Tomorrow is December 29, but the New Year’s Six Bowl games begin with the Peach Bowl, Cotton Bowl, and Orange Bowl, with the latter two working as College Football Playoff Semifinals this year. There’s a lot of other action aside from the New Year’s Six—including the Citrus Bowl between No. 14 Kentucky and No. 12 Penn State on Tuesday—but hopefully these games meet expectations.
No. 10 Florida vs. No. 7 Michigan
Saturday, December 29 | 12:00 PM ET | ESPN
Despite playing in different conference, Florida-Michigan has become a bit of a rivalry the last few years. The Peach Bowl marks the third matchup between the two schools since 2016, when the two programs met in the Citrus Bowl after the 2015 season. They then met in the season opener of the 2017 season. The Wolverines took both games rather handily, as the Gators couldn’t get much going offensively against an elite unit. But Dan Mullen is now the head coach at Florida, and his offense has shown it can put big point totals on the board when it’s clicking. Mullen was 5-2 in bowl games at Mississippi State, while Jim Harbaugh is 2-3 in bowl games in his career including 1-2 at Michigan. There’s some concern for Michigan after they were blown out in their last game against Ohio State, killing their Playoff chances, along with a few key players not playing (including potential top-five NFL draft pick defensive lineman Rashan Gary); but they have quarterback Shea Patterson set to return, which could set some good vibes as they look to get a bowl win heading into 2019.
Cotton Bowl (CFB Playoff)
No. 3 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Clemson
Saturday, December 29 | 4:00 PM ET | ESPN
A big storyline heading into tomorrow afternoon’s Cotton Bowl between Notre Dame is Clemson is the suspensions of three Tigers players—defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, offensive lineman Zach Giella, and tight end Braden Galloway. As a key starter and potential high pick in the NFL draft, Lawrence is a massive loss for Clemson, but thankfully the team might have the best and deepest defensive line in college football for a unit that leads the nation in yards allowed per play (4.08), is second in scoring defense (13.7), and leads in sacks among Power Five schools (46). Led by true freshman sensation Trevor Lawrence at quarterback, Clemson is also fifth in scoring offense (45.4), and on paper the team is clearly more talented than Notre Dame. Honestly, I didn’t think the Fighting Irish should have been in the Playoff (especially over Georgia), so the offensive line and running back Dexter Williams must be able to run the football and keep the game close with quarterback Ian Book coming through with clutch plays and timely throws to keep drives going—which he’s done this season. Anything can happen, but I don’t think the Cotton Bowl will be very close, which could lead to people questioning the Playoff Committee’s decisions.
Orange Bowl (CFB Playoff)
No. 4 Oklahoma vs. No. 1 Alabama
Saturday, December 29 | 8:00 PM ET | ESPN
At first, I was thinking Alabama might just blowout Oklahoma, and Vegas seems to think the same with the Crimson Tide coming in as heavier favorites than Clemson in the Cotton Bowl, but I’m starting to believe the Sooners have a decent chance of pulling off the upset—at least a better chance than the Fighting Irish in the first Semifinal. The quarterback matchup between Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray and runner-up Tua Tagovailoa is being billed as one of the best head-to-heads of all-time, but Jalen Hurts shouldn’t be counted out of making a huge impact, especially after he was the hero in the SEC Championship Game; and also, Tagovailoa might not be 100% for tomorrow night. Star defensive lineman Quinnen Williams was seemingly set to say he doesn’t think Murray is that good in an unintentionally-hilarious press conference, which was interesting, as it could indicate Alabama (or at least just Williams) is confident they’ll be able to contain the dual-threat playmaker. Murray having top receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown will certainly help, and he’s expected to play after injuring his foot in the Big 12 title game. Everyone talks about the Sooners offense being amazing, but the Crimson Tide might be just as good if not better—and there’s no debate the SEC champions boast a far superior defense. I think a special-teams play or non-offensive touchdown in favor of Alabama could be a difference if the Orange Bowl is close.
No. 11 LSU vs. No. 8 UCF
Tuesday, January 1 | 1:00 PM ET | ESPN
This year’s Fiesta Bowl is a highly-anticipated matchup as UCF looks to extend its nation-best 25-game-win streak with a win over an SEC school in a New Year’s Six Bowl for the second consecutive year. LSU is favored in the game, but they might not be happy with a lower ranking (No. 11) than UCF (No. 8) and could use that as motivation. The Tigers will be without big defensive lineman Ed Alexander and top cornerback Greedy Williams, both of whom are skipping the bowl game ahead of the 2019 NFL Draft, but the defense will have star linebacker Devin White, a potential top-ten pick who opted to play. LSU will look to stop a fast-paced UCF offense led by backup quarterback Darriel Mack Jr., who had six total touchdowns in his first career start in the AAC Championship Game, but the more important matchup might be LSU’s offense against UCF’s underrated defense. Joe Burrows, who has played better than his numbers indicate, should lead a balanced attack that helps pull off a tough win and finally end the Knight’s streak.
No. 9 Washington vs. No. 6 Ohio State
Tuesday, January 1 | 5:00 PM ET | ESPN
The Rose Bowl might be my favorite bowl to watch each year, and this is a solid, classic matchup between the Pac-12 champion (Washington) and the Big Ten champion (Ohio State) after the Buckeyes were left out of the College Football Playoff. Urban Meyer has had one of the best coaching careers of all-time, and he’s looking to cap it with a win in his first Rose Bowl, which would be a fitting end that could probably only be topped by another national title. Meanwhile, the Huskies are in their first Rose Bowl since 2000, led by a senior quarterback (Jake Browning) and a senior running back (Myles Gaskin) that have accomplished a lot as four-year starters for the program. Both Browning and Gaskin will be done their playing careers for Washington after the game, and the same could be the case for Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Dwayne Haskins if he makes the jump to the NFL as the potential No. 1 quarterback available. Washington has a defense (No. 5 in points allowed) that might be able to at least contain Ohio State’s offensive attack, but it won’t be easy—that’ll likely be the key for the Pac-12 champs getting a win. With two of the best coaches in college football, the Rose Bowl should be a well-played game, but I like Meyer to get a win in his last game on the sideline.
Winner: Ohio State
No. 15 Texas vs. No. 5 Georgia
Tuesday, January 1 | 8:45 PM ET | ESPN
I don’t think there’s any question Georgia is one of the top-three teams in the nation along with Alabama and Clemson, so I believe they should’ve been in the College Football Playoff. Look for Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs come out fired up and ready to prove they belonged—especially if one or two of the Semifinals turn into blowouts—with a convincing effort in the Sugar Bowl against Texas. Tom Herman, who is 2-0 in bowl games, and the Longhorns could have some tricks up their sleeve as they look to pull off the upset, though; but it’ll be hard for them to keep up with Georgia if Jake Fromm and the offense plays the way they have in big games the last couple of seasons. Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker, a potential top-ten pick in this year’s draft, skipping the game should be a boost for Texas receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey and an offense that must make plays on the outside against one of the nation’s best defenses. In the first matchup between the two prestigious schools since their 1984 Cotton Bowl, which Georgia won by one point, I like the Bulldogs to win more handily in the Sugar Bowl.
NOTE: This article was updated to reflect an inaccurate game time for the Fiesta Bowl.