How to optimize your college football bowl-watching experience



Game-day guide to watching bowl games over the next few weeks:

Five locals to watch

Toledo WR Diontae Johnson (Lennard High): Only two players in the country average more yards per touch than Johnson (19.1), who could light up Appalachian State in the Dollar General Bowl.

Temple WR Ventell Bryant (Jefferson High): Assuming he’s healthy enough to play, he could put up big numbers in a pseudo-homecoming against Florida International’s below-average pass defense.

Oregon DL Jordon Scott (Pinellas Park High): Earned true freshman All-America honors from 247Sports and will try to impress new coach Mario Cristobal against Boise State.

Florida Atlantic OL Brandon Walton (Seminole High): Starting right tackle for a top-10 rushing attack that should dominate Akron’s leaky run defense at home.

Florida State WR Auden Tate (Wharton High): This could be the last college game of his career; the junior has drawn buzz as one of the top receiver prospects for the NFL draft.

RELATED: 2017-18 college football bowl schedule

Eye on the NFL draft

Four players for Bucs fans to scout:

Clemson DE Clelin Ferrell: Had three tackles for a loss in last year’s semifinal and will need another big performance against mighty Alabama.

Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick: Unanimous All-American might be the best defensive player of the Nick Saban era. Can he finally slow down Clemson WR Hunter Renfrow, or Tampa Bay Tech product Deon Cain?

North Carolina State DE Bradley Chubb: Ranked second nationally with 25 tackles for a loss and will wreak havoc on mediocre Arizona State.

Penn State RB Saquon Barkley: Will try to crack Washington’s No. 1 rush defense and cement his status as a top-10 pick.

Three under-the-radar games

Foster Farms Bowl, Dec. 27. SBNation called the Purdue-Arizona matchup a hipster game because it features two fun, less-mainstream teams. Coach Jeff Brohm has done a fine job in his first season at Purdue, and Wildcats QB Khalil Tate is next year’s Lamar Jackson. Speaking of Lamar …

Taxslayer Bowl, Dec. 30. This is probably your last chance to watch Louisville QB Lamar Jackson in college. Enjoy.

Camping World Bowl, Dec. 28. The nation’s No. 5 scoring defense (Virginia Tech) against the No. 3 scoring offense (Oklahoma State).

Three matchups to watch

Stanford RB Bryce Love vs. TCU defense (Alamo Bowl): Love averages 164 rushing yards per game; the Horned Frogs have only allowed that many in three games (and two were against playoff-bound Oklahoma).

Ohio State defense vs. USC QB Sam Darnold (Cotton Bowl): Buckeyes defensive coordinator (and former Bucs coach) Greg Schiano said in the preseason that this is the best line he’s ever coached. Prove it by getting after Darnold, the future first-round draft pick.

LSU RB Derrius Guice vs. Notre Dame RB Josh Adams (Citrus Bowl): They combined for more than 2,500 rushing yards and square off in Orlando.

Seminoles streaking

History and odds-makers are on Florida State’s side in the Independence Bowl. The Seminoles are playing in their NCAA-record 36th consecutive bowl game and have a 25-9-1 record in the streak. Southern Miss hasn’t beaten a current Power Five team in a bowl game since topping TCU in 2000.

Peachy Knights

If UCF can cap off a perfect season by beating Auburn in the Peach Bowl, the Knights will be the latest Group of Five team to earn an impressive win in a big bowl. Since the dawn of the BCS, Group of Five teams are 7-3 against Power Five/BCS teams in major bowl games, including UCF’s 52-42 win over Baylor four years ago. Four of those winners finished undefeated: 2010 TCU, 2008 Utah, 2006 Boise State and Urban Meyer’s 2005 Utes.

USF shootout

The Bulls-Texas Tech Birmingham Bowl could be the highest scoring matchup of bowl season; the teams combined to average 72 points per game. USF coach Charlie Strong shut down Kliff Kingsbury’s offense once when he was at Texas; his Longhorns held Tech to 13 points in 2014. But Strong’s Horns gave up 85 points and 1,147 yards of offense in their other two meetings (which the teams split).

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Rose Bowl

The last time the winners of the Butkus Award (best linebacker) and Heisman Trophy (most outstanding player) met in a bowl game was in 1993, when QB Charlie Ward’s Seminoles edged Trev Albert’s Cornhuskers to win their first national title. Can Georgia LB Roquan Smith be the first player this year to slow down Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield, in a College Football Playoff semifinal?

Sugar Bowl

It’s Clemson-Alabama, Round 3. How close were the first two, really?

Points scored

Alabama: 76

Clemson: 75

Total yards

Alabama: 849

Clemson: 1,101

First downs

Alabama: 34

Clemson: 62

Turnovers

Alabama: 0

Clemson: 3

Outback Bowl

The most unimpressive part about Michigan’s mediocre 8-4 season: The Wolverines haven’t beaten a team with a winning record. Jim Harbaugh can change that by beating South Carolina and former Gators coach Will Muschamp, who is 1-2 in bowl games.

Home sweet home

The best news for Miami fans about an Orange Bowl matchup against Wisconsin? It’s at home. The Hurricanes played very different away from Hard Rock Stadium:

Miami at home

Record: 7-0

Average points scored: 36.9

Average points allowed: 18.9

Average yardage: 465.6

Average yards allowed: 351.1

Turnover margin: Plus-12

Miami away from home

Record: 3-2

Average points scored: 19.2

Average points allowed: 21.4

Average yardage: 321.4

Average yards allowed: 371.8

Turnover margin: Plus-3

Gasparilla Bowl

Gators fans won’t be surprised to see that former coordinator Geoff Collins has a successful defense in his first year as Temple’s coach. His Owls rank 12th nationally with 92 tackles for loss entering Thursday’s game at Tropicana Field. LB Sam Franklin (Citrus High) has 8 ½ of them in his first year as a starter.

By the numbers

3 Lakewood High alumni in New Year’s Six bowl games. UCF LB Shaquem Griffin and Auburn WR Ryan Davis will square off in the Peach Bowl, and Georgia OL Isaiah Wynn will play in the Rose Bowl

4 Touchdown catches for Clemson WR Hunter Renfrow in two games against Alabama

10 Touchdown catches by Renfrow in his other 37 career games

4 Marshall quarterbacks with at least 8,000 career passing yards and 70 touchdowns: Rakeem Cato, Chad Pennington, Byron Leftwich and Wharton High alumnus Chase Litton

50 Consecutive starts for Michigan OL Mason Cole (East Lake High). His 51st in the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium will tie LB/DL Craig Roh for most in school history



 

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