Notre Dame football fans are counting down the seconds until the College Football Playoff kicks off on December 29th. There are plenty of other bowl games to entertain us in the meantime — including some that feature teams the Irish played in 2018.
The countdown to the first appearance of Notre Dame football in the College Football Playoff has reached single digits. I am not going lie, I got a few goosebumps typing those words.
It feels like a full year has passed since the Irish completed their undefeated regular season in the Los Angeles Coliseum, and we still have over a week until their next game takes place.
After the conclusion of the regular season, some college football fans may feel like they have a void in their life. The best way to fill that void? Bowl season!
The college football bowl season has grown relatively quickly over the past few years. It has reached a point where it has become almost like a mini college football season, which is perfect for those fans suffering from college football withdrawals after the end of the regular season.
A total of 40 college football bowl games will be played this postseason. Before we start breaking down Notre Dame’s game, here is a look at the bowl games featuring some of the 2018 Irish opponents.
Wake Forest: Jared Birmingham Bowl vs Memphis (Saturday, December 22nd)
The Demon Deacons are 3.5-point dogs to the Memphis Tigers in a contest that has all the makings of a good ol’ fashion shootout.
After the Book Club dropped a 50 burger on them in week four, Wake Forest finished their season 4-4. Their final game of the year was a 59-7 blowout win against Duke that made them bowl eligible.
Wake Forest probably played the tougher schedule in 2018, but Memphis has looked like the better team. Expect a lot of points in this game. It could be decided by whichever team has the ball last.
Vanderbilt: Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl vs Baylor (Thursday, December 27th)
Vanderbilt gave the Irish a scare in South Bend in week three of the 2018 season. Notre Dame won that game by a final score of 22-17.
That game was the final straw that resulted in Brian Kelly benching Brandon Wimbush and starting Ian Book at quarterback. So I guess we owe the Commodores a “thank you?”
Both Vanderbilt and Baylor were playing for bowl eligibility in the final week of the regular season. Both teams won to improve to 6-6 and now we all get to watch this lovely bowl game two days after Christmas.
I do not have much to say about this game other than it might be a high-scoring contest. I would be tempted to bet the over (currently at 55) in this one, since one team has a Big 12 offense and the other team has a veteran quarterback.
Syracuse: Camping World Bowl vs West Virginia (Friday, December 28th)
Notre Dame played Syracuse in Yankee Stadium this season in the latest installment of the Shamrock Series. Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey suffered an apparent back injury in the first quarter and sat out the remainder the game. He would return to action the following week.
The Irish went on to juice the Orange 36-3 and improve to 11-0. This was seemingly Notre Dame’s last big test of the season. After that game, the Irish seemed to be a shoe-in for one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff.
The line is even in this one, despite the fact that West Virginia quarterback Will Grier has elected to sit out the game and focus on the NFL Draft. I like Syracuse to win this one comfortably.
Michigan: Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl vs Florida (Saturday, December 29th)
Michigan stinks, but they might win this game because Florida stinks more than they do.
Notre Dame beat Michigan in week one of the season, and Irish fans will have bigger and better things to focus on come December 29th. I will not feel bad about missing this game.
Virginia Tech: Military Bowl vs Cincinnati (Monday, December 31st)
The Hokies had a bit of a weird season in 2018. They climbed into the top 15 of the AP Poll early in the season. Following a weather cancellation in week three, Virginia Tech lost to Old Dominion by 14 points in a game where starting quarterback Josh Jackson suffered a season-ending injury.
Backup quarterback Ryan Willis looked good in his first start the following week, and the Hokies gave Notre Dame all they could handle in the first half of their week six matchup. The Irish eventually pulled away to win by a final score of 45-23.
Virginia Tech lost four straight conference games late in the season to put their 25-year bowl streak at risk. They won their final regular season game to improve to 5-6 and then scheduled a makeup game during the weekend of conference championships which made them bowl eligible.
The Hokies are getting 5.5 points in this game. I know little to nothing about Cincinnati, but that seems like too many points for them to be favored by. If you are betting this game, take the points.
Stanford & Pittsburgh: Hyundai Sun Bowl (Monday, December 31st)
This is the only bowl game that features two of Notre Dame’s 2018 opponents, and it is the perfect way to kick off your New Year’s Eve festivities.
When Notre Dame played Stanford this season, both teams were ranked in the top 10. In a primetime matchup in South Bend, the Irish controlled the game on both sides of the ball and went on to win by a final score of 38-17.
Two weeks after that huge victory, Notre Dame was ranked fifth in the country and hosting a middle-of-the road Pittsburgh team. It had all the makings of a trap game, and that is exactly what it was.
The Irish trailed in all four quarters. With less than six minutes remaining in the game, Ian Book connected with Miles Boykin on a touchdown pass to take the lead for good.
The Panthers ended their season with two bad losses on the road against Miami and against Clemson in the ACC Championship. Stanford, on the other hand, won three straight games to finish their 2018 season.
I think this will be a close game. How both teams have looked most recently is the main reason why Stanford is currently favored by six points. I would be inclined to take Pittsburgh and the points in this game.
Northwestern: SDCCU Holiday Bowl vs Utah (Monday, December 31st)
Hey Jack, what does SDCCU stand for? Why didn’t you just type it out to avoid confusion?
Do you like old school, hard-nosed, blue collar, lunch pail, grind it out, other football cliche, gritty football. Well, I have got just the game for you.
After losing to Notre Dame, Northwestern won three straight conference games to punch their ticket to the Big Ten Championship game. They lost to Ohio State by 21 points in that championship game, but I think Northwestern fans still look at this season as a success for their team.
My prediction for this game is that plenty of people will tune in at kickoff since it is a matchup of two teams ranked in the top 25. After the first three or four series end in punts, people will change the channel or walk away to start pregaming for New Year’s Eve.
LSU: Playstation Fiesta Bowl vs UCF (Tuesday, January 1st)
Wait a minute. Notre Dame did not play LSU this season. What is this?
*Lee Corso voice* Not so fast!
I specifically said “2018 opponents.” As you may recall, the Irish beat LSU in the Citrus Bowl on January 1, 2018.
Notre Dame scored the go-ahead touchdown on a routine play with just under two minutes left in the game. Here is the clip.
Anyways, most fans of teams in the power five conferences will be cheering for LSU in this contest. The UCF Knights, members of the American Athletic Conference, have won their last 25 games. Their players, coaches, and fans feel disrespected by the College Football Playoff selection committee and have been very outspoken about it.
Fans of power five teams feel they have been ranked appropriately based on their strength of schedule. They do not want UCF climbing into the top four and potentially stealing a playoff spot from a power five team.
Last bowl season, the Knights knocked off Auburn in the Peach Bowl. A win against LSU this year will certainly strengthen their case for the College Football Playoff next year if their impressive run continues.