By Mike Bachini, CBS Connecticut

Connecticut (CBS) –

Friday, December 30th

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl – Tennessee (8-4) vs. Nebraska (9-3) 3:30PM ESPN

Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee

Line: Tennessee -10

Bowl Fun Fact: Tennessee lost a heartbreaker in their last appearance in the Music City Bowl, 30-27 to North Carolina. Nebraska is making their first appearance.

 

Tennessee Points For: 36.2 Points Against: 29.2

Nebraska PF: 26.8 PA: 22.8

Tennessee’s season had its share of ups and downs. They started the season needing overtime to beat Appalachian State at home. They then proceeded to win a huge game against Virginia Tech, 45-24 at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. In week 4 they beat Florida for the first time since 2004, and then won a crazy game against Georgia in week 5.

They beat 5 straight bowl teams (Ohio being the other in week 3) and were #9 in the country. They didn’t get any scheduling breaks from there however. In back to back weeks Tennessee had to play Texas A&M on the road where they lost in double overtime, then had to pick themselves up and play Alabama. They weren’t competitive in that game and lost 49-10.

 

Ok, so no harm there at least they had South Carolina on their schedule after a bye week. Well, Tennessee no showed in that game and lost bringing their record to 5-3. They won their next 3 against lesser competition, before giving up 45 on the road to Vanderbilt to end the season. Tennessee played 10 games against bowl-eligible teams, going 6-4 in those games. Safe to say Nebraska won’t scare the Volunteers at all. QB Joshua Dobbs is the one to watch for Tennessee. He compiled 35 total touchdowns this season and passed for 2,655 yards while rushing for another 713.

 

Nebraska is another team that started the season on fire, winning their first 7 games. Their big week 3 win against Oregon took a hit when Oregon started to trail off and their conference schedule was on the lighter side to start (Northwestern, Illinois, Indiana and Purdue) so looking back their 7-0 start wasn’t as impressive as it seemed at the time. Their schedule got harder, and they started to lose games. After a close 6 point loss at Wisconsin, Nebraska got demolished the following week at Ohio State 62-3. Their other loss came at Iowa 40-10 in the last week of the year.

 

The biggest news heading in to this game is the fact that Nebraska will be playing this game without their starting QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. Armstrong accounted for 2,692 in 11 games with 22 touchdowns. Fellow senior Ryker Fyfe will start in Armstrong’s absence. Fyfe started against Maryland and threw for 220 yards and a touchdown in that one. Nathan Gerry and Keyan Williams had 4 and 5 interceptions respectively for the Cornhuskers this season.

 

If this game was played back in October, both teams would have been in the AP Top 10. Instead, Nebraska is playing this game with a backup QB in the state of Tennessee. I think the line is valid.

 

Tennessee 30 Nebraska 20

 

Friday, December 30th

Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl – South Alabama (6-6) vs. Air Force (9-3) 5:30PM ASN

Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Arizona

Line: Air Force -14

Bowl Fun Fact: This is the 2nd year for the Arizona Bowl. Nevada beat Colorado State in last year’s meeting.

 

South Alabama PF: 25.8 PA: 25.5

Air Force PF: 34.3 PA: 26.7

This is South Alabama’s second ever appearance in a bowl game. The Jaguars became an FBS team in 2012 and lost in the Camellia Bowl to Bowling Green in 2014. South Alabama shocked the College Football world by going on the road and beating Mississippi State after a 28 yard missed field goal as time expired. They also beat Mountain West champ San Diego State in week 5. In their 6 losses they have been very competitive, losing by an average of 8.5 points. RB Xavier Johnson totaled 873 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns this season.

 

Air Force has had a very impressive season. They beat Army and Navy as well as Colorado State and Boise State. Their 3 conference losses (all to bowl teams) were by a combined 21 points. As always, it’s Air Force’s rushing attack that can give opponents fits. They rushed for a total of 35 touchdowns as a team this season. QB Nate Romine missed the last four games of the regular season with an ankle injury and is questionable to play in this game.

 

South Alabama is no pushover, but Air Force is the better team. It’s too bad they aren’t playing in a more meaningful bowl game (this game isn’t even on television; you need to stream it online). Hopefully none of that matters to them and they take care of business like they should.

 

Air Force 41 South Alabama 20

 

Friday, December 30th

Capital One Orange Bowl – Florida State (9-3) vs. Michigan (10-2) 8PM ESPN

Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, Florida

Line: Michigan -7

Bowl Fun Fact: Florida State is 4-5 all-time in the Orange Bowl while Michigan is 1-1 and is making its first trip back since 1999.

 

Florida State PF: 35.2 PA: 24.4

Michigan PF: 41 PA: 12.5

Florida State opened the season with hopes of being in the College Football Playoff Semifinal. Even though Clemson was predicted by some to win the ACC, a lot of experts thought that Florida State would unseat the Tigers. They opened the season with an out of conference win against Ole Miss, and were #2 in the AP polls by week 3 when they faced Louisville. Well that game was out of hand real quick and Florida State lost 63-20. Their other 2 losses this season were by 2 points and a 54 yard field goal as time expired against UNC and a hard fought 3 point loss at home to Clemson. At times Florida State has looked down right dominant, beating fellow bowl participants South Florida by 20, Boston College by 38 and Florida by 18. They have won 6 out of their last 7 (the one loss being the 3 point loss to Clemson) and seem to be playing with a bit of a chip on its shoulder like they are the forgotten team.

 

Florida State is led by do everything RB Dalvin Cook. While other RB’s like Christain McCaffrey, Leonard Fournette have gotten a lot of press for backing out of their respective bowl games, Cook will be playing in the Orange Bowl. This is not a semifinal game and Cook is probably a lock to be a first round RB and might be the first RB taken in the draft. But Cook knows how much this game means to Florida State University and its fans. I know the Orange Bowl isn’t the Sun Bowl, but this game isn’t for a National Championship either. If Cook has a monster game against what some consider being the best defense in all of college football, his NFL stock will skyrocket. He seems up for the challenge, and a lot can be said for his competitiveness as well.

 

One of the reasons Cook was able to play so well this season was because first year QB Deondre Francois had a pretty good year as well. He finished the season with 3,128 yards passing and 22 total touchdowns. His favorite target is another NFL prospect, WR Travis Rudolph. Rudolph ended the season with touchdowns in each of the last 4 games and totaled 238 yards against Wake Forest. Demarcus Walker has been a beast for the Seminoles on defense this season with 15 sacks and 2 fumble recoveries.

 

Michigan was undefeated and #2 in the College Football playoff rankings until they lost 14-13 at Iowa on a 33 yard field goal as time expired. They could have, and probably should have, beaten Ohio State in week 12 as well, falling 30-27 in overtime. There was a lot of debate about where Michigan would fall in the final rankings, but they ultimately fell out of the top 4 for good with that loss.

 

Michigan’s defense was off the charts this season. They played 9 games against Bowl teams and gave up an average of 13.2 points in those 9 games. Take away the 28 that Colorado scored and the 30 that Ohio State scored (in overtime) and the average goes down to 8.7! This includes giving up 7 points to Wisconsin and 10 points to Penn State. This defense is scary good, and they have a lot of depth. 8 players had at least 3 sacks this season and the team had 40 as a whole.

 

Even though Dalvin Cook had a great season, he wasn’t even a Heisman finalist. Instead, do-everything athlete Jabril Peppers represented Michigan in New York the second weekend in December. Peppers rushed the ball 27 times, caught 2 passes on offense while accumulating 66 tackles, 3 sacks and an interception on defense. He also returned 10 kicks and 21 punts, one going for a touchdown. He’s not only the leader of the defense, but the leader of the team as well.

In my opinion this is the 2nd best college football game that is already scheduled after Ohio State vs. Clemson. I’m not counting the National Championship game because that matchup hasn’t been determined yet. Two very good teams with very passionate fanbases and a lot of star power. It will be awesome to watch Dalvin Cook try to carve his way through Michigan’s dynamic defense. This has the makings of being an all-timer.

 

Michigan 24 Florida State 21

Follow Mike Bachini on Twitter @MikeBachini

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