Georgia-Michigan Rematch Headlines College Football Bowl Predictions
As the regular season draws nearer to retirement, bowl season blossoms. The chef’s kiss to any successful college football year, the momentum a win brings and the extra practice participation guarantees are big bumps for programs. Not to mention: a national champion will unearth itself.
The College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six bowls are the biggest events of the campaign’s closing act. These are the games that teams dream of in the preseason, and they deliver the best-of-the-best right at each other’s throats.
Each week, the pendulum swings and the matchups shuffle. But the closer we get to the finish line, the clearer the picture becomes. It’s time to study how the most prestigious bowl games would pair off if the season ended today in preparation of what is right around the corner.
Keep in mind, this is not a prediction of what will happen the rest of this month. This imperfect science is merely a snapshot of how it would all shake out at this very moment. Be calm: every game will be played, and those who deserve their shot will have it (theoretically).
Splash has you covered if predictions are what you want to make, though. The popular Bowl Pick X format that was beloved on RunYourPool is coming to Splash, available this bowl season. Let’s preview some of what you could be quizzed on.
Rose Bowl (CFP Semifinal): No. 1 Ohio State (Big Ten #1) vs. No. 4 Florida State (ACC #1)
Ohio State is No. 1 in the CFP Rankings for the second week in a row after stiff-arming the Scarlet Knights, 35-16. The Buckeyes have collected nine wins from nine, including road victories at Rutgers, Wisconsin, and Notre Dame, and a big home besting of Penn State to their name, but they have lacked style points at times. Reminiscent of the 2000s Tressel Buckeyes, 2023 Ohio State might not win pretty, but it’s been getting the job done.
Florida State clinched a spot in the 2023 ACC Championship Game with its latest triumph over Pitt, improving to 9-0 on the season and 7-0 in conference play. It’s been a long time coming for the Seminoles, who haven’t much lived up to their personal standards since the mid-2010s. This is already the highest the program has been placed in the CFP Rankings since it appeared in the event in 2014.
Sugar Bowl (CFP Semifinal): No. 2 Georgia (SEC #1) vs. No 3. Michigan (Big Ten #2)
Georgia is the reigning two-times champion with designs on becoming the first to make it three in a row since Minnesota did it in the 1930s. There have been some questions around whether this Bulldogs team is as good as either of the 2021 or 2022 outfits, but these Dawgs seem to have come a long way from their struggle wins earlier in the year. You can’t count Georgia out.
Michigan has made headlines for off-the-field reasons the last couple of weeks, and regardless of what you think of the sign-stealing scandal, you have to admit that these Wolverines are contenders to earn the program its first outright national title since 1948. The team’s defense leads the FBS in yards allowed per game (231.4) and passing yards allowed per game (141.3) while Blake Corum is closing in on the all-time Michigan touchdown record. Perhaps the Wolverines would fare better against Georgia this time around – it didn’t go so well for them when these two met in the semifinals of the 2021 CFP, 34-11.
Fiesta Bowl: No. 5 Washington (Pac-12 #1) vs. No. 10 Penn State (Big Ten #3)
If Michael Penix Jr. and the Huskies can win out, they won’t be in the Fiesta Bowl, but in the mythical world of right now, Washington sits right outside of the College Football Playoff positions. The only undefeated team left in the Pac-12, Washington already has an impressive collection of wins, including at Arizona, at USC, and against Oregon at home. No team in the country passing for more yards per game than the Huskies (383.1) – Penix is a plain problem. But a very difficult close to the regular season awaits.
Penn State is the clear-cut third pick out of the Big Ten. The road defeat at Ohio State is its only blemish, with successes over Iowa, West Virginia, and Maryland some of the feathers decorating their cap. The Nittany Lions defense is foreboding, holding its opponents to just 11.9 points per game, the second-fewest in the nation. Penn State still has a couple of important games to go, most notably a home dance with Michigan this Saturday, which will greatly impact where it plays in the postseason.
Orange Bowl: No. 8 Alabama (SEC #2) vs. No. 11 Louisville (ACC #2)
It was a rocky start, but the steadiest ship in college football for the last 15 years has found calmer waters. A home loss to Texas followed by a struggle win at South Florida had people questioning the Tide, but now five victories later, they’re not quite as loud. Most recently, Alabama dispatched of LSU, 42-28, to put itself in the driver’s seat of the SEC West.
With Florida State in the CFP, the responsibility to represent the ACC falls to Louisville. Other than a blimp at Pitt in mid-October, the Cardinals are off to their best start since 2016. With one of the stingiest defenses in the ACC, Louisville has stymied most of its competition in 2023, keeping opponents to two scores or fewer on five separate occasions; the Cardinals held Duke and Virginia Tech to three points combined in their contests the last two weeks.
Peach Bowl: No. 9 Ole Miss (SEC #3) vs. No. 23 Tulane (G5 #1/AAC #1)
Ole Miss is on track to have its most successful season of Lane Kiffin’s tenure and three wins away from the program’s highest total ever. A defeat at Alabama in September is the team’s only issue. Since then, the Rebels are 5-0, sneaking by Texas A&M, 38-35, last week to keep the ball rolling. Jaxson Dart threw for almost 400 yards and two touchdowns in the dramatic victory.
The highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion, Tulane steps up to the plate in the role of David. The Green Wave were in the same position last year in the Cotton Bowl and pulled off one of the best wins in program history, 46-45, against USC. The 2023 team isn’t playing the same caliber of schedule as the 2022 one did, and Tulane’s position in the rankings reflects that. But you’d be foolish to discount Michael Pratt and a defense that’s allowing the fifth-least rushing yards per game in the country (79.0).
Cotton Bowl: No. 6 Oregon (Pac-12 #2) vs. No. 7 Texas (Big 12 #1)
A three-point heartbreaker at arch-rival Washington is all that’s standing between Oregon and perfection. The Ducks have been winners at Utah and at Texas Tech, as well as over Washington State home, en route to controlling their own destiny in their quest for what could be the final Pac-12 championship. One of the hottest offenses in America, Bo Nix and company present matchup nightmares across the field.
The Longhorns announced themselves onto the national stage with their 34-24 statement in Tuscaloosa in Week 2, and they’ve carried that momentum to the top of the early-November Big 12 standings. Texas escaped an upset bid from Kansas State in Austin last weekend, 33-30, to add the Wildcats to its list of casualties along with Kansas, BYU, and seven others. Quinn Ewers was recently updated to “day-to-day,” a possible sign that Texas will have its preferred signal caller back in the lineup sooner rather than later.
In the Hunt
Oregon State: with two amazing opportunities to stamp themselves into the upper echelon of the national conversation (vs. Washington on Nov. 18 and at Oregon on Nov. 24), the Beavers have it all to play for.
Tennessee: at Missouri and Georgia loom large for the Volunteers, two contests that will determine how this season will be remembered in Knoxville. Wins in both would be a boon to their New Year’s Six hopes.
Missouri: the Tigers can make a statement this weekend with Tennessee coming to Columbia. They will otherwise have to handle Florida and Arkansas on the road to get into one of the New Year’s Six bowls.
Oklahoma State: the Cowboys are one of the hottest teams in America and fully capable of playing in and winning the Big 12 Championship. Road games at UCF and Houston are next before a home outing with BYU ends the team’s regular season.
Kansas: it would take epic collapses from Oklahoma State and Texas for Kansas to get a shot in the Big 12 title game, but it could still play in a New Year’s Six bowl by winning out against Texas Tech and Kansas State in Lawrence and Cincinnati on the road.
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