2015 Peach Bowl, Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl Previews

December 31, 2015

This is it. December 31, the day that college football fans around the country have been waiting all season to arrive.

Whether you’re a fan of one of the four teams playing, a staunch supporter of a particular conference or just the Average Joe sitting on the couch waiting for the New Year’s ball to drop, chances are you have at least a little interest in the games being played today.

When the year 2015 has written its last page, we’ll have our 2016 FBS national title game set. Let’s take a look at a short preview of three New Year’s Six bowls being played today.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

#9 Florida State vs. #18 Houston (Thursday, 12 PM ET – ESPN)

The Group of Five representative in the New Year’s Six dozen is Houston, an offensive juggernaut that will look to continue the tradition of underdogs laying the wood to Power 5 conferences in marquee bowl games. Florida State will be without one of their top playmakers in quarterback Everett Golson, but the Seminoles do not have a bare cupboard at that position.

Starting in place of Golson in this game will be junior Sean Maguire, who is hardly a backup at this point for the Seminoles. Maguire ha started the last five games for Florida State, posting respectable numbers and essentially letting the running game do the grunt-work for Jumbo Fisher’s team. Houston’s primary task on defense will be to stop Dalvin Cook, one of three backs in the country to average over 150 rushing yards per game and the only one of those three not to be invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony. Offensively, Houston can keep up with the Seminoles and may actually have an advantage on the sideline thanks to offensive mastermind Tom Herman. But the AAC’s defenses have proven to be weak thus far in bowl season, so it will be interesting to find out if the Cougars were simply beating up on inferior competition.

I’m a big fan of the underdog and smaller schools in general, but I don’t think this one sets up well for the Cougars. Unless they force Maguire to step up big because Cook has been rendered ineffective, the Seminoles should be able to score a lot of points on the suspect Houston defense. I have Florida State for 23 points, although I’d love to see the Cougars pull off the upset in Atlanta.

My Pick: 38-28 Florida State

Capital One Orange Bowl – College Football Playoff Semifinal 1

#1 Clemson vs. #4 Oklahoma (Thursday, 4 PM ET – ESPN)

If you had to categorize the two College Football Playoff games this year, the Cotton Bowl would be in the “serious, straightforward” bin while this one would be in the “fun, unpredictable” bin. Fans feel like they know what they’re going to get in the other semifinal game – this one, not so much. If the 1 v. 4 matchup is as good as last year’s was, then we can all appreciate the unpredictability.

Clemson’s defense has been touted as the X-factor in their 13-win season, holding opponents to fewer than 300 yards a game despite replacing a cast of now current NFL players from the 2014 squad. But the Tigers gave up a lot of points to North Carolina in the ACC title game, an offense that is similar to Oklahoma’s in more ways than one. Baker Mayfield, the shifty quarterback for the Sooners, is much like Marquise Williams in that he just finds a way to extend the play long enough for one of his receivers to get open downfield. So Clemson’s defense will want to contain Mayfield in the pocket to prevent Oklahoma from converting tough third down conversions. If the Tigers can do that and keep Oklahoma’s offense off the field, then Deshaun Watson can go to work against the stingy defense the Sooners put on the field. Watson is good enough to find holes in the defense, but this isn’t anything Oklahoma hasn’t seen before. In terms of yards per game alone, the Sooners have seen three offenses more potent than Clemson.

Expect a lot of scoring in this one despite the strong defense that each team will put on the field. Perfect throws will beat good defenses, and both of these teams have quarterbacks who can thread the needle when needed. Although Clemson has dispatched of all challengers up to this point, I just don’t like what I’m seeing from the rest of the ACC as a whole this bowl season. I think Oklahoma is poised to become the second No. 4 seed to win a playoff game and I have 26 points on it.

My Pick: 44-41 Oklahoma

Goodyear Cotton Bowl – College Football Playoff Semifinal 2

#2 Alabama vs. #3 Michigan State (Thursday, 8 PM ET – ESPN)

Call it whatever you want, but this game feels like a mismatch. This isn’t to say that one team has been completely dominant all season, because that isn’t the case either. But while Michigan State fought all season for redemption and to prove they belonged, this game almost seems like another obstacle for the Spartans before people will finally begin to take them seriously.

The Crimson Tide carry the flag for what has been one of the most dominating conferences in college football, but the tide is turning and Alabama looks woefully one dimensional on offense. Derrick Henry has been and will be the focal point of the offense, and it will be up to Michigan State’s defense to stop it. If the Spartans can do so, then an inconsistent offense led by an experienced and focused quarterback will be able to test a stingy pass defense that seemed to re-calibrate itself after an early loss to Ole Miss. Connor Cook’s effectiveness will be determined primarily by how much he touches the ball. If Michigan State can’t stop the run, then Cook won’t get the ball enough to make things happen. Statistically, the Spartans should be up to the challenge.

I’m not completely sold on the Crimson Tide, but I am sold on them in this game. Michigan State danced around losses all season and somehow found a way to grind its way to a playoff spot. These two teams are fairly similar defensively, but offensively Alabama can control the pace of the game. Michigan State could be playing catch up to all of Alabama’s touchdowns, which is not an enviable position. I have Nick Saban’s squad for 35 points because I believe they will keep the ball out of Cook’s hands for a large portion of this game.

My Pick: 37-30 Alabama

If you’d like to share your opinion on Around The Corn for any of the upcoming bowls, shoot me an email with your thoughts and prediction to kbecks@aroundthecorn.com. You can also like Around The Corn’s Facebook page or send me a tweet @KBecks_ATC. As long as you send your thoughts at least two days before the game is to be played, I can assure you that your thoughts will show up in an article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *