Predictions for Every 2016-17 College Football Bowl Game

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistDecember 5, 2016

Predictions for Every 2016-17 College Football Bowl Game

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    It all started in late August, when California and Hawaii ushered in the 2016 college football season in Australia. It will end Jan. 9 in Tampa, Florida, when the four-team playoff will provide us with a definitive national champion. In between are nearly 900 games of varying levels of quality and importance, each of which provided at least one notable stat or memorable play regardless of what the overall result was.

    That last statement is probably the best way to describe the overall 40-game bowl lineup that was unveiled Sunday and will play out between Dec. 17 and Jan. 2. There are the big ones, those that serve as playoff semifinals and the traditionally revered matchups such as those in the Rose Bowl, but that doesn't mean the other games won't be worth watching.

    In most cases the outcomes of these games are meaningless, not indicative of how good a team's season was and so shouldn't be regarded as a harbinger of their future (good or bad). Instead, consider them like a clip-show episode from your favorite network sitcom with hopefully a few new scenes added in for extra flair.

    But just because most of these games don't matter doesn't mean they're not worth predicting. We've made a pick for all 40 games, and as the bowl season unfolds we'll update each capsule with the final scores. Make sure to give us your picks in the comments section and check back in over the next few weeks to see how things turned out.

    Last week: 12-4 (.750)

    Season: 612-218 (.738)

Bowl Season Openers

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    UTSA is making its bowl debut after starting up a football program in 2011.
    UTSA is making its bowl debut after starting up a football program in 2011.David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    New Mexico Bowl: New Mexico (8-4) vs. UTSA (6-6)

    When: Saturday, Dec. 17; 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: New Mexico won 21-9 at UTSA in October 2014.

    New Mexico is playing in bowls in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2006-07 and is playing in its home stadium for the fourth straight time in the postseason. UTSA is making its bowl debut in just its sixth year of football. The Roadrunners allowed eight rushing yards in their last outing against Charlotte but facing the Lobos' FBS-leading run attack, which averages more than 360 yards per game, is a completely different experience.

    Prediction: New Mexico 34, UTSA 23

    FINAL: New Mexico 23, UTSA 20

    Las Vegas Bowl: Houston (9-3) vs. San Diego State (10-3)

    When: Saturday, Dec. 17; 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)

    Last meeting: Houston won 14-9 at San Diego State in October 1973.

    Two of the best non-power teams in the country this season square off in a game that could become part of college football history. That's if SDSU senior Donnel Pumphrey, who has 2,018 yards this season and 6,290 for his career, can get another 108 yards to pass Ron Dayne for the FBS career record. Houston is third in FBS in run defense, at 97.9 yards allowed per game.

    Prediction: Houston 27, San Diego State 20

    FINAL: San Diego State 34, Houston 10

    Camellia Bowl: Appalachian State (9-3) vs. Toledo (9-3)

    When: Saturday, Dec. 17; 5:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: None

    Appalachian beat Ohio on a last-second field goal in last year's Camellia Bowl for its first-ever bowl victory. Toledo opened the 2016 season with a 31-10 win at Arkansas State, which tied Appalachian for the Sun Belt title. The Mountaineers have picked off 20 passes and will give Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside, who leads the nation with 43 touchdown passes, a struggle to throw the ball.

    Prediction: Appalachian State 24, Toledo 20

    FINAL: Appalachian State 31, Toledo 28

    Cure Bowl: Arkansas State (7-5) vs. UCF (6-6)

    When: Saturday, Dec. 17; 5:30 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)

    Last meeting: UCF won 31-20 at Arkansas State in October 1991.

    Arkansas State began 0-4 before dominating the Sun Belt to win a second straight title, but the Red Wolves have lost eight in a row against non-league FBS opponents. UCF, winless in 2015, averages 30.1 points per game under first-year coach Scott Frost after scoring 30 just twice last season. The Knights also benefit from playing in their home stadium.

    Prediction: UCF 28, Arkansas State 21

    FINAL: Arkansas State 31, UCF 13

    New Orleans Bowl: Louisiana-Lafayette (6-6) vs. Southern Mississippi (6-6)

    When: Saturday, Dec. 17; 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: Southern Miss beat ULL 51-21 in August 2008.

    ULL clinched a bowl bid by winning 30-3 Saturday at rival Louisiana-Monroe despite zero passing yards. Southern Miss, which has wins over Kentucky and Conference USA West Division champ Louisiana Tech, is led by senior quarterback Nick Mullens and his 11,648 career passing yards.

    Prediction: Southern Miss 27, Louisiana-Lafayette 20

    FINAL: Southern Miss 28, Louisiana-Lafayette 21

Christmas Week Bowls

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    Central Michigan QB Cooper Rush needs 357 passing yards to become the 14th player in FBS history to throw for 13,000 yards.
    Central Michigan QB Cooper Rush needs 357 passing yards to become the 14th player in FBS history to throw for 13,000 yards.Chet Strange/Getty Images

    Miami Beach Bowl: Central Michigan (6-6) vs. Tulsa (9-3)

    When: Mon., Dec. 19; 2:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: Central Michigan beat Tulsa 41-18 in October 1987.

    Central Michigan's season highlight—and the reason it's bowl-eligible—came on a play that shouldn't have happened: the crazy Hail Mary/hook-and-lateral to beat Oklahoma State in September. The Chippewas may need several of those plays to topple Tulsa and its up-tempo attack, which averages 85.8 plays per game and has a 3,000-yard passer (Dane Evans) and two running backs (James Flanders and D'Angelo Brewer) who have each topped 1,300 yards on the ground.

    Prediction: Tulsa 45, Central Michigan 34

    FINAL: Tulsa 55, Central Michigan 10

    Boca Raton Bowl: Memphis (8-4) vs. Western Kentucky (10-3)

    When: Tues., Dec. 20; 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: Memphis beat Western Kentucky 42-0 in October 1956.

    Winners of the last two Miami Beach bowls slide up the Florida coast for their first meeting in 60 years. Western Kentucky is the two-time Conference USA champ and leads the nation in yards per play (7.64). Memphis scored at least 28 points in every game and has wins over AAC champ Temple as well as Houston, so this figures to challenge for most points in bowl season.

    Prediction: Western Kentucky 49, Memphis 45

    FINAL: Western Kentucky 51, Memphis 31

    Poinsettia Bowl: BYU (8-4) vs. Wyoming (8-5)

    When: Wed., Dec. 21; 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: BYU beat Wyoming 25-20 in October 2010.

    Old Mountain West/WAC foes get reacquainted in San Diego, where BYU knew it was headed since becoming bowl-eligible in mid-November. Wyoming, which was 2-10 last season but won the MWC Mountain Division this fall, is bowling for the first time since 2011. Wyoming QB Josh Allen could have a big game against the Cougars' No. 99 pass defense.

    Prediction: Wyoming 38, BYU 33

    FINAL: BYU 24, Wyoming 21

    Potato Bowl: Colorado State (7-5) vs. Idaho (8-4)

    When: Thurs., Dec. 22; 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: Colorado State beat Idaho 36-34 in September 2010.

    Idaho is planning to drop down to the FCS level in 2018 but not before playing just its third bowl game in program history. The other two, wins in 1998 and 2009, were also in Boise. Colorado State has won four of five and averaged 47.4 points per game, including 63 against Mountain West finalist San Diego State.

    Prediction: Colorado State 37, Idaho 24

    FINAL: Idaho 61, Colorado State 42

    Bahamas Bowl: Eastern Michigan (7-5) vs. Old Dominion (9-3)

    When: Fri., Dec. 23; 1 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: Old Dominion won 38-34 at Eastern Michigan in September 2015.

    Eastern Michigan last played in a bowl game in 1987, while Old Dominion never has, the Monarchs only joining the FBS in 2013. Meeting in paradise is a perfect way to welcome these postseason newcomers, and they should continue the trend of wild games in this venue. Eastern Michigan's victories over Mountain West champ Wyoming and Mid-American finalist Ohio give it the edge.

    Prediction: Eastern Michigan 34, Old Dominion 30

    FINAL: Old Dominion 24, Eastern Michigan 20

    Armed Forces Bowl: Louisiana Tech (8-5) vs. Navy (9-3)

    When: Fri., Dec. 23; 4:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: Navy won 37-23 at Louisiana Tech in September 2010.

    Navy might have grabbed the “Group of Five” bowl slot that went to Western Michigan had it been able to beat Temple in Saturday's ACC title game. Instead, the Midshipmen have to take on the No. 2 offense in the country in terms of yards per play. Louisiana Tech averages 44 points per game but allowed 235 rushing yards in the Conference USA title game and will struggle with the Midshipmen's third-ranked run game.

    Prediction: Navy 31, Louisiana Tech 30

    FINAL: Louisiana Tech 48, Navy 45

    Dollar General Bowl: Ohio (8-5) vs. Troy (9-3)

    When: Fri., Dec. 23; 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: Troy beat Ohio 48-21 in the 2010 New Orleans Bowl.

    Ohio fell to Western Michigan by six in the Mid-American final and hung with Tennessee on the road in September. Troy, which would have shared the Sun Belt title had it not lost Saturday at Georgia Southern, nearly knocked off Clemson on the road earlier this season. Their combined 14 games decided by nine or fewer points will make for a close finish, with Troy getting the edge for playing in Alabama.

    Prediction: Troy 24, Ohio 22

    FINAL: Troy 28, Ohio 23

    Hawaii Bowl: Hawaii (6-7) vs. Middle Tennessee (8-4)

    When: Sat., Dec. 24; 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: Hawaii beat Middle Tennessee 35-14 in September 1993.

    First-year Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich took his team to Arizona, Australia and Michigan, and the reward is an unofficial seventh home game. The Rainbow Warriors are 4-4 in bowl games on the islands, while Middle Tennessee is bowling in a tropical locale for the second year in a row after losing to Western Michigan in last season's Bahamas Bowl. MTSU scored 77 points in its last game, but jet lag will hamper the Blue Raiders.

    Prediction: Hawaii 38, Middle Tennessee 27

    FINAL: Hawaii 52, Middle Tennessee 35

Dec. 26-27 Bowls

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    Mississippi State's Egg Bowl win over Ole Miss earned it a bowl bid despite a 5-7 record.
    Mississippi State's Egg Bowl win over Ole Miss earned it a bowl bid despite a 5-7 record.Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    St. Petersburg Bowl: Miami, Ohio (6-6) vs. Mississippi State (5-7)

    When: Mon., Dec. 26, 11 a.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: None

    Miami is the first team to ever start 0-6 and then run the table to become bowl-eligible. The RedHawks' season turned around after Gus Ragland took over as quarterback, with the sophomore throwing 15 touchdowns with zero interceptions in those six starts. Mississippi State, one of two 5-7 teams that snuck into the bowl picture, has allowed 31 passing TDs this season.

    Prediction: Miami 31, Mississippi State 30

    FINAL: Mississippi State 17, Miami 16

    Quick Lane Bowl: Boston College (6-6) vs. Maryland (6-6)

    When: Mon., Dec. 26; 2:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: Boston College beat Maryland 29-26 in November 2013.

    Former ACC foes meet in a dome in Detroit, which by default gives Maryland the edge because that's Big Ten territory. Boston College has the sixth-worst scoring offense in the country but also held seven opponents to 17 or fewer points. Maryland averaged 39 points in its wins and 12.2 in its losses, but those were all to bowl teams.

    Prediction: Boston College 20, Maryland 16

    FINAL: Boston College 36, Maryland 30

    Independence Bowl: North Carolina State (6-6) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6)

    When: Mon., Dec. 26; 5 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

    Last meeting: Vanderbilt beat NC State 38-24 in the 2012 Music City Bowl.

    Both teams had to upset in-state rivals in their season finales to become bowl-eligible, NC State winning at North Carolina and Vandy knocking off Tennessee. The Commodores' 608 yards in that win was their fourth time topping the 400-yard mark in their last five games and paired with their defense should be enough to claim victory.

    Prediction: Vanderbilt 27, North Carolina State 20

    FINAL: North Carolina State 41, Vanderbilt 17

    Heart of Dallas Bowl: Army (6-5) vs. North Texas (5-7)

    When: Tues., Dec. 27; noon ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: North Texas won 35-18 at Army on Oct. 22.

    Regular-season rematches aren't encouraged unless special circumstances are involved, like when Alabama and LSU played for a national title or in this case where North Texas had the best APR score of any 5-7 team in the country. Since beating Army, the Mean Green have gone 1-4 and allowed 39.2 points per game, while the Black Knights will be only 17 days removed from their annual clash with Navy and will be less rusty than most bowl teams.

    Prediction: Army 26, North Texas 24

    FINAL: Army 38, North Texas 31 (OT)

    Military Bowl: Temple (10-3) vs. Wake Forest (6-6)

    When: Tues., Dec. 27; 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: Temple beat Wake Forest 36-0 in November 1930.

    Temple will be more than happy to play a second straight game in Annapolis, Maryland, where it just beat Navy for the American Athletic Conference title Saturday. The Owls have won seven straight and allowed only 33 points in their last five, while Wake has lost five of six and scored more than 14 points once in that stretch.

    Prediction: Temple 27, Wake Forest 14

    FINAL: Wake Forest 36, Temple 34

    Holiday Bowl: Minnesota (8-4) vs. Washington State (8-4)

    When: Tues., Dec. 27; 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: Washington State won 41-9 at Minnesota in September 1988.

    Minnesota hasn't played a bowl game in California since beating UCLA in the 1962 Rose Bowl, and it gets to begin and end its season with Pac-12 schools after opening with a 30-23 win over Oregon State. Washington State's season has also had bookends, starting 0-2 and losing its final two games as well. The Cougars' air attack should thrive against the Golden Gophers' shaky pass defense.

    Prediction: Washington State 36, Minnesota 24

    FINAL: Minnesota 17, Washington State 12

    Cactus Bowl: Baylor (6-6) vs. Boise State (10-2)

    When: Tues., Dec. 27; 10:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: None

    Baylor was one of the first bowl-eligible teams in the country after starting 6-0, and it's been all downhill since. The Bears' six straight losses saw them give up 43.7 points per game. Boise, which has had some of the program's biggest wins in the Phoenix area, is 4-2 against current Big 12 teams, including bowl wins over Iowa State, Oklahoma and TCU.

    Prediction: Boise State 43, Baylor 31

    FINAL: Baylor 31, Boise State 12

Dec. 28-29 Bowls

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    Pittsburgh was on the winning end of the highest-scoring game in FBS history (76-61 over Syracuse) in its last outing.
    Pittsburgh was on the winning end of the highest-scoring game in FBS history (76-61 over Syracuse) in its last outing.Justin Berl/Getty Images

    Pinstripe Bowl: Northwestern (6-6) vs. Pittsburgh (8-4)

    When: Wed., Dec. 28; 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: Pittsburgh won 21-14 at Northwestern in September 1973.

    Northwestern's 247.7 passing yards per game this season is its highest average since 2011, and now the Wildcats get to take on Pittsburgh's second-worst pass defense. The Panthers have been able to get away with bad defense because they're scoring at a record pace, including a 76-61 win over Syracuse as well as high-scoring victories over Clemson and Penn State.

    Prediction: Pittsburgh 44, Northwestern 34

    FINAL: Northwestern 31, Pittsburgh 24

    Russell Athletic Bowl: Miami, Florida (8-4) vs. West Virginia (10-2)

    When: Wed., Dec. 28; 5:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: Miami beat West Virginia 22-20 in October 2003.

    Mark Richt's first season at his alma mater has been a successful one, with Miami winning more games than his old employer Georgia did. West Virginia is coming off its best performance since joining the Big 12 in 2012. Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya and Mountaineers passer Skyler Howard will trade big throws in a back-and-forth battle.

    Prediction: West Virginia 28, Miami 27

    FINAL: Miami 31, West Virginia 14

    Foster Farms Bowl: Indiana (6-6) vs. Utah (8-4)

    When: Wed., Dec. 28; 8:30 p.m. ET (FOX)

    Last meeting: Utah beat Indiana 40-13 in September 2002.

    New Indiana coach Tom Allen, named Thursday as Kevin Wilson's replacement, will lean on the Hoosiers' improved defense to slow down Utah running back Joe Williams. Williams briefly retired this season, but since returning to the Utes in October, he has run for 1,110 yards and nine touchdowns in six games.

    Prediction: Utah 27, Indiana 19

    FINAL: Utah 26, Indiana 24

    Texas Bowl: Kansas State (8-4) vs. Texas A&M (8-4)

    When: Wed., Dec. 28; 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: Kansas State beat Texas A&M 53-50 in November 2011.

    Texas A&M is 2-0 against Big 12 schools since leaving that conference in 2012, beating Oklahoma in that season's Cotton Bowl and downing West Virginia in the 2014 Liberty Bowl, but the Aggies are on another second-half tailspin after starting 6-0. Kansas State has won five of six, allowed 25 total points in its last two games and has become a rushing juggernaut over the last two months.

    Prediction: Kansas State 29, Texas A&M 25

    FINAL: Kansas State 33, Texas A&M 28

    Birmingham Bowl: South Carolina (6-6) vs. South Florida (10-2)

    When: Thurs., Dec. 29; 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: South Carolina beat South Florida 34-3 in September 2004.

    South Florida has its most wins in program history and tied with Temple for the AAC's East Division title. South Carolina exceeded expectations in coach Will Muschamp's first season, but its offense is tied for 120th in scoring at 19.3 points per game. The Bulls have scored 30 points in every game in 2016.

    Prediction: South Florida 31, South Carolina 22

    FINAL: South Florida 46, South Carolina 39 (OT)

    Belk Bowl: Arkansas (7-5) vs. Virginia Tech (9-4)

    When: Thurs., Dec. 29; 5:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: None

    Virginia Tech pushed Clemson to the limit in Saturday's ACC title game, and the Hokies scored 35 points per game under first-year coach Justin Fuente, their best average since 2003. Arkansas scored exactly one point more than it allowed this season and hasn't won or lost consecutive games since starting 3-0. The Razorbacks' trend means they're set to win this one.

    Prediction: Arkansas 38, Virginia Tech 34

    FINAL: Virginia Tech 35, Arkansas 24

    Alamo Bowl: Colorado (10-3) vs. Oklahoma State (9-3)

    When: Thurs., Dec. 29; 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: Oklahoma State beat Colorado 31-28 in November 2009.

    An old Big 8 Conference battle pits league runner-ups who are looking to bounce back after disappointing efforts in their last contest. Colorado, which was 4-9 a year ago, won the Pac-12's South Division but lost by 31 to Washington on Friday, while Oklahoma State lost by 18 at rival Oklahoma in Saturday's unofficial Big 12 championship. The big-play potential of quarterback Mason Rudolph and receiver James Washington tips the scales in the Cowboys' favor.

    Prediction: Oklahoma State 31, Colorado 26

    FINAL: Oklahoma State 38, Colorado 8

Dec. 30-Jan. 2 Non-New Year's Six Bowls

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    Georgia RB Nick Chubb, who was hurt for last year's bowl game, ran for a school bowl-record 266 yards in the 2014 Belk Bowl.
    Georgia RB Nick Chubb, who was hurt for last year's bowl game, ran for a school bowl-record 266 yards in the 2014 Belk Bowl.Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Liberty Bowl: Georgia (7-5) vs. TCU (6-6)

    When: Fri., Dec. 30; noon ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: Georgia beat TCU 38-10 in September 1988.

    Georgia's five regular-season losses are its most since 2010 and not what the program envisioned after replacing Mark Richt with Kirby Smart. True freshman quarterback Jacob Eason had an up-and-down year, but the Bulldogs are at their best when they can run the ball. TCU, which has lost four of its last six, allowed 670 rushing yards and six touchdowns in its last two defeats.

    Prediction: Georgia 33, TCU 20

    FINAL: Georgia 31, TCU 23

    Sun Bowl: North Carolina (8-4) vs. Stanford (9-3)

    When: Fri., Dec. 30; 2 p.m. ET (CBS)

    Last meeting: Stanford beat North Carolina 37-34 in September 1998.

    UNC is the ACC team that's relegated to the league's furthest bowl pairing and where the conference is just 1-5 since 2010. The Tar Heels have given up 1,203 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on the ground in their last four games, not the ideal way to prepare for Stanford's Christian McCaffrey and his FBS-leading 211.5 all-purpose yards per game.

    Prediction: Stanford 34, North Carolina 24

    FINAL: Stanford 25, North Carolina 23

    Music City Bowl: Nebraska (9-3) vs. Tennessee (8-4)

    When: Fri., Dec. 30; 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: Nebraska beat Tennessee 31-21 in the 2000 Fiesta Bowl.

    Tennessee hasn't played a bowl game in its home state since 2010 but didn't want such a fate this season after being picked to win the SEC's East Division. The Volunteers have allowed 118 points in their last three games but scored 146 in that span, setting up a potential shootout with a Nebraska team that was outscored 125-30 in its losses.

    Prediction: Tennessee 42, Nebraska 35

    FINAL: Tennessee 38, Nebraska 24

    Arizona Bowl: Air Force (9-3) vs. South Alabama (6-6)

    When: Fri., Dec. 30; 5:30 p.m. ET (Campus Insiders)

    Last meeting: None

    This second-year bowl has a much more desirable pairing after getting saddled with two Mountain West Conference teams in 2015. Tucson has an Air Force base, which will make the Falcons a crowd favorite, though their fourth-ranked run offense is all they need to have the edge. South Alabama's odd journey to bowl eligibility included two wins over FCS schools but also victories against Mississippi State and San Diego State.

    Prediction: Air Force 37, South Alabama 21

    FINAL: Air Force 45, South Alabama 21

    Citrus Bowl: Louisville (9-3) vs. LSU (7-4)

    When: Sat., Dec. 31; 11 a.m. ET (ABC)

    Last meeting: None

    Presumptive Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson should be thankful this game comes after the ceremony, because LSU's defense is tougher than anything he and Louisville have faced this season. The Tigers, now led on a permanent basis by Ed Orgeron, allowed 39 points in their finale but held eight other opponents to 18 or less.

    Prediction: LSU 27, Louisville 24

    FINAL: LSU 29, Louisville 9

    TaxSlayer Bowl: Georgia Tech (8-4) vs. Kentucky (7-5)

    When: Sat., Dec. 31; 11 a.m. (ESPN)

    Last meeting: Georgia Tech beat Kentucky 23-13 in September 1960.

    Kentucky's first bowl game since 2011 provides the Wildcats with the worst possible matchup in Georgia Tech and its triple option. Kentucky ranks 108th in FBS against the run, giving up at least 200 rushing yards eight times. The Yellow Jackets have a chance to beat a third SEC team after knocking off Vanderbilt and rival Georgia.

    Prediction: Georgia Tech 31, Kentucky 28

    FINAL: Georgia Tech 33, Kentucky 18

    Outback Bowl: Florida (8-4) vs. Iowa (8-4)

    When: Mon., Jan. 2; 1 p.m. ET (ABC)

    Last meeting: Florida beat Iowa 31-24 in the 2006 Outback Bowl.

    Florida's season-long offensive woes don't figure to magically disappear now that it's out of SEC play. Iowa allows 17.9 points per game, holding five opponents to 10 points or less and giving up just 13 to Michigan. The Gators don't usually allow many points, but in their losses they've been outscored 154-67.

    Prediction: Iowa 21, Florida 17

    FINAL: Florida 30, Iowa 3

Orange Bowl

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Florida State (9-3) vs. Michigan (10-2)

    When: Fri., Dec. 30; 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: Florida State won 51-31 at Michigan in September 1991.

    Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher and Michigan's Jim Harbaugh will provide plenty of great sound bites leading up to this matchup, setting the stage for a clash between an incredible defense against an offensive attack that's been hard to slow down.

    Michigan's second-ranked defense gave up a season-high 30 points against Ohio State but more commonly has been holding opponents to 14 or fewer points, as it did in nine of 12 games. Only two teams averaged more than five yards per play against the Wolverines, while Florida State has managed at least six yards per play seven times this season.

    FSU junior Dalvin Cook has run for 1,620 yards and 18 touchdowns and is the school's career rushing leader, topping the 150-yard mark five times. Michigan only allowed four teams to tally that many yards on the ground.

    Prediction: Michigan 24, Florida State 21

    FINAL: Florida State 33, Michigan 32

Cotton Bowl

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Western Michigan (13-0) vs. Wisconsin (10-3)

    When: Mon., Jan. 2; 1 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: Wisconsin beat Western Michigan 19-7 in August 2000.

    Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck might be looking at a lucrative endorsement deal with the cotton industry after the publicity he's given that fabric during the Broncos' push to finish as the highest “Group of Five” conference champion. Their journey started with winning at Northwestern and Illinois in September, and now they get a chance to be unofficial Big Ten West champions if they can beat a third team from that division.

    Wisconsin squandered a 21-point lead to Penn State in falling in the Big Ten championship, which likely cost the Badgers a Rose Bowl trip and might mean they won't be motivated. That makes them ripe for disaster against Western Michigan's potent offense, which has averaged 43.5 points per game and has the FBS career-receiving-yardage leader in senior wideout Corey Davis.

    The Badgers' best offensive asset is their run game, averaging 204.5 yards per game, but it won't be able to keep up with a spirited Broncos squad.

    Prediction: Western Michigan 26, Wisconsin 21

    FINAL: Wisconsin 24, Western Michigan 17

Rose Bowl

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

    Penn State (11-2) vs. USC (9-3)

    When: Mon., Jan. 2; 5 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: USC beat Penn State 38-24 in the 2009 Rose Bowl.

    Penn State can be upset about not getting a chance to be thumped by Alabama in the playoffs, or it can be thrilled about playing in the Big Ten's showcase bowl. It's up to the Nittany Lions to decide which mentality to have in the weeks leading up to facing the Pac-12's hottest team, one playing in its backyard.

    This is USC's 33rd trip to the Rose Bowl but its first in eight years, the longest stretch the Trojans have gone without playing in the granddaddy of them all. And it's a just reward for their strong finish, winning eight in a row with victories over both Pac-12 title-game participants.

    PSU has won nine straight, knocking off playoff qualifier Ohio State and then rallying past Wisconsin in the conference final. The emergence of its passing game behind sophomore Trace McSorley is similar to how USC has turned things around since Sam Darnold became the starting quarterback, though the Trojans have shown more offensive balance thanks to a surging run game.

    Prediction: USC 33, Penn State 27

    FINAL: USC 52, Penn State 49

Sugar Bowl

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    Brett Deering/Getty Images

    Auburn (8-4) vs. Oklahoma (10-2)

    When: Mon., Jan. 2; 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: Oklahoma beat Auburn 40-22 in the 1972 Sugar Bowl.

    Auburn has the worst record of any team to make a New Year's Six bowl, though it's a misleading one. The Tigers' losses to Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and Texas A&M saw them score a combined 48 points, while they averaged 42.4 points in their wins—and those were when their run game (which averaged 278.5 yards per game) was most effective.

    Oklahoma has been nearly unstoppable since finishing up a disappointing nonconference slate that likely kept it from being in the playoffs. That 1-2 start, with losses to Houston and Ohio State, was followed by nine straight wins in Big 12 play while scoring 47.8 points per game.

    Auburn's defense has been able to slow some teams down but doesn't have an answer for the combination of Baker Mayfield and the Sooners' two-headed rushing attack of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. This will be the highest-scoring game of the NY6 lineup.

    Prediction: Oklahoma 45, Auburn 35

    FINAL:Oklahoma 35, Auburn 19

CFP Semifinal: Peach Bowl

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Alabama (13-0) vs. Washington (12-1)

    When: Sat., Dec. 31, 3 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: Alabama beat Washington 28-6 in the 1986 Sun Bowl.

    Defending national champion Alabama brings a 25-game win streak and two years of playoff experience into a stadium (the Georgia Dome) where it just won an SEC championship and where it's played at least once every season since 2012. Washington, the Pac-12 champion but a playoff newcomer, hasn't played in the Eastern Time Zone since losing at Notre Dame in 2009.

    But proximity and field familiarity aside, the Crimson Tide would be heavily favored against the Huskies on any field. Their top-ranked run defense, which allows 63.4 yards per game and held Florida to a goose egg in that category Saturday, will force Washington to become one-dimensional and use the pass to win. Sophomore Jake Browning's 42 touchdown passes are second-most in FBS, but he was just 9-of-24 against Colorado in the Pac-12 final, and six of his games came against pass defenses ranked 101st or lower.

    Washington hasn't allowed more than 28 points in a game, but it only faced one QB with the mobility of Alabama's Jalen Hurts. That was Arizona's Brandon Dawkins, who ran for 176 yards and two TDs in a game the Huskies needed overtime to win. Hurts, with four 100-yard rushing games and 12 TDs on the ground, will be hard to contain.

    Prediction: Alabama 29, Washington 16

    FINAL: Alabama 24, Washington 7

CFP Semifinal: Fiesta Bowl

11 of 11

    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Clemson (12-1) vs. Ohio State (11-1)

    When: Sat., Dec. 31, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Last meeting: Clemson beat Ohio State 40-35 in the 2014 Orange Bowl.

    Both Clemson and Ohio State played in Glendale, Arizona, in January but with different stakes on the line. The Tigers fell to Alabama in the national championship 10 days after Ohio State beat Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. Now they meet for the right to play in Tampa for the 2016-17 title.

    Clemson is in the playoffs for a second straight season despite being incredibly mistake-prone this season. The Tigers' 24 turnovers are the most of any team that earned a New Year's Six bowl bid, and they won the turnover battle for just the fifth time in their ACC title game victory over Virginia Tech. Ohio State has given the ball away just nine times; its 25 takeaways are tied for 10th nationally, and it has returned seven of 19 interceptions for touchdowns.

    Deshaun Watson has thrown 15 picks but also 37 TDs and 3,914 yards, and for his career he's been responsible for 109 TDs. OSU counterpart J.T. Barrett has been a part of 100 scores and has the better rushing numbers this season, as Watson hasn't been as active in the run game. They'll go back and forth one-upping each other, but Watson's tendency to overdo it at times will be his and Clemson's downfall.

    Prediction: Ohio State 41, Clemson 34

    FINAL:Clemson 31, Ohio State 0

    All recruiting information courtesy of, unless otherwise noted. All statistics provided by CFBStats, unless otherwise noted

    Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.


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