It is the most wonderful time of the year. Not only are presents stashed under trees, but college football bowl games will begin today. Without further ado, here are all 39 FBS bowl previews with predictions.
Friday, December 20th:
– Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl: Buffalo Bulls (7-5) vs. Charlotte 49ers (7-5)
– This will be a ground-and-pound game if there ever was one. While Buffalo and Charlotte both bring a sub-par passing offense to the table (the 49ers are tied for 82nd in yards per game with 212.6 while the Bulls rank 121st with 143.2), they both bring a formidable running attack, with the Bulls and 49ers both ranking in the top-25 in rushing yards per game (Buffalo ranks 9th with 254.3 yards per game, while Charlotte ranks 24th with 213.3 yards per game). Led by the sophomore duo of Jaret Patterson and Kevin Marks, the Bulls are the only FBS program to possess two running backs with over 1,000 rush yards each (Patterson with 1,626 and Marks with 1,008). While the 49ers possess a 1,000+ yard running back of their own in senior Benny Lemay, the tandem of Buffalo will be too much for the 49ers to handle, with their rushing defense allowing 190.8 yards per game to opposing running backs.
– PREDICTION: Buffalo
– Tropical Smoothie Café Frisco Bowl: Utah State Aggies (7-5) vs. Kent State Golden Flashes (6-6)
– A game that brings bittersweet moments for Aggie fans also brings controversy. After quarterback Jordan Love announced he would forego his senior season to enter the NFL draft after the bowl game, reports came out that he was cited for marijuana possession. Despite this charge, Love will play. The Golden Flashes will have a tough nut to crack on their hands, as they have not been in a bowl game atmosphere since 2012 and are in a rebuilding phase under second-year head coach Sean Lewis. With a serviceable secondary for the Golden Flashes led by cornerback Jamal Parker, it will be a closer game than people think. Even still, with Love playing and Parker having to sit out the first half due to a targeting call, Utah State’s experience and overall talent will be able to overcome Kent State’s inexperience in postseason play.
– PREDICTION: Utah State
Saturday, December 21st:
– New Mexico Bowl: Central Michigan Chippewas (8-5) vs. San Diego State Aztecs (9-3)
– First-year head coach Jim McElwain has transformed the Chippewas into an offensive juggernaut, with the team averaging close to 32 points per game. The electric offense led them to a division championship, their first since 2009. Central Michigan’s resurgence from a one-win team a year ago to a MAC powerhouse now is impressive. Meanwhile, the Aztecs used defense to win games, allowing a stingy 12.8 points per game this season. The Aztecs are not as offense-savvy as the Chippewas, as they have won eight of their nine games by two possessions or less. Something will have to give in this game, as a really good offense goes up against a really good defense. While the mantra goes that defense wins postseason games, the Chippewas will come out guns a ‘blazing and will force the Aztecs to play a style they are not used to playing.
PREDICTION: Central Michigan
FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl: Liberty Flames (7-5) vs. Georgia Southern Eagles (7-5)
– Under first-year head coach Hugh Freeze, the Flames find themselves in their first bowl game at the FBS level. They face a tough opponent in Georgia Southern, a team that would show up in the dictionary if you looked up “option offense.” The Eagles’ heavy option attack helped give ranked opponent and Sun Belt rival Appalachian State their one loss on the year. While the Eagles’ passing attack is 130th in the FBS in yards per game (72.8), their rushing attack more than makes up for it, as they average 260.9 rushing yards per game, eighth in the FBS. The Flames have a solid offense of their own, spearheaded by senior quarterback Stephen Calvert, who is tied for 12th in the FBS in passing yards (3,393). This game will be a high-scoring affair, as both team’s weaknesses on defense will be exploited by both team’s strengths on offense. The Flames’ rushing defense allows 192.7 yards per game, 100th in the FBS, whereas the Eagles’ passing defense allows 240.6 yards per game, 91st in the FBS. While both teams will put up the points, look for Georgia Southern to control the clock more with their dynamic rushing attack. Juniors J.D. King, Wesley Kennedy III and Shai Werts, who all have over 600 yards on the ground this season for the Eagles, are licking their chops.
PREDICTION: Georgia Southern
Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl: SMU Mustangs (10-2) vs. Florida Atlantic Owls (10-3)
– Listen up. If you are a sports gambler, take the over on this game. If you love offense, then this is the bowl game for you, as both teams are top-20 in points per game (SMU is tied for sixth nationally with 43 while FAU is 16th with 35.2). Both Shane Buechele and Chris Robison are the playmakers for both offenses, as both rank top-25 in yards and touchdowns. The cliché goes that the team who possesses the ball last will win. In this case, whoever is able to get a stop or turnover will be the victor. FAU’s secondary leads the FBS in passes intercepted with 21. The Owls have five defensive players with multiple interceptions, with the leader of the flock being senior cornerback Meiko Dotson, who has nine on the year, first in the FBS. Although Buechele will put up the yards in addition to FAU being without Lane Kiffin, the defense will still be there to play. Look for Buechele to make some costly mistakes that will prove to be the difference-maker in what amounts to a home game for the Owls.
– PREDICTION: FAU
Camellia Bowl: Florida International Panthers (6-6) vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves (7-5)
– The Panthers grind their way to a bowl game for the third consecutive year, while the Red Wolves make their ninth consecutive bowl appearance. On paper, this looks like a mismatch in favor of the Red Wolves, as they average more yards and points and also have a dynamic wide receiver in Omar Bayless, who was second only to Biletnikoff Award winner Ja’Marr Chase in yards and touchdowns (Chase had 1,498 yards and 18 touchdowns compared to Bayless’s 1,473 yards and 16 touchdowns). Despite this, expect FIU to play this closer than people think, as their passing defense ranks sixth in the FBS in passing yards allowed, giving up only 178.5 yards through the air. FIU also has 11 interceptions on the year from their defense, led by senior linebacker Sage Lewis and junior defensive back Rishard James, who both have three interceptions on the season. While the secondary for the Panthers will bend at times, it will not break, with FIU doing just enough in coverage to limit Bayless. Look for the front seven of the Panthers to exploit a weak offensive line that will throw Red Wolves redshirt freshman quarterback Layne Hatcher off balance. Given Arkansas State’s past postseason woes (under head coach Blake Anderson they are 1-4 in bowl games), the Panthers will pull off the upset.
– PREDICTION: FIU
Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State Broncos (12-1) vs. Washington Huskies (7-5)
– This will be the final game for Washington head coach and former Boise State head coach Chris Petersen. Meanwhile, Broncos head coach Bryan Harsin looks to continue to prop up the Broncos as the cream of the crop when it comes to Group of Five teams. After their comeback bid against BYU earlier in the season fell short, the Broncos recovered and won their final six games, averaging over 31 points in that span. Meanwhile, the Huskies are winners of two of their last three. Despite losing against top-15 opponents in Oregon and Utah, they get “rewarded” with a match against a top-20 team in Boise State that averages more points per game, albeit against a weaker conference in the Mountain West. Despite this, both teams match up very similarly to each other in regard to personnel and Football Power Index (FPI), which looks at measuring overall team strength (the Huskies rank 18th, whereas the Broncos rank 25th). The Huskies will pull out the win as a nice send-off to Petersen, whereas Boise State will sputter just enough after losing out to Memphis as the Group of Five representative in the New Year’s Six.
R+L Carrier’s New Orleans Bowl: Appalachian State Mountaineers (12-1) vs. UAB Blazers (9-4)
– Two underrated Group of Five teams in Appalachian State and UAB face off in what could be a very exciting matchup. The stories from both programs encapsulates all of college football. Appalachian State, since beating Michigan as an FCS program back in 2007, has taken the FBS world by storm and has won all four FBS bowl games it has taken part in. UAB, meanwhile, did not have a football program three years ago. Despite the Blazers having a solid defense (their 20.8 points against is 26th in the FBS), their one opponent they faced that was top-20 in scoring offense was FAU, where they lost to 49-6. While UAB’s defense will get some stops, the Mountaineers attack led by junior quarterback Zac Thomas and junior running back Darrynton Evans (who was 14th in the FBS in yards with 1,323) will be too much to handle.
PREDICTION: Appalachian State
Monday, December 23rd:
Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl: UCF Knights (9-3) vs. Marshall Thundering Herd (8-4)
– After playing in two consecutive New Year’s Six bowls, the Knights get a date with a team that has won seven straight bowl games in Marshall. While Marshall’s secondary is serviceable, it has not faced an explosive air attack that scores as often and as quickly as the Knights, a team that ranks eighth in the FBS in passing yards per game (320.0 yards per game). While Marshall will be able to put points on the board, it will not be able to keep up with the quick-paced Knights led by the duo of true freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel and junior wide receiver Gabriel Davis.
Tuesday, December 24th:
Hawaii Bowl: Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (9-5) vs. BYU Cougars (7-5)
– The Rainbow Warriors get an early Christmas present on Christmas Eve by getting a home game on their home turf against the Cougars. Both teams represent two different team philosophies. While the Rainbow Warriors prioritize an electric offense, the Cougars maintain a more balanced philosophy of having just enough offense and just enough defense to win games. Just enough defense, though, in regard to interceptions for, is what highlights the Cougars defensively, with the team picking off the opposing quarterback 15 times. While Hawaii junior quarterback Cole McDonald is prolific through the air (his 3,642 yards is fifth in the FBS), his 14 interceptions are significant. The Cougars will generate just enough offense and use an interception or two to overcome the Rainbow Warriors, a similar formula that netted the Cougars a win against ranked Boise State earlier in the year.
Thursday, December 26th:
Walk-On’s Independence Bowl: Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (9-3) vs. Miami Hurricanes (6-6)
– The Bulldogs were a team to be reckoned with, winning eight straight before closing out the regular season losing two their last three. Miami, meanwhile, limps their way into the postseason after losing their final two games by a combined score of 57 to 41. The Bulldogs bring a balanced offensive attack on both sides of the ball, especially down the field. The Bulldogs have six wide receivers that have at least 300 yards on the season. Meanwhile, on the ground they have junior running back Justin Henderson who has found the endzone 15 times. While star cornerback Amik Robertson will not play in the bowl game (NFL Draft), the Bulldogs have more overall experience and depth when compared to a young and rebuilding Hurricanes team under first-year head coach Manny Diaz.
PREDICTION: Louisiana Tech
Quick Lane Bowl: Pittsburgh Panthers (7-5) vs. Eastern Michigan Eagles (6-6)
– This game will be the opposite of the Bahamas Bowl, as both teams in this game bring above-average passing offenses and sub-par rushing offenses. Both passing attacks are top-50 in the FBS and are led by upper-class quarterbacks (junior Kenny Pickett for Pittsburgh and senior Mike Glass III for Eastern Michigan). While on paper Glass has better yard and touchdown numbers than Pickett, Glass will have to deal with a lethal front seven from the Panthers, who are top 10 and top three in tackles for loss and team sacks, respectively (8.2 tackles for loss per game and 4.08 sacks per game). FPI further believes in Pittsburgh’s defense and overall outlook, with the Panthers ranking 61st compared to 97th for Eastern Michigan. This could be a sluggish and ugly game with a lot of turnovers, but Pittsburgh’s pass rush led by defensive linemen Jaylen Twyman and Patrick Jones II, who have 10.5 and 8.5 sacks on the year, respectively, will put Pittsburgh on top.
Friday, December 27th:
Military Bowl: North Carolina Tar Heels (6-6) vs. Temple Owls (8-4)
With the return of Mack Brown to Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels make a bowl appearance for the first time since 2016. They go up against the Owls under first-year head coach Rod Carey, who was hired from Northern Illinois after Manny Diaz abruptly went to Miami after initially taking the Temple job. For the Tar Heels, the offense starts and stops with true freshman quarterback Sam Howell, who has thrown for over 3,300 yards, 35 touchdowns, and only seven interceptions. Among all FBS quarterbacks, only one freshman quarterback surpasses him in yards (UCF’s Gabriel has 3,393 yards compared to Howell’s 3,347). Despite this, Howell is fourth nationally in passing touchdowns (35), behind only LSU’s Joe Burrow (48), Washington State’s Anthony Gordon (45) and Ohio State’s Justin Fields (40). If you are in company with those quarterbacks as a true freshman, you might be a legend. Even still, Howell goes against an Owls secondary that only allows 212.5 yards per game. Despite a solid opponent in Temple (a team that has gone toe-to-toe with several ranked opponents this year), look for Howell to shine and bring the Tar Heels a bowl win for the first time since 2013.
PREDICTION: North Carolina
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Michigan State Spartans (6-6) vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (8-4)
– Both teams started the season off strong before stumbling down to the middle of the pack in their respective conferences. For the Spartans, defense is their bread and butter, with experienced defensive players in Kenny Willekes and Raequan Williams leading a front seven that averages three sacks per game. As for Wake Forest, their defense averages 6.9 tackles for loss per game in addition to having 13 interceptions on the year. This Yankee Stadium game looks to be a low-scoring affair. The momentum looks to be in the Spartans favor, as they have won their last two to regain some confidence.
PREDICTION: Michigan State
Texas Bowl: Oklahoma State Cowboys (8-4) vs Texas A&M Aggies (7-5)
– This is a sneaky good matchup. Oklahoma State arguably has the most exciting running back in the country that does not get enough attention in Chuba Hubbard. Meanwhile, the Aggies continue their reformation under head coach Jimbo Fisher. Put an asterisk next to their 7-5 record, as all of their losses came against top-10 opponents, including two of those losses coming on the road at two different Death Valleys against two different Tigers in Clemson and LSU. Despite sportsbooks having the Aggies as a touchdown favorite, this game looks to be a coin-flip, as either team could come out angry and explosive early, which could be the deciding factor to who wins this game. This will be a close one. While Chuba will chug his way to a good game, the Aggies will be able to exploit a shaky Cowboys defense to a bowl win to cap off another rebuilding season.
PREDICTION: Texas A&M
San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: USC Trojans (8-4) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes (9-3)
– This matchup represents two teams with different styles of play. USC is the faster and more abrupt team when it comes to scoring, whereas Iowa is slower and more station-to-station. USC will rely on freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis to lead the team to a bowl win after failing to get a bid last season. While the Hawkeyes are solid defensively and can generate turnovers, Slovis will find one too many openings and will force Iowa to play behind at a quick pace, a style they have not played at this season. In that regard, this looks like New Mexico Bowl 2.0.
Cheez-It Bowl: Air Force Falcons (10-2) vs. Washington State Cougars (6-6)
– It is pretty easy to see. Washington State likes to throw the ball. A lot. Anthony Gordon threw the ball 647 times, 166 more times than the next quarterback (Josh Love of San Jose State threw the ball 481 times). Gordon leads the country in passing yards with 5,228. Yes, that is more than Heisman winner Joe Burrow. The Anthony-led Cougars go against a team that barely throws the ball at all in Air Force, a team 124th in passing yards per game (131 yards per game). While the Falcons will use the trio of Kadin Remsberg, Timothy Jackson and Taven Birdow to slow down and maintain time of possession through the running game (Air Force’s average time of possession of 33 minutes is 7th in the FBS), Gordon will chuck it down the field too many times for the Falcons to stop every time. The good news: this should be a better Cheez-It bowl game when compared to last year’s turnover festival put on by California and TCU.
PREDICTION: Washington State
Saturday, December 28th:
Cotton Bowl Classic: Memphis Tigers (12-1) vs. Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2)
– The New Year’s Six slate starts with an exciting matchup. The Tigers get the Group of Five representation nod and take on a solid defensive team in the Nittany Lions, a team that allows only 14 points a game. On the rushing side of the ball is where Penn State shines defensively, as the Nittany Lions are fifth in the FBS in rush yards allowed per game (97.7). Their 2.60 yards per rush ranks first in the FBS. The front seven for Penn State will be critical toward stopping the Tiger’s rushing offense led by redshirt freshman Kenneth Gainwell, who ranks eight in the FBS in rushing yards (1,425). While Penn State will have their hands full with Memphis’s dynamic offense, their defense will hold strong and be able to put pressure on a Tigers offensive line without starting tackle Scottie Dill. It will be too much for Memphis, as they have not faced an elite defense like this all year.
PREDICTION: Penn State
Camping World Bowl: Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-2) vs. Iowa State Cyclones (7-5)
– The Fighting Irish go into the game without an official offensive coordinator and must contend with one of the young and upcoming teams in college football in Iowa State. The Fighting Irish will be up to the challenge, with dual-threat quarterback Ian Book getting a crack at a Cyclones defense that stays on the field a little too frequently. Don’t fool yourself – Iowa State is coming. Sophomore quarterback Brock Purdy is a quarterback people need to talk about more. And they will. The Cyclones should be a sneaky good team next year. Very, very sneaky. They just need a little more seasoning. Until then, Notre Dame fights through adversity and wins their third straight non-New Year’s Six bowl game.
PREDICTION: Notre Dame
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl – CFP Playoff Semifinal: (4) Oklahoma Sooners (12-1) vs. (1) LSU Tigers (13-0)
– The Tigers make their first-ever Playoff appearance and will play at a familiar venue in Atlanta, the same place where they beat the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship. They go up against the Sooners, a team that has been to the Playoff before but has not been able to pick up a win. For everyone, the storylines in this game are well-known. One Heisman finalist in Jalen Hurts goes against the Heisman winner in Joe Burrow. Lincoln Riley whispers to another transfer in Hurts and takes his game to another level. Burrow, with passing game coordinator Joe Brady and head coach Ed Orgeron, transforms a vanilla LSU offense into an elite air-raid team. Other storylines popped up over the last few days. Tigers running back Clyde-Edwards Helaire is questionable in this game due to a hamstring injury sustained at practice. For the Sooners, three players were suspended for the game in starting defensive end Ronnie Perkins, running back Rhamondre Stevens and wide receiver Trejan Bridges. While these issues for both teams could show itself on the field of play, LSU should be able to harbor the problem better due to the depth they have at running back. Without Perkins on the edge for Oklahoma (who leads the Sooners in sacks with six), Burrow will have a more established pocket presence. If you have watched LSU this year, you know how dangerous he is when he has time to throw in the pocket. If you have not watched him yet, you are in for a treat.
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl – CFP Semifinal: (3) Clemson Tigers (13-0) vs. (2) Ohio State Buckeyes (13-0)
– This could be the most exciting matchup on this list. When looking at FPI, both teams rank first and second in the FBS (Ohio State first, Clemson second). When looking at scoring offense, both teams rank first and fourth in the FBS (Ohio State ranks first with 48.7 points per game compared to Clemson’s 46.5). Justin Fields vs. Trevor Lawrence. J.K. Dobbins vs. Travis Etienne. Isaiah Simmons vs. Chase Young. The one-on-one matchups are fascinating. In what amounts to a coin-flip in regard to who will win this matchup, go with the Clemson Tigers. While it is understandable that their schedule was weak, that is behind them now. How they have performed at this stage is what matters now, and boy, oh boy have they performed well. They look more complete, even if it is by a hair when compared to the Buckeyes. That hair will be just enough to make a difference.
Monday, December 30th:
First Responder Bowl: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (8-4) vs. Western Michigan Broncos (7-5)
– The Hilltoppers find themselves in their first bowl game since 2017 and their first under Tyson Helton. For the Broncos, they are looking for a redemption game after missing out in playing in the MAC Championship. Senior quarterback Jon Wassink looks to close out his college season on a high note, as he looks to surpass 3,000 yards on the season, a feat he has not done before. This game looks to be a high-scoring one. Should that be the case, the Broncos have a more sustainable and balanced offensive attack that should be able to produce more than the Hilltoppers. Western Michigan will play angry, and, if that is the case, watch out, Western Kentucky.
PREDICTION: Western Michigan
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Mississippi State Bulldogs (6-6) vs. Louisville Cardinals (7-5)
– After sitting at 3-5 midway through the season, the Bulldogs finish with a .500 record and get a bowl bid against a team they played in the postseason two years ago in Louisville. The Bulldogs offense is a one-trick pony with their passing attack in the bottom-30 in the FBS in yards per game. However, their rushing game makes up for it, with the Bulldogs ranking in the top-20 in rushing yards per game (226.9). While the Cardinals have some intriguing pieces on offense, their defense will not be able to hold up against the run game of Mississippi State, as they give up 211 rushing yards per game, 115th in the FBS. Bulldog running back Kylin Hill has one more game to grind out, as he will forego his senior year and declare for the NFL Draft after being the leading rusher in the SEC this season. The opportunity will be there, and he should be able to capitalize on it.
PREDICTION: Mississippi State
Redbox Bowl: California Golden Bears (7-5) vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (6-6)
– The Golden Bears make another appearance in a bowl game with the hopes of coming out victorious after losing to the Horned Frogs in last year’s Cheez-It Bowl. The Fighting Illini, meanwhile, make their first bowl appearance since 2014. While this game should not be as ugly as the Cheez-It Bowl, this will be another low-scoring game. Given the experience of the Bears and their better overall defense led by senior linebacker Evan Weaver (who leads the FBS in solo tackles with 95), look for them to shine just enough to get a bowl victory. In regard to the Fighting Illini under Lovie Smith, next year is a big one. They got to a bowl game this year and picked up a marquee victory in Wisconsin. How do they build off of it?
Capital One Orange Bowl: Florida Gators (10-2) vs. Virginia Cavaliers (9-4)
– The Gators make another New Year’s Six bowl while the Cavaliers make an appearance after being the runner-up in the ACC. Junior Kyle Trask was an underrated quarterback in the SEC due to higher profile names in Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa being more explosive. However, that should not detract from what Trask brings to the table for the Gators. While the Cavaliers have a solid team, Florida’s defense will be able to hold up just enough against Virginia senior quarterback Bryce Perkins. Virginia’s front seven and secondary will not be able to say the same to Trask and his athletic receiving core led by tight end Kyle Pitts.
Tuesday, December 31st:
Belk Bowl: Virginia Tech Hokies (8-4) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (7-5)
– The Hokies face their first SEC opponent in a bowl game since pulling off a miraculous comeback against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the…Belk Bowl. Despite the excitement there, the Hokies should not have to stage a comeback against Kentucky. While Kentucky’s offense thrives on the ground-and-pound game, it will have a tough time against the Hokies front seven, as they limit opposing teams to only 123.3 yards a game, a far-cry from the Wildcats rushing average of 274.4 yards per game. The Hokies will force the Wildcats to throw the ball, an area they are not keen at doing on a regular basis. Virginia Tech will force Kentucky to play on their terms.
PREDICTION: Virginia Tech
Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl: Florida State Seminoles (6-6) vs. Arizona State Sun Devils (7-5)
– Both teams are in a transitional period. For the Seminoles, they move on from Willie Taggart in preparation for former Memphis head coach Mike Norvell to take over the program starting next season. As for the Sun Devils, they continue to transform back into a Pac-12 title contender under Herm Edwards. Under true freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels, the Sun Devils were able to pick up three top-20 wins this season. One of those victories ended a team’s Playoff hopes in Oregon. Given the passing attack the Sun Devils have been able to develop this year, look for ASU to take advantage of the Seminoles’ porous defense in the secondary.
PREDICTION: Arizona State
Autozone Liberty Bowl: Navy Midshipmen (10-2) vs. Kansas State Wildcats (8-4)
– Kansas State made the hire they wanted when Bill Snyder retired, bringing in North Dakota State head coach Chris Klieman. The new-look Wildcats go up against the Midshipmen, a team that picked up their first double-digit win season since 2015. The Midshipmen are the number one team in the FBS in rushing yards per game, averaging 363.7 yards per game. A significant chunk of their ground damage comes from quarterback (or running back?) Malcom Perry, who has 1,804 rush yards on the year, fourth in the entire FBS. Even with Kansas State’s defense sitting in the middle of the pack in rush yards allowed with 152.3, their defense will have trouble stopping the steady barrage of rush attempts Navy will be doing for practically the whole game. Place your bets now on the over/under for Midshipmen pass attempts. My money is on four.
Arizona Bowl: Wyoming Cowboys (7-5) vs. Georgia State Panthers (7-5)
– With neither team throwing the ball much (both teams average no more than 201 yards in the air per game), the running game will be the x-factor for both squads. The defense that is able to stop the run game will also be critical. Wyoming’s defense allows only 99.4 yards per game, which looks much better when compared to Georgia State’s 211.6 rush yards allowed per game. Look for Wyoming defensive back Alijah Halliburton (who leads the team with 64 solo tackles) to be assigned to Panther running back Tra Barnett, who has 1,389 rush yards on the year. In the end, defense wins these kind of games, and Wyoming’s defense is more consistent.
Valero Alamo Bowl: Utah Utes (11-2) vs. Texas Longhorns (7-5)
– In what was supposed to be a year where the Longhorns took the next step in regaining former glory after winning the Sugar Bowl last season, they instead fell flat to a 7-5 record. The main culprit? Their porous secondary. After getting pummeled by Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship, the Utes are going full-blown Pavlovian at the notion of facing this Longhorn secondary. Sam Ehlinger will put up some air yards for the Longhorns. The problem is that Texas will allow more than he provides them. The million-dollar question: how long will it be until Tom Herman is on the hot-seat?
Wednesday, January 1st:
Outback Bowl: Minnesota Golden Gophers (10-2) vs. Auburn Tigers (9-3)
– All bets say Auburn has this game. However, Minnesota will be a tough out. Perhaps too tough. The Golden Gophers, under P.J. Fleck, have rowed their way to a 10-win season, despite the critics saying they were not ready to take that next step. Minnesota will put pressure on quarterback Bo Nix, while Auburn will have to deal with the junior and senior tandem of quarterback Tanner Morgan and running back Rodney Smith. After losing to Wisconsin, Minnesota will row for magic and look to redeem itself one last time this season.
VRBO Citrus Bowl: Michigan Wolverines (9-3) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (10-2)
– With Tua Tagovailoa out with injury, it is up to Mac Jones to captain the Crimson Tide offense. At wide receiver he will have likely top-5 NFL draft pick Jerry Jeudy to throw to, who has decided to play in the bowl game. For Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines, facing the Crimson Tide will be a tough task, as their offense even without Tua is extremely formidable. While quarterback Shea Patterson will be able to lead the Wolverines to some touchdowns against a young and inexperienced Alabama defense, it will not be enough. The Tide have too many weapons at their disposal and arguably have the best college football coach of this generation to lead them in Nick Saban. New Year’s Six bowl or not, Saban will make his squad play angry after losing a heartbreaker to Auburn in the Iron Bowl.
Rose Bowl: Oregon Ducks (11-2) vs. Wisconsin Badgers (10-3)
– Both teams play a very similar brand of football in emphasizing defense first. For Wisconsin, it will be up to defensive back Eric Burrell to cover Johnny Johnson III, who leads the Ducks receiving core in yards with 818. For Oregon, it will be up to linebacker Troy Dye to keep running back Jonathan Taylor in check. No matter the matchup that is likely to occur, this will be a classic battle between two smash-mouth programs that look to take home one of the more premier New Year’s Six bowl games. One can make a case for either team. However, at the end of the day Oregon will pull out the victory by getting one more key stop than the Badgers.
Allstate Sugar Bowl: Georgia Bulldogs (11-2) vs. Baylor Bears (11-2)
– This game will be similar to the Rose Bowl in that it will be a defensive stand-off. With a lot of turnover on the coaching side in addition to players on the field, Georgia could have a lot on their plate. Meanwhile, the Bears find themselves in a New Year’s Six game after finishing 1-11 two years ago. While the story for Baylor is a great one, their struggles against marquee opponents in Oklahoma is well-known. Georgia is cut from a similar mold, so expect their experience (and anger from losing in last year’s Sugar Bowl) to overwhelm Baylor’s inexperience at this level. That should not discredit Baylor, though. They have shown that they are back in the Big-12 and are here to stay.
Thursday, January 2nd:
Birmingham Bowl: Boston College Eagles (6-6) vs. Cincinnati Bearcats (10-3)
– Cincinnati stumbles into the Birmingham Bowl having lost out on a New Year’s Six bid after losing two consecutive games to the Memphis Tigers. Their top-50 rushing defense must contend with the Eagles’ top-10 rushing offense. However, that impressive rushing attack by Boston College should be taken with a grain of salt, as their leading rusher AJ Dillon has declared for the NFL Draft and will not play in the bowl game. This puts Boston College in a severe hole they will not be able to dig out of.
Gator Bowl: Indiana Hoosiers (8-4) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (7-5)
– The Hoosiers have their first eight-win season since 1993 with the opportunity to win a ninth game, a feat the program has not done since 1967. Under Tim Allen, the Hoosiers have been able to better their position both on and off the field. While Tennessee rides a five-game winning streak, Indiana brings a more consistent offense that will test the Vols’ secondary. This will be an underrated game that could be decided late in the fourth quarter.
Friday, January 3rd:
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Ohio Bobcats (6-6) vs. Nevada Wolfpack (7-5)
– This is a severe mismatch for the Wolfpack. While they have more wins than the Bobcats, the discrepancy between points scored and points allowed is exponential. Nevada averages 21.3 points per game but allows 32.1 points per game. Their luck could run out against an even-balanced Ohio offense that finds opportunity to excel in the air and on the ground. While this could be a game that takes everyone by surprise, this seems like a pretty predictable game that will result in a Bobcat victory.
Saturday, January 4th:
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (7-5) vs. Tulane Green Wave (6-6)
– A Jack Abraham-led Golden Eagles are in a bowl atmosphere for the first time since 2017, while the Green Wave are in a bowl game for the second consecutive year. When looking at FPI, Tulane looks much more balanced and consistent when compared to Southern Miss, as Tulane ranks 56th compared to the Golden Eagles’ 85th. While Abraham will look explosive at times, Tulane’s more balanced offensive attack will be too much for a Southern Eagle’s defense. With Tulane riding a three-game losing streak (albeit to bowl teams in SMU, UCF and Temple), they will play with intensity in order to squeeze out one more victory.
Monday, January 6th:
LendingTree Bowl: Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (10-3) vs. Miami (Ohio) RedHawks (8-5)
– The final bowl game before the National Championship pits the runner-up in the Sun Belt conference in Louisiana against the MAC champions in Miami (Ohio). Louisiana is averaging over 500 yards of offense on the year, with a significant portion of that coming from junior running back Elijah Mitchell, who has over 1,000 yards on the season and three touchdowns over his last three games. The rushing attack from Louisiana is even more impressive given the Cajuns’ injury issues on the offensive line this season. The RedHawks will have trouble stopping the heavy barrage of offense the Cajuns have to offer.