Not only is Wednesday the first day of college football in 2020, it’s also one of the absolute best days of college football in a year with 364 days remaining.
On tap are four contests on the college football bowl schedule, all featuring ranked vs. ranked matchups, two of which include two Top Ten squads.
Things kickoff at 1pm EST with the Outback Bowl (ESPN) and the Citrus Bowl (ABC). After that, set your remote to ESPN and go the distance – the Rose Bowl at 5pm EST and then the Sugar Bowl at 8:45pm EST.
Wednesday, Jan. 1
Vrbo CITRUS BOWL
(14) MICHIGAN (9-3) vs. (13) ALABAMA (10-2) – Big Ten vs. SEC – Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Fla. – 1pm EST – ABC
First year: 1947
Previous names: Tangerine (1947-82), Citrus (1983-2002), Capital One (2003-14)
Most appearances: Georgia (4-1-1), Florida (2-4), Penn State (2-4)
Last year: (16) Kentucky 27 – (13) Penn State 24
Michigan is 21-26 in bowl play. It fell 41-15 to then (10) Florida in last season’s Peach Bowl, also it’s third-consecutive bowl loss. The most recent win came in the 2015 edition of the Citrus Bowl, a decisive 41-7 victory over then (19) Florida.
Alabama is 41-26-3 in bowl action. It lost 44-16 to then (2) Clemson in last year’s CFP National Championship game. The most recent win came just days before, in the Orange Bowl/CFP Semifinal, a 45-34 win over then (4) Oklahoma.
A rematch of the 1999/2000 Orange Bowl (a 35-34 win for Michigan), the 1996/97 Outback Bowl (a 17-14 win for Alabama) and the 1987/88 Hall of Fame Bowl (a 28-24 win for Michigan), the Wolverines and Crimson Tide have only met one other time in history – kicking off the season in Arlington, Texas in 2012 (a 41-14 win for Alabama). The series is deadlocked at two games apiece.
Line: Alabama -7
Both Michigan and Alabama have Top 20 defenses (Michigan is ranked No. 18 in scoring while Alabama is No. 15) which have been more successful stopping the pass than the run. This sets up for an epic battle between the Crimson Tide’s No. 3 ranked passing offense and Michigan’s No. 5 ranked pass D. It’s far and away the best secondary Alabama’s faced this season. Even if the Wolverines can manage to shut down the Tide’s aerial attack, can they scrape up enough points to win? Michigan is ranked No. 37 in scoring offense, No. 81 in rushing O and No. 50 in passing. While it’s not like they completely can’t find the endzone, can they find it against Nick Saban’s defense?
Players to Watch
Michigan: senior QB Shea Patterson (#2) (No. 2 in the Big Ten in passing yards per game), senior LB Khaleke Hudson (#7) (No. 4 in the Big Ten in total tackles)
Alabama: junior WR DeVonta Smith (#6) (No. 12 in the FBS in receiving yards per game), senior LB Anfernee Jennings (#33) (tied for No. 2 in the SEC in sacks and No. 4 in tackles for a loss)
(18) MINNESOTA (10-2) vs. (12) AUBURN (9-3) – Big Ten vs. SEC – Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla. – 1pm EST – ESPN
First year: 1986
Previous names: Hall of Fame (1986-95)
Most Appearances: Iowa (3-3), Michigan (3-3)
Last year: Iowa 27 – (18) Mississippi State 22
Minnesota is 8-12 in bowl play. It downed Georgia Tech 34-10 in last year’s Quick Lane Bowl.
Auburn is 24-17-2 in bowl action. It destroyed Purdue 63-14 in last season’s Music City Bowl.
This is the first ever football meeting between Minnesota and Auburn.
Line: Auburn -10
The compelling matchup in this one is Auburn’s rushing attack – ranked No. 25 in the nation – taking on Minnesota’s No. 28 ranked rushing D. The only three times that the Tigers rushed for 130 yards or fewer this season they lost – earning only 124 rushing yards at (9) Florida, 130 at (1) LSU and 84 vs. (5) Georgia. Minnesota’s defense has faced two Top 25 rushing attacks this season holding Georgia Southern’s option attack (No. 8 in the nation in rushing yards per game) to 123 yards in a September win (the Eagles average 261.5 rushing yards per game) and Wisconsin’s ground game (No. 15 nationally) to 173 yards in a November loss (the Badgers average 240.54 rushing yards per game).
Players to Watch
Minnesota: sophomore QB Tanner Morgan (#2) (No. 6 in the FBS in passer rating), sophomore WR Rashod Bateman (#13) (No. 15 in the FBS in receiving yards per game), sophomore DB Antoine Winfield Jr. (#11) (No. 4 in the FBS in interceptions)
Auburn: sophomore RB JaTarvious Whitlow (#28), freshman RB D.J. Williams (#3), senior RB Kam Martin (#9), freshman QB Bo Nix (#10) and sophomore RB Shaun Shivers (#8) (combined they’ve rushed for 2,036 yards and 23 TDs this season)
ROSE BOWL GAME
(6) OREGON (11-2, Pac-12 champions) vs. (8) WISCONSIN (10-3) – Pac-12 vs. Big Ten – Rose Bowl Stadium, Pasadena, Calif. – 5pm EST – ESPN
First year: 1902
Previous names: Tournament East-West football game (1902, 1916-1922)
Most appearances: USC (25-9)
Last year: (5) Ohio State 28 – (9) Washington 23
Oregon is 14-18 in bowl play. It beat Michigan State 7-6 in last season’s Redbox Bowl, snapping a three-game bowl losing streak.
Wisconsin is 16-14 in bowl action. It downed Miami Fla. 35-3 in last year’s Pinstripe Bowl, also its fifth-consecutive bowl victory.
A rematch of the 2011/12 Rose Bowl (Oregon won 45-38), this is the fifth-ever meeting between the Ducks and Badgers. Wisconsin leads 3-2 but Oregon has won the last two.
Line: Wisconsin -1.5
On paper, this is one of the absolute best matchups of bowl season. Tune in to see Oregon’s No. 15 ranked scoring offense – a balanced unit – take on a Wisconsin D ranked No. 10 in scoring. But wait! There’s more. While the Ducks are the high-flying yard machine you thought they were, they’re also home to the No. 9 ranked scoring defense in the Americas. Yes friend, as a bonus prize check out the Badgers’ No. 15 ranked rushing attack (no surprise there) vs. Oregon’s No. 10 ranked rushing D. Yes!
Players to Watch
Oregon: senior QB Justin Herbert (#10) (No. 13 in the FBS in passer rating), freshman DE Kayvon Thibodeaux (#5) (tied for No. 20 in the FBS in sacks)
Wisconsin: junior RB Jonathan Taylor (#23) (No. 3 in the FBS in rushing yards per game), senior OLB Zack Baun (#56) (No. 7 in the FBS in both sacks and tackles for a loss)
Allstate SUGAR BOWL
(5) GEORGIA (11-2) vs. (7) BAYLOR (11-2) – SEC vs. Big 12 – Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La. – 8:45pm EST – ESPN
First year: 1935
Most appearances: Alabama (9-7)
Last year: (14) Texas 28 – (6) Georgia 21
Georgia is 31-21-3 in bowl play. It fell to then (14) Texas 28-21 in last season’s edition of the Sugar Bowl. Its most recent win came in the 2017 Rose Bowl/CFP Semifinal, a thrilling 54-48 win over then (2) Oklahoma in double overtime.
Baylor is 13-11 in bowl action. It beat Vanderbilt 45-38 in last year’s Texas Bowl, also its third-consecutive bowl win.
Georgia and Baylor played one another four times between 1972-89, all were played in September in Athens with the Bulldogs winning on each occasion.
Line: Georgia -7
Though Baylor is ranked No. 16 in scoring offense, it’s not the pass-happy team it once was instead offering a balanced approach (No. 49 in rushing yards per game and No. 43 in passing). The Bears will have their work cut out for them vs. a stifling Georgia D – No. 2 in scoring, No. 3 against the run and No. 24 vs. the pass. On the plus side, Baylor is home to the No. 16 ranked scoring defense – a weapon that could easily zap a Bulldog offense that has struggled to score points (No. 50 in the FBS) especially so in comparison to other top ranked teams in 2019. Look for this one to be physical and relatively low scoring.
Players to Watch
Georgia: junior RB D’Andre Swift (#7) (No. 31 in the FBS in rushing yards per game – Swift is suffering from a shoulder injury and has stated that he will play if he’s “100 percent.”)
Baylor: junior DT James Lynch (#93) (tied for No. 7 in the FBS in sacks and No. 9 in tackles for a loss), junior S Grayland Arnold (#1) (tied for No. 5 in the FBS in interceptions)
Historical data courtesy of Sports Reference/College Football. Statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com. Lines courtesy of OddsShark.