#College #football #postChristmas #bowls #Picks #previews
The college football bowl season is in high gear, and the College Football Playoff semifinals are fast approaching. Here are our previews and predictions (point spreads courtesy of DraftKings, and current at the time of publication, but subject to change) for the post-Christmas Day bowl matchups.
CFP rankings are noted. **Denotes New Year’s Six bowl games. All times Eastern. Statistics in parenthesis are from the 2022 season unless otherwise noted.
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Quick Lane Bowl: New Mexico State (6-6) vs. Bowling Green (6-6), at Detroit, 2:30 p.m., Monday, Dec. 26, ESPN
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports
For the just fifth time in the history of New Mexico State football, and second since 1960, the Aggies, guided by former Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, are going bowling. And it was an interesting trip getting to this point. Two of New Mexico State’s six wins came against FCS teams, so the program had to petition the NCAA to be eligible for a bowl after a scheduled game with San Jose State was postponed due to a player’s death. That said, the Aggies have wins over Hawaii and Liberty. Meanwhile, Bowling Green is making its first bowl trip since 2015. Quarterback Matt McDonald has thrown for 2,639 yards with 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions, while Karl Brooks ranks among the national leaders with 10 sacks and 18 tackles for loss.
Prediction: Bowling Green (-3 1/2)
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Camellia Bowl: Georgia Southern (6-6) vs. Buffalo (6-6), at Montgomery, Ala., Noon, Tuesday, Dec. 27, ESPN
Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News/USA TODAY NETWORK
How about Clay Helton’s first season as coach at Georgia Southern? The Eagles won at Nebraska and beat a ranked James Madison squad in October. A big reason for their success is running back Jalen White, who totaled 914 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. On the other side, it’s been a streaky season for Buffalo, which opened 0-3, then won five straight before losing three in a row and needed a 23-22 win over Akron to become bowl eligible. The Bulls will be looking for a third straight bowl win.
Prediction: Georgia Southern (-3 1/2)
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First Responder Bowl: Memphis (6-6) vs. Utah State (6-6), at Dallas, 3:15 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 27, ESPN
Troy Babbitt/USA TODAY Sports
Bowl games are a good opportunity for stars who decide to play and go out in style. That’s the case for Utah State running back Calvin Tyler Jr., who has rushed for 1,043 of his 2,051 career yards this season. He’s run for five of his seven touchdowns in the last three contests. Memphis, though, has been pretty good against the run, allowing 121.8 rushing yards per contest. Tigers safety Quindell Johnson ran his career interception total to 10 with a personal-best four this season.
Prediction: Utah State (+7 1/2)
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Birmingham Bowl: Coastal Carolina (9-3) vs. East Carolina (7-5), at Birmingham, Ala., 6:45 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 27, ESPN
Danny Wild/USA TODAY Sports
Coastal star and three-time Sun Belt Player of the Year Grayson McCall (8,019 career passing yards, 78 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 1,053 rushing yards, 16 touchdowns) is in the transfer portal but will play in this contest. That’s obviously a huge boost for the Chanticleers, who look to avoid a third straight loss. East Carolina also boasts two of the country’s most potent offensive performers in running back Keaton Mitchell (1,318 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns) and receiver Isaiah Winstead (82 receptions, 1,008 yards).
Prediction: East Carolina (-7 1/2)
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Guaranteed Rate Bowl: Wisconsin (6-6) vs. Oklahoma State (7-5), at Phoenix, 10:15 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 27, ESPN
Tork Mason/USA TODAY NETWORK
Disappointment might be the theme of this matchup. Both the Cowboys and Badgers expected better seasons. Wisconsin fired coach Paul Chryst in early October, and the future belongs to Luke Fickell. For now, this is a thin group, but running back Braelon Allen (1,126 yards, 10 touchdowns) quietly put together another 1,000-yard rushing campaign for the Badgers. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State has won twice since its 5-0 start. It’s averaged just 13.6 points in those last five contests, and longtime quarterback Spencer Sanders is in the transfer portal.
Predictions: Wisconsin (-3)
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Military Bowl: UCF (9-4) vs. Duke (8-4), at Annapolis, Md., 2 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 28, ESPN
Mike Watters/USA TODAY Sports
After COVID-19 issues canceled the last two Military Bowl matchups, it’s ready to go for 2022. Barring any other unforeseen situations, that is. A winner in four of the last five, Duke is making its first bowl appearance since 2018. UCF is set for its seventh straight bowl stop but enters, having lost two of its last three games. Central Florida’s John Rhys Plumlee is one of the nation’s most versatile quarterbacks, passing for 2,404 yards with 14 touchdowns and rushing for 841 with another 11 scores, but he is dealing with a hamstring injury.
Prediction: Duke (-3)
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Liberty Bowl: Kansas (6-6) vs. Arkansas (6-6), at Memphis, Tenn., 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 28, ESPN
Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY Sports
Even though Kansas lost six of its final seven games, it’s been an exciting season for the Jayhawks. With hope for the future. Kansas’ six wins are its most since 2008, when the program last played in a bowl. Arkansas, meanwhile, might have lost six of its last nine games, but is likely the better team in this matchup. Especially with stud quarterback KJ Jefferson (2,361 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, four interceptions; 510 rushing yards, seven rushing touchdowns) on the field — and returning in 2023.
Prediction: Arkansas (-3)
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Holiday Bowl: No. 15 Oregon (9-3) vs. North Carolina (9-4), at San Diego, 8 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 28, Fox
Ben Lonergan/USA TODAY NETWORK
The Ducks are a heavy favorite against a North Carolina team that’s lost three straight and allows an average of 31.0 points. However, this pits two of the country’s most exciting quarterbacks against each other — and both are returning to their respective schools in 2023. The Ducks’ Bo Nix set career highs with 3,388 passing yards, 27 passing touchdowns, 504 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels’ Drake Maye ranks in the top 10 nationally in passing yards (4,115) and passing touchdowns (37).
Prediction: Oregon (-14 1/2)
9 of 25
Texas Bowl: Texas Tech (7-5) vs. Mississippi (8-4), at Houston, 9 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 28, ESPN
Bryon Houlgrave/The Register/USA TODAY NETWORK
This has the makings of an offensive barnburner, where defense just might be an afterthought for the evening. Ole Miss averages 34.2 points, while Texas Tech isn’t too far behind at 33.6 per contest. On the other hand, the Rebels have dropped three in a row and allowed an average of 33.8 points in its last six games. The Red Raiders have won three straight but also yielded at least 30 or more points seven times this season.
Prediction: Mississippi (-3 1/2)
10 of 25
Pinstripe Bowl: Syracuse (7-5) vs. Minnesota (8-4), at New York, 2 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 29, ESPN
Matt Krohn/USA TODAY Sports
Syracuse won just once following its 6-0 start, and won’t have a bevy of players around for this matchup, due to opt outs and the transfer portal. That obviously bodes well for the Golden Gophers, who are looking for a sixth consecutive bowl victory. It’s also the swan song for Minnesota star Mo Ibrahim, the school’s all-time leader in rushing yards (4.597) and rushing touchdowns (52). In his two previous bowl appearances, Ibrahim totaled 364 yards on the ground, averaged 7.1 per carry and scored three touchdowns.
Prediction: Minnesota (-10)
11 of 25
Cheez-It Bowl: Oklahoma (6-6) vs. No. 13 Florida State (9-3), at Orlando, Fla., 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 29, ESPN
Mark Konezny/USA TODAY Sports
Riding a five-game winning streak where it’s outscored opponents 218-77, Florida State is trying for its first 10-win season since 2016. It was 2017 when the Seminoles last won a bowl game. Oklahoma, meanwhile, started 3-0 under first-year coach Brent Venables but has three wins since. Defense can still be an issue for the Sooners, who have allowed more than 50 points twice this season. These storied programs last met in 2011, but their most recent bowl meeting was in the Orange Bowl for the national championship at the end of the 2000 season, which Oklahoma won 13-2.
Prediction: Florida State (-9 1/2)
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Alamo Bowl: No. 20 Texas (8-4) vs. No. 12 Washington (10-2), at San Antonio, 9 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 29, ESPN
James Snook/USA TODAY Sports
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Duke’s Mayo Bowl: Maryland (7-5) vs. No. 23 North Carolina State (8-4), at Charlotte, N.C., Noon, Friday, Dec. 30, ESPN
Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports
It’s quite possible that Taulia Tagovailoa (7,758 career passing yards, 51 touchdowns, 24 interceptions) could be playing his final game at Maryland. If that’s the case, it comes against the Terps’ former ACC rival (these teams last played in 2013). And, against a Wolfpack defense that allows just 19.4 points per game. N.C. State is also playing close to home, which provides an advantage as it tries to win a bowl game for the first time since 2017.
Prediction: North Carolina State (+1)
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Sun Bowl: Pittsburgh (8-4) vs. No. 18 UCLA (9-3), at El Paso, Texas, 2 p.m., Friday, Dec. 30, CBS
Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports
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Gator Bowl: No. 21 Notre Dame (8-4) vs. No. 19 South Carolina (8-4), at Jacksonville, Fla., 3:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 30, ESPN
Jeff Blake/USA TODAY Sports
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Arizona Bowl: Ohio (9-4) vs. Wyoming (7-5), at Tucson, Ariz., 4:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 30, Bartstool
Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune/USA TODAY NETWORK
Both Ohio and Wyoming are riding three-game bowl-winning streaks, so something has to give. However, the Bobcats must bounce back from their seven-game winning streak ending with a 17-7 loss to Toledo in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game. The Cowboys also look to end the season positively by avoiding a third consecutive defeat. They’ve totaled just 31 points in their last three games. Wyoming won the previous two meetings with Ohio — in 2007 and ’08 — by one point apiece.
Prediction: Wyoming (Pick ‘Em)
17 of 25
** Orange Bowl: No. 6 Tennessee (10-2) vs. No. 7 Clemson (11-2), at Miami Gardens, Fla., 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 30, ESPN
Ken Ruinard/staff/USA TODAY NETWORK
One of the more intriguing non-College Football Playoff matchups. While Tennessee won’t have star Hendon Hooker to lead the way, all signs point to Clemson freshman Cade Klubnik making his first career start. The apparent future of the Tigers’ offense went 20-of-24 for 279 yards with a touchdown and ran for 30 yards and a score in his relief stint that helped Clemson win 39-10 over North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game. Tennessee’s defense held two opponents to six points and shut out Vanderbilt, but also allowed 63 to South Carolina this season.
Prediction: Clemson (-5 1/2)
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** Sugar Bowl: No. 5 Alabama (10-2) vs. No. 9 Kansas State (10-3), at New Orleans, Noon., Saturday, Dec. 31, ESPN
Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
No national championship for the Crimson Tide, but that won’t stop stars Bryce Young (3,007 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, five interceptions) and Nagurski Award winner Will Anderson (10 sacks, 53 pressures) from playing in the Sugar Bowl. That’s probably not a good sign for the Big 12 champion Wildcats, who will try for a fifth straight victory. Kansas State, though, could have the services of injured quarterback Adrian Martinez (1,261 passing yards; 615 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns) , who has not played since Nov. 12. However, Will Howard (1,423 passing yards, 15 touchdowns, two interceptions) will start.
Prediction: Alabama (-6)
19 of 25
Music City Bowl: Iowa (7-5) vs. Kentucky (7-5), at Nashville, Tenn., Noon, Saturday, Dec. 31, ABC
Bryon Houlgrave/The Register/USA TODAY NETWORK
Last season, Kentucky beat Iowa 20-17 in the Citrus Bowl. This time, it might be the “first one to 10” wins. Kentucky averaged 17.5 points while going 3-5 in SEC play this season. And, quarterback Will Levis , who has thrown for more than 5,800 career yards in four seasons, and running back Chris Rodriguez, won’t play in this contest. Kirk Ferentz’s Hawkeyes, meanwhile, give up just 14.4 points per game but have scored more than 27 points just once this season.
Prediction: Iowa (-2 1/2)
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ReliaQuest Bowl: No. 22 Mississippi State (8-4) at Illinois (8-4), at Tampa, Fla., Noon, Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, ESPN2
Matt Bush/USA TODAY Sports
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** Cotton Bowl: No. 16 Tulane (11-2) at No. 10 USC (11-2), at Arlington, Texas, 1 p.m., Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, ESPN
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports
It’s a testament to Tulane’s season that USC is a slight underdog. And, it would not be a stretch to think the Green Wave can pull off a minor upset especially if Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams (4,075 passing yards, 37 touchdowns, four interceptions; 10 rushing touchdowns) can’t go because of that nagging hamstring injury . Regardless of who is under center for the Trojans, though, their defense that’s allowed an average of 35.9 points in the last seven games must deal with Tulane running back Tyjae Spears (1,376 rushing yards, 15 touchdowns).
Prediction: Tulane (+2 1/2)
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Citrus Bowl: No. 17 LSU (9-4) at Purdue (8-5), at Orlando, Fla., 1 p.m., Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, ABC
John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports
Just how much will assistant coach Drew Bress help Purdue in the Citrus Bowl? Who knows, but expect to hear plenty from those watching this one on TV. We know he won’t have three of Purdue’s biggest offensive weapons in quarterback Aiden O’Connell (9.219 career passing yards, 65 touchdowns), receiver Charlie Jones (110 receptions, 1.361 yards 12, touchdowns) and tight end Payne Durham (56 receptions, eight touchdowns), who have all opted out . That opens the door for LSU to roll potentially. Especially if its own quarterback, Jayden Daniels (2,774 passing yards, 818 rushing yards, 27 total touchdowns), is healthy enough to play.
Prediction: LSU (-14)
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** Rose Bowl: No. 11 Penn State (10-2) at No. 8 Utah (10-3), at Pasadena, Calif., 5 p.m., Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, ESPN
Dan Rainville/USA TODAY NETWORK
This has the potential to be the most entertaining matchup on the entire bowl slate — including the College Football Playoff contests. A winner of four straight, Penn State suffered its only two losses to Michigan and Ohio State. The Nittany Lions yielded 85 points in those two games and 131 in the other 10. Utah, meanwhile, is coming off a second straight Pac-12 title and averages 40 points per game. For some reference, the Utes lost an instant classic, 48-45, to Ohio State in last season’s Rose Bowl, while Penn State fell 52-49 versus USC in its most recent appearance to conclude the 2016 campaign. The Nittany Lions have lost seven straight games against ranked opponents.
Prediction: Utah (-2 1/2)
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** Fiesta Bowl (College Football Playoff): No. 3 TCU (12-1) at No. 2 Michigan (13-0), at Glendale, Ariz., 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 31, ESPN
Alex Martin/Journal and Courier/USA TODAY NETWORK
National semifinal No. 1 might be the better of the two in terms of competitiveness. The Wolverines are more than a touchdown favorite and boast a defense that ranks among the nation’s best, allowing an average of 13.4 points and 277.1 total yards. That presents a major challenge for TCU Heisman finalist Max Duggan (3,321 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, four interceptions; 404 rushing yards, six touchdowns) and the Horned Frogs. But TCU has found ways to win practically all season, so this could be interesting. That said, don’t be surprised if Michigan’s Donovan Edwards (401 rushing yards, three TDs in the last two games) turns out to be the game’s star.
Prediction: TCU (+8)
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** Peach Bowl (College Football Playoff): No. 4 Ohio State (11-1) at No. 1 Georgia (13-0), at Atlanta, 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 31, ESPN
Joshua L. Jones/USA TODAY NETWORK
While it’s easy to make this matchup about Heisman Trophy finalist C.J. Stroud (3,340 passing yards, 37 touchdowns, six interceptions) and Ohio State’s potent offense (averaging 44.5 points) against Georgia’s vaunted defense (allowing an average of 12,8 points), the opposite could prove to be the deciding factor. Georgia averages 39.2 points, and Stetson Bennett (3,425 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, six interceptions, seven rushing touchdowns) was also a Heisman finalist. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes’ defense allowed 45 points to Michigan, and 30 or more in three of the last five games.
Prediction: Georgia (-6 1/2)
Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.