Dream Scenarios for 2018 New Year's Six Bowl Game Matchups
Everybody is gearing up for the football season, and hope runs rampant in almost every college town across the nation. The ultimate goal is to be one of the final four teams standing in the College Football Playoff at season's end.
Any spot in the New Year's Six bowl games—Rose, Sugar, Cotton, Peach, Fiesta and Orange—will mark a successful season. But what matchups would get the most folks to tune in, even if their teams aren't in the running?
It's always good for ratings when popular powerhouses with massive fanbases make the big-time bowl games. It's also a huge deal when dormant programs rebound for pivotal, program-changing seasons.
It's fun when there are intriguing storylines behind the matchups and also cool when teams pit strength versus strength.
So, with all that in mind, what would be some ideal scenarios for New Year's Six showdowns? Whether it's the teams you love or the teams you love to hate; the same old seasonly staples or some new blood, everybody roots for a bowl season worth watching.
Let's take a look at some potential pairings that would have everybody parked in front of their TV sets.
Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Penn State
While Clemson probably doesn't have the key puzzle piece at quarterback to get back to the national championship game, there are enough stars there to ensure the Tigers are a safe bet to be in a meaningful game.
Despite repeat aspirations, there will be little disappointment if head coach Dabo Swinney can put his national champions in the Orange Bowl, especially if they wind up playing in a game everybody would want to watch against another storied program, Penn State.
The Nittany Lions are coming off a narrow loss to USC in last year's Rose Bowl, and they have a lot of returning talent, too. It's possible they can get to the College Football Playoff, especially with players such as running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley leading the way.
If they don't, playing Clemson would be a great consolation prize.
Not only are these two teams fun to watch with prolific offenses pelting the scoreboard with crooked numbers, but who wouldn't want to see Barkley go head-to-head with the monsters in Clemson's front seven.
Guys such as defensive tackles Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins, defensive end Clelin Ferrell and linebackers Tre Lamar and Shaq Smith would be standing in the way of a big finale for a player who could be coming off a Heisman Trophy win.
It has all the trappings for a lot of fun. This would be a game everybody would want to see.
Peach Bowl: Florida State vs. LSU
Florida State and LSU battle it out in the living rooms every year for some of the top recruits in the country, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
For a while last year after the Tigers fired head coach Les Miles, it looked like the two administrations may be fighting it out for Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher. That never materialized, despite all the rumors that abounded late in the 2016 season, per CBS Sports.
Whether Fisher was serious about returning to Baton Rouge—where he was an assistant under Nick Saban—or not, intrigue surrounded the situation like college football's version of a soap opera. With the Tigers settling on Ed Orgeron, even more of a spotlight could be shone on this game if it transpired.
Orgeron is a polarizing pick for LSU's head coach, and nobody knows how that's going to work out. Yes, he's an elite recruiter, and he has two terrific coordinators in Dave Aranda and Matt Canada, but his track record as a head coach is lacking.
Getting to Atlanta—even if it's not for the national championship game—would ease a lot of the concerns on the bayou, especially considering few expect it from Orgeron's first full season. But what if they get there and are summarily dismissed by the Seminoles? Will the Fisher fawning resurface?
Florida State has national championship aspirations this year that could heat up with a season-opening game in Atlanta against Alabama. Fisher and crew hope it's the first of two trips this season to the ATL.
Even if the Seminoles don't get to the playoffs, this wouldn't be a bad consolation prize.
Cotton Bowl: Texas vs. Tennessee
This is the most far-fetched pairing of the group, but this isn't about the games we think we will see, it's the games we think most people would like to see. And, boy, would this be a marquee showdown that would draw huge viewership.
First, Texas and Tennessee have been mired in down cycles for a while now.
For the Longhorns, the end of the Mack Brown era was forgettable, and they'd like to erase the Charlie Strong debacle from the history books altogether. The powers-that-be in Austin went out and won the Tom Herman sweepstakes to turn things around.
As for the Volunteers, they've gone 9-4 in back-to-back seasons following the pedestrian final few years of Phillip Fulmer and the failed tenures of Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley. Though Butch Jones has rebuilt the program, Tennessee fans want to end the season in a game of substance. It's time to take the next step.
Playing Texas in the Cotton Bowl would qualify as a big-time game that would whet the insatiable appetite. A lot of people would watch because these are fanbases everybody loves to hate, and then there's that hilarious, "Who's the real UT?" conversation that pops up on message boards.
This is expected to be a bit of a rebuilding campaign for both programs, but they have a history of overachieving when the pundits think little of their chances.
The subplots are bountiful. But, most of all, the Longhorns would sell a ton of tickets to a big bowl game in the Lone Star State, and few programs travel like the Vols. This would be a game that would generate a whole lot of buzz before and after the showdown.
Fiesta Bowl: Boise State vs. Washington
The "Chris Petersen Bowl" would give a lot of people reason to tune in to this game, and with it being in the Fiesta Bowl, that may help ticket sales for a school like Boise State that doesn't draw like the top teams in the sport.
Regardless whether or not the Broncos have as many fans as the big-time teams in the sport, they play like one when they're on the big stage. Think playing against their old coach wouldn't take things up a notch?
Petersen bolted Boise to help return the Huskies to their glory days, and he went a long way toward achieving that in 2016 when quarterback Jake Browning, receiver John Ross and a loaded defense helped get them to the College Football Playoff. Though Ross is gone, there are enough players to infuse hope again in 2017.
If they don't get back to the playoffs, this would be the next-best-thing.
How fun would it be for Petersen to be matched up against old offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, who is now the head coach at Boise after helping the Broncos surge to the pinnacle of college football? He's the one who called plays like the overtime Statue of Liberty that upset Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.
Returning to the scene of the show and knocking off Petersen would be poetic justice for a program that is trying to get back to the top of the "Ground of Five" conferences. Last year, Western Michigan took Wisconsin to the brink before succumbing, so the rich history of giving the big boys a run for their money continued.
Charlie Strong's new team is a popular pick to receive the at-large bid to the New Year's Six after Willie Taggart left Strong studs such as quarterback Quinton Flowers at South Florida. But Boise is going to be tough, too. And if the Broncos make it, playing Washington would be sweet.
It would also intrigue most fans of the sport.
Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Oklahoma
Last year, an early-season meltdown ended any chances for Oklahoma to make the College Football Playoffs. Still, by the end of the year, the Sooners were one of the most dangerous teams in the sport.
They dismantled Auburn in the Sugar Bowl, and though they lost Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine and Dede Westbrook to the NFL, there's no reason to think they can't make it all the way to the final four in 2017.
With quarterback Baker Mayfield back with a slew of weapons, the Sooners have the potential to outscore everybody out there, and though they have a new head coach in Lincoln Riley, who was promoted from offensive coordinator to replace legendary Bob Stoops, not much should change.
It's just a shame Stoops can't be around to play against a team he loves to jab in the media: the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Death, taxes and the Tide being in the playoffs are things we've grown accustomed to depending on, and one look at a loaded roster would lead you to believe they're a safe pick to get back this year. Though they've become the villain of the sport, they still have a massive fanbase, and their games draw huge ratings.
So, they simply must be a part of these dream scenarios.
Oklahoma is one of the teams that has experienced luck against the Tide on the big stage, dismissing them in the 2014 Sugar Bowl. A rematch in the bowl game as a College Football Playoff semifinal with the winner getting a shot at winning a championship?
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. USC
The two best teams in college football over the past decade are Alabama and Ohio State, and they also happen to be two of the most storied programs with some of the most national, crazed fanbases.
So, it would be a big deal for them to meet in the national championship game, especially after the Buckeyes upset the Tide and went on to win the title in the semifinals of the first-ever College Football Playoff.
But Alabama is already playing Oklahoma in this dream scenario, so that would mean Ohio State needs an opponent. How about battling the USC Trojans in the Rose Bowl, which would keep the traditional Big Ten versus Pac-12 showdown in the bowl and still feature two of the top four teams at season's end?
That would be an ideal situation for Rose Bowl fans used to seeing foes from those two conferences. The Trojans hold a 4-3 edge over the Buckeyes in Rose Bowl matchups and a 12-9-1 overall series record.
What better way than to renew the series that last occurred in the 1985 Rose Bowl in a Granddaddy for a shot at a spot in the championship game?
This game would feature stars galore and NFL players of tomorrow such as Southern Cal quarterback Sam Darnold and OSU defensive studs led by defensive end Nick Bosa. It would be a supreme offense versus defense battle, and both schools have enough talent on the other side of the ball to make this a classic.
Then, no matter who wins the semifinals, you'd have either Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio State or USC in the championship game. Love them or hate them, one thing's for sure: You'll definitely watch them.
That's what matters.