2019 Cotton, Camping World, Peach and Fiesta Bowl Preview

December 28, 2019

The day has finally arrived.

Two College Football Playoff semifinal games. Two additional bowl games. Plenty of action to take in on Saturday.

December 28 will also be the day that defines Around The Corn’s Bowl Mania entry in the Von Hugendong group. With nearly 150 points on the board for the four games being played on Saturday, the results will make or break my ability to compete for the group title.

Currently, my buddy Andrew continues to lead the group after jumping out to an early lead thanks to some key predictions in which he rolled the dice with a lot of points.

We’ve spent all season waiting, analysing and watching games in anticipation of this day. Let’s take a look at the games and what will happen in them.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl

#17 Memphis vs. #10 Penn State (Saturday, 12 PM ET – game on ESPN)

The Skinny: The Nittany Lions will be looking for their second New Year’s Six bowl victory in the past three seasons, while the Tigers are making their NY6 bowl debut in Dallas. Memphis will look to its former offensive line coach Ryan Silverfield to guide the team to a victory following the departure of Mike Norvell to Florida State.

Why to Watch: The Tigers have had a terrific year and some very talented players – namely, freshman running back Kenneth Gainwell and senior wideout Damonte Coxie, who will be integral to the team’s offensive attack. But without Norvell on the sideline, it is unknown just how smoothly everything will go under the new head man Silverfield. Such is life as a program in one of the Group of Five conferences.

What Will Happen: As much as ATC would like to see this game resemble something like the Auburn/UCF game from a couple of seasons ago, the Tigers really leaned heavily on Coach Norvell’s offensive creativity and expertise. Unfortunately, the talent of Gainwell and Coxie and the like may not be on full display without him. Penn State, on the other hand, will still be able to score a lot of points which will make it difficult for Memphis to hang around by the fourth quarter.

My Pick: 40-24 Penn State for 39 points in Bowl Mania

Camping World Bowl

Iowa State vs. #15 Notre Dame (Saturday, 12 PM ET – game on ABC)

The Skinny: Ending the season in Orlando wasn’t in Notre Dame’s original plans, but the Fighting Irish will have a chance to bounce back in the postseason following last year’s lopsided loss in the CFP semis. The Cyclones are really still looking for their first good win this season, having lost nearly every game during the regular season in which they were the underdog.

Why to Watch: The battle between Notre Dame’s pass defense, which ranks third in the country, against Iowa State’s potent air attack, which comes in as the eighth best in the nation, should be very exciting.

What Will Happen: The Cyclones boast some impressive statistics thanks to the play of quarterback Brock Purdy, who proved he was the real deal during his freshman season last year. However, while Iowa State can certainly take advantage over the top if it is there, Notre Dame prides itself on preventing opponents from doing just that. Iowa State struggled to move the football against Kansas State in the regular season finale, a team which resembles the Fighting Irish defensively. If Brian Kelly’s team prevents big plays over the top, Notre Dame should win this game relatively handily.

My Pick: 31-17 Notre Dame for 34 points in Bowl Mania

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

#4 Oklahoma vs. #1 LSU (Saturday, 4 PM ET – game on ESPN)

The Skinny: The first of the two College Football Playoff semifinal games takes place in Atlanta, in the same stadium where LSU captured the SEC title just a few weeks ago. Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts is very familiar with the Mercedes Benz Superdome as well, and will look to orchestrate a major upset over the country’s top ranked team.

Why to Watch: If you’re a fan of offense, this one is a no-brainer. Despite LSU’s marked improvement on defense near the end of the regular season, Oklahoma has too many weapons offensively to be completely shut down in this one. The over under on this one is at just 76 points, which feels like a steal if you go with the over.

What Will Happen: Oklahoma may need to score points every single time it has the ball, just to stay in this one. Defensively, the Sooners are so bad that it hurts, and all season long had opportunities to prove its worth by closing out games against teams that had no business hanging with a Playoff contender. It didn’t, instead giving teams like Baylor, Iowa State and TCU an opportunity to win in the fourth quarter. LSU’s offense is far too potent not to take advantage of this, even with a less than 100 percent Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Edwards-Helaire not being fully healthy will make a difference, but not enough of one where the Sooners will actually win this game.

My Pick: 45-34 LSU for 41 points in Bowl Mania

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl

#3 Clemson vs. #2 Ohio State (Saturday, 8 PM ET – game on ESPN)

The Skinny: All season long the Buckeyes were being touted as the most complete team in the country, but now find themselves in a situation where they are the underdog against the Tigers in their CFP semifinal game. Ohio State will be looking to exact revenge for a 2016 semifinal matchup against Clemson, where the Buckeyes were shut out.

Why to Watch: NFL talent will be scattered all over the field in this game, in many instances lining up opposite one another. Guys like Chase Young will be top picks in next year’s NFL Draft, so if by chance you haven’t had a chance to see him play, the opportunity to do so against a team filled with other future pros is a treat.

What Will Happen: No one is really sure how Clemson’s offense will react to a defense that has been one of the most terrorizing to quarterbacks in the country. One theory about Trevor Lawrence is that he regresses to an undesirable level when being pressured, which is exactly what Ohio State will try to do in this one. Without ample time to throw to his big, athletic receivers, Lawrence may look pedestrian and the offense will sputter. The same could be said of Justin Fields, who has yet to really be in a high-pressure situation that requires him to make big plays otherwise his team fails. While Clemson is not slouch at getting after the quarterback, the Buckeyes do it better than any other team in the country. That will be the key to victory in this game.

My Pick: 38-30 Ohio State for 33 points in Bowl Mania

If you have interest in offering your insight for any of the bowl games this season, shoot me an email at kbecks@aroundthecorn.com or reach out on one of ATC’s social media sites (Facebook, Twitter). I’d be happy to accommodate.

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