Bowl Games Schedule 2017-18: Full College Football Postseason Slate and Picks

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistDecember 14, 2017

Southern California quarterback Sam Darnold (14) passes against Stanford during the second half of the Pac-12 Conference championship NCAA college football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

The 2017-18 college football bowl slate is jam-packed with quality matchups that figure to produce some of the most exciting and entertaining games of the entire season.

Much of the focus is on the College Football Playoff matchups of No. 2 Oklahoma against No. 3 Georgia in the Rose Bowl and No. 1 Clemson against No. 4 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, but they aren't the only games with major stakes and big-time programs involved.

Here is a look at the complete bowl schedule, along with picks for each game and further analysis regarding some of the highest-profile tilts.

      

Bowl Schedule and Picks

*Predicted winners in italics

Celebration Bowl: North Carolina A&T vs. Grambling State, Dec. 16 at 1 p.m. ET on ABC

New Orleans Bowl: Troy vs. North Texas, Dec. 16 at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN

Cure Bowl: Georgia State vs. Western Kentucky, Dec. 16 at 2:30 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network

Las Vegas Bowl: Oregon vs. Boise State, Dec. 16 at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC

New Mexico Bowl: Marshall vs. Colorado State, Dec. 16 at 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Camellia Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State, Dec. 16 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN

Boca Raton Bowl: Akron vs. Florida Atlantic, Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN

Frisco Bowl: SMU vs. Louisiana Tech, Dec. 20 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN

Gasparilla Bowl: Temple vs. Florida International, Dec. 21 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN

Bahamas Bow: UAB vs. Ohio, Dec. 22 at 12:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Wyoming vs. Central Michigan, Dec. 22 at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN

Birmingham Bowl: Texas Tech vs. South Florida, Dec. 23 at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN

Armed Forces Bowl: Army vs. San Diego State, Dec. 23 at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Dollar General Bowl: Appalachian State vs. Toledo, Dec. 23 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN

Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State vs. Houston, Dec. 24 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Heart of Dallas Bowl: Utah vs. West Virginia, Dec. 26 at 1:20 p.m. ET on ESPN

Quick Lane Bowl: Duke vs. Northern Illinois, Dec. 26 at 5:15 p.m. ET on ESPN

Cactus Bowl: Kansas State vs. UCLA, Dec. 26 at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN

Independence Bowl: Florida State vs. Southern Mississippi, Dec. 27 at 1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Pinstripe Bowl: Boston College vs. Iowa, Dec. 27 at 5:15 p.m. ET on ESPN

Foster Farms Bowl: Arizona vs. Purdue, Dec. 27 at 8:30 p.m. ET on Fox

Texas Bowl: Texas vs. Missouri, Dec. 27 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN

Military Bowl: Virginia vs. Navy, Dec. 28 at 1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Camping World Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Virginia Tech, Dec. 28 at 5:15 p.m. ET on ESPN

Alamo Bowl: Stanford vs. TCU, Dec. 28 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN

Holiday Bowl: Michigan State vs. Washington State, Dec. 28 at 9 p.m. ET on Fox

Belk Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M, Dec. 29 at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN

Sun Bowl: NC State vs. Arizona State, Dec. 29 at 2 p.m. ET on CBS

Music City Bowl: Kentucky vs. Northwestern, Dec. 29 at 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Arizona Bowl: Utah State vs. New Mexico State, Dec. 29 at 5:30 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network

Cotton Bowl Classic: USC vs. Ohio State, Dec. 29 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

TaxSlayer Bowl: Louisville vs. Mississippi State, Dec. 30 at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN

Liberty Bowl: Iowa State vs. Memphis, Dec. 30 at 12:30 p.m. ET on ABC

Fiesta Bowl: Washington vs. Penn State, Dec. 30 at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN

Orange Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Miami (Fla.), Dec. 30 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN

Outback Bowl: Michigan vs. South Carolina, Jan. 1 at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN2

Peach Bowl: Auburn vs. Central Florida, Jan. 1 at 12:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Citrus Bowl: Notre Dame vs. LSU, Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. ET on ABC

Rose Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Georgia, Jan. 1 at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN

Sugar Bowl: Clemson vs. Alabama, Jan. 1 at 8:45 p.m. ET on ESPN

College Football Playoff National Championship: TBD vs. TBD, Jan. 8 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN

          

Breaking Down Major Bowls

Cotton Bowl Classic: USC vs. Ohio State

Both USC and Ohio State had solid cases to be included in the College Football Playoff, but after being left out, they will instead do battle in the Cotton Bowl Classic.

USC versus Ohio State is generally reserved for the Rose Bowl, but with the Rose Bowl being a CFP semifinal this season, the Trojans and Buckeyes will have an opportunity to explore some new surroundings.

While there are tons of intriguing matchups to keep an eye on during this game, the quarterback battle between USC's Sam Darnold and Ohio State's J.T. Barrett undoubtedly takes the spotlight.

Darnold is in the discussion to be the No. 1 overall selection in the 2018 NFL draft, although he has had an up-and-down 2017 season.

Overall, Darnold has thrown for 3,787 yards, 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, while rushing for five additional scores.

According to Bleacher Report's Ryan McCrystal, Darnold hasn't shown this season that he can dissect a quality pass defense, which could be an issue against OSU:

Meanwhile, Barrett has enjoyed his best season since he was a freshman in 2014, throwing for 2,939 yards, 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions, and rushing for 732 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Barrett's past five games have been shaky, though, and he suffered a knee injury that knocked him out of the Michigan game, although he was able to play in the Big Ten Championship Game and beat Wisconsin.

If Barrett is going to beat USC, he will likely need to do so with his legs since he has completed less than 58 percent of his passes in four of the past five games.

Darnold showed in last season's Rose Bowl that he can raise his game at the biggest moments, as he threw for 453 yards and five touchdowns in a 52-49 win over Penn State.

Look for Darnold to shine once again in the Cotton Bowl by leading USC to victory and improving his draft stock in the process.

       

Orange Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Miami (Fla.)

Both Wisconsin and Miami (Fla.) performed beyond expectations this season, and they will have a chance to end the campaign on a high note when they meet in the Orange Bowl.

The Badgers' only loss was a close, 27-21 defeat at the hands of Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game, which kept them out of the College Football Playoff. The Hurricanes are on a two-game losing streak, having lost to Pittsburgh and Clemson.

Even with the loss to OSU, Wisconsin clearly has momentum on its side in comparison to Miami. The contest still figures to be close, though, since both teams are so dominant defensively, per ESPN's Phil Steele:

They've also each dealt with up-and-down quarterback play over the course of the season courtesy of Alex Hornibrook and Malik Rosier.

Hornibrook threw for 2,386 yards, 21 touchdowns an 15 interceptions for the Badgers, while Miami signal-caller Rosier finished with 2,917 yards, 25 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, as well as 427 rushing yards and five rushing scores.

Rosier's dual-threat nature gives Miami a slight edge in the quarterback battle, but Wisconsin's advantage lies in the play of freshman running back Jonathan Taylor.

Taylor was second among power-conference players with 1,847 rushing yards to go along with 13 touchdowns.

While sophomore Travis Homer had a solid year on the ground for the Hurricanes with 902 yards and seven touchdowns, he isn't a workhorse in the same vein as Wisconsin.

Assuming the Badgers commit fully to the run and feed Taylor throughout the game, they have the formula needed to grind out a hard-fought win.

             

Peach Bowl: Auburn vs. Central Florida

The only remaining undefeated team in FBS college football will look to cap a perfect season in the Peach Bowl when Central Florida takes on Auburn.

UCF is 12-0 due largely to great play from sophomore quarterback McKenzie Milton, who has thrown for 3,795 yards, 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions, while rushing for 497 yards and seven scores this season.

The Knights have also had strong coaching from Scott Frost, but he agreed to leave UCF to coach his alma mater, Nebraska.

Even so, Frost will coach Central Florida in the Peach Bowl, which means there will be continuity, although it could make for an awkward situation for the players.

The 10-3 Tigers will have everything in place as usual. However, they are coming off a tough loss, as they fell 28-7 to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, which dashed their CFP hopes.

Rebounding from that could be difficult, but there is no denying Auburn is a solid teamas evidenced by wins over Alabama and Georgia this season, along with an eight-point loss to Clemson.

Dominant defense is one of Auburn's greatest strengths, as is the running game led by Kerryon Johnson and his 1,320 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Quarterback Jarrett Stidham has also been efficient for the Tigers this season, completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 2,827 yards, 17 touchdowns and four interceptions to go along with four rushing touchdowns.

An underrated deciding factor in the game could be the absence of veteran UCF left tackle Aaron Evans, who will miss the Peach Bowl due to injury, per Shannon Green of Orlando Sentinel.

That means Milton could be under fire against a strong Auburn front seven capable of shutting down even the most potent offenses.

UCF has a lot to play for in the Peach Bowl, but based on Auburn's resume and ability to control the line of scrimmage on both sides, the Tigers are in line to hand the Knights their first loss.

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