Bowl prediction record: 23-16 SU, 18-21 ATS, 18-20-1 O/U
Georgia (9-3) vs. Penn State (7-5), Jacksonville, noon, ESPN
Georgia -6 – O/U 42.5
Scoring Offense: Georgia, 26.5 (83rd); Penn State, 23.7 (100th)
Passing Offense: Georgia, 187.1, (102nd); Penn State, 208.9 (80th)
Rushing Offense: Georgia, 194.3 (35th); Penn State, 135.3 (106th)
Scoring Defense: Georgia, 16.9 (9th); Penn State, 21.7 (30th)
Passing Defense: Georgia, 146.1 (1st); Penn State, 174.5 (10th)
Rushing Defense: Georgia, 151.9 (48th); Penn State, 149.8, (47th)
Turnover Margin: Georgia, +0.25 (46th); Penn State, +0.42 (31st)
Key Players: Georgia – RB Sony Michel (1,051 yards, 7 TDs); WR Malcolm Mitchell (751 yards, 4 TDs); LB Leonard Floyd (66 tackles, 8 TFL, 4 sacks); S Dominick Sanders (5 INTs, 205 yards, 1 TD); Penn State – QB Christian Hackenberg (2,386 yards, 16 TDs); RB Saquon Barkley (1,077 yards, 7 TDs); WR Chris Godwin (968 yards, 5 TDs); DE Carl Nassib (19 TFL, 15 sacks).
Bottom line: Georgia will be working without a definitive quarterback, with a backup running back and with an interim head coach. Such is the nature of second-rung bowl games, where teams that coula, shoulda, woulda and almost but never did, get their last day in the sunshine. The Bulldogs went 9-3 with Mark Richt, but that apparently wasn’t good enough, in spite of the plague of injuries that beset the team. Instead, new coach Kirby Smart will watch from the stands as the Dawgs try to outlast a weak Penn State team that is decent on defense but has no clue on offense. Georgia should find running room, while the Nittany Lions will struggle to get the ball into the red zone, let alone the end zone. Prediction: Georgia 21, Penn State 13.
Kansas State (6-6) vs. Arkansas (7-5), Orlando, 3:20 p.m., ESPN
Arkansas -12.5 – O/U 55
Scoring Offense: Kansas State, 30.6 (58th); Arkansas, 35.2 (27th)
Passing Offense: Kansas State, 177.1 (108th); Arkansas, 264.3 (33rd)
Rushing Offense: Kansas State, 164.3 (74th); Arkansas, 192.6 (39th)
Scoring Defense: Kansas State, 30.3 (91st); Arkansas, 27.8 (75th)
Passing Defense: Kansas State, 283.1 (120th); Arkansas, 284.5 (121st)
Rushing Defense: Kansas State, 159.4 (55th); Arkansas, 119.6 (16th)
Turnover Margin: Kansas State -0.25 (89th); Arkansas, +0.58 (26th)
Key Players: Kansas State – DE Jordan Willis (12 TFL, 6 sacks); Arkansas – QB Brandon Allen (3,125 yards, 29 TDs); RB Alex Collins (1,392 yards, 17 TDs); WR Drew Morgan (751 yards, 10 TDs); DE Deatrich Wise (10 TFL, 8 sacks).
Bottom line: Honestly, this should be one of the easiest games to predict. If Arkansas does not win the Liberty Bowl, it will be one of the biggest chokes of the bowl season. Note in the “Key Players” section that Kansas State only has one player – DE Jordan Willis. That’s because the Wildcats are singularly devoid of any playmakers that would lead them to victory. Meanwhile, Arkansas might be the best 7-5 team in the country. With solid team speed on both sides of the ball, Arkansas should score early, often and with great ease. Prediction: Arkansas 41, Kansas State 20.
Oregon (9-3) vs. TCU (10-2), San Antonio, 6:45 p.m., ESPN
Oregon -7 – O/U 73.5
Scoring Offense: Oregon, 43.2 (5th); TCU, 41.7 (7th)
Passing Offense: Oregon, 260.4 (35th); TCU, 345.5 (8th)
Rushing Offense: Oregon, 287.8 (5th); TCU, 218.8 (24th)
Scoring Defense: Oregon 36.8 (116th); TCU, 26.1 (60th)
Passing Defense: Oregon, 301.2 (126th); TCU, 214.3 (52nd)
Rushing Defense: Oregon, 179.2 (75th); TCU, 182.3 (80th)
Turnover Margin: Oregon, +0.42 (31st); TCU, 0.00 (65th)
Key Players: Oregon – QB Vernon Adama (2,446 yards, 25 TDs); RB Royce Freeman (1,708 yards, 14 TDs); WR Bralon Addison (775 yards, 10 TDs); DE Deforest Buckner (76 tackles, 16 TFL, 9 sacks); S Tyree Robinson (3 INTs, 1 TD); TCU – QB Trevone Boykin, suspended (3,574 yards, 31 TDs) RB Aaron Green (1,171 yards, 10 TDs); WR Josh Doctson injured (1,326 yards, 14 TDs); DE Josh Carraway (9 TFL, 7 sacks).
Bottom line: It’s amazing the difference one player can make to a team. With all-world QB Trevone Boykin, TCU seemed unbeatable. Without him, they struggled against the easiest of foes. Today, they’ll have to figure out how to play the Alamo Bowl without him, since he went and hit a police officer on the streets of San Antonio. QBs Bram Kohlhausen and Foster Sawyer will try to pick up the difference, but against Kansas – which has the worst defense in the nation – TCU only managed 23 points without Boykin. Oregon’s defense is also terrible, but the Ducks know how to score, unlike the lowly Jayhawks. By getting suspended, Boykin did everything but assure an Oregon victory. Prediction: Oregon 45, TCU 24.
West Virginia (7-5) vs. Arizona State (6-6), Phoenix, 10:15 p.m., ESPN
West Virginia -1 – O/U 63.5
Scoring Offense: West Virginia, 33.3 (41st); Arizona State, 33.8 (37th)
Passing Offense: West Virginia, 228.1 (59th); Arizona State, 289.1 (23rd)
Rushing Offense: West Virginia, 235.3 (14th); Arizona State, 184.8 (46th)
Scoring Defense: West Virginia 23.2 (39th); Arizona State, 32.7 (97th)
Passing Defense: West Virginia, 222.8 (63rd); Arizona State, 321.7 (127th)
Rushing Defense: West Virginia, 163.4 (60th); Arizona State, 124.4 (19th)
Turnover Margin: West Virginia, +0.92 (8th); Arizona State, 0.00 (65th)
Key Players: West Virginia – QB Skyler Howard (2,613 yards, 21 TDs); RB Wendell Smallwood (1,447 rushing yards, 9 TDs); DE Noble Nwachukwu (11 TFL, 7 sacks); CB Daryl Worley (6 INTs); Arizona State – QB Mike Bercovici (3,436 yards, 26 TDs); RB Demario Richard (1,056 yards, 7 TDs); WR Devin Lucien (930 yards, 7 TDs); LB Antonio Longino (18 TFL, 7 sacks); CB Kareem Orr (5 INTs, 73 yards, 1 TD).
Bottom line: The pre-championship bowl season concludes with an entertaining matchup of offenses that should put some points on the board. The Mountaineers played a weak non-conference schedule, and was smacked down by all of the good Big 12 teams. Arizona State played some OK teams, but was inconsistent, beating then-Top 10 UCLA, while later losing to California. It should be fun to watch, especially for the home folks who drove the few miles to watch an in-state favorite. Prediction: Arizona State 35, West Virginia 31.