As the final breaths of 2017 begin to falter, our sports memories take their assigned places. Some will fondly recall the New England Patriots’ overtaking the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, or the Houston Astros and their epic World Series triumph over the vaunted Los Angeles Dodgers. For fans of NCAA football, memories are made during bowl season, and this year is no exception. These are the college football bowl games Gildshire sees on its radar. Here are Gildshire’s thoughts, and predictions. All game times are Pacific Standard Time.
Dec. 16, 2017, Las Vegas Bowl, Boise St. v. Oregon: The bowl season starts this Saturday and Boise St.-Oregon provides some early drama. Chaos has been the order of the offseason for the Oregon Ducks. Their head coach, Willie Taggart, abruptly left town after just one season at the helm, only to surface as the new guy at Florida State. The Boise State Broncos are perennially a team with a chip on its collective shoulder, attempting to prove its worth against the big boy. The Ducks are a 7.5 point favorite. Take Boise State plus the points. ABC, 12:30 p.m.
Jan. 1, 2018, Peach Bowl, Central Florida v. Auburn: Cinderella tries on the slipper to see if it will fit. Before fleeing Central Florida for Nebraska, Scott Frost takes his Golden Knights into Atlanta for a showdown against one of the NCAA bluebloods. Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn briefly flirted with Arkansas before deciding to stay put at War Eagle. It’s UCF speed versus Auburn power. The oddsmakers like Auburn enough to make them a 7.5 point favorite. We like Auburn too, but not by quite that many points. ESPN, 9:30 a.m.
Jan. 1, 2018, Rose Bowl, Georgia versus Oklahoma: Old school fans won’t recognize the bowl game they call The Granddaddy of Them All. The Rose Bowl Game was the battle for supremacy between the West coast and the Midwest. First the Pac-8, then the Pac-10, and now the Pac-12 would butt heads with the Big 10. This year, neither the Pac-12 nor the Big 10 are represented. Instead, the Rose Bowl is the College Football Playoff semifinal clash between Georgia and Oklahoma. It is a classic struggle between offense and defense, aka the unstoppable Sooners versus the immovable Bulldogs. Freshly crowned Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield leads his Oklahomans against the run-heavy Georgians, led by ace runner Nick Chubb. Oklahoma is a two-point favorite. They say defense wins championships, but this defense hasn’t seen Mayfield hang half a hundred on everyone in sight. Gildshire’s pick is Oklahoma. ESPN, 2 p.m.
Jan. 1, 2018, Sugar Bowl, Alabama versus Clemson: This is the third time in less than two full years that the Tigers and Crimson Tide have strapped it on. They split the two previous meetings, both of which were for the National Championship. The stakes are barely less portentious this time around since the winner will face the Georgia-Oklahoma winner a week later for the big prize. Alabama’s inclusion in this year’s four-team finale was not a foregone conclusion since a substantial number of folks believed Ohio State deserved the honor. Therefore, Alabama is in the unusual spot of playing for their honor and reputation. Apparently, that is enough to make to oddsmakers install the Tide as a 2.5 point favorite. We disagree because Clemson is the better team. Take the points, thereby starting the New Year a winner.
Who will win these games and which two teams will play Jan. 8 for the National Championship? That’s why they play the game and also why we watch them with such interest. The bowl season is only one reason they sing, in four-part harmony, that this is the most wonderful time of the year. Enjoy the games, while rooting your team on to victory or cheering your rival’s opponent. After all, Gildshire’s belief is that rooting against is almost as much fun as rooting for. (With gusto now, “We Are Penn State!”)