The dust has hardly settled on all the coaching changes as well as on National Signing Day with its name, imagine and likeness impact as the College Football Playoffs lurk in the background of the holidays.
Let’s see, a group of boosters in Texas announces a $50K “charity” program for offensive linemen and the Longhorns subsequently sign two 5-stars out of the blue and leap to fifth in the recruiting rankings. Tiny Jackson State yanks the #1 recruit out from under the noses of Florida State because of a reported NIL deal. In a shocking development, the next day the Seminoles announce they now have NIL placement deals in place for athletes.
Just imagine what would be happening at SMU if the NIL was around in the Pony Express days.
And while four coaches are preparing their teams for their big New Year’s Eve bashes, Lincoln Riley is settling into the Southern California lifestyle and the USC culture – he would be wise to hold court with the media in booth #1 at a modern-day Julie’s in the tradition of John McKay (Rock ‘n Reilly’s would do nicely) – Billy Napier is trying to keep from getting swamped with alumni wish lists at the Swamp, Mario Cristobol is seeking a tan as well as South Florida recruits and Brian Kelley is working (we hope) on improving his fake Southern/Cajun accent.
Now onto the games. All times Pacific because the Prognosticator lives on the West Coast.
Alabama vs. Cincinnati (12:30 p.m., ESPN, Cotton Bowl, Jerry’s World)
On the surface, this game appears to be a mismatch on the proportions of Georgia Tech-Cumberland, Mike Tyson-Marvis Frazier, Tiger Woods vs. everyone else at the 2000 U.S. Open and most Super Bowls involving the Denver Broncos and Buffalo Bills.
And it may well turn out to be that way.
But there is enough talent on the Bearclaws roster– including a former Alabama running back – to act like nimble mice to the mighty Pachyderms You can bet Nick Saban won’t be taking the opponent lightly. Whether or not the players do is another matter; after all, they did just that at Texas A&M and it cost them an undefeated season and quite a few anxious moments against LSU, Arkansas and certainly in the Iron Bowl.
Alabama enters the game with a tidal wave of injuries – both starting cornerbacks are out, a starting linebacker is questionable, there are only two running backs with any experience and most crucially ace slot receiver John Metchie is sidelined with a torn ACL – and it’s bound to impact the team’s offensive production and defensive prowess.
At the same time, Cinci has not seen a quarterback like Bryce Young, a receiver with the breakaway speed of Jameson Williams (to be fair, neither had Georgia and you see what happened there), nor a defensive linemen with the power of Will Anderson.
While the Bearcats have been able to claw themselves to several close wins and claw out an equal number of routs and definitely pose threats in several areas (especially against the Alabama secondary, which has sometimes been as lost as a freshman at his first keg party) it is difficult to comprehend them being able to withstand an entire four quarters of the rising Crimson sea swell. Winner: Alabama
Georgia vs. Michigan (4:30 p.m., ESPN, Orange Bowl, Miami-ish, FL)
The Prognosticator has mentioned this previously, but how good is Michigan? This is the same team that struggled to beat Rutgers and Nebraska (just to name two), lost to Michigan State and laid waste to Ohio State. Which laid waste to Sparty. It has a lot of the marks of Fool’s Gold.
One thing is for certain, tho, it has a Midwestern toughness, but is rather unspectacular when it comes to offensive playmakers.
In other words, the northern Carnivores are the prefect fit for the Southern Terriers.
The Kirby Canines were ripping through their opponents like a cheap chew toy until they ran into their kryptonite: Saban and Alabama. And the last time the Prognosticator checked up on things, Saban was still wearing crimson and not blue and Young wasn’t quarterbacking the Wolverines. So they don’t have those two things to worry about in the Miami-ish (the stadium is nowhere near neither South Beach or even Ft. Lauderdale) night.
Instead they face the Khaki Pants coach and Cade McNamara, he of the modest 2,000 passing yards and 15 TDs. For comparison’s sake, Young has thrown for more than 4,000 yards and 43 touchdowns. If Big Blue is left to grind it out and can’t challenge the Dog D, then it’s going to get the full fury of the silver britches offensive stoppers.
Not that UGA is any offensive juggernaut itself. This is what Georgia always has been under Kirby Smart: a run and play-action team. There’s no quarterback who can sling the ball down the field to a fleet of receivers. Instead there’s a serviceable walk-on under center, but not a game changer.
Unless, of course, Kirby gets Smart and plays JT Daniels and, well, oh never mind.
The Orange Bowl will thus be a slugfest where trips to the punch bowl won’t result in missing a lot of big plays. Winner: Georgia
• The Most Fun Bowl Games This Season