Now that you’ve had some time to digest the College Football Playoff semifinal matchups — Clemson vs. Alabama (Sugar Bowl) and Oklahoma vs. Georgia (Rose Bowl) — the rest of the New Year’s Six bowl games were unveiled by the CFP selection committee.
The Big Ten was left on the outside of the top four, but will be well represented in the other CFP bowls. Here’s a look at the slate:
Cotton Bowl: No. 8 USC (11-2) vs. No. 5 Ohio State (11-2) — Dec. 29, Arlington, Texas
Despite winning the Big Ten title, Ohio State was left on the outside of the College Football Playoff at No. 5 with Alabama earning the No. 4 spot. That controversy aside, the Buckeyes, with wins over Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State, will get an awesome test against Pac-12 champions USC in Texas. OSU is led by senior quarterback J.T. Barrett and freshman running back J.K. Dobbins on offense. On defense, there are too many standout players to single any out.
For USC, it’s all about quarterback Sam Darnold. At one point considered a potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL draft, there has been talk throughout the year that the redshirt sophomore could return for his junior season. Darnold threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns in the Pac-12 title game win over Stanford. That win was USC’s fifth straight entering bowl play.
Fiesta Bowl: No. 11 Washington (10-2) vs. No. 9 Penn State (10-2) — Dec. 30, Glendale, Arizona
Penn State’s two losses — to Ohio State and Michigan State — were by a combined four points. If one of those games goes PSU’s way, it is likely representing the Big Ten in the playoff. That’s a tough pill for fans to swallow, but the Fiesta Bowl is a pretty nice consolation. PSU lost to USC in another NY6 bowl, the Rose Bowl, last year, and can perhaps get some revenge against another Pac-12 opponent. This time it’s Washington in what could be star RB Saquon Barkley’s last college game.
A loss to Stanford cost Washington the Pac-12 North, but the Huskies rebounded by winning their last two games, including a blowout over Washington State in the Apple Cup, to reach double-digit wins for a second year in a row. Washington has a star at quarterback in Jake Browning and the fifth-best defense in the country, allowing only 277.4 yards per game. UW’s defense will be a huge challenge for the PSU offense, which will be without offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead after he accepted the Mississippi State head-coaching job.
Orange Bowl: No. 6 Wisconsin (12-1) vs. No. 10 Miami (10-2) — Dec. 30, Miami Gardens, Florida
The Orange Bowl features two teams that blew their chances to make the College Football Playoff.
Wisconsin went through the regular season unscathed, going 12-0, but dropped the Big Ten title game to Ohio State. Because its strength of schedule was pretty weak, the Badgers were left out of the top four. Still, it’s been a great season for the Badgers, who have won double-digit games in all three of Paul Chryst’s seasons as head coach. This year, the Badgers feature the No. 1 defense in the country and a star at running back: freshman Jonathan Taylor.
On the other side, Miami, in its second season under Mark Richt, started the season 10-0 before dropping its last two games. The Hurricanes, led by a tenacious turnover-forcing defense, were riding high entering last weekend’s trip to Pittsburgh, but they lost 24-14 in disappointing fashion. Still, the Canes had a chance to play in the CFP with a win over Clemson in the ACC title game. It didn’t work out that way, but Miami can still finish the season on a high note in its home stadium against the Badgers.
Peach Bowl: No. 12 UCF (12-0) vs. No. 7 Auburn (10-3) — Jan. 1, Atlanta
UCF’s dream season will be capped off in Atlanta against an SEC team. Pretty cool.
UCF remained undefeated with a thrilling 62-55 double-overtime win over Memphis Saturday in the AAC title game. The Knights lead the country in scoring offense, averaging 49.4 points per game, behind the arm of sophomore quarterback McKenzie Milton, who ranks No. 2 behind Baker Mayfield in quarterback rating and completion percentage. Milton, who also has 497 yards and 7 rushing TDs, has a stable of backs and receivers that will be a big challenge for Auburn. UCF coach Scott Frost, who accepted the Nebraska job, will reportedly coach in this game.
Speaking of Auburn, the Tigers won the SEC West with late-season wins over No. 3 Georgia and No. 4 Alabama, but could not beat UGA again on Saturday in the SEC title game. Instead, the Tigers will finish out the season in Atlanta. The Tigers are led by QB Jarrett Stidham (2,827 yards, 17 TDs) and RB Kerryon Johnson (1,320 yards, 17 TDs) on offense. Defensively, the Tigers are No. 14 in total defense (312.3) and No. 10 in scoring defense (17.3 ppg).
In addition to the bowl matchups, the final College Football Playoff Top 25 was also released:
5. Ohio State
9. Penn State
14. Notre Dame
16. Michigan State
18. Washington State
19. Oklahoma State
22. Virginia Tech
23. Mississippi State
24. NC State
25. Boise State
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