New Year’s Six Predictions

Talking season is officially over. And, after the Week 0 lows (the Florida/Miami game) and the highs (the end of the Hawaii/Arizona game), we have finally hit our first real football Saturday.

With that said, it's time for the last piece of the talking season: predicting the New Year's Six bowl participants and the College Football Playoff. It should be an intriguing year across the country, and given that there's always a couple of wild cards in the deck, we'll make a couple of interesting picks here. So, let's get to it.

Peach Bowl: #1 Clemson vs. #4 Michigan

With Trevor Lawrence at the helm, I don't see Clemson going anywhere but the top slot. The opening stretch of traveling to Georgia Tech, hosting Texas A&M and then traveling to Syracuse isn't the nicest, but if the Tigers get through that, it should be a pretty manageable path for Dabo Swinney and company.

I don't see the CFP committee omitting the Big Ten conference for another season, nor do I see it allowing two teams from the same conference to appear in the Final Four again either. So, pencil in the Wolverines. Michigan has some serious trap games (Army is definitely one of them, along with Iowa). But, eventually, I think their talent finally pushes them past Ohio State this year and into a trip to Atlanta. Unfortunately for them, they'll get Clemson.

Fiesta Bowl: #2 Alabama vs #3 Oklahoma

Here's where it gets interesting. Georgia certainly has the talent to make it to the CFP, but I see Alabama and Georgia clashing for the SEC title game and I don't see the committee letting the loser of the game into the last four. So, while the Bulldogs would be worthy, it's hard to me to not pick Alabama, especially given Nick Saban's ability to shatter Georgia hearts. So, Tua Tagovailoa and Tide get to meet their old friend Jalen Hurts and the Sooners, who will take the Big 12 and quite possibly, win yet again another Heisman.

Hurts definitely knows what it takes to win a title; it'll be interesting to watch him try to pick apart a defense he's practiced against for three years. So, a rematch of last year's playoff semifinal is what's shaping up to happen in Arizona.

Rose Bowl: Utah vs. Ohio State

Ohio State will return to Pasadena, albeit a little bitter with their rival making the playoff. Nevertheless, new coach, new QB, same consistent winning from the Buckeyes. While Washington and Oregon seem to be the trendy picks in the Pac-12, Utah has the friendliest schedule (besides a road game in Seattle), so I'll go against the grain, believing that Tyler Huntley is going to have a breakout senior year, and I'll take Utah winning the Pac-12. There will be a lot of red in the Rose Bowl in what honestly would be a very intriguing matchup.

Sugar Bowl: Georgia vs. Iowa State

Surprised? Thought it could be a Georgia/Texas rematch? Nope! As stated earlier, there's a strong case for Georgia to make the CFP as they're a team good enough to win the national title. However, the curse of Saban, coupled with the committee keeping it to conference champions, sends the Bulldogs to New Orleans for now. (If Georgia beats Alabama in the SEC title game, insert the Crimson Tide in this slot instead).

Meanwhile, Iowa State's facing incredible expectations, as they've been picked to finish third in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma and Texas. If the Cyclones can defend their home turf against Iowa, there's a real, actual possibility that they could be 8-0 heading into Norman to face Oklahoma. Following that game, they've got Texas at home. Matt Campbell has proven that these aren't your dad's Cyclones, and I'll take ISU upsetting Texas, finishing as Big 12 runners-up and forcing New Orleans to stock up on Busch Light.

Orange Bowl: Syracuse vs. LSU

A solid SEC/ACC matchup in Miami. Dino Babers did an incredible job turning around the Orange last year and there shouldn't be any drop-off this year whatsoever. Andre Cisco is definitely a name to watch this season for Syracuse. He's a sophomore, and yet already is one of the best safeties in the country, picking off seven passes last year. They'll face the Bayou Bengals and their dangerous punch of Joe Burrow and Justin Jefferson. However, Clyde Edwards-Helaire might be the most crucial cog. LSU will miss Nick Brossette greatly, and it'll be up to Edwards-Helaire to fill in that gap. Oh, and then there's Devin White on the defensive side.

Cotton Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Memphis

The Pac-12 just gets one team in the New Year's Six this year, as Notre Dame's strength of schedule will be good enough to send the Fighting Irish back to Jerry World. They could end up in Miami, but I think the Orange Bowl folks will be more intrigued by LSU, and given the Cotton Bowl gets the two at-large picks, they'll grab Notre Dame.

Meanwhile, the best Group of Five team this year? Memphis has been on UCF's heels for the last couple of years and this year, I think they finally get over the hump (they're already a favorite over Ole Miss this weekend, as well). It should be very interesting to see the high-octane passing attack of the Tigers go up against the Irish D.

CFP Title Game: Clemson vs. Alabama

Sorry, folks, it's back again. Until a viable contender emerges, all signs point to yet another showdown between the Tigers and the Tide. If it was to differ, it could be Clemson-Georgia. But, for now, it's Trevor vs. Tua and Dabo vs. Saban yet again. Saban has hinted that he's got a pretty special team on his hands. But, after the ridiculously impressive show that Clemson put on last year, why would anyone pick against them right now? With the offense rolling, and Brent Venables creating another merciless defensive unit, one has to believe that this year will be a repeat for the Clemson Tigers.

So there you have it: some old faces, some new faces. Now, time to enjoy watching this season unfold.

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