It’s time for another Bowl Season — and that means filling out picks sheets to show off your college-football knowledge. To give you an edge, we’ve assembled our college-expert picks for each of the games from Thursday into the New Year’s weekend.
In this installment, Josh Burton ranks his picks from most to least confident:
#1 – Alabama vs. Cincinnati
While it’s great that a Group of Five team finally gets to make an appearance in the College Football Playoff, it’s going to be really tough for the Bearcats to match up with a loaded Crimson Tide team. The college football odds rightfully have Alabama as two-touchdown favorites, and Nick Saban and Co. should cruise against the talented but mostly untested Bearcats.
#2 – Ohio State vs. Utah
The Buckeyes’ brutal loss to the Michigan Wolverines at the Big House in November prevented them from playing for the Big Ten Championship and possibly the College Football Playoff. But, Ohio State still has a really explosive offense with multiple first round talent receivers, and that should be more than enough against Utah, which beat Oregon twice but played a pretty weak overall Pac-12 schedule.
Winner: Ohio State
#3 – Tennessee vs. Purdue
Purdue’s signature win this season came against Michigan State, however the Boilermakers were pretty inconsistent from week to week. Tennessee lost five games but four of the five losses were to elite-level teams, so the Volunteers could have easily been a 10-win team in a weaker conference. If you’re making college football picks, look for Tennessee signal-caller Hendon Hooker to have a big game.
#4 – Penn State vs. Arkansas
This game is another example of a SEC team just being too athletic and explosive on both sides of the ball for a Big Ten opponent. Arkansas’ promising season got sidelined a bit with a mid-year three-game losing streak but Sam Pittman’s team still has a really good defense that should be able to shut down Penn State’s Sean Clifford.
#5 – Iowa vs. Kentucky
Make this another SEC over Big Ten pick. As the entire country saw in the Big Ten Championship, Iowa really struggles to score so it won’t be easy for the Hawkeyes to stop the well-rounded Wildcats, especially if they face an early deficit. The key for Iowa will be to force Will Levis into throwing a few interceptions, which he was (mostly) good at avoiding this year.
#6 – Ole Miss vs. Baylor
The Sugar Bowl should be one of the most intriguing bowl games on the slate. Both Ole Miss and Baylor lost just twice in tough conferences and have strong defenses in addition to multiple explosive offensive playmakers. However, the Rebels get the slight edge because their quarterback, Matt Corral, is fully healthy while the Bears’ starter, Gerry Bohanon, hasn’t played since November 20th, when he got hurt against Kansas State.
Winner: Ole Miss
#7 – Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma State
Notre Dame’s new head coach Marcus Freeman looks like a home run hire, but it’ll be tough for him and his still-incomplete coaching staff to take down the Cowboys, who were basically just a yard short of winning the Big 12 and possibly having a chance to make the College Football Playoff. Oklahoma State is just too good all-around for the Fighting Irish.
Winner: Oklahoma State
#8 – Georgia vs. Michigan
Michigan’s successive beatdowns of Ohio State and Iowa were incredibly impressive but the Bulldogs — especially coming off a loss — are literally a different animal. The only team able to somewhat keep Georgia in check was Alabama, and it’s clear that Alabama is in a class above these teams. The Wolverines need their defensive line to dominate in order to have a chance to win and even that might not be enough.
#9 – Washington State vs. Miami
This game is close to a tossup, which is essentially what the BetUS sportsbook has it as (with the Cougars a very slight favorite). Washington State should get the edge here if only because the Hurricanes just hired Mario Cristobal as their new head coach to replace Manny Diaz and it’s hard to quickly turn around and win a tough bowl game weeks after cleaning house from a coaching perspective. Jayden de Laura has been really good for the Cougars too.
Winner: Washington State
#10 – Wisconsin vs. Arizona State
The Badgers bounced back well from a 1-3 start to the season and seemed to have found a groove with the two-headed backfield attack of Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi even as Graham Mertz has continued to struggle through the air. The Sun Devils put together a good season but they just haven’t faced the consistently high level of competition that Wisconsin has, which should make a big difference.
#11 – Wake Forest vs. TBD
Texas A&M just dropped out of the Gator Bowl due to COVID issues, so it’s anyone’s guess who Wake Forest will play instead. Since any team would have to be much worse than the Aggies, the Demon Deacons should have a huge advantage against its opponent, regardless of which team it is.
Winner: Wake Forest
#12 – North Carolina vs. South Carolina
The Gamecocks were about as mediocre as it gets in a brutally tough SEC as they basically alternated wins and losses for the entire year. Offense was a big issue for South Carolina so it could be difficult to play the Tar Heels, who score a ton of points. Sam Howell should have a big day.
Winner: North Carolina
#13 – Michigan State vs. Pittsburgh
Another really good matchup between one team (the Spartans) with an elite ground game and one team (the Panthers) with one of the country’s best passing offenses. But, both teams will be without their best players, as Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker and Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett each opted out of the Peach Bowl in preparation for the NFL Draft. It’s harder to replace a quarterback than a running back, though, so side with Michigan State if you’re betting online.
Winner: Michigan State
#14 – Central Michigan vs. Boise State
The Broncos are pretty big favorites over the Chippewas as Boise State’s quarterback Hank Bachmeier has been pretty battle-tested against tough competition this season and should slice through a MAC opponent that gave up over 26 points a game.