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College Bowl game run-down is set

Florida Football Insiders

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Everything sorted out Sunday with the College Football Playoff revealing it’s final four and then, the “New Year’s Six” bowl games being locked in place.

Then, all of the other bowls eventually filled out Sunday afternoon, too.

Here’s the recap:

As expected, Oklahoma, the Big XII champs, grabbed the final CFP #4 spot and will play #1 Alabama, the SEC champs, in the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in a semi-final game on Saturday December 29th. #2 Clemson, the ACC title winner, will play #3 Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas in the other semi-final later that night.

So that gave way to fill out the New Year’s Six Bowls this way:

The Gators will play Michigan in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, also on Saturday 12/29. Then, UCF enters “the big time” for the second straight year with their 25 game win streak, and will play LSU January 1st in the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona. The Knights stunned Auburn in the Peach Bowl last January first to complete their 13-0 season.

Later in the day Big Ten champ Ohio State will meet Pac 12 winner Washington in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. And New Year’s night concludes with a “runners-up game” from Saturday with Georgia and Texas battling in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

As we mentioned above, once that process concluded, the other bowls involving prominent Florida schools and sites filled out this way:

USF ended up agreeing to play in the Gasparilla Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Thursday night December 20 against Marshall.

FIU will play Toledo in the Bahamas Bowl the next afternoon, 12/21 in Nassau.

The Miami Hurricanes accepted a bid to rematch Wisconsin (who beat them in the Orange Bowl game last year) in the Pinstripe Bowl on Thursday afternoon 12/27 at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, NY.

The Gator Bowl in Jacksonville will be the final college football game of 2018 calendar year, as it will be played New Year’s Eve between N.C. State and Texas A&M at TIAA Bank Field.

New Year’s Day will see the first game of 2019 with Mississippi State playing Iowa back at Raymond James Stadium at noon. And, the Citrus Bowl will have Kentucky playing Penn State at 1 p.m. at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.

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Coaches and rosters finalized for East-West Shrine Bowl

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL and the newly-renamed East-West Shrine Bowl are finalizing not only their player rosters, but their coaching staffs for next Saturday’s game in St Petersburg, FL.

Late this week, the longest running college all-star game, the East West Shrine Bowl, named its head coaches, both of whom have ties to the Tampa Bay Area.

Bucs inside linebackers coach Mike Caldwell will coach one of the teams, while former Buccaneers and current Falcons tight end coach, Ben Steele will be in charge of the other.

Caldwell, who came to the Buccaneers in Bruce Arians’ first season has been in the NFL for a total of 11 years and had previously served as the assistant head coach and linebackers coach for the New York Jets under Todd Bowles for 4 seasons.

Steele, who has coached in the NFL for seven seasons reunited with Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter  in Atlanta after previously having been his tight end coach in Tampa Bay last year.

Bob Roller, executive director of the East-West Shrine Bowl, said in a statement about the coaching selections,

 “We’re very excited to have Mike Caldwell and Ben Steele as head coaches for our East-West Shrine Bowl all-stars,” said Bob Roller, executive director of the East-West Shrine Bowl. “Ben was a coordinator for our 2019 game and both coaches have ties to the Tampa/St. Pete area. They will lead two strong staffs of NFL assistant coaches that will be invaluable to our players as they begin their own journey to the NFL”

Meanwhile, the rosters do have some Florida flair, as several noteworthy names will be on the East team. That’s led by speedy UCF running back Adrian Killins, Gators wide receiver Freddie Swain and USF tight end Mitchell Wilcox. On the East defensive squad, FAU linebacker Rashad Smith, Miami linebacker Shaq quarterman and UCF defensive back Neville Clark are part of the roster.

This will be the 95th playing of the East-West Shrine Bowl and it boasts 71 Pro Football Hall of Famers that have played in their game. And, they also had more than 300 players who were on an NFL roster for Week 1 last year that have played in the East-West Shrine Bowl.

The game also announced that there will be four legendary mentors working with the players in practices later this week in St Pete. Those include: Hall of Fame offensive lineman Will Shields, Super Bowl Champion defensive end Willie McGinest, as well as, long time safety Bobby Taylor and long time wide receiver Amani Toomer.

The game will be played at Tropicana Field, the home of Major League Baseball Tampa Bay Rays and televised nationally on the NFL Network at 3 p.m., Eastern Time next Saturday.

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New Year’s Day has prominent teams in Florida Bowls

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As the new year begins, traditional college football bowl games will be taking place. And even though there are no Florida teams battling on New Year’s Day, there are two prominent bowl games in the state.

First, two of college football’s “Blue Bloods” play Wednesday afternoon, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Michigan Wolverines will do battle in the VRBO Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

Both programs come off of disappointing end to their regular-season, as they both lost to their rivals. Alabama dropping a wild 48 – 45 game in the Iron Bowl to Auburn and Michigan losing badly 56-27 to Ohio State and their finale at home.

The Tide are without All American caliber quarterback Tua Tagovailoa who suffered a fractured hip late in the year. However, Nick Saban has arguably the best wide receiving corps in all of college football to compensate for Tagovailoa’s absence.

Michigan has perennially under-achieved under coach Jim Harbaugh, but would love nothing better than to score a head-to-head win against Bama in this one.

Meanwhile across I-4 in Tampa, the 25th playing of the Outback Bowl will take place and it’s a first-time matchup between the SEC Auburn Tigers and the big Ten’s Minnesota Golden Gophers.

The Gophers were Darlings of the Big Ten late in the year that they got to 9 – 0 for only the second time in program history before faltering with losses to Iowa and Wisconsin which knock them out of the Big Ten championship game. Their coach P.J. Fleck is the Big Ten coach of the year and has done an amazing job of making Minnesota nationally relevant.

As for the Tigers, we mentioned the victory over Alabama which was particularly sweet for Coach Gus Malzahn, who has been under fire in recent years for not living up to success earlier in the 2010s. Auburn freshman quarterback Bo Nix, the son of the former Auburn star Patrick Nix, leads a high-powered attack that will look to finish the season on a winning note. The Tigers lost their three biggest games of the year to Florida, LSU, and Georgia, but wins over Alabama and Minnesota will help.

The Gophers have had their most important season since they played in the Rose Bowl in 1962 and would love nothing better than to upset the Tigers in this one.

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