Happy Holidays! As 2015 draws to a close, we find ourselves smack in the middle of the bowls. You shouldn’t be bowled-out, either, as they build to the crescendo that is the Big Four showdown for the national title.
Here are our favorites:
North Carolina comes off that 45-37 loss to No. 1 Clemson that ended an 11-game win streak. The offense is prolific behind QB Marquise Williams (21 TDs, 9 INTs), who ran for 867 yards. 6-4 junior WR Mack Hollins (711 yards) averaged 25.4 yards per catch! UNC is 1-4 ATS at neutral sites.
They face a Baylor squad that doesn’t know who their QB is. The offense clicked under QB Seth Russell, but he is out, and QBs Jarrett Stidham (12 TDs, 2 INTs) and Chris Johnson (3 TDs, 2 INTs) have been up and down. Baylor has scored 21 and 17 points the last two games, both losses as favorites, part of a 1-5 ATS run. Baylor is also on a 48-21-2 run OVER the total
LSU faces Texas Tech, the team that is all-pass against the team that can’t pass! LSU can’t pass but they can run behind Leonard Fournette (1,741 rushing yards, 18 touchdowns) and a powerhouse defense. LSU is 0-4 ATS in bowl games, plus 5-2 UNDER the total in bowls.
Texas Tech couldn’t be more different, a bad defense and an unstoppable passing attack behind sophomore QB Pat Mahomes (32 TDs, 14 INTs). He faced Arkansas of the SEC, a 35-24 win, going 26-of-30 passing for 243 yards, 1 TD, 2 picks. T-Tech is on a 10-4-1 ATS run, though 2-6 ATS in bowls.
USC and Wisconsin square off at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. Senior QB Cody Kessler (28 TDs, 6 INTs, 3,315 yards) leads the Trojans high octane passing attack along with freshman RB Ron Jones (940 yards; 6.5 ypc) and sophomore WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (1,389 yards). USC is 9-3 ATS vs. the Big 10 and 5-2 ATS in bowls.
Wisconsin (9-3 SU, 5-8 ATS) did well under first-year coach Paul Chryst. The offense wasn’t so hot behind senior QB Joel Stave (10 TDs, 11 INTs), but were bailed out by the No. 1 scoring defense in the nation. The Badgers are on a 7-3 run UNDER the total with that defense, but 1-5 ATS at neutral sites.
A battle of great offensive lines and greater traditions as Notre Dame (10-2) and Ohio State (11-1) clash. The Irish run the football well behind QB Deshone Kizer (19 TDs, 9 INTs), who ran for 499 yards, and freshman RB Josh Adams (757 yards) and C.J. Prosise (1,032). The Fighting Irish are 7-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
They don’t face an ordinary team, but defending champion Ohio State and coach Urban Meyer, who is 9-2 in bowls. The Buckeyes have a loaded team, No. 1 in the nation most of the season. The defense is fierce and the ground game has QB J.T. Barrett (586 yards rushing) and RB Ezekiel Elliott (1,672 yards, 6.4 ypc).
The Ohio State defense finished second in scoring and sixth in pass efficiency defense. The Buckeyes have allowed more than 17 points just twice in the last 11 games and are 36-15 ATS on natural grass.
TCU and Oregon meet up, a pair of teams some thought capable of running the table. Both offenses are loaded and the game is in a dome. TCU QB Trevone Boykin (31 TDs, 10 INTs) does it all behind a great offensive line, sacked just 12 times. He won’t have top target WR Josh Doctson, but still has RB Aaron Green (1,171 yards). TCU is 1-7 ATS at neutral sites, 1-5 ATS in bowls.
Oregon’s offense has been outstanding since QB Vernon Adams Jr. (25 TDs, 6 INTs) returned to full health. In the past five games the Ducks have averaged 48.6 points and beat Stanford (38-36), USC (48-28) and Arizona State (61-55). RB Royce Freeman (1,706 yards, 6.6 ypc) is a beast and the Ducks are 34-16-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
Michigan State (12-1 SU, 4-9 ATS) is a big dog yet 41-4 since late 2012. Coach Mark Dantonio runs a great program and has an ace in senior QB Connor Cook (24 TDs, 5 INTs). They are 18-8-1 ATS against a winning team, plus 20-8-1 ATS away from Spartan Stadium.
Alabama (12-1, 7-6 ATS) is loaded everywhere, with a powerhouse defense and a balanced offense behind senior QB Jake Coker (17 TDs, 8 INTs) and Heisman winner senior RB Derrick Henry (1,986 yards, 5.9 ypc). It may look like a defensive battle, but Bama is 8-1 OVER the total in bowl contests.