by James Payne – Wannamakeabet Staff Writer
While the “New Year’s Six” matchups don’t all take place on New Year’s Eve or Day, they do feature all of the top 12 teams in the country, including the College Football Playoff.
Dec. 29, 8:30 p.m. Goodyear Cotton Bowl: 8 USC vs. 5 Ohio State (-7.5)
As winners of their respective conferences, both schools will have felt hard done to miss out on the CFB. With JT Barrett having a solid season with career highs in completions, completion percentage, yards and TDs, except the senior to steal the spotlight in his final game. Sam Darnold had already been talked about being a top pick in the upcoming draft; he’ll need to avoid Nick Bosa to keep the Trojans in this one.
Pick: Buckeyes -7.5
Dec. 30, 4p.m. PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: 11 Washington vs. 9 Penn State (-3)
With both the Huskies and Nittany Lions averaging over 400 yds/g and combining for almost 80 PPG, this game will certainly feature points. The running backs in this game, Saquon Barkley and Myles Gaskin, totaled 41 TDs between them and almost 2500 yards. Barkley’s triple threat as a rusher, pass catcher and kick returner will prove the difference in this one.
Pick: Nittany Lions -3
Dec. 30, 8 p.m. Capital One Orange Bowl: 10 Miami vs 6 Wisconsin (-6)
Disappointing losses to Pitt and then getting blown out by Clemson in the ACC Championship game cost the Hurricanes a chance in the CFB. One-loss Badgers cruised through to the Big Ten Championship before falling to Ohio State and missing out on the CFB. Malik Rosier hasn’t been overly impressive with only a 54.6 completion percentage and 11 interceptions. Between Rosier and Travis Homer, the U will need the run game to get going to have a chance. Alex Hornibrook with have to deal with what likely be a raucous Hurricane crowd playing in Miami. Expect Jonathan Taylor, over 1800 yards and 13 TDs on the ground this season to punch it in a couple times in a Badgers victory, however only by a slim margin.
Pick Miami +6
Jan. 1, 12:30 p.m. Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: 12 UCF vs. 7 Auburn (-10)
Auburn’s season hit its climax beating Alabama in the Iron Bowl to finish of a 10-2 regular season and give them a chance at the CFB. UCF will look to finish off an improbably undefeated season should they beat the Tigers. UCF lead the nation with 49.4 PPG this season and average only one turnover per game while forcing over two per game. Auburn’s offense led by Kerryon Johnson with over 1500 yards from scrimmage and 19 TDs could lead to a high scoring affair and a Power 5 offense UCF hasn’t seen yet. Auburn’s defense was 9th in the country only allowing 17 PPG but expect the defense to struggle with McKenzie Milton.
Pick: UCF +10
Jan. 1 5 p.m. Rose Bowl: 3 Georgia (-2) vs. 2 Oklahoma
Georgia’s defense has stifled opposing offenses only conceding 13.2 PPG and a key factor for the Bulldogs to reach the CFB. Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield has led the Sooners offense to 44.9 PPG, good for 4th among FBS teams. Key wins at Ohio State, Oklahoma St and TCU twice by an average of almost 17 points has proven the Sooners are a lethal threat in the playoff.
Pick: OU ML
Jan. 1 8:45 p.m. Allstate Sugar Bowl: 4 Alabama (-2.5) vs. 1 Clemson
This semifinal, a rematch of last years National Championship game, features the two best defenses based on points allowed: Alabama at 11.5 and Clemson at 12.8. Kelly Bryant has proven himself as a capable replacement to DeShaun Watson with over 3300 total yards and 24 TDs. Dabo Swinney’s offense averages 75 offensive plays which is a key to this game and keeping the ball out of Jalen Hurts’ hands. Alabama’s strength of schedule was 51st in FBS which many thought would cost them the 4th seed. The Crimson Tide’s defense got them into the playoff and they will have to show up to keep its season alive. Swinney and Saban are 1-1 against each other but this season, Clemson proved why its worthy of the #1 seed in the CFB and will return to the National Championship game.
Pick: Clemson ML