Bowl prediction record: 21-15 SU, 16-20 ATS, 16-19-1 O/U
Tennessee (8-4) vs. Northwestern (10-2), Tampa, noon, ESPN2
Tennessee -7 – O/U 47.5
Scoring Offense: Tennessee, 34.3 (32nd); Northwestern, 20.7 (112th)
Passing Offense: Tennessee, 199.0, (92nd); Northwestern, 139.3 (120th)
Rushing Offense: Tennessee, 223.5 (21st); Northwestern, 193.3 (36th)
Scoring Defense: Tennessee, 21.2 (45th); Northwestern, 16.4 (8th)
Passing Defense: Tennessee, 217.2 (57th); Northwestern, 192.7 (25th)
Rushing Defense: Tennessee, 153.3 (49th); Northwestern, 117.8, (14th)
Turnover Margin: Tennessee, +0.25 (47th); Northwestern, +0.42 (31st)
Key Players: Tennessee – QB Joshua Dobbs (2,125 yards passing, 623 yards rushing, 24 total TDs); RB Jalen Hurd (1,155 yards, 11 TDs); DE Derek Barnett (61 tackles, 11 TFL, 9 sacks); Northwestern – RB Justin Jackson (1,344 yards, 4 TDs); CB Matthew Harris (4 INTs, 94 yards, 1 TD).
Bottom line: The big question in this game is, “How in the world did Northwestern get to 10-2? Sure, the Wildcats have a great defense, and gave up just 16 points per game. But they scored just under 21 points a game, and no other team anywhere close to that bad on offense is playing on New Year’s Day. Tennessee isn’t awesome on offense, but the Vols can play there when they need to. QB Joshua Dobbs will make the plays he needs to win, and Tennessee will go into the offseason on an upswing. Prediction: Tennessee 23, Northwestern 14.
Michigan (9-3) vs. Florida (10-3), Orlando, 1 p.m., ABC
Michigan -4 – O/U 39
Scoring Offense: Michigan, 30.6 (56th); Florida, 24.5 (97th)
Passing Offense: Michigan, 243.3 (53rd); Florida, 211.1 (76th)
Rushing Offense: Michigan, 152.7 (93rd); Florida, 127.6 (111th)
Scoring Defense: Michigan, 17.2 (11th); Florida, 16.5 (8th)
Passing Defense: Michigan, 158.8 (3rd); Florida, 174.8 (11th)
Rushing Defense: Michigan, 122.6 (18th); Florida, 120.6 (17th)
Turnover Margin: Michigan -0.50 (103rd); Florida, +0.77 (15th)
Key Players: Michigan – QB Jake Rudock (2,739 yards, 17 TDs); DT Willie Henry (10 TFL, 6 sacks); Florida – RB Kelvin Taylor (985 yards, 13 TDs); DE Jonathan Bullard (60 tackles, 18 TFL, 6 sacks); CB Jalen Tabor (4 INTs, 82 yards, 2 TDs); CB Vernon Hargreaves (4 INTs, 152 yards).
Bottom line: This is one of those games where a month to prepare may make all of the difference in the world. Florida was one team with QB Will Grier, but then came his one-season suspension for using a banned substance. Then they were another with QB Treon Harris, and that team wasn’t so good. But now Jim McElwain has had a month to retool he Gators, so the question is, “Will the Gators that emerge be good enough to beat Michigan?” There are simply too many questions within that question to feel confident in picking the Gators. Florida will need a monumental transformation on offense in order to beat the Wolverines. Prediction: Michigan 24, Florida 14.
Ohio State (11-1) vs. Notre Dame (10-2), Tempe, 1 p.m., ESPN
Ohio State -6.5 – O/U 56.5
Scoring Offense: Ohio State, 35.0 (28th); Notre Dame, 34.8 (30th)
Passing Offense: Ohio State, 187.0 (103rd); Notre Dame, 256.7 (37th)
Rushing Offense: Ohio State, 241.9 (12th); Notre Dame, 214.8 (25th)
Scoring Defense: Ohio State 14.0 (2nd); Notre Dame, 22.4 (34th)
Passing Defense: Ohio State, 176.2 (12th); Notre Dame, 195.9 (28th)
Rushing Defense: Ohio State, 127.3 (22nd); Notre Dame, 166.5 (65th)
Turnover Margin: Ohio State, +0.17 (52nd); Notre Dame, -0.42 (99th)
Key Players: Ohio State – RB Ezekiel Elliott (1,672 yards, 19 TDs); DE Tyquan Lewis (13 TFL, 7 sacks); Notre Dame – QB Deshone Kizer (2,596 yards, 19 TDs); RB C.J. Prosise (1,029 yards, 11 TDs); WR William Fuller (1,145 yards, 13 TDs); DE Romeo Okwara (13 TFL, 9 sacks).
Bottom line: In so many ways, this game looks like it should be close, and that Ohio State should come out on top. But then there is the matter of star RB Ezekiel Elliott getting in a wreck while driving on a suspended license AND declaring for the NFL draft. And star QB Cardale Jones and DE Joey Bosa also declaring for the draft. Will Ohio State play this game as if it matters? Will Notre Dame play with a special fire? Remember that the Irish have only lost two games, by two points each. There’s also Notre Dame’s bowl history, which reveals that the Irish have lost their last six major bowl games. The Buckeyes will want it enough. Prediction: Ohio State 27, Notre Dame 21.
Stanford (11-2) vs. Iowa (12-1), Pasadena, 5 p.m., ESPN
Stanford -6 – O/U 53
Scoring Offense: Stanford, 37.2 (20th); Iowa, 32.1 (48th)
Passing Offense: Stanford, 210.9 (77th); Iowa, 201.8 (89th)
Rushing Offense: Stanford, 225.1 (18th); Iowa, 192.0 (40th)
Scoring Defense: Stanford 23.1 (38th); Iowa, 18.5 (15th)
Passing Defense: Stanford, 227.6 (71st); Iowa, 219.3 (36th)
Rushing Defense: Stanford, 146.9 (44th); Iowa, 114.9 (10th)
Turnover Margin: Stanford, 0.00 (65th); Iowa, +0.92 (8th)
Key Players: Stanford – QB Kevin Hogan (2,644 yards, 24 TDs); RB Christian McCaffrey (1,847 rushing yards, 540 receiving yards, 12 total TDs); DE Brennan Scarlett (6 TFL, 4 sacks); Iowa – QB C.J. Beathard (2,570 yards, 15 TDs); RB Jordan Canzeri (976 yards, 12 TDs); DE Nate Meier (74 tackles, 10 TFL, 7 sacks); CB Desmond King (8 INTs, 118 yards, 1 TD).
Bottom line: Iowa is probably the most surprising team of the year. Most people had the Hawkeyes pegged at seven or eight wins. Instead, they’re at 12 wins and playing in the Rose Bowl. The problem is that Iowa has history working against it. The Hawkeyes haven’t played in Pasadena since 1990, and haven’t won there since 1958. The Big Ten also struggles in this game, having gone 2-10 in the Rose Bowl since 2001. Iowa might keep it close, but the Cardinal will eventually make itself at home. Prediction: Stanford 27, Iowa 23.
Mississippi (9-3) vs. Oklahoma State (10-2), New Orleans, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Mississippi -7 – O/U 67.5
Scoring Offense: Mississippi, 40.3 (11th); Oklahoma State, 41.2 (8th)
Passing Offense: Mississippi, 333.7 (10th); Oklahoma State, 357.3 (7th)
Rushing Offense: Mississippi, 181.1 (50th); Oklahoma State, 132.2 (109th)
Scoring Defense: Mississippi 22.8 (36th); Oklahoma State, 29.0 (86th)
Passing Defense: Mississippi, 255.1 (101st); Oklahoma State, 224.3 (92nd)
Rushing Defense: Mississippi, 132.4 (26th); Oklahoma State, 185.3 (83rd)
Turnover Margin: Mississippi, 0.00 (65th); Oklahoma State, +1.08 (5th)
Key Players: Mississippi – QB Chad Kelly (3,740 yards, 27 TDs); WR Laquon Treadwell (1,082 yards, 8 TDs); DE Marquis Haynes (14 TFL, 9 sacks); S Trae Elston (4 INTs, 156 yards, 2 TDs); Oklahoma State – QB Mason Rudolph (3,591 yards, 21 TDs); WR James Washington (1,077 yards, 10 TDs); DE Shilique Calhoun (16 TFL, 12 sacks).
Bottom line: Oklahoma State is one of the best offensive teams in the country. Still, they have a terrible rushing offense, and are horrible in almost every phase of defense. Meanwhile, Ole Miss has an almost equally great offense, and while they have a good rushing defense, the Cowboys won’t be doing much of that. Instead, OSU will air out the ball all day long, and there, the Rebels are terrible on defense. So this looks to be an offensive shootout, which is perfect for the prime-time New Year’s Day game. Settle in and enjoy the show, where the last team with the ball wins. Mississippi gets the edge as the SEC home team. Prediction: Mississippi 41, Oklahoma State 38.