Bowl Games 2022: Opening Slate

It’s time once again for my annual exercise in bowl history and prognostication. The overall tally will be kept at the usual place.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Friday, December 16

11:30: Miami vs. Alabama-Birmingham (Bahamas Bowl @ Nassau, Bahamas; ESPN): UAB’s a solid favorite in this game, and for good reason: they’re better than Miami. I expect a solid Blazers win. Nonetheless, considering most of the weather in the US at the moment, watch this and think about how much warmer is probably is. There’s rain the forecast, yes, but I envy those temperatures in the upper 70’s and lower 80’s right about now.
SP+ line: UAB -12.1
Vegas line: UAB -11
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: Miami played in last season’s Frisco Football Classic… thing and beat North Texas 27-14. This would be their sixth straight bowl if not for 2020, but they did go 6-3 that year so I’ll count it for now, plus that means they’ve effectively gone bowling every season since their revival. (Take that Paul Bryant Jr!) So anyway, that 2017 Bahamas Bowl didn’t go great (it was 41-6 loss to Ohio), but more recent efforts have been more successful, like last season’s 31-28 win over BYU in the Independence Bowl.
Announcers: Steve Levy and Joey Galloway

3:00: Troy vs. Texas-San Antonio (Cure Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ESPN):

Doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo

Let me take your hand
I’m shaking like milk
Turning blue
All over the windows and the floors
Fires outside in the sky
Look as perfect as cats
The two of us
Together again
But it’s just the same
A stupid game

But I don’t care if you don’t
And I don’t feel if you don’t
And I don’t want it if you don’t
And I won’t say it
If you won’t say it first

You think you’re tired now
But wait until three
Laughing at the Christmas lights
You remember from December
All of this then back again
Another girl
Another name
Stay alive but stay the same
It’s just the same
A stupid game

But I don’t care if you don’t
And I don’t feel if you don’t
And I don’t want it if you don’t
And I won’t say it
If you won’t say it first

You can’t even see now
So you ask me the way
You wonder if it’s real
Because it couldn’t be rain
Through the right doorway
And into the white room
It used to be the dust that would lay here
When I came here alone

Doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo
Let’s go to bed

Whereas the last one has an obvious favorite, this is setting up to be a G5 banger. These are the Sun Belt and C-USA champs, and two of the best G5 teams in the season. The other fun part is their opposing styles of play: Troy has a legit top 20 defense, and UTSA loves to score. But, hey, defense wins championships, and I’m going with the men of Troy (Alabama).
SP+ line: Troy -1.3
Vegas line: Troy -1
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This is Troy’s first bowl game since a 42-32 over Buffalo win in the Dollar General Bowl in 2018. This will be UTSA’s 3rd in a row, dating to a 31-24 loss to Louisiana in the 2020 First Responder Bowl. Last season they lost 38-24 to San Diego State in the Frisco Bowl.
Announcers: Beth Mowins and Kirk Morrison

Saturday, December 17

11:00: Louisville vs. Cincinnati (“Keg of Nails”; Fenway Bowl @ Boston, MA; ESPN): It’s not often we get a rivalry game in a bowl game, but here we are: the Keg of Nails is back! In addition, there’s some other eyebrow raising things about this game, like the part where Louisville was trying to find a reason to fire Scott Satterfield all year, expect he went out and delivered a Coach of the Year-type performance and got the Cards to a bowl game. Naturally, he had to know this, so when Luke Fickell finally jumped to the Big Ten, Satterfield decided to take his place at the school up the river. (He will not be coaching the bowl game (for either team).) Anyway, for this game, the Cards are definitely a lot more threatening on offense than the Bearcats, regardless if their QB plays or not. I’m going with them here.
SP+ line: Cincy -3.9
Vegas line: Cincy -1
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: These teams have a series that dates back to 1929, but we’ll pick it up in 1966. This was a rivalry until the ACC plucked Louisville for their prowess in football and basketball, which has definitely gone totally according to plan. At any rate, the Keg of Nails was contested every year from 1966 to 2013, excepting 1992 through 1996. In those 45 contests, the series is tied 22-22-1. Louisville won the last two in 2012 and 2013, by scores of 34-31 and 31-24.
Last bowl game: The Cardinals are in a bowl for the second year in a row. Last season, they los 31-28 to Air Force in the First Responder Bowl. This will be the Bearcats’s fifth in a row, startign with a 35-31 win over Virginia Tech in the 2018 Military Bowl. Last season they lost 27-6 to Alabama in the Cotton Bowl. (I maintain they still looked and did better than Michigan did against Georgia.)
Announcers: Chris Cotter and Mark Herzlich
Fun Fact: This is more about the rivalry series than the bowl game. I have, multiple occasions, traveled between Cincinnati and Louisville. It’s about an hundred mile drive, mostly on I-71. So they’re not far apart, but one’s in Kentucky and the other is on Ohio. I’m not sure a harder accent border exists anywhere else in the world. One of my best buddies out here grew up in Cincinatti and has what I would call a typical Midwestern accent, along with everyone else I’ve ever heard there. But I swear as soon as you cross the river it’s like you’re in Alabama. Remember, Louisville is pronounced something like “loo-uh-vull” and not “lou-ee-vill”.

2:30: Oregon State vs. Florida (Las Vegas Bowl @ Las Vegas, NV; ESPN): The Las Vegas Bowl has moved up in the world, and now pits a Pac-12 team against an SEC team. And as far as that goes, this figures to be pretty even. The Gators, of course, beat Pac-12 champs Utah to open the year, but while Florida sort of peaked there, the Beavers got better as the season went on. I really like them here to win outright, but the Gators to cover.
SP+ line: OSU -3.9
Vegas line: Beavers -10
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: The Beavers lost 24-13 to Utah State in last season’s LA Bowl. The Gators have been to five bowls in a row, dating to the time Spencer Hall gator chomped a child and the Gators won 41-15 over Michigan in the 2018 Peach Bowl. Last season was less fun, as they lost 29-17 to UCF in the Gasparilla Bowl, a fact no Knights has presumably not let any Gator they know forget.
Announcers: Dave Pasch and Kirk Herbstreit

3:30: Washington State vs. Fresno State (LA Bowl @ Los Angeles, CA; ABC): Meanwhile, the matchup formerly seen in the Vegas Bowl has moved down I-15 to LA. The Mountain West was just kinda bad this year, so I like Wazzu here. But this may still be worth watching to see if the Six Million Dollar Man himself, Jake Haener, can do it one last time for the Bulldogs. (To be clear, I’m just referring to Haener’s injuries and medical routing required for him to play football.)
SP+ line: Wazzu -6.6
Vegas line: Fresno -1
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: These teams have met four times, back in 1987, 1991, 1992, and 1994. Wazzu holds a 3-1 series lead and won the game 24-3.
Last bowl game: Wazzu lost 24-21 to Central Michigan in last season’s Sun Bowl. Fresno beat UTEP 31-24 in last season’s New Mexico Bowl.
Announcers: Joe Tessitore and Greg McElroy

5:45: Southern Mississippi vs. Rice (Lendingtree Bowl @ Mobile, AL; ESPN): This one’s got a little less shine than the other games on what almost resembles a usual college football Saturday, but it could be fun nonetheless. That said, I agree Southern Miss is pretty well favored here, but still, Rice is in a bowl! That’s pretty novel. (More on that below.)
SP+ line: USM -11.7
Vegas line: Southern Miss -6.5
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: There’s been twelve all-time meetings between these teams, and the result is that they’re even. The series dates to when both were in Conference USA. The first meeting was in 2007 and they played yearly from 2011 until… 2021. Rice has won the last two in a row, 30-6 and 24-19.
Last bowl game: USM’s last bowl game was a 30-13 loss to Tulane in the 2019-20 Armed Forces Bowl. Rice’s last bowl game was a 30-6 win over Fresno State in the 2014 Hawaii Bowl. If I had known it was going to take 8 years (and a lack of teams) for Rice to get back to the postseason, maybe I would’ve been a little less down on them in my 2014 write-up.
Announcers: Mike Monaco and Matt Stinchcomb

7:30: Southern Methodist vs. Brigham Young (New Mexico Bowl @ Albuquerque, NM; ABC): This one might be fun. Neither of these teams are as good as past versions, but I’m giving SMU because possibly no one likes scoring points as much as they apparently do.
SP+ line: SMU -6.2
Vegas line: Ponies -3
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This will be the fourth meeting between these teams. They first met in the 1980 Holiday Bowl, where BYU won 46-45. BYU then won regular season contests in 1996 and 1997, 31-3 and 19-16.
Last bowl game: The Ponies were last seen in a postseason bowl getting waxed 52-28 to FAU in the 2019 Boca Raton Bowl. BYU’s been to five bowls in a row, dating to a 49-18 win over Western Michigan in the 2018 Potato Bowl. Last season, they lost 31-28 to UAB in the Independence Bowl.
Announcers: Tom Hart and Brock Osweiler

9:15: Boise State vs. North Texas (Frisco Bowl @ Frisco, TX; ESPN): Again, I don’t quite trust the Mountain West this year, but I’ll still take them over a C-USA team that fired their coach after the season.
SP+ line: Boise -6.9
Vegas line: Broncos -10
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: There’s been five meetings all-time between these teams, every year from 1996 through 2000 when both were members of the Big West. UNT actually leads the all-time series 3-2, but Boise won the last game 59-0.
Last bowl game:“Boise would’ve gone to a bowl game the last two seasons, but, well, some stuff happened. So if we count that, and also the 2018 First Responder Bowl they definitely showed up for but was canceled by weather, their bowl streak is at 21! But wait, there’s more! If you include the 2001 season where they went 8-4 but didn’t get invited to a bowl, you can go all the way back to 1999! That’s 24 in a row! But, unfortunately, it actually isn’t. In that 2002 game, they beat Iowa State 34-16 in the Humanitarian Bowl. And all that aside, their last bowl appearance was a 38-7 loss to Washington in the 2019 Las Vegas Bowl. North Texas has been to three straight postseason games, dating back to the 2020 Myrtle Beach Bowl, where, as a 4-6 team, they got beat 56-28 by App State. Last season they played in the Frisco Football “”Classic”” and lost 27-14 to Miami.
Announcers: Dave Neal and Deuce McAllister

Monday, December 19

2:30: Marshall vs. Connecticut (Myrtle Beach Bowl @ Conway, SC; ESPN): Huzzah! The Huskies are back in a bowl game! (More on that below.) And they earned it, too, thanks to some clutch late-season victories, most notably over Liberty. That said, the fun may well stop here. Marshall is a bit of a step and, well, I mean, there’s not much else you’re doing Monday afternoon less than a week before Christmas, right?
SP+ line: Thundering -17.2
Vegas line: Herd -10
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Just one. Marshall defeated Uconn 16-10 in the 2015 St. Petersburg Bowl.
Last bowl game: The Herd have Thundered their way to six straight bowl games, going back to the 2018 New Mexico Bowl, where they beat Colorado State 31-28. Last season, however, was a bit of a mismatch and they lost 36-21 to Louisiana in the New Orleans Bowl. The Huskies, meanwhile, are in a bowl for the first time since a 16-10 loss to… Marshall in the 2015 St. Petersburg Bowl. I assume everyone around the UConn program remembers this and will be seeking vengeance.
Announcers: Mike Morgan and Eric Mac Lain

Tuesday, December 20

3:30: San Jose State vs. Eastern Michigan (Potato Bowl @ Boise, ID; ESPN): So far I’ve been lamenting the quality of the Mountain West but still picking that team anyway. That stops here. EMU will finally(!) win their first bowl game ever. Book it.
SP+ line: SJSU -2.8
Vegas line: SJSU -3.5
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: Just one. EMU beat SJSU 30-27 back in the 1987 California Bowl.
Last bowl game: The Spartys of Silicon Valley played their last postseason game in the 2020 Arizona Bowl, where they lost 34-13 to Ball State. And y’all. EMU has been playing football at what is considered the FBS level since 1975. This is their fifth bowl game… ever. Their first one was a 24-20 loss to Old Dominion in the 2016 Bahamas Bowl. They went bowling again in 2018 and 2019, and now they’ve gotten to two in a row once again. They lost last season 56-20 to Liberty in the Lendingtree Bowl. They’re still seeking their first bowl victory.
Announcers: Clay Matvick and Rocky Boiman

7:30: Toledo vs. Liberty (Boca Raton Bowl @ Boca Raton, FL; ESPN): Liberty had a dispiriting end to the season, and the only reason probably any of those players were there in the first place just departed for Auburn. That said, Toledo has a lot of problems living up their potential, but they did finally win the MAC this year, so here’s their chance. I’ll put this way: a lot of us will be cheering for the Rockets regardless.
SP+ line: Liberty -2
Vegas line: Toledo -5
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: They’ve met three times, but all were before Liberty made it to the FBS. So it’s no surprise then that Toledo has a 3-0 series lead.
Last bowl game: Toledo lost to MTSU 31-24 in last season’s Bahamas Bowl. Liberty has been to four straight bowl games, dating to the 2019 Cure Bowl, where they beat Georgia Southern 23-16. Last season they beat EMU 56-20 in the Lendingtree Bowl.
Announcers: Anish Shroff and Tim Hasselbeck

Wednesday, December 21

9:00: Western Kentucky vs. South Alabama (New Orleans Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): Y’all, this one could be sneaky fun. Both teams are exciting and young, and even if the Dome isn’t always full for this one, it’s usually a good time. Keep an eye on it. I’m picking USA.
SP+ line: USA -9.3
Vegas line: USA -7.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Just one, back in 2013 when both were in the Sun Belt. WKU won 31-24.
Last bowl game: This is WKU’s fourth postseason in a row, dating to the 2019 First Responder Bowl, where they beat Western Michigan 23-20. Last season they beat App State 59-38 in the Boca Raton Bowl. For “South Al”, this is their first bowl game since the 2016 Arizona Bowl, where htey lost 45-21 to Air Force.
Announcers: Wes Durham and Roddy Jones

Thursday, December 22

7:30: Baylor vs. Air Force (Armed Forces Bowl @ Fort Worth, TX; ESPN): Air Force was one of the best teams in the Mountain West this season, but [see above]. That said, I figure the Bears will just out-talent them, and Dave Aranda is smart enough to put together a defense to ground the Falcons with this much prep time.
SP+ line: Baylor -7.6
Vegas line: Baylor -5.5
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: There’s been three, but it’s been a while. They played in 1961, 1692, and 1977. Baylor won all three, including the most recent one 38-7.
Last bowl game: Baylor won last season’s Sugar Bowl over Ole Miss 21-7. Air Force beat Louisville 31-28 in last season’s First Responder Bowl.
Announcers: Brian Custer and Dustin Fox

Friday, December 23

3:00: Louisiana vs. Houston (Independence Bowl @ Shreveport, LA; ABC): While Houston is favored in this one, as that makes sense when talking about an American team versus the Sun Belt, it’s hard to really believe in Houston. They haven’t been that good all season. That said, the Ragin’ Cajuns don’t inspire a ton of confidence, even if this is a bit more on their home turf than for the Cougars. I still like Houston in this one, but probably the Cajuns to cover.
SP+ line: Houston -2.3
Vegas line: Houston -6.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: They’ve met six times, all from 1992 to 2006. Houston holds a 5-1 series lead, but the Ragin’ Cajuns won the last one 31-28.
Last bowl game: The Cajuns have Raged their way to six straight bowl games, dating back to a 41-24 loss to Tulane in the 2018 Cure Bowl. Last season they beat Marshall 36-21 in the New Orleans Bowl. Houston has now been to three straight bowl games because, well, somehow had to back in 2020. They lost 28-14 to Hawaii in the 2020 New Mexico Bowl. Last season, they bear Auburn 17-13 in the Birmingham Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Neal and Deuce McAllister

6:30: Wake Forest vs. Missouri (Gasparilla Bowl @ Tampa, FL; ESPN): I still don’t really know what happened to Sam Hartman after halftime of that Louisville game, and indeed the Demon Deacons lost 4 of their last 5. Mizzou comes in with a touch more momentum off a regular season ending upset of Arkansas, but that said they’ve still been in the news lately because they ducked renewing the Border War in Memphis and their coach showed up at the basketball version of said war with a sign saying that Kansas is in trouble with the NCAA. That was never really a cool thing to do to start with, much less in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Twenty-Two, and especially much less when your school winds up getting pasted by 28. Either way, I expect that this game here could be kind of spicy, but also a tight Mizzou win.
SP+ line: EVEN
Vegas line: Deacons -1
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: Wake Forest has been to seven straight bowl games, which is actually kind of amazing. The streak started with a 34-26 win over Temple in the Military Bowl. Last season they beat Rutgers 38-10 in the Gator Bowl. Mizzou lost 24-22 to Army in last season’s Armed Forces Bowl.
Announcers: Chris Cotter and Mark Herzlich

Saturday, December 24

8:00: San Diego State vs. Middle Tennessee State (Hawaii Bowl @ Honolulu, HI; ESPN): Like the Bahamas Bowl at the top, this game feels like a reminder that hey, you, trying to keep warm on Christmas Eve, you could be in Honolulu right now. I mean, you don’t really even need to go watch this. I don’t really expect this to be high scoring or anything, and if you’re actually there, there’s probably more interesting things to do. But if you’re at home, either you can stream the endless loop of that yule log channel, check the live feed and see if anyone’s burned down that Swedish Yule Goat yet, or you can watch a college football game with occasional shots of reminders that in the deep dark of winter, there’s a sunny, warm place out there. Also SDSU will probably win.
SP+ line: SDSU -2.4
Vegas line: Aztecs -7
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: Last season Fresno beat UTSA 38-24 in the Frisco Bowl. MTSU beat Toledo 31-24 in last season’s Bahamas Bowl. (Two tropical destinations in a row? Lucky them, I say.)
Announcers: Mike Monaco, Rodd Gilmore, and Quint Kessenich