San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl
Monday, December 31st
7:00, FS1, SDCCU Stadium, San Diego, CA
The special season for the Wildcats needs to overcome the Big Ten Championship loss to Ohio State with a good bowl win over a fellow Power Five championship loser. There’s nothing sexy about this team, but it’s hard-nosed tough on defense, it has a fringe NFL talent in QB Clayton Thorson, and it has just enough playmakers on both sides to make this close, even if the game is going to grind down to a nub.
If you like points, go elsewhere – at least that’s how things seem after the ugly 10-3 loss to Washington in the Pac-12 Championship. But even without the key parts of the offensive puzzle over the final month – with QB Tyler Huntley and RB Zack Moss hurt – the Utes scored 30 points or more in the last three games – and seven of the last eight games – before dealing with Washington. And more than anything else, it’s Utah and Kyle Whittingham in a bowl game – they don’t lose these things.
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TaxSlayer Gator Bowl
Monday, December 31
7:30, ESPN, EverBank Field, Jacksonville, FL
It wasn’t an ACC title season, and it wasn’t quite a year with a whole lot of fanfare, but it was a rebuilding campaign and now there’s a chance at ten wins. The defense is still strong, and there is a running game once in a while when the team gives it a shot, but this is Ryan Finley’s world. The future NFL quarterback has been magnificent, and now the team that’s won four of its last five games after a 5-0 start has a chance to make a good season terrific.
The goal is to be in the New Year’s Six and College Football Playoff mix in the near future, but it’s been a great first spin under Jimbo Fisher, closing out the regular season with an all-timer thriller over LSU. The Aggies lost to Clemson, at Alabama, at a fired up Mississippi State, and at Auburn in a tight battle – that’s not bad. The running game is fantastic, the defensive line is terrific, and this is a good enough team to close out with a massive statement for 2019.
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Tuesday, January 1st
12:00, ESPN2, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
The West was there for the taking, and the Hawkeyes couldn’t do it with painful close losses to Wisconsin and Northwestern. The four losses? To the Badgers – who came up with a late score to pop open the tight battle – and in a three-game stretch to Penn State and Purdue on the road and to the Wildcats by a total of 12 points. The defense is great, and QB Nate Stanley had a good year, but the team needs a good win.
Joe Moorhead’s first season has been a big-time success, winning eight games with a great year from QB Nick Fitzgerald and an offense that showed flashes of greatness. But it’s the defense that was the star, allowing six points or fewer in three of the last four games and fewer than 20 points ten times – only giving up 28 to Kentucky and 24 to Alabama. Iowa needs to get ready for a defensive fight.
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VRBO Citrus Bowl
Tuesday, January 1st
1:00, ABC, Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL
The team might be playing with house money at this point, but it’s not going to be simply satisfied with a shockingly good year with nine wins and a streak-breaker against Florida. Benny Snell was one of the most valuable running backs in the country, the defense is special, and there’s an attitude with this group – it’s going to bring the fire to the bowl. But it’s going to have to bring the offense, too, that scored 90 points over the final two games after scoring 17 or fewer in the previous five games.
QB Trace McSorley might be a veteran, but this is a young team with a slew of rising stars to keep Penn State strong going into next year. The defense allowed a total of 20 points over the last three games, and while the offense wasn’t quite as strong as it needed to be, it was good enough. On a run of five games in the final six – only losing in a blowout to Michigan – it was a good finishing kick. Win and get to ten victories, and it’ll be a solid year even with the losses to the three big boys – Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State – in the Big Ten East.
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