Your first New Year’s resolution is easy – watch football all day on Jan. 1.
The action starts early with three games kicking off within an hour of one another – the Outback Bowl at noon EST on ESPN2, the Peach Bowl at 12:30pm EST on ESPN and the Citrus Bowl at 1pm EST on ABC.
Then it’s time for a quick break – go to the bathroom, restock your beverages or fry up your wings – because things get for real at 5pm EST on ESPN when the playoff bracket finally goes live.
When the dust settles late Monday night, we’ll know which two teams will compete for the national championship on Jan. 8.
Michigan (8-4) vs. South Carolina (8-4) – Big Ten vs. SEC – Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla. – 12PM EST – ESPN2
First year: 1986
Previous names: Hall of Fame (1986-95)
Most appearances: Florida (3-2), Georgia (3-2), Iowa (2-3), Michigan (3-2) and Wisconsin (2-3)
Last year: (20) Florida 30 – (21) Iowa 3
Michigan is 21-24 in bowl play. It got edged 33-32 by (10) Florida State in last season’s Orange Bowl. Its most recent win came in the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings, a 31-14 victory over Kansas State.
South Carolina is 8-13 in bowl play. It lost 46-39 in overtime to (25) USF in last year’s Birmingham Bowl. It last won a bowl game in 2014, beating Miami Fla. 24-21 in the Independence Bowl.
A rematch of the 2012-13 Outback Bowl – a game South Carolina won 33-28 in memorable fashion. The only other two meetings between the two were in the regular season in 1985 and 1980. The Gamecocks lead 2-1.
Line: Michigan -7.5
What Michigan has going for it is a stellar defense, ranked No. 13 nationally in scoring, No. 21 against the run and No. 1 vs. the pass. What South Carolina doesn’t have going for it is a great offense – No. 98 in scoring, No. 108 in rushing and No. 79 in passing. This one will likely come down to how well the Gamecocks’ D – ranked No. 43 vs. the run – can contain the Wolverine’s one offensive facet – its No. 43 ranked ground game.
Players to Watch
Michigan: junior running back Karan Higdon (#22) (tied for No. 3 in the Big Ten in rushing TDs), senior defensive lineman Chase Winovich (#15) (tied for the ninth-most tackles for a loss in the FBS).
South Carolina: senior defensive lineman Dante Sawyer (#95) (tied for the most forced fumbles in the FBS).
Chick-fil-A PEACH BOWL
(12) UCF (12-0, American Athletic champions) vs. (7) Auburn (10-3) – American vs. SEC – Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Ga. – 12:30PM EST – ESPN
First year: 1968
Previous names: Chick-fil-A (2006-13)
Most appearances: Clemson (3-5)
Last year: (1) Alabama 24 – (4) Washington 7
UCF is 3-5 in bowl play. It lost to Arkansas State 31-13 in last year’s Cure Bowl. It hasn’t won a bowl game since taking down (6) Baylor 52-42 in the 2013 Fiesta Bowl.
Auburn is 23-16-2 in bowl play. It fell to (7) Oklahoma 35-19 in last season’s Sugar Bowl. Its most recent win came the year before, in 2015, when it downed Memphis 31-10 in the Birmingham Bowl.
UCF and Auburn have met three times previously, regular season games at Auburn from 1997-99. The Tigers lead 3-0. The Knights are 2-17 all-time vs. the current membership of the SEC. The only wins were over Alabama (40-38 in 2000) and Georgia (10-6 in the 2010 Liberty Bowl).
Line: Auburn -8
UCF looks like a Big 12 team on paper – No. 7 in the FBS in pass offense vs. No. 111 in pass defense. The intriguing matchups in this one are the Knights’ potent aerial attack taking on Auburn’s No. 14 ranked secondary and the Tigers’ super-charged ground game (No. 22 in the FBS) vs. UCF’s No. 66 ranked rush D. Auburn should have a clear advantage in depth and athleticism, but the Knights have nothing to lose.
Players to Watch
UCF: sophomore quarterback McKenzie Milton (#10) (No. 2 in the FBS in QB rating and No. 9 in yards per game), junior wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith (#4), (tied for No. 4 in the FBS in TD catches).
Auburn: junior running back Kerryon Johnson (#21) (tied for No. 7 in the FBS in rushing TDs and No. 14 in rushing yards per game).
CITRUS BOWL presented by Overton’s
(14) Notre Dame (9-3) vs. (17) LSU (9-3) – Independent vs. SEC – Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Fla. – 1PM EST – ABC
First year: 1947
Previous names: Tangerine (1947-82), Capital One (2003-14)
Most appearances: Georgia (4-1-1) and Florida (2-4)
Last year: (22) LSU 29 – (15) Louisville 9
Notre Dame is 17-18 in bowl play. It last went bowling in the 2015 Fiesta Bowl, falling 44-28 to (7) Ohio State. It’s most recent win came against, ironically, (22) LSU in the 2014 Music City Bowl.
LSU is 25-22-1 in bowl play. It downed (15) Louisville 29-9 in last season’s Citrus Bowl. It hasn’t lost in bowl action since falling to the Irish in the 2014 Music City Bowl.
This is the fourth time Notre Dame and LSU have met in a bowl game, previously clashing in the 2014 Music City Bowl (the Irish won 31-28), the 2006-7 Sugar Bowl (the Tigers won 41-14) and the 1997 Independence Bowl (LSU won 27-9). Notre Dame leads the all-time series 6-5.
Line: LSU -1
The key matchup in this one is Notre Dame’s potent ground game – ranked No. 7 nationally – grappling with LSU’s No. 23 ranked rush defense. The Irish have only been held to fewer than 160 yards rushing three times this season – 55 vs. Georgia, 109 at Miami (Fla.) and 154 at Stanford – all three games resulted in losses. LSU, on the other hand, has only given up more than 200 ground yards twice – 285 to Mississippi State and 206 to Troy – also both defeats for the Tigers.
Players to Watch
Notre Dame: junior running back Josh Adams (#33) (No. 15 in the FBS in yards per carry and No. 16 in yards per game).
LSU: sophomore linebacker Devin White (#40) (tied for No. 9 in the FBS in total tackles), freshman cornerback Andraez Williams (#29) (tied for the third-most interceptions in the FBS).
ROSE BOWL – CFP Semifinal Game
(3) Georgia (12-1, SEC champions) vs. (2) Oklahoma (12-1, Big 12 champions) – SEC vs. Big 12 – Rose Bowl Stadium, Pasadena, Calif. – 5PM EST – ESPN
First year: 1902
Previous names: Tournament East-West football game (1902, 1916-22)
Most appearances: USC (25-9)
Last year: (9) USC 52 – (5) Penn State 49
Georgia is 30-19-3 in bowl play. It downed TCU 31-23 in last season’s Liberty Bowl – also its third-consecutive bowl victory. It hasn’t lost in bowl action since the 2013 Gator Bowl, a 24-19 defeat to Nebraska.
Oklahoma is 29-20-1 in bowl play. It beat (17) Auburn 35-19 in last year’s Sugar Bowl – also it’s first bowl win in three tries. Its most recent bowl loss came in the 2015 CFP semi-final, a 37-17 defeat to (1) Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
This is Georgia and Oklahoma’s first-ever football meeting. The Bulldogs are 15-5 all-time vs. the current Big 12 membership. The Sooners are 109-46-8 against the SEC, the bulk coming vs. Missouri (67-24-5) and Texas A&M (19-12).
Line: Oklahoma -1.5
The big-time question in this one is how Georgia’s stellar defense (No. 2 in the FBS vs. the pass and No. 12 vs. the run) will hold up against Oklahoma’s potent offense (No. 3 in passing yards per game and No. 27 in rushing). What may decide which team moves on to the title game is if the Sooners’ No. 40 ranked rushing D can contain a Bulldog ground game ranked No. 11 in rushing yards. Only one opponent in 2017 held Georgia to fewer than 185 yards rushing – Auburn – also its only loss. The Tigers limited the Dogs to 46 in their stunning 40-17 regular-season defeat.
Players to Watch
Georgia: freshman quarterback Jake Fromm (#11) (No. 5 in the FBS in QB rating), junior inside linebacker Roquan Smith (#3) (No. 12 in the FBS in solo tackles), sophomore kicker Rodrigo Blankenship (#98) (tied for No. 6 in the FBS in field goal percentage).
Oklahoma: senior quarterback Baker Mayfield (#6) (No. 1 in the FBS in QB rating), senior defensive lineman Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (#31) (tied for No. 11 in the FBS in tackles for a loss).
Allstate SUGAR BOWL – CFP Semifinal Game
(4) Alabama (11-1) vs. (1) Clemson (12-1, ACC Champs) – SEC vs. ACC – Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La. – 8:45PM EST – ESPN
First year: 1935
Most appearances: Alabama (8-7)
Last year: (7) Oklahoma 35 – (14) Auburn 19
Alabama is 36-25-3 in bowl play. It fell to 35-31 to (3) Clemson in last season’s CFP Championship game. Its most recent win also came last year, downing (4) Washington in the CFP semi-final Peach Bowl.
Clemson is 22-19 in bowl play. It went 2-0 in bowl play last season – beating (1) Alabama in the title game and blanking (2) Ohio State in the CFP semi-final Fiesta Bowl. It hasn’t lost since falling to the (2) Crimson Tide 45-40 in the 2015 CFP title game.
Including the two CFP championship games (the only postseason action), Alabama and Clemson have met 17 times previously. The series dates to 1900, the Tide lead 13-4.
Alabama and Clemson share similar statistical DNA – they both have wicked-good defenses (ranked No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in the FBS in scoring) and have had far more success running the ball than throwing it. Of the two, the Tide are more one dimensional on offense – ranked No. 10 in rushing nationally vs. a No. 86 rank in passing. Compare that to Clemson’s No. 33 rank in rushing and No. 52 rank in passing. This one may come down to the Tigers’ No. 13 ranked rushing D shutting down Alabama’s ground game and forcing them to win the game through the air. If it’s close, keep in mind that Clemson’s kicker – Alex Spence (#41) – has the lowest field goal percentage (58.3) in the FBS.
Players to Watch
Alabama: junior running back Damien Harris (#34) (No. 7 in the FBS in yards per carry).
Clemson: sophomore defensive end Clelin Ferrell (#99) (tied for No. 14 in the FBS in tackles for a loss and No. 20 in sacks).