The full 2018-2019 college football bowl schedule is out, so this week’s Top Ten Tuesday goes over the best games of the slate. There will be a lot of good football throughout this month, but these are our picks for the top ten games.
10. Outback Bowl: No. 18 Mississippi State vs. Iowa (Jan. 1, 12:00 PM ET, ESPN 2)
The Gator Bowl between NC State and No. 19 Texas A&M—which has two potential future NFL quarterbacks in Ryan Finley and Kellen Mond—just misses the cut, but the Outback Bowl makes the top ten for 2018-2019 bowl games. Mississippi State (No. 3) and Iowa (No. 7) both have top-ten defenses in terms of yards allowed, while the Bulldogs are first in scoring defense and the Hawkeyes are eleventh in the category. In a day and age with offensive fireworks every week, a hard-fought defensive battle should be refreshing.
9. Redbox Bowl: Michigan State vs. Oregon (Dec. 31, 3:00 PM ET, FOX)
The Redbox Bowl features an unranked matchup between Michigan State and Oregon, but it should be a well-played game. Mark Dantonio’s squad hasn’t had the season they expected after starting the year at No. 11 in the AP poll, but they’re looking for a strong finish to build momentum into 2019. The Spartans are 5-1 in their last six bowl games, so they’re as successful as almost any team this time of year. On the other side, Oregon’s star quarterback Justin Herbert will either look to either build momentum heading into the draft or heading into another season with the Ducks next year depending on what he decides. These two programs met in 2015, with Michigan State winning a thriller in East Lansing.
8. Camping World Bowl: No. 16 West Virginia vs. No. 20 Syracuse (Dec. 28, 5:15 PM ET, ESPN)
If you aren’t excited about potential defensive battles in the first two bowl games on the list, the Camping World Bowl between West Virginia and Syracuse should get you excited. The game features two of the best quick-strike offenses led by senior quarterbacks Will Grier and Eric Dungey. Also, another cool part about the game is that it’s a throwback matchup, as the Mountaineers and Orange used to play each other in the Big East.
7. Citrus Bowl: No. 14 Kentucky vs. No. 12 Penn State (Jan. 1, 1:00 PM ET, ABC)
The Citrus Bowl annually features one of the best non-New Year’s Six games, and this year is no different. Kentucky boasts Nagurski award winner Josh Allen, while Penn State features senior quarterback Trace McSorley in what should be one of the best offense-versus-defense matchups this bowl season. McSorley is playing in his final college game after setting a bunch of school records for the Nittany Lions, so all college fans should tune in.
6. Peach Bowl: No. 10 Florida vs. No. 7 Michigan (Dec. 29, 12:00 PM ET, ESPN)
The Peach Bowl might be higher if not for Florida and Michigan already playing in the 2016 Citrus Bowl and the 2017 season opener, as it’s a matchup we’ve surprisingly seen often. It is interesting that the Gators are looking for their first win over the Wolverines, as the Big Ten school is 4-0 against the SEC foe, including wins of 41-7 and 33-17 in their last two matchups. Assuming Michigan bounces back from their bad loss to Ohio State, we’ll see great defense from both sides in this one.
5. Sugar Bowl: No. 15 Texas vs. No. 5 Georgia (Jan. 1, 8:45 PM ET, ESPN)
The Sugar Bowl is always great, but this year is an intriguing matchup with two schools looking to prove different things. Georgia is obviously looking to make a statement and show they belonged in the College Football Playoff, and they’ll have an opportunity to shut down a Texas team that beat Playoff participant Oklahoma earlier this season before falling to the Sooners in the Big 12 title game. Meanwhile, Texas is looking to continue its resurgance as they attempt to notch their first ten-win season since 2009. It’s good to have the Longhorns back in a big bowl game, but hopefully they can keep it close against a Bulldogs team stacked with talent including Jake Fromm and DeAndre Swift.
4. Rose Bowl: No. 9 Washington vs. No. 6 Ohio State (Jan. 1, 5:00 PM ET, ESPN)
It’s hard to top the Rose Bowl, so Washington and Ohio State don’t have a bad consolation despite having big-time Playoff aspirations entering the season. For Washington, it’ll be the end of accomplished careers by a senior class led by quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin. And one of the most notable storylines of bowl season is the end of Urban Meyer’s coaching career. The two-time national champion has had a remarkable run, and the Buckeyes would probably love to send him out with a Rose Bowl win in his first appearance in “The Granddaddy of Them All”.
3. Fiesta Bowl: No. 11 LSU vs. No. 8 UCF (Jan. 1, 1:00 PM ET, ESPN)
If star quarterback McKenzie Milton, who unfortunately suffered a heartbreaking season-ending knee injury, was playing in this game, it might be No. 1 in the rankings of 2018-2019 bowl games. However, it remains at No. 3 because redshirt freshman Darriel Mack Jr. (six touchdowns in the AAC title game) has shown he can flat-out play. And UCF is looking to extend its nation-best winning streak to 26 games while making it two straight undefeated seasons that are capped by bowl wins against SEC squads. LSU isn’t going to make it easy, though, and they’re coming off one of the craziest games in the history of sports after falling in overtime, 74-72, to Texas A&M to end the regular season. The Fiesta Bowl just feels like it’s set up for an awesome 60 minutes (or more).
2. Cotton Bowl: No. 3 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Clemson (Dec. 29, 4:00 PM ET, ESPN)
The intrigue of College Football Semifinals gets the Cotton Bowl and the Orange Bowl into the top two spots for best bowl games this year. We believe Clemson is in the top-three trio of Alabama, them, and Georgia as best and most-talented teams in the country, and there might be a decent a chance they blow out Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish play solid all-around football, so they’ll look to hang around and win it in the end for a trip to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Freshman phenom Trevor Lawrence and the offense, along with the talented and experienced defense, will look to put them away early to advance to another title game. If Notre Dame doesn’t make it close, there’ll be a lot of talk about whether they should’ve been in the Playoff as an independent without a conference championship, and it could affect them in future years when the Committee makes decisions on the final four teams.
1. Orange Bowl: No. 4 Oklahoma vs. No. 1 Alabama (Dec. 29, 8:00 PM ET, ESPN)
There’s a reason the Orange Bowl is given the primetime slot on December 29. As is the case with the other Semifinal, there’s a chance this game is a blowout—if Alabama can contain Oklahoma’s offense, that’s probably what’ll happen given the likelihood of Alabama’s offense being able to move the ball with ease on OU. But the Sooners have piled up an absurd 577.9 yards and 49.5 points per game, and they can probably score on any defense. The Crimson Tide is just worried about winning the game, but they’ll also be able to rep their conference with a convincing win after their battle against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game that narrowly knocked the Bulldogs out of the top four. The Orange Bowl features the potential top-two finishers in the Heisman Trophy race, and it’s still very much up in the air as to who will win the prestigious honor; whoever wins it, the voting will be a huge storyline heading into the game—Tua Tagovailoa and Kyler Murray might not need any extra chip on their shoulders, though. And remember, A+ teammate and improved thrower Jalen Hurts is ready to go if needed.