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New Year's Day means a slate of college football bowl games

ROB SCHMITZ, HOST:

New Year's Day means a slate of bowl games to keep you pinned to your couch all day. Here to set up the college football playoffs is Washington Post sports columnist and ESPN panelist Kevin Blackistone. Kevin, welcome back.

KEVIN BLACKISTONE: Hey, thanks so much.

SCHMITZ: So let's start with the Rose Bowl. Michigan comes in as the No. 1 ranked team in the country. Alabama No. 4. Michigan went through a number of coaching changes this season and a sign-stealing scandal. How did they manage to remain undefeated through all that?

BLACKISTONE: Well, they lost their coach to suspension, Jim Harbaugh. But it's not like he was banished to some remote island in the Pacific Ocean. He just couldn't coach on game days. He was there for practices. He was there to prepare the team. Sherrone Moore, who is one of his assistants, filled in admirably on the sidelines. They're an extremely talented team. And so they were able to wade in that water and get this far. And they're an undefeated team and considered the best in the country.

SCHMITZ: And, you know, some say Alabama doesn't even deserve to be in the playoffs since they lost a game earlier in the season.

BLACKISTONE: Right.

SCHMITZ: And yet they leapfrogged an undefeated Florida State team in the rankings. You know, we're not going to relitigate that decision. But it is providing a strong argument for next season's playoff format. They're expanding from four teams to 12.

BLACKISTONE: Right.

SCHMITZ: So, you know, I'm guessing that's going to solve everything, right?

BLACKISTONE: That will solve absolutely nothing. And we do have to, unfortunately, relitigate this entire story because this playoff game with Michigan is a referendum on whether or not the College Football Playoff committee got it right in, as you said, leapfrogging a once-beaten Alabama team over an undefeated Florida State team. And so that will be what everybody's watching. This is the big game of the day. It's odd that it's on first at 5:00 Eastern...

SCHMITZ: Right.

BLACKISTONE: ...Before the next game. But this is the game that everybody will be watching. And Alabama is as much a fixture in the national championship game as the trophy is. So this is the game that everybody will be watching.

SCHMITZ: Roll tide. Well, let's turn to the Sugar Bowl now. That's - Sugar Bowl is No. 2 Washington versus No. 3 Texas. Washington's the other undefeated team in this year's playoffs. But they've had a few sort of shaky outings recently. How do these two match up?

BLACKISTONE: Well, Washington is interesting because they have probably the most dynamic offensive player left in these playoffs, their quarterback Michael Penix Jr. He throws the ball far down the field. He can run with it just a little bit. He was the runner up by just a hair to the Heisman Trophy winner from LSU. And so that's what everybody will be watching there. And Texas has kind of just been under the radar. But they have a really good offense, almost as good as Washington's. They have a freshman running back who's really good. They have a decent quarterback. They can - they score at will as well. I think that Texas will probably pull this game out only because after I gave all of that praise to Washington, they have a horrible defense. And so I don't think they'll be able to keep Texas off the scoreboard.

SCHMITZ: OK. Quick predictions from Kevin Blackistone. He's a professor of journalism at the University of Maryland, whose Terrapins had a big win against Auburn in the Music City Bowl over the weekend. Try not to let that get to your head, Kevin.

BLACKISTONE: Thank you very much.

SCHMITZ: Thank you.

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