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Tuesday's Evening Bowl Tips
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Getting to play on New Year’s Day is still a big draw even if the College Football Playoffs have taken some of the appeal away from the traditional bowl schedule. If that field expended these two matchups would be fitting play-in games as four prestigious programs face off in the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl games Tuesday night to wrap up the bowl schedule ahead of next week’s championship game.

ROSE BOWL

Matchup: Washington Huskies at Ohio State Buckeyes
Venue: Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California
Time/TV: Tuesday, January 1, 5:00 PM ET, ESPN
Line: Ohio State -6½, Over/Under 57½
Last Meeting: 2007 Ohio State (-3) 33, at Washington 14

For the second straight season, Ohio State wound up just on the outside of the College Football Playoffs as the Big Ten champion was left out for the second straight season. The 12-1 Buckeyes didn’t always look the part but wound up with a playoff caliber resume as this was an exceptional season with three prominent undefeated teams. For the second straight season, the caliber of the loss was damaging to Ohio State with a 49-20 defeat against a Purdue team that wound up 6-6 after last season being left out with an ugly 55-24 loss to Iowa cited, though a difference being that last season that was loss #2.

The season for Ohio State started with great controversy with the allegations surrounding Urban Meyer. He was suspended for the first three games which Ohio State won, including what at the time looked like a notable win over TCU. Meyer has announced that he will resign following this game and assistant Ryan Day, who led the team in Meyer’s absence, will take over leading the program.

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The Buckeyes posted huge offensive numbers with Dwayne Haskins producing great results in what will likely be his only year as the starter, finishing third in the Heisman voting and with potential to be a NFL draft pick in the spring. Haskins was asked to do a lot this season as Ohio State was not a strong rushing team gaining nearly 1,000 fewer yards on the ground and 1.7 fewer yards per carry compared with last season. Ohio State also allowed 26 or more points in eight different games this season and had close call results with teams like Nebraska and Maryland before the emphatic win over Michigan.

With three losses out of a mediocre Pac-12, Washington didn’t receive any consideration by the playoff committee, but while Ohio State’s single loss came by 29 points, the three losses for Washington came by a combined total of 10 points. Washington lost two Pac-12 road games against Oregon and California and lost a big season opener with Auburn, ironically a team that just blasted the Purdue team that beat Ohio State. Washington was in position to win all three of those games as it will be a remembered as a season of what-ifs for the Huskies.

Senior quarterback Jake Browning had an underwhelming season as he has not been able to recapture the success of his sophomore season when the Huskies made the playoffs. He still had steady numbers and the Huskies out-rushed foes by nearly a yard per carry this season led by Myles Gaskin on offense and one of the nation’s better run defenses. While Meyer’s retirement will steal the spotlight with an all-time great resume, Chris Petersen has a tremendous 139-32 record at Boise State and Washington though he has lost three of his past four bowl games including a seven-point loss to Penn State in last season’s Fiesta Bowl.

Even in the current era where the significance of many bowls games has declined, the Rose Bowl still remains a prized invitation. The past two Rose Bowls have been wildly entertaining games with USC beating Penn State 52-49 two years ago in a traditional Big Ten/Pac-12 contest while the Rose Bowl was a playoff semifinal last season with Georgia holding off Oklahoma 54-48 in overtime. That type of scoring was common in Ohio State games this season but isn’t likely the preferred pace for a Washington team that allowed just over 15 points per game on the season.

SUGAR BOWL

Matchup: Texas Longhorns at Georgia Bulldogs
Venue: Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana
Time/TV: Monday, December 31, 8:45 PM ET, ESPN
Line: Georgia -13, Over/Under 58
Last Meeting: 1984 (Cotton Bowl) Georgia (+7½) 10, Texas 9

Georgia had a playoff spot on the line in the SEC Championship with Alabama, a rematch of last season’s national championship game. The Bulldogs had a two-touchdown lead in the second half of that game but wound up falling short and ended up the last team out of the bracket. A Sugar Bowl bid is certainly a worthy consolation, but Georgia is a bowl team that has immense potential but perhaps suspect motivation in the final bowl game ahead of next week’s championship in Santa Clara.

Georgia had a few breaks in that game against Alabama with a 2-0 turnover edge and quarterback Tua Tagovalioa leaving the game for Alabama but for the second year in a row, the Bulldogs couldn’t finish off the Tide in a game they controlled. Georgia’s only regular season loss was a 20-point defeat at LSU in which they had four turnovers and the Bulldogs were a dominant rushing team posting 6.1 yards per carry and 252 yards per game. Georgia allowed just over 18 points per game on defense as well, only four times allowing more than 17 points, though they did so in each of the three most recent games.

Cornerback Deandre Baker is skipping this game for a big loss for the Georgia defense while defensive coordinator Mel Tucker left the program several weeks ago after being announced as the new head coach at Colorado and he has hired two assistants from the Georgia staff to join him. Georgia didn’t post the eye-popping offensive numbers that some of the other elite teams in the nation did, but Jake Fromm was one of the top quarterbacks in the nation in his second season and Georgia wound up defeating seven bowl teams by 14 or more points.

Georgia drew a difficult SEC schedule pulling LSU and Auburn from the West and certainly looked the part of a playoff caliber team and would have had a compelling case in most seasons. As this line suggests, Georgia is certainly considered one of the top four teams in the nation even if they didn’t have the credentials to be in the playoff field.

Tom Herman’s second season in Texas began poorly as he was often named in the investigation surrounding Urban Meyer. Texas then went out and lost to Maryland to open the season for the second straight season. The Longhorns rebounded for a fine season reaching 6-1 before losing a pair of very tight Big XII games, eventually making the Big XII title game where they lost to Oklahoma after beating the Sooners in the regular season. None of the four losses for Texas came by more than 12 points which was the margin in the Big XII championship loss in a game that was tied in the fourth quarter.

Texas also had several narrow wins however with six wins by seven or fewer points and four of those wins were against non-bowl teams. The Longhorns struggled to run the ball consistently this season, but quarterback Sam Ehlinger did have a breakthrough season in the passing game after inconsistent results last year.

The Sugar Bowl has not featured many close games in recent years with five of the past six games decided by 10 or more points. The game has featured some prominent upsets however with a pair of Alabama losses in 2014 and 2015 and while it wasn’t an upset by the pointspread, Alabama was the playoff #4 seed defeating #1 seed Clemson last season in this game. This will be a measuring stick game for the Big XII against the SEC with the Big XII winning two of the past three Sugar Bowl meetings with the SEC.

  
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