Top teams highlight final stretch of bowl games

For The Recorder
Friday, December 29, 2017

The final week of the bowl season has match-ups involving most of the Top 20 teams. No more made-for-TV games in empty stadiums, welcome to the big time:


TaxSlayer Bowl, Noon, ESPN

EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida

No. 23 Miss. State (8-4) vs. Louisville (8-4)

Line: Louisville by 6½ (63.5)

ATS: (Miss. St. 7-5; Lousvlle 5-7)

SCOUTING REPORT: Louisville QB Lamar Jackson’s combined rush and pass stats add up to almost 5,000 yards. Now in the homestretch of a Heisman winning career, he’s projected to be the first QB taken in the draft. With Jackson moving the ball, Louisville’s 332 first downs were second-most in the FBS.  … Bulldogs allowed the fewest first downs—155— immovable object against irresistable force. … QB Nick Fitzgerald is a dual threat playmaker and the MVP of last year’s St. Petersburg Bowl.


AutoZone Liberty Bowl, 12:30 p.m., ABC

Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Tenn.

No. 20 Memphis (10-2) vs. Iowa State (7-5)

Line: Memphis by 3½ (66.5)

ATS: (Mmphs 7-4; Iowa St. 10-2)

SCOUTING REPORT: Iowa State was best in the FBS against the spread and shocked Oklahoma and TCU outright. Running back David Montgomery is the Cyclones’ workhorse with 234 rushes and 35 catches for 1,382 total yards and 11 touchdowns. Cyclones lost three of their final four games. … Memphis opponents have converted on 17 of 26 fourth down opportunities; Tigers were Bottom 10 in total defense. QB Riley Ferguson fires 14-yard ropes; Anthony Miller’s 17 TD catches is second most in the FBS; Tigers’ 47.7 ppg is the second-highest. Memphis gets the home field advantage.


PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, 4 p.m., ESPN

University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona

No. 9 Penn State (10-2) vs. No. 11 Washington (10-2)

Line: Penn State by 2 (55)

ATS: (Penn St. 8-4; Wash 7-5)

SCOUTING REPORT: Nittany Lions have the seventh-highest scoring offense (41.6 ppg) in the FBS; average margin of victory was by 25 points. Defense tied for fourth nationally  with 14 fumble recoveries. Coach James Franklin iced Ga. State field goal kicker to preserve a 56-0 shutout. Saquoun Barclay was one of just three players to have over 2,000 all purpose yards, and he did it against the second toughest strength of schedule in the FBS. .… Washington ranked fifth in total defense. … Huskies’ QB Jake Browning is a 69 percent passer; uses short routes and looks for Dante Pettis (62 catches). RBs Salvon Ahmed and Myles Gaskin have respective 58- and 57-yard TD runs.


Capital One Orange Bowl, 8 p.m., ESPN

Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida

No. 6 Wisconsin(12-1) vs. No. 10 Miami (10-2)

Line: Wisconsin by 6½ (45.5)

ATS: (Wisc. 8-5; Miami 5-7) 

SCOUTING REPORT: Badgers and Canes ranked as high as Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, this season.. Canes’ 105 total tackles for loss are second in FBS. …  Miami was 9-0 the day after Thanksgiving, but lost by ten at Pitt and followed that with a 35-point drubbing to Clemson. … Badgers dropped the Big 10 title game to Ohio State. Anchored by a massive offensive line, Badgers were second in third down conversions and time of possession (35-25 min.). …  Freshman Jonathan Taylor lugged the rock more than 20 times a game, ammassing 1,847 yards and scoring 13 TDs. … Critics note that Badgers played the weaker side of the Big 10.



Outback Bowl, Noon, ESPN2

Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.

Michigan (8-4) vs. So. Carolina (8-4)

Line: Mich. by 7½ (43)

ATS: (Mich. 6-6; So. Carolina 7-4-1)

SCOUTING REPORT: No shame in Gamecocks’ final two losses against No. 1 Georgia and No. 3 Clemson. … Wolverines were three bricks shy of a load against FBS iron— losing to Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State— but can’t see Jim Harbaugh taking a back seat to an SEC retread like Will Muschamp. … Wolverines offset a bad offense with a Dan Brown defense that’s third in total defense and second in first down defense.


Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, 12:30 p.m., ESPN

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

No. 7 Auburn (10-3) vs. No. 12 UCF (12-0)

Line: Auburn by 9½ (67)

ATS: (Auburn 5-5-2; UCF 7-3-1)

SCOUTING REPORT: Auburn played the toughest schedule in the FBS this season according to teamrankings.com, and beat two of the three teams in the FBS championship. … UCF was fifth in total offense (540 ypg) and scored an average of two first quarter touchdowns a game. QB McKenzie Milton’s 35 TD passes second only to Heisman winner Baker Mayfield’s 41. … Key stat: Knights needed OT to beat the only ranked opponent they played, No. 20 Memphis. If the real Tigers show up, it’ll be no contest.


Citrus Bowl, 1 p.m., ABC

Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida

No. 17 LSU (9-3) vs. No. 14 Notre Dame (9-3)

Line: LSU by 3 (51.5)

ATS: (LSU 7-5; Notre Dame 7-5)

SCOUTING REPORT: Tigers were an unremarkable 53rd in total offense, but 13th in total defense. The “D” anchored by Donte Jackson and Greedy Williams, second and third team All Americans, respectively. … Notre Dame was exposed by Miami during the ‘Canes 41-8 thrashing at Hard Rock Stadium. Irish offense has averaged under 20 points the last three games. … Tigers whupped the Irish 41-17 in the ’07 Sugar Bowl.



5 p.m., ESPN

Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.

No. 3 Georgia (12-1) vs. No. 2 Oklahoma (12-1)

Line: Ga. by 2 (60.5)

ATS: (Georgia 8-4; Ok. 7-5) 

SCOUTING REPORT: Sooner quarterback Baker Mayfield is one of only two who threw for over 4,000 yards; named runaway winner of the 2017 Heisman Tropy. … Mayfield will be challenged by a Bulldogs defense that allowed the third-fewest passing yards in the FBS. … Georgia freshman QB Jake Fromm was sixth in FBS passer rating (168.2) …. Bulldogs have scored all but twice in 50 trips to the end zone. … Georgia avenged its earlier loss to Auburn by beating the Tigers in the SEC championship game, 28-7.



Sugar Bowl, New Orleans Superdome

No. 4 Alabama (11-1) vs. No. 1 Clemson (12-1)

Line: Alabama by 3 (47.5)

ATS: (Ala. 5-7; Clemson 7-3-2)

SCOUTING REPORT: The Tide’s eight turnovers ties it with LSU for the the fewest in the FBS; Bama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and wideout Calvin Ridley are both projected first round picks. Fearless QB Jalen Hurts was sacked 21 times and threw 15 TD passes with only one pick. … Clemson defense has 44 sacks and has held opponents to 12.8 points per game. De Shaq Lawson is nation’s top-rated edge rusher, according to Pro Football Focus. Offense has neither a 1,000-yard rusher or receiver, and quarterback Kelly Bryant is 46th in passing efficiency. Alabama’s lone loss was to Auburn; Clemson lost to Syracuse, 27-24, after OddsShark predicted a 49-14 Clemson blowout.


Jan. 8

CFP National Championship,

8 p.m. ESPN

Rose Bowl winner vs. Sugar Bowl winner, Atlanta, Ga.

PICK: ALABAMA over Georgia (TOT. 53 PTS.)