NCAAF
December 30, 2020
BY Calvin McAlee

Predicting the Winners of the New Year’s Six Bowls

While this year's bowl season will be unlike any other, we still have College Football Playoffs as well as the New Year's Six Bowls to enjoy. 

With every top-10 team playing in one of these bowls, it should be an exciting start to 2021. 

Who will win these prestigious bowls? We've made our picks below. 

Cotton Bowl: No. 7 Florida vs. No. 6 Oklahoma

When: Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020 | 8 pm ET, ESPN

The first of the New Year’s Six Bowls will be the Goodyear Cotton Bowl between the Florida Gators and Oklahoma Sooners. This is a matchup of two teams who are heading in opposite directions. 

The Gators were 8-1 at one point with just a respectable three-point loss to Texas A&M early in the season. Now, they are 8-3 and on a two-game losing streak. Quarterback Kyle Trask has put together an excellent season but his defense has done virtually nothing to help him.

As for Oklahoma, they began the season as a CFP favorite but their season was doomed from the start. After a 48-0 win against Missouri State to open the season, the Sooners lost their next two games. After everyone wrote the Sooners off as a bust this season, they went on to win seven straight games to get to 8-2 and earn a spot in a major bowl game.

Florida has the offense to compete with anyone when they have their full battalion of offensive weapons, but they'll be without stars Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney, as they both opted out of the bowl game to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft. 

The Oklahoma offense has started to look as advertised in recent weeks. Quarterback Spencer Rattler has looked a lot better in the second half of the season. While their offense may not be as explosive as Florida, their defense is certainly far and away better. In a game where everyone will be looking to see an offensive explosion, it will be the Oklahoma defense that makes the real difference.

Oklahoma 35, Florida 27 

Peach Bowl: No. 9 Georgia vs. No. 8 Cincinnati

When: Friday, Jan. 1, 2021 | Noon ET, ESPN

Although the Peach Bowl isn't part of the College Football Playoff, it is still one of the most fascinating matchups of bowl season. 

Cincinnati is obviously disappointed that they missed out on the CFP despite going 9-0, while Georgia was a disappointment for missing out on both the SEC Championship and the CFP. But both teams will be able to end the season on a high note. 

After a 3-0 start, Georgia dropped their first game of the season against Alabama in a 41-24 game that saw Georgia hold a halftime lead. They suffered their second loss to Florida a few weeks later. Following their second loss, the Bulldogs went to a new quarterback in JT Daniels. Since Daniels took over, the Bulldogs are 3-0 and their offense looks to be in fine form.

Cincinnati missed out on the CFP despite their undefeated record. Considering their schedule, it is understandable. The two toughest opponents for the Bearcats came in their last two games. They narrowly edged out a UCF team that isn’t as good as they have been in recent years. Then in the AAC title game, they snuck out a three-point win against a solid Tulsa team.

These are two teams that are similar in style. They both play good defense and like to run the ball. However, Georgia does it successfully in the toughest conference in football while Cincinnati does it in a non-Power 5 conference. Cincinnati had an excellent season but Georgia will show them why they aren’t on the same level as the elite teams in the country and why they weren’t even close to a CFP spot.

Georgia 31, Cincinnati 17

Fiesta Bowl: No. 25 Oregon vs. No. 10 Iowa State

When: Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021 | 4 pm ET, ESPN

This year’s Fiesta Bowl will match up two teams who had high expectations entering this season.

No. 25 Oregon managed to play just six games this season but they still won the PAC-12 title with a 4-2 record after taking down USC in the Pac 12 Championship. No. 10 Iowa State made the BIG 12 title game but ultimately fell short against Oklahoma.

While the PAC-12 had a down season overall, the Oregon Ducks once again topped the conference. While this isn’t the typical dynamic Oregon team we are used to seeing in the past, the Ducks are still a strong squad. Two close losses two rival Oregon State (41-38) and California (21-17) may have some questioning their consistency.

Despite having three losses on the season, Iowa State still has managed to keep a fairly high ranking most of the season. A season-opening loss to UL-Lafayette is their biggest disappointment. Their other two losses came to Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. 

This could be the most interesting game of the New Year’s Six Bowls. Oregon’s defense was the biggest surprise in their win over USC, holding a high-powered Trojans offense to just 24 points. 

Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy has been wildly inconsistent. This game will come down to which Purdy shows up. However, Iowa State should be the one to edge out a good but not great Oregon team.

Iowa State 30, Oregon 20 

Orange Bowl: No. 13 North Carolina vs. No. 5 Texas A&M

When: Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021 | 8 pm ET, ESPN

The Orange Bowl features two teams that overachieved this season.

The No. 13 North Carolina Tar Heels went 8-3 with wins over Virginia Tech and Miami. No. 5 Texas A&M just missed out on the CFP, putting together an 8-1 season with their only loss coming against Alabama.

North Carolina employs one of the most explosive offenses in the nation. Quarterback Sam Howell has put up some big numbers this season, including a 550 yard, six-touchdown performance against Wake Forest. They also have one of the best running backs in the country in Javonte Williams but he opted-out of this game to prepare for the NFL Draft.

Texas A&M is led by quarterback Kellen Mond who has had an excellent season of his own. Isaiah Spiller is the team’s best running back, having gone over 100 yards in six games this season. 

This is a game of two great offenses. The North Carolina defense gives up a ton of points, which usually results in high-scoring shootouts. The Texas A&M defense has certainly improved in the second-half of the season. Over their last four games (LSU, Auburn, Tennessee, South Carolina), they have only allowed an average of 10.8 points per game. 

Texas A&M should be able to put up points almost at will in this game. While North Carolina will likely put up points in this game, we expect the A&M defense to make enough stops for the Aggies to get a win.

Texas A&M 42, North Carolina 31

Rose Bowl: No. 4 Notre Dame vs. No. 1 Alabama

When: Friday, Jan. 1, 2021 | 4 pm ET, ESPN

In the first semifinal of the College Football Playoff, the nation’s top team Alabama will battle Notre Dame.

Alabama cruised to an undefeated 11-0 record, winning all but one of their games by at least 15 points. Notre Dame had their own undefeated season going before losing to Clemson in the ACC Championship Game.

Alabama’s offense has been historic this season. They have two Heisman finalists and could have possibly had a third in Najee Harris. Quarterback Mac Jones and wide receiver Devonta Smith are leading the way in the Heisman race with Smith the betting favorite to be the first receiver to win the award since Desmond Howard in 1991.

Notre Dame’s offense has been explosive at times but they have also laid a few eggs this season. One week they won 52-0 against South Florida and then another week they struggled to get by Lousiville by a score of 12-7. The Fighting Irish have played to the level of their competition in quite a few games this season.

The Alabama defense isn’t the elite unit we are used to seeing. Good offenses can put up points against them. Despite being inconsistent, Notre Dame does have a good offense, but they have been prone to scoring droughts. As for the Notre Dame defense, they are a pretty solid group but they haven’t seen anything like this Alabama offense before.

Playing Clemson in the ACC Championship Game was the biggest and really only challenge Notre Dame had all season. Now, they are playing the best team in the country and will have a tough time stopping the Crimson Tide.

Alabama 45, Notre Dame 27

Sugar Bowl: No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Clemson

When: Friday, Jan. 1, 2021 | 8 pm ET, ESPN

Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome – New Orleans, LA

The second semifinal of the College Football Playoff is a controversial one. The No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes qualified for the CFP despite some backlash about the minimum number of games played rule set by their own conference. They will be taking on No. 2 Clemson Tigers who will look to eliminate the Buckeyes from the CFP for the third time.

Ohio State has played in just six games, but they managed to win them all. Some of those games were closer than many would have expected. A seven-point win against Indiana and a 12-point victory over Northwestern that was closer than the score suggests hardly make for strong CFP qualifications. Still, the Buckeyes managed to find their way into the CFP.

As expected, Clemson is back in the CFP after putting together a one-loss campaign. Their only loss came to Notre Dame earlier this season with quarterback Trevor Lawrence out due to COVID-19. Clemson avenged that loss in the ACC Championship game with a blowout win over the Fighting Irish.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney might have lit a fire under Ohio State by ranking the Buckeyes outside of the top 10 in the coaches poll. 

Ohio State has a strong offense with Justin Fields, Trey Sermon, Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. However, their defense isn’t the elite Ohio State defense we are used to seeing. They have lost most of their key players from last season’s stout defense.

The Clemson defense hasn’t been that great this season, either. Still, they are a better defense than Ohio State and have been playing some of their best football in their last three games.

With Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne, the Ohio State defense is in for a much tougher task than the Clemson defense is.

Clemson 38, Ohio State 24

Photo: Getty Images