2017 Outback Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl Preview

January 2, 2017

I can confirm that for this article, I did mistakenly type 2016 instead of 2017 in the title header.

Happy New Year to everyone – hopefully you enjoyed the holiday season and are looking forward to what lies ahead.

Before we put a cap on the college football season, we still have a handful of games left before the national championship game takes center stage on January 9. These bowl games are typically played on New Year’s Day, but we have the treat of a Monday full of football thanks to January 1 falling on the NFL’s day.

This is always a bittersweet day for me, as the games are some of the most anticipated of the season but also the final ones on the schedule. As much as anything else, these bowl games signify the end of the college football for eight months.

Let’s take a look at the games being played on January 2.

Outback Bowl

#17 Florida vs. Iowa (Monday, 1 PM ET – ABC)

The Big Ten is 2-4 and the SEC is 4-5 this bowl season, suggesting that perhaps the two conferences fighting over the title as “college football’s best” may have taken a slight step back this season. However, the Outback Bowl always presents itself as a chance to find out which of the conferences is stronger, as seemingly even teams from the Big Ten and SEC square off annually in Tampa. If the Big Ten wants to avoid a fifth loss, Iowa will need to find a way to move the football on a very stingy Gators defense.

Florida may be the most inconsistent team in the country this season. Five times the Gators have stifled opposing teams defensively, allowing fewer than 10 points in a game. And three times the Gators have allowed more than 30 points in a game, all losses. The trend is that for Jim McElwain’s team to win, the defense needs to be focused. Against Iowa, a team that managed to beat Michigan but averages just 333 yards of offense per contest, this is very possible. If Florida can keep LeShun Daniels, Jr. from keeping long drives alive for Iowa, the Gators will win this game in expected fashion.

My Pick: 21-13 Florida

Bowl Mania Confidence Points: 34

Goodyear Cotton Bowl

#15 Western Michigan vs. #8 Wisconsin (Monday, 1 PM ET – ESPN)

The Group of Five participant in the New Year’s Six party this year is Western Michigan, which is riding a perfect record into this game. Confidence is not high nationally in the Broncos, which play in a conference that has not won a single bowl game this season and is generally regarded as one of the nation’s weakest. However, there is a lot of energy in P.J. Fleck’s camp and the Badgers will need to play hard defensively to avoid a major upset. Expect a lot of points to be scored in this one, regardless of which team wins.

Make no doubt about it, the Broncos have some talented players on offense. Wide receiver Corey Davis is ninth in the country with 1,427 receiving yards and will be catching passes on Sunday next season. He’s fed by quarterback Zach Terrell, who has thrown just three interceptions all season and has the fourth highest QBR in the country. Then there is the two-headed monster in the backfield with Jarvion Franklin and Jamauri Bogan, a couple of the non-seniors on the squad who have contributed to Western Michigan’s magical season. The offense is stacked and it can move the football, but Wisconsin has had nearly four weeks to prepare and faces Big Ten competition all season. Although Western Michigan will be excited, I think that Wisconsin has the upper hand when it comes to defensive fitness and this will play a key role in the outcome of the game. The Broncos have some, but not enough, of what they need to win this game.

My Pick: 35-28 Wisconsin

Bowl Mania Confidence Points: 40

Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual

#5 Penn State vs. #9 Southern California (Monday, 5 PM ET – ESPN)

The granddaddy of them really is the most anticipated game of the day, as both of these teams had arguments for a College Football Playoff berth at the end of the regular season. Penn State’s was obviously the stronger case, but the Nittany Lions now must prove themselves against a team that had morphed into one of the best by the end of this season. Southern Cal’s three losses all came to Top 25 teams, and the Trojans are the only Pac-12 squad this season to have solved the Washington riddle. Both of these teams should be out looking to prove something, which will result in a terrific back-and-forth game.

The Nittany Lions like to throw the football, which is bad news for a Southern Cal defense than gives up 225 yards per game through the air. Penn State has gotten hot in the passing department, throwing for over 300 yards in three of the last four contests, including 384 in the Big Ten title game. James Franklin’s team has been somewhat of a second half squad, however, and in this game the Nittany Lions will need to play well for all four quarters. The Trojans are adept at time management and can salt any second half comebacks away if Penn State gets down big early, something that happened in the Big Ten championship. However, I think that the motivation is there for the Nittany Lions to show the committee that a different Big Ten team should have played Clemson on New Year’s Eve and the team will ride this momentum to a well-earned Rose Bowl victory.

My Pick: 34-30 Penn State

Bowl Mania Confidence Points: 10

Allstate Sugar Bowl

#14 Auburn vs. #7 Oklahoma (Monday, 8:30 PM ET – ESPN)

The Sugar Bowl has the unfortunate distinction of being the forgotten New Year’s Six bowl this season, for a couple of reasons. One is that it is played late on a Monday night, when the holiday festivities are over and people are getting ready to head back to the office Tuesday morning. The second reason is that neither Auburn nor Oklahoma was ever really a threat to break into the College Football Playoff and as a result the majority of the country doesn’t know very much about either team. But if you are still planning on watching this game, you should be in for a treat filled with lots of scoring.

The Sooners have been the most dangerous offense in the country since dropping two of their first three games, something that has flown under the radar of everyone outside of the Big 12. The Baker Mayfield to Dede Westbrook combination was good enough to send Westbrook to the Heisman Trophy presentation, where the senior wideout finished fourth in the voting. Westbrook could have another monster night in the Superdome against Auburn’s pass defense, which has been mediocre at best this season. However, what keeps this game from being a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair is if Oklahoma’s run defense can stifle Auburn. The Tigers are rumored to be fully healthy in this game and will need to be offensively in order to stand a chance at winning. Kamryn Pettway needs to have a big game – Auburn is 5-0 in games that he has rushed for at least 150 yards. However, I don’t think that Auburn will be able to do enough defensively to stop the freight train that has been Oklahoma’s offense lately.

My Pick: 38-31 Oklahoma

Bowl Mania Confidence Points: 20

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 *