Fun Fact: The Sunshine State has the most teams playing in bowl games this year (5). Also, Florida hosts the most bowl games this year (8).
The week of Christmas is one of the best times of the year for sports fans. Everything from the NBA on Christmas day, Bowl Season, the College Football Playoff, MLB hot stove, and the last week of the NFL regular season.
However, no one does Bowl Season quite like the Sunshine State with five teams in bowl games while hosting eight, including one of the CFP games.
To date, two of Florida’s five bowl teams have played. USF lost to Marshall in the Gasparilla Bowl and FIU upset Toledo in the Bahamas Bowl.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Miami vs. Wisconsin | 12/27 at 5:15pm| Line: Miami -2.5
A rematch of last year’s Orange Bowl where the Badgers were victorious 34-24, has these preseason top-ten teams matched up again in the postseason. With both teams falling well below expectations in 2018, the winner will have much more momentum heading into the last legs of recruiting, and spring practice.
Senior quarterback Malik Rosier would get the start vs. the Badgers. Starting quarterback N’kosi Perry is in hot water over a snapchat video that resurfaced from earlier this year. Miami’s mastermind behind their dominant defense, Manny Diaz, has taken the head coaching job a Temple. Diaz will coach the Hurricanes through the Pinstripe Bowl.
Miami looks to stop running back Jonathan Taylor who led all of college football with 1,989 yards on the ground. Miami’s strength is their defense, most notably their front seven. But the Canes have their own talented stable of running backs, led by junior Travis Homer and sophomore DeeJay Dallas. Miami’s duo has combined for 1,578 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns this season.
Prediction: Miami 27 – Wisconsin 20
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl
No. 10 Florida vs. No. 7 Michigan | 12/29 at 12pm | Line: Michigan -6.5
Florida and Michigan are getting all too familiar with each other as this SEC vs. Big Ten matchup meets for the third time in three years. Hopefully this time around, it’ll be more competitive. Michigan won the 2016 Citrus Bowl 41-7 and the 2017 opener 33-17. Michigan enters the game No. 1 in the country in yards allowed per game (262.5) and 12th in scoring defense (17.6 ppg), while Florida is 27th in yards allowed (344.8) and 21st in scoring defense (20.4 ppg)
Florida looks to win ten games in Dan Mullen’s first season, which would be one more than Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer won in their first seasons at Florida. Mullen should be familiar with Michigan’s quarterback, Shea Patterson, as he faced him in 2017 while Patterson was at Ole Miss and Mullen as Mississippi State.
After losing to Ohio State in dramatic fashion, and a chance to go to the CFP, the Wolverines can win 11 games in a season for only the 10th time in their 139-year history. Will Michigan be focused with a few key players out (Junior defensive end Rashan Gary and junior linebacker Devin Bush will prepare for the NFL draft), and the rumors surrounding their head coach?
Prediction: Michigan 23 – Florida 17
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
No. 11 LSU vs. No. 8 UCF | 1/1 at 1pm | Line: LSU -7.5
An SEC team laden with top recruits and future NFL picks against the underdog from the American Athletic Conference. Seems familiar. The Tigers might have more talent, but UCF has a high-powered offense — a foreign concept down in Baton Rouge.
Will UCF finish unbeaten for the second straight season, extend its 25-game win streak, while beating another team from the SEC West? If so, it’s totally understandable why Florida is reluctant to schedule UCF in a home and home series. The Knights can post back-to-back unbeaten seasons and New Year’s Six bowl victories over SEC opponents, which would certainly quiet some of their critics.
It’s about SEC pride for LSU. Last season, UCF upset No. 7 Auburn 34-27 in the Peach Bowl to finish 13-0. Will these Tigers be more motivated? LSU can win 10 games in a season for the first time since 2013. Coming into 2018 Coach O was on the hot seat. It seems like he’s saved his job thus far, but a loss to UCF could start the grumblings back up again.
Prediction: UCF 31 – LSU 30
The Other Florida Bowl Games
CFP Semifinal – Capital One Orange Bowl
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Oklahoma | 12/29 at 8pm | Line: Bama -14
- It’s Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray vs. runner-up Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa probably lost the Heisman Trophy after a disappointing performance against Georgia in the SEC championship. He’ll look to bounce back against an OU defense that ranks dead last in the FBS in pass defense.
- With the O/U set at 77 points, expect a lot of offense with the Sooners top-ranked scoring (49.5) offense vs. Bama’s second-ranked scoring offense (47.9).
- The Sooners fell short of reaching the national championship in 2017 by blowing a 17-point lead in a 54-48, double-overtime loss to Georgia. Will this time be different as Bama historically has struggled with mobile quarterbacks?
- Prediction: Alabama 51 – Oklahoma 41
Camping World Bowl
No. 16 West Virginia vs. No. 20 Syracuse | 12/28 at 5:15pm | Line: Syracuse -1.5
- The Camping World Bowl features two offensive coaches who love to sling the ball around as both teams score over 40 points per matchup.
- WVU quarterback Will Grier will skip the game to prepare for the NFL draft. Miami transfer Jack Allison, who has attempted 10 passes, will get the start.
- After four straight losing seasons, the Orange can win 10 games for the first time since 2001. Also, Cuse is seeking their first bowl win since 2013.
- Prediction: Syracuse 45 – WVU 44
TaxSlayer Gator Bowl
No. 19 Texas A&M vs. NC State | 12/31 at 7:30pm | Line: TAMU -7
- More offense as this ACC vs. SEC matchup features two squads who average 35 points per game, and over 465 yards of offense.
- TAMU head coach Jimbo Fisher returns to the Sunshine State after spending eight years as the FSU head coach. 2018 breaks a streak of five-straight NY6 bowl games after guiding the Aggies to an 8-4 record.
- The Wolfpack won’t have leading receiver Kelvin Harmon or leading tackler Germaine Pratt, who are both focusing on preparing for the NFL draft. NC State is 3-1 in bowl games under Dave Doeren.
- Prediction: TAMU 42 – NC State 31
No. 18 Miss State vs. Iowa | 1/1 at 1pm | Line: Miss St. -7
- A defensive matchup between these Big 10 and SEC schools as both teams allow less than 17.5 points per contest.
- The Bulldogs aim to win 9 games in Joe Moorhead’s first season after taking over for Dan Mullen who left for Florida. Mullen won 9 games three times in Starkville.
- The Hawkeyes have played in the Outback Bowl six times since 2003. Iowa has lost their last three bowl games vs. SEC opponents as they seek their ninth win as well.
- Prediction: Miss St. 23 – Iowa 13
VRBO Citrus Bowl
No. 12 Penn State vs. No. 14 Kentucky | 1/1 at 1pm | Line: Penn St. -6.5
- Another Big Ten vs. SEC matchup as the surprise upstart Wildcats take on the Nittany Lions in Disney World’s backyard.
- The Wildcats have a chance to win 10 games for only the third time in the program’s 103-year history. Kentucky hasn’t reached double-digit wins since 1977. Mark Stoops could rise in the head coaching world much like James Franklin has.
- The Nittany Lions hoped to reach a third straight New Year’s Six bowl, but they’ll still have a chance to win at least 10 games for the third consecutive season. The departure of Urban Meyer could breathe life back into Penn State going into 2019.
- Prediction: Penn State 28 – Kentucky 23