There are four bowls Saturday, highlighted by two New Year’s Six games — the Fiesta Bowl matching Penn State and Washington and the Orange Bowl with Miami and Wisconsin.
All four games feature marquee players. The first game of the day is the TaxSlayer Bowl, which has Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. The Liberty Bowl kicks off second and the has prolific Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson. And two of the best running backs in the nation are in view in Penn State’s Saquon Barkley in the Fiesta and and Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor in the Orange.
Here’s a quick look at all four games.
Louisville (8-4) vs. Mississippi State (8-4)
WHERE: EverBank Field, Jacksonville.
TIME/TV: Saturday, noon, ESPN
BUZZ: Mississippi State has an interim coach and will be playing with a backup quarterback because Nick Fitzgerald is hurt. Bulldogs true freshman Keytaon Thompson has thrown 46 passes and has 48 rushing attempts and has huge shoes to fill with Fitzgerald out. MSU also will be without its best receiver, Donald Gray. The Bulldogs need a big game from RB Aeris Williams, who has rushed for 1,019 yards. They also need a big defensive performance against Louisville QB Lamar Jackson, who has accounted for 4,932 total yards and 42 TDs. Louisville’s defense is only so-so.
OFFICIATING CREW: from the Big Ten.
LINE: Louisville by 7.
THE PICK: Louisville 28-17.
Iowa State (7-5) at Memphis (10-3)
WHERE: Liberty Bowl, Memphis
TIME/TV: Saturday, 12:30 p.m., ABC
BUZZ: Iowa State, which is making its first bowl appearance since 2012, owns wins over Oklahoma and TCU, and all five of its losses (by a total of 25 points) came to bowl teams – and three came down to the final play. The Cyclones own a plus-11 turnover margin – they are the only team in the nation not to lose a fumble – and are solid against the run. RB David Montgomery is a 1,000-yard rusher (he is the only rushing threat, though) and Allen Lazard is a big-timer at wide receiver. Memphis is second nationally in scoring at 47.7 yards per game. QB Riley Ferguson has thrown for 3,971 yards and 36 TDs, and Darrell Henderson and Patrick Taylor Jr. are a productive 1-2 punch at tailback (a combined 1,952 yards and 22 TDs). Memphis’ defense is exploitable on the ground and in the air; the Tigers have surrendered 30 points seven times and at least 40 four times.
OFFICIATING CREW: from the ACC.
LINE: Memphis by 4.
THE PICK: Memphis 42-38.
Penn State (10-2) vs. Washington (10-2)
WHERE: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
TIME/TV: Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN
BUZZ: Penn State’s two losses were by a combined four points; Washington’s came by a combined 14. This seems likely to be the final college game for Penn State RB Saquon Barkley, though he said this week he has made no decision on whether to turn pro. As talented as he is, he has been held to fewer than 80 yards seven times and to fewer than 50 three times. He may not have much room to run: Washington leads the nation in rush defense at 92.3 yards per game and only two foes ran for more than 130 yards. One of those was Stanford, and Bryce Love ran for 166 and three TDs in a win over the Huskies. He didn’t have a quarterback to help him, either. Barkley does with Trace McSorley (3,228 passing yards, 26 TDs). Washington has struggled offensively this season. RB Myles Gaskin has rushed for 1,282 yards and 19 TDs, but junior QB Jake Browning saw a huge drop-off (from 3,430 yards and 43 TDs last season to 2,544 yards and 18 TDs this season). Washington is in trouble if this becomes a shootout.
OFFICIATING CREW: from the Big 12.
LINE: Penn State by 2.
THE PICK: Penn State 27-21.
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