We have finally made it to the New Year’s Day Bowl games, a time when the 2019-2010 season is nearing an end. What a fun season it has been, especially seeing another team (LSU) crack the Top 2 and be in the Championship game.
New Year’s Day features the “almost there” teams, those teams just not quite good enough to challenge for the National Championship, but better than the rest. The Bowls sponsoring the games are the well known ones, Orange, Rose, Outback, Sugar and Citrus Bowls.
Of course, just like with the Clemson v Ohio State game, there will be blown calls and controversial plays to fill a football addict’s dreams for the full off season. And with that, let’s get to the games.
Orange Bowl: Florida (-13.5) vs. Virginia
Poor Florida, playing in the SEC. The Gators finished the season at 10-2, losing only to Georgia and LSU. If playing in another conference, they would probably be undefeated and would have played in a Semi-Final game, going for the National Championship.
Florida goes into the game as 13.5 point favorites over Virginia. The spread actually seems to be low compared to the talent on each team. A reasonable case could be made for at least 15 points and maybe 18 points favorites.
Virginia was 9-4 for the season, losing the ACC championship game to Clemson by a score of 62-17. They had only one quality win, defeating the Virginia Tech Hokies.
Florida relies upon quarterback Kyle Trask to run the offense. He has amassed 2,636 yards passing, with 24 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He has a core of talented wide receivers to throw to in the game who will drive the scoring.
Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins runs the Cavalier offense. He has 3,215 yards passing, 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The difference between the two quarterback stats are that Florida plays a much more challenging schedule.
Florida has far greater talent on all sides of the ball and it will show early.
Florida wins and COVERS the spread.
New Year’s Day Bowl Games
Citrus Bowl: Alabama (-7) vs. Michigan
Well, after waiting five years, it has finally happened. Alabama under Coach Nick Saban and Michigan under Coach Jim Harbaugh are about to play against each other. Unfortunately, the teams are not in the running for a National Championship, so the luster is worn off the game.
Unfortunately, another factor diminishes this game. There will be players on both sides who elect not to play because they are preparing for the NFL draft and have no desire to be injured in a meaningless game.
Michigan enters the game with a 9-3 record, having lost to Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State, all top ranked teams at one point or another. Alabama enters with a 10-2 record with losses to Auburn and LSU.
Quarterbacking for Michigan is Shea Patterson, having thrown for 2,828 yards, 22 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Targets will be receivers Ronnie Bell (694 yards) and Nico Collins (681 yards.)
Joining Patterson in the backfield is running back Zach Carbonnet (642 yards) and Hassan Hopkins (561 yards),
Mac Jones will be quarterbacking for Alabama and has proven himself a more than adequate replacement for the injured Tua Tagovailoa. He will be handing off to 1,000 yard rusher Najee Harris. Wide receivers Davonte Smith and Jerry Jeudy will be the primary targets of Jones.
This game will be all about whether the Wolverines can contain the Alabama wide receivers. If the secondary can hold their own against Smith and Jeudy, then they have a chance of pulling out the win.
Alabama will be playing for honor, trying to reclaim part of what is a “lost” season to them.
Alabama wins and COVERS the spread.
Outback Bowl: Auburn (-7.5) vs. Minnesota
The Outback Bowl features another SEC versus Big 10 match up, with Auburn (10-3) playing Minnesota (10-2). No common opponents are among them, but we can still pull some things out of games played.
Auburn lost to Georgia, LSU and Oregon, all top ranked teams. Minnesota lost to Wisconsin and Iowa, but Iowa was not near a major top ranked team. Auburn has the advantage with strength of schedule.
Auburn quarterback Bo Nix has had a great season as a Freshman phenom, throwing for 2,356 yards, 15 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He goes into the game setting up for a great year in the 2020 season.
Nix’s favorite target is wide receiver Seth Williams, who has 801 yards and 8 td’s for the year. Joining Nix in the backfield is running back JaTarvious Whitlow, with 739 yards.
Minnesota was the surprise team of the year. They were not expected to perform as they did and have now earned the rewards of such a great season.
Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan had a great year, throwing for 2,975 yards, 28 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He will be throwing to two solid wide receivers, Rashod Bateman with 1,170 yards and Tyler Johnson 1,114 yards.
Joining Morgan in the backfield is running back Rodney Smith with 1,094 yards.
Auburn wins in the talent division, outshining Minnesota. That difference shows through and Auburn wins in the second half after a tough fought first hald.
Auburn wins and COVERS the spread.
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin (-2.5) vs. Oregon
This will be another fun Bowl Game, with Wisconsin being the favorite against Oregon.
Wisconsin comes into the game with a 9-3 record, where two of the losses were to Ohio State and the third to Illinois. Oregon was 10-2, with a last second lost to Auburn and the other to Arizona, but won the PAC 12 championship over Utah. Strength of schedule goes to Wisconsin.
Each team has high quality offensive lines and solid defenses rarely giving up the big play. So count the teams even
Oregon will be relying on quarterback Justin Herbert who was thought to be in the Heisman hunt at the beginning of the season, but was outshined by other candidates. He still retains a strong likelihood of going first round in the NFL draft in April.
Wisconsin places their hopes with NFL prospect running back Jonathan Taylor.
Give this game to Wisconsin based upon strength of schedule and a little bit stronger rushing game.
Wisconsin wins and COVERS the spread.
Sugar Bowl Georgia (-7.5) vs. Baylor
In the only other New Year’s Day Bowl game, Georgia takes the field as a 7.5 point favorite against Baylor.
Georgia ended the season at 10-2, losing to an unheralded South Carolina team and then suffering through a thorough stomping by LSU 37-10 in the SEC title game. Baylor was 11-2, losing twice to Oklahoma which was in turn, stomped by LSU 63-24 in the BCS Semi Final Playoff Game.
Georgia junior quarterback Jake Fromm is another quality NFL prospect possibly coming out for the 2020 draft and season. Playing potentially his final NCAA game Fromm has one more chance to raise his value as an early 1st round pick status. With 2,610 yards passing, 22 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions in the toughest conference in the country, Fromm is a real threat to Baylor.
Georgia will be without 5 starters for the Sugar Bowl. Defensive back J R Reed, right tackle Isiah Wilson and offensive lineman Andrew Thomas will not play while “preparing” for the NFL draft. Starting guard Ben Cleveland is out due to academic issues.
Additionally, starting defensive tackle Tyler Clark, backup tailback Brian Herrien and safety Divaad Wilson will also miss the game for unknown reasons. And NFL 1st round pick D’Anfre Smith will be hampered by an ankle injury.
These losses will be a huge blow to the Bulldogs on game day.
Baylor is led by junior quarterback Charlie Brewer with 2,956 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Wide receiver Denzel Mims is his primary target with 945 yards and 11 touchdowns. The secondary target is Tyquan Thorton with 744 yards and 5 touchdowns.
John Lovett and JaMycal Hasty will be the main running backs for Baylor.
Who wins the Sugar will depend upon who wants it the most. Both teams have excellent defenses and multiple running backs. Jake Fromm is a big plus for the Bulldogs, but the loss of so many players for the game will definitely affect the outcome.
Georgia wins but DOES NOT COVER the spread.