There are 41 college football bowl games in 2017, but for the most part only seven carry national significance: The New Year’s Six major bowls and the national championship game. If a school doesn’t make the national semifinals, one of the other New Year’s Six is a nice consolation prize in terms of showcasing a program, not to mention a big-time payout.
The first of the major bowls is December 29 as No. 8 USC faces No. 5 Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl. The Big Ten champion Buckeyes are -7.5 over the Pac-12 champion Trojans at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Normally, the winners of those conferences would play in the Rose Bowl, but that’s a semifinal game this season.
It’s perhaps the most star-studded quarterback matchup of any bowl game between USC’s Sam Darnold, potentially the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, who holds numerous school and Big Ten records.
On December 30 in the Fiesta Bowl, No. 11 Washington of the Pac-12 is a 2-point underdog to No. 9 Penn State of the Big Ten. It’s surely the final collegiate game for arguably the greatest running back in Nittany Lions history, which is saying something, in Saquon Barkley. He was a Heisman betting favorite for a large chunk of the season before tailing off a bit.
It’s the first meeting between the programs since 1983. Both schools’ offensive coordinators have left for head coaching jobs: Washington’s Jonathan Smith to Oregon State and PSU’s Joe Moorhead to Mississippi State.
After the Fiesta Bowl on December 30 is the Orange Bowl as No. 6 Wisconsin of the Big Ten faces No. 10 Miami of the ACC. The Badgers are 6.5-point favorites even though this is essentially a home game for the Hurricanes. UM was unbeaten at home and brought out the Turnover Chain often there. The Canes, though, didn’t end the season strong with a bad loss at unranked Pitt and then a blowout defeat against Clemson in the ACC title game. UW’s only loss this season was to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.
The final three New Year’s Six bowls are on January 1, starting with the Peach Bowl between No. 12 Central Florida, the nation’s lone unbeaten team, against No. 7 Auburn. The Tigers are -9.5, but how motivated will they be after getting drummed in the SEC title game to lose a shot at the national semifinals? Scott Frost will coach UCF even though he already has been hired as Nebraska’s coach.
The first national semifinal is the Rose Bowl between No. 3 Georgia and No. 2 Oklahoma, with the Bulldogs at -1.5. The Big 12 champion Sooners have one of the nation’s top offenses led by Heisman-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield, while the SEC champion Dawgs have a ferocious defense and stellar ground attack. It’s the first-ever meeting between the programs.
It’s the third year in a row that No. 4 Alabama and No. 1 Clemson square off, this time in the Sugar Bowl national semifinal. The Tide are 3-point favorites because, well, they are always favored. Bama was favored in the past two national title games vs. the Tigers, but Clemson covered in both – losing a close game following the 2015 season and winning a close one last January.
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