Championship week was a fun appetizer, wasn’t it? Now it’s onto the main course — bowl season. The College Football Playoff is set with Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Notre Dame taking the top four spots, but we won’t see those teams again in 2020. Alabama-Notre Dame and Clemson-Ohio State are appointment television, though there are plenty of other matchups you’re not going to want to miss.
Here’s a look at what’s ahead.
Week 17 preview: Top championship games to watch
The first time these teams were scheduled to play in 2020, the matchup warranted the pomp and circumstance of ESPN’s College GameDay before COVID-19 changed things. Now, Coastal Carolina and Liberty — two of college football’s biggest turnaround stories — will finally meet. The Chanticleers were 5-7 a year ago. On Friday, they’ll make their first-ever bowl game appearance with a chance to put a bow on a perfect season. The Flames went 8-5 in 2019, winning the Cure Bowl in their first FBS postseason action. At 9-1, Liberty can tie its single-season wins record, set in 2008 when they were an FCS member.
No. 6 Oklahoma (8-2) vs. No. 7 Florida (8-3) | Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic | 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 30 |ESPN
Get ready for points, points and maybe even some more points in the first New Year’s Six game of the year. Both Florida and Oklahoma rank in the top 11 nationally for scoring as the two each averaged over 40 points per game. If that’s not enough of a draw for you, the Cotton Bowl also likely features one of the top quarterback matchups we’ll see this bowl season between Florida’s Kyle Trask and OU’s Spencer Rattler. Trask could become the Gators’ first Heisman Trophy finalist since Tim Tebow after leading the FBS in passing yards and passing touchdowns while the Sooners’ redshirt freshman has been electric over the past six weeks, scoring 15 total touchdowns against just two turnovers.
No. 22 San Jose State (7-0) vs. Ball State (6-1) | Arizona Bowl | 2 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 31 | CBS Sports Network
Any time you get two conference champions paired off and they’ve only got one total loss, you’re typically in for a good game and this year’s Arizona Bowl fits the bill. Ball State is coming off a MAC title and sixth straight win after dropping its season opener. San Jose State is on the cusp on an unbeaten season just two years removed from a 1-11 campaign. The Cardinals have been getting it done offensively, where they average 34 points and 455 yards per game. SJSU can score, but the defense has been head coach Brent Brennan’s calling card. The Spartans allow 17.9 points per game and haven’t given up more than 24 points to an opponent. Something’s got to give.
Alright Notre Dame, all eyes are on you. The Fighting Irish still had the resume to secure the fourth and final CFP bid despite being routed in the ACC Championship Game. A date with Alabama awaits and it makes you wonder what ND took away from its loss to Clemson when seeing some of the similarities the Tigers and Tide display offensively. The Irish have the No. 15 run defense in the FBS, which could allow them to key in on Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. But make no mistake, it’s going to take a complete effort to stick with the Tide.
No. 2 Clemson (10-1) vs. No. 3 Ohio State (6-0) | Allstate Sugar Bowl — CFP semifinal| 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 1 | ESPN
Ohio State was minutes away from a CFP championship appearance last year before Trevor Lawrence led Clemson on a game-winning drive and Justin Fields threw a late interception with the Buckeyes driving. The Tigers have played for each of the past two national titles, but they’ll have to take down OSU if they plan to play a third consecutive title game. Clemson is fresh off of a fifth straight ACC title while Ohio State wrapped up a fourth consecutive Big Ten championship. Lawrence and Fields is the matchup to watch and could be a precursor to a rivalry at the next level. But don’t overlook the running backs here. Travis Etienne has posted two of his three 100-yard games against ranked opponents while Trey Sermon just set the OSU single-game rushing record with 331 yards a week ago.
No. 5 Texas A&M (8-1) vs. No. 13 North Carolina (8-3) | Capital One Orange Bowl | 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 2 | ESPN
Texas A&M was ultimately left out of the CFP for having one fewer win against ranked teams than Notre Dame. The Irish’s second top-25 win was against North Carolina, so this seems like a fitting matchup. The Aggies are making their first New Year’s Six bowl under head coach Jimbo Fisher while the Tar Heels have their highest end-of-season ranking since Mack Brown’s first stint in Chapel Hill. UNC will be without defensive captain Chazz Surratt in addition to leading rusher Michael Carter and top wideout Dyami Brown. However, quarterback Sam Howell will start and leads UNC’s potent offense against A&M’s top-15 defense.