Nick Saban is excited for the #BOWLEXTRAVAGANZA. Are you? Did we pick his team? Nonsensical third question? Find out below!
Welcome back to Don’t Call It A Picks Competition, our weekly column where Matt, Bob and Harry pick five college football games against the spread and make appalling jokes at pretty much everyone’s expense. As always, you’re invited to pick with us in the comment section and we’ll post the standings each week.
This week is the season finale, and to celebrate we’ll be picking all eight New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day bowl games!
We’ve made it, gang. College football season is nearly in the books and the College Football Playoff is around the corner. In honor of the occasion, and for the second straight year, we are closing out DCIAPC with a massive BOWL EXTRAVAGANZA. This week, we’ll be firing out more bowls than a Color Me Mine and I couldn’t be more elated. Let’s get right into it.
In games we picked last week:
- Toledo (+2.5) romped Temple on their way to an impressive victory under an interim head coach.
- Boise State (-8) out-gained Northern Illinois (which is not a bad team!) by over 600 total yards in the most lopsided defeat in recent college football history.
- Washington (-8.5) was somehow slated against a Conference USA team and performed appropriately.
- Washington State (-2.5) covered and won against Miami in Al Golden’s coaching staff’s magnum opus on their way out the door in Coral Gables. I would be angry if the debacle weren’t so damn funny.
- Nebraska (+6.5) actually beat UCLA and pretty convincingly at that! I say this without a hint of sarcasm, for real: the Big Ten is the best conference in the country this year.
As we head to the final week, just look at these damn standings:
The peanut gallery is also going down to the wire, but two combatants have separated themselves from the pack. In other news, after taking a verbal beating for nearly the entire season, Jacob has a real chance at finishing in third place ahead of everyone making fun of him like three weeks ago. I have no dog in this fight, but I do find that pretty hilarious.
TO THE MATCH-UPS
Like last week, we’ll omit the sponsors, but we’re going GOING BACK TO EASTERN TIME because I, Harry, am heading down to South Florida for the Clemson-Oklahoma game and I’m writing the column this week.
NEW YEAR’S EVE
Peach Bowl: #18 Houston vs. #9 Florida State (-7), Noon, ESPN
We’ll see how high Florida State’s GAF level is, playing a Group of Five team in front of a group of way more than five empty seats.
Harry: As I mentioned above, it does worry me that FSU probably won’t have its heart fully in this one. That said, the talent discrepancy is so big, I have to take FSU here, especially laying no more than a touchdown. FSU -7
Matt: We saw what FSU could do against a great Group of Five team some years ago when they played Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl. While these are two completely different teams, one can still observe how FSU used their massive talent advantage in that game to dominate physically and I would prognosticate that the same is likely to happen here. Give me the ‘Noles. FSU -7
Bob: Houston remains pretty overrated despite some good results throughout the year. Much of the hype surrounds Tom Herman’s coaching program-building, which supersede the hype this team deserves. I wonder if Florida State will get up for this one, but team-quality-wise, the Seminoles are superior in all aspects. Florida State -7
Orange Bowl: #1 Clemson vs. #4 Oklahoma (-3.5), 4, ESPN
Clemson’s first trip to Sun Life Stadium this year was so successful, they couldn’t help but go back for more in by far the best game of the weekend.
Harry: It still astonishes me that Clemson is not only the underdog here, but they’re getting more than a field goal! The offenses are pretty much a wash and Clemson’s defense is MUCH better, particularly the defensive front. Clemson will win this game outright; I’m more than happy to grab 3.5 points as well. Clemson +3.5
Matt: This is admittedly largely a personal opinion, but I think Oklahoma’s offense is better than Clemson’s. Clemson relies so heavily on Deshaun Watson, whereas Oklahoma has significant offensive threats at every skill position. On a related note, I also think Oklahoma is going to win this game. However, there is no reason for Clemson to be an underdog in this game given what they’ve proven this season. I’ll take Clemson and the points because I feel I have to given this ridiculous betting line, but I still think Oklahoma will win. Clemson +3.5
Bob: Casual fans have overlooked Clemson all year because they are less of a traditional power than many of the other playoff-competitive teams this year and play in the ACC. Clemson should be the favorite here, and it’s quite ridiculous they are getting more than a field goal. This game is basically a toss-up, and I would pick Clemson straight up if I had to. Getting this many points makes it an easy call. Clemson +3.5
Cotton Bowl: #2 Alabama (-9.5) vs. #3 Michigan State, 8, ESPN
Oh goody! Arguably the two most annoying fan bases in college football (don’t think I forgot about you, FSU; that’s what the “arguably” was for) square off and one of them has to lose! On the other hand, one of them has to win as well.
Harry: Alabama is the best team in college football and they’ll win this game fairly easily, but it has the look of a low-scoring battle between two teams trying to do the exact same thing. Because of that, 9.5 is just too many points.
RRRRRRROOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLL TAAAAAAYYYYY Michigan State +9.5
Matt: If you know me, you know that a spread has to be unfathomably ludicrous for me to pick against Alabama. I have done it before, and never have I felt good about it afterwards. As such, I must stay true to my #brand, though this spread is indeed dangerously close to unfathomability, a word I have just created.*ahem*… RRRRRRRRRAWWWWWWWWWLLLLLLLLLLL TTTTTTTTAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIDDDDDDDDEEEEEEEEE SABAN DADGUMMIT -9.5
Bob: If you’ve read the blog any time in the last three years, you know that I/we love picking Alabama and think Michigan State had a stunning run of lucky results. HOWEVA, this spread is DISRESPECTFUL to a pretty good team (S&P+ ranked 9), though S&P+ actually shows an 11-point margin between these two. If you were to ask me about this game in casual conversation, I would tell you I think Alabama will win easily, but I just see too many possibilities of Michigan State losing in a close one or even pulling out a win. I think this is the smart pick. Michigan State +9.5
NEW YEAR’S DAY
Outback Bowl: #13 Northwestern vs. #22 Tennessee (-8.5), Noon, ESPN2
Northwestern’s reward for an outstanding 10-2 season? A trip to Tampa, Florida! Congratulations! At least it’s not Orlando or Jacksonville.
Harry: Dare I say that Tennessee is actually…pretty good? Their losses are all to pretty solid teams by razor-thin margins (including a double-OT loss to playoff-bound Oklahoma and a five-point loss to Alabama on the road). When Northwestern played good teams this year, it went…not well. [Bob: As you’ll see, I mostly agree with this argument, but you have to give Northwestern credit for the Stanford win, which is much better than any by Tennessee.] Tennessee -8.5
Matt: This is one of the tougher spreads of bowl season for me. I think Northwestern is pretty bad (relative to ranking/resume), but Tennessee certainly hasn’t proven enough to deserve this near-double digit spread. I’ll take Northwestern, but I have a little pit in my stomach doing so. Northwestern +8.5
Bob: This spread is actually reasonable despite the team’s rankings, records, and what my fellow students stubbornly think. Did you know Tennessee had a 17-0 lead over everyone’s favorite team, Oklahoma, before losing in double overtime, lost by 1 at Florida, by 5 at Alabama, and by 4 to Arkansas? I won’t repeat the nature of Northwestern’s losses. Still, while I think the spread is reasonable, I think the smart pick is Northwestern and its 8th-ranked defense getting more than a touchdown against a team that appears to only be slightly better and, despite its impressive losses, does not have a single impressive win. Northwestern +8.5
Citrus Bowl: #14 Michigan (-4) vs. #19 Florida, 1, ABC
Speaking of Orlando, a fat guy visiting the Magic Kingdom by himself in a poorly-thought-out attempt to pick up moms probably has a better chance of scoring than Florida in this game.
Harry: Michigan is going to score at least 14 points in this game and that should be enough to win by at least four. Michigan -4
Matt: Michigan’s defense was pretty fantastic this season until monster NT Ryan Glasgow went down with an injury. Afterwards, it was just okay, struggling quite a bit against spread offenses. Neither team finished the season well, but I think Michigan’s issues are more de-habilitating than Florida’s. It’s just difficult to give away points in a game in which Michigan 6, Florida 4 is perhaps the likeliest final outcome. Florida +4
Bob: Two top-seven defenses, two offenses somewhere between mediocre and awful. Both teams have a “looked bad down the stretch” narrative attached to them due to late-season losses, which grossly overlooks whom those losses were to. This is a matchup that begs me to take the points no matter who gets them, especially if they’re over a field goal. Florida +4
Fiesta Bowl: #8 Notre Dame vs. #7 Ohio State (-6.5), 1, ESPN
It’s a tasty matchup in the Fiesta Bowl this year that Notre Dame fans will undoubtedly label as “Catholics vs. [Insert A Thinly Veiled Racist Moniker Here]”. Nothing like some good old religious moral superiority served with a heaping side of child molestation.
Harry: Ohio State hasn’t convincingly beaten anyone this year aside from bookend performances against Virginia Tech and Michigan on major national stages. The Fiesta Bowl isn’t exactly on the national back-burner, but it’s also not the same type of spotlight. Meanwhile, Notre Dame has hung incredibly tough with Clemson and Stanford on the road; they can cover this spread. Notre Dame +6.5
Matt: Don’t understand this spread at all. Notre Dame has hung with the big boys all year, regardless of injuries, and I don’t expect that to change now. Ohio State is a great team, but Notre Dame is too good not to take the points. Notre Dame +6.5
Bob: Another game where I think the spread is too big in a game that the underdog could easily win or barely lose. Bowl games can have weird results and makes the favorites less reliable picks. I have no idea if that is backed up by evidence and I can’t look it up because I’m on a plane without wifi, but that’s certainly the intuition. This game should be fun, and I still think Ohio State is a great team, but this spread is just a little too high. Notre Dame +6.5
Rose Bowl: #6 Stanford (-6.5) vs. #5 Iowa, 5, ESPN
Despite every single college football fan not living in the state of Iowa wanting to see Stanford-Ohio State and Ohio State clearly being the more deserving team for this slot, the Rose Bowl went with Iowa. Guh.
Harry: Iowa was fairly impressive against Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game, but they needed a flukey 70-yard touchdown bomb and some unsustainable red zone defense to keep that one as close as it was. Stanford is a better team than Michigan State in my opinion, and they’ll definitely win by at least a touchdown. Stanford -6.5
Matt: GO IOWA AWESOM–*sniper shot* Stanford -6.5
Bob: I saw both of these teams come to Ryan Field this year. Northwestern held a pedestrian-looking Stanford to 6 points and lost to Iowa and its backup running backs 40-10. Additionally, Stanford has twice as many losses and ranks below Iowa. Yet, Stanford is decidedly the better team whether you want to look at statistics or the “eye test.” The big spread worries me, but barring any funny business, Stanford *should* win this easily. Stanford -6.5
Sugar Bowl: #16 Oklahoma State vs. #12 Ole Miss (-7), 8:30, ESPN
Does anyone care about this game?
Harry: I will not be watching this football game. Ole Miss -7
Matt: I’d like to tell you that I’ll be watching this game, and that Harry is a grinch for not enjoying every single morsel of available college football, because late winter is coming, and that means no college football is coming, and that means NFL-exclusive football season brought to you by Nationwide Insurance is coming, and now I’m hyperventilating and feeling a tingling sensation in the fourth metacarpal of my right hand. I really would like that. But I won’t be watching this game, because it is between two of my least favorite college football teams to discuss and/or observe this season. Both were annoyingly overrated and overdiscussed, and only made those issues worse by actually beating two of the best teams on their schedule (TCU/The Tahhhhd) in a couple of the flukiest games all year. I would like to offer my usual minuscule amount of insight into this game, but I don’t care about it even a little bit. It bores me, and I’m sure the feeling is mutual. It’s time to embrace the NFL-exclusive season, folks. CTE and questions of what constitutes a god damn catch for all. Ole Miss -7, which I picked because I’ve seen what the other two picked and I have no interest in risking the loss of my standings lead by betting on a team coached by Mike freakin’ Gundy
Bob: This New Year’s Six bowl somehow has two teams that are worse and less interesting than a handful of other non-NY6 games. The Robert Nkemdiche suspension throws a wrench into this whole equation.Oklahoma State’s resume relies on a lucky win over a TCU team that outgained it by 200(!) yards and simply not losing to any of the bad Big 12 teams. I’ve been saying since the game happened that Ole Miss’s win over Alabama was flukey, but they have a number of strong performances aside from that. I don’t love either of these teams, but I prefer an Ole Miss team with a number of high-quality wins in the tougher conference. This one should be high-scoring so I don’t mind the somewhat steep spread. Ole Miss -7