Bowl Games 2022: Happy New Year!

It turns out that while the modern reason that the New Year’s Day bowl games are played on January 2nd when the 1st is a Sunday is due to the NFL, it originally dates to early Rose Bowls when the it was thought to be uncouth to play a football game on a Sunday.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Friday, December 30

Noon: North Carolina State vs. Maryland (Mayo Bowl @ Charlotte, NC; ESPN): We’ve got a renewal of an ACC rivalry to kick off New Year’s Day weekend (see below). For the purposes of this game, these are two teams with less than ideal ends to their seasons. I like Maryland’s talent at the skill positions to take them over the top.
SP+ line: Terps -4.6
Vegas line: Terps -1.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: As you might expect from two teams that founded three conferences together, they’ve played a few times. 70 times, to be exact. The first meeting was in 1909, a 31-0 NC State win. In 1917 they met for the first time as members of the South Atlantic Intercollegiate Athletic Association. That was apparently boring, so they left and helped found the Southern Conference in 1921. In 1953 they left as a group again and founded the ACC. Then it turned out Maryland was kind of broke, so they left the ACC in 2014 for the greener pastures of the Big Ten, where we’re now robbed of the fanbase that absolutely the most vicious to Duke basketball. Anyway. They played somewhat sporadically before the ACC, but they played every season from 1956 to 2013. The Terps also got the last laugh with a 41-21 victory in that 2013 game, but overall the series is tied 33-33-4.
Last bowl game: The Wolfpack last played in a bowl game in the 2020-21 season, where they lost to Kentucky in the Gator Bowl 23-21. But they were supposed to play in the Holiday Bowl last season against UCLA, but it didn’t happen due to COVID. The Terps beat another former (abliet briefly) ACC team in last season’s Pinstripe Bowl, with Virginia Tech on the wrong side of a 54-10 margin.
Announcers: Anish Shroff and Brock Osweiler

2:00: Pittsburgh vs. California-Los Angeles (Sun Bowl @ El Paso, TX; CBS): Well, in my bowl predictions I tried to manifest a rematch of the (in)famous 2008 Sun Bowl that saw Oregon State beat Pitt 3-0, but I only got it half right. The Bruins figure to be more of a threat on offense here, even though I think Pitt will score, unlike in that game.
SP+ line: UCLA -6.4
Vegas line: UCLA -6
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: These teams have met 14 times, and surprisingly none in a bowl game. In fact, since all 14 were in Pitt’s independent days, these were 14 straight meetings from 1958 through 1972. UCLA holds the all-time series lead 9-5, but UCLA won the last game 38-28.
Last bowl game: Pitt is an interesting case, as they were eligible but did not play in a bowl in 2020. Assuming they had, this would be their fifth bowl game in a row, dating to 2018 where they lost 14-13 to Stanford in the Sun Bowl. Last season, they lost 31-21 to Michigan State in the Peach Bowl. UCLA was supposed to play in last season’s Holiday Bowl against NC State, but they didn’t, so their last bowl game was the 2017 Cactus Bowl, where they 35-17 to Kansas State.
Announcers: Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson

3:30: Notre Dame vs. South Carolina (Gator Bowl @ Jacksonville, FL; ESPN): South Carolina ended the season about as hot as you can possibly be, by crushing Tennessee’s playoff dreams once and for all and then beating this biggest rival. I think this Notre Dame team also had a good end-of-season as well, but USC’s offense just seems to be humming.
SP+ line: USC -3.1
Vegas line: Irish -2
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Four, all as regular season home-and-homes in 1976, 1979, 1983, and 1984. Notre Dame leads the series 3-1, but the Gamecocks won the last matchup 36-32.
Last bowl game: The Irish have now been to six bowl games in a row, dating to the 2017-18 Citrus Bowl, where they beat LSU 21-17. Last season they lost 37-35 to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl. The Gamecocks beat UNC in last season’s Mayo Bowl 38-21.
Announcers: Taylor Zarcour and Matt Stinchcomb

4:30: Wyoming vs. Ohio (Arizona Bowl @ Tuscon, AZ; I would really recommend patronizing Barstool, so you don’t have to watch this game. My general theme of picking against the Mountain West so far has been working, so I’ll keep it rolling.
SP+ line: Ohio -4.3
Vegas line: Ohio -1
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: Just two, and both in the regular season. Wyoming won 34-33 in 2007, and then 21-20 in 2008.
Last bowl game: Wyoming won last year’s Potato Bowl over Kent State 52-38. Ohio’s last bowl game was the 2019-20 Potato Bowl, a 30-21 win over Nevada.
Announcers: Jake Marsch, Dan Katz, and Dave Portnoy

8:00: Clemson vs. Tennessee (Orange Bowl @ Miami Gardens, FL; ESPN): THE ORANGEST BOWL! I suspect one of these teams won’t be wearing orange and I’ll be sad, but this could be an interesting game. Well, if Clemson can do anything on offense now that DJ has been demoted. While Hendon Hooker won’t be available for the Vols, Joe Milton will attempt launch some balls to Havana, and that’ll at least be fun to watch. (Especially if any of them find his receivers.) I like the Vols here.
SP+ line: Vols -6.3
Vegas line: Clemson -6.5
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: There’s been 19 meetings all-time between these two, though all but three of them took place before the end of World War II. The first was a 6-6 tie in 1901. In 1975 and 1976 they met in the regular season. The last meeting was a 27-14 Clemson win in the 2003-04 Peach Bowl.
Last bowl game: The Tigers have now been to eighteen (18!) straight bowl games, dating to the 2005 Champs Sports Bowl, a 19-10 win over Colorado. If they’d gone bowling in 2004 when they went 6-5, this would be their twenty-third straight game, but it’s not. They beat Iowa State in last season’s Cheez-It Bowl, 20-13. The Vols lost last year’s Music City Bowl to Purdue, 48-45.
Announcers: Joe Tessitore and Greg McElroy

Saturday, December 31


  • Iowa vs. Kentucky (Music City Bowl @ Nashville, TN; ABC): I believe the over/under on this game is 31. That’s really low. Like, Army-Navy low. Kentucky has a bunch of offensive players hurt or out, and Iowa is… Iowa. This could be bad. About the only way it won’t be is an outside chance that it’s a “horrible but you can’t look away” sort of game. I’m picking Kentucky because I think they’ll at least attempt score, but Iowa is of course the Bane of college football when it comes to low scoring games (“You merely adapted to the under. I was born in it, molded by it” – Brian Ferentz, probably.) So I won’t be surprised either way.
    SP+ line: Kentucky -0.4
    Vegas line: Iowa -2
    Watchability tier: II
    Previous meetings: It’s a bowl game rematch! Kentucky beat Iowa 20-17 in last season’s Citrus Bowl.
    Last bowl game: This would be Iowa’s tenth straight bowl game, dating to a 21-14 loss to LSU in the 2013-14 Outback Bowl, however, they didn’t play in 202 despite at 6-2 record. Last season they lost 20-17 to Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl. For the Cayuts, this will be their seventh bowl game in a row, dating to the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl, a 33-18 loss to Georgia Tech. Last season, they beat Iowa in the Citrus Bowl, 20-17.
    Announcers: Matt Barrie and Louis Riddick
  • Kansas State vs. Alabama (Sugar Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): Bama doesn’t have an opt-outs as far as I know, so that would seem to be trouble for K-State. That said, the Cats have played up to everyone all season, and I’m not sure why they’d stop now. I think Bama’s superior talent will win the day, but I think it’s going to be a good one.
    SP+ line: Bama -7.6
    Vegas line: Bama -3.5
    Watchability tier: IV
    Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
    Last bowl game: K-State won last year’s Texas Bowl over LSU, 42-20. The Crimson Tide will mark this as their nineteenth straight bowl game, dating to a 20-16 loss to Minnesota in the 2004 Music City Bowl. Last season, they beat Cincinnati 27-6 in the Cotton Bowl but lost the College Footbal Playoff Championship Game to Georgia, 33-18.
    Announcers: Dave Pasch, Dusty Dvoracek, and Tom Luginbill

4:00: Michigan vs. Texas Christian (Fiesta Bowl @ Glendale, AZ; ESPN): And so here we are. Welcome to the playoff. I think this game is likely to be the less interesting of the two. TCU has has a fantastic season, and it took a very good K-State two attempts to beat them. The Horned Frogs are not a solved problem by any means. However, I think the Wolverines will have the best defense they’ve faced, and it doesn’t seem TCU has a lot of great ideas on offense outside of “Max Duggan doin’ stuff”. Michigan also has an offense that is essentially “K-State, but better” and I expect they will just lean on TCU until the dam breaks.
SP+ line: Michigan -9
Vegas line: Michigan -7.5
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: The Wolverines lost last season’s Orange Bowl to Georgia, 34-11. TCU is bowling for the first time since the (in)famous 2018 Cheez-It Bowl, where they lost 10-7 to Cal. (Though they were eligible in 2020.)
Announcers: Sean McDonough and Todd Blackledge

8:00: Georgia vs. Ohio State (Peach Bowl @ Atlanta, GA; ESPN): It’s fair to say I want Georgia to lose. Perhaps the best thing about this playoff is that with Alabama not in it I can be fully on an “anyone but Georgia” train. And here’s the thing: Georgia is more vulnerable this year. Now, this is an extremely relative thing, but what a lot of us in the college football universe are looking at is, well, you know, about the only thing that beat that Best Defense Ever last season was Bryce Young and his fantastic receivers. If there’s anything Ohio State has, it’s a talented QB with some receivers that’ll play on Sundays (including a literal son of a hall-of-famer). I still think Georgia’s going to win, but I won’t be surprised if Ohio State has a gameplan that at least makes them sweat.
SP+ line: UGA -5.3
Vegas line: UGA -6.5
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: Just one, a 21-14 Georgia win in the 1992-93 Citrus Bowl.
Last bowl game: At twenty-six straight bowl games, Georgia owns the longest active bowl streak. The first game in the streak was the 1997-98 Outback Bowl, a 33-6 win over Wisconsin. Last season they beat Michigan 34-11 in the Orange Bowl, and then defeated Alabama in the CFP Championship Game 33-18. The Buckeyes have now been to ten straight postseason contests, dating to the a 40-35 loss to Clemson in the 2013-14 Orange Bowl. Last season they beat Utah in an absolute cracker of a Rose Bowl, 48-45.
Announcers: Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit

Monday, January 2

Noon: Illinois vs. Mississippi State (ReliaQuest Bowl @ Tampa, FL; ESPN2): I’m sort of thinking this will be a blowout, but I have next to no context how the Bulldogs will react to losing their coach. It’s a tough thing to predict. But throwing 70 times without running it would be the best way to honor Mike Leach that I can think of.
SP+ line: Illinois -0.5
Vegas line: UIUC -1.5
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Two, and they were very spread out. Illinois won 27-0 in 1923, and slightly more recently lost 28-21 in 1980.
Last bowl game: The Illini last made a bowl game in 2019, where they lost 35-20 to Cal in the Redbox Bowl. The Bulldogs have been to twelve straight bowl games, dating to a 52-14 win over Michigan in the 2010-11 Gator Bowl. Last season they lost 34-7 to Texas Tech in the Liberty Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Flemming and Rod Gilmore

1:00: Purdue vs. Louisiana State (Citrus Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ABC): The Boilermakers will have an interim coach and are going through a bit of a transition, while LSU is a bit more established even with a disappointing end of season. I generally like the Tigers here.
SP+ line: LSU -8.2
Vegas line: LSU -10.5
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: The Boilermakers beat Tennessee 48-45 in last season’s Music City Bowl. This would’ve been the twenty-third straight bowl game for LSU, which would be the third longest active streak and date to the 2000 Peach Bowl, where they beat Georgia Tech 28-14. However, they did not bowl in 2020 despite a 5-5 record. Last season they lost 42-20 to K-State in the Texas Bowl.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Dan Orlovsky

1:00: Southern California vs. Tulane (Cotton Bowl @ Arlington, TX; ESPN): I think USC is going to win. But… Tulane sort of seems like a slightly less talented Utah, and the Utes absolutely hammered USC for four quarters in that Pac-12 Championship Game. I think this one will feature some nice throws by USC and then baffling long runs by the Green Wave. In other words, I think it’ll be fun.
SP+ line: USC -4
Vegas line: USC -1.5
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: Three, and they all date to when Tulane was more of a football power than they are now. The first was, appropriately, in the 1932-33 Rose Bowl, where USC won 21-12. Tulane won in LA 27-13 in 1942, but USC returned the favor by winning 20-13 in New Orleans in 1946.
Last bowl game: USC went 5-1 in 2020 but did not go to a bowl game, so their last bowl appearance was a 49-24 loss to Iowa in the 2019 Holiday Bowl. The Green Wave lost the 2020 Potato Bowl to Nevada 38-27.
Announcers: Mark Jones, Robert Griffin III, and Quint Kessenich

5:00: Pennsylvania State vs. Utah (Rose Bowl @ Pasadena, CA; ESPN): And finally the Grandaddy of them all. I said all the year the Nittany Lions are very thoroughly the third best team in the Big Ten, and sure enough, they’re here in Pasadena while the two better teams are in the Playoff. The Utes, of course, are fantastic about dragging talented teams to their level, and I more or less think that’s what will happen here. I suspect it’ll also be good for them if the forecast holds and it winds up raining during the second half.
SP+ line: Penn St -1.1
Vegas line: Utah -2.5
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: Penn State lost to Arkansas in last season’s Outback Bowl, 24-10. This would normally be Utah’s eighth bowl appearance in a row, dating to a 45-10 win over Colorado State in the 2014 Royal Purple Bowl. However, they did not play a bowl game in 2020 despite their 3-2 record. They were just overwhelmed in the second half by Ohio State’s elite wide receivers and lost last season’s Rose Bowl to Ohio State, 48-45.
Announcers: Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit