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Bowl Picks 2019-2020: Outback Bowl to LendingTree Bowl (Jan.1-6)

Bo Nix, Auburn (Outback Bowl)
Outback Bowl
(10-2) Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. (9-3) Auburn Tigers
Even though a bad loss to Wisconsin put a damper on their 2019 campaign, Minnesota has still had an extremely impressive season. They hope to end it on a high note against a difficult Auburn team, who may actually be better than a 9-3 record indicates. The Gophers will have to find a way to get their offense back in a rhythm, as it limped to the finish line this year managing just 39 total points against Iowa & Wisconsin. It won't get any easier with offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca taking the same post at Penn State, but Minnesota still has enough pieces to put up points. Quarterback Tanner Morgan has been the most impressive Gopher QB in some time, and he has two of the premier receiving threats in the conference in Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman. However, the biggest question on the Gopher offense lies on the O-Line. This group has been solid for much of the year, but how do they handle this NFL-laden Auburn defensive front? Even without Nick Coe, who is skipping the bowl game, the Tigers still have the tools to live in the Gopher backfield here. On the other side, Auburn isn't sure which Bo Nix they'll be getting at QB. Nix has looked like a true freshman signal-caller; he has had his moments, but still lacks consistency. This is not an easy secondary to pass on, particularly with interception machine Antoine Winfield Jr. roaming around. Gus Malzahn will try to make things easier with some creative play calls, but it's still hard to know what you're getting out of the Auburn offense each and every week. With that being said, Auburn still retains an advantage along the lines, and their underrated secondary should be able to keep Bateman and Johnson in check.
Auburn, 31 Minnesota, 27

Citrus Bowl
(9-3) Michigan Wolverines vs. (10-2) Alabama Crimson Tide
Both Michigan and Alabama entered 2019 hoping for bigger and better things than a Citrus Bowl berth, but this bowl matchup is still important for both coaching staffs. The Crimson Tide want to prove they are still one of college football's elite programs, while Jim Harbaugh needs to win to sooth some concerns about his own Michigan program. There is no Tua Tagovailoa for the Tide, but Mac Jones has looked like a seasoned vet in his absence, and there are still an abundance of options for him to throw too. All four of Alabama's top receivers should be playing, including Jerry Jeudy, who announced he would not skip the bowl. That foursome is a chore to contain for any defense, particularly one as inconsistent as the Michigan secondary. The Wolverines are physical enough to contain the Tide rushing attack, but the speed on the perimeter is a different story. The 'Bama defense will have a few players skipping (notably corner Trevon Diggs and linebacker Terrell Lewis), and this group already has had its issues. They've lacked the discipline and experience of past Tide defenses, leaving them with serious question marks. The secondary still has the talent to make Shea Patterson's finale a difficult one, but what about the rush defense? I wouldn't be surprised if Harbaugh and the Wolverines pound the ball against an Alabama defensive front that has really missed linebacker Dylan Moses in 2019. Yet, even so, I still retain more confidence in this Alabama program than Michigan at this point. Nick Saban will have his team motivated, and the offense should overwhelm UM here.
Alabama, 38 Michigan, 26

Rose Bowl
(11-2) Oregon Ducks vs. (10-3) Wisconsin Badgers
There's nothing like the "Granddaddy of Them All" in Pasadena, and this year's Rose Bowl should be very interesting. Oregon was agonizingly close to a Playoff berth in 2019, and is playing great football at this point in the year, while Wisconsin ended their year by blowing out Minnesota and knocking a significant scare into Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Duck offense will be in store for a tough matchup against the Badger D, one of the best in the nation, but they still averaged nearly 36 points per game for a reason. QB Justin Herbert hopes to finish off his impressive collegiate career with another victory, but he'll need help from his receiver corps. Oregon has a number of weapons on the outside that can open things up, including Johnny Johnson and Jaylon Redd, but drops have been an issue. The Wisconsin secondary is solid, but if the Ducks can execute, they can still create some big plays. On the ground, C.J. Verdell and Travis Dye will occupy the terrific Badger linebacker group, while a physical Ducks' offensive line should provide plenty of resistance themselves. No matter what happens offensively, Oregon will need their defense to show up, which hasn't always been the case. Overall, the unit has great numbers, but it has really struggled against some of the better units they've faced. Wisconsin doesn't do anything flashy on offense, but they are still effective. Jonathan Taylor won the Doak Walker Award after rushing for 1,909 yards and 21 touchdowns on the year, while quarterback Jack Coan seems to be growing in confidence every week. The Ducks do a good job against the run, but can they force Coan into some mistakes and create turnovers? You get the feeling they'll need to do just that if the offense stalls, which is entirely possible. That could be pretty concerning; Oregon can create turnovers, but the secondary has been streaky all 2019. That doesn't mean Coan has a coming-out party, but he doesn't need to put up crazy stats to make his impact felt. I had a real tough time deciding between the two of these teams. On one hand, I've felt Oregon was a Playoff-caliber team all year, and if they had decided not to schedule Auburn in the non-conference they probably would've been one of the four Playoff teams. However, this is a really tough matchup for them, and I think it is about time the Badgers overcome some of their Rose Bowl demons.
Wisconsin, 28 Oregon, 24

Sugar Bowl
(11-2) Baylor Bears vs. (11-2) Georgia Bulldogs
Two conference runner-ups collide in the Sugar Bowl, as Baylor hopes to cap off a surprising 2019 with a victory, while Georgia hopes this doesn't turn into last year's Sugar Bowl, when they were dominated by Texas. A big question for the Bears was seemingly answered earlier this week when QB Charlie Brewer was ruled healthy and ready to go for this one (he was knocked out of the Big 12 Championship Game). Brewer isn't a superstar, but remains an effective passer that can really get the methodical Baylor offense going. Surrounding Brewer is a cast of under-the-radar, but effective, playmakers. Running backs John Lovett and JaMychal Hasty can both create plays on the ground and as receivers out of the backfield, while Denzel Mims and Tyquan Thornton are the go-to guys at wide out. Mims should be particularly motivated in this one; he was held to zero catches in the Big 12 Championship, after catching 61 passes on the year. Brewer will still have a tough time going up against this Bulldogs secondary; not only do they feature Jim Thorpe Award finalist J.R. Reed, they also have speed and skill throughout the unit. The biggest question on the Georgia sideline also pertains to their quarterback. What Jake Fromm will show up? He has had an up-and-down junior season, but has the tendency to play his best football in the biggest games. Granted, Fromm has been hurt by the lack of proven options at receiver, but he still is too talented to be having the type of inconsistent play he's been experiencing. Having an arsenal of weapons at running back certainly helps Fromm, but even that group isn't 100 percent. Feature back D'Andre Swift has been dealing with nagging injuries for much of 2019, and is listed as questionable for this one. Georgia can still roll with Brian Herrien, Zamir White and James Cook if he isn't able to go, but a limited Swift is still a concern. The good news is that the Bulldogs still retain one of the nation's best offensive lines, which will limit James Lynch and an aggressive Baylor pass rush. That could make all the difference in this one, giving Fromm the time he needs to finally fulfill his vast potential.
Georgia, 30 Baylor, 21

Birmingham Bowl
(6-6) Boston College Eagles vs. (10-3) Cincinnati Bearcats
Going up against a ten-win AAC team was already going to be difficult for Boston College, but things have gotten more complicated after they fired head coach Steve Addazio and lost star running back A.J. Dillon to the NFL. Although the Eagles decided to hire Ohio State co-DC Jeff Hafley as their new head guy, it will be assistant Rich Gunnell who will coach in the Birmingham Bowl, while Dillon and his 1,685 yards will skip this one. Will BC be able to move the ball without him? Their passing attack is among the worst in Power Five (108th nationally), but they're hopeful QB Dennis Grosel can make some things happen. Grosel is going to have to create against a stout Cincinnati defense that allows under 22 points per game. The Eagles defense does give them a fighting chance, but there is a mismatch there as well. BC will have to contain a balanced Bearcats' offense led by QB Desmond Ridder and powerful runner Michael Warren II. Cincinnati isn't necessarily explosive with what they do on offense, so don't expect the scoreboard operators to be too busy here. However, they are effective at what they do, and there are just too many questions for the Eagles at the moment. It would be pretty miraculous if they found some way to beat Cincy with all the questions surrounding the current state of the program.
Cincinnati, 24 Boston College, 14

Gator Bowl
(8-4) Indiana Hoosiers vs. (7-5) Tennessee Volunteers
No matter what happens in this year's Gator Bowl, both programs should feel pretty great about what they accomplished in 2019. Indiana's eight wins are their most since the early 90's, while Tennessee recovered from a disastrous 0-2 start, which included losses to Georgia State & BYU, to finish off 7-5. While there were a couple reasons for the Vols great finish to the year, much of it can be explained by a rapidly improved defense, which allowed just allowed just 12.5 points per game over their last four. This defensive front really looks like an SEC team, which hasn't always been the case in year's past. Not only do they feature a strong linebacker corps, including veteran Daniel Bituli and young prodigy Henry To'oto'o, but keep an eye on end Darrell Taylor, who NFL scouts adore. The Hoosiers have a decent offensive line, but they could still have some problems keeping quarterback Peyton Ramsey upright. Ramsey, who replaced Michael Penix Jr. at QB once he was lost for the year, is a good runner that can create with his legs, which adds an interesting element to this Indiana offense. He's aided by a number of other versatile playmakers, including back Stevie Scott and wide outs Whop Philyor and Ty Fryfogle. The Hoosiers averaged nearly 32 points per game on the season and has the 14th-ranked pass offense nationally, so they've done a good job in the post-Penix era. I still think they'll find a way to score points against the Vols. Tennessee, on the other hand, has had more issues with consistency on offense. Veteran Jarrett Guarantano remains a confusing player, having some great moments mixed into plenty of really, really bad ones. UT is going to lean on the run, but the Hoosiers have faced a lot of really good ground games in 2019, so they won't be intimidated. Even so, I give the slight edge to Tennessee, as they have the better athletes on the field, and appear to be entering with more momentum.
Tennessee, 27 Indiana, 21

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
(6-6) Ohio Bobcats vs. (7-5) Nevada Wolfpack
If you like explosive offense and big plays, this year's Famous Idaho Potato Bowl might just be for you. That isn't too say that these are the two best offenses in the land, but more of a comment on the other side of the ball, where these two have struggled to stop opponents for most of 2019. To be fair, Ohio's offense is playing well at the right time, scoring 66 and 52 in their final two games (both victories). They're led by a really underrated quarterback in Nathan Rourke, a really effective dual threat. In addition to his 2,676 yards through the air, Rourke also added 780 on the ground, which could give this Nevada defense some real headaches. The Bobcats also feature a stable of good, if not great, running backs, namely O'Shaan Allison and De'Montre Tuggle. The pair both averaged over six yards per carry on the season. The Wolfpack allow over 32 points per game on the year, and they've looked really lost against some of the better offenses they've faced. They're going to need to score to keep up, but it's hard to know what you're getting out of the Nevada offense each and every week. QB Carson Strong has looked good down the stretch, but turnovers remain an issue, and this is a Bobcats defense that knows how to capitalize off mistakes. Somebody else is also going to have to step up on this offense, whether it's at running back or out wide. Sophomore tailback Toa Taua has also been very streaky, but when is on, this offense does really move the ball. In the two games Taua rushed for over 100 yards, Nevada won both. With that being said, I lean Ohio in this bowl matchup. They've traditionally been more of a consistent program, and they are trending upwards at the right time. Rourke is also the best offensive player on the field, which gives them another advantage here.
Ohio, 37 Nevada, 27

Armed Forces Bowl
(7-5) Southern Miss Golden Eagles vs. (6-6) Tulane Green Wave
Former Conference USA foes collide in the Armed Forces Bowl. Neither of these teams have very impressive records, but I think both may actually be better than that record indicates. Tulane began the year 5-1 before going 1-5 in the second half. However, those five losses were all against some of the best the Group of Five has to offer including Memphis, Navy, UCF and SMU. The Green Wave move the ball with an interesting offense that leans on the option and quarterback runs. Former LSU transfer Justin McMillan has really found a second home with Tulane, leading the team in passing and rushing. He didn't have a great second half, but he'll have opportunities against a mediocre Southern Miss defense. A major question for Tulane remains at running back and around Darius Bradwell. Bradwell rushed for over 1,000 yards in 2018, but has been held in check this season, dealing with nagging injuries and facing tough defenses. Yet, Bradwell should be able to go for this one, and he could finish up his Green Wave career with a great finale. Southern Miss moves the ball a little bit differently than Tulane, instead leaning on the pass more than a ground-orientated attack. Under center is Jack Abraham, who slings the ball around and has some weapons, but has issues with turnovers, throwing 15 on the season. Tulane's offense knows how to win the possession battle and maintain control of the ball, so losing the turnover battle against them could be a real problem for USM. Abraham did still throw for 3,329 yards on the year, so the Green Wave secondary has to be prepared, and must stop receivers Quez Watkins and Tim Jones on the outside. The good news for them is that they've faced even more explosive passing offenses, like UCF and SMU, so they already have experience going against it. I think that, along with the hope that Bradwell can really get going, gives Tulane the edge.
Tulane, 29 Southern Miss, 20

LendingTree Bowl
(10-3) Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns vs. (8-5) Miami (Ohio) Redhawks
It may be a Group of Five versus Group of Five matchup in the LendingTree Bowl, but this one could still be a fun primer to the National Championship a week later. Both of these teams went to their respective conference championship games, and in the case of Miami, they won it. Louisiana quietly put together a very impressive campaign, with their only losses coming to Mississippi State and Appalachian State (twice). They have a pretty explosive offense, as well as an underrated defense that allows less than 20 points per game. They're a particularly potent running team, as their 265.3 yards per game on the ground ranks seventh in the country. A trio of backs, Elijah McGuire, Raymond Calais and Trey Ragas could give the Redhawks' defense some real difficulties. Miami Ohio is far from flashy, as their offense ranked near the bottom of the FBS. They are, however, excellent at finding ways to win close games, winning five conference games by a total of 21 points. They have a rushing attack that can still lead the way, but they need to figure out how to score quickly. They simply haven't thrown the ball well enough to assume they can keep up with the Ragin' Cajuns for the entire sixty minutes.
Louisiana, 35 Miami (Ohio), 21

1 comment:

Bailey said...

Great post thankss

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