Bowl Games 2018: Playoff Madness

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

12:00: Michigan vs. Florida (Peach Bowl @ Atlanta, GA; ESPN): Oh, gee, Michigan and Florida are playing in a bowl game again. Especially at Noon on a Saturday, in a game that was traditionally the last game on New Year’s Eve. At any rate, this Michigan team is pretty good, and this Florida team is just… I’m not entirely sure how to feel about them, honestly. I like the Wolverines here.
S&P+ line: UM -6.2
Vegas line: UM -7.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: As you may have heard, these two have met several times in bowl games recently. You may have also heard that Michigan tends to win. They won the 2002-03 Outback Bowl 38-30, the 2007-08 Capital One Bowl 41-35, the 2015-16 Citrus Bowl 41-7, and then decided to meet in an early season game last season, where the Wolverines won 33-17.
Last bowl game: For the Wolverines, this is their fourth straight bowl game. Their streak started with a 41-7 win over Florida in the 2014-15 Citrus Bowl. Last season, they lost 26-19 to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. For the Gators, this is their first bowl game since the 2015-16 Outback Bowl, where they beat Iowa 30-3.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Brock Huard

12:00: Virginia vs. South Carolina (Belk Bowl @ Charlotte, NC; ABC): I’m going to be honest: I picked South Carolina here entirely because I do not even remotely trust UVA’s offense to be competitive in this game.
S&P+ line: USC -2.5
Vegas line: USC -3.5
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: These former ACC foes have met 34 times. Their first meeting a 19-0 UVA win in 1912. With the formation of the ACC in 1951, they met regularly, including a few times in the 70’s and 80’s after South Carolina left the ACC. Their most recent meeting was a 31-7 South Carolian win, and the Gamecocks are 21-12-2 all-time against the Cavs.
Last bowl game: UVA lost last year’s Military Bowl to Navy, 49-7. This is the third bowl season in a row for the Gamecocks, going back to the 2016 Birmingham Bowl. They lost that game to USF 46-39. Last season they beat Michigan in the Outback Bowl 26-19.
Announcers: Adam Amin, Anthony Behct, and Rocky Boiman

1:00: Nevada vs. Arkansas State (Arizona Bowl @ Tuscon, AZ; CBSS): Let’s lightning round this so we can get to the playoff games: I picked Arkansas State here.
S&P+ line: ASU -4.9
Vegas line: EVEN
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Five, surprisingly. Notably, though, the site I use for this info doesn’t actually have the month or day for the 1985 game, but Nevada apparently did win 24-23. Their last meeting was November 13, 1999, which the Red Wolves won 44-28. Nevada leads the all-time series 3-2.
Last bowl game: Nevada last bowled in 2015, when they were forced to play conference-mate Colorado State. They won 28-23. For Arkansas State, this is their eighth bowl in a row. Their streak started with a 38-20 loss to Northern Illinois in the 2010-11 Bowl. Last season they lost 35-30 to MTSU in the Camellia Bowl.
Announcers: Carter Blackburn and Aaron Taylor

4:00: Clemson vs. Notre Dame (Cotton Bowl @ Arlington, TX; ESPN): So Clemson and Alabama are big favorites in both fo their games. I suppose the angle here is to try to consider how these games might be competitive. Honestly, I’m having a harder time thinking of reasons why Notre Dame will win. Even with DT Dexter Lawrence suspended for the Tigers, their defensive line is so elite that it’s hard to fathom any offense having success against them. And look, this Notre Dame team is pretty good, but their signature and by far best win is a narrow victory over Michigan back on Labor Day weekend. I like Clemson here, and I like them a lot.
S&P+ line: CU -7.3
Vegas line: CU -11.5
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: Just three. They split a pair of games in 1977 and 1979, and Clemson won the most recent matchup, a 24-22 win in 2015. The Tigers are thus 2-1 all-time.
Last bowl game: This is Clemson’s fourteenth bowl game in a row, last missing one in 2004 despite going 6-5. (If that counted, they’d get to tack on another 5 games.) So their current streak started with the 2005 Champ Sports Bowl, a 19-10 win over Colorado. Last season they lost 24-6 to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. For the Irish, the 4-8 campaign in 2016 wrecked a streak, so their last bowl game was a 21-17 win over LSU in last season’s Citrus Bowl.
Announcers: Sean McDonough and Todd Blackledge

8:00: Alabama vs. Oklahoma (Orange Bowl @ Miami Gardens, FL; ESPN): So let’s get to the second game, where technically Alabama is a bigger favorite than Clemson is. And, yes, logically I understand that. But in my gut, I’m not sure I do. For starters, this is a matchup of two of the best offenses in college football. Oklahoma defense is… definitely lacking. But that’s not the point. The Sooners are used to shoot-outs, and I think they can hang with Bama. The thing is, though, we will find out if that will be the case very quickly. If Alabama gets up a couple of scores early, then we’ll know that the defense is out-executing Oklahoma and it’ll pretty much be over. I’m not sure that’s the way it’ll go, though, but I still like Alabama in the end.
S&P+ line: UA -7.5
Vegas line: UA -13.5
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: These traditional powers have met five times, mostly in bowls. The first meeting was the 1962-63 Orange Bowl, a 17-0 Crimson Tide victory. The next, though, was something called the “Astro-Blubonnet Bowl” in 1970, which ended with a 24-24 tie. Since then, it’s been all Sooners, with regular season wins in 2002 and 2003, plus a memorable blowout in the 2013-14 Sugar Bowl, a 45-31 OU win. Regardless of how this one goes, the Sooners will still lead the all-time series as they currently have a 3-1-1 advantage.
Last bowl game: It’s a 15 season bowl streak for the Tide, going back to a 20-16 loss to Minnesota in the 2004 Music City Bowl. Last season Bama beat Clemson in the Sugar Bowl 24-6 and won the championship 26-23 over Georgia. For the Sooners, this is their twentieth postseason game in a row, which is now the third longest streak in the nation. That streak goes all the way back to the 1999 Independence Bowl, where they lost 27-25 to Ole Miss. Last season the Sooners lost 54-48 to Georgia in the Rose Bowl.
Announcers: Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit