All-SEC championship awaits between Georgia, Alabama

John Longshore, Special to the Advertiser
Published 10:41 p.m. CT Dec. 30, 2017 | Updated 10:41 p.m. CT Dec. 30, 2017


SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports college football reporters Paul Myerberg and George Schroeder give their take on who will win the Sugar Bowl.

Forty years ago, when a school was awarded a bowl game it meant something. A team would have to win at least seven games in a regular season that had only 10.

Today it seems like everyone goes bowling.

It’s watered down and looking at some of the poorly attended games so far there is not a lot of interest.

These four New Year’s Day games are different and have something riding on them.

Peach Bowl: UCF v. Auburn -10

Auburn was certainly hoping to be in the College Football Playoff, but Georgia got in the way.

The Tigers were riding high after beating two No. 1 teams in a three-week period. Now Gus Malzahn has got to start earning that new contract extension.

It starts with motivating his team to get up against a non-power five opponent in a venue they played in 29 days before. Central Florida can certainly score points but Auburn’s defense will be the best it has faced all year.

Offensively, Auburn has weapons of its own and quarterback Jarret Stidham should be able to torch a Golden Knight defense that has not stopped anyone. This is not a good team for UCF to get into a track meet with.  Auburn 48, UCF 30

Citrus Bowl: Notre Dame v. LSU -3

A matchup of two nine-win teams that faced off in the 2014 Music City Bowl. Can Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly afford to lose to two SEC teams in the same season? That’s what’s riding on this game.

LSU has won six of its last seven games while Notre Dame has lost two of its last three. Improved quarterback play from Danny Etling and consistent production from running back Derrius Guice has been the difference for the Bengal Tigers.

The overall depth and talent that LSU has stockpiled is jelling in Baton Rouge. Toward the end of the game that’s what will settle it. LSU 28, Notre Dame 23

Rose Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Georgia -3

These two teams have each played in the Rose Bowl one time. Oklahoma in 2003 and Georgia in 1943. Bulldogs fans have gobbled up all the tickets they could get their hands on to witness this game in such a historic setting.

Look for a contrast of styles, as the Sooners will rely on the fast pace and laser throwing ability of Heisman winner Baker Mayfield. Georgia will lean on its stingy defense and the ball control running attack of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. The big difference is Oklahoma’s lack of a defense. They haven’t stopped many opponents this season. They won’t here either. Georgia 34, Oklahoma 28 

Sugar Bowl: Clemson vs. Alabama- 3

Nick Saban has had over a month to get his Crimson Tide team healed up and prepared for a third clash with Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers.

Look for a game pitting strength on strength, as Alabama will use its stable of productive running backs to go straight at a very talented Clemson defensive line.

Look for a mix on early downs from Alabama so converting on third down will be more manageable.

The Tide are moving the chains at just 25 percent against power-five opponents on third down. That will have to improve and I believe it will. The battle between quarterbacks Jalen Hurts and Kelly Bryant will be a game within a game. Alabama 28, Clemson 21

John Longshore is a sports analyst for the Alabama News Network CBS-8 & ABC Montgomery. He’s also a co-host of the Budweiser Sportsline on WMSP Sportsradio 740 from 7-10 a.m. daily.