The college football season is coming to a close, which means it’s once again time for high-profile bowl matchups and the long-anticipated College Football Playoff.
This year’s New Year’s Six slate features a number of compelling matchups including a Clemson vs. Ohio State rematch, a potential shootout between Oklahoma and Florida, and undefeated Cincinnati looking to prove itself against a top-10 Georgia team.
Here’s a preview of each New Year’s Six bowl game to cap off the college football season.
Cotton Bowl: #7 Florida Gators vs. #6 Oklahoma Sooners
Odds: Florida -3
The Cotton Bowl will be a battle of high-powered offenses as the Florida Gators and the Oklahoma Sooners meet, each averaging more than 40 points per game.
The Gators enter this matchup with three losses, but two of those losses came at the hands of top-five teams, including the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. Record aside, this Florida team is explosive on offense, particularly through the air. Behind Heisman Trophy finalist Kyle Trask, the Gators lead the nation with 388.4 passing yards per game and rank No. 9 in the country scoring offense with 41.6 yards per game.
Oklahoma has a prolific offense of its own, ranking No. 12 in the country with 41.1 points per game. The Sooners have scored more than 30 points in all but of their games this season, including a pair of 62-point performances.
As good as these offenses are, however, the defenses have struggled. Neither team ranks in the top-40 in scoring defense and both have struggled against strong offenses this season, with Florida allowing 52 points to Alabama and 41 against Texas A&M and Oklahoma allowing 45 points against Texas.
Expect a high-scoring affair that goes well over the game total.
Pick: Over 72
Peach Bowl: #8 Cincinnati vs. #9 Georgia
Odds: Georgia -7
The Cincinnati Bearcats and the Georgia Bulldogs meet in this year’s Sugar Bowl in a battle between the top Group of Five team and a perennial national title contender.
Cincinnati is one of just three undefeated teams in the New Year’s Six, but the only one not in the playoff. Though they aren’t from a Power Five conference, the Bearcats have been without doubt one of the most complete and dominant teams in the country this season, ranking in the top-15 in both scoring offense and scoring defense and boasting the nation’s fourth-best scoring margin.
Georgia has had some offensive struggles this season, stemming from inconsistency at the quarterback position. The Bulldogs started freshman quarterback D’Wan Mathis to start the season, but he was replaced by former walk-on quarterback Stetson Bennet IV midway through the season-opening win over Arkansas. After sustaining an injury, Bennett was supplanted by former five-star quarterback JT Daniels and scored more than 45 points in both games with him at the helm.
Both teams enter this game with something to prove, but Cincinnati has been the more complete and consistent team this season and yet, the Bearcats are still a 7-point underdog. The wrong team is favored in this game.
Pick: Cincinnati +7
Fiesta Bowl: #25 Oregon Ducks vs. #10 Iowa State Cyclones
Odds: Iowa State -4
This year’s Fiesta Bowl matchup features the two lowest-ranked opponents of any New Year’s Six game, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a compelling matchup between the Oregon Ducks and the Iowa State Cyclones.
Oregon was not even supposed to be in the Pac-12 Championship game, but after the Washington Huskies were unable to compete due to an increase in positive COVID-19 tests, the Ducks filled in and defeated the USC Trojans to earn the Fiesta Bowl bid. The Ducks have received much national attention this year, but they have just one loss on the year and rank in the top-30 in scoring offense.
Iowa State has three losses on the season, but the Cyclones have still been one of the more complete teams in college football this year, finishing the season with a top-25 scoring margin and ranking in the top-35 in both scoring offense and scoring defense. Iowa State is one of the better rushing teams in the country, ranking No. 16 nationally with 5.3 yards per carry.
The Ducks may have the better record heading into this game, but the Cyclones are the far more complete team and should win this game handily.
Pick: Iowa State -4
Orange Bowl: #13 North Carolina Tar Heels vs. #5 Texas A&M Aggies
Odds: Texas A&M -7
The North Carolina Tar Heels and the Texas A&M Aggies meet in a high-profile ACC vs. SEC showdown in this season’s Orange Bowl.
The Tar Heels enter this game coming off a dominant 62-24 win over the Miami Hurricanes in which running backs Michael Carter and Javonte Williams combined for nearly 550 rushing yards. North Carolina has been prolific on offense all season, ranking No. 6 nationally with 42.6 points per game. The Tar Heel defense, however, has been lackluster, allowing 30.3 points per game, good for just No. 73 in the nation.
Texas A&M has not been particularly dominant on either side of the ball this season, ranking just No. 40 in scoring offense and No. 26 in scoring defense, but the Aggies have just one loss on the season against the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide and have a top-10 win over the Florida Gators.
The Aggies are more well-balanced than North Carolina, but the Tar Heels have a stronger offense than Texas A&M can keep up with. Expect North Carolina to pull out the victory here, even as an underdog.
Pick: North Carolina +7
Rose Bowl Semifinal: #4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. #1 Alabama Crimson Tide
Odds: Alabama -19
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Alabama Crimson Tide meet in a College Football Playoff semifinal matchup that will serve as a rematch of the 2013 BCS National Championship Game, and once again, Alabama is a heavy favorite.
The Crimson Tide have been the most dominant team in the country this season. They enter this matchup with a perfect 11-0 record and wins over three top-10 teams and have college football’s highest scoring margin this season, winning games by an average of 30.3 points per game. Alabama’s team strength is its offense, ranking second in the nation in scoring, averaging 49.7 points per game.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, limps into this game following a lopsided loss to the No. 2 Clemson Tigers in the ACC Championship Game. The Fighting Irish were previously undefeated before the loss to Clemson and do boast a top-10 scoring margin this season, winning games by an average of 16.5 points per game, but the lopsided nature of the loss is cause for concern.
Alabama is the top-ranked team in the country for a reason and Notre Dame did even look much like a playoff contender in its last game. It’s a lopsided spread, but this is going to be a lopsided game.
Pick: Alabama -19
Sugar Bowl Semifinal: #3 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. #2 Clemson Tigers
The Ohio State Buckeyes and Clemson Tigers meet in the Sugar Bowl in a rematch of last year’s College Football Playoff semifinals, where the Tigers beat the Buckeyes 29-23.
Ohio State has only played six games this season, but it’s clear the Buckeyes have one of the most prolific offenses in the country, through both the air and the ground. Ohio State is led by Justin Fields at quarterback and one of the top receiving duos in the country in Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. However, it’s the rushing attack that’s led the way this season as the Buckeyes rank No. 3 in the nation with 6.1 yards per carry and are coming off a 331-yard rushing performance from running back Trey Sermon.
Clemson is one of the most complete teams in the nation, ranking in the top-15 nationally in both scoring offense and scoring defense. The Tigers rank No. 3 nationally in scoring margin, beating opponents by an average of 25.2 points per game this season. Clemson enters this matchup coming off its most dominant win of the season in which it defeated No. 4 Notre Dame 34-10 in the ACC Championship game.
The Tigers are the more complete and proven team in this matchup, but Ohio State has the talent to hang in this game and plenty of motivation after last year’s loss. The Buckeyes might not win, but expect a close game from start to finish.
Pick: Ohio State +7