2018 Outback Bowl, Peach Bowl, Citrus Bowl, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl Preview

December 30, 2017
By K. Becks

Although Colin did not maintain his wire-to-wire lead, he still is at the top of the Von Hugendong group after the Friday games.

With just one full day of games left on the schedule after Saturday, it’s crunch time for those swapping positions near the top.

Today’s post will be rather abbreviated, as I’m under a bit of a time crunch. But considering the matchups, chances are the majority of you reading this already have formulated your own opinion on these games.

I hope that everyone has a safe and Happy New Year. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my work in 2017, and I look forward to being more active as a writer in the coming year.

Let’s take a look at the New Year’s Day bowl game slate.

Outback Bowl

Michigan vs. South Carolina (Monday, 12 PM ET – ESPN2)

Jim Harbaugh has had to deal with a lot of noise regarding his effectiveness as head coach of the Wolverines, but some of that noise will dissipate if Michigan has a good performance in this game. The Gamecocks had a resurgence this year under Will Muschamp, but struggle to move the football. Michigan’s defense is good enough to stifle South Carolina and easily win this game if it comes out motivated.

I think that the Wolverines will be excited to prove the critics wrong about Harbaugh and have put 36 points on them to win this game.

My Pick: 28-10 Michigan

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

#7 Auburn vs. #12 Central Florida (Monday, 12:30 PM ET – ESPN)

Central Florida head coach Scott Frost, who will leave the school after this game to become the head man at Nebraska, decided to stay and coach his team in its biggest game this season. The Knights are solid offensively averaging over 540 yards per game, but to win this game Central Florida will need its defense to step up. Auburn’s rushing offense racks up yards in large chunks and the line will have a size advantage on Central Florida’s defensive front. To avoid a game in which Auburn simply eats up clock and controls the tempo, the Knights need stops and ideally to force some turnovers.

As much as I would like to see the underdog win in this game, I don’t like Central Florida’s chances. They’ll play hard and give Auburn fits at points, but the Tigers are simply too big and too solid up front. I have Auburn as my top confidence game in Bowl Mania for 41 points.

My Pick: 34-23 Auburn

Citrus Bowl

#17 LSU vs. #14 Notre Dame (Monday, 1 PM ET – ABC)

While LSU was plagued by inconsistency this season, dropping its homecoming game to Troy then knocking off Auburn two weeks later, the Tigers proved that they were part of the upper echelon of the SEC. Notre Dame was not particularly inconsistent, but when it had the chance to prove to the country that it was a true Playoff contender, the Fighting Irish fell flat on their face. In this game I think the better football team wins, inconsistency aside.

The Tigers would love to be playing in a higher profile bowl game this year, but they’ll have to settle for beating a top 15 squad. I have LSU for 31 points in a game that will be low scoring.

My Pick: 20-13 LSU

Rose Bowl

#3 Georgia vs. #2 Oklahoma (Monday, 5 PM ET – ESPN)

The first of the Playoff games is as difficult to predict as any game this bowl season, because you just don’t know what you’re going to get out of the Georgia offense. Sometimes the Bulldogs have trouble moving the football, while other times Jake Fromm slices and dices the defense like Swiss cheese. In this one, I have confidence that Fromm will be in good form and be able to go punch for punch with Heisman winner Baker Mayfield. Unlike Fromm, Mayfield will have to face the country’s second ranked pass defense, which will make the Heisman winner prove he was deserving of the award (spoiler alert: he already is).

Mayfield will be good, but not good enough in this one. Defense wins championships, and Kirby Smart is a Saban disciple that is a true believer of that statement. I have the Bulldogs for 34 points.

My Pick: 31-24 Georgia

Allstate Sugar Bowl

#4 Alabama vs. #1 Clemson (Monday, 8:45 PM ET – ESPN)

A rematch of the last two national championship games will take place in New Orleans, but this time it is the Crimson Tide that will assume the role of underdog. It’s not a position that Nick Saban is typically in, but you better believe that he has a way to use it as motivation for his team. Oddly enough, Dabo Swinney will likely spin it so that his team uses it as motivation as well. The point being made here is that two of the best coaches in the game will be on the sidelines for this one.

Defensively, both of these teams are very good. But while defense will definitely play a role, the quarterbacks will have the biggest effect on this one. I’m not 100 percent sold on either one, despite both proving this season that they are capable of leading one of the country’s top teams to victory in high pressure situations. I have to give the slight edge to Clemson’s Kelly Bryant because of the 67.4 percent completion rate compared with the 60.8 percent rate by Jalen Hurts. Opportunities will be hard to come by in this game, so accuracy out of the pocket will be key. I see this being a back and forth affair, just as the previous two battles have been, with Clemson coming out on top. I have the Tigers for 32 points in Bowl Mania.

My Pick: 37-31 Clemson

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