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Plenty of great action in the New Year’s Six

Every team hopes to make it to one of the prestigious New Year’s Six bowls. This year’s slate promises to be a good one. I have a few predictions for the games that won’t be playoff semifinals.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic – No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 8 USC
I guess this is the Rose Bowl’s away-from-home game. While emotional fans can complain that the real Rose Bowl won’t feature a Big 10 vs. Pac 12 matchup, the rest of us can enjoy the game for what it is: a slugfest.

The Buckeyes had some costly hiccups this season, but are still one of the best teams in the country. After all, the final spot in the College Football Playoffs realistically came down between them and Bama. We all know how that ended up working out.

I’m thinking Ohio State uses that as motivation against a Trojan team that stumbled out of the national spotlight way earlier than I expected. Losses to Washington State and Notre Dame scarred USC deeply and knocked them out of contention before we even got to November. Still, they are one of the best offenses in the country.

Trojan quarterback Sam Darnold is just more than 200 yards away from a 4,000 passing yards season. J.T. Barret isn’t quite on that level, but then again, Ohio State’s offense is heavier on the run.

USC’s air raid will go right over the head of the Buckeyes, and the Trojans will win 35-17.

Capital One Orange Bowl – No. 6 Wisconsin vs. No. 10 Miami

Ah… Mark Richt.

The Miami coach’s team lost the last two games they played. One is perfectly explainable, against Clemson in the ACC Championship. The other was against Pitt.

Even still, you can’t neglect the job Richt has done in turning the Hurricane’s program around after a decade of irrelevancy. And since the Orange Bowl is basically a home game for Miami, Wisconsin will surely be in trouble, right?

I don’t think so. Wisconsin will run, run, run and run some more. Those Miami secondary players who love picking off passes won’t have many to snag until they least expect it. Jonathan Taylor, who is a stunning running back that reminds me a lot of Nick Chubb, will have a field day in South Florida.

Badgers take the cake 24-10.

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl – No. 9 Penn State vs. No. 11 Washington
Penn State is probably the most frustrating story of the season. Back-to-back losses by a combined 4 points is enough to deflate the optimism of even the biggest fans, especially when it knocks your team out of playoff contention.

Washington seems like the forgotten team of the Pac 12, once at the forefront but losing its luster after an unusual loss to Arizona State and later Stanford.

My gut tells me Penn State running back and Big 10 MVP Saquon Barkley will bulldoze Washington’s defense. He has been one of the most exciting players in the sport this season. The Huskies are looking to reload for a 2018 playoff run, and a great showing against the Nittany Lions would certainly springboard them into a nice position.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Washington’s defense is strong enough, and Penn State literally runs away with it 48-21.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl – No. 7 Auburn and No. 12 UCF
If Georgia lost to Auburn in the SEC Championship game, I was terrified they would have to play UCF in the Peach Bowl. Auburn gets that honor, though.

What Scott Frost has done for the UCF program is nothing short of amazing. But the problem is he is one foot out the door, already heading back home to his new job at Nebraska. The Knights offense is explosive and pass heavy, and they can score points.

However, Auburn’s defensive front is going to be the toughest four players UCF has seen all year. A quarterback can’t throw touchdowns if he’s being chased the second he catches the snap.

Combined with the stout defense and a healthy Kerryon Johnson, the Tigers are going to come out on top in their second came in Mercedes-Benz stadium this year.

Auburn will slash apart UCF’s hopes of a 13-0 season, and take out their frustrations in a missed playoff opportunity to the tune of 52-14. I just don’t see UCF keeping up with the third (arguably second) best SEC team.