Butch Dill/Associated Press
Music City Bowl: Purdue (6-6) vs. Auburn (7-5)
Info: Dec. 28, 1:30 p.m. ET (ESPN), at Nissan Stadium
Purdue’s run defense wavered between quite good and pretty darn bad in 2018. Throw out Alabama State, Liberty and a dreadful Ole Miss defense, and Auburn’s rushing offense was flat-out miserable. As long as Purdue wins that battle, head coach Jeff Brohm will likely empty the playbook in pursuit of a quality win for the rising program.
Prediction: Purdue 27, Auburn 24
Camping World Bowl: No. 16 West Virginia (8-3) vs. No. 20 Syracuse (9-3)
Info: Dec. 28, 5:15 p.m. ET (ESPN), at Camping World Stadium
Will Grier’s college career is over, so the Mountaineers will entrust the offense to Jack Allison. He’s a talented quarterback who will headline “breakout players” lists for 2019, but West Virginia needs to atone for an understandable drop in efficiency. The combination of a mediocre defense and Syracuse’s explosiveness will dispatch the ‘Eers.
Prediction: Syracuse 41, West Virginia 34
Alamo Bowl: No. 24 Iowa State (8-4) vs. No. 13 Washington State (10-2)
Info: Dec. 28, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN), at the Alamodome
Washington State has a prolific offense, but Iowa State is stingy in scoring territory. The Cyclones rank 24th in red-zone defensive touchdown rate compared to 88th for Wazzu. Quarterback Gardner Minshew II must be near-perfect for the Cougs to topple Iowa State.
Prediction: Iowa State 27, Washington State 23
Peach Bowl: No. 10 Florida (9-3) vs. No. 7 Michigan (10-2)
Info: Dec. 29, Noon ET (ESPN), at Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Michigan controlled the 2015 campaign’s Citrus Bowl and the 2017 season opener between the two teams, but head coach Dan Mullen wasn’t at Florida for those clashes. Still, quarterback Feleipe Franks has consistently failed to handle top-tier defenses, so the Gators won’t spring the upset unless the Wolverines have a meltdown offensively.
Prediction: Michigan 31, Florida 20
Belk Bowl: South Carolina (7-5) vs. Virginia (7-5)
Info: Dec. 29, Noon ET (ABC), at Bank of America Stadium
Turnovers have shaped Virginia’s results all year. The Wahoos are 1-4 with a negative margin yet 6-1 otherwise. Despite committing four turnovers in a 25-point beatdown of Akron, South Carolina had done a great job of protecting the ball during the second half of the season. The Gamecocks will avoid big errors and take advantage of a suspect UVA run defense for the victory.
Prediction: South Carolina 35, Virginia 27
Arizona Bowl: Arkansas State (8-4) vs. Nevada (7-5)
Info: Dec. 29, 1:15 p.m. ET (CBSSN), at Arizona Stadium
If nobody is watching as the final second ticks off the clock, does it count? The beginning of the first CFP semifinal will overshadow the fourth quarter in Tucson, but it should be an exciting finish. Arkansas State played its best football of the season in November, and Nevada’s defense overcame a sloppy start. Stingy third-down defense will guide the Wolf Pack to a win.
Prediction: Nevada 28, Arkansas State 24
Cotton Bowl: No. 3 Notre Dame (12-0) vs. No. 2 Clemson (13-0)
Info: Dec. 29, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN), at AT&T Stadium
Notre Dame matches up with Clemson relatively well thanks to the nation’s eighth-most efficient defense in yards allowed per play. But the Irish also have to figure out a way to score on the No. 1 unit. Clemson hasn’t played a game within fewer than 20 points since September. The pressure is squarely on Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book to propel the offense, while the defense tries to contain its toughest test of 2018 (by a wide margin). That’s a heck of a task.
Prediction: Clemson 31, Notre Dame 17
Orange Bowl: No. 4 Oklahoma (12-1) vs. No. 1 Alabama (13-0)
Info: Dec. 29, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN), at Hard Rock Stadium
Kyler Murray will force Alabama to score a bunch. Unfortunately for the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, there’s hardly any reason to expect Oklahoma can contain the defending champions if Tua Tagovailoa‘s ankle injuries are healed. The Sooners have ceded a nauseating 85.1 red-zone touchdown rate (worst nationally), so Murray’s margin for error is just about zero.
Prediction: Alabama 48, Oklahoma 38