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Your guide to every bowl game

It's the most wonderful time of the year: College football bowl games are here, and a six-pack of games on Saturday rings it in.

The College Football Playoff semifinals won't kick off for another two weeks, but there's plenty of action to watch between now and then. From the Celebration Bowl to the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T, here are the reasons to watch and predictions for all 41 bowl games.

Saturday, Dec. 15

Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl: North Carolina A&T vs. Alcorn State (Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta)

Why to watch: It's the first bowl game of the year, and it will determine the de facto HBCU national champion.

Whom to watch: North Carolina A&T defensive end Darryl Johnson became the first Aggies player since 1997 to be named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year. He leads the MEAC with 10.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. His strip sack clinched the Aggies' 20-17 upset of Jacksonville State, and he had seven tackles and one sack in a 28-23 win over FBS foe East Carolina.

Motivating factor for North Carolina A&T: The Aggies can win their second straight HBCU national title. They defeated Grambling 21-14 in the Celebration Bowl in 2017.

Motivating factor for Alcorn State: The Braves are seeking their first HBCU national championship since 2014 and their first under coach Fred McNair, the brother of former Alcorn State and NFL quarterback Steve McNair.

Prediction: North Carolina A&T 27, Alcorn State 24

Score: North Carolina A&T 24, Alcorn State 22


New Mexico Bowl Presented by Progressive: North Texas vs. Utah State (Branch Field at Dreamstyle Stadium in Albuquerque, New Mexico)

Why to watch: It would have been a matchup of two of the hottest coaches in the Group of 5: North Texas' Seth Littrell vs. Utah State's Matt Wells. But Wells left for Texas Tech, and interim coach Frank Maile will lead the Aggies in their seventh bowl in eight seasons.

Whom to watch: Utah State quarterback Jordan Love completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 3,208 yards, 28 touchdowns and 5 interceptions while running for six more scores.

Motivating factor for North Texas: The Mean Green can win 10 games for the first time in school history and win their first bowl game since 2013.

Motivating factor for Utah State: The Aggies will try to keep their high-scoring offense going without Wells. They averaged 47.2 points per game, which was third in the FBS and tops among Group of 5 programs.

Prediction: Utah State 42, North Texas 31

Score: Utah State 52, North Texas 13


AutoNation Cure Bowl: Tulane vs. Louisiana (Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida)

Why to watch: Only 135 miles separate the Louisiana schools, and both overcame 1-3 starts to reach the postseason.

Whom to watch: The Green Wave are 4-1 since Justin McMillan became the starting quarterback. He has 13 touchdowns (9 passing, 4 rushing) with only 3 interceptions in that stretch.

Motivating factor for Tulane: The Green Wave haven't won a bowl game since defeating Hawaii 36-28 in the 2002 Hawaii Bowl.

Motivating factor for Louisiana: The Ragin' Cajuns have dropped 22 of 28 games against Tulane, though the instate rivalry has been far more competitive in recent years. Tulane won the most recent meeting 41-39 in four overtimes in 2016.

Prediction: Tulane 28, Louisiana 27

Score: Tulane 41, Louisiana 24


Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl: Fresno State vs. Arizona State (Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas)

Why to watch: Two coaches in their second acts -- Arizona State's Herm Edwards and Fresno State's Jeff Tedford -- have found unexpected success.

Whom to watch: Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion, an Oregon State transfer, has completed 69.8 percent of his passes for 3,453 yards, 25 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He ranks No. 3 among Group of 5 players with a 78.5 total QBR.

Motivating factor for Fresno State: The Bulldogs are trying to become the first team in the 97-year history of the program to win 12 games in a season. They can also beat the Sun Devils for the first time; they're 0-3 in the series, with the most recent meeting coming in 1941.

Motivating factor for Arizona State: The Sun Devils can turn around their postseason slump in Edwards' first season. They've dropped six of their past eight bowl games and three of the past four.

Prediction: Fresno State 35, Arizona State 28

Score: Fresno State 31, Arizona State 20


Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Georgia Southern vs. Eastern Michigan (5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama)

Why to watch: Georgia Southern has been one of the more remarkable turnaround stories in the sport. After going 2-10 last season, the Eagles are 9-3 this year under coach Chad Lunsford, who took over after their 0-6 start in 2017.

Whom to watch: Georgia Southern sophomore Shai Werts is the last FBS starter who has yet to throw an interception. In fact, the Eagles have turned the ball over only five times -- fewest in the FBS. They're on pace to break the NCAA record of eight turnovers lost in a season.

Motivating factor for Georgia Southern: With a victory over Eastern Michigan, Georgia Southern would win 10 games in a season for the first time since joining the FBS in 2014.

Motivating factor for Eastern Michigan: The Eagles are playing in only their third Division I bowl game and their first on American soil in 31 years. Their only bowl victory was a 30-27 win over San Jose State in the 1987 California Bowl.

Prediction: Georgia Southern 34, Eastern Michigan 28

Score: Georgia Southern 23, Eastern Michigan 21


R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Appalachian State (9 p.m. ET on ESPN at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans)

Why to watch: It's the bowl game to watch if you love defense. The Mountaineers allowed only 15.7 points per game, sixth fewest in the FBS and second-lowest among Group of 5 teams. The Blue Raiders held four of their past seven opponents to 17 points or fewer.

Whom to watch: Middle Tennessee quarterback Brent Stockstill was named Conference USA MVP after throwing for 3,214 yards, 28 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. It will be his final college game with his father, Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill.

Motivating factor for Middle Tennessee: The Blue Raiders can win bowl games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history. They defeated Arkansas State 35-30 in the Camellia Bowl last season, their first postseason victory since 2009.

Motivating factor for Appalachian State: It's about pride for the Mountaineers after coach Scott Satterfield left for Louisville. Assistant head coach/defensive line coach Mark Ivey takes over as interim coach. The Mountaineers are 3-0 in bowl games since joining the FBS.

Prediction: Appalachian State 24, Middle Tennessee 21

Score: Appalachian State 45, Middle Tennessee 13

Tuesday, Dec. 18

Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl: UAB vs. Northern Illinois (7 p.m. ET on ESPN at Howard Schnellenberger Field at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida)

Why to watch: The Blazers came back from near extinction -- the university shut down the program after the 2014 season because of financial problems, only to bring it back shortly thereafter -- to win eight games in 2017 and 10 this season. It's the only non-New Year's Six bowl game featuring two conference champions.

Whom to watch: Northern Illinois defensive end Sutton Smith is tied for the FBS lead with 15 sacks and is second with 24.5 tackles for loss. He set the Northern Illinois single-season record for sacks after totaling 14 as a junior in 2017.

Motivating factor for UAB: The Blazers have never won a bowl game in the 21-year history of the program. They're 0-2 in the postseason, including a 41-6 loss to Ohio in the 2017 Bahamas Bowl.

Motivating factor for Northern Illinois: The Huskies can end a five-game losing streak in bowl games. Their last victory was a 38-20 win over Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl after the 2011 season.

Prediction: UAB 23, Northern Illinois 17

Wednesday, Dec. 19

DXL Frisco Bowl: San Diego State vs. Ohio (8 p.m. ET on ESPN at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas)

Why to watch: It's a matchup of two of college football's elder statesmen and more underrated coaches. Ohio's Frank Solich, 74, was the second-oldest coach going into the season; only Kansas State's Bill Snyder, 79, was older. San Diego State's Rocky Long, 68, was the fourth oldest.

Whom to watch: Ohio's Nathan Rourke was one of the more productive dual-threat quarterbacks in the FBS, passing for 2,228 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushing for 816 yards and 13 scores.

Motivating factor for San Diego State: The Aztecs will try to end a three-game losing streak and keep their unbeaten record against MAC opponents intact. They're 13-0-1 all time against MAC opponents.

Motivating factor for Ohio: The Bobcats can win back-to-back bowl games for the second time in school history. They won the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and Independence Bowl in 2011-12.

Prediction: Ohio 31, San Diego State 23

Thursday, Dec. 20

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl: Marshall vs. South Florida (8 p.m. ET on ESPN at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida)

Why to watch: Three words: lawn mower races!

Whom to watch: Marshall senior Tyre Brady, a native of Homestead, Florida, gets to play his final college game in the Sunshine State. Brady, who played at Miami in 2015, has 66 catches for 914 yards and 9 touchdowns.

Motivating factor for Marshall: The Thundering Herd are 5-0 in bowl games under coach Doc Holliday. In fact, Marshall is 11-2 in bowl games as an FBS member, the highest win percentage (84.6 percent) of any FBS program with at least five postseason appearances.

Motivating factor for South Florida: The Bulls will try to end an ugly five-game losing streak. They started the season 7-0 but haven't won since defeating UConn 38-30 on Oct. 20.

Prediction: Marshall 34, South Florida 24

Friday, Dec. 21

Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl: FIU vs. Toledo (12:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium in Nassau, Bahamas)

Why to watch: If the game is half as exciting as the teams' first postseason meeting -- the Golden Panthers stunned the Rockets 34-32 on a last-second field goal in the 2010 Little Caesar's Bowl -- it will be worth watching.

Whom to watch: FIU quarterback James Morgan, a graduate transfer from Bowling Green, was named Conference USA Newcomer of the Year after setting a school single-season record with 26 touchdown passes. He completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 2,727 yards.

Motivating factor for FIU: The Golden Panthers can win nine games in a season for the first time in school history. They haven't won a bowl game since the aforementioned Little Caesar's Bowl.

Motivating factor for Toledo: The Rockets haven't won in the postseason since defeating Temple 32-17 in the 2015 Boca Raton Bowl. That was Jason Candle's first game as coach.

Prediction: FIU 34, Toledo 31


Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Western Michigan vs. BYU (4 p.m. ET on ESPN at Lyle Smith Field at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho)

Why to watch: If nothing else, it will be interesting to see the aesthetic beauty of Western Michigan's brown uniforms on the blue turf. The Broncos wore potato-colored uniforms for their last trip to the Potato Bowl, a 38-24 loss to Air Force in 2014.

Whom to watch: Western Michigan tailback LeVante Bellamy led the MAC in rushing yards (1,172), rushing yards per game (97.7) and all-purpose yards (1,567). He had six touchdowns and five games with more than 100 yards.

Motivating factor for Western Michigan: The Broncos were snubbed for a bowl game after finishing 6-6 in 2017. They haven't won in the postseason since defeating Middle Tennessee 45-31 in the 2015 Bahamas Bowl.

Motivating factor for BYU: The Cougars have never won on the blue turf; they're 0-5 against Boise State, including a 21-16 loss on Nov. 3. That game ended with Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson being sacked at the Broncos' 4-yard line as time expired.

Prediction: BYU 31, Western Michigan 27

Saturday, Dec. 22

Jared Birmingham Bowl: Memphis vs. Wake Forest (Noon ET on ESPN at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama)

Why to watch: It could end up being one of the highest-scoring games of the postseason. Memphis scored 43.6 points per game and allowed 31.5; Wake Forest scored 32.5 points per game and allowed 33.3.

Whom to watch: Memphis tailback Darrell Henderson is the second-leading rusher in the FBS with 1,909 yards, and he leads with 2,328 all-purpose yards and 25 total touchdowns. He needs 55 rushing yards against Wake Forest to break DeAngelo Williams' single-season school record of 1,964 yards set in 2005. Henderson has declared for the draft, however, and it's unclear if he'll actually play in the game.

Motivating factor for Memphis: The Tigers have won 26 games under coach Mike Norvell the past three seasons, but they've yet to win a bowl game. They lost 21-20 to Iowa State in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl last season and 51-31 to Western Kentucky in the Boca Raton Bowl in 2016.

Motivating factor for Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons can win bowl games in three straight seasons for the first time in school history. They defeated Temple 34-26 in the Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman in 2016 and then stunned Texas A&M 55-52 in the Belk Bowl last season.

Prediction: Memphis 51, Wake Forest 45


Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Houston vs. Army (3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas)

Why to watch: It's the best Army team in years -- the Black Knights took Oklahoma into overtime, for goodness sakes -- playing in a military-themed bowl game. What could be more American?

Whom to watch: Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. is the engine that makes Army's option offense go. He has rushed for 847 yards with 12 touchdowns while completing 53 percent of his passes for 956 yards and 6 scores.

Motivating factor for Houston: The Cougars won't have injured quarterback D'Eriq King or star defensive tackle Ed Oliver, who left to prepare for the NFL draft. Winning nine games in Major Applewhite's second season would be a step in the right direction.

Motivating factor for Army: The Black Knights have already won 10 games for the second straight season. They've never won 11 games in a season in the 125-year history of the program. They can also win three consecutive bowl games for the first time.

Prediction: Army 34, Houston 27


Dollar General Bowl: Buffalo vs. Troy (7 p.m. ET on ESPN at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama)

Why to watch: You can see two Group of 5 coaches who are on a lot of Power 5 athletic directors' lists of potential candidates: Buffalo's Lance Leipold and Troy's Neal Brown.

Whom to watch: Bulls quarterback Tyree Jackson was named the MAC Offensive Player of the Year after throwing for 2,857 yards with 27 passing touchdowns and 7 rushing.

Motivating factor for Buffalo: The Bulls would probably like nothing more than to erase the second half of their previous game. They blew a 19-point lead and lost to Northern Illinois 30-29 in the MAC championship game.

Motivating factor for Troy: With a victory over Buffalo, the Trojans would win at least 10 games for the third straight season and a third consecutive bowl game.

Prediction: Troy 27, Buffalo 21


SoFi Hawai'i Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs. Hawai'i (10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu)

Why to watch: You can see Hawaii's high-octane run-and-shoot offense ... and will have to stay up only a couple of hours after midnight ET!

Whom to watch: Bulldogs defensive end Jaylon Ferguson, aka "Sack Daddy," is tied for the FBS lead with 15 sacks and is third with 23.5 tackles for loss. He is the FBS active leader with 42.5 sacks and needs two sacks to break the FBS career record of 44 held by former Arizona State star Terrell Suggs.

Motivating factor for Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs' regular season ended with a flop, as they dropped three of their last four games, including an ugly 30-15 defeat to Western Kentucky. They don't want to head into the offseason with a three-game losing streak.

Motivating factor for Hawaii: The Rainbow Warriors dominated the Bulldogs when they were WAC rivals, winning eight of 10 games from 2000 to 2011.

Prediction: Louisiana Tech 27, Hawaii 24

Wednesday, Dec. 26

SERVPRO First Responder Bowl: Boston College vs. Boise State (1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas)

Why to watch: It's Boise State in a bowl game against a Power 5 opponent. Nothing's off the table.

Whom to watch: Broncos tailback Alexander Mattison ran for 1,415 yards with 17 touchdowns. He was at his best the past four games, running 127 times for 689 yards and 7 touchdowns. He had 200 rushing yards in each of the past two games.

Motivating factor for Boston College: The Eagles were 7-2 when the College GameDay circus rolled into town on Nov. 10. They lost to Clemson 27-7 that day and then dropped their next two.

Motivating factor for Boise State: The Broncos used to be known as giant-killers, going 15-9 against Power 5 opponents since 2006. But they've lost four of their past five such games, including a 44-21 loss at Oklahoma State this season.

Prediction: Boise State 34, Boston College 24


Quick Lane Bowl: Minnesota vs. Georgia Tech (5:15 p.m. ET on ESPN at Ford Field in Detroit)

Why to watch: It's Paul Johnson's last game as Georgia Tech's coach; he resigned last week after winning 82 games in 11 seasons. You never know: His team might throw the ball 40 times in his swan song.

Whom to watch: Minnesota receiver Tyler Johnson was named All-Big Ten by media after hauling in 74 passes for 1,112 yards and 10 touchdowns. He had 100 or more receiving yards in six games this season.

Motivating factor for Minnesota: After going 5-7 in coach P.J. Fleck's first season, the Gophers can finish 7-6 with a victory over the Yellow Jackets. They built late momentum with big victories over Purdue and Wisconsin.

Motivating factor for Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets would love to send Johnson out with a victory, which would be his third straight bowl win. An eight-minute drive in the fourth quarter to win it would be a fitting end.

Prediction: Georgia Tech 34, Minnesota 31


Cheez-It Bowl: California vs. TCU (9 p.m. ET on ESPN at Chase Field in Phoenix)

Why to watch: With two defensive-minded coaches in Cal's Justin Wilcox and TCU's Gary Patterson, the Cheez-It Bowl figures to be extra crunchy.

Whom to watch: TCU's Jalen Reagor had 72 catches for 1,061 yards and 9 touchdowns, despite the Horned Frogs' using three quarterbacks because of injuries. He had 11 catches for 150 yards and 1 touchdown in a 47-10 loss at West Virginia.

Motivating factor for California: The Bears won four of their last six games after a 3-3 start. After going 5-7 in each of the previous two seasons, they're guaranteed a winning campaign. They can win eight games for only the second time since 2010 with a victory over the Horned Frogs.

Motivating factor for TCU: The Horned Frogs had to win three of their last four games to finish 6-6 and sneak into the postseason. They need to beat Cal to avoid their second 6-7 finish in the past three seasons. TCU coach Gary Patterson is 6-0 against Pac-12 foes.

Prediction: TCU 24, Cal 13


Thursday, Dec. 27

Walk-On's Independence Bowl: Temple vs. Duke (1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, Louisiana)

Why to watch: Temple assistant head coach/tight-ends and special-teams coach Ed Foley will have the rare distinction of serving as an interim coach for the second time, after former Owls coach Geoff Collins left for Georgia Tech. Foley was Temple's interim coach after Matt Rhule left for Baylor in December 2016; the Owls lost to Wake Forest 34-26 in the Military Bowl.

Whom to watch: Duke quarterback Daniel Jones has generated some buzz as a potential NFL first-round draft choice if he forgoes his final college season. He completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,251 yards, 17 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.

Motivating factor for Temple: The Owls have grown accustomed to losing their head coaches to Power 5 jobs. Four head coaches -- Collins, Rhule, Steve Addazio and Al Golden -- have left for bigger programs since 2010. The Owls can win at least nine games for the third time in four seasons.

Motivating factor for Duke: The Blue Devils sputtered mightily down the stretch, dropping four of their last six games. The last two were particularly ugly, as they fell 35-6 at Clemson and 59-7 to Wake Forest. It's not the kind of slump they want heading into the postseason.

Prediction: Temple 27, Duke 20


New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Miami vs. Wisconsin (5:15 p.m. ET on ESPN at Yankee Stadium in New York)

Why to watch: It's a matchup of preseason top-10 teams that fell woefully short of their lofty expectations. Which team will be more motivated at Yankee Stadium?

Whom to watch: Wisconsin's 7-5 record probably kept Badgers running back Jonathan Taylor out of the Heisman Trophy race. He led the FBS with 1,989 rushing yards and 165.8 yards per game.

Motivating factor for Miami: A four-game slide in the middle of the season knocked the Hurricanes out of the ACC race. They recovered to win their last two games and desperately need some momentum heading into the offseason. They'll be looking to avenge a 34-24 loss to Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl at the end of last season.

Motivating factor for Wisconsin: For a program that prides itself on consistency, Wisconsin was shockingly inconsistent in 2018. The Badgers will try to extend their four-game postseason win streak.

Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Miami 23


Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl: Baylor vs. Vanderbilt (9 p.m. ET on ESPN at NRG Stadium in Houston)

Why to watch: Both programs have steadily improved under their coaches. The Bears made a significant jump in Rhule's second season, from one win in 2017 to six in 2018. The Commodores went 7-17 in Derek Mason's first two seasons before reaching bowl games in two of the past three.

Whom to watch: Vanderbilt's Kyle Shurmur ranked sixth in the SEC with 237 passing yards per game. He needs 118 yards to pass Jay Cutler as Vanderbilt's leader in career passing yards. He already owns the career record with 63 touchdown passes.

Motivating factor for Baylor: A victory over the Commodores might erase some of the awful memories of Baylor's last visit to the Texas Bowl, a 38-14 loss to Illinois in 2010. It was the Bears' first bowl appearance in 16 seasons.

Motivating factor for Vanderbilt: The Commodores won three of their last four games, including a 38-13 rout of Tennessee in the regular-season finale, to reach the postseason. A victory over Baylor would give them seven wins for the first time since 2013, when they went 9-4 under James Franklin.

Prediction: Vanderbilt 34, Baylor 27

Friday, Dec. 28

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Purdue vs. Auburn (1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee)

Why to watch: The Boilermakers were terrified that their coach would leave; the Tigers are mad that their coach didn't.

Whom to watch: Purdue freshman Rondale Moore leads the FBS with 103 catches. He had at least 10 catches in five games and at least 100 receiving yards in seven. He won the Paul Hornung Award as college football's most versatile player and was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Receiver of the Year.

Motivating factor for Purdue: The Boilermakers will probably be buoyed by coach Jeff Brohm's decision to spurn Louisville, his alma mater, and stay put. They can also post back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2006-07 with a win.

Motivating factor for Auburn: The Tigers are 1-4 in bowl games under coach Gus Malzahn and haven't lost three bowl games in a row since the 1950s and '60s.

Prediction: Purdue 31, Auburn 30


Camping World Bowl: West Virginia vs. Syracuse (5:15 p.m. ET on ESPN at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida)

Why to watch: It features two coaches who love to sling the ball around. Unfortunately, one of them won't have his star quarterback.

Whom to watch: West Virginia quarterback Will Grier will skip the game to instead prepare for the NFL draft. Miami transfer Jack Allison, who has attempted 10 passes, will get the start against the Orange.

Motivating factor for West Virginia: The Mountaineers don't want to finish with a three-game losing streak for the second straight season. They dropped their final three in 2017 after losing Grier to a hand injury.

Motivating factor for Syracuse: After four straight losing seasons, the Orange can win 10 games for the first time since 2001. They can also win their first bowl game since 2013.

Prediction: Syracuse 42, West Virginia 27


Valero Alamo Bowl: Iowa State vs. Washington State (9 p.m. ET on ESPN at Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas)

Why to watch: There's a solid chance that Washington State coach Mike Leach will offer lectures on the history of the Alamo at halftime.

Whom to watch: Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting after completing 70.6 percent of his passes for 4,477 yards, 36 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.

Motivating factor for Iowa State: The Cyclones have already claimed one of the biggest victories of bowl season by securing coach Matt Campbell to a contract extension through 2024. The school provided another $1 million for his assistants.

Motivating factor for Washington State: The Cougars might have a pretty big chip on their shoulders after they were left out of a New Year's Six bowl despite winning 10 games. They'll also try to improve Leach's 1-3 record in bowl games at Washington State.

Prediction: Washington State 37, Iowa State 35

Saturday, Dec. 29

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Florida vs. Michigan (Noon ET on ESPN at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta)

Why to watch: Odds are that it will be more competitive than the previous two meetings between the schools. Michigan won the 2016 Citrus Bowl 41-7 and the 2017 opener 33-17.

Whom to watch: Gators defensive end Jachai Polite was named second-team All-America by the Associated Press after leading the SEC with five forced fumbles to go with 11 sacks and 16 tackles for loss.

Motivating factor for Florida: The Gators have never defeated the Wolverines, who are 4-0 against them since 2002. The Gators can also win 10 games in Dan Mullen's first season, which would be one more than Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer won in their first seasons at Florida.

Motivating factor for Michigan: The Wolverines can win 11 games in a season for only the 10th time in their 139-year history. They can also bury some of the demons from their previous game, which I don't need to mention.

Prediction: Michigan 27, Florida 24


Belk Bowl: South Carolina vs. Virginia (Noon ET on ABC at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina)

Why to watch: It's one of the SEC's best passing games against one of the ACC's best pass defenses.

Whom to watch: Gamecocks quarterback Jake Bentley threw for 2,953 yards, 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while completing 63.9 percent of his attempts. He threw for 510 yards and 5 scores in a 56-35 loss to No. 2 Clemson.

Motivating factor for South Carolina: The Gamecocks have won five of their past six bowl games after dropping four of their previous five. They've also won eight of their past nine games against ACC foes not named Clemson.

Motivating factor for Virginia: The Cavaliers are playing in a bowl game for the second straight season under Bronco Mendenhall. They haven't won in the postseason since a 34-31 victory over Minnesota in the 2005 Music City Bowl.

Prediction: South Carolina 28, Virginia 24


NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl: Arkansas State vs. Nevada (1:15 p.m. ET on CBSSN at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Arizona)

Why to watch: If the Belk Bowl isn't exciting, you'll need to kill a few hours before the CFP semifinals.

Whom to watch: Arkansas State quarterback Justice Hansen was red-hot during the Red Wolves' four-game win streak to close the regular season, completing 76.9 percent of his passes for 1,107 yards, 12 touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Motivating factor for Arkansas State: The Red Wolves have eight consecutive winning seasons, but they're 1-3 in their past four bowl games.

Motivating factor for Nevada: The Wolf Pack improved by four wins from Jay Norvell's first season (3-9) to his second (7-5). They're seeking their first bowl victory since 2015.

Prediction: Arkansas State 35, Nevada 27


College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: Clemson vs. Notre Dame (4 p.m. ET on ESPN at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas)

Why to watch: It's Notre Dame playing for a spot in the national championship game. Fighting Irish fans will be cheering for them while the rest of the country roots for the Tigers.

Whom to watch: Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book threw for 2,468 yards and 19 touchdowns after replacing Brandon Wimbush following the third game of the season. He'll try to expose a Clemson secondary that has been porous down the stretch.

Motivating factor for Clemson: The Tigers are trying to reach the CFP championship for the third time in four years. They fell short in the semifinals last season.

Motivating factor for Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish finished the regular season undefeated for the first time since 2012, when they lost to Alabama 42-14 in the BCS national championship.

Prediction: Clemson 38, Notre Dame 35


College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl: Alabama vs. Oklahoma (8 p.m. ET on ESPN at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida)

Why to watch: It's Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray vs. runner-up Tua Tagovailoa. It's Alabama's defense vs. OU's offense and the Tide's offense vs. whatever the Sooners call that.

Whom to watch: Murray's 96.0 QBR is the highest entering bowl season in the 15 seasons ESPN has tracked the metric. He completed 70.9 percent of his passes for 4,053 yards, rushed for 892 yards and accounted for 51 total touchdowns.

Motivating factor for Alabama: Tagovailoa probably lost the Heisman Trophy after a disappointing performance against Georgia in the SEC championship. He'll look to bounce back against an OU defense that ranks dead last in the FBS in pass defense.

Motivating factor for Oklahoma: The Sooners fell short of reaching the national championship in 2017 by blowing a 17-point lead in a 54-48, double-overtime loss to Georgia in the semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual.

Prediction: Alabama 54, Oklahoma 38

Monday, Dec. 31

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech (Noon ET on ESPN at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland)

Why to watch: Former Ohio State assistant Luke Fickell has done one of the more remarkable rebuilding jobs in the FBS, guiding the Bearcats from 4-8 in 2017 to 10-2 in 2018.

Whom to watch: Cincinnati redshirt freshman Desmond Ridder was outstanding in his first season as a starter. He completed 62.5 percent of his attempts for 2,359 yards, 19 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.

Motivating factor for Cincinnati: The Bearcats haven't won more than 10 games in a full season since Brian Kelly guided them to a 12-1 mark in 2009 before leaving to take over Notre Dame. They also haven't won a bowl game since 2012.

Motivating factor for Virginia Tech: Year 3 under Justin Fuente wasn't nearly as good as the first two, and the Hokies would like to build some momentum heading into the offseason.

Prediction: Cincinnati 33, Virginia Tech 21


Hyundai Sun Bowl: Stanford vs. Pittsburgh (2 p.m. ET on CBS at Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas)

Why to watch: It's expected to be the final college game for Stanford running back Bryce Love, who struggled with injuries and a mediocre offensive line after returning for his senior season. He finished with 739 yards and 6 touchdowns in 10 games.

Whom to watch: For the first time in school history, the Panthers have a pair of 1,000-yard rushers: Qadree Ollison (1,190) and Darrin Hall (1,021). Ollison had 235 with 3 touchdowns against Virginia Tech while Hall had 229 with 3 touchdowns against Virginia.

Motivating factor for Stanford: After winning at least 10 games in six of seven seasons from 2010 to 2016, the Cardinal will try to avoid losing five games in back-to-back seasons.

Motivating factor for Pittsburgh: The Panthers have dropped three straight bowl games, including two under coach Pat Narduzzi, and haven't won in the postseason since 2013.

Prediction: Stanford 34, Pittsburgh 27


Redbox Bowl: Michigan State vs. Oregon (3 p.m. ET on Fox at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California)

Why to watch: You can see Oregon's Justin Herbert, who is expected to be the first quarterback selected in the 2019 NFL draft if he forgoes his senior season, according to ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay.

Whom to watch: At 6-foot-6 and 233 pounds, Herbert has prototypical size for an NFL quarterback. He completed 59.6 percent of his passes for 2,985 yards, 28 touchdowns and 8 interceptions this season. He injured his right shoulder against Oregon State in the Civil War, but coach Mario Cristobal said Herbert is expected to play in the bowl game.

Motivating factor for Michigan State: Hopefully, the Spartans will use the extra practice time to muster up some offense before the bowl game. They ranked next-to-last in the Big Ten in scoring, with 19.8 points per game, and had six points in two of their past three games.

Motivating factor for Oregon: The Ducks have dropped their past three games in the postseason, including a 38-28 loss to Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl last season, after coach Willie Taggart left for Florida State.

Prediction: Oregon 24, Michigan State 17


AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Missouri vs. Oklahoma State (3:45 p.m. ET on ESPN at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee)

Why to watch: It's going to be a high-scoring shootout with Missouri quarterback Drew Lock throwing against Oklahoma State's defense.

Whom to watch: Pokes receiver Tylan Wallace was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award after hauling in 79 catches for 1,408 yards and 11 touchdowns. He leads all FBS players with 59 catches of at least 10 yards and 25 of at least 50.

Motivating factor for Missouri: After winning three straight bowl games at the end of Gary Pinkel's tenure, the Tigers are 0-1 in the postseason under Barry Odom. They haven't won a bowl game since 2014.

Motivating factor for Oklahoma State: The Pokes lost five of their last seven games and needed a 45-41 upset of West Virginia in their penultimate game to finish 6-6. They haven't finished with a losing record since going 4-7 in 2005, which was Mike Gundy's first season as coach of his alma mater.

Prediction: Missouri 38, Oklahoma State 27


San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: Northwestern vs. Utah (7 p.m. ET on FS1 at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego, California)

Why to watch: Northwestern couldn't win a bowl game for more than six decades but has now won three of its past four. Utah almost never loses in the postseason under coach Kyle Whittingham.

Whom to watch: Utah's Chase Hansen had 114 tackles and 5 sacks and led the Pac-12 with 22 tackles for loss in his first season at linebacker after playing the previous three at safety.

Motivating factor for Northwestern: The Wildcats won seven of eight games before falling to Ohio State 45-24 in the Big Ten championship game. A victory over Utah would give Northwestern its fourth season with at least nine wins in the past seven years.

Motivating factor for Utah: The Utes are 11-1 in bowl games under Whittingham since he served as co-head coach of the Utes with Urban Meyer in the 2004 Fiesta Bowl. His only loss was a 26-3 defeat against Boise State in the 2010 Las Vegas Bowl.

Prediction: Utah 27, Northwestern 20


TaxSlayer Gator Bowl: NC State vs. Texas A&M (7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida)

Why to watch: If nothing else, Aggies punter Braden Mann is worth the price of admission. He had punts longer than 60 yards in eight of 12 games and won the Ray Guy Award. He is on pace to break the NCAA single-season record for punting average (49, set in 2003) and averaged 60.8 yards against Alabama. It's art, really.

Whom to watch: Aggies junior Trayveon Williams leads the SEC with 1,524 rushing yards and has 15 touchdowns. He had more than 150 yards in each of the three previous games.

Motivating factor for NC State: The Wolfpack won't have leading receiver Kelvin Harmon or leading tackler Germaine Pratt, who are both focusing on preparing for the NFL draft. They've never played Texas A&M and are 3-1 in bowl games under Dave Doeren.

Motivating factor for Texas A&M: It was a pretty productive initial season for Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher, who guided the Aggies to an 8-4 record. They'll have to beat NC State to avoid losing at least five games for the fifth straight season.

Prediction: Texas A&M 41, NC State 34

Tuesday, Jan. 1

Outback Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Iowa (Noon ET on ESPN2 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida)

Why to watch: They might rename the playing turf Iowa Field at Raymond James Stadium during pregame ceremonies. The Hawkeyes have played in the Outback Bowl six times since 2003.

Whom to watch: Iowa cornerback Amani Hooker is tied for No. 2 in the Big Ten with four interceptions and is No. 7 with 11 passes defended. The Hawkeyes allowed only 186.8 passing yards per game.

Motivating factor for Mississippi State: It's the last game for Bulldogs senior defensive end Montez Sweat and probably the last for junior defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, who are projected as NFL first-round picks. The Bulldogs can win nine games in coach Joe Moorhead's first season, which isn't bad.

Motivating factor for Iowa: The Hawkeyes used to be a pretty good bet in the postseason, winning five of seven bowl games from 2003 to 2010. But they've lost five of their past six, including three to SEC opponents.

Prediction: Mississippi State 27, Iowa 20


VRBO Citrus Bowl: Kentucky vs. Penn State (1 p.m. ET on ABC at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida)

Why to watch: It's your final chance to watch two of the good guys in college football: Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley and Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen.

Whom to watch: A former two-star recruit, Allen was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year, won the Bronko Nagurski, Lott IMPACT Trophy and Bednarik awards, and was runner-up for the Butkus Award. He ranks fourth in the FBS with 14 sacks, tied for 10th with 18.5 tackles for loss and tied for first with 5 forced fumbles.

Motivating factor for Kentucky: The Wildcats are 9-3 and have a chance to win 10 games in a season for only the third time in the program's 103-year history. They haven't reached double-digit wins since going 10-1 in 1977.

Motivating factor for Penn State: The Nittany Lions hoped to reach a third straight New Year's Six bowl, but they'll still have a chance to win at least 10 games for the third consecutive season. Plus, they'd love to send McSorley out a winner.

Prediction: Penn State 27, Kentucky 24


PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: LSU vs. UCF (1 p.m. ET on ESPN at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona)

Why to watch: Will UCF finish unbeaten for the second straight season, extend its 25-game win streak and declare itself SEC West champion if it beats LSU in the desert?

Whom to watch: UCF redshirt freshman Darriel Mack Jr. started the AAC championship game after star quarterback McKenzie Milton suffered a serious leg injury. Mack responded by throwing for 348 yards with 2 touchdowns and running for 4 more scores in a 56-41 win over Memphis.

Motivating factor for LSU: It's about SEC pride for LSU. Last season, UCF upset No. 7 Auburn 34-27 in the Peach Bowl to finish 13-0. Will these Tigers be more motivated? LSU can win 10 games in a season for the first time since 2013.

Motivating factor for UCF: The Knights can post back-to-back unbeaten seasons and New Year's Six bowl victories over SEC opponents, which would certainly quiet some of their critics. They would become the first FBS team to post consecutive undefeated seasons since Nebraska in 1994 and '95.

Prediction: LSU 38, UCF 34


Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual: Washington vs. Ohio State (5 p.m. ET on ESPN at Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California)

Why to watch: It's the Grandaddy of 'Em All -- and it's Urban Meyer's first trip to the Rose Bowl and last game as Ohio State's coach.

Whom to watch: Buckeyes quarterback Dwayne Haskins might have won the Heisman Trophy in any other season. He threw for 4,580 yards, 47 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. He had 400 or more yards in five games; no other Buckeyes player had done so more than once.

Motivating factor for Washington: The Huskies have been really good under coach Chris Petersen, but they've dropped three of four bowl games in his tenure. He was 5-2 in bowl games as Boise State's coach.

Motivating factor for Ohio State: The Buckeyes will want to win their last one under Meyer, who says he doesn't think he'll coach again. They'd also like to jump-start the Ryan Day era with a victory in Pasadena.

Prediction: Ohio State 31, Washington 27


Allstate Sugar Bowl: Texas vs. Georgia (8:45 p.m. ET on ESPN at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans)

Why to watch: Georgia argued it was one of the four best teams in the country after blowing a 14-point lead against Alabama in the SEC championship game. Will the Bulldogs be motivated to play the Longhorns? OK, cool. Sic' em.

Whom to watch: Bulldogs tailback D'Andre Swift was bothered by a nagging groin injury early in the season. But he was healthy down the stretch, running for 100 yards or more in four of the past six games. He finished with 1,037 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.

Motivating factor for Texas: The Longhorns improved in coach Tom Herman's second season, going 9-4 with victories over Oklahoma and Iowa State. They haven't won 10 games in a season since 2009.

Motivating factor for Georgia: The Bulldogs will have to bounce back after losing to Alabama in the final minutes for the second straight season. With a victory over the Longhorns, they can finish in the top four for the second straight season and set the stage for another big season in 2019.

Prediction: Georgia 38, Texas 28

Monday, Jan. 7

College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T: Alabama vs. Clemson (8 p.m. ET on ESPN at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California)

Why to watch: It's the national championship game and the final college football game of the season, silly. And it might be Alabama-Clemson, Round IV.

Whom to watch: If Clemson beats Notre Dame, Tigers star Trevor Lawrence will attempt to become the second freshman quarterback to lead his team to a national championship in as many seasons. Last season, Tagovailoa came off the bench in the second half to help Alabama defeat Georgia. After taking over as the starter in the fifth game, Lawrence passed for 2,606 yards, 24 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.

Motivating factor for Alabama: The Crimson Tide can win back-to-back national championships and their sixth under coach Nick Saban. Saban also won a national title at LSU in 2003, and he'd pass legendary Alabama coach Paul "Bear" Bryant for the most by any coach in the sport's poll era with his seventh overall.

Motivating factor for Clemson: The Tigers have faced the Tide three times in the CFP, with losses sandwiching their 35-31 victory in the CFP National Championship after the 2016 season. Clemson's vaunted defensive linemen came back for their senior seasons to avenge last year's 24-6 loss to Alabama in a CFP semifinal at the Sugar Bowl.

Prediction: Alabama 34, Clemson 27