(Graham Rahal, driver of the No. 15 Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series, is an avid sports fan – especially of college football and his beloved Ohio State University Buckeyes. Over the next few days, Rahal is providing IndyCar.com his outlook on some of the major college bowl games taking place this weekend.)
Capital One Orange Bowl (Hard Rock Stadium – Miami Gardens, Fla.)
No. 6 Michigan Wolverines vs. No. 11 Florida State Seminoles (Today, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN): This game is tough to gauge because Florida State was really hit-or-miss this year. I have not seen the Seminoles as a real threat, but Michigan’s Wolverines, as they have done all year, I think they are going to struggle to put up points. Their defense is what is going to have to keep them in the game and it will be interesting to see if they can somehow stop Seminole running back Dalvin Cook and quarterback Deondre Francois, or at least slow them down. Against Big Ten division rival Ohio State, Michigan failed to put up points, so in a big game like this I really don’t know if that’s going to change.
Keys to the game: Contain Dalvin Cook. I don’t think Florida State’s passing game is going to blow up Michigan. It’s a great defensive match there. However, if Michigan can contain Cook, I think the Wolverines walk away with this one.
Pick to win: Michigan
Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual (Rose Bowl – Pasadena, Calif.)
No. 9 USC Trojans vs. No. 5 Penn State Nittany Lions (Jan. 2, 2017, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN): This could be the best game of the entire bowl season – Big Ten champs going up against USC. It’s really a great matchup with Penn State being one of the surprise teams in all of college football against a USC team that could be the best in the Pac-12, stumbled early but found itself late and is one of those teams that really no one wants to probably face right now. I mean, USC totally dismantled Washington a few weeks ago, the same team that went on to win the Pac-12 and now plays Alabama in the first game of the College Football Playoff semifinal.
It will be interesting to see if USC can somehow overpower Penn State, which is what it is known for. But at the same time, Penn State has shown that it can score this year – and I think that the Lions will score on the Trojans. I believe they are going to put up some points, but this could be the most exciting of all the games and I certainly hope it lives up to that.
Keys to the game: Can Penn State not shoot itself in the foot? Consider the Wisconsin game when Coach James Franklin decided to go for it on fourth down multiple times on his own side of the 50-yard line and didn’t get it. Penn State was very lucky to come away with that one, so I think it comes down to not making mistakes – not just in turnovers, but play-calling as well.
Pick to win: Penn State