We’ve ranked the best bowl games in terms of entertainment value and now it’s time to take a look at some of the best individual matchups we’ll see in bowl season.
Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa vs. Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray
By the time Alabama and Oklahoma take the field at the Capital One Orange Bowl, one of these record-breaking quarterbacks will be the proud owner of the Heisman Trophy. Tagovailoa spent nearly the entire season as the favorite to win the award, but thanks to Murray’s late-season push and Tagovailoa’s injury in the SEC championship game, it’s a vote that is hard to predict. Either way, it won’t be difficult to get excited to watch these transcendent talents square off against each other.
Washington secondary vs. Ohio State receivers
Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins has arguably the deepest group of receivers in the country, headlined by Parris Campbell (79 catches, 992 yards) and K.J. Hill (67 catches, 831 yards), and the Buckeyes have taken advantage. Only five teams throw more passes per game (40.3) than Ohio State, and Haskins is averaging an impressive 9.25 yards per attempt. But they haven’t seen a secondary as good as the one they’ll see in the Rose Bowl Bame Presented by Northwestern Mutual. The Huskies rank No. 1 nationally in yards per completion allowed (8.93) and just 5.74 yards per attempt (No. 9). Cornerback Byron Murphy and safety Taylor Rapp are both All-American candidates.
Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor vs. Miami LB Shaquille Quarterman
Taylor stood alone this year as clearly the top running back in college football. He needs just 11 yards to crack the 2,000-yard rushing mark against Miami. It was a down year for the Hurricanes, but LQuarterman was a bright spot and he’ll have a full day chasing Taylor around the field. Both guys are future pros and should be fun to watch go head-to-head in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
Clemson defensive line vs. Notre Dame offensive line
This could be where this semifinal game is won. Clemson ranked second in the country with 46 sacks (tops among Power 5 teams) and has been completely dominant up front again. Notre Dame has done a good job protecting both Ian Book and Brandon Wimbush, allowing just 1.5 sacks per game. On the inside, Notre Dame guard Alex Bars and center Sam Mustipher will have their hands full with Clemson tackles Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins.
Kentucky OLB Josh Allen vs. Penn State QB Trace McSorley
McSorley will leave Penn State as one of the best quarterbacks in school history but has an uncertain pro future. The VRBO Citrus Bowl might be his last opportunity to add to his legacy in football, while on the other side of the ball Allen is probably just getting started. He could end up as the best defensive player in this year’s NFL draft when it’s all said and done and will make life tough on McSorley in Orlando.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart vs. Texas coach Tom Herman
At 43 and 42 years old, respectively, Smart and Herman should be two of the biggest names in coaching for years to come. No. 5 Georgia will surely want to prove it belonged in the College Football Playoff with a strong showing against the 15th-ranked Longhorns, who are only in the Allstate Sugar Bowl because the Big 12’s contract with the bowl allowed them to jump higher-ranked teams.
Michigan State DE Kenny Willekes vs. Oregon QB Justin Herbert
Will this be it for Herbert? The possible No. 1 pick in the NFL draft hasn’t announced if he’ll return for another season in Eugene, but that type of money is hard to pass up. Willekes led the Big Ten in tackles for loss this year (20.5) and will be Herbert’s primary concern in the Redbox Bowl.
Washington State coach Mike Leach vs. Iowa State’s defense
Washington State coach Mike Leach made a career carving up Big 12 defenses while at Texas Tech and his former conference’s best defense will be waiting for him in the Valero Alamo Bowl. Iowa State led the Big 12 in yards allowed per game (344.4), yards allowed per play (4.9) and points allowed per game (22.5). Leach counters with the Pac-12’s top scoring offense (38.3 points per game) and is the nation’s top-ranked passing team (379.8 yards per game).