Bowl Games 2021: Happy New Year!

Well, those semi-finals were a bit of a let down, eh? At least there’s still a chance Georgia won’t win the national title.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Saturday, January 1

12:00: Pennsylvania State vs. Arkansas (Outback Bowl @ Tampa, FL; ESPN2): Penn State is probably not super happy with their season, but it was still pretty good overall. Arkansas should be thrilled with the response they got their bruising style of play and a reminder of what is good about college football. I have Penn State as a slight favorite, but I could go either way here.
SP+ line: Penn State by 2.3
Vegas line: PSU by 1.5
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Penn State’s last bowl appearance was a 53-39 win over Memphis in the 2019 Cotton Bowl. Arkansas’s last bowl game was the 2016 Belk Bowl, a 35-24 loss to Virginia Tech.
Announcers: Dave Flemming and Rod Gilmore

1:00: Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma State (Fiesta Bowl @ Glendale, AZ; ESPN): Notre Dame had an excellent season on their own, but I’m sort of glad someone got to lose to Alabama instead of them. Instead, they get a Oklahoma State team that will remind a national audience that they do in fact play defense in the Big 12 now. The departure of Brian Kelly won’t, strangely, have a huge effect on this team. I think the Irish will be able to do enough to ultimately pull this out in the end.
SP+ line: ND by 4.1
Vegas line: ND by 1.5
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Notre Dame has been to five straight bowl games, dating to the 2017-18 Citrus Bowl, where the beat LSU 21-17. Last season they lost 31-14 to Alabama in the “Rose” Bowl. Oklahoma State has been to 16 straight bowl games, dating to a 34-31 win over Alabama in the 2006 Independence Bowl. Last season they beat Miami 37-34 in the Cheezi-It Bowl.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Dan Orlovsky

1:00: Iowa vs. Kentucky (Citrus Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ABC): This is definitely the battle of a fun offensive team versus a stodgy defensive team, and in that contest, I’ll take the offensive team every time. I like Kentucky here.
SP+ line: Kentucky by 2.4
Vegas line: Kentucky by 2.5
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Iowa had been on a seven game bowl streak, but they didn’t go bowling last year, so their last appearance was a 49-24 win over Southern Cal in the 2019 Holiday Bowl. Kentucky has been to six straight bowl games, dating to the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl, where they lost 33-18 to Georgia Tech. Last season they beat NC State 23-21 in the Gator Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Pasch, Dust Dvoracek, and Tom Luginbill

5:00: Ohio State vs. Utah (Rose Bowl @ Pasadena, CA; ESPN): The Buckeyes were last seen getting pound into dust by Michigan, and the Utes will definitely present plenty of problems: after all, through Oregon they have a 2x transitive victory over the Buckeyes. Nonetheless, even with Olave out, I think the Buckeyes will be able to overpower the Utes with their talent. Either way, Southern California should still look like the reason why we love this sport.
SP+ line: Ohio State by 12.7
Vegas line: Buckeyes by 6.5
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: In a reminder that the Utes have not always been a power conference team, the Buckeyes shellacked them 64-6 back in 1986.
Last bowl game: The Buckeyes are on a nine game postseason appearance streak, dating to a 40-35 loss to Clemson in the 2013-14 Orange Bowl. Last season they beat Clemson 49-28 in the Sugar Bowl, and then lost to Bama 52-24 in the national championship game. For the Utes, their last bowl appearance was a 38-10 loss to Texas in the 2019 Alamo Bowl.
Announcers: Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit

8:45: Baylor vs. Mississippi (Sugar Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): Finally, the wrap-up to the day is in New Orleans. I don’t know what’s going to happen in this one, I just hope there’ll be some points. I did apparently pick Ole Miss, so let’s go with that.
SP+ line: Ole Miss by 2.8
Vegas line: Baylor by 1.5
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: Back in 1975, Baylor won 20-10.
Last bowl game: Baylor’s last bowl appearance was the 2019-20 Sugar Bowl, where they lost 26-14 to Georgia. Ole Miss beat Indiana 26-20 in last season’s Outback Bowl.
Announcers: Joe Tessitore and Greg McElroy

Tuesday, January 4

9:00: Kansas State vs. Louisiana State (Texas Bowl @ Houston, TX; ESPN): Honestly, the betting line on this game should be whether ESPN spends more time (for a game that kicks off at NINE PM EASTERN!) talking about the playoff or the game itself. As for the game itself, the send-off for Coach O was really the victory over Texas A&M back in November, and he won’t be coaching in this game. I don’t expect LSU to really be here, if you know what I mean.
SP+ line: K-State by 5.8
Vegas line: EVEN
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Just one, a 21-0 LSU win in 1980.
Last bowl game: K-State’s last bowl appearance was the 2019 Liberty Bowl, a 20-17 loss to Navy. LSU had a 20 season streak before the pandemic, but they didn’t go a bowl last season at 5-5. Their last postseason appearance was thus the 2019 national title run: a 63-28 win over Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl, and then a 42-25 win over Clemson in the national title game.
Announcers: Dave O’Brien and Tim Hasselbeck