College Sports

College football gameday: Saturday’s bowl matchups

South Carolina wide receiver Bryan Edwards, right, runs through drills during practice for the Belk Bowl on Thursday at Charlotte Latin. Edwards had 52 catches and 809 yards this season.
South Carolina wide receiver Bryan Edwards, right, runs through drills during practice for the Belk Bowl on Thursday at Charlotte Latin. Edwards had 52 catches and 809 yards this season. gmcintyre@thestate.com

Belk Bowl

VIRGINIA (7-5) vs. SOUTH CAROLINA (7-5)

Noon, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, WSOC

Why watch: Outside of the obvious (it’s Charlotte’s bowl!), you’ll see one of the ACC’s best pass defenses face one of the SEC’s best passing attacks.

Who to watch: South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel won’t play, opting to prepare for the NFL draft, but teammate Bryan Edwards (who also is considering the NFL) had 52 catches for 809 yards this season. Defending him will be Virginia’s Bryce Hall, who led the nation in pass break-ups (20).

Peach Bowl

No. 10 FLORIDA (9-3) vs. No. 7 MICHIGAN (10-2)

Noon, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, ESPN

Why watch: It’s the first meeting of top-10 teams in this year’s bowls, and there’s the intrigue of seeing if Florida can finally beat the Wolverines after losing the first four meetings. Also, we’ll see if Michigan has recovered from its last game, that 62-39 loss to Ohio State.

Who to watch: Michigan’s defense is stout, ranking fourth nationally in sacks. But keep an eye on Florida defensive end Jachai Polite, who had 11 sacks and 16 tackles for loss this season.

Arizona Bowl

ARKANSAS STATE (8-4) vs. NEVADA (7-5)

1:15 p.m., Arizona Stadium, Tucson, CBS Sports Network

Why watch: Arkansas State was much-improved late in the season, winning its last four games. Each team has a strong defense with pro prospect at outside linebacker – Nevada’s Malik Reed and Arkansas State’s Ronheem Bingham.

Who to watch: Defense might rule in this game, but keep an eye on Arkansas State quarterback Justice Hansen. He was a four-star recruit who started at Oklahoma but left the Sooners when Baker Mayfield transferred in from Texas Tech. Hansen passed for more than 3,100 yards this season, with 27 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Cotton Bowl (national semifinal)

No. 2 CLEMSON (13-0) vs. No. 3 NOTRE DAME (13-0)

4 p.m., AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, ESPN

Why watch: It’s a national playoff semifinal, Clemson’s involved, and the opponent is Notre Dame, whom fans either hate or love. It’s a college football version of the Yankees and Red Sox.

Who to watch: Clemson’s pass defense has been shaky at times, and Fighting Irish quarterback Ian Book (2,468 passing yards in 10 games) has the talent to cause problems for the Tigers.

Orange Bowl (national semifinal)

No. 1 ALABAMA (13-0) vs. No. 4 OKLAHOMA (12-1)

The facts: 8 p.m., Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla., ESPN

Why watch: Because you enjoy seeing touchdowns. Oklahoma has the No. 1 scoring offense nationally (49.5 points a game) and Alabama is No. 2 (47.5). Oklahoma’s defense ranks last nationally against the pass.

Who to watch: There are standout players all over the place, led by Heisman-winning QB Kyler Murray of Oklahoma and Heisman-runnerup QB Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama (if he’s healthy enough to play efficiently after recent ankle surgery).

Steve Lyttle

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