2019 Outback, Fiesta, Citrus, Rose and Sugar Bowl Preview

January 1, 2019

New Year’s Eve was an exciting day in the college football world, with a handful of games that ended up living up to their billing.

We saw second half comebacks, defenses that held on final drives and plenty of scoring in games not played in Santa Clara, California.

We also saw plenty of shuffling at the top of the Von Hugendong Bowl Mania group. After yesterday’s contests, my dad has retaken the lead. This may be temporary, though, as there are a few entries near the lead that have a ton of points left.

January 1 is the final day featuring multiple bowl games, so the money will likely be made today.

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

Outback Bowl

Iowa vs. #18 Mississippi State (Tuesday, 12 PM ET – ESPN2)

If Michigan State’s performance against Oregon yesterday was any indication, then another Big Ten stifling of a creative offense may be in order in Tampa on Tuesday afternoon. The Hawkeyes boast the Big Ten’s second ranked run defense and will need to find a way to contain senior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and running back Aeris Williams, both of whom will be focal points of the Bulldogs offense. If Iowa can make Fitzgerald throw, its chances of creating turnovers increase dramatically considering that the Hawkeyes lead the Big Ten with 18 interceptions on the season.

As important as Fitzgerald’s performance will be for Mississippi State, its defense is underrated in its own right, quietly leading the country in scoring defense, allowing just 12 points per contest. If this unit comes to play, I don’t see how Iowa will be able to pull this one out. Expect a low scoring contest but the Bulldogs to come through with just enough offensive production to win. I have Mississippi State for 23 points in Bowl Mania.

My Pick: 20-17 Mississippi State

Playstation Fiesta Bowl

#11 LSU vs. #8 Central Florida (Tuesday, 1 PM ET – ESPN)

If LSU shows up focused for this one, there is a talent gap that exists between the SEC and AAC programs that may be difficult for Central Florida to overcome. However, the gap may be a bit overstated considering that six LSU starters are expected to miss this game, including standout defensive back Greedy Williams, who is now preparing for next year’s NFL Draft. Without quarterback McKenzie Milton, the Knights could find trouble moving the football in this one. Freshman replacement Darriel Mack Jr. was good in the AAC title game against Memphis, but this Tigers defense is a different animal.

A lot will depend on how well Ed Orgeron’s team prepared for this game. If the six missing starters are the only difference between this and the regular season squad, Central Florida’s unbeaten streak will come to an end in the desert. But if LSU waltzes in like this will be a cakewalk, the Knights are still good enough defensively to silence the doubters once again. I see the Tigers doing enough to win, however, and I have 36 points in Bowl Mania on it.

My Pick: 34-24 LSU

VRBO Citrus Bowl

#14 Kentucky vs. #12 Penn State (Tuesday, 1 PM ET – ABC)

Kentucky is looking for its first bowl victory under head coach Mark Stoops, its first bowl victory of any kind since 2008 and its first 10-win season since 1977, which would be the third double-digit victory season in the program’s history. Given all that, expect the Wildcats to come out playing with a lot of emotion in this one, which will likely be matched by Penn State’s seniors, which have been a part of a strong four year run in Happy Valley.

Given the strength of Penn State’s pass defense, Kentucky will need to lean heavily on its offensive star at running back, Benny Snell Jr., to carry the workload. Snell is very quick and can make something out of nothing, which will come in handy here. The Wildcats must avoid third and long situations if they want to win this game – otherwise, the Nittany Lions will control the clock and force Kentucky into a lot of punts. I think the Wildcats are a program on the rise and I like their ability to keep this one close, so I’ve gone with the upset and chosen Kentucky in Bowl Mania for 11 points.

My Pick: 27-23 Kentucky

Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual

#9 Washington vs. #6 Ohio State (Tuesday, 5 PM ET – ESPN)

The Granddaddy of Them All features a traditional Big Ten/Pac-12 matchup this year, but historically the way these teams play does not resemble anything traditional. Ohio State’s potent passing offense, second nationally in terms of yards per game, will look to send Urban Meyer out a winner against Washington No. 10 defense in terms of total yards allowed per game. The juxtaposition between the Buckeyes offensively and defensively is important, since Washington’s Jake Browning is a capable quarterback who just hasn’t played to his potential this season. Browning is playing in his last game in a Huskies uniform, so perhaps that will propel him to have a comeback performance Tuesday evening.

Meyer’s departure as head coach after this game has been noted as one of the factors that could result in Ohio State playing with a lot of emotion in this one, but this is also Chris Petersen’s first Rose Bowl appearance with a program he is positioning as an annual Playoff contender. Players from both sides should care a lot about winning this one, which is why my 39 points on the Buckeyes in Bowl Mania is a testament to Ohio State simply having an offense led by Dwayne Haskins that Washington won’t be able to handle.

My Pick: 38-27 Ohio State

Allstate Sugar Bowl

#15 Texas vs. #5 Georgia (Tuesday, 8:45 PM ET – ESPN)

The final bowl game of the season that a scheduled matchup prior to last Saturday takes place in the Big Easy, where a Georgia team kept out of the Playoff will take on the Texas team that would have made the decision to put the Bulldogs in over Oklahoma much easier had the Longhorns won the Big 12 title game. One has to wonder whether Georgia’s jilting at the altar will be evident in this game, but if not this should be an interesting one to watch. The quarterback battle between Jake Fromm and Sam Ehlinger could be a literal showdown of Heisman Trophy contenders next season. Ehlinger has come on strong down the stretch and Fromm has shown plenty of instances of brilliance in the pocket over the past two years.

The quarterbacks will have the spotlight on them, but Georgia’s run defense is the X-factor in this game. Texas doesn’t employ the run game at a particularly high level, but Ehlinger may be left looking for answers unless Georgia is forced to place more players in the box. In games where the opposition has been held to fewer than 110 yards rushing, Georgia has been in total control. I think that is the stat line to consider for this one as well, and I think that the Bulldogs will be able to hold the Longhorns to a fairly pedestrian outing on offense. I have Kirby Smart’s squad for 37 points in Bowl Mania.

My Pick: 38-28 Georgia

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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