom Herman lives for. The odds are stacked against the Longhorns, as many thought Georgia was worthy of a spot in the College Football Playoff, even with their loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
There is no question that Georgia is the more talented team in this game, but the Longhorns aren’t exactly chopped liver. Jake Fromm has played so well over the past two seasons that highly touted Justin Fields, who spent the season as Fromm’s backup decided it was in his best interest to transfer out of the program. Texas counters with Sam Ehlinger, who is just as solid as Fromm.
Thirteen points is a lot of points to be laying with a team whose main goal this season was to make the College Football Playoff. The Bulldogs will be without cornerback DeAndre Baker, which could benefit Texas wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey. I don’t think Herman has an upset in the cards, but he’ll have his squad ready to play.
Georgia 37, Texas 30
CFP National Championship: No. 2 Clemson v. No. 1 Alabama (-6.5) – Monday 1/7 8:00 PM EST – ESPN
For the fourth year in a row we’ll get Clemson against Alabama in the College Football Playoff, with this being the title matchup for the third time in four years. I haven’t had a ton of time to look at this game, but if Tua Tagovailoa plays against Clemson like he did against Oklahoma, it will be a long night for the Tigers.
Even though he is just a freshman, Trevor Lawrence has played with the poise of a senior so far this year. But let’s not pretend like he has squared off against a defense anywhere close to the caliber of Alabama. Notre Dame has some talent on defense, but I don’t think they touch what Alabama has to offer.
This won’t quite be the beating that Alabama put on Clemson last year in the Sugar Bowl, but it also won’t be a classic like the two national title games between these teams. An Alabama win in the 10-14 point range feels about right.
Alabama 38, Clemson 28
Rose Bowl: No. 9 Washington v. No. 6 Ohio State (-7) – Monday 1/1 5:00 PM EST – ESPN
Finally, the game we all have been waiting for. Ohio State missed out on the College Football Playoff, but they’ll be playing in the next best thing. The Buckeyes will be making their first appearance in Pasadena since 2010, when they beat Oregon 26-17. As if the trip to the Rose Bowl wasn’t enough, Ohio State will be saying goodbye to head coach Urban Meyer, who will be retiring following the game.
We know this will be the last game at Ohio State for Meyer, running back Mike Weber, and defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones, but we don’t officially know what the plans are for quarterback Dwayne Haskins following this game. The smart money is on Haskins heading to the NFL, especially after throwing for 4,580 yards and 47 touchdowns this year, and finishing third in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Haskins won’t have an easy task in trying to crack Washington’s defense. The Huskies are led by linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven, who registered 165 tackles this year. Washington has been sound on defense for the last few years, not allowing 40 points to an opponent in the last 57 games. Even more impressive is the Huskies have only allowed one play from scrimmage over 40 yards this season.
Ohio State’s defense has had well documented issues on defense this year, but I’m not quite sure Washington can capitalize on the inconsistencies of the Silver Bullets. While the Huskies do have senior quarterback Jake Browning, he only threw 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions this year. The player Ohio State needs to be most concerned about is running back Myles Gaskin, who has run for at least 1,000 yards in each of his four seasons in Washington.
If Ohio State can get a performance out of Chase Young like they did in the Big Ten Championship Game against Northwestern, where he registered three sacks, they should be in good shape. Haskins and the Ohio State offense might have a little trouble gaining some early traction against the stingy Washington defense, but in the end the Buckeyes not only have too much talent for the Huskies to keep pace with, but Ohio State will also have the motivation of sending Meyer out as a winner in his final game with the school.
Ohio State 38, Washington 24