With most team’s spring games having concluded, we now look forward to the upcoming college football season.
With games slated to kick off in August, we also finally go back to a full, non-COVID season. Looking ahead, there is some nice change in the college football landscape but not really at the top. The playoffs should be the same old same old but the rest of the New Year’s Six Bowls are completely up for grabs. Let’s get into our early predictions for which teams should be in them.
Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma vs Ohio State
In the first of two playoff games, the Cotton Bowl hosts an exciting matchup between Ohio State and Oklahoma. These two teams have been playoff mainstays since the concept began in 2014. Oklahoma has the most appearances out of any program with four but absolutely nothing to show for it.
This, however, could be the Sooners’ year. Lincoln Riley and company bring back a ton of production including Heisman hopeful quarterback Spencer Rattler. Oklahoma’s offense will be great, as it has always been, but the real improvements come on the defensive side of the ball. The team has never had a good defense and has fallen victim to the no-defense played in the Big 12 Conference, until now. This is Oklahoma’s best shot at the national championship in years, and it all starts in the Cotton Bowl.
On the Ohio State side, we are looking at a new quarterback leading the team. The Buckeyes have actually not named a starter for next year, and there’s no single player that is expected to have the spot. The three battling for the position are C.J. Stroud, Jack Miller III, and Kyle McCord. All three are good enough to lead this team back into the college football playoffs, especially with the talent that surrounds them.
Ohio State has NFL Draft picks all over the place and this could very well be their most talented roster in years. This team will almost certainly continue their playoff streak and look to win the title instead of being runner-ups this year.
Orange Bowl: Alabama vs Clemson
Well, look which matchup is back. The Crimson Tide and Tigers have already met four times in the playoff, so why not another one here in the Orange Bowl. Both teams have new quarterbacks at the helm, but like Ohio State, the talent on their roster more than makes up for the potential inexperience at the quarterback spot.
Clemson’s replacement for Trevor Lawrence is certainly a good one in D.J. Uiagalelei. He got some action this season when Lawrence was sidelined due to Covid-19 and he sure did impress. Now, Uiagalelei takes the reigns of the program and gets the Tigers back in national championship contention. He’ll be joined by guys like Justyn Ross, Bryan Bresee, Andrew Booth Jr., and more, in the quest for another championship in Death Valley. While it might not be as star-studded of a roster as previous years, this team is definitely capable of making it this far, especially in the ACC.
Alabama is replacing first-round draft choice Mac Jones with sophomore Bryce Young. Expectations are already really high on the young quarterback who hasn’t even started a game yet. Young played pretty well at Alabama’s spring game and showed early signs of the player he can be. He’ll be supported by another top-tier receiving core, one of if not the best offensive lines in the country, and another solid defense. If this team can put it all together like they are expected to, they’ll have a comfortable ride to the playoffs this year.
Sugar Bowl: Georgia vs Iowa State
This game would be one of the best bowl non-playoff games we’ve had in a while. Georgia could very well come into this game with two losses. Those losses being to two teams in the playoff in Clemson and Alabama. Iowa State could come into this game with two, or one, loss. In either case, both losses would be to Oklahoma.
What makes this game so exciting is the returning talent on both teams. For Georgia, they look to build off the momentum they had when JT Daniels took over the starting job. They did lose George Pickens to injury this offseason, but even so, this team should be fine without him. Daniels can be a legit top-five quarterback when it’s all said and done this year and Georgia is easily Alabama’s biggest threat this year.
Iowa State brings back a roster that really caught stride later in the year. They fell just short of a Big 12 championship last season and are back and ready to roll. They have almost all of their offensive line returning, their three-year starting quarterback in Brock Purdy, and one of the top running backs in the country in Breece Hall. In total, this team has 19 of their 22 starters returning. If the Cyclones can knock off Oklahoma in the conference championship, they’ll have a really good shot at making the playoffs. If they don’t, however, one of the best NY6 games in years is not a bad consolation.
Rose Bowl: USC vs Wisconsin
The ever-exciting Rose Bowl stays in its traditional Big 10 vs Pac 12 format this year in a game of two very interesting teams. Both are sort of wildcards but should get here with the right coaching and execution. For USC, it would be really hard to miss out on an NY6 bowl with the talent that they have. Quarterback Kedon Slovis is looking to finally put all the doubters to rest with a solid 2021 campaign. If the USC offensive line can protect him a bit better, they should coast through the Pac-12 with relative ease.
For Wisconsin, they return starting quarterback Graham Mertz and their exceptional run game. Jalen Berger looks to be the next Jonathan Taylor and Melvin Gordon and hopes of running his team to the Big-10 championship game. Ohio State would most likely win this game, however, which allows them to go into the playoffs and the runner-up to be in the Rose Bowl.
Fiesta Bowl: Cincinnati vs North Carolina
What a game this would be. Two of the top quarterbacks in the country could square off toe-to-toe here in Desmond Ridder and Same Howell. While North Carolina is losing star players such as Javonte Williams, Michael Carter, Dazz Newsome, and Dyami Brown, that doesn’t mean that the team is in bad shape. They return 18 key players for next year and their whole special teams unit. This is a football team that is looking to get back to their second NY6 bowl in as many years. Last year, they were defeated by Texas A&M. However, this team should secure even more wins than they did last year, and truly deserve their slot here.
Cincinnati is in a similar boat to North Carolina. They’re a team that lost in an NY6 bowl last year to Georgia and are losing some key players. For the amount they lose, however, they retain a whole bunch of threats. In total, 15 starters will be coming back, including the entire receiving core. The Bearcats will need to make up for some losses on the offensive line but it is very doable with the guys they have. For the second year in a row, two of these smaller programs in the college football ranks should make an NY6 bowl game.
Peach Bowl: Oregon vs Texas A&M
These two teams are possibly the biggest unknowns out of any mentioned so far. Both of these teams are coming off of NY6 appearances but they will look a lot different. Oregon will be led by quarterback Anthony Brown who had a solid year last year but wasn’t anything special. They also come in with one of the best defenses in the country and they’ve got star talent all over the place.
Texas A&M is a bit more of a wildcard. Kellen Mond is gone and now all eyes look towards Killian Hayes. If Hayes can be the quarterback they think he can, this team will be in great shape. They’re a really talented team that just needs consistent quarterback play with Mond gone. the star of the team is certainly running back Isaiah Spiller who is looking for a strong campaign to compete for the Heisman Trophy this year. The Aggies should get here if Spiller can get in this Heisman conversation.
Follow Charlie Parent on Twitter @Charlie_Parent
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