I was hoping to put together a few winning days to gain some breathing room, but I've been hovering around 50/50 since the opening weekend of bowl season. Through 24 games, I'm 13-11 and already sweating about my limited margin for error. State of the U has already reached out to Chip Kelly to see if he has interest in writing for us. Everyone associated with college football will be looking over their shoulder until Chip has a new job, myself included. The plan is to win at least five of these seven games to end 2015 the right way. Happy New Year to you and your family. Enjoy the playoff semifinals and start making tentative plans to watch Miami in one of these marquee games next season.
On October 24th, I watched Clemson dismantle Miami from my seat at Sun Life Stadium, resulting in the end of the Al Golden era. It was clear that day just how unique this Clemson team is, led by star QB Deshaun Watson. As I've written before, I have a great deal of respect for the Tigers. Memorial Stadium is one of the best places I've ever visited and Clemson fans are among the friendliest in the country. I'm fortunate to be able to attend the Orange Bowl tomorrow night and look forward to supporting the ACC. I expect the playoff atmosphere to be special and hope the game lives up to the hype.
AUBURN -4 vs Memphis - Noon
Memphis had a great season led by QB Paxton Lynch, but the Tigers lost head coach Justin Fuente to Virginia Tech last month. Even though Auburn was a massive disappointment in 2015, I still think Gus Malzahn's team has the talent to win this afternoon. Auburn will have success on the ground with RB's Jovon Robinson and Peyton Barber and win in front of a friendly crowd.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -6 vs Nc State - 330pm
While both teams have impressive senior quarterbacks, I have more faith in Dak Prescott and the Bulldogs. WR's Fred Ross and De'Runnya Wilson are both talented playmakers that will give NCST some problems defensively. MSU should be able to control the line of scrimmage and pull away in the second half. Jacoby Brissett will have a decent game for the Wolfpack, but it won't be enough.
Music City Bowl
TEXAS A&M +4.5 vs Louisville - 7pm
I should be worried about Texas A&M losing both Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen earlier this month, but for some reason I still expect this game to be close. Sophomore Jake Hubenak will start for Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies. I'm relying on Myles Garrett and the Texas A&M defense to make a few impact plays. Louisville has been inconsistent all season and most of their wins were close down the stretch. If Bobby Petrino's squad manages to win tonight, the final margin will be a field goal or less.
USC -3 vs Wisconsin - 1030pm
Warning to all the USC fans out there - This is one of my most confident bowl picks. I expect the Trojans to win easily. Wisconsin QB Joel Stave is inconsistent and the Badgers don't have enough explosiveness on offense to compete with USC. The Trojans are led by star QB Cody Kessler who is fortunate to have some incredible talent around him at the skill positions. USC finally has some stability now that Clay Helton has been given the full-time job. This game is simply a bad matchup for Wisconsin as long as USC shows up ready to play.
FSU -7 vs Houston - Noon
Houston is about to find out that FSU RB Dalvin Cook is the most underrated player in America. Even though he didn't receive the same hype as Fournette, Henry, and McCaffrey, Cook might be the best of the group. He'll be healthy and poised to make a statement on New Years Eve. I've been a huge fan of Houston and QB Greg Ward Jr all season, but FSU will be the best defense the Cougars have seen. The Noles size and athleticism will slow down Houston's offense. FSU QB Sean Maguire has shown improvement and has the ability to stretch the field in the passing game. The Noles win by two touchdowns.
CLEMSON +4 vs Oklahoma - 4pm
Oklahoma is eager to avenge last year's blowout bowl loss to the Tigers. Baker Mayfield has been capturing all of the headlines the past few days, but Clemson QB Deshaun Watson will be the player that steals the show once the game starts. I remain surprised that Oklahoma is favored by 3-4 points. Despite being ranked #1 all season, Clemson hasn't gotten the respect I feel the Tigers deserve. Oklahoma played well down the stretch, but the Sooners were very fortunate to play against Baylor and TCU after each team suffered critical injuries to their starting quarterbacks. This game has the potential to be an instant classic and I expect it to be decided late in the fourth quarter. Clemson's defense is underrated and an upgrade from what Oklahoma saw in the Big 12. I can't believe I'm trusting Dabo Swinney in the biggest game of his life, but here we go.
MICHIGAN ST +10 vs Alabama - 8pm
Alabama is not the invincible team we've grown accustomed to seeing under Nick Saban. I still have significant questions about Jacob Coker's ability to beat teams with his arm if the Tide fall behind. Expect this game to be low scoring and close throughout. Michigan State always plays well as the underdog and the ten-point spread is the perfect motivational tool for Mark Dantonio. The Spartans defense got healthier towards the end of the season and held their final four opponents to 12.5ppg. Alabama will likely win by giving the ball to Derrick Henry another 45 times, but the final margin will be a touchdown or less. Michigan State's Connor Cook might be the best quarterback Alabama has faced all year.