Bowl Games 2017: Happy New Year!

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Noon: Michigan vs. South Carolina (Outback Bowl @ Tampa, FL; ESPN2): These two teams actually have similar profiles in the basic stats: limited offenses backed by pretty good defenses. Unfortunately, I don’t have a stronger opinion about this than that. I don’t think it’ll be especially exciting, but it will be close, and I think Michigan will win in the end.
S&P+ line: Michigan by 8.3
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Three, and South Carolina has won two of them. They first met in 1980, a 17-14 USC win, following by a 34-3 Michigan win in 1985. Since, they met in the 2012-13 version of this game, which USC won 33-28.
Last bowl game: This is the third straight bowl game for the Wolverines. Last year they lost 33-32 in the Orange Bowl. South Carolina lost last year’s Birmingham Bowl to South Florida 46-39.
Announcers: Adam Amin and Dusty Dvoracek

12:30: Central Florida vs. Auburn (Peach Bowl @ Atlanta, GA; ESPN): This is mainly a III on the “watchability tier” because, hey, there’s the potential that UCF could prevail here. (And heck, S&P+ likes the Knights.) But there’s the thing: if Auburn plays their game, there’s every reason to think their offense will prevail and that their defense will shut down UCF’s high-flying offense. I’d like to see a game here, and I definitely think we could, but I can’t commit to the idea that we will.
S&P+ line: UCF by 0.9
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Three, and it’s pretty much what you’d expect. They played in the 1997 through 1999 regular seasons and Auburn won 41-14, 10-6, and 28-10.
Last bowl game: UCF lost last year’s Cure Bowl 31-13 to Arkansas State. For the Tigers, this is their fifth straight bowl game, going back to the 2013-14 BCS Championship Game, where they lost 34-31 to Florida State. Last season, they lost 35-19 to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Flemming and Brock Huard

1:00: Notre Dame vs. Louisiana State (Citrus Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ABC): Notre Dame’s offense was generally stymied against any team that actually plays defense, and boy howdy does LSU play defense. The thing is, the Irish weren’t so bad themselves, and LSU’s offense doesn’t strike fear into the hearts of anyone, especially if all the rumors about Matt Canada are true. Nonetheless, I think LSU will be too big and physical for the Irish.
S&P+ line: Notre Dame by 1.9
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Eleven, dating back to the 1970 regular season, where Notre Dame won what I’m sure was a rousing 3-0 contest. Since, they’ve met 10 more times, most recently in the 2014 Music City Bowl, which the Domers won 21-28. Notre Dame holds a 6-5 series lead.
Last bowl game: Notre Dame went 4-8 last year, so their last bowl game was the 2015-16 Fiesta Bowl, where they got blown out 44-28 by Ohio State. This is LSU’s eighteenth straight bowl game, going back to a 28-14 in the 2000 Peach Bowl over Georgia Tech. Last year they beat Louisville 29-9 in the Citrus Bowl.
Announcers: Mark Jones and Rod Gilmore

5:00: Oklahoma vs. Georgia (Rose Bowl @ Pasadena, CA; ESPN): I actually like Oklahoma’s chances to win this game, but I’ll be honest and admit that it’s partially due to wanting to Georgia to lose very, very badly. Essentially, I think Oklahoma is the best offense in the nation. Georgia’s defense is good, very good, but I don’t thing they’ve been tested a lot this year. They did break one time, against Auburn. They were able to tame the Tigers the second time around, but they haven’t seen any quarterback like Baker Mayfield. I think these are the scenarios: 1) if it’s a shootout, where Georgia can’t stop Oklahoma and the Sooners match UGA punch-for-punch, then the “Dawgs” will blink first and Oklahoma will prevail; or 2) Georgia’s defense does what no one else could outside of Ames, Iowa, and frustrates Mayfield, including either stopping them or playing keep away with the ball by handing to their running backs and making sure it doesn’t come down to Fromm having to match Mayfield. I like scenario 1 better.
S&P+ line: Oklahoma by 2.2
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: For the Sooners, this is their nineteenth straight bowl game, going back to a 27-25 loss to Ole Miss in the 1999 Independence Bowl. Last season, they beat Auburn 35-19 in the Sugar Bowl. For Georgia, this is their 21st consecutive bowl appearance, going back to a 33-6 win over Wisconsin in the 1997-1998 Outback Bowl. Last year they defeated TCU 31-23 in the Liberty Bowl.
Announcers: Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit

8:45: Clemson vs. Alabama (Sugar Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): Clemson is playing up the “underdog” angle on this game as much as they can (Kelly Bryant told the press last week that they’d been underdogs in “almost every” game this season, when this is the first game they haven’t been favored in all year), but I don’t blame them. Alabama’s offense has been mediocre against teams capable of stopping them (see: Florida State, Auburn) and Clemson and their ridiculous, NFL-ready defensive line is more than capable. Clemson’s offense isn’t as good as it was last year (which makes sense, seeing as how they now lack Deshaun Watson and all), but it’s still more dynamic than Alabama’s. Don’t get me wrong, Alabama’s good. But I think Clemson can very much look at what Auburn did to stem the Tide and execute it even better than Auburn did. I’m not couching this like I did the OU-UGA game: I think Clemson will win.
S&P+ line: Alabama by 3.6
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: They’ve met 17 times; you may’ve heard about the last couple. Last season’s win for Clemson was their first since 1905 and their fourth all-time, as the Tide still hold a 13-4 series lead.
Last bowl game: This is the Tigers’s thirteenth straight bowl game, going back to the 2005 Champs Sports Bowl, a 19-10 win over Colorado. Last season, they beat Ohio State 31-0 in the Fiesta Bowl and then defeated Alabama 35-31 in the championship game. This is Bama’s fourteenth straight bowl game, going back to a 2004 Music Bowl win over Minnesota, 20-16. Last season, they beat Washington 24-7 in the Peach Bowl and then lost the title game to Clemson, as previously described.
Announcers: Joe Tessitore and Todd Blackledge