Alabama and Florida put on a show for the ages in the SEC Championship with the Crimson Tide finishing a perfect SEC season 11-0 and ranked number 1 in the College Football Playoff. Nine more SEC teams accepted invitations for bowl games. We are going to assume the best - that all these games will actually happen. Without further ado, welcome to the 2020 Bowl Extravaganza.
Last week I went 3-1 with the picks bringing my total record to 52-16, 76%. (All times listed below are CT.)
SEC POST-SEASON GAMES
Gasparilla Bowl - Tampa, FL
South Carolina (2-8) vs. UAB (6-3
December 26, 11:00 AM - ABC
South Carolina gets to start the Shane Beamer era early thanks to bowl games lifting win total requirements for the year. It’s still the same Gamecocks team that couldn’t get out of its own way most of the season. Meanwhile, Bill Clark led UAB to another CUSA title behind a stingy defense. That Blazers defense is the reason to pick them to grind out the win.
UAB 23, South Carolina 19
Music City Bowl - Nashville, TN
Missouri (5-5) vs. Iowa (6-2)
December 30, 3:00 PM - ESPN
Iowa's defense has performed well all season; it's really hard to score against the Hawkeyes. Missouri has largely overachieved and performs best when their offense is clicking. More often than not though the Tigers of CoMo come up small against quality defenses. The Hawkeyes don't have an explosive attack, but they score a lot of points while maintaining balance between run and pass. Congratulations to Missouri on a solid outing but the edge goes to Iowa in this one.
Iowa 30, Missouri 20
Cotton Bowl - Arlington, TX
Florida (8-3) at Oklahoma (8-2)
December 30, 7:00 PM - ESPN
Offense has come to the Cotton Bowl this year. There's so much speed on the field in this one, state troopers will be handing out citations at the exit gates. Oklahoma won the Big XII by finally overcoming turnover issues which derailed them early on this season. Spencer Rattler is the real deal pulling the switches on Lincoln Riley's latest tilt-a-whirl Sooners attack. Florida manufactured boatloads of points by having Kyle Trask fling the ball around to a cadre of super fast players who turn even the shortest of gains into monster plays with a juke. Expect a lot of back and forth but I'm going with Gators here because I think they've played better competition and want to go out proving they were better than the three-loss record.
Florida 44, Oklahoma 41
Armed Forces Bowl - Fort Worth, TX
Mississippi State (3-7) vs. Tulsa (6-2)
December 31, 11:00 AM - ESPN
Mississippi State finished the season like they started it - playing efficient, fast offense and forcing mistakes from opponents. Tulsa had a strong showing in spite of having exploitable flaws. Forget what the records say here; Mississippi State has better talent (especially on defense) and if Mike Leach can keep his Bulldogs focused, they should be able to take the win from the Golden Hurricane. However, if mid-season Mississippi State shows up, Tulsa will gladly wipe them off the map. Here's to hoping for the former over the latter.
Mississippi State 27, Tulsa 24
Texas Bowl - Houston, TX
Arkansas (3-7) vs. TCU (6-4)
December 31, 7:00 PM - ESPN
Did you know TCU was 6-4? Totally flew under the radar this year, Horned Frogs. Also, did you know Arkansas was only 3-7? Could have sworn they won a couple more games. If TCU's QB Max Duggan is on point, he should be able to find plenty of holes in the Razorbacks defense. The Horned Frogs don't have the purple and black wall on defense they used to have, but they should be able to handle what Arkansas throws their way. Also, can we get more creative in naming some of these bowl games?
TCU 27, Arkansas 17
Peach Bowl - Atlanta, GA
Georgia (7-2) vs. Cincinnati (9-0)
January 1, 11:)0 AM - ESPN
It's a shame the Bearcats didn't receive more consideration for the College Football Playoff. Unfortunately, they drew a tough match up against a Georgia team that is out to prove if they had their QB all season, things would have been different for them. The Bulldogs will have their hands full trying to contain this run game. Cincinnati will have their own troubles trying to keep Georgia's multiple attack at bay for the entire game. The sad part is if the Bearcats don't get it done, it'll vindicate some really shallow reasoning for leaving them out. The truth is though, Georgia is talented and deep enough to get this win and so all we are left with is questions about what kind of run Cincy could have made if given then chance. Oh, well. There's always next year. Wait, no there's not. Group of Five teams need to give this dream up now.
Georgia 28, Cincinnati 24
Citrus Bowl - Orlando, FL
Auburn (6-4) vs. Northwestern (6-2)
January 1, 12:00 PM - ABC
This year's award to most undeserving New Year's Day Bowl team goes once again to the Auburn Tigers now led by Kevin Steele (and that may be the long term situation depending on who you believe).Northwestern took Ohio State to the final bell and came up short but these Wildcats are a tough defense who puts pressure on the opposing offensive line. That spells trouble for Auburn, a team that struggled with pass protection all year. Northwestern isn't going to go score for score against anyone, but they don't need to for this game. Apply pressure and watch Auburn's offense fold like cheap lawn chairs in a stiff wind.
Northwestern 24, Auburn 20
Rose Bowl - Arlington, TX
National Playoff Semifinal
Alabama (11-0) vs. Notre Dame (10-1)
January 1, 3:00 PM - ESPN
It's tempting to just put on the tape of the last time these two teams met and go - THAT! Different times now though as Notre Dame is legitimately tough on defense. Problem is Alabama is now even more a super-powered Death Star than they were before. This offense can do everything with stars at every position. (Losing Landon Dickerson on the offensive line hurts, but Alabama rolls 10 deep at that position and has for years.) The fun match up to watch is how Alabama's defense will deal with an Irish team that lives to run the ball straight ahead. Once upon a time, Alabama would have played eight of those teams but the SEC has gone as pass-happy as the rest of college football outside of the military academies. I do expect Notre Dame to give a better accounting of itself than last time but it won't be nearly enough. This Alabama team is far too loaded to get tripped up here.
Alabama 48, Notre Dame 24
Gator Bowl - Jacksonville, FL
Kentucky (4-6) vs. NC State (8-3)
January 2, 11:00 AM - ESPN
Kentucky is not good at anything. The offense is predictable, undermanned, and boring. Even the Wildcats defense isn't the stout unit we have seen in recent years. NC State isn't grand but they can score fast and in multiple ways. The Wolfpack's weakness is on the defense but, again, Kentucky is just not good at that stuff this year. This one could get out of hand early.
NC State 34, Kentucky 16
Outback Bowl - Tampa, FL
Ole Miss (4-5) vs. Indiana (6-1)
January 2, 11:30 AM - ABC
Ole Miss is so funny to watch. Probably the only team that can turn the ball over as much as they do and still only lose games by a couple of points. It's a testament to how prolific that offense can be when it's firing on all cylinders. Indiana can score too, but they are built on the other side of the ball to make your life miserable. The Rebels penchant for turning over the ball too often spells disaster here against the Hoosiers. However, as it usually goes, even if Ole Miss loses, it'll be close on the scoreboard.
Indiana 31, Ole Miss 27
Orange Bowl - Miami, FL
Texas A&M (8-1) vs. North Carolina (8-3)
January 2, 7:00 PM - ESPN
Jimbo Fisher's Aggies finished fifth in the final rankings and it's hard to argue with the results on the field. Texas A&M boasts a solid run game and the play action passing built off that has led them all year. Everyone talks about North Carolina QB Sam Howell but it's their two running backs (Michael Carter and Javonte Williams) that should get the press along with that fabulous offensive line. This is one of the better bowl matchups we get this year and it's gonna come down to which defense can contain the other's run game and force a mistake that turns momentum. Give the edge to the Aggies here as that defense has stymied every run game it's faced - even Alabama - this season.
Texas A&M 29, North Carolina 26
You can hear Jay weekly on The Gridiron Breakdown which streams live on Facebook Wednesday nights at 8. www.facebook.com/thegridironbreakdown or listen to The Gridrion Breakdown Show podcast where ever podcasts are found (www.thegridironbreakdown.com).