Bowl Previews (January 1)

December 31, 2018 by CFP Staff

Five games on New Year's Day welcome the arrival of 2019. The Outback Bowl (12 noon ET) will be the first college football game of the new year when Mississippi State and Iowa do battle in an SEC-Big Ten clash in Tampa. The Fiesta, Citrus, Rose and Sugar Bowls follow.

No. 14 Mississippi State (8-4) and No. 23 Iowa (8-4) haven't previously met on the football field, but if conference representation means anything, the Bulldogs have a tremendous advantage. Southeastern Conference schools have won the last three Outback Bowls, and four of the last five. The Hawkeyes were the Big Ten representative for two of those five losses, most recently falling to 30-3 to Florida two years ago. Overall, this Iowa's sixth trip to the Outback Bowl since 2004, having also lost in 2006, but winning in 2004 and 2009. It's Mississippi State's first appearance in this game. The Hawkeyes are 15-15-1 in their bowl history after snapping a 5-bowl losing streak with a 27-20 win over Boston College in last year's Pinstripe Bowl. The Bulldogs are 13-8 in their bowl history, including a 9-2 mark since 1999. They enter this game on a three-bowl winning streak and the computer gives them a 4.34-point advantage to run that streak to four.

The Fiesta Bowl (1:00 p.m. ET) gives UCF (12-0) another crack at an SEC school after knocking off Auburn 34-27 in last year's Peach Bowl. This time, LSU (9-3) is the opponent. The Tigers come into this game ranked 13th in the Congrove Computer Rankings while the Knights enter at No. 8. UCF has already posted consecutive undefeated seasons under two different head coaches - Scott Frost a year ago and Josh Heuple this year. The Golden Knights will be without star quarterback McKenzie Milton, but that might not be as big of a deal as everyone thought it could be when Milton went down in the regular season finale. Staring in Milton's place the following week, Darriel Mack, Jr. had 6 touchdowns in the American Athletic Conference championship game victory over Memphis. He was 19-27 for 348 yards with 2 TD passes and no INT's, and  added 18 rushes for 59 yards and 4 more scores in the 56-41 win. UCF is looking for its 26th straight win. LSU's last game on the football field was about as memorable as they get - a 74-72 thriller in 7 overtimes at Texas A&M. Unfortunately for the Bayou Bengal faithful, LSU was on the short end of that stick. Nonetheless, this is a SEC-American Conference matchup and LSU should be the clear favorite. They opened as a 7-1/2-point favorite in Vegas and were still giving 7 as of December 19. The computer has LSU by 7.61.

The Citrus Bowl (1:00 p.m.) pits No. 11 Penn State (9-3) against No. 16 Kentucky (9-3). Both teams outperformed the computer's preseason projections which had Penn State going 8-4 and Kentucky finishing 6-6. However, the computer nailed its preseason projection of Kentucky winning at Florida to end a 31-game losing streak to the Gators. The Citrus Bowl had been a Big Ten-SEC matchup every year from 1993 to 2016, but the last two had an ACC-SEC pairing and a Notre Dame-SEC contest. Penn State is 29-17-2 in its bowl history with the 4th-most bowl wins of all FBS schools. Kentucky has been to 37 fewer bowl games and brings an 8-9 postseason mark to Orlando. The Nittany Lions rank 46th on offense, compared to Kentucky at 101. On defense, the Wildcats outrank Penn State modestly 22-36. The computer favors Penn State by 8.23.

No. 10 Washington (10-3) and No. 4 (computer rankings) Ohio State (12-1) will square-off in the Rose Bowl (4:00 p.m. ET) as this game gets its first traditional Big Ten-PAC 12 meeting since the playoff format began. This is the 12th meeting overall for the two programs, but their first in any bowl game. Washington's last win over Ohio State came in the 1994 regular season.and the Buckeyes hold an 8-3 edge in the series. Ohio State's strength is on offense where the Buckeyes are ranked 2nd in the nation and the Huskies are 60th. But Washington has the statistical advantage on defense where they out-rank the Buckeyes 12-to-67. Ohio State is a 6.73-point computer pick to defeat the Huskies for a fourth straight time.

The final game on New Year's Day is the Sugar Bowl (8:45 p.m. ET) matching No. 26 Texas (9-4) against No. 7 Georgia (11-2) with the Bulldogs getting the computer's nod by 8.66. These teams have met just four times in history and three of those occurred between 1949 and 1958. The most recent meeting came in the 1984 Cotton Bowl when Georgia notched its only win the series, 10-3. The only other bowl meeting saw Texas triumph 41-28 over the Bulldogs in the Orange Bowl on New Year's Day. 1949. Georgia's offensive and defensive units each rank 13th nationally. Texas ranks 55th on offense and 68th on defense.