This is the highlight of the holiday season for college football fans. The biggest games of the year on the biggest stage.
There are three bowl games before the two national playoff matchups:
- Outback Bowl
- Peach Bowl
- Citrus Bowl
They feature an undefeated school and a few teams that had their sights set on the final four.
It’s a full day of football, so let’s take a look at the three early games on New Year’s Day and try to pick a few winners (odds provided by bovada.lv).
Wolverines Defense No. 3 In The Nation
South Carolina vs. Michigan — This is Jim Harbaugh’s fourth season at Michigan, which has not fared well in bowl games for at least a decade. The Wolverines are 3-8 in their last 11 postseason games, while the Gamecocks are 4-1 in their last five.
The Gamecocks (8-4) have faced two outstanding defenses this season — Georgia and Clemson — and they scored 10 points in each game. They were blown out in both. Now, they meet the No. 3 defense in the nation in the Wolverines (8-4). Linebacker Devin Bush is the team leader with 94 tackles.
Michigan started the season off with four straight wins before running into quarterback issues and some Big Ten powerhouses in Michigan State and Penn State. They finished the regular season off by losing to Wisconsin and Ohio State. South Carolina won six of its first eight games before losing to the Bulldogs and Tigers.
The Gamecocks, 7-4-1 against the spread (ATS) this season, are 8-0 when allowing fewer than 184 rushing yards. The Wolverines, who are 5-6-1 ATS, are 8-0 when running for more than 103 yards.
The last time these two schools met in the postseason was the 2013 Outback Bowl — South Carolina beat Michigan 33-28.
VGB’s pick — Michigan (-7.5)
UCF Averages Almost 50 Points A Game
No. 12 Central Florida vs. No. 7 Auburn — The Tigers (10-3) have been giant killers all season long. First, it was Georgia. Then it was Alabama. Now they face the only undefeated team in the country in the Knights (12-0), the American Athletic Conference champions.
Auburn had a huge shot to make the national playoffs, but a loss to Georgia in the SEC final dropped the Tigers out of the top four. UCF, which two years ago went 0-12, beat Memphis for the second time this season to capture the AAC crown.
Jarrett Stidham had a subpar game in the SEC championship, but he finished the season with a 66.7 per cent pass rate with 17 touchdowns and four interceptions. Kerryon Johnson will carry the load as Auburn’s leading rusher gained 1,320 yards this season, including 17 touchdowns.
McKenzie Milton completed 69 per cent of his passes for the Knights, including 35 touchdown passes and nine interceptions.
UCF comes into the Peach Bowl as the nation’s top scoring team at 49.4 points per game, while Auburn is ranked ninth defensively at 17.3 points. The Tigers never allowed more than 28 points this season, while the Knights never scored fewer than 31.
VGB’s pick — Central Florida (+10)
Irish Rely Heavily On Ground Attack
No. 17 LSU vs. No. 14 Notre Dame — After a one-point loss to Georgia in the second week of the season, the Fighting Irish (9-3) won seven straight and looked headed to the national playoffs. Then the roof caved in with losses to Miami and Stanford.
Notre Dame, which was favored in all 13 games it played in this year, is 0-4 against the spread in its last four games.
The Fighting Irish meet a team that’s definitely coming into the Citrus Bowl with a lot of momentum. The Tigers (9-3) won six of their last seven and were 6-0 ATS in their last six games to finish off the schedule. Two of their three losses were to national playoff contenders in Alabama and Georgia.
Notre Dame will be missing some top receivers in this game, which will put even more pressure on the lackluster passing game. Brandon Wimbush completed less than 50 per cent of his passes, with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions.
If the Irish are to have any success at all, it will be in the running game as Josh Adams scored nine times and rushed for 1,386 yards this year. Wimbush led the team with 14 TDs on the ground.
The Tigers had a lot more success through the air than the Fighting Irish as senior quarterback Danny Etling threw for more than 2,200 yards with 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Derrius Guice is the star in the backfield as the junior gained 1,153 yards and 11 scores this season.
VGB’s pick — LSU (-3)