Bowl season is entertaining regardless of who’s playing. Everyone knows, however, that the best games with the most talent and biggest implications are the New Year’s Six. All four of our N2K writers have teamed up to break down seven of these games (six plus a bonus) played between the last day of 2015 and the first day of 2016. We’ve included a collective breakdown and our predicted winners and final scores.
#18 Houston (12-1) vs #9 Florida State (10-2)
The Peach Bowl is going to be widely overlooked because the matchup isn’t the sexiest and the bowl title itself isn’t the most prestigious. Many people aren’t giving Houston much of chance since they’re seen as an offense reliant on throwing the ball. But, the Cougars don’t rely on the passing game as much as people think. In fact, it’s quite the contrary- Houston has two options to run the ball since their quarterback, Gary Ward Jr. (19 rushing touchdowns), and running back, Kenneth Farrow (12 rushing touchdowns), are both playing very well as of late. Jalen Ramsey of the Seminoles could potentially slow down their passing offense, but this game could end up being a shootout.. Dalvin Cook has the talent to take over this game by pushing 200+ yards. If the Cougars defense can contain him, this will be a game to watch.
Tyler’s Prediction: Houston 33-24.
Sean’s Prediction: Florida State 36-25.
TJ’s Prediction: Houston 41-37.
Kevin’s Prediction: Florida State 35-17.
#8 Notre Dame (11-2) vs #7 Ohio State (11-1)
Ohio State is really a sob story for college football this season since they are so deep and seemingly have a top NFL prospect at every other position. Ohio State is having an old-fashioned pissing contest with Ezekiel Elliott over touches. It’s a tough spot for the Buckeyes’ coaching staff, especially considering this guy realistically deserves 30+ touches per game. We think that if the Buckeyes put the ball in the quarterback’s hands, whether it’s JT Barrett or Cardale Jones, they will lose. Tyler says that, “Heisman or not, Elliott is the best player in all of college football”. ND’s front seven against Elliott should be a great matchup. However, his game holds other great matchups. Buckeyes cornerback Eli Apple against Irish receiver Will Fuller will be a great matchup to keep our eyes on. Top 10 first round NFL prospects Joey Bosa (OSU defensive end) and Ronnie Stanley (Irish left tackle) will be a NFL scout’s dream to keep their eye on, too. Notre Dame’s defense is a bit beaten up, but still is littered with NFL talent. Ohio State’s defense, however, is in a league of their own. That could put this game out of reach. This Ohio State roster is one of the best of all-time and could rival the U’s rosters from the early 2000s.
Tyler’s Prediction: Notre Dame 35-31.
Sean’s Prediction: Ohio State 34-20.
TJ’s Prediction: Ohio State 33-26.
Kevin’s Prediction: Ohio State 24-21.
#6 Stanford (11-2) vs #5 Iowa (12-1)
Two words… Christian McCaffrey. Can Kevin Hogan keep the ball out of the hands of Iowa’s defense? Cornerback Desmond King had 8 interceptions this season (not 1, or 2, or 3, or 4, or 5, or 6, or 7, BUT 8 picks) and if Stanford is smart, which HELLO, THEY’RE STANFORD, they should not throw in the direction of King. Iowa seldom turns the ball over and their offense might not put you in the position to win the game but they sure as hell will NOT put you in a position to lose the game. If the Stanford defense can contain Iowa quarterback CJ Beathard, while letting McCaffrey, well, be himself, Stanford has this in the bag. But, we can’t forget that this Iowa team was a #3 seed and barely lost to Michigan State, costing them a spot in the College Football Player.
Tyler’s Prediction: Stanford 21-10.
Sean’s Prediction: Stanford 27-17.
TJ’s Prediction: Stanford 19-17.
Kevin’s Prediction: Iowa 20-14.
#16 Oklahoma State (10-2) vs #12 Ole Miss (9-3)
Ole Miss has Laquon Treadwell, who he is far and away the best receiver that Oklahoma State will face this season. Robert Nkemdiche has been suspended for this game, which opens up some doors that were previously closed for OK State. Laremy Tunsil going up against Emmanuel Ogbah will be a very fun matchup to watch with big draft board implications. Cowboys’ receiver James Washington from will be the most-anticipated mismatch, hoping to add to his 10 total TDs. Expect this game to be a sloppy, high scoring game with little defensive efforts from both sides. It is a matter of whether Treadwell or Washington will break the scoreboard first.
Tyler’s Prediction: Ole Miss 49-45.
Sean’s Prediction: Ole Miss 42-37.
TJ’s Prediction: Oklahoma State 34-31.
Kevin’s Prediction: Ole Miss 45-38.
College Football Playoff
#4 Oklahoma (11-1) vs #1 Clemson (13-0)
Both Clemson and Oklahoma play very similar offensive styles. Clemson’s explosive offense centered around Deshaun Watson, Artavis Scott and Wayne Gallman matched with the best defense in the Big XII (not really much of an accomplishment, but still). Clemson is obviously undefeated, yet Vegas still has the Sooners favored. Shaq Lawson should have a game and a half against the comedic relief that is the Sooner o-line. Clemson’s secondary is, to put it lightly, NASTY, and they are capable of containing Baker Mayfield. If Oklahoma is going to win this game it is because Mayfield wins it for them. He, along with Samaje Perine and Sterling Shepard, need to play like they can against the stout defense that the Tigers have to make this game worth watching. Clemson d-end Shaq Lawson is the x-factor for this game. If Oklahoma can zero-in on Lawson, then Mayfield has the capability to potentially take over the game. If Oklahoma’s defense wants to have a chance in this game, Zack Sanchez and Eric Striker will have to play career games. Our players to watch are Clemson’s Jayron Kearse (similar to Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor), and Oklahoma’s wideout Shepard (comparable to Denver Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders). Shepard has his hands full with the stellar Clemson secondary. The N2K writers are split on this one and this could turn out to be a pick-em game.
Tyler’s Prediction: Oklahoma 28-27 (missed PAT).
Sean’s Prediction: Clemson 34-30.
TJ’s Prediction: Clemson 32-29 OT (26-26 before OT).
Kevin’s Prediction: Clemson 42-28.
#3 Michigan State (12-1) vs #2 Alabama (12-1)
Alabama defensive line is mouth-watering. A’shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed and Jonathan Allen are all 1st-round NFL talents. Bama’s defense is so solid front to back; we can’t think of any holes that the Spartans could exploit. Alabama’s defense let up fewer than 15 points per game this season. The Tide’s defense deserves an article all in their own right but for sake of this blurb, we will stop our worshiping. Michigan State’s o-line will have their hands full with the Alabama front seven. Connor Cook needs to read the defense quickly and release the ball even quicker. Spartan OL Jack Conklin, a potential 1st rounder, should be up to the challenge, but simple math tells us that one man can’t slow down an entire defensive line. Cook doesn’t really have a lot of talent to work with that will match the Bama defense, but the best of the bunch is receiver Aaron Burbridge, who could impress some NFL scouts if he’s up to the task. Heisman-winner Derrick Henry is in a league of his own and could maybe win this game without a quarterback. Receiver Calvin Ridley and quarterback Jake Coker could pair up for a few TDs to complement Henry. Michigan State’s defensive end Shilique Calhoun will make or break his draft stock with his performance in this game as a bubble first rounder. Calhoun will need to DOMINATE Alabama’s o-line if the fans in East Lansing don’t want to cry over the production of Henry. The consensus is that Michigan State doesn’t stand much of a chance, but maybe the Spartans can learn from the Trojan War. A swindle to the degree of the Trojan Horse will be what it takes for Michigan State to walk out of Arlington as winners.
Tyler’s Prediction: Alabama 35-7.
Sean’s Prediction: Alabama 38-13.
TJ’s Prediction: Michigan State 23-22.
Kevin’s Prediction: Alabama 31-10.
Bonus Bowl Game
#19 Florida (10-3) vs #14 Michigan (9-3)
This game is going to come down to which offense turns the ball over less- we don’t see either team eclipsing 25 points. Florida started the season hot under quarterback Will Grier, but thanks to a PED suspension, Grier was ousted, and it seemed so was the Gator’s season. Cue Treon Harris. He’s been streaky from not scoring offensively against Florida State to his 290+ total yards against LSU. Harris doesn’t seem to cause problems against better defenses, while Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock seems more consistent. Vernon Hargreaves of the Gators and Jake Butt of the Wolverines are our players to watch, reminding us of NFL players Joe Haden and Gary Barnidge, respectively.
Tyler’s Prediction: Michigan 17-14.
Sean’s Prediction: Michigan 16-13.
TJ’s Prediction: Michigan 20-13.
Kevin’s Prediction: Michigan 21-10.