The Falcons, favored by seven points, will beat the Jaguars by less than that Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. But Weekend Predictions knows you are not here for that pick. You came to mock me for predicting the Falcons to lose big last weekend at the 49ers. That felt personal, Falcons.
I’m dusting off and moving on to college football bowl games. There are 39 of them, not including the national championship game, so entertainment value varies. My pleasure is watching fans call players selfish when they skip games to get ready for the NFL draft. The audacity of those players denying strangers vicarious thrills because they won’t play one more game for no salary.
Players sitting out and coaching changes are factors that make it challenging to predict every bowl game. The same is true for undisclosed injuries and suspensions. But I was right on 61 percent of my bowl-game picks last season. Never mind I’m taking a two-week losing streak into this postseason.
‘New Year’s Six’ bowls
Sugar Bowl, Jan. 1 (New Orleans): No. 7 Baylor (+7) vs. No. 5 Georgia
After Texas pushed around Georgia in the last Sugar Bowl coach, Kirby Smart wants his players “engaged and excited” for this one. I suspect Smart’s workers would be more motivated if they were getting a bowl bonus like their coach ($175,000). A bigger issue for Georgia than motivation is that offensive tackles Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson are skipping this game to prep for the NFL draft. I’ll take Baylor and the points.
Peach Bowl, Dec. 28, CFP semifinal (Mercedes-Benz Stadium): No. 1 LSU (-13 ½) vs. No. 4 Oklahoma
The line didn’t move in reaction to word that LSU star tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire (hamstring) could sit out. That makes me wonder what I’m missing because I liked the Sooners with the points even before that news. Starting defensive end Ronnie Perkins is among three Oklahoma players who reportedly are suspended for this game, but that’s not enough to change my mind. Sooners cover.
Fiesta Bowl, Dec. 28, CFP semifinal (Glendale, Ariz.): No. 2 Ohio State (+2) vs. No. 3 Clemson
Ex-UGA quarterback Justin Fields has been limited by a knee injury, but he still passed for 299 yards and three touchdowns in the Big Ten title game against Wisconsin. That’s one of four victories for the Buckeyes over teams in the final CFP rankings. Clemson owns one such victory, against No. 24 Virginia. The Tigers have covered in 10 consecutive games while being favored by at least four touchdowns, but I can’t pass on picking the Buckeyes with points.
Rose Bowl, Jan. 1 (Pasadena, Calif.): No. 8 Wisconsin (-2½) vs. No. 6 Oregon
Wisconsin is the Big Ten’s Auburn. The Badgers are a very good program with a ceiling of a non-CFP bowl game most years because other conference foes are great. I’m taking Oregon to cover.
Cotton Bowl, Dec. 28 (Arlington, Texas): No. 17 Memphis (+6 ½) vs. No. 10 Penn State
Memphis would be an attractive underdog if not for attrition. Coach Mike Norvell left for Florida State, defensive coordinator Adam Fuller followed him and starting right tackle Scottie Dill isn’t playing. Penn State is the pick.
Orange Bowl, Dec. 30 (Miami Gardens, Fla.): No. 24 Virginia (+14) vs. No. 9 Florida
There’s media speculation that the Cowboys will want to hire Florida coach Dan Mullen if they fire Jason Garrett. Mullen hasn’t done much to quiet that buzz. Related: Mullen said he and athletic director Scott Stricklin have discussed a contract extension. Gators cover.
Other bowl games of interest
Arizona Bowl, Dec. 31 (Tucson): Georgia State (+7) vs. Wyoming
Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott gets a $25,000 bonus for playing in this game and another $25,000 if the Panthers win. NCAA rules limit players to gifts valued at no more than $550 and Sports Business Daily reports that players in this game receive goodies that include ... a travel kit and a beanie. Elliott’s players should be plenty motivated by returning to a bowl game after a one-year absence. I’m still taking Wyoming and giving the points.
Outback Bowl, Jan. 1 (Tampa): Minnesota (+7) vs. Auburn
One of my favorite things is seeing Auburn coach Gus Malzhan stay a half-step ahead of the mob that always wants him fired. Win this game, and Malzahn will have three seasons of at least 10 victories, with each including a win against Alabama. I’m taking Minnesota and the points.
Citrus Bowl, Jan. 1 (Orlando): Michigan (+7) vs. Alabama
Star wide receiver Jerry Jeudy isn’t among the draft-eligible Alabama players sitting this one out. But it’s always a mystery how much the Crimson Tide will care when they aren’t playing for a championship. Michigan covers.
Gator Bowl, Jan. 2 (Jacksonville, Fla.): Tennessee (-1½) vs. Indiana
I doubt they are celebrating a 7-5 season at Rocky Top but who would have thought the Volunteers would be here after losing to Georgia State and starting 1-4 in the SEC? The Hoosiers are finishing up their first winning season since 2007 and second since 1993. I like them to cover.
Texas Bowl, Dec. 27 (Houston): No. 25 Oklahoma State (+7) vs. Texas A&M
This bowl isn’t what Texas A&M had in mind when it hired coach Jimbo Fisher. But it’s a short drive from campus, so the Aggies sold out their ticket allotment. I’ll take TAMU and give the points.
Music City Bowl, Dec. 30 (Nashville): Mississippi State (-4) vs. Louisville
There’s no risk of ear bleed from watching this game on television because Mississippi State fans won’t be allowed to bring their cowbells into the stadium. Louisville covers.
Sun Bowl, Dec. 31 (El Paso, Texas): Florida State (+4½) vs. Arizona State
Three key FSU players are skipping this one: running back Cam Akers, linebacker Dontavious Jackson and quarterback Alex Hornibrook. I’ll take Arizona State and give the points.
Belk Bowl, Dec. 31 (Charlotte): Kentucky (+3) vs. Virginia Tech
Credit to Kentucky coach Mark Stoops for guiding a team with virtually no passing game to a bowl game. But it’s hard to run against the Hokies, who cover.
Alamo Bowl, Dec. 31 (San Antonio): Texas (+7) vs. No. 11 Utah
After the early-season narrative that Texas is back among the elite programs there now is the reality that Utah probably is less excited for this game. Utes still cover.
Other bowl games of less interest (my picks in bold)
• Bahama Bowl, Friday: Buffalo (-6½) vs. Charlotte
• Frisco (Texas) Bowl, Friday: Kent State (+6½) vs. Utah State
• Cure Bowl, Saturday (Orlando): Liberty vs. Georgia Southern (-5)
• Las Vegas Bowl, Saturday: Washington vs. No. 19 Boise State (+3½)
• New Mexico Bowl, Saturday (Albuquerque): Central Michigan vs. San Diego State (-3½)
• New Orleans Bowl, Saturday: UAB vs. No. 20 Appalachian State (-16½)
• Boca Raton (Fla.) Bowl, Saturday: SMU (-3) vs. Florida Atlantic
• Camellia Bowl, Saturday (Montgomery, Ala.): Florida International vs. Arkansas State (-2½)
• Gasparilla Bowl, Monday (Tampa): Marshall vs. UCF (-17½)
• Hawaii Bowl, Tuesday (Honolulu): BYU (-2) vs. Hawaii
• Quick Lane Bowl, Thursday (Detroit): Pittsburgh vs. Eastern Michigan (+11)
• Independence Bowl, Thursday (Shreveport, La.): Miami (-6) vs. Louisiana Tech
• Holiday Bowl, Dec. 27 (San Diego): No. 22 USC vs. No. 16 Iowa (-2)
• Pinstripe Bowl, Dec. 27 (New York): Michigan State (-4) vs. Wake Forest
• Military Bowl, Dec. 27 (Annapolis, Md.): North Carolina vs. Temple (+4½)
• Camping World Bowl, Dec. 28 (Orlando): Iowa State vs. No. 15 Notre Dame (-4)
• First Responder Bowl, Dec. 30 (Dallas): Western Kentucky (-3½) vs. Western Michigan
• Redbox Bowl, Dec. 30 (Santa Clara, Calif.): Illinois vs. California (-7)
• Cheez-It Bowl, Dec. 30 (Phoenix): Washington State vs. Air Force (-3)
• Liberty Bowl, Dec. 31 (Memphis): Kansas State (+½) vs. No. 23 Navy
• Birmingham Bowl, Jan. 2 : Boston College vs. No. 21 Cincinnati (-7)
• Idaho Potato Bowl, Jan. 3 (Boise): Ohio (-7½) vs. Nevada
• Armed Forces Bowl, Jan. 4 (Fort Worth, Texas): Tulane (-7) vs. Southern Mississippi
• LendingTree Bowl, Jan. 6 (Mobile, Ala.): Miami (Ohio) (+14) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
Last week: 4-6-1 (111-84-7 season)
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