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Tigers, Buckeyes cream of college crop

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With the holidays in full swing, the football season is reaching the most exciting time of the year.

In the past, the Times-Gazette has produced a top bowl guide for the die hard football fan.

This season puts a little bit different spin on the bowl guide.

This list will break down into two components: NFL and college football.

Here are our top five bold predictions for the college football bowl season.

***1. LSU dismantles Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl

LSU has undoubtedly become the No. 1 team in the nation. The Bayou Bengals had to earn the top ranking the hard way.

The Tigers collected wins against Texas, Florida, Alabama and Georgia—all of whom were top five teams when playing LSU.

Now the Tigers get another top five opponent in the first round of the college football playoffs.

Oklahoma is no pushover, either.

And the man under center, Jalen Hurts, has done plenty of winning during his career against SEC opponents.

Hurts was the former starter for Alabama before transferring to Oklahoma to conclude his career.

Hurts and the Oklahoma offense are certainly capable of scoring points against any defense in the nation. It’s an entirely different matter whether or not the defense can stop not only a “good” offense, but perhaps the best in all of college football.

Heisman winner Joe Burrow has broken several SEC quarterback records and shattered the standard of what a top-end SEC quarterback should be.

He’s thrown for 4,715 yards and has completed 77.9% of his passes.

He also has 48 touchdown throws against just six interceptions.

While Burrow has been the catalyst for the offensive attack, the LSU offense seems prepared to win any game that could become a shootout.

As if playing the No. 1 team in the nation wasn’t enough of a challenge, the Sooners will have to do it short-handed.

Oklahoma suspended three of the top players, including defensive standout Ronnie Perkins.

Because of this, LSU will do what it’s done so many times this season. Burrow will show why he was the Heisman winner and throw for 350 yards and find the end zone four times.

And for Oklahoma, it’s another disappointing end to a season in the college football playoff semifinals.

***2. The SEC finishes with a bowl record over .500

At this time of the season, it always becomes a contest of conference pride to see which power conference has the best record.

At the time of this publication, no SEC teams had yet played in bowls. Those matchups are Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M, Oklahoma vs. LSU, Mississippi State vs. Louisville, Florida vs. Virginia, Virginia Tech vs. Kentucky, Minnesota vs. Auburn, Michigan vs. Alabama, Georgia vs. Baylor and Indiana vs. Tennessee.

In eight of the nine bowls featuring SEC teams, the SEC teams are favored to win.

The lone game that features an SEC underdog is the Belk Bowl, which only has Virginia Tech as a 2.5 favorite over Kentucky.

In a season with nine bowls, not counting the possible berth in the college football national championship, the SEC has a chance to silence any doubters and not just finish with a winning bowl record, but a convincing win percentage as well.

***3. Tennessee gets eighth win

Flashback to Labor Day weekend. Tennessee had just lost to Georgia State. Questions swirled whether Jeremy Pruitt was a coach who could help erase the worst loss in program history.

The Volunteers followed the season opening loss with a second loss to BYU.

With a 0-2 start to the season, there weren’t too many fans and pundits alike that thought there were six wins left on the schedule that could get the Vols to a bowl.

After beating Mississippi State on October 12, the Vols closed the season with a 5-1 record with the lone blemish coming on a 35-13 loss to Alabama.

With all the uncertainty in the locker room and questions of leadership, the Volunteers somehow found a way to pull it all together.

Had it not been for such a rough start, Tennessee could be on the cusp of a 10-win season.

Now the attention turns facing an 8-4 Indiana team that is nowhere near as battle tested as the Volunteers.

Indiana’s losses came to Ohio State (51-10), Michigan State (40-31), Penn State (34-27), and Michigan (39-14).

Aside from those games, Indiana didn’t have a “great” win on the schedule.

That said, this is a program that pushed Penn State to the wire and outlasted a Purdue program in two over times that just wouldn’t go away.

Look for an ugly start to the Gator Bowl, but like they’ve done pretty much all season, the Volunteers will find a way to win this game down the stretch.

***4. Clemson doesn’t make national title.

The College Football Playoff committee clearly doesn’t think highly of Clemson, despite the Tigers not having lost a game this season.

In fact, it’s been since January 1, 2018 since the Tigers have last faced defeat.

With the rest of the college football world swooning over LSU, Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma, Clemson has quietly but surely taken care of business and earned yet another playoff berth.

With nearly two years since the last loss, the Tigers are every bit in the mix to play for a national title.

But to make the championship game, the Tigers will have their toughest task of the season — Ohio State.

Ohio State has cruised to a 13-0 record and could be the most complete team in the playoffs.

The Buckeyes have notable wins against Michigan, Penn State, Michigan State and two wins against Wisconsin.

This is a program absolutely rolling.

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence burst onto the scene a year ago, but hasn’t posted nearly the same level of gaudy numbers during the 2018 championship run.

Ohio State just seems to be on a different level with quarterback Justin Fields.

Fields has thrown 40 touchdown passes and J.K. Dobbins has added another 20 on the ground.

Because of that one-two offensive punch, look for Ohio State to end any hopes of the Tigers making it back to the national championship.

***5. LSU-Ohio State will become instant classic

When you think of memorable football championships, memories of Vince Young trotting into the end zone against USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl comes to mind; Florida State outlasting No. 2 Auburn in the 2014 BCS national title; and the 2018 national championship when Alabama came from behind to defeat Georgia in over time.

Instant. Classics.

While they still have to win their semifinal bowl games, the potential matchup of Ohio State and LSU has football fans foaming at the mouth.

This matchup has everything needed. Neither program has faced a loss in 2019. Both teams post gaudy offensive numbers, week in and week out.

LSU is led by Heisman winner Joe Burrow and Ohio State has transfer Justin Fields breaking defenses on the regular.

LSU will be challenged in the semifinals against Oklahoma, but Ohio State will face reigning national champion Clemson.

If these teams are able to take care of business, buckle up for one of the best football games to be played to determine the national championship.

And there are our top five college bold predictions for the college football postseason.

Stay tuned with the Times-Gazette as next week we’ll analyze the top five bold predictions for the NFL postseason.

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