OK. That’s 18 bowl games down and 19 remaining. We’ve already seen some pretty wild stuff as four of Saturday’s five games were decided by five points or fewer. But trust me, folks, the fun is just getting started.
The national semifinals of the first College Football Playoff are on Thursday at the Rose Bowl (Oregon vs. Florida State) and the Sugar Bowl (Alabama vs. Ohio State). It will be a historic New Year’s Day that we’ll always remember. I’ll take a closer look at those games later in the week from New Orleans.
Until then, let’s look outside of the two semifinals at five burning questions that should get answered this week:
1) What will Nick Chubb’s yards per carry be against the Louisville defense? With the departure of Mike Bobo to Colorado State, tight ends coach John Lilly will call the plays for Georgia (9-3) in the Belk Bowl against Louisville (9-3). I can’t imagine any gameplan for the Bulldogs that doesn’t call for a big dose of No. 27. Georgia’s freshman running back averaged 6.9 yards per carry this season and will face a defense ranked No. 2 in the nation against the run that allows only 2.94 ypc. Something has to give.
2) How does the departure of defensive coordinator Geoff Collins impact Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl? The Bulldogs (10-2), No. 4 in the SEC in rushing defense (126.5 ypg) this season, have had three weeks to get ready for Georgia Tech’s option, which is No. 2 nationally in rushing (333.6 ypg). Normally that’s a good thing because against Paul Johnson’s offense preparation is everything. But since Dec. 16 the Bulldogs have been without Collins, who took the same position on Jim McElwain’s new staff at Florida. Cornerbacks coach Deshea Townsend, in his first year as a college coach, will call the defensive signals.
3) Does Ole Miss make a statement against No. 6 TCU? Most experts don’t think Ole Miss (9-3) can beat the Horned Frogs (11-1) in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. But here’s the reality: Only one team beat No. 1 Alabama this season. That was Ole Miss. Only two teams beat Mississippi State this season. They were No. 1 Alabama and Ole Miss. The Rebels have the nation’s best scoring defense (13.8 ppg) while TCU has the nation’s No. 2 scoring offense (46.8 ppg). TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin (No. 4 in total offense at 363.0 ypg) is the X-factor.
4) Can Notre Dame hold on to the ball against LSU? That’s one of two key questions I have about the Music City Bowl. Notre Dame (7-5) lost 26 turnovers this season. Only 17 FBS teams lost more. A whopping 22 of those belong to quarterback Everett Golson. The other big question I have about this game concerns the rushing yardage of LSU freshman Leonard Fournette. Notre Dame is No. 61 nationally in stopping the run (161.7 ypg). Fournette (891 yards) needs 111 more to set the LSU record for rushing yards by a freshman (Justin Vincent, 2003). He may get that in the first half.
5) How excited is Wisconsin going to be to play Auburn? Let’s face it. Not much has gone right for the Badgers (10-3) since a 59-0 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game. They pretty much got exposed by the Buckeyes, who used a third-team quarterback and were relentless with their up-tempo offense, something Auburn (8-4) does pretty well. Then coach Gary Andersen shocked Badger Nation by leaving for Oregon State. So AD Barry Alvarez will serve as coach for this game. Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon (179.7 ypg) is so good that attitude may not matter.