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College Football Playoff and Bowl Game Preview and Picks: Thoughts on the Rose, Sugar and all the big games!

It's Tuesday, and for the first time since Championship Week to open December, it's time to make some college football picks!!!

That's right, bowl season is here, and with it, we're firing up the picks - giving our best bets for the big games and also the two playoff semifinals.

A couple notes before we get started: One, make sure you're subscribed to the College Football Betting Pod. We dropped our first look at the playoff last week, this week will be hitting on the big semifinal and bowl games. And I'm here to tell you, it's the best information you'll get anywhere on the internet.

As far as these picks, a couple quick notes: One, we aren't picking all the bowl games or anywhere close. The bottom line is that between coaching changes, coordinator changes, portal entries etc., it's hard to handicap even the biggest games. So if it's that hard to handicap the Orange Bowl and Peach Bowl, you can probably guess it's that much harder to figure out how Notre Dame (with a back-up QB) will handle Oregon State (with a back-up team and coaching staff) in the Sun Bowl a few days from now.

Two, before you place your wagers, make sure to continue to check for opt outs and other pertinent news. The information is coming in quickly and changing fast. All of my picks are based on the news as of about 2:30 ET on Wednesday, December 19th.

Alamo Bowl: No. 14 Arizona (-3) vs. No. 12 Oklahoma - Thursday, December 28th, 9:15 ET, ESPN

Our first bowl pick comes from next Thursday evening, in a what is always a fun, non-playoff bowl: The Alamo Bowl.

Remember the Alamo? Who could forget baby!

And this year there's extra excitement, as it marks the debut of five-star quarterback Jackson Arnold at Oklahoma. With Dillon Gabriel gone it's Arnold's show, and we'll see if the five-star - who will lead the Sooners out of the tunnel next year into the SEC - is as good as advertised.

The problem is, that while everyone is focused on Gabriel's departure and Arnold's arrival, not enough people are talking about another factor: That Oklahoma offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby has left as well. He's now the Mississippi State head coach.

So, in addition to starting a quarterback with 24 career passes (who replaced a guy who threw 384 times alone this year) you're also replacing your play-caller. Oh, and you're doing it against one of the hottest teams in college football over the last six weeks of the season?!

Not ideal.

That's right, while it's not sexy for many to talk Arizona football, they were one of the best teams in football down the stretch. They won their final six games - which included wins over four teams that were ranked when they played them - with their only losses since the mid-way point coming at USC in triple-overtime and Washington by seven.

Noah Fifitta is a name to know, and after Wednesday night you will.

He completed 73 percent of his passes after getting the starting quarterback job, and was the key to the Wildcats' late season surge.

He'll also be key to another win next Wednesday.

Cotton Bowl: No. 9 Missouri (-2.5) vs. No. 7 Ohio State - Friday, December 29th, 8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN

Ok, I have a take here and I'll probably get crushed for saying this: This feels like kind of a pseudo-must win game for Ohio State.

I know it sounds crazy. I know it's "only" the Cotton Bowl. But let me explain.

The bottom-line is that since Ohio State's third straight loss to Michigan, it feels like 100 percent of the blame has fallen on now-former quarterback Kyle McCord. All I've heard from the Ohio State side of things for the last month are things like "McCord is soft. McCord isn't alpha. McCord was never the answer."

That's fine. But what I've also heard is that his back-up Devin Brown is the opposite of that.

Which sounds all well and good, but people were saying the same thing about CJ Stroud last year (don't deny it Ohio State fans - heading into the Georgia game last year, all I heard was that Stroud wasn't "tough enough." You know its true. And it was obviously proven wrong this season in the NFL).

Two, it sure does feel like - in the process of running over McCord - Brown has been propped up to be something I'm not sure he is.

Remember, Ohio State had a QB competition deep into fall camp. Even when McCord "won" the job, Ryan Day gave Brown ample opportunities to take the gig in the early season. Eventually Brown couldn't do it, and Day had to default to McCord as the games got tougher.

Well, Ohio State fans now have the QB they want - but I'm not sold he's the QB they need.

Add in the fact that Missouri was phenomenal down the stretch, and that Missouri fans will be amped up for their biggest bowl game in years, and I kind of feel like everything is trending towards the Tigers here.

Eli Drinkwitz has loved poking at his opponents all season long (who could forget the Tennessee debacle) and I think he gets one more poke here.

Missouri 24, Ohio State 16.

Peach Bowl: No. 11 Ole Miss (+4/ML) vs. No. 10 Penn State: Saturday, December 30th, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN

Call me crazy, but is this not the trappiest line you've ever seen?!

If it is, I'm falling right into it, hook, line and sinker. I think Ole Miss blows Penn State out.

While I totally get that Penn State of course had the No. 1 defense in college football, remember: Coordinator Manny Diaz just took the Duke head coaching job, and star edge rusher Chop Robinson opted out for the draft. Plus, it's not like Ole Miss hasn't faced great defenses, playing Georgia, Alabama and Texas A&M, who all finished in the Top 15 this season.

On the flip side, there are two other factors: Are we sure Penn State will be able to move the ball against the Rebels? I know Ole Miss isn't very good on that side of the ball, but at the same time, Penn State's offense was... umm, not good this year.

Also, while Ole Miss has faced defenses comprable to Penn State's, has Penn State faced an offense comprable to Ole Miss's? Because I'm pretty sure they haven't.

Just for fun, I looked it up: The Nittany Lions faced a grand total of one, Top 35 offense this year. It was West Virginia in Week 1. They did however face five bottom 35 offenses. Yes, five - Indiana (101st), Rutgers (123rd), Northwestern (124th), Michigan State (128th) and Iowa (133rd).

Penn State's defense is too good to get blown out. But their offense is too bad for them to win this game.

Give me Ole Miss on the moneyline.

Orange Bowl: No. 6 Georgia vs. No. 5 Florida State (UNDER 44.5): Saturday, December 30th, 4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN

One, it's a shame this game is at 4 p.m. in the afternoon. This game had big, "late night, angry Florida State proving the world wrong" vibes to me when I pictured it in my head.

Instead, it will take place mid-day, like a random Miami-Pitt game on the ACC Network (only with wayyyyy more fans at Hard Rock Stadium).

In terms of the game itself, while I know the conversation will be about the scorned Floria State Seminoles, I truly believe they can keep it close. Or at least low scoring. As I said during their debacle of a win over Louisville in the ACC Championship, their offense might be abysmal. But their defense will keep them from getting embarrassed by any opponent, whether it's the playoff, another bowl game or whatever.

Remember, that Florida State defense shut down LSU in a way that no SEC school did all year, and I also think this is worth noting: Georgia has faced one Top 30 defense all this season. It was against Alabama, which led to their worst offensive performance of the year.

In the end, I'm simply not sure how Florida State puts up enough points to win this game, or potentially cover. But I believe they can slow down - and dare I say shut down - Georgia in a game where I don't think e get anywhere close to the 44.5 total points.

Rose Bowl: No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 1 Michigan (-1.5): Monday, January 1, 5:00 p.m. ET, ESPN

Well folks, we've made it. It's time to talk about the two College Football semifinals. And while I'm not sure you could say this about every playoff, I expect both to be classics.

Starting with a game I'll be attending, it's Michigan-Alabama: Two iconic brands. In an iconic venue. With a trip to the title game on the line.

And coming in, it feels like everything - except the point spread - favors Alabama. Jim Haraugh is one of the worst postseason coaches in recent college football history (1-6 since he got to Michigan). Nick Saban meanwhile, has gone 7-1 in College Football Playoff semifinal games. And it seems like while the odds favor Michigan, everyone is picking Bama to win.

Me? I'm not sold.

Again, everyone seems to like Bama here. But while there's no way to quanitify it - doesn't it feel like there's one playoff that never goes to play every year?! Last year, everyone thought Michigan would roll TCU, and they lost outright. The year before, everyone thought Michigan could keep things close against Georgia. They got blown out. The year before, Ohio State was an underdog against Clemson and routed them.

Well, doesn't this feel like the kind of game where everyone's picking Bama - and all of a sudden you look up, and the Wolverines are up 17-13 with the ball and driving heading into the fourth quarter?!

Beyond that, here's the crazy thing about Alabama: As great as the win was against Georgia, it's kind of worth noting, that they really didn't do anything at an elite level in that game. Georgia actually outgained Bama. The Tide had just 192 yards passing. They averaged just 2.8 yards per carry.

And they did it against a Georgia defense that, at least stastically, isn't as good as Michigan. The Dawgs have just the 30th ranked rush defense in the country. Michigan No. 6.

In the end, I still see what you see: A close, low, back-and-forth affair.

I just see a slightly different result: Michigan 24, Alabama 21.

The Wolverines move on to play for a national title.

Sugar Bowl: No. 3 Texas vs. No. 2 Washington (+4): Monday, January 1st, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

What were you doing the night of Thursday, December 29th, 2022? As it turns out you should've said "Watching the Alamo Bowl" because, who could've ever guessed it at the time, but as it turned out, it ended up being a precursor to the next year's College Football Playoff.

Who could've thunk it?!

In terms of this game, well, we all know the narratives. Texas is finally BACK, proving they belong at the top of the sport of college football. Meanwhile, Washington continues to defy expectations, winning game after close game late in the season, before beating Oregon a second time in the Pac-12 title game.

And really, that last part is what stands out to me: Every time this Washington team is doubted, they end up finding a way to win. That included the Pac-12 title game, where I'll admit, I don't think I ever remember a team coming in as a near double-digit favorite against a team they had already beaten, without any major injury.

Only that's exactly what happened, and the Dawgs emerged with a win.

Well, after a month of hearing how good Texas is, how back they are, and how many difference-makers they have on both sides of the ball, I like Washington to pull the outright upset here.

Washington has been nothing but doubted all season long, and they are again here.

They'll use it for fuel in a 34-28 victory over the Longhorns.


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