For college football observers, New Year’s Day is the crescendo of the college football season. Each bowl matchup features the best of the best and it goes on all day. There’s nothing better than seeing elite prospects face off against other elite players. Below, you’ll find information about each bowl game as well as NFL prospects to watch for each team.
As always, talk about the games, leave questions on prospects and enjoy.
Michigan vs. South Carolina
12:00 PM Eastern, ESPN 2
Michigan’s strength is in their defense, specifically their front seven, which features penetrating defensive tackle Maurice Hurst. Hurst has first-round talent at the position and has some similarities to Aaron Donald. Behind Hurst is run-stopping linebacker Mike McCray. The 6’4”, 248-pound prospect struggles in pass coverage and will likely be destined for the draft’s later rounds as a result. If South Carolina can match up their explosive tight end, Hayden Hurst, with McCray, it will be a win for the Gamecocks. USC also has a next-level linebacker in Skai Moore, who projects as Will linebacker, as he’s more comfortable in pass coverage than taking on blockers.
No. 12 UCF vs. No. 7 AUB
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl
12:30 PM Eastern, ESPN
One of the best stories in college football this season has been the rise of UCF. The team’s offense is explosive, but most of their NFL prospects for this year are on the defensive side of the ball. Linebacker Shaquem Griffin manages to be productive despite only having one hand (the other was amputated due to a birth defect) and Jamiyus Pittman is an explosive pass rusher from the defensive tackle position. Both UCF defenders will have their hands full with the Auburn offensive line, which features NFL prospects Braden Smith and Austin Golson. Both can be maulers in the run game and will attempt to pave the way for running back Kerryon Johnson, a late riser at the position who has first-round talent.
No. 14 Notre Dame vs. No. 17 LSU
1:00 PM Eastern, ABC
Notre Dame will be looking to avoid LSU’s talented cornerbacks, Ed Oliver and Kevin Toliver, instead applying a steady diet of tailback Josh Adams. Luckily for them, they have two first round prospects on their offensive line in left tackle Mike McGlinchey and guard Quenton Nelson. This will be a good game to observe how LSU pass rusher Arden Key defends the run. LSU will also be looking to pound the rock with running back Derrius Guice, but look for them to sprinkle in some throws to their deep threat, DJ Chark.
No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 2 Oklahoma
5:00 PM Eastern, ESPN
Both teams have NFL prospects all over their rosters, but the main attraction will be seeing how Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield handles one of the best defenses in the country. Mayfield loves to target the middle of the field with tight end Mark Andrews, so Georgia linebackers Roquan Smith and Lorenzo Carter should be busy all game. When Georgia has the ball, look for them to utilize their two talented running backs, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, in a rotation. Their left tackle, Isaiah Wynn will be paving the way for the both.
No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 1 Clemson
Allstate Sugar Bowl
8:45 PM Eastern, ESPN
A rematch of last year’s college football championship game, both teams have become NFL football factories and this year is no different. Not much has changed since last year, as Alabama still loves to run the ball with Damien Harris and Bo Scarborough and loves to stop the run with defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne and linebacker Rashaan Evans. The few times they pass, the team will likely target senior Calvin Ridley. Alabama’s secondary is somewhat overlooked, but Minkah Fitzpatrick is their swiss-army knife, able to fill multiple roles.
Clemson, once again, features a high-powered offense but other than deep threat Deon Cain, few players are draft eligible. The team’s defensive line might be the best in the country though, with defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and defensive end Clelin Ferrell both projected to go in the first round.