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[NCAA] Preview – Playoffs and Major Bowls

Right now until January 9, 2024, the NCAA will vibrate through the Playoffs and the Bowls (Major and Minor). During this period, we will experience 1 month of play, celebrations, drama and declarations. Before the big period of the Draft, these are the last matches of the season, probably the best. Enjoy, and let the show begin!

Playoffs: the scarecrow Alabama, Texas for a revenge

Rose Bowl (Monday, January 1 – 11 p.m. HF): (1) Michigan (13-0) – (4) Alabama (12-1)

Despite the prestige and great history of these 2 programs, this will only be the 5th time that they will face each other. Michigan is having a high-level regular season, driven by an incredible defense. Despite the problems encountered during the season (suspicions of cheating, suspension of Jim Harbaugh), they finished undefeated, beating Penn State and Ohio State in the process. Semi-finalist for the 3rd time in a row, they hope to reach the final, a stage they have never reached before. But as they often say, never 2 without 3, hoping that this expression does not apply in Michigan. They start as favorites, a status they had last year against TCU, whose result we remember.

The Alabama ogre has come a long way. By winning their match against invincible Georgia in the SEC conference final, Nick Saban's men erased a failed start to the season (defeat against Texas). As the season progresses, Alabama progresses and gains strength. His place in the semi-final is not stolen, and he hopes to return to the final. A stage that they have not reached since 2021, a year where there was a certain Bryce Young (QB, Panthers).

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Sugar Bowl (During the night of Monday January 1 to Tuesday January 2 – 2:45 a.m. HF): (2) Washington (13-0) – (3) Texas (12-1)

In this new format, the novice is not who you think. For the first time, Texas will experience the joys of the playoffs. Holder of 4 championships, the Longhorns have struggled for several years. This season, beating Florida State and Georgia to the wire, Steve Sarkisian and his men hope to take their revenge in an even more prestigious match which can allow Texas to reach an NCAAF final since 2009.

Washington returns to the playoffs. The last time was in 2016 with Jake Browning (QB, Bengals) as starter, they were beaten by… Alabama. For 2 seasons, the work that Kalen DeBoer has been doing has been sensational. Relying on a rich vertical attack, the Huskies deserve their place at the end of an undefeated season, which has not happened since 1991. The year they last won the NCAAF. A sign ?

Playoffs: Players to watch for the 2024 NFL Draft

Blake Corum (RB, Michigan) and Donovan Edwards (RB, Michigan)
On offense, the ground game is Michigan's strength, and Jim Harbaugh can count on a quality duo with Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards. This season, if the second disappoints, the first is a touchdown machine (24). Michigan has a great chance of winning the game if the two running backs manage to find the gaps created by a successful offensive line. Michigan should rely on this strong point against an Alabama team that is fairly permissive in terms of the ground attack (124 yards per game).

JC Latham (OT, Alabama) and Dallas Turner (EDGE, Alabama)
The lines will have a lot of work on the Alabama side. This is undoubtedly where part of the match will be played. On offense, right tackle JC Latham will have Jaylen Harrell (EDGE, Michigan) opposite, a key opposition between a tackle conceding only one sack, and a pass rusher with 7 sacks this season. The explosive Dallas Turner will face experienced players on Michigan's offensive line (Henderson, Nugent). Also accustomed to the big games of the playoffs, the stakes could allow him to surpass himself again.

Michael Penix Jr. (QB, Washington) and Rome Odunze (WR, Washington)
81. The number of passes between Michael Penix Jr. and Rome Odunze. This number is impressive, and is one of the symbols of the success of Washington's season. Often on the same wavelength, capable of clutch actions to switch the match, the 2 men will have to be the decisive factors in attack. Faced with the worst air defense of the 4 finalists, the powerful left-hander and the talented receiver will once again have to pull out all the stops.

T'Vondre Sweat (DT, Texas) and Byron Murphy II (DT, Texas)
Texas' ground defense is the best of the 4 finalists. For this, Texas can count on a pair of very solid defensive tackles. T'Vondre Sweat (photo) is having his best season, and is reaching maturity after 5 university seasons. His duo with the snarky Byron Murphy II is one of the best on 3rd attempts, and close to the touchdown. With Washington's ground game gaining momentum late in the season, it can only be beneficial to have that power inside the defensive line.

Major bowls: Florida State to wash away the insult

Orange Bowl (Saturday, December 30 – 10 p.m. HF): (5) Florida State (13-0) – (6) Georgia (12-1)

This meeting could have been called 'the match of the frustrated' (The Disappointment Bowl). Undefeated and winner of the ACC conference, a power conference of the NCAA at the football level, Florida State finds itself out of the playoffs. Holder of the last 2 championships, Georgia is in the same situation. But for the latter, its elimination makes more sense. Beaten by Alabama in the SEC conference final, Georgia does not meet an essential criterion to participate in the playoffs.

Winning the Orange Bowl might not console the two teams who had the objective of going to the playoffs. The objectives will be different in order to finish the season well. For the Seminoles (Florida State), wash away the insult in the face of the committee's decision (CFP), for the Bulldogs (Georgia), try to end on a positive note, and start a new series of victories.

Peach Bowl (Saturday, December 30 – 6 p.m. HF): (10) Penn State (10-2) – (11) Ole Miss (10-2)
Same record, and almost the same style of play. The two teams have not gone far in their respective conferences, but they lack that difference factor that can turn a match around.

The Rebels (Ole Miss) have a balanced attack. But, against more organized defenses (Alabama, Georgia), they had problems. The Nittany Lions (Penn State) defense can fall into this category, and could therefore make the difference. Penn State's attack hasn't necessarily convinced, but it is rebuilding, and on the right track. The matchup against the Ole Miss defense could be more than interesting, and could constitute the X factor of this match.

Cotton Bowl (On the night of Friday December 29 to December 30 – 2AM HF): (7) Ohio State (11-1) – (9) Missouri (10-2)

Only talent at Ohio State, and yet, no playoffs. The Buckeyes have only lost once this season. But, this defeat against Michigan was fatal for their access to the playoffs. Paradoxically, it is the defense which has been up to par this season as opposed to the attack, sometimes on alternating current.

Facing them, stands a Missouri team with newfound motivation. After several difficult years, the Tigers want to build on their cannonball end to the season (3 consecutive victories) to crown an already successful season.

Fiesta Bowl (Monday January 1 – 7 p.m. HF): (23) Liberty (13-0) – (8) Oregon (11-2)

On paper, the poster seems unbalanced. On the pitch, the difference in style promises to be striking. Between Oregon's wide attack (2nd in yards per game), and Liberty's very down-to-earth offensive scheme (3rd in yards per game), the match promises a lot of points. It's simple, we have the best attack in the country against the 3rd this season.

The defenses will therefore have to make the difference. In this game, Oregon seemed stronger than Liberty, especially in ground defense. The challenge promises to be complicated for a Flames team (Liberty) which could achieve the feat of finishing the season undefeated.

Major Bowls: Players to watch for the 2024 NFL Draft

Generally, players playing in Major Bowls often skip this match, especially if the teams have given everything to go to the playoffs. Some eligible players have even announced that they will return to college to play this game. So, it's not surprising to see a lot of players from Florida State and Georgia skipping.

However, in this match, awaiting his final decision, we will have to watch Brock Bowers (TE, Georgia), a big play machine. Florida State's defense does not lack talent despite the withdrawals (Verse, Lovett). Tatum Bethune (LB, Florida State), the team's leading tackler, is one of the leaders of this defense.

The match between Penn State and Ole Miss will be an opportunity to see players for the 2025 Draft on offense (Allar, Allen, Singleton, Judkins, Dart). Despite everything, the targets should not be neglected with Theo Johnson (TE, Penn State) and Dayton Wade (WR, Ole Miss). The defense is not left out. At Penn State, the trio of cornerbacks Daequon Hardy, Johnnie Dixon and Kalen King will have some work. It is also one of the last opportunities to show off for JJ Pegues (DT) and Deantre Prince (CB) on the Ole Miss side.

Between Ohio State and Missouri, the status of some key players remains to be determined. Expected next NFL star Marvin Harrison Jr. (WR, Ohio State) could be playing his final NCAA game. His duel with Kris Abrams-Draine (CB, Missouri) can be enticing. Missouri's ground attack with Cody Schrader (RB, Missouri) (photo), sparkling in recent weeks, facing Ohio State's defensive line of stars, and in particular Tyleik Williams (DT, Ohio State), could also be worth the glance.

Finally, Bo Nix (QB, Oregon) will probably play his last NCAA game, before flying to the NFL. Bucky Irving (RB, Oregon) and Jackson Powers-Johnson (OL, Oregon) have registered for the Draft, but have not said if they are skipping this game. Liberty is not a university particularly observed by NFL recruiters, despite the fact that Malik Willis (QB, Titans) comes from there. In this match, the production of the duo Kaidon Salter (QB, Liberty) – Quinton Cooley (RB, Liberty) will be particularly scrutinized. On defense, Brandon Dorlus (DE, Oregon) and Brandon Bishop (S, Liberty) are interesting players and leaders capable of transcending a group.

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