PFF previews the College Football Playoff and bowl games, highlighting players to watch and providing a link to PFF betting predictions to offer insight for every college football fan.
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, College Football Playoff Semifinal: LSU Tigers vs. Oklahoma Sooners
Saturday, December 28, 4:00 pm EST
Headline of the Game: Oklahoma’s defense will need to have an all-time day in order to stop Joe Burrow
The rise of Heisman winner Joe Burrow is the biggest story in college football this season, as it was unlike anything we have ever seen before. Burrow went from a late-round/undrafted prospect to the favorite to be the number one overall pick. In PFF’s wins above average metric (WAA), Burrow is the most valuable player in college football by over half a win; he’s the best quarterback in the nation at passing under pressure, at throwing 10-plus yards, at creating outside of the structure and at passing into tight windows. He also has one of the best wide receiver duos in the nation at his disposal in Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson, as they are just one of two duos in the FBS to rank in the top 25 in PFF grade.
We know Oklahoma’s greatest strength is their Air-Raid type offense — they are, in fact, the No. 1 offense in terms of PFF’s Massey rankings. Led by PFF’s fourth-highest graded quarterback in Jalen Hurts, the Sooner offense has been a hassle for their opposition all year long. However, they are about to play the best defense they’ve faced all season. Along with that, there is cause for concern on the defensive side of the ball. In their 13 games played this season, they have allowed positive expected points added per pass play eight times, and they rank 62nd of the 130 FBS teams in PFF’s Massey ranking on defense. Everyone on the defense will need to have a career day if they want to pull off the major upset as 14-point dogs.
© Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl College Football Playoff Semifinal: Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Clemson Tigers
Saturday, December 28, 8:00 pm EST
Headline of the Game: Can Trevor Lawrence continue his hot stretch of play against one of the best defenses in college football?
Arguably the most talked-about college player entering the 2019 season was Trevor Lawrence, who was coming off a blowout national title win over Alabama and an elite-graded season as a true freshman. Lawrence got off to a slow start for the Tigers but has since turned on the jets, ringing in as the nation's highest-graded quarterback since Week 10. Most have been bullish on the Tigers’ undefeated record due to the competition they have faced, but there really is no reason to be. They are still No. 1 in PFF’s ELO rankings system.
Believe it or not, the Ohio State Buckeyes are one of the three most improved defenses in college football in regard to expected points allowed per play. The secondary led this massive improvement, with every position playing a huge part. Ohio State’s outside cornerbacks have allowed just 18.6% of their targets to be caught for a first down, which is the lowest in the FBS by over 3.5%. Their pass-rush is also anchored by Chase Young, who is the highest-graded defender we have ever seen.
Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl: Buffalo Bulls vs. Charlotte 49ers
Friday, December 20, 2:00 pm EST
Headline of the Game: Buffalo’s top-five pass-rush needs to get pressure on Charlotte’s Chris Reynolds
The Buffalo Bulls are the only team in the FBS to have more than one edge defender who ranks among the top 20 in PFF pass-rush grade — and they don’t just have two, they actually have three in the top 20. Malcolm Koonce leads the trio in pass-rush win rate at 23.7%, which also ranks seventh in the country. Opposite Koonce is Taylor Riggins, who has recorded 18 combined sacks and hits on the year. Last but certainly not least is Ledarius Mack, who has been just as exciting to watch, with three forced fumbles and 24 pressures on 161 pass-rush snaps.
That top-tier Buffalo pass-rush will go up against a quarterback whose greatest weakness is passing under pressure, as Charlotte quarterback Chris Reynolds ranks 86th among 117 qualifying quarterbacks in PFF grade under pressure this year. His accuracy takes a massive hit under pressure, too — he’s tossed an accurate pass on just 32% of his pressured attempts so far, which ranks among the 10 worst marks in college football. If it’s business as usual for Buffalo’s pass-rush unit, things could get ugly for the ‘Niners.
Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl: Kent State Golden Flashes vs. Utah State Aggies
Friday, December 20, 7:30 pm EST
Headline of the Game: This game is the opportunity of a lifetime for Jordan Love
Recently, Utah State quarterback Jordan Love announced his decision to forgo his senior season and enter the 2020 NFL Draft. Love was pegged as the small school quarterback prospect to watch entering the year; one who could maybe earn a first-round price tag with a great season.
Love finished the 2019 season as the 57th-best quarterback in PFF grade (73.9). He’s made the big-time throws that NFL teams covet, but he's also made far too many turnover-worthy plays. While he has certainly looked the part when the situation was favorable, like when throwing to an open receiver from a clean pocket, but he has faltered when throwing into tight windows and throwing under pressure. While he is still considered a top prospect in this class and likely to be taken on Day 1 or 2, Love is on thin ice and needs a great game to bounce his stock back up to what it once was. Even with the Senior Bowl in his back pocket, every dropback matters for Love against Kent State (assuming he is allowed to play). Ultimately, it's likely a good thing for Love that Kent State owns the 112th-best coverage unit in the nation in regard to PFF grade.
New Mexico Bowl: San Diego State Aztecs vs. Central Michigan Chippewas
Saturday, December 21, 2:00 pm EST
Headline of the Game: Which team will be able to overcome their offensive woes?
Neither San Diego State or Central Michigan was able to crack the 50th percentile in expected points added per pass play this season. San Diego State's senior signal-caller, Ryan Agnew, has lacked big-time playmaking ability and currently ranks 96th in deep completions (12) and 126th in big-time throw rate. For Central Michigan, Quinten Dormady was just a spot ahead of Agnew in deep completions and four below him in big-time throw rate while ranking 125th in the nation in turnover-worthy play rate. On a more positive note, both defenses rank among the FBS' top-35 teams in terms of EPA per play allowed, with San Diego State tied for 12th and Central Michigan tied for 31st.
© Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl: Liberty Flames vs. Georgia Southern Eagles
Saturday, December 21, 2:30 pm EST
Headline of the Game: Georgia Southern will likely try and establish the run against Liberty when they really shouldn’t
Nearly three-quarters of Georgia Southern’s offensive plays have been run plays this year, and that has netted them an 87th-ranked -0.084 expected points per play. Granted, their passing attack hasn't been any more successful by ranking 103rd in that same metric, but Liberty’s 93rd-ranked coverage unit could provide Georgia Southern with the break that they need. Not to mention, quarterback Shai Werts has performed well over the last three games and has earned a PFF passing grade of 87.8 over that span.
Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl: SMU Mustangs vs. Florida Atlantic Owls
Saturday, December 21, 3:30 pm EST
Headline of the Game: Can FAU handle the deep passing attack of Shane Buechele
The transfer from Texas, Shane Buechele, is having a pleasantly surprising season for the Mustangs, and he enters this game ranked 18th among his peers in PFF overall grade. No quarterback has produced more 20-plus yard passes than Buechele this year, and his 6.4% big-time throw rate is the eighth-best in the country. For Florida Atlantic, their deep-pass defense has been up and down. While they have given up 10 deep touchdowns, no team has intercepted more deep passes.
Camellia Bowl: Florida International Golden Panthers vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves
Saturday, December 21, 5:30 pm EST
Headline of the Game: This game will be decided by the matchup between Layne Hatcher and FIU’s coverage unit
Alabama transfer Layne Hatcher has impressed in his first season of collegiate action and ended up with the 16th-best PFF passing grade. He has been at his best in a clean pocket, where he improves his PFF grade to eighth in the FBS. On the other hand, Florida International has had a hard time generating pressure, as they rank 123rd of 130 FBS teams in total pressures generated. Despite that, the coverage unit has held the fort with the 16th-lowest EPA per pass play allowed.
Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State Broncos vs. Washington Huskies
Saturday, December 21, 7:30 pm EST
Headline of the Game: NFL scouts will be watching to see if Curtis Weaver can get to Jacob Eason
Due to the hype of Chase Young, several edge defenders have gone overlooked in 2019. Boise State’s Curtis Weaver is one of those players; he headlines this group and is a lock to be a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. PFF’s fourth-highest graded pass-rusher will have some snaps going up against right tackle Jared Hilbers, who skyrocketed up draft boards this season by producing the 12th-best PFF grade at his position. Eason’s PFF grade takes a massive hit when under duress, so Weaver's presence in the pass-rush will be huge in this one.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Appalachian State Mountaineers vs. UAB Blazers
Saturday, December 21, 9:00 pm EST
Headline of the Game: THE COLLEGE VERSION OF JAMEIS WINSTON could make this a closer game than the 16.5-point spread suggests
UAB’s Tyler Johnston III has been the most volatile player in college football this season. He's produced a big-time throw rate that is 3.5% higher than anyone else, but he's also produced the second-highest turnover-worthy play rate. His deep passing has been precise — it's led to a top-10 deep-passing grade — but on intermediate targets of 10-19 yards, he drops to being the seventh-worst QB in the nation. If UAB allows Johnston to play to his strengths, this could be a decent one to watch.
Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl: UCF Knights vs. Marshall Thundering Hurd
Monday, December 23, 2:30 pm EST
Headline of the Game: True freshman Dillon Gabriel looks to add to his historic season
The hype surrounding Dillon Gabriel has been warranted so far, as Gabriel is on pace to finish with one of the best grades we've ever given to a true freshman. While the team fell short of the national championship they’ve been longing for, Gabriel helped lead the Knights to the 10th-best offense in regard to EPA per pass play. On the other side of the field, Marshall’s strength is their defense, as they come in at 31 in PFF’s Massey rankings. Still, it’ll be no small feat to stop the freshman.
© Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
SoFi Hawaii Bowl: Hawaii Warriors vs. BYU Cougars
Tuesday, December 24, 8:00 pm EST
Headline of the Game: Zach Wilson can easily continue his hot streak against a rough Hawaii defense
Since his return from injury, BYU quarterback Zach Wilson has put together a solid three-game stretch and earned a PFF grade of 83.0 — similar to what we saw from him as a freshman in 2018. This certainly does not bode well for Hawaii, as the Warriors have produced a defense that's ranked 108th in the nation according to PFF’s Massey rankings. Their biggest weakness has been their run defense — they are 128th in EPA allowed per rush — but their coverage has been below average, too.
Walk-On’s Independence Bowl: Louisiana Tech Bulldogs vs. Miami Hurricanes
Thursday, December 26, 4:00 pm EST
Headline of the Game: Can Louisiana Tech hang with Miami?
J’mar Smith has been great at quarterback for the Bulldogs this season, but that's come against some below-average competition. They've played just one game against a Power 5 school this year (Texas), and that so happened to be Smith's worst game of the year by far. Given that Miami has the 17th-ranked defense in terms of PFF grade, we are about to find out if Smith’s great play is a product of a weak schedule.
Quick Lane Bowl: Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Eastern Michigan Eagles
Thursday, December 26, 8:00 pm EST
Headline of the Game: Pittsburgh’s defense looks like they could be too much to handle for Mike Glass III
The quarterback for Eastern Michigan, Mike Glass III, has earned a solid 84.2 PFF overall grade this season. However, his good play diminished whenever he went up against a solid defense. Pittsburgh will present the biggest test of his season, as they are PFF’s 12th-highest graded overall unit this year.
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman: North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Temple Owls
Friday, December 27, 12:00 pm EST
Headline of the Game: UNC must take advantage of their deep passing attack
True freshman quarterback Sam Howell has been a solid deep passer for the Tar Heels, as he is third in 20-plus yard touchdowns (18) and ninth in adjusted completion percentage (49.4%) on throws targeted at least 20 yards downfield. But it won’t be easy to get it cooking, as Temple is allowing a catch on just 26% of the deep targets they face, which is the 20th-best mark in the nation.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Michigan State Spartans vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Friday, December 27, 3:20 pm EST
Headline of the Game: Jamie Newman has to seize the opportunity in Yankee Stadium
Jamie Newman has been exceptional for Wake Forest in 2019, finishing the season with the seventh-best passing grade for a quarterback at 89.7. His play has regressed some over the last few weeks, but through Week 10, he ranked only behind Jalen Hurts, Joe Burrow and Justin Fields in PFF grade. The Spartans' offense has been incredibly underwhelming this season, ranking 122nd in PFF’s Massey rankings on offense. The defense, though, has impressed, finishing 20th in the same ranking. Newman has certainly raised eyebrows at times, but he can alleviate the cause for concern with a solid outing against a top defense in Yankee Stadium.
Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl: Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. Texas A&M Aggies
Friday, December 27, 6:45 pm EST
Headline of the Game: Chuba Hubbard could go out of his collegiate career with a bang
Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard is still undecided on whether or not he’ll enter the NFL draft, but if he does opt-in on the new venture, his last collegiate game could be a big one. Hubbard has been a bell-cow running back for the Cowboys, racking up 70 broken tackles, 44 runs of 10 or more yards and 1,191 yards after contact. The Aggie defense as a whole has been below average, and with Justin Madubuike — their best run defender — skipping the bowl game to prep for the NFL draft, Hubbard has every opportunity to have a field day in his final game.
© Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports
San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: USC Trojans vs. Iowa Hawkeyes
Friday, December 27, 8:00 pm EST
Headline of the Game: Can true freshman Kedon Slovis continue to impress against Iowa’s stout defense?
USC’s Kedon Slovis has strung together a nice season for the Trojans and has earned an 80.0 passing grade for his efforts. We know Joe Burrow is college football’s most accurate quarterback, but Slovis isn’t too far behind him, as he has the second-highest rate of accurate passes thrown on passes of 10-plus yards downfield. On the other hand, the Hawkeyes own the 14th-highest coverage grade in the country and have been ferocious in the Big 10.
Cheez-It Bowl: Air Force Falcons vs. Washington State Cougars
Friday, December 27, 10:15 pm EST
Headline of the Game: Two intriguing offenses face off to form a very intriguing bowl game
Air Force passes the ball on 16% of their plays. Washington State passes the ball on 82% of their plays. This ought to be a fun one.
The triple-option offense has clearly worked in the Falcons’ favor, but the more intriguing aspect of their system is the dabble of deep shots that they mix in. Of their 114 pass attempts this season, nearly 30% have been 20-plus yard throws, and in total, their average depth of target is 15.4 yards downfield.
For the Cougars, they run an Air Raid offense under head coach Mike Leach and have had immense success on their short passes. The heir to Gardner Minshew, Anthony Gordon, is the nation’s highest-graded quarterback on these plays, and the offense as a whole is the eighth-best in regard to EPA generated per play.
Camping World Bowl: Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Iowa State Cyclones
Saturday, December 28, 12:00 pm EST
Headline of the Game: Notre Dame’s defense will be Brock Purdy’s biggest test
Notre Dame’s defense remains one of the best in the nation. They rank fourth in our defensive rankings and have allowed the seventh-lowest expected points added per pass play. True freshman safety Kyle Hamilton has been the star of the show, allowing just seven of his 22 targets in coverage to be caught while forcing nine combined pass breakups and interceptions.
Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy has regressed some from his near-elite 2018 season, but he’s still been the heart and soul of this Cyclone offense. Play-action has always been a massive part of Iowa State’s offense with Purdy, and his grade on such plays is the ninth-best in college football.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Memphis Tigers
Saturday, December 28, 12:00 pm EST
Headline of the Game: Is Memphis a product of a weak schedule, or can they actually beat Penn State?
The Memphis Tigers had one of the more improbable seasons in 2019, climbing from 61st to 16th in our PFFELO rankings. On the offensive side of the ball, quarterback Brady White and head coach Mike Norvell executed the eighth-best offense in regard to EPA per pass play.
It’s probably a wise decision for Memphis to rely on their successful passing attack, as Penn State owns the second-best run defense in the country. From a passing perspective, however, Penn State drops down to 48th. If the Tigers attack the Nittany Lions’ weaknesses, they can give them a run for their money.
© Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
SERVPRO First Responder Bowl: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers vs. Western Michigan Broncos
Monday, December 30, 12:30 pm EST
Headline of the Game: If Jon Wassink is handed a clean pocket, the Western Michigan offense can compete with Western Kentucky
The difference in Western Michigan’s quarterback when in a clean pocket versus under pressure is night and day. Western Kentucky’s defense has been stellar in coverage but struggled to obtain pressure on the quarterback, as they currently rank 80th in PFF pass-rush grade. Not to mention, Western Michigan’s pass protection is the 28th-best in the country. If the Hilltoppers can’t find a way to get pressure on Wassink, we may see a close one.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Mississippi St Bulldogs vs. Louisville Cardinals
Monday, December 30, 4:00 pm EST
Headline of the Game: Louisville has the most improved passing attack in the FBS, but are they good enough to take down Mississippi State?
No team has improved its EPA per pass play more than the Louisville Cardinals. From a clean pocket, the Cardinals’ quarterbacks have put together a PFF grade that ranks fourth among the 130 FBS teams. When under pressure, though, they drop to 120th. It’ll be vital for the Bulldogs to get pressure in this one.
Redbox Bowl: California Golden Bears vs. Illinois Fighting Illini
Monday, December 30, 4:00 pm EST
Headline of the Game: Can Illinois get the ball rolling against Cal’s defense?
Outside of their upset victory over Wisconsin, the Fighting Illini have struggled to generate positive plays offensively, as they currently rank 114th in EPA per play. The Golden Bears, on the other hand, have been a fairly average defense, and they could be without arguably their best player in Ashtyn Davis.
Capital One Orange Bowl: Florida Gators vs. Virginia Cavaliers
Monday, December 30, 8:00 pm EST
Headline of the Game: Dynamic edge duo Greenard and Zuniga are back in business
After seeing very few snaps together due to injuries, the edge duo of Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga is reportedly set to take the field on December 30th. The two have wreaked havoc when healthy. Greenard has recorded an elite PFF grade of 91.3 and produced 41 pressures in his 11 games this season. Zuniga came away with 13 pressures on 88 pass-rushes and earned an elite 90.7 grade. As two highly touted Senior Bowl attendees, you won’t want to miss this one.
Belk Bowl: Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Kentucky Wildcats
Tuesday, December 31, 12:00 pm EST
Headline of the Game: The versatile Lynn Bowden has created an intriguing offense
Ever since Terry Wilson went down earlier in the year with a season-ending injury, the Kentucky offense has undergone a big change. After experimenting with Sawyer Smith — an experiment that resulted in a PFF passing grade of 29.3 — wide receiver Lynn Bowden was given the reigns to the quarterback position. As a result, their offense is now a rushing one, and the results have been tremendous. They've generated 0.157 expected points added per rush since Bowden took over, but Virginia Tech is more than capable of stepping up to the task — they've allowed the 15th-fewest expected points added per play this year.
Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl: Florida State Seminoles vs. Arizona State Sun Devils
Tuesday, December 31, 2:00 pm EST
Headline of the Game: This game will be won through the air by either James Blackman or Jayden Daniels
Neither quarterback was too impressive in 2019, but the most consistent of the two is clearly Arizona State’s Jayden Daniels. Eight of his 11 games have resulted in a PFF grade above 70.0, but the three sub-70.0 games were incredibly poor ones, with two in the 40.0s and one in the 20.0s. James Blackman did have an elite passing game against Boston College in Week 11, but he's just not been able to play well against good defenses like Florida, Clemson and Boise State.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Navy Midshipmen vs. Kansas State Wildcats
Tuesday, December 31, 3:45 pm EST
Headline of the Game: If Skylar Thompson is on point, the Wildcats can secure the W
Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson started off the season with two elite-graded performances, but he has since regressed back to the average. By facing a Navy defense that ranks 111th in PFF’s Massey rankings, however, we may see the elite play return once more.
NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl: Wyoming Cowboys vs. Georgia State Panthers
Tuesday, December 31, 4:30 pm EST
Headline of the Game: Georgia State has to rely on Dan Ellington
The Wyoming defense is good. They rank 42nd in PFF’s Massey defensive rankings and their run defense ranks fifth in EPA per rush allowed — and that is a big part of the reason why they are favored to win. Wyoming’s coverage, however, dips off some compared to their run defense. They’re still good in this phase, ranking 50th in EPA per pass play, but the Panthers still really need quarterback Dan Ellington to play well in this one.
© Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Valero Alamo Bowl: Utah Utes vs. Texas Longhorns
Tuesday, December 31, 7:30 pm EST
Headline of the Game: It all comes down to the quarterbacks
Both Utah’s Tyler Huntley and Texas’ Sam Ehlinger have been solid this season, despite both of their teams falling short of the CFP. Huntley finished the year as the third-highest graded quarterback from a passing perspective at 90.5, with Ehlinger not too far behind him at 86.6. They are both producing a good number of big-time throws and currently rank 24th and 27th, respectively, in big-time throw rate. However, Huntley is just a bit better at limiting turnover-worthy plays; Huntley's turnover-play rate ranks second in the nation while Ehlinger's ranks 13th.
Vrbo Citrus Bowl: Michigan Wolverines vs. Alabama Crimson Tide
Wednesday, January 1, 1:00 pm EST
Headline of the Game: Alabama is still one of the best teams in the country
Alabama has the fourth-best roster in the nation according to PFF’s WAA metric, and the gap between them and fifth is drastic. The wide receiver unit that consists of Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle might be the best in FBS history, they have two offensive tackles who are looking like top-10 picks, they have two of the 12 best cornerbacks in the nation in terms of PFF grade as well as having the nation's best safety. Even without Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama's sheer talent will be a lot for Michigan to handle.
Outback Bowl: Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Auburn Tigers
Wednesday, January 1, 1:00 pm EST
Headline of the Game: The Minnesota offense against the Auburn defense will be a fun matchup
Minnesota had one of the biggest turnarounds of 2019, and a lot of that has to do with the superb passing offense. The Golden Gophers' passing offense went from being the 85th-best in expected points added per play at -.070 to the sixth-best at .295, and quarterback Tanner Morgan ended up as the sixth-highest graded quarterback in college football. Wide receiver Tyler Johnson was the star of the show in 2018, but this year we saw the emergence of Rashod Bateman, who joined Johnson as one of the 10 highest-graded wide receivers in the country.
Auburn’s offense is led by Sec Freshman of the Year Bo Nix at quarterback, but they've barely generated positive EPA per pass. Their defense successfully led them through the 2019 season, ranking among the 10 best teams in the country in PFF’s Massey ranking.
Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual: Oregon Ducks vs. Wisconsin Badgers
Wednesday, January 1, 5:00 pm EST
Headline of the Game: Justin Herbert has to play like the top draft pick he’s expected to be
Back in 2017, we saw Justin Herbert earn an elite overall grade as he emerged as one of the best young prospects in college football. But in the years since, he hasn’t quite been able to match that. Herbert has been good for the most part this season, earning an 82.9 overall grade, but there have been some very poor outings, notably against Auburn, Arizona State and Utah.
Wisconsin nearly took down Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game thanks to their solid offense and their stingy coverage unit. The Badgers as a whole have allowed the fifth-fewest expected points added per pass play this season, so Herbert will need to be on his A-game in this one.
Allstate Sugar Bowl: Georgia Bulldogs vs. Baylor Bears
Wednesday, January 1, 8:45 pm EST
Headline of the Game: Can the most improved defense in football handle Georgia?
In terms of EPA per play allowed, no team improved their defense more from last season to now than the Baylor Bears. They nearly took down Oklahoma twice and were really just a few plays away from causing chaos in the College Football Playoff. Their pass-rush was vastly improved upon and earned the 14th-best team pass-rush grade in college football. They’ll have a tough test against Georgia, though, as the Bulldogs own the third-best PFF pass-blocking grade in the FBS. Georgia signal-caller Jake Fromm was PFF’s highest-graded quarterback through Week 6, but since then, he’s dropped down to just 61st.
TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl: Boston College Eagles vs. Cincinnati Bearcats
Thursday, January 2, 3:00 pm EST
Headline of the Game: If Boston College wants to avoid the upset, it starts with avoiding Cincy corner Ahmad Gardner
Gardner has flashed truly special play as a true freshman. His 89.5 coverage grade is among the 10 best at his position, and he has allowed a 39.7 passer rating on passes thrown his way. All in all, the Bearcats own the 11th-best defense in PFF’s Massey rankings, and they will be a tough task for a Boston College passing attack that is producing more turnover-worthy plays than big-time throws.
TaxSlayer Gator Bowl: Indiana Hoosiers vs. Tennessee Volunteers
Thursday, January 2, 7:00 pm EST
Headline of the Game: The emergence of IU football’s offense can lead them to their first bowl victory in 28 years
Indiana has always been a basketball state, but this season, head coach Tom Allen got his squad to a place they haven’t been in years. This is far and away the best offense Indiana has fielded in regard to EPA per pass play. Current starting quarterback Peyton Ramsey has rarely given the defense an opportunity to take advantage of a mistake, as he owns the fifth-lowest turnover-worthy play rate in college football. On passes of 20-plus yards downfield, there were only three quarterback rooms to produce one or fewer turnover-worthy plays — Oklahoma, Alabama and Indiana. The spread is a couple of points in the Volunteers’ favor, so this will be an intriguing one to watch.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Ohio Bobcats vs. Nevada Wolf Pack
Friday, January 3, 3:30 pm EST
Headline of the Game: The Wolf Pack defense will have their hands full with Nathan Rourke
We have seen how much of a dual-threat quarterback Nathan Rourke can be over the last three seasons. Rourke has been a good passer — his 78.7 PFF passing grade ranks 34th in the nation — but he's been an even better runner and earned a fourth-ranked PFF rushing grade. Rourke has broken 49 tackles and produced 38 rushes of 10-plus yards on 117 attempts this season.
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Southern Miss. Golden Eagles vs. Tulane Green Wave
Saturday, January 4, 11:30 am EST
Headline of the Game: Tulane has a solid rushing attack, but is it good enough to get through Southern Mississippi?
Along with having the sixth-highest graded rushing attack in college football, Tulane has generated more expected points added per run play than pass play. Southern Mississippi’s defense has been top tier, ranking 25th in PFF’s Massey’s rankings and 42nd in run-defense grade. There have only been three times when Tulane’s rushing attack was shut down and generated negative expected points added, and those three teams were ranked at or just above where Southern Mississippi is.
LendingTree Bowl: Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns vs. Miami (OH) RedHawks
Monday, January 6, 7:30 pm EST
Headline of the Game: The Ragin’ Cajuns are double-digit favorites, and rightfully so.
Believe it or not, the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns are one of the most efficient offenses in football, ranking sixth in EPA generated. Running behind the sixth-best run-blocking unit in football, Louisiana’s run game has found holes and generated the nation's second-most EPA per rush.