Bowl games are the true measurement of football programs across America. Some programs are playing for much more than a trophy, some are playing for their school legacy. These five matchups will be the best games that college football has to offer in 2015-16.
- Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl
Houston vs. Florida State
December 31, 2015
Houston Cougars come into this game ranked 18th in the country and were the winners of the American Athletic Conference with a 12-1 record. Houston is led by their dominant rushing attack averaging 239 yards a game, ranked 13th overall, but will they will see a tough defense in Florida State.
Junior Quarterback Greg Ward Jr. put the AAC on full watch after scoring 35 touchdowns this season including 19 rushing touchdowns, for 3,631 total yards. Ward will be looking to connect with fellow junior DeMarcus Ayers. Ayers has been the Cougars best receiver with 89 receptions, 1,140 yards and six touchdowns.
Jimbo Fisher’s No. 9 Florida State Seminoles had a 10-2 record this season and in unusual fashion were No. 3 in the ACC this year. They are looking to make a statement against a hot Houston offense. Not being in the playoffs and with the emerging competition in the ACC, Fisher needs a big win to keep the Seminoles rolling into 2016.
Sophomore Running Back Dalvin Cook is going to present major problems for Houston’s Defense with his breakaway speed. Cook rushed for 1,658 yards with 18 touchdowns and with the motivation of his Heisman snub, expect a big day out of him.
FSU ended the season winning three straight games, including a 27-2 victory over the Florida Gators to end the season. In that time junior backup Sean Maguire had nine touchdowns and only two interceptions. If Maguire can continue to protect the football, Florida State offense should get off to a great start.
This is a big bowl game for Houston. A win shows they can compete amongst the powerhouse programs. With the Seminoles eager to get back to the top of College Football I think their defense will control the Cougars offense and be able to cause mismatches with their own offense.
- BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl
Notre Dame vs. Ohio State
January 1, 2016
This bowl game is going to be an action packed game filled with tradition. Some would say this game is a matchup between the best two college football programs of all time.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish is ranked 8th in the country but being 10-2, with the loses coming from Clemson and Stanford, put them just outside of the playoffs. But with Brian Kelly’s best season in three years I’m sure there is nothing he would love more than to knock off last year’s national champions.
The Irish Offense is No. 33 in the nation in scoring and will face its biggest test of the season against the Buckeyes No. 2 ranked defense, led by Raekwon McMillian’s 114 tackles. Quarterback DeShone Kizer is going to need to protect the ball. In his last game against a top 10 defense in he threw three interceptions.
Ohio State feels they should of have received a playoff bid, but the tough loss to Michigan State ended their run. The Buckeyes were projected to repeat as National Champions and the Fiesta Bowl was not on their agenda.
Ezekiel Elliott will be a work horse in the zone read offense after having 1,672 yards and 19 touchdowns, proving to be one of the nation’s best backs. JT Barrett is coming off the start against Michigan and should have more time against the Irish’s 34th ranked defense.
- Rose Bowl
Stanford vs. Iowa
January 1st, 2016
Iowa (12-1) was ranked as high as No. 1 this season but after suffering a loss they are now the No. 5 ranked team in the country. This ranking which granted them a matchup against Stanford (11-2). The tradition of the Rose Bowl makes this game primed for excitement.
The Hawkeyes lackluster offense could become a problem, averaging 201.8 yards passing a game which is No. 90 in the nation. Junior quarterback C.J. Beathard struggled at times finding targets this year with only 15 touchdowns. Iowa’s defense is only allowing 18 points per game on the season but Stanford is one of the top twenty teams in the country in scoring.
Heisman finalist Christian McCaffrey will serve to be a handful for the Hawkeyes defense. McCaffrey had 2,387 total yards and 14 total touchdowns. Stanford averages 37.2 points per game behind Senior Quarterback Kevin Hogan who will be looking to take advantage of Iowa’s secondary.
Although Iowa has the led the way most of the season, the Pac-10 champion Cardinals are sure to play with everything Iowa can handle. If the Hawkeyes can keep Stanford’s high powered offense off the field it will be a long day for the Cardinals.
- College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
Alabama vs. Michigan State
December 31, 2015
Alabama, the No. 2 team in the country battles against Saban’s old program, No. 3 Michigan State, for a shot at the National Championship game. The Spartans pulled out big wins over Iowa and Ohio State to become Big 10 champs and punch their ticket into the bracket.
Michigan State’s senior quarterback Connor Cook is a winner and will up his draft stock if he can go out a National Champion. Cook threw for 2,921 yards, 24 touchdowns and five interceptions. The problem for Cook and the rest of the Spartans is that Alabama is the 3rd ranked defense led by junior linebacker, Reggie Ragland.
Heisman trophy winner Derrick Henry is going to be the biggest factor in this game. Henry is fourteen yards shy of two thousand on the year with 23 touchdowns. He should see a lot of eight and nine men in the box looks. This could result in seeing quarterback Jake Coker connecting with freshman wide receiver Calvin Ridley often.
Alabama will be facing some coaches changes in the off season but expect them to come full prepared to play against a great team in Michigan State.
- College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl
Oklahoma vs. Clemson
December 31, 2015
When it comes to the undefeated Clemson Tigers, some people still don’t agree that they are the number one team in the country. They certainly deserve the spot though after a big win against North Carolina to become the ACC champions.
The Tigers had a 13-0 season thanks to the play from Heisman finalist quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson’s versatility and outstanding numbers of 4,399 total yards and 41 total touchdowns is sure to give Oklahoma’s stingy defense a run for their money.
Baker Mayfield has put the Sooners offense on his back and rank 3rd in total offense in the country. Mayfield is one of the nation’s best players with 3,809 total yards 42 total touchdowns 35 through the air. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard accounted for 79 catches, 1,201 yards and 11 touchdowns. Mayfield and Shepard are one of the best combinations in the nation.
I expect this bowl classic to be a high scoring game with a lot of offense from both programs. Clemson and Oklahoma are up-tempo offenses that want to score often and the game should be one for the record books.