Bowl Predictions – Thursday, December 31, 2015 (New Year’s Eve)

Bowl prediction record: 16-15 SU, 13-18 ATS, 15-15-1 O/U

Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl
Florida State (10-2) vs. Houston (12-1), Atlanta, noon, ESPN
Florida State -7 – O/U 55.5

Scoring Offense: Florida State, 32.3 (45th); Houston, 40.6 (11th)
Passing Offense: Florida State, 244.0, (45th); Houston, 247.4 (42nd)
Rushing Offense: Florida State, 180.9 (52nd); Houston, 239.5 (13th)
Scoring Defense: Florida State, 15.8 (5th); Houston, 20.5 (20th)
Passing Defense: Florida State, 185.8 (18th); Houston, 265.3 (111th)
Rushing Defense: Florida State, 141.8 (32nd); Houston, 116.0, (12th)
Turnover Margin: Florida State, +0.33 (38th); Houston, +1.31 (3rd)
Key Players: Florida State – RB Dalvin Cook (1,658 yards, 18 TDs); WR Kermit Whitfield (53 rec., 742 yards, 6 TDs); DE Demarcus Walker (14 TFL, 9 sacks); Houston – QB Greg Ward (2,589 yards passing, 1,047 yards rushing, 35 total TDs); WR Demarcus Ayers (1,139 yards, 6 TDs); LB Steven Taylor (86 tackles, 16 TFL, 9 sacks); S Adrian McDonald (4 INTs).
Bottom line: Things got interesting for Florida State when starting QB Everett Golson announced he would miss the Peach Bowl for personal reasons. That leaves backup Sean Maguire in the starting role, which takes away the mobility that Golson brought to the offense. Still, FSU has a monster runner in RB Dalvin Cook, and the Seminoles’ defense is strong enough to hem in the Cougars. Key stat: the All-American Conference (of which Houston is the champion) is 1-6 in bowls this month. Prediction: Florida State 35, Houston 24.

Orange Bowl
Clemson (13-0) vs. Oklahoma (11-1), Miami, 4 p.m., ESPN
Oklahoma -3.5 – O/U 63

Scoring Offense: Clemson, 38.5 (16th); Oklahoma, 45.8 (2nd)
Passing Offense: Clemson, 288.5 (24th); Oklahoma, 307.9 (18th)
Rushing Offense: Clemson, 222.1 (22nd); Oklahoma, 235.0 (15th)
Scoring Defense: Clemson, 20.2 (18th); Oklahoma, 20.8 (22nd)
Passing Defense: Clemson, 166.9 (5th); Oklahoma, 201.5 (32nd)
Rushing Defense: Clemson, 128.8 (24th); Oklahoma, 149.2 (42nd)
Turnover Margin: Clemson -0.15 (82nd); Oklahoma, +0.83 (14th)
Key Players: Clemson – QB Deshaun Watson (3,517 yards passing, 887 yards rushing, 41 total TDs); RB Wayne Gallman (1,319 yards, 10 TDs); WR Artavis Scott (85 rec., 805 yards, 5 TDs); DE Shaq Lawson (21 TFL, 9 sacks); CB Cordea Tankersley (5 INTs, 1 TD); Oklahoma – QB Baker Mayfield (3,389 yards passing, 420 yards rushing, 42 total TDs); RB Samaje Perine (1,291 yards, 15 TDs); WR Sterling Shepard (1,201 yards, 11 TDs); DE Charles Tapper (10 TFL, 7 sacks); CB Zack Sanchez (6 INTs, 1 TD).
Bottom line: This could be the game of the year – even better than the eventual national championship game. Clemson and Oklahoma are so evenly matched that the coin flip that determines the opening kickoff could be a deciding factor. The Sooners have one of the nation’s best offenses; the Tigers are one of the best defensive units. Clemson is good on offense – almost great. Oklahoma is above average on defense, and has been very good at generating turnovers. In the end, this comes down to a gut feeling – Oklahoma picked up steam as the season rolled along, and Baker Mayfield has a knack for finding the end zone. In the final minute or two, the Sooners will score the game-winner. Prediction: Oklahoma 38, Clemson 35.

Cotton Bowl
Alabama (12-1) vs. Michigan State (12-1), Dallas, 8 p.m., ESPN
Alabama -10 – O/U 46

Scoring Offense: Alabama, 34.1 (33rd); Michigan State, 32.1 (47th)
Passing Offense: Alabama, 214.3 (73rd); Michigan State, 236.1 (53rd)
Rushing Offense: Alabama, 208.2 (28th); Michigan State, 160.7 (80th)
Scoring Defense: Alabama 14.4 (3rd); Michigan State, 20.5 (20th)
Passing Defense: Alabama, 184.2 (17th); Michigan State, 229.8 (73rd)
Rushing Defense: Alabama, 74.0 (1st); Michigan State, 113.1 (9th)
Turnover Margin: Alabama, +0.54 (27th); Michigan State, +1.23 (4th)
Key Players: Alabama – QB Jake Coker (2,489 yards, 17 TDs); RB Derrick Henry (1,986 yards, 23 TDs); WR Calvin Ridley (75 rec., 893 yards, 5 TDs); DE Jonathan Allen (12 TFL, 10 sacks); LB Tim Williams (10.5 TFL, 8.5 sacks); CB Eddie Jackson (5 INTs, 220 yards, 2 TDs); Michigan State – QB Connor Cook (2,911 yards, 24 TDs); WR Aaron Burbidge (1,209 yards, 7 TDs); DE Shilique Calhoun (14 TFL, 10 sacks); DE Malik McDowell Rankins (12 TFL, 4.5 sacks).
Bottom line: This playoff semifinal seems to be so clear-cut – Alabama is the team that everyone expects to win. And yet, Michigan State has found a way to win in 12 of 13 games, and against some stiff competition. The Spartans’ defense has been their best weapon, especially in the last four games when they surrendered just 12.5 points per game. Still, Alabama was even better, giving up just 11.5 points per game in the Tide’s last six games. Expect this to be a defensive struggle. But in that kind of game, the team that runs better will usually own the day – and Alabama has the reigning Heisman winner, Derrick Henry, on their side. Prediction: Alabama 27, Michigan State 20.

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About Doug DeBolt

Capnpen is a writer who was a newspaper and magazine journalist in a previous life. A college journalism major, he now works as an administrator, but gets his writing fix by blogging about a variety of topics, including politics, religion, movies and television. When he's not working or blogging, Capnpen spends time with his family, plays a little golf (badly) and loves to learn about virtually anything.
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