After nearly a month since the final rankings came out, the college football semifinal games will finally be played on Thursday. There is intrigue as the last two Heisman winners square off against each other, and there are a lot of angry Texans (and honorary ones like myself) rooting hard for Ohio State to lay an egg after beating out TCU and Baylor for the last playoff spot. New Years Eve and New Years Day have the potential to be the two most exciting days in sports in recent memory. I will provide my picks for each of these games in the order that they are played, with all times in CT. Please leave comments at the bottom of the page telling me how right (or wrong) you believe them to be.
Peach Bowl: #6 TCU vs. #9 Ole Miss – Wednesday, 11:30 a.m.
TCU enters this game with the second best offense in the country, and Ole Miss enters with the first best defense in the country. This is a truly good time to bring up the cliché of the Irresistible Force Paradox. In this instance, the unstoppable force will win out as TCU’s offense will prove to be too much to handle, and the anemic offense of Ole Miss will not be able to get things going against the 18th ranked TCU defense. TCU will win 27-10.
Fiesta Bowl: #10 Arizona vs. #20 Boise State – Wednesday, 3 p.m.
This game is Boise State’s first true test since losing Coach Chris Petersen to Washington earlier this year. They enter the game on an eight game winning streak, the most recent being the Mountain West championship against Fresno State. For Arizona, the team has looked really good at points this season (with wins against three ranked opponents), but they have also looked really bad (with losses to USC and UCLA and a blowout loss to Oregon). This game will be an offensive shootout for these two high powered offenses, and Boise State will prevail for third major bowl victory since 2007 with a 38-31 victory.
Orange Bowl: #7 Mississippi State vs. #12 Georgia Tech – Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Mississippi State enters this game losers of two of their last three games, each loss pushed them out of contention for the college football playoff. Georgia Tech, on the other hand, enters the game winners of two out of their last three (all against ranked opponents). However, the ACC championship game against Florida State exposed the porous defense of Georgia Tech and the issues of running the triple threat virtually exclusively. Mississippi State’s stout defense and above average offense will be too much for Georgia Tech, and Mississippi State will win the Orange Bowl 31-14.
Outback Bowl: #18 Wisconsin vs. #19 Auburn – Thursday, 11 a.m.
The last time that Wisconsin took the field, they got embarrassed by Ohio State in a game that Wisconsin was favored to win. Do not expect the same results this time. Running back Melvin Gordon will have a bounce back game against an Auburn defense that is ranked 59th in the country. The Auburn offense will be able to keep it close, but Wisconsin’s top 20 defense will be able to decisively end the game late. Wisconsin will win 34-28.
Cotton Bowl: #5 Baylor vs. #8 Michigan State – Thursday, 11:30 a.m.
Michigan State’s only two losses this season are against teams playing in the college football playoff. They are also ranked in the top 10 in the country for offense and the top 20 for defense. However, this Baylor team, that is first in the country in total offense, appears to be very motivated by their snub from the final four in the rankings. Many of the players that were expected to declare for the draft have decided to come back to Baylor for another year, and the team is looking to avenge itself for their bad loss last year at the Fiesta Bowl. Baylor’s offense will be too much to handle for Michigan State, and Bryce Petty will end his collegiate career with a 45-28 victory.
Citrus Bowl: #16 Missouri vs. #25 Minnesota – Thursday, 12 p.m.
Each of these teams performed much better than they were expected to this season. Missouri unexpectedly made their second straight SEC championship game (a loss to Alabama) and had a surprisingly strong defense that helped them win 10 games this season. For Minnesota, a dominant rushing attack helped them to be contenders in the Big Ten, but a terrible passing game kept them from taking the next step. In their two biggest games of the season, Minnesota was able to keep the score close against Ohio State and Wisconsin, but in neither game were they able to pull out a victory. The same can be expected for this game against a superior Missouri team. Missouri will win this one, 27-19.
Rose Bowl: #2 Oregon vs. #3 Florida State – Thursday, 4 p.m.
This is probably the most hyped game on the slate for these two days of college football. Florida State, the only undefeated team in the country, heads into this game looking to prove that they are the best team in the country. The 2013 Heisman winner, Jameis Winston, has not had a very good season for Florida State, but he always seems to come up big when it matter. For Oregon, and the 2014 Heisman winner, Marcus Mariota, they finally get a chance at a national title after many years of coming up just short in the rankings. Florida State has fallen behind early in almost every game this season, but they have been able to come back and win because of the opponents that they have faced. They will fall behind early in this game too, and Oregon’s high flying offense will not look back. Florida State will make a comeback attempt late but will fall short to Oregon, 48-34.
Sugar Bowl: #1 Alabama vs. #4 Ohio State – Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
Each of these teams have lost just once this season, and each are ranked in the top 20 for both offense and defense. The coaches of these two teams have won a combined six national championships and are considered the two best in the country. Ohio State has a disadvantage because they are using their third string quarterback due to injury. However, that did not seem to matter very much in the Big 10 championship game as Cardale Jones was able to throw for three touchdowns. But, this Alabama defense is much better than the Wisconsin defense that Jones faced in that game. Alabama has allowed 20 points or fewer in more than half of their games this season. This is a nearly impossible defense for any quarterback to dominate, especially one making just his second career start. Furthermore, the nearly impossible task for any team to slow down Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper will take its toll on Ohio State. Alabama will win this game in blowout fashion, 34-10.