New Year’s Day has always been one of the best for College Football fans and bettors alike. 2020 will be no different as we get to enjoy four great games to ring in the New Year.
Outback Bowl | (18) Minnesota Golden Gophers vs (12) Auburn Tigers
Wednesday, January 1st at Raymond James Stadium | 1:00 PM ET
No matter how this game ends up, it will mark the end of a truly magical season for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. A win would also give them four bowl game victories in their last five seasons. Auburn has other ideas for the Outback Bowl, looking for their 10th postseason win in their last 13 tries.
This game is the first one of the season in which Minnesota has opened as betting underdogs or a touchdown or more. The spread was announced at 8-points and was quickly bet down to 7, where it stands as of this writing.
The OVER has also seen a sharp rise since opening odds were announced. The initial line was set at 51.5 points, but it is clear the betting public has more faith in these two offenses and quickly bet the line up to 53.5.
Minnesota will be no easy with, despite their struggles down the stretch. The Golden Gophers started the season on a 9-0 tear and were strong candidates to not only win the Big Ten title but also make a run at the College Football Playoffs. Their dreams were dashed however after dropping two of their final three games and watching their national ranking tumble all the way to No. 18.
But don’t assume them to be playing out the motions after missing out on the big show. The Gophers will show up to play in just their second New Year’s Day game since 1962.
Their defense will be the deciding factor in this game, a lineup that ranks 15th in the nation in overall defense. Led by Sophomore defensive back Antione Winfield, who ranks fourth in the nation with seven interceptions, they are a potent group that no team wants to face off against.
The defense did falter a bit down the home stretch, giving up 22 or more points in each of their last four games and will also be without the services of LB Kamal Martin.
The Gophers have played games that have gone over the total in five of their last six outings, playing to an average combined score of 54 points.
Shifting our focus to Auburn, they are coming off a season that saw them earn their most wins since 2013. While nine wins might not seem like a huge accomplishment, the Tigers had a number to tight losses to some of the best teams in the nation.
Those losses came at the hands of the Georgia Bulldogs, LSU Tigers, and Florida Gators – each of those teams finished the season ranked within the Top-10. The margins were close too, with the average loss being by just seven points, with the LSU game being decided by just a field goal.
The Tigers have seen great success against the spread this year, going 10-2 ATS in their last 12 games as a favorite, and are 7-point favorites in this one.
They will be leaning heavily on freshman quarterback Bo Nix, who will be looking to start the 2020 Heisman hype game started early. He has been much more careful with the ball as the season matured, he has a grand total of zero picks in the last four games after throwing one in each of his first five games.
Auburn is likely to pound a Minnesota defense that gave up 173 yards on the ground in their last game out. This will give Bo Nix time to work in the pocket and put up some big numbers to add to his, and this team’s hype, heading into 2020.
Citrus Bowl | (14) Michigan Wolverines vs (13) Alabama Crimson Tide
Wednesday, January 1st at Camping World Stadium | 1:00 PM ET
Two of College Football’s most storied schools, Alabama and Michigan, face off for the second time this decade in the Citrus Bowl. This is just the fifth meeting in the history of these teams, each of which has been around for over 120 years.
The Maize and Blue won the first meeting between these two teams 28-24 with a walkout win in the 1988 Holiday Bowl. Jamie Morris led the way with a huge day on the ground and the game was won off a clutch TD catch by John Kolesar.
The Crimson Tide exacted their revenge in the 1997 Outback Bowl, winning a defensive battle by the score of 17-14.
Fast forward to the 2000 Orange Bowl, a game that is considered to be one of the best games in postseason history. It thrust a kid named Tom Brady into the spotlight after he lit up the SEC Champion Crimson Tide in his final, and best, game at Michigan. Brady brought the Wolverines back from being down 14 points, twice, and won an overtime thriller 35-34 when Alamaba missed a game-tying extra point.
The last time these teams faced off was the opening week of 2012 when a Saban led Bama team absolutely smoked the Wolverines 41-14.
Not only are these two teams electric, but their coaches are both hot topics on a weekly basis. Nick Saban and Jim Harbaugh might elevate this game to one of the greatest Citrus Bowl matchups in its 83-year history.
Truth be told, the Wolverines have a lot of work ahead of them if the game will live up to the hype it has generated so far.
The Alabama Crimson Tide are touchdown favorites over the Wolverines, a line which has not budged since odds opened. Even without their star quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, Bama fields a potent offense that can put up points against any team in the nation. Michigan’s defense has most recently struggled to contain Ohio State’s potent passing attack for the second year in a row and faces an even better wide receiver corps.
Jaylan Waddle, Jerry Jerry Jeudy, Devonta Smith, and Henry Ruggs III all have the ability to go off on any given week. Jeudy is the leader of the bunch, a projected lottery pick in the NFL draft and has contributed to the quartet to combine for 35 receiving touchdowns and 3,500 yards. That is more or less 700 more yards than Shea Patterson has passed for this season.
Not to be outdone, the Crimson Tide’s rushing attack, led by Najee Harris, is one of the best in the country. Harris was actually poised to attend Michigan but was eventually swayed by Saban over to the dark side.
Going back to his days as head coach at Michigan State, Nick Saban is 3-3 all-time against the Wolverines with the last game being that opening day blowout in 2012.
All of this offensive firepower will really test Michigan’s defensive coordinator, Don Brown, and his group of players. His defenses have given up 118 points over the last two seasons to the Ohio State Buckeyes, who are the only team of Alabama’s caliber that Michigan has played in the last few seasons.
Barring too many players sitting out to rest for the Draft, Alabama should have a relatively easy time with this Michigan team. Nobody in Michigan’s secondary can hang with these Bama receivers and will be tested all afternoon. The Wolverines also have a staggeringly bad 26% win rate in Bowl Games after losing their regular-season finale to Ohio State.
Rose Bowl | (6) Oregon Ducks vs (8) Wisconsin Badgers
Wednesday, January 1st at Rose Bowl Stadium | 5:00 PM ET
One of the more exciting games of the New Year will likely be this Rose Bowl matchup between Oregon and Wisconsin. While not technically a College Playoff game, it certainly could have been, if the cards fell slightly different late in the year.
Wisconsin enters this game as 3-point favorites, despite not boasting a conference championship this year. Losing to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game left them second-best in the conference. Because of the Rose Bowl’s conference affiliation, this gave the Badgers an automatic spot in this game.
The Badger’s best shot at winning this game is in the hands of running back Jonathan Taylor. He is the best back in the nation right now and has won back to back Doak Walker awards for his program. He is the face of this team and embodies their hard-nosed style of play. This might be the final game for Taylor, who has rushed for over 6,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in his three seasons in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin’s offense is not a one-man band, however. Quarterback Jack Coan has had a fantastic season, throwing for over 2,500 yards to go along with 17 touchdowns for the third year gunslinger. His primary partner in crime is wideout Quintez Cephus, who has caught 52 passes for 842 yards and eight touchdowns. While those aren’t mind-blowing numbers, remember that their offense is more of a ground-based attack.
Their defensive unit is led by senior linebacker Zack Baun, who led the team with 12.5 sacks and a very impressive 19.5 tackles for a loss. His play has been a major factor in the Badgers stingy defense who gave up just 16.1 points per game and managed four shutouts.
The Oregon Ducks are coming off perhaps their best out all year when they smoked Utah to hoist the Pac-12 championship trophy. The will be riding high coming off such an upset win and will be carrying a lot of momentum into Pasadena on New Years Day.
They are led by Senior quarterback Justin Herbert, who is undoubtedly one of the best quarterbacks in the nation this year. He has thrown for 3,333 yards, 32 touchdowns, and five interceptions. He is the start of this team and will look to cement his legacy with one last big win as a Duck.
On the defensive side of the ball, Oregan averaged just 15.7 points per game against this season but also gave up 30 points three separate times. They will be tested by Wisconsin’s grinding ground game and is the Duck’s key to success in this clash of titans.
Sugar Bowl | (7) Baylor Bears vs (5) Georgia Bulldogs
Wednesday, January 1st at Mercedes-Benz Superdome | 8:45 PM ET
This year’s Sugar Bowl is another matchup that could easily have been a College Football Playoff game. After each of these two teams came up short in their conference championship games, they lost out on a chance at the tournament and we’re relegated to battle it out in Louisiana. Now, playing in a New Year’s Bowl is still a very big deal, but it’s not the game these guys were hoping for.
Baylor is coming off another fantastic campaign toward the Big 12 title. It’s truly surprising how quickly they recovered from scandal to return to a legit playoff contender. The Bears did come up short against the Oklahoma Sooners in the Big 12 championship game 30-23 in a game they really could have won. It was a very strong effort and they will no doubt be playing Georgia just as hard in this throwdown.
The Bears do most of their offensive work on the ground, with the three-headed monster or John Lovett, JaMycal Hasty and Charlie Brewer. They have combined for 22 touchdowns, 10 of those coming from Brewer, and each Hasty and Lovett each have more than 600 yards rushing, Brewer is also their quarterback, ranking third in the conference in passing efficiency with a 65.2% completion percentage and 20 TD passes.
It’s worth noting that Charlie Brewer was knocked injured in that loss to Oklahoma and remains in concussion protocol more than two weeks after the hit. Coach Matt Rhule has stated he expects to have him back in time for ample time to get back to game shape.
Jacob Zeno and Gerry Bohannon filled in admirably, combining for 215 passing yards, but earned just 35 yards on 29 carries. This offense really needs Brewer back to run effectively with their reliance on the ground game and their other two options lacking in that department.
Georgia opened as more than touchdown favorites to beat Baylor. That number was quickly bet down to six points, as many of the betting public didn’t see this game being a walk in the park for the Bulldogs.
Despite failing to secure the SEC Championship Title, again, they are truly one of the best teams in the nation and could beat anyone on the right day. They suffered a pretty brutal loss at the hands of LSU, to lose the conference and their shot at a CFP game.
The Bulldogs also have a pair of highly capable running backs who will soon make a splash into the NFL. D’Andre Swift and Brian Herrien are would be a welcome number one option at any program in the nation, and Georgia has them both. D’Andre Swift is the team’s number one option with 1,216 yards and seven touchdowns off 195 attempts. Herrien doesn’t have the same stats, with just 490 yards on 103 carries, but he does have six touchdowns to go along with true first string talent. The Bears allow over 150 yards per game on the ground and will be in for a rough day if both Swift and Herrien suit up to play.
Looking to end his season on a high note will be Junior quarterback Jake Fromm. He has lacked quality receivers all season but still managed 2,610 yards passing to go along with 22 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions. Adding to this problem are his two best options, Lawrence Cager and Dominick Blaylock, are sidelined with injuries. This leaves Demetris Robertson and George Pickens as the only two wideouts left with over 300 yards on the season.
The Bulldogs will likely be able to do enough in the air to open up their ground game and pound Baylor into submission as near TD favorites.