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Bowl Predictions 2014-2015: Russell Athletic Bowl to Foster Farms Bowl

Deshaun Watson
Russell Athletic Bowl: Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, on December 29th
Oklahoma Sooners (8-4) vs. Clemson Tigers (9-3)

It has been a pretty rough season for Oklahoma, a popular Playoff pick entering the year the Sooners have gone an underwhelming 8-4 and will quite a test in their bowl game against the Tigers. The Sooners will have to deal with the multitude of options head coach Dabo Swinney has at his disposal, including quarterback Deshaun Watson. Despite suffering a torn ACL, according to Swinney, Watson is set to start for Clemson in this one, after starting the Tigers' regular season finale against archrival South Carolina. A dynamic playmaker, Watson still is learning as a passer but he is a gifted runner and the offense seems to run better when he is in over senior Cole Stoudt. The ground game is manned by solid tailback Wayne Gallman, who has only gotten better as 2014 has progressed, and Watson has a proven target to throw to in rapidly improving receiver Mike Williams. Add in a defense that is stocked in the front with defensive end Vic Beasley and nose guard Grady Jarrett and Clemson will give Oklahoma some issues. A year ago, Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight had a masterful performance in guiding the Sooners to a Sugar Bowl upset of Alabama. While he had his ups-and-downs this year he still is a deceptively quick runner with a strong arm. Freshman Samaje Perine, who broke the NCAA single game rushing record just weeks ago, will give Clemson's strong rush defense problems, while Sterling Shepard is bound to be a problem for the Tigers in the passing game. OU's defense has been decent this year but it has had moments where it can't stop much. Linebacker Eric Striker also had a coming out party in last year's Sugar Bowl and he will be key in pressuring Watson and forcing him out of the pocket. While Oklahoma is an extremely talented team and Perine could have a big game if not properly contained, Clemson with Watson is a legit Top 10-caliber team. Even if he doesn't start, Clemson still has the improving offensive weapons and defensive punch it needs to hand the Sooners their fifth loss of the year.
Clemson, 30 Oklahoma, 21

Texas Bowl: NRG Stadium, Houston, on December 29th
Texas Longhorns (6-6) vs. Arkansas Razorbacks (6-6)

Charlie Strong has a long road ahead of him in taking a Texas program that has fallen severely back to the top but a 7-6 debut with the injuries and inconsistent quarterback play would not be terrible. After the career ending injury to QB David Ash, who had a long history of injury problems, Tyrone Swoopes was thrown into the position a little bit prematurely. Swoopes impressed with his running ability and he has showcased his strong arm occasionally but he is still improving. Arkansas has a SEC defense so you know they will be pressuring the quarterback and getting in Swoopes' face early and often. How the young sophomore handles the pressure will be a major point in this game. Senior receivers Jaxon Shipley and John Harris have been great this year when healthy and will test an inconsistent Arkansas' pass defense, while Malcolm Brown gives some punch on the ground. The Longhorns' offensive line has been decent this year but they be up for a tough task in stopping Trey Flowers and the rest of the Razorbacks' pass rush. A major part of Arkansas' hot streak to end the year has been the defense, which absolutely shut down Ole Miss in a 30-0 blowout a couple weeks ago. Another huge part of their second half success has been the ground attack, which is flourishing with the dynamic duo of Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. Both have rushed for over 1,000 yards on the year and their ability to wear down defenses opens up the passing game for the efficient Brandon Allen. The Longhorns' defense has relied heavily on defensive end Cedric Reed for years and once more they will need his services. Not only will he have to pressure Allen, he will also have to provide a lot of help in run support to tame Collins and Williams. After an extremely forgettable 2012 followed by a rocky 2013, Arkansas finally has the talent to wind up over .500. Bret Bielema has a program on the rise once more in the Razorbacks and it should begin by overpowering the Longhorns on the ground to coast to a win.
Arkansas, 27 Texas, 14

Music City Bowl: LP Field, Nashville, on December 30th
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-5) vs. LSU Tigers (8-4)

Just two months ago, Notre Dame had a chance to snap Florida State's long winning streak and improve to 7-0 with a resume that included the reigning champs and a dominant performance against Michigan. But, a questionable offensive pass interference call cost Notre Dame the game and things only went downhill after that, as the Irish stumbled to a 1-4 finish that included an embarrassing loss to Northwestern. Everett Golson and the Irish will hope to figure things out before a serious test against a tough LSU team. Although their passing game was a joke for much of the year, the Tigers did what they always do: ride their ground attack and a punishing defense to a successful year. Freshman Leonard Fournette only gets better and he could show us what is to come in the future against a Notre Dame defense that has struggled against the run at times this season. Powerful Terrance Magee and Kenny Hilliard provide some more yardage, and the defense is superb. Linebacker Kwon Alexander does it all, with 81 tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles on the year while end Danielle Hunter is a load to deal with. The question for LSU will be there pass game, which has not been able to get consistent play from either Anthony Jennings or Brandon Harris this year. Both have shown the ability to run with their legs but much big plays through the air in this game should be rare. The Irish need Golson to be smart and not turn the ball over, but that has been a question all year for him. He has shown the ability to make some great throws under pressure but too often he forces things and doesn't let the game come to him. Notre Dame's staff has already announced dynamic Malik Zaire will also see action, pointing towards the future for the Irish at the position. Receiver William Fuller has had some great moments and he is a legitimate stud when playing well, but Golson has to get him the ball. While the Irish defense has been strong all year, they could be in for a rude awakening against LSU. They have not seen an offense with the powerful run scheme quite like LSU and they could struggle.
LSU, 24 Notre Dame, 16

Belk Bowl: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte on December 30th
Georgia Bulldogs (9-3) vs. Louisville Cardinals (9-3)

Even without Todd Gurley, their star and face of the program, for a better part of the 2014 season, winning nine games is not a terrible record at all in the first year of the post-Aaron Murray era for the Bulldogs. Nick Chubb, a powerful freshman, has filled in and done a superb job in the absence of Gurley, while quarterback Hutson Mason has done a good job engineering the offense. But, for the 'Dawgs it is more about their defense, which has a great group of linebackers, including pass rushers Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd, who will give the Louisville O-Line some troubles. Will Gardner has done a good taking over the reigns of the Louisville in the post-Teddy Bridgewater era there. DeVante Parker has NFL scouts drooling because of his amazing size and athleticism and he could have coming out party against a less than stellar Georgia secondary. The Cardinals will also bring a strong defense to the table, one led by interception machine Gerod Holliman, who has just announced his intentions to turn pro. Holliman has excellent ball skills and is an absolute ball hawk and Mason will need to make sure he isn't throwing in his direction very often. End Lorenzo Mauldin is a monster and he will provide the pressure needed to disrupt any rhythm that Mason will attempt to establish. Considering both of these schools lost their longtime stars at quarterback, the fact that they both have won nine games and have a shot at ten is pretty amazing. This one looks to a run-first, defensive, grind it out type of football game in Charlotte. If Mason can make a couple big plays and the Georgia secondary contains Parker, Mark Richt's Bulldogs should win double digit games.
Georgia, 27 Louisville, 21

Foster Farms Bowl: Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California on December 30th
Maryland Terrapins (7-5) vs. Stanford Cardinal (7-5)

While Jim Harbaugh appears primed to be heading to Ann Arbor, his predecessor at Stanford, David Shaw is once more bringing the Cardinal to a bowl game, though a lesser one than the BCS bowls the Cardinal have enjoyed the past couple of years. Considering the losses on defense and their offensive line, going 7-5 hasn't been completely terrible for Stanford. Junior quarterback Kevin Hogan still has his fair share of ups-and-downs, but he did end the regular season strong with a masterful performance against UCLA. He will have his favorite target, receiver Ty Montgomery, to throw too once more and they could combine for some big plays, especially in play action. Montgomery a physical specimen with dazzling speed also can make plays in special teams. The ground attack has been decent, as Remound Wright can give some defenses problems. Randy Edsall clearly has the Maryland program on the rise, as they will be playing in their second straight bowl game. Fifth year senior C.J. Brown leads the offense, both a passer with over 2,000 yards and as a runner where he ran for 569. Though, the Terrapins' offense has really missed the big play potential of receiver Stefon Diggs, who is so dangerous when healthy. But, Diggs appears ready to play in the bowl game, after a three game absence for lacerated kidney and a one game suspension. Diggs has incredible speed and can break a play open anytime he touches the ball and it will be interesting to see how the disciplined Stanford defense handles. Linebacker A.J. Tarpley leads the Cardinal defense, which once more was strong all year. C.J. Brown has struggled against some of the top Big Ten defenses and he will need to play smart if the Terps are going to stick in this game. While the return of Diggs adds some excitement to Maryland's offense, the defense could have some troubles stopping a powerful Stanford attack. If Hogan plays well and makes the occasional big throw, Stanford should be in good position to finish a relatively disappointing year on a high note.
Stanford, 20 Maryland, 17

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