College football bowl season: What to watch for

by James Stewart, Sports Beat Manager

For sports fans around the world, this winter has been one of the most exciting in recent memory. From the World Cup in Qatar to the NFL, NBA, and NHL in full swing, everyone has something that they can entertain themselves with while staying out of the frigid winter air. 

Not only do professional sports take center stage over the last weeks of December, but so does college football’s most exciting time of year, bowl season.

Bowl season is an exciting time for all football fans as it stretches from Dec. 16 all the way through the New Year, until the National Championship game on Jan. 9.

In order to qualify for a bowl game, teams must win at least 6 of their regular season games, and will then be placed in specific games by a committee. This season, the committee did a terrific job creating several big time matchups that will keep fans glued to the couch over the holiday season.

One game that many NFL scouts around the country will be tuned into is the North Carolina Tar Heels (9-4) vs. the No. 15 Oregon Ducks (9-3) on Dec. 28 (8 PM, FOX). Both teams have had tremendous success this season thanks to the outstanding play from both of their starting quarterbacks.

The Ducks are led by senior Bo Nix who has thrown for 3,389 yards and 27 touchdowns. He has also run for 504 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Ducks also had great production from starting running back, sophomore Bucky Irving who totaled 1206 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Drake Maye has been the catalyst of a high powered Tar Heel offense this season. The true freshman broke onto the scene throwing for the third most yards in the country with 4,115 and 35 touchdowns. Maye has a great group of receivers around him led by junior Josh Downs, and senior Antoine Green. 

I think this game will be extremely high scoring, but Nix and the Ducks will prevail with a 49-38 victory.

One of my personal favorite bowl games this year is the Orange Bowl where ACC conference champions, No. 7 Clemson (11-2), will face off against No. 6 Tennessee (10-2) (Dec. 30, 8 PM, ESPN). Both teams have had up and down seasons, but are playing extremely well over the past few weeks.

Clemson will be making a change at quarterback this week as freshman Cade Klubnik came in last week vs. North Carolina taking over for junior DJ Uiagalelei, who has entered the transfer portal. Last week Klubnik threw for 279 yards and a touchdown, rushing for a touchdown as well. Running back, sophomore, Will Shipley is another dynamic playmaker for Clemson who tallied over 1,300 yards and 15 total touchdowns.

For Tennessee, senior quarterback Hendon Hooker threw for 3,135 yards, and 27 touchdowns before tearing his ACL against South Carolina. Junior wide receiver Jalin Hyatt, who recorded 1,267 yards, and 15 touchdowns, and was named the best receiver in college football this season will also miss the game as he has already entered his name into the NFL draft.

Despite not having some star players, I think Tennessee keeps this game close but falls just short with Clemson winning by a score of 31-24.

The first great game of the New Year will be the Rose Bowl between PAC 12 champions, No. 8 Utah (10-3), and No. 11 Penn State (10-2) on Jan. 2 (5 PM, ESPN). Penn State has dominated every team outside of their two losses, and Utah was able to keep rivals USC out of the playoffs by handing them their only two losses on the season.

Penn State is led by a two headed monster at running back with freshman Nicholas Singleton, and Kaytron Allen combining for 1,771 yards, and 19 touchdowns. Senior quarterback Sean Clifford has added 2,543 yards through the air and has accounted for 27 total touchdowns.

Utah leans on the talent of junior quarterback Cameron Rising who threw for 2,939 yards and 25 touchdowns. Junior running back Tavion Thomas added 687 yards on the ground and seven touchdowns. The Utah defense has been outstanding this season 11/13 opponents under 30 points.

I think that this will be another closely contested game, but I think Penn State will prevail with a 28-24 victory.

Lastly, are the two biggest games of the season, the college football semifinals. The two games on New Year’s Eve have No. 1 Georgia playing No. 4 Ohio State, and No. 2 Michigan facing off against No. 3 TCU.

TCU (12-1) and Michigan (13-0) face off first at 4 PM in the Fiesta Bowl. Both teams have been extremely efficient on both sides of the ball this season and have loads of star power.

TCU is led by senior quarterback Max Duggan who was a Heisman trophy finalist, and threw for 3,321 yards, and 30 touchdowns. Duggan has had plenty of help from junior running back Kendre Miller, and junior wide receiver Quentin Johnson who have been dynamic playmakers all season.

Michigan has been led by sophomore J.J. McCarthy who threw for 2,376 yards, and 20 touchdowns. Junior running back Blake Corum was by far the best player on Michigan tallying 1,463 yards and 18 touchdowns prior to a knee injury that ended his season.

With all this being said I think TCU pulls off the upset and wins the game by a score of 38-35.

The other semi final pits Georgia (13-0) and Ohio State (11-1) at 8 PM in the Peach Bowl. Georgia has dominated every single team they have played this season, while Ohio State has been unbelievable on offense except for their one stumble against Michigan.

Georgia is captained by senior quarterback Stetson Bennett who has tallied 3,425 passing yards and 20 touchdowns. Opposing defenses have had trouble planning for  senior RB Kenny McIntosh, and sophomore tight end Brock Bowers.

Ohio State is led by junior QB C.J. Stroud who has thrown for over 3,300 yards, and has 37 touchdowns. The Buckeyes have several dynamic receivers as well including Marvin Harrison Jr., and Emeka Egbuka.

Despite the great playmakers on the Buckeyes, I think that Georgia will prove to be too much to handle and will come away with a 42-31 win.

This would set up a National Championship matchup of Georgia and TCU. While TCU has loads of talent, I think Georgia is just too much for any team to handle this season. I truly believe that Georgia will be the team to lift the trophy on Jan. 9, and climb to the top of the mountain as the best team in college football this season.