Athlon picks the bowl games from Dec. 30-Jan. 1 against the spread.
College football's bowl slate wraps up with an intriguing slate of must-see matchups on Dec. 30 and Jan. 1. Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson could be playing in his final collegiate game in the TaxSlayer Bowl against Mississippi State. The Liberty Bowl features Memphis' high-powered offense against an improved Iowa State team, and the Fiesta Bowl matches a tough Washington defense against Penn State's offense and running back Saquon Barkley. The College Football Playoff kicks off on Jan. 1 with a matchup between Oklahoma and Georgia in the Rose Bowl, with Clemson and Alabama meeting for the third year in a row. Here are picks against the spread for each postseason game from Dec. 30-Jan. 1.
College Football Bowl Spread Picks: Games from Dec. 30-Jan. 1
TaxSlayer Bowl: Louisville (-6.5) over Mississippi State
Will this be the final game for Lamar Jackson, one of the most productive — and arguably least-appreciated (even with a Heisman Trophy) — quarterbacks in recent college football history? The guess here is yes, and that he goes out with another gaudy statline.
Louisville 34, Mississippi State 27
Liberty Bowl: Memphis (-3.5) over Iowa State
Both teams have something to brag about. Memphis has not lost a game to a team that has lost a game (the 10–2 Tigers lost twice to undefeated UCF). And Iowa State is the only team (so far) that has defeated Oklahoma.
Memphis 44, Iowa State 38
Fiesta Bowl: Penn State (-2) over Washington
Neither team reached the College Football Playoff, but both programs proved they have staying power after breakout 2016 seasons. Penn State is dangerously close to being undefeated; the Nittany Lions lost by one point at Ohio State and by three points at Michigan State.
Penn State 28, Washington 17
Orange Bowl: Wisconsin (-4.5) over Miami (Fla.)
Miami’s breakthrough season will end with a virtual home game against Wisconsin. The Hurricanes, however, did not play their best football as the regular season closed. They had to rally to beat Virginia at home and then lost at Pittsburgh by 10 and to Clemson by 35 in the ACC Championship Game. Go with the Badgers on the “road.” Wisconsin 27, Miami 20
Outback Bowl: South Carolina (+8) over Michigan
For a pair of 8–4 teams from the Big Ten and SEC, respectively, neither Michigan nor South Carolina has that impressive of a résumé. Michigan’s best win? Maybe Florida in Week 1 on a neutral field. Or perhaps at Purdue. For South Carolina, it’s got to be the Week 1 win over NC State. Michigan is probably the better team, but the spread seems a bit too big.
Michigan 28, South Carolina 23
Peach Bowl: UCF (-10) over Auburn
Auburn was perhaps the best home team in the nation this year, highlighted by wins over Georgia (by 23) and Alabama (by 12). This game is not at home. Auburn will be tested by a very good UCF team that is eager to prove its undefeated record is not a fluke.
Auburn 27, UCF 21
Citrus Bowl: LSU (-3) over Notre Dame
Notre Dame’s defense struggled late in the season. After allowing 20 points or fewer in each of their first eight games, the Irish gave up 37 to Wake Forest, 41 to Miami (Fla.) and 38 to Stanford in the final month. The rushing defense, so strong early, was not good down the stretch. And that is not a good sign when LSU is the next team on the schedule.
LSU 27, Notre Dame 17
Rose Bowl: Oklahoma (+1.5) over Oklahoma
The Sooners’ mighty offense — statistically one of the best ever in college football — takes on a stout Georgia defense. But the story of this game could be how well (or if at all) the OU defense can slow down the Bulldogs’ running game. This one will be fun.
Oklahoma 38, Georgia 33
Sugar Bowl: Clemson (+3) over Alabama
Here’s an underrated stat from last year’s national title game: Clemson ran 99 offensive plays against Alabama, nine more than any other team has done vs. the Crimson Tide in the Nick Saban era. Alabama, on the other hand, ran only 66 plays. Keep an eye on this storyline on Monday night.
Clemson 27, Alabama 24