January 2 Bowl Preview
TaxSlayer Bowl: Penn State Nittany Lions (7-5) vs. Georgia Bulldogs (9-3), 12:00 P.M.
Penn State lost their last three games to finish with just seven wins. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg was the best prospect in his high school class, but has struggled with accuracy and decision making. Hackenberg isn’t the sole person to blame, the offensive line hasn’t played particularly well his entire career. Running back Saquan Barkley did manage to rush for 1,007 yards behind the same offensive line, but the Penn State offense didn’t score many points this season, averaging just 23.6 points per game. The Nittany Lions have a good scoring defense, letting up only 21.7 points per game, but did give up 55 points to Michigan State in their last game. They hold teams to 174.5 passing yards per game and have a great pass rush. Defensive end Carl Nassib had 15.5 sacks before missing the last two games of the season due to injury, but he is expected to play in this game.
Georgia lost their best player, running back Nick Chubb, for the season due to a knee injury in their game against Tennessee on October 10. They then fired Head Coach Mark Richt after the completion of the regular season. They still have running back Sonny Michel, who rushed for 1,076 yards in relief of Chubb. The problem for the Bulldogs’ offense has been the quarterback position. Graduate transfer Greyson Lambert only threw two interceptions on the season, but couldn’t get the offense moving properly. Second stringer Brice Ramsey did not play well this season and third stringer Faton Bauta will transfer and not be with the team for the bowl game. Defensively the Bulldogs have been great, allowing 16.9 points per game. They allow fewer than 150 passing yards per game. Linebacker Leonard Floyd is one of the most athletically gifted players in the country and has shown the ability to cover this season as well as rush the passer.
The Bulldogs may not have their head coach, but they still have a talented roster. The key to this game is Georgia’s ability to get to Hackenberg, which they will do early and often.
Final Score: Georgia 35 Penn State 23
Liberty Bowl: Kansas State Wildcats (6-6) vs. Arkansas Razorbacks (7-5), 3:20 P.M.
Kansas State won their last three games to get to six wins and become bowl eligible. The Wildcats played two quarterbacks this season, but Joe Hubener got the most playing time. He threw for 1,837 yards and rushed for 613 yards on the season. Running back Charles Johnson led the team in rushing with 656 yards rushing, proving that this team has no offensive stars, but is still a good unit, averaging 30.3 points per game. The Wildcats’ defense was uncharacteristically bad this season, allowing opponents to score 30.5 points per game. They have played better late in the season, allowing just 18.5 points per game in their last two games.
Arkansas had a wacky season and may not have lived up to preseason expectations, but got seven wins and a bowl appearance. Running back Alex Collins rushed for 1,392 yards and 17 touchdowns this season behind an NFL-sized offensive line. The best player this season for the Razorbacks has been quarterback Brandon Allen who passed for 3,125 yards. The offense averaged 35.2 points per game, which is the best in the Bret Bielema era. Arkansas’ defense is average in terms of points allowed, but has been good against the run, as opponents average 119.6 points per game. Linebacker Brooks Ellis has been a huge help to the run defense, totaling double digit tackles in three games this season.
Collins will gain 100 rushing yards and Arkansas will keep running the ball behind their big offensive line. Kansas State will not be able to stop this attack and will lose.
Final Score: Arkansas 33 Kansas State 21
Alamo Bowl: #14 Oregon Ducks (9-3) vs. #11 TCU Horned Frogs (10-2), 6:45 P.M.
Oregon had three wins and three losses, but now has won six straight games. A lot of this is due to quarterback Vernon Adams being healthy. In his one season as Oregon’s quarterback he threw for 2,446 yards and 25 touchdowns. The star of the offense this year has been running back Royce Freeman, who finished the season with 1,706 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns. With these two players leading the offense, the Ducks have averaged 43.2 points per game. Oregon is ranked 114 in scoring defense this season, but a lot of that is because of the pace that their offense plays with. The Ducks are especially vulnerable to the pass allowing over 300 yards per game through the air. Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner has had at least half of a sack in Oregon’s last seven games and is a lot to deal with for an offensive line.
TCU has been hampered by injuries and suspensions all season, but still finished with ten wins. Quarterback Trevone Boykin is now suspended from this game for assaulting a police officer in San Antonio. Their other star on offense, wide receiver Josh Doctson, is also out for this game with an injury. This means that the offense will lean heavily on running back Aaron Green, who has 1,171 rushing yards this season. The offense in this game will be far from the one that averaged 41.7 points per game this season. The defense played admirably, given the injuries, giving up 26.1 points per game. The defense is as good at defending the pass as the run and will grow from the experience of playing so many players due to injury.
With the injuries and suspensions for TCU, Oregon will be able to run the score up on the Horned Frogs.
Final Score: Oregon 63 TCU 31
Cactus Bowl: West Virginia Mountaineers (7-5) vs. Arizona State Sun Devils(6-6), 10:15 P.M.
West Virginia didn’t have as good of an offense as Head Coach Dana Holgorsen usually has, and as a result had just seven wins. Quarterback Skyler Howard passed for 2,613 yards and running back Wendell Smallwood rushed for 1,447 yards, but they still scored just 33.3 points per game, which is low for the Mountaineers. Safety Karl Joseph was one of the best in the country before being lost for the season with an injury. Their defense is still solid, allowing just 23.9 points per game.
Arizona State had six wins, but was expected to compete for a Pac 12 Championship. The defense has been the issue for the Sun Devils as they allow 321.7 passing yards per game. They lost a lot of talent to the NFL the past few years, and haven’t adequately replaced them. Quarterback Mike Bercovici passed for 3,442 yards and 26 touchdowns leading the high-powered offense. Running back Demario Richard rushed for 1,050 yards.
The Sun Devils haven’t lived up to expectations this season, but their offense will carry them to a victory in this game.
Final Score: Arizona State 43 West Virginia 37