College bowl games of interest
Peach Bowl (Mercedes-Benz Stadium): No. 9 Georgia (-7) vs. No. 8 Cincinnati
It appears fewer Bulldogs players will skip this game than last year’s Sugar Bowl. Coach Kirby Smart said players who aren’t projected to be picked early in the draft have more to gain than lose by suiting up. I’m not sure about that, but Smart certainly has more to gain if they play because he gets a $200,000 bonus if Georgia finishes in the top five of the final AP or coaches’ poll.
Cincinnati has flourished with coach Luke Fickell, who guided Ohio State in 2011 after Jim Tressel resigned. The Bearcats won 11 games in each of the past two seasons and are in position for their highest-even ranking to finish a season. The Bulldogs will be tested before winning by less than seven points.
Rose (College Football Playoff semifinal; Arlington, Texas): No. 4 Notre Dame (+20) vs. No. 1 Alabama
Notre Dame is a quality team getting a lot of points. That’s hard for me to pass up even though I know Alabama often beats big spreads with ease. Yes, Clemson crushed Notre Dame in the CFP two years ago and in the ACC Championship game two weeks ago. But the Fighting Irish play good defense, and did I mention all those points they are getting?
It’s hard for me to resist a good ‘dog, so I went looking for a reason not to pick the Irish to cover. ESPN’s Bill Connelly came through. He notes that, over the past 10 years, teams favored by 19 to 20 points won by 40 or more points more often than they lost. Bama is that kind of team. Crimson Tide are the pick.
Sugar (CFP semifinal; New Orleans): No. 3 Ohio State (+7½) vs. No. 2 Clemson
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney obviously had a conflict of interest when he said Ohio State didn’t deserve a CFP berth after playing only six games. That doesn’t mean he was wrong. But now that the Tigers are in the CFP and relatively injury-free, playing five more games than the Buckeyes could be an advantage in terms of team development.
Ohio State wants revenge after its controversial loss to Clemson in last season’s semifinals. That’s an overstated storyline for a game like this. No extra motivation is necessary for a team aiming for a national championship. I’d back the Buckeyes if not for QB Justin Fields’ thumb injury. Clemson covers.
Orange (Miami Gardens, Fla.): No. 5 Texas A&M (+7½) vs. No. 13 North Carolina
I was set to pick UNC to cover until I heard the bad news. Per a TV station in Raleigh-Durham, Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell claims that chicken is the only meat he’s eaten since he was a kid, and not for reasons that have anything to do with health. Now I can’t back the Heels. Also, four of their best players decided they are done playing for no salary. Aggies cover.
Fiesta (Glendale, Ariz.): No. 25 Oregon (+4) vs. No. 10 Iowa State
Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News opines that an Oregon victory in this game would “qualify as the highlight of the season” for the Pac-12. Bless its heart. Iowa State has never played in a bowl game this big and can win nine games for just the third time in program history. I’ll take the Cyclones with the points.
Citrus (Orlando): Auburn (+3½) vs. No. 14 Northwestern
Auburn interim coach Kevin Steele told reporters he’s taking “more of an NFL approach” by not disclosing which players won’t play because of injuries or COVID-19. Steele was a Carolina Panthers assistant, but I guess he forgot that pro teams are required to be transparent about player availability. Maybe Kansas gave Steele too much injury info when his Baylor team beat the Jayhawks for its only Big 12 victory in his four seasons as coach. Northwestern is the pick.
Last week against the spread: 3-4 (84-72-3 season)