2020 Outback, Citrus, Rose and Sugar Bowl Preview

January 1, 2020

Happy New Year!

As we turn the page on a decade, we can look forward to everything that the 2020s have to offer for us, both in life and in college football.

Regarding the latter, let’s take a look at the four games being played on New Year’s Day.

Outback Bowl

#12 Auburn vs. #18 Minnesota (Wednesday, 1 PM ET – game on ESPN)

The Skinny: Minnesota will look to row the boat against an Auburn team that is led by Bo Nix, now effectively a sophomore. Minnesota’s season was historic by its program standards, but for the Tigers, playing on January 1 is the bare expectation.

Why to Watch: The Golden Gophers proved they could hang with the best when they beat Penn State in early November, a game that thrust the team into the national spotlight for the first time all season. Much of this was due to an underrated passing game supported heavily by wideouts Rashod Bateman and Tyler Johnson, the top receivers in the Big Ten in terms of total yards this season.

What Will Happen: As Minnesota stumbled down the stretch, dropping two of its final three games of the regular season, one thing was consistent – the opposition made it a priority to limit the effectiveness of the Golden Gophers run game. In losses to Iowa and Wisconsin, P.J. Fleck’s team had its lowest rushing yard outputs of the year. Auburn’s run defense, which only gave up 115 yards per game (good for third best in the SEC) is good enough to run with this blueprint and stifle what was a solid Big Ten offense for most of the season. If the Tigers shut things down on the ground, they will win this game.

My Pick: 28-23 Auburn for 26 points in Bowl Mania

Vrbo Citrus Bowl

#13 Alabama vs. #14 Michigan (Wednesday, 1 PM ET – game on ABC)

The Skinny: Two teams with a “CFP or bust” mindset will meet in Orlando to see who cares more about a non-Playoff, non-New Year’s Six bowl matchup.

Why to Watch: Aside from the fact that several new faces will be expected to make plays thanks to a plethora of normal starters deciding to forgo playing in this game to prepare for the NFL Draft, this is also a chance to see which program will receive more hype heading into the 2020-2021 college football season. It’s not even a joke anymore – if Michigan wins this game, somehow they’ll end up in the preseason Top 10 again.

What Will Happen: The Wolverines have to find a way to stretch Alabama’s defense with the receiving corps of Ronnie Bell, Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones in order to have a chance in this one. Alabama will make it a priority to stop the Michigan rushing attack and force Shea Patterson to win this game with his arm. If Patterson can do that, then this game will be very interesting in the fourth quarter. If he can’t, expect the Crimson Tide to run away with this one as the Wolverines have already shown themselves to be shaky against potent offensive attacks.

My Pick: 35-17 Alabama for 40 points in Bowl Mania

Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual

#6 Oregon vs. #8 Wisconsin (Wednesday, 5 PM ET – game on ESPN)

The Skinny: The Grandaddy of them all features two teams that knocked on the CFP door at various points throughout the season. Even with that said, there should be no lack of excitement from either team to be playing in Pasadena, a testament to the coaching staffs.

Why to Watch: Two of college football’s most exciting players will be playing in their final collegiate contest. Barring an unexpected announcement, junior running back Jonathan Taylor, a two-time Doak Walker award winner, will run behind Wisconsin’s offensive line for the final time. Senior Justin Hebert will look to cap off his Oregon career with a victory before heading to the NFL Draft as a top prospect at the quarterback position.

What Will Happen: Wisconsin knows exactly what it wants to do in order to win this game, as does Oregon’s coaching staff and the rest of the country. A heavy dose of Jonathan Taylor with some of the midrange passing game sprinkled in is what Oregon’s defense must contain. The Ducks do a good job at stopping the run, but no one in the Pac-12 runs the ball like Wisconsin. The advantage that Oregon does have is that with Herbert and a slew of athletic pieces that can do a lot of damage in space, the Ducks can score quickly if needed. Watch out if the Ducks have the ball late in a tight game, but if Wisconsin can prevent this scenario, it will hold on for a close victory.

My Pick: 31-23 Wisconsin for 20 points in Bowl Mania

Allstate Sugar Bowl

#7 Baylor vs. #5 Georgia (Wednesday, 8:45 PM ET – game on ESPN)

The Skinny: For the second year in a row, the Bulldogs travel to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl after failing to punch a bid to the CFP. They’ll take on a Baylor squad that was a huge surprise in the Big 12 this season, and which is led by a head coach that is apparently focused only on his current gig after it became public that he turned down the Cleveland Browns head coaching job.

Why to Watch: Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer’s QBR trailed just Jalen Hurts in the Big 12 this season, while Jake Fromm was just sixth in the SEC in the same category. Much has been made of Fromm’s career at Georgia while Brewer has flown under the radar for most of his at Baylor. The battle between these two could be a great one.

What Will Happen: The uncertainty regarding D’Andre Swift’s status for this game means that Georgia will have to have an alternate plan to move the football against a stout Baylor defense. What this comes down to is that Jake Fromm will be expected do to more than he has in many of the Bulldogs’ biggest games this season. He’s capable, but has also been known to come up short for his team as well. Swift’s health aside, the Bulldogs will go as Fromm goes, and unfortunately for Georgia fans, the junior won’t be able to do enough to avoid the upset by the Bears.

My Pick: 37-31 Baylor for 21 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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