What To Expect On Saturday: CFB Bowl Preview Special

The 2018 College Football Season Finale

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What To Expect On Saturday: CFB Bowl Preview Special

Joey Goodsir

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Way way back in the early weeks of September, I humbly released my first article, a preview on the second week of College Football.  That one article has soon become the parent of 15 more previews, four podcasts (with more to come), and a consistent feature of The Forest Scout.

Even though I am proud of my over-3/4ths-right current picking resume, I am genuinely grateful for all of you who incomprehensibly put up with a crazy guy like me covering a likewise crazy sport this whole season, and for all of you who didn’t put up with me, celebrate the fact that yes, this is finally it for the 2018-19 CFB Season.

Like the season itself, these previews close up shop for the year with the wild tradition of bowl season. Although finals are on our minds, soon enough small sponsored exhibition games will grow in value as we creep further into Winter Break, until everything is decided in CFP style by its end, and in 2019’s start.

If you’re looking for New Year’s Six (the big bowl games) previews, including the playoff semifinals, along with a simple bowl slate of every single other game with picks, you are in the right place.

It is probably a great idea refer back to this article to easily know where you can catch all the games this break. I know I probably will.

Considering the size of this special preview this week, let’s not provide any further introduction, dive into a quick review of last week, and get right into the main event…

About Last Week…

Not a lot to update with this week. Army beat Navy, improving my record to 104-34 (75.4%, hopefully all of these bowl picks boost this to finish the year off).  Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray won the Heisman Trophy.

One last time for 2018, commence preview!

December 29 Slate


Peach Bowl:

#10 Florida vs. #7 Michigan

Quick Essentials

When: 11:00 CT


Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta, GA)

Series History: UM 33-17 in 2017 (UM leads 4-0 all-time)

The New Year’s Six slate consisting of CFB’s oldest and most prestigious bowl games begins in Atlanta on December 29 (yes, December 29 is not January 1, and that makes the term used for these games odd).

To give you full perspective on this game for one second, I will briefly remove my sportswriter hat to put on my Michigan fan hat, because I am and we all are sick and tired of playing the Florida Gators in front of a neutral crowd. We killed them in 2008, did it again in 2016, and beat them last year. As I talked about with Michael Raupp on the podcast, Rashan Gary’s decision not to play this game probably has been caused not only by the fact that it is not the playoff, but just an unexciting bowl game from the Michigan perspective.

Additionally, the fact that in their last game that happened in Columbus, Michigan fans have understood their current status as a high level tier two team that can’t quite break into that prestigious tier one. A currently stubborn mindset has led to them losing to those elite teams — and staying below them at “really good but not elite” — in heartbreaking fashion. Until those stubborn aspects change, Michigan fans are used to this, and have now understood to expect complete emotional-stabbing-to-the-point-of-numbness, unless it’s basketball (check out that team because they are kind of elite).

Putting my sportswriter hat back on considering that status has been clarified, I can say very clearly that this mindset is not healthy for Michigan going into this game, and it could be unhealthy enough to get in the way of a win. People may downplay this possibility, but it really could happen. Why wouldn’t an embarrassment against Florida (of all teams) be added to the grievance list? It seems too draining to be false. I guess The Michigan Difference isn’t always positive.  

Likewise in an aspect of this game that could be downplayed, a win would be an underappreciated big step for the Jim Harbaugh era. If he can tighten this team, that would be a testament to his coaching talent and his ability to succumb these obstacles. As a fan I hope (but certainly for mental health don’t expect anymore) that this big step will happen, but as a sportswriter I think that it’s a very possible win considering the matchup, and the realization that one horribly dark turn doesn’t completely negate the factual truth of this Michigan team’s status as the best record yet under Harbaugh (with a win).

On the other side of the sideline, the Florida Gators have had excitingly mediocre play just one year removed from a coach firing (former head coach Jim McElwain is actually Michigan’s receivers coach in this game, and will be leading Central Michigan’s program next year). Dan Mullen has kept a team at second in the SEC East, with Georgia solely stepping in their way.

Regardless of their finish, the Gators made some serious noise, including a nationally viewed upset of the LSU Tigers. All in all, it is hard to ignore the quick success these  Gators have brought to a rebuilding Florida program.

This game is filled with two offenses who have quarterback talent (Feleipe Franks, Shea Patterson) but establish their identity on the ground, with Karan Higdon wearing maize and blue matching up with Lamical Perine, wearing blue and orange. This battle has heavy stakes in deciding the game, and it is one to keep an eye on.

Although Michigan’s well-known defensive front now lacks NFL-draftee Rashan Gary, backups such as Kwity Paye and Josh Uche have gained experience through replacing Gary in his time of injury throughout the season, showing impressive results. This trend could very easily continue and it’s best not to overplay the hole at defensive end, as it is one this defense is prepared for.

Now for Michael Raupp (he’s back on here for Michigan games!) to deliver his definitive predictions on this matchup…

Michigan has won the last two matchups against Florida under fourth-year head coach Jim Harbaugh. After an embarrassing 62-39 loss against Ohio State, Michigan will attempt to get their first New Year’s Day Six bowl game win under Harbaugh’s belt. Florida’s signature has been their two headed running game, but All-American linebacker Devin Bush will shut down the Gators. Harbaugh will finally pocket his first major bowl game victory, quieting the critics, for now that is.

Michigan Wins, 28-20


Cotton Bowl Classic (CFP Semifinal):

#3 Notre Dame vs. #2 Clemson

Quick Essentials

When: 3:00 CT


Where: AT&T Stadium (Arlington, TX)

Series History: Clemson 24-22 (Clemson leads 2-1 all-time)

The entertaining opener of this day (Peach Bowl) ends in the afternoon, leading the rest of the day toward the two games on the slate that are the most looked forward to: the two semifinal games that will create our National Championship matchup.

This doubleheader begins at Jerryworld where ACC Conference Champions Clemson  will take on the undefeated Notre Dame Conference Champions: the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

These two teams have both featured long seasons with consistent results, but some inconsistency below the surface, specifically at quarterback. The Tigers had to make a decision with two solid QBs throughout their early-season wins, and soon solidified upon the experienced Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence went on to perfectly execute Clemson’s journey through an otherwise dismal ACC display this year to place themselves once again in these semifinals.

Meanwhile, the Irish’s season-starting QB Brandon Wimbush displayed vast athleticism and tremendous scrambling capability, but atrocious inconsistency throwing the ball. The decision to move toward Junior Ian Book, which lead Notre Dame to a comfortable place to run the table in a (similarly to Clemson) less-stimulating-than-expected schedule.

It seems clear that Notre Dame’s offensive capability in this game will be the deciding factor, considering Clemson’s defensive strengths in addition to their offensive ones. They will need to put up as many points to provide for flexibility against Trevor Lawrence’s offense. This game is a pretty good matchup in regards to offensive/defensive rating, but the only relative (and still not bad) outlier is that Irish offense. Ian Book will have a legacy-building game in the scenario of a Notre Dame victory.

While Book has proven to be a trustworthy candidate to have such a performance, it is not a complete securing factor considering the defensive power Clemson has built and displayed all year. This matchup won’t be legendary as a result, but a little bird of foreshadowing tells me it will definitely be the more exciting of the two playoff semifinals.

Clemson Wins, 41-30


Orange Bowl (CFP Semifinal):

#4 Oklahoma vs. #1 Alabama

Quick Essentials

When: 7:00 CT


Where: Hard Rock Stadium (Miami, FL)

Series History:  OU 45-31 in 2014 (OU leads 3-1-1 all-time)

Jerryworld’s festivities are followed up in Miami to cap off the night, as the tide roll into a matchup with the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback in Kyler Murray.

The Oklahoma Sooners have an amazingly unstoppable offense with the aforementioned Heisman Trophy winning quarterback. The reason why the Heisman Trophy, the Big XII Championship, and a Playoff Appearance came to Norman is the result of the single most dominant unit in 2018 CFB. The only scar left on their season was a Red River Shootout loss, which was taken back in a revenge matchup for the Sooners in the conference championship.

Although this Oklahoma team contains an unstoppable offensive force, that force has been put under pressure to maintain it’s unstoppability, with an atrocious defense backing them up and driving up the scores of the games by wild amounts.

While all of this happens out west, Alabama quarterback and Heisman nominee Tua Tagovailoa leads an all-business evil empire that is ready to overwhelm all teams on both sides of the ball. The team exits the Southeastern Conference dominant champions, and Nick Saban hopes to continue the dominance in their most important game by far.

Another layer of this matchup lies a rare opportunity for Alabama to seek revenge against a team that most recently stole a Sugar Bowl Championship from them. It would be wild if Saban chose not to use this as a tremendous motivating force.

I can’t seem to waste any more time previewing this game, as the prediction seems pretty clear. While those basketball scores happened in the Big XII, they will not happen against the Crimson Tide. Unless the Sooner defense steps way out of its identity, there is no way Tua and Bama’s offense will be stopped. Additionally, any success Murray may have will be against a military-grade defense that will at least limit him in some form.

Oklahoma unquestionably deserved this bid, but this result is exactly why college football needs to stay away from committees and find more sensible and enticing matchups in a new playoff system.

This is gonna get ugly.

Alabama Wins, 56-38


New Year’s Day Slate


Fiesta Bowl:

#11 LSU vs. #8 UCF

Quick Essentials

When: 12:00 CT


Where: State Farm Stadium (Glendale, AZ)

Series History: No Previous Matchups!

After an interesting New Year’s Six slate on the previous Saturday surrounding the playoff, the three remaining traditional events take place to fill New Year’s Day. It begins in Arizona, with this interesting matchup that the CFB world will keep their eyes on closely.

The UCF Knights have once again refused to lose. Regardless of this success, the committee has not recognized that, mainly sighting their strength of schedule.

Although the last game was coupled with the devastating injury of their starting quarterback, they finished undefeated once again, and will get a quality matchup to finish their season and potentially quell that strength-of-schedule argument, once again. All of this is potentially leading to a claimed National Championship for UCF, once again.

On the other sideline is an LSU team that had some serious success this year, and if not for the elephant in their division, could have been playing for an SEC Championship. This is a team that wanted a ton, and is getting a quality bowl game but not quite what they wanted – a clear recipe for upset alert. Ed Orgeron is going to have to prepare this LSU team not to overlook this game in any way. There is significantly less danger in this scenario than Auburn last year, but it still remains prevalent.

LSU features a strong defense that has brought them the success they have gotten this year, and it will be a key force against UCF, a typical American Conference offensive power that has atypically sprung up to top ten success for two years now.

This game adds up to be quite interesting with factors balancing out both teams. The only one that sets things off balance is the fact that UCF is weakened by QB McKenzie Milton’s injury. This seems to give some very crucial edge to an LSU team with a big step up in defense, as well as an overall program that is built at a level that understands not to look over dangerous games like these. Entertaining game for sure, but not another UCF National Championship.

LSU Wins, 42-38


Rose Bowl Game:

#9 Washington vs. #6 Ohio State

Quick Essentials

When: 4:00 CT


Where: Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA)

Series History: OSU 33-14 in 2007 (OSU leads 8-3 all-time)

The afternoon of New Year’s Day is synonymous with this, the “Granddaddy of them all”, the oldest bowl game in the sport.

While we all hype up the playoff matchups and look forward to watching those, it is always this game that receives ratings that are only topped by the National Championship as a result of a reliable habit of manifesting fantastic football games. While the Rose Bowl Game may not continue to have the technical importance it used to, it most certainly maintains a ton of that emotionally.

Obviously the leading story out of this game is that it has been confirmed to be Urban Meyer’s last. The coach made his decision to retire upon the season’s conclusion shortly after the Buckeyes secured their Big Ten Championship against Northwestern. While it may be a less sympathetic and praising event from a national perspective as the result of Urban Meyer’s current reputation, it will certainly motivate OSU into another one of their top performances.

Out of the pacific coast, the Washington Huskies jumped in front of their rivals in a snowy Battle for the Apple Cup to secure their ticket to Pasadena. Washington boasts a strong team in the trenches, perfectly suited for a Big Ten Matchup in a Rose Bowl Game.

Although Ohio State Quarterback and Heisman Nominee Dwayne Haskins will have a leading performance to complete a legendary season, and potentially his career as a Buckeye, the main factor in this game will be entirely upon the battle at the line of scrimmage between the Washington offense and Ohio State defense. Washington will have to create opportunities to score early and often to remove Haskins from being a factor in the game.

I think that while placement was correct in the rankings in regards to the Ohio State vs. Oklahoma argument, I believe that OSU will end up with a better bowl season as a result of their dominant quarterback play that additionally includes existing running and defensive weapons. While the Buckeyes haven’t been at their best all year, the Rose Bowl will prove to be another one of those exclusive games in which their performances will be at their best.

Ohio State Wins, 42-21


Sugar Bowl:

#15 Texas vs. #5 Georgia

Quick Essentials

When: 7:45 CT


Where: The Superdome (New Orleans, LA)

Series History: UGA 10-9 in 1984 (Texas leads 3-1 all-time)

As that previous battle between the B1G/PAC12’s best leads the first day of 2019 into nighttime, the Big XII/SEC battle commences to close out the New Year’s Six slate.

The Texas Longhorns have had both an extremely exciting and extremely frustrating season, losing to Oklahoma in a rivalry rematch for the conference championship. This frustrating sentiment can lead to a big performance in this game to finish off the year on a positive note.

Unfortunately, Georgia shares those frustrations following the SEC Championship loss. Not only was there a heartbreaking defeat, but their legitimate chance of victory very late was lost by themselves, leaving them just barely out of the playoff.

The Bulldogs boast a powerful defense with a comparable offense, while Texas almost goes exactly the opposite direction considering their Big XII roots. For this reason, any limitation done by the Texas defense will be the biggest difference maker in the Longhorns’ efforts to win.

It seems clear that Texas can’t deliver upon that requirement, which is why Georgia’s offense will make the biggest statement of all position groups in the game, leading to a statement win by the Bulldogs in New Orleans to close out the bowl season.

Georgia Wins, 38-20


Other Bowl Game Rapid-Fire Picks

(These are all the other games in action this bowl season, using their real, common names and not their gimmicky sponsorships, picks bolded as usual)

Saturday, December 15

Cure Bowl: Tulane vs. Louisiana (12:30 CT, CBSSN)

New Mexico Bowl: Utah State vs. North Texas (1:00 CT, ESPN)

Las Vegas Bowl: Arizona State vs. #21 Fresno State (2:30 CT, ABC)

Camellia Bowl: Georgia Southern vs. Eastern Michigan (4:30 CT, ESPN)

New Orleans Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Appalachian State (8:00 CT, ESPN)


Tuesday, December 18

Boca Bowl: UAB vs. Northern Illinois (6:00 CT, ESPN)


Wednesday, December 19

Frisco Bowl: San Diego State vs. Ohio (7:00 CT, ESPN)


Thursday, December 20

Gasparilla Bowl: Marshall @ USF (7:00 CT, ESPN)


Friday, December 21

Bahamas Bowl: Florida International vs. Toledo (11:30 CT, ESPN)

Potato Bowl: Western Michigan vs. BYU (3:00 CT, ESPN)


Saturday, December 22

Birmingham Bowl: Memphis vs. Wake Forest (11:00 CT, ESPN)

Armed Forces Bowl: Houston vs. Army (2:30 CT, ESPN)

Mobile Bowl: Buffalo vs. Troy (6:00, ESPN)

Hawaii Bowl: Hawaii vs. Louisiana Tech (9:30 CT, ESPN)


Boxing Day

Heart of Dallas (First Responder) Bowl: Boston College vs. #25 Boise State (12:30 CT, ESPN)

Motor City Bowl: Minnesota vs. Georgia Tech (4:15 CT, ESPN)

Cactus Bowl: California vs. TCU (8:00 CT, ESPN)


Thursday, December 27

Independence Bowl: Temple vs. Duke (12:30 CT, ESPN)

Pinstripe Bowl: Miami vs. Wisconsin (4:15 CT, ESPN)

Bluebonnet (Texas) Bowl: Baylor vs. Vanderbilt (8:00 CT, ESPN)


Friday, December 28

Music City Bowl: Purdue vs. Auburn (12:30 CT, ESPN)

Camping World Bowl: #16 West Virginia vs. #20 Syracuse (4:15 CT, ESPN)

Alamo Bowl: #24 Iowa State vs. #13 Washington State (8:00 CT, ESPN)


Saturday, December 29 (Non-NY6)

Queen City (Belk) Bowl: South Carolina vs. Virginia (11:00 CT, ABC)

Arizona Bowl: Arkansas State vs. Nevada (12:15 CT, CBSSN)


New Year’s Eve

Military Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech (11:00 CT, ESPN)

Sun Bowl: Stanford vs. Pittsburgh (1:00 CT, CBS)

San Francisco (Redbox) Bowl: Michigan State vs. Oregon (2:00 CT, FOX)

Liberty Bowl: #23 Missouri vs. Oklahoma State (2:45 CT, ESPN)

Holiday Bowl: #22 Northwestern vs. #17 Utah (6:00 CT, FS1)

Gator Bowl: NC State vs. #19 Texas A&M (6:30 CT, ESPN)


New Year’s Day (Non-NY6)

Hall of Fame (Outback) Bowl: #18 Mississippi State vs. Iowa (11:00 CT, ESPN2)

Citrus Bowl: #14 Kentucky vs. #12 Penn State (12:00 CT, ABC)


National Championship Game: Cotton Bowl Classic Champion vs. Orange Bowl Champion: January 7, 7:00 CT, ESPN, Levi’s Stadium (Santa Clara, CA)

I will not be doing a formal written preview for this game, so you can catch my thoughts on the morning of the game on the next episode of It Matters Now-The Postseason Football Podcast with Michael Raupp. Currently, I have Clemson and Alabama picked to face each other in the National Championship game, with Alabama winning the National Championship once again (sigh).


Enjoy bowl season and your winter break, everyone!

Thanks for all the support with all of the previews this season, and see you next year.

Photo Courtesy: CBS Sports