The college football bowl season hits an important milestone on Friday, as four bowls — perhaps five — take place amid a national COVID-19 outbreak that is becoming increasingly perilous for sports leagues.
The two biggest games of the day naturally are the national semifinals: The Cotton Bowl, between No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Cincinnati, and the Orange Bowl, between second-ranked Michigan and third-ranked Georgia. Those will be the final games of the day, following the Gator Bowl (Wake Forest vs. Rutgers) and Sun Bowl (Central Michigan vs. Washington State).
BENDER: Picks, predictions for all bowl games in 2021-22
Each of those games has some intrigue, particularly the CFP semifinals, which will determine which two teams play in the national championship game. Alabama and Georgia are favored to rematch in the CFP title game, but Cincinnati — one of the biggest Cinderellas in the history of the sport — and Michigan — a blue blood program in search of bygone glory — will certainly have something to say about that.
Here is the full schedule for the New Year’s Eve bowl games, plus final scores and how to watch every game live.
College football schedule: What games are on today?
Friday, Dec. 31
Wake Forest vs. Rutgers
Rutgers wasn’t the opponent Wake Forest expected when the bowl games were initially announced, but the Demon Deacons will be happy to play the Scarlet Knights since their original opponent — Texas A&M — had to back out due to COVID-19 issues on its team. A win here would give Dave Clawson and Co. an 11-3 record this season, which would mark its best record since 2006. Can the Scarlet Knights, which scrambled to get ready for this bowl, pull out the win?
Washington State vs. Central Michigan
The Sun Bowl was in danger of getting canceled after Miami on Sunday announced it would be unable to play due to COVID-19 protocols in place on its team. Enter Central Michigan, which was schedled to play in the Arizona Bowl until Boise State withdrew due to a COVID-19 outbreak of its own. This game marks the second bowl game in three seasons for Central Michigan under Jim McElwain.
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Cincinnati
Alabama will take on Cincinnati in the first semifinal game of the 2021 season, which suggests TV executives believe the meeting between No. 2 Michigan and No. 3 Georgia will be more enticing. Alabama is considered a 14-point favorite over the Bearcats — the largest of the 2021-22 bowl season — but it’s worth noting the Crimson Tide lost their last bowl game to a non-Power 5 opponent, when Utah beat them 31-17 in the 2009 Sugar Bowl game to remain the only undefeated college football team in the FBS. Cincinnati currently holds that status heading into Arlington.
No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Georgia
Michigan-Georgia will get the primetime treatment as two of college football’s biggest blue-blood programs, both of which are looking for their first national championship in at least two decades. The Wolverines and Bulldogs are built similarly, with solid offenses and defenses that can significantly impact a game. How will Michigan’s Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line handle the front seven of that Georgia defense?
How to watch, live stream college football bowl games
The New Year’s Eve slate of games teams will be televised live on ESPN (Gator, Cotton, Orange bowls) or CBS (Sun Bowl).
The College Football Playoff semifinals will include a command center on ESPN2; Skycast on ESPNU; and All-22 via ESPNews. Below are the descriptions for each, courtesy of ESPN:
Sean McDonough (play-by-play), Todd Blackledge (color) and Molly McGrath and Laura Rutledge (sideline reporters) will work the Cotton Bowl between Alabama and Cincinnati. Chris Fowler (play-by-play), Kirk Herbstreit (analyst) and Holly Rowe and Marty Smith (sideline reporters) will work the Orange Bowl between Michigan and Georgia.
College football scores
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