2016 Citrus Bowl and TaxSlayer Bowl Preview

December 31, 2016

It has been a long and arduous road, but we’re finally just hours away from the beginning of the 2016 College Football Playoff.

Not to be forgotten, however, are the other two bowl games that will entertain football fans on New Year’s Eve. If your internal clock is still getting you up earlier than you would like despite being on vacation, you’ll be more than awake by the time these games begin.

In Bowl Mania, my dad still leads the Von Hugendong group, although it’s becoming clear that the group will once again feature a winner that has lost a lot of points along the way. This bowl season, like last year’s, has been extremely difficult to predict. More importantly, the games that everyone is seemingly sure about are the ones that have gone the other way.

Around The Corn will do a special feature on the Playoff games, so let’s take a look at the two non-Playoff bowl games taking place on New Year’s Eve.

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl

#13 Louisville vs. #20 LSU (Saturday, 11 AM ET – ABC)

The news that LSU back Leonard Fournette would not play have dominated the headlines for this game, but in reality Fournette’s absence may not prove to be that damning for the Tigers. Baylor and Stanford won without their star backs, instead finding production from younger players that wanted to make a statement heading into 2017. In this game, it won’t be a new face that could provide the spark for LSU. Sophomore Derrius Guice actually leads the team in rushing and has already gone for over 150 yards rushing in a game five times this season. He’s not as bruising as Fournette but is nearly as dangerous in open space.

Louisville will be looking for a strong performance from its Heisman Trophy winning quarterback to stop what has been a late season slide. Lamar Jackson threw more interceptions than touchdowns for the first time since the middle of 2015 in Louisville’s loss to Kentucky to end the regular season, and it’ll be interesting to see whether the Cardinals are interested in playing in this game after being in the Playoff race so close to the end of the season. Ed Orgeron’s defense plays hard and will take advantage if Jackson is not playing his best in this one. In the end, Jackson was a nice story this year but the Tigers are going to be able to control the pace on the ground with or without Fournette.

My Pick: 34-30 LSU

Bowl Mania Confidence Points: 19

TaxSlayer Bowl

Georgia Tech vs. Kentucky (Saturday, 11 AM ET – ESPN)

The entire state of Kentucky will be fixated on football on a Saturday afternoon in late December with both Kentucky and Louisville playing in a bowl game at the same time, which isn’t something that happens often. The Wildcats actually beat Louisville to end the regular season and will be riding momentum heading into their first bowl game since 2010. Both of these offenses are predicated on the run, with each team ranked in the top 20 in rushing yards per game. The Wildcats get production out of several backs but two of them, Stanley Boom Williams and Benjamin Snell, Jr., are 1,000 yard rushers on the season. The Yellow Jackets don’t have any feature backs, but are used to running this type of offense under Paul Johnson and are very adept at it.

Because of the heavy doses of the running game, one may expect this to be a lower scoring affair with the clock almost constantly rolling. But do not be fooled by these teams – although they run the ball a lot, they aren’t looking to chew up clock. Neither one of these teams ranks better than seventh in their respective conference in time of possession. The running game is an avenue to put points on the board, of which we should see a lot of in this game. It is a bit of a tossup, but I like the two headed monster of Williams and Snell for Kentucky to help secure the hardware.

My Pick: 31-26 Kentucky

Bowl Mania Confidence Points: 22

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.

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