College bowl game predictions
By Owen Perry
We all get excited about the holiday season because of traditions, Christmas, New Years, Vacation, and no school. However, you cannot forget about the 41 bowl games being played from December 15 till January 7.
The most anticipated games college football fans will be watching are clearly the two semifinal playoff matchups.
The nation’s top ranked team Alabama (13-0), will be facing number 4 Oklahoma (12-1) in the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. The other semifinal is the GoodYear Cotton Bowl Classic which will be played at AT&T Stadium in Irving, Texas where a battle of two undefeated teams Clemson (13-0) and Notre Dame (12-0) will square off.
Although these two games have the most at stake, we should not forget to tune into the other great matchups being played.
This season holds several notable storylines including Urban Meyer’s final game with Ohio State, and also non-Power Five conference school UCF looking to make a statement by winning 26 consecutive games. In addition, I will be discussing some of the other bowls that are not as well known and the history of the bowls.
First, the two semifinal games. At the beginning of the season it was almost a foregone conclusion that we would be seeing Alabama and Clemson back in the playoff. These two legendary programs have dominated college football making it hard for the committee to leave these teams out of the running each year. These two teams have played against each other every year, twice in the National Championship Game where they exchanged titles in 2016 and 2017.
Most people think that we will see these teams playing for a championship once again at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. But let’s not count out Oklahoma and Notre Dame. Unfortunately, the spread has both these teams as double-digit underdogs.
I believe Heisman winner Kyler Murray and Oklahoma’s offense do have the capability to make the Orange Bowl a competitive game. However, for Oklahoma to pull off the upset, their offense is going to need to score on every single drive or their hostile defense is going to have pressure Alabama QB, Tua Tagovailoa. Let’s be real here, defeating the Crimson Tide is a lot easier said than done. Alabama is just too efficient on both sides of the ball and history tell us that betting against Nick Saban should be a felony. Oklahoma will hang with the Tide through the first half, but the Sooners magic will run out in the second half in dramatic fashion.
Alabama 55, Oklahoma 34
With the other Semifinal game, the Cotton Bowl I am going to be bold and go against the odds with Notre Dame pulling off the upset against Clemson. Do not get me wrong, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney clearly has the better team in terms of talent. However, I expect the Irish to come into this game firing on all cylinders, and I believe they will play their most complete game of the year.
Clemson has a sensational freshman Quarterback in Trevor Lawrence. However the Clemson offensive line has struggled protecting him at times and this will be big factor throughout the game. Notre Dame has one of the most explosive front seven and can put pressure on Clemson running back Travis Eteinne. I expect this game to come down to which team will have more big plays on offense, and that’s going to be coach Brian Kelly’s Notre Dame squad.
Notre Dame 34, Clemson 31
The last time these teams met for the title, Alabama rolled
The last time Alabama and Notre Dame met was six years ago in the National Championship when Alabama won 42-14. This time it is not going to be as lopsided but nobody should be expecting a close game either. Notre Dame’s magical season will end in defeat as Alabama’s dynasty will persist winning their sixth title in nine years and their 18th overall.
Alabama 35, Notre Dame 17
And now for the most meaningful game for local spectators – The Holiday Bowl
This would not be a complete story if I left out the only game that will spark interest towards all readers. The Utes will escaping the cold weather as they prepare to fly down to San Diego where they have a New Year’s Eve date against Big Ten West champion Northwestern.
Kyle Wittingham’s team faced a lot of adversity this season after starting 2-2, and then losing their starting QB, Tyler Huntley, along with their star RB Zack Moss. Despite all the hurdles the Utes persevered as they won 3 of their last four games under Freshman QB Jason Shelley.
In an interview for this story, Matt Smith, Director of Business Development for Utah Athletics said, “I expect this game to end in a baseball score. We have two of the Nation’s best defenses going head to head, and I think this game will come down to which offense will be able to make the first big play.”
I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Smith. I do not expect to see a high scoring game, but this game will be very competitive. History is on your side if you are a Utes fan as Kyle Wittingham is 12-1 in bowl games, that will soon be 13-1.
Utah 17, Northwestern 14
Some additional games to keep an eye are the Granddaddy of them all the Rose Bowl, which will be Urban Meyer’s final game coaching Ohio State. They will be going up against a Washington squad who got off to a shaky start losing two Pac-12 games. However, they ended up finishing with a strong season defeating their rival Washington State in the Apple Cup, and winning the Pac-12. Heisman finalists Dwyane Haskins will outplay Jake Browning, sending Urban Meyer out on a good note.
Ohio State 38, Washington 21
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: Josh Heupel’s UCF Knights currently hold the longest active winning streak out of all FBS teams at 25. They will make that 26 by defeating Ed Orgeron’s LSU Tigers, as they make the committee look foolish once again after going 2-0 against the SEC, and winning consecutive New years six bowls.
UCF 30, LSU 27
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: The Wolverines should have enough motivation going into this matchup after being mortified by their arch rival Ohio State 62-39 in “The Game.” Dan Mullen’s Gators have shown a lot of improvement this year. Unfortunately, for Florida it is unlikely that Felipe Franks will have the same success Dwyane Haskins had against a ravenous Michigan defense.