Deke's New Years Day Bowl picks

Citrus Bowl, Sugar Bowl, and more

Deke Bellavia
December 31, 2017 - 6:09 pm


Citrus Bowl:  LSU vs Notre Dame (LSU minus -3 OVER Notre Dame) 

The Tigers and the Irish face each other for the second time in three bowl seasons.  Unlike the last time when LSU questioned whether or not they should be there, Notre Dame could be asking that question this time around.

The Irish went on a seven game win streak that put them atop the list of teams in the playoff hunt late in the season.  After a disappointing 1-1 start, Notre Dame reeled off seven wins, which ranked them in the “top 4” going into a late season match-up with then undefeated Miami.

But the Irish were pounded by the Canes, and then they lost two weeks later, dropping two of their final three regular season games.  But I think I speak for all when I say the Irish did become one of the nation’s best teams in that win streak.  And Notre Dame did so the old fashion way - by running the football.

A physical rushing attack behind the nation’s best O-line gave Notre Dame legit respect coast to coast.  RB Josh Adams and QB Brandon Wimbush were outstanding running the ball.

That brings us to the LSU/Notre Dame matchup.  In this game it’s strength versus strength.  LSU is stout on run defense and the Irish love to pound the rock.  I think Notre Dame will have some success moving the ball on LSU,  but can Wimbush make necessary completions when the game is tight? 

Against Miami and Stanford, the Irish fell behind and apart...then had to call too many pass plays.  That’s why I give the edge to the Tigers in this matchup.  LSU QB Danny Etling is no Joe Montana, but the young man has made big strides.  I think he’s poised for a great final game in Purple & Gold.

Anytime a team can rush the football and play pretty sound defense, like Notre Dame can, I usually take that bet.  But something tells me LSU will be up for this game.  I like the Tigers laying the three points.  Go with LSU 27 Notre Dame 20

Outback Bowl:  Michigan vs South Carolina (Michigan Minus – 7 1/2)  

The last time Michigan and South Carolina met in a bowl game, there was an on the field train wreck.  YES!  Anyone who knows college football remembers the amazing, hellacious lick that then Gamecock DE Jadevon Clowney laid on Michigan RB Vincent Smith back in the 2013 Outback Bowl.  Today that play is simply referred to as “the hit.”

Well, today we’re looking at two very different teams.  And, honestly, if you compare the direction of each program, I say South Carolina is trending upward and Michigan downward.

I may be one of very few vocal Jim Harbaugh fans, but fan or not, the kaki wearing coach is not producing.  At the very least Harbaugh is stealing money from his Alma Mater.

Harbaugh made a huge splash his first season.  He and Big Blue were the most bet on underdogs all season long, and they did well.  But since that 1st season, Michigan has been more hype than anything else.  

Harbaugh has yet to beat Urban Meyer and rival Ohio State, and he’s 1-2 versus Michigan State.  I don’t have to add that up to insult Wolverine fans even more, but Jim is a dismal 1-5 versus Michigan’s biggest rivals.

On the flip side South Carolina is trending upward.  The Gamecocks have performed better than expected each of the last two seasons.  And the program is going in the right direction.

The key to South Carolina growth - can they maintain their position in the East and remain near the top while Florida and Tennessee  regroup with new head coaches?  I think the Gamecocks will play hard for a while, but the pressure is on Harbaugh to win this game.

Yes, it’s a meaningless game, well at least it appears that way to Michigan fans.  But, Harbaugh can’t afford to go into the off-season losing to an SEC team.  And, that’s a middle of the pack SEC team at that.  

What’s my take on this battle?  I say give the Gamecocks 7 points and reluctantly go with the Wolverines.  Take Michigan 

Peach Bowl:  Auburn vs Central Florida (Auburn Minus 9 ½)  

Okay, I’ll make this simple as apple pie - Tigers!  This is an easy pick for two reasons:  #1 Gus Mulzahn is not going anywhere and he is now a member of one of the highest paid coaches in all of sports.

Yes, Gus now has “job security” with that new PHAT contract.  But, come on, ole Gus knows even with that new deal, he does not want to lose to UCF.  The bashing does not stop with a new contract; it only gets bigger and louder.

So the “Gus” factor is reason #1 to take Auburn.  

Reason #2 - what the HELL was UCF running back Adrian Killins Jr. thinking when he told the Orlando Sentinel, “SEC football, they don’t have a lot of speed, honestly.”  On his December 14th rant Killins continued  “Auburn hasn’t seen any speed like we have here.  So I would say they’re in for a rude awakening, because UCF football, we’re UCF fast and UCF fierce."

SAY WHAT?  Dude, Auburn is a team not really looking forward to playing YOU in the Peach Bowl!  You don’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar to know Auburn wanted to play in the Sugar Bowl or Rose Bowl, not the Peach “Deliciously Chicken” laden bowl game.

After Killins opened his big mouth (Hey, he might back it up), that’s reason enough for me to not only pull for Auburn, but confidently pick the Tigers to win this game.  I say Auburn wins this one by 14 or more points.  Take the Tigers!  

Rose Bowl:  Oklahoma vs Georgia (Georgia Minus -2 ½)  

Oklahoma has the best QB of all four playoff teams.  That’s why the Sooners have more than a legit chance to win it all.  But in this match-up, I think the Bulldogs are the more complete team.  

Why?  I was more than impressed by the way the Bulldogs responded in their second meeting with Auburn than how they played the Tigers in the first meeting.

Just think back a minute. Mark Richt went 13-1 and finished #3 in the nation in his second season as head coach of UGA.  At the time, all in Bulldogs country just knew Richt would lead UGA to their second National Title.  Well, they’re still waiting in Athens.

Now, as karma would have it, Coach Kirby Smart has a chance to win the national title in his second season as HC just like Richt did back in 2002.  

I like Georgia’s two-headed monster - running backs Chubb and Michel.  Plus, the Bulldogs have more than enough on defense to keep Sooners QB Baker Mayfield in check.  

This game opened as a pick-it.  And as we get closer to kickoff, the  Bulldogs have become a 2 ½ point favorite.  

Take the UGA Bulldogs and chant SEC-SEC-SEC!  

Sugar Bowl:  Clemson vs Alabama (Alabama Minus – 3 OVER Clemson)  

Folks, since the 2008 college football season bettors have been able to pick Alabama two, maybe three times with the Tide being no less than a five point favorite.  

Ask anyone who makes picks for a living and they will tell you this is a VALUE play here with the Crimson Tide.  Not often can you EVER find a Nick Saban coached team as a small favorite.

Give me Alabama and Saban as a favorite by less than a handful of points and I’m running to the window as fast as I can to get a ticket on the Tide.  Yes, Clemson is good.  Yes, Clemson potentially has more first round draft picks that the Tide on defense. And, yes, Tigers Coach Dabo Sweeney is legit and he ain’t scared of Alabama.  But, the Crimson Tide wants to prove they can play well in a non-title related Sugar Bowl.  

Did you know in the Nick Saban era, the Tide have won one Sugar Bowl (beat LSU 21-0), while losing in blowout fashion on the other three occasions to Utah, Oklahoma and Ohio State? 

The last time Clemson was in the Sugar Bowl was way back in 1959.  They lost to the eventual National Champion LSU Tigers 7-0.  In fact that marks the only time that the Clemson Tigers played in the Sugar Bowl.

Forget all the breakdowns on offense, defense and special teams here.  I say go with Alabama and lay only -3 points.  Take the Crimson Tide.  


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