Bowl Games 2023: Opening Slate

It’s that time again, and unlike last season we’ve got a full day of football tomorrow.

A few notes:

  • The bowl tracker page will be updated soon.
  • The Watchability Tiers are defined here.
  • I forgot what the third thing was, maybe I’ll remember before I finish this post.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Saturday, December 16

11:00: Ohio vs. Georgia Southern (Myrtle Beach Bowl @ Conway, SC; ESPN): The shine is completely off the Clay Helton thing, and I’m not sure this game will be able to do a lot to put it back on.
SP+ line: Ohio -2.2
Vegas line: GaSo -3.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: The Bobcats won last season’s Arizona Bowl over Wyoming, 30-27. Georgia Southern lost last year’s Camellia Bowl 23-21 to Buffalo.
Announcers: Drew Carter, Dustin Fox, and Stormy Buonantony

2:15: Louisiana vs. Jacksonville State (New Orleans Bowl @ New Orleans, LA; ESPN): This game could well be pretty fun. The Cajuns tend to fill the Superdome when they go to New Orleans (hence why they’re here). And remember Rich Rodriguez? Yep, he’s Jax State’s head coach. Expect some points in this one, and just for fun I’ll go with the Gamecocks.
SP+ line: Cajuns -1
Vegas line: JSU -3.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first FBS-level meeting between these teams, though amusingly the Ragin’ Cajuns did lose to a DI-AA Jacksonville State 28-14 in 2000.
Last bowl game: For the Cajuns, this is their sixth consecutive bowl game, going back to the 2018 Cure Bowl, where they lost 41-24 to Tulane. Last season they lost 23-16 to Houston in the Independence Bowl. For Jax State, this is their first ever bowl game.
Announcers: Anish Shroff, Andre Ware, and Taylor Davis

3:30: Appalachian State vs. Miami (Cure Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ABC):

Well it’s opening time down on fascination street
So let’s cut the conversation and get out for a bit
Because I feel it all fading and paling and I’m begging
To drag you down with me to kick the last nail in

Yeah I like you in that like I like you to scream
But if you open your mouth then I can’t be responsible
For quite what goes in or to care what comes out
So just pull on your hair just pull on your pout

And let’s move to the beat like we know that’s it’s over
If you slip going under slip over my shoulder
So just pull on your face just pull on your feet
And let’s hit opening time down on fascination street

So pull on your hair pull on your pout
Cut the conversation just open your mouth
Pull on your face pull on your feet
And let’s hit opening time down on fascination street

I like App here.
SP+ line: Miami -0.7
Vegas line: App -5.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: App last appeared in a bowl game back in the 2021 Boca Raton Bowl, where they lost 59-38 to Western Kentucky. (They did go 6-6 last season but didn’t bowl.) Miami only played three games in 2020 for hopefully obvious reasons, but they did go to the 2019-20 Mobile Alabama Bowl where they lost 27-17 to Louisiana. They lost last year’s Bahamas Bowl to UAB, 24-20.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen, Robert Griffin III, and Kris Budden

5:45: New Mexico State vs. Fresno State (New Mexico Bowl @ Albuquerque, NM; ESPN): I still don’t entirely know what happened to Fresno this year, but it’s sort of moot now because like most folks who are way too online I am all about the Aggies. As noted below, NMSU isn’t exactly a… consistently successful program, let’s put it that way. But a 10-win season out of nowhere, a second win a row over Hugh Freeze (this time AT Auburn!) and of course this season’s Bradlee Van Pelt winner in quarterback/runaway beer truck Diego Pavia make them very easy to root for.
SP+ line: Aggies -0.6
Vegas line: Aggies -3.5
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: With occasional times in the same conference, these teams have met 19 times. Their first meeting was a 49-17 Fresno win in 1972, and the msot recent was a 30-17 Fresno win in 2019. In fact, the only win for NMSU in the entire series was a 48-45 win in 2011, giving the Bulldogs an overall 18-1 advantage.
Last bowl game: The Aggies have only gone to 5 bowl games ever, and for the first time since 1959 and 1960 they’re going bowling in consecutive seasons. They beat Bowling Green in last season’s Quick Lane Bowl 24-19. This will be the third straight bowl game for the Bulldogs, dating to a 31-24 over UTEP in the 2021 New Mexico Bowl, and last season they pipped Wazzu in the LA Bowl, 29-6.
Announcers: Clay Matvick, Rod Gilmore, and Lauren Sisler

7:30: California-Los Angeles vs. Boise State (LA Bowl @ Inglewood, CA; ABC): The main thing I know about this one is all the Gronk commercials that will be shown during it will be exhausting. Outside of that, yeah probably UCLA but y’all the vibes are BAD. More specifically, while UCLA did beat USC they didn’t really even bother to show up after that against Cal, widely leading most to assume that it was probably time to move on from Chip Kelly. And then… nothing happened. Boise, meanwhile, fired their coach and then went out and won the Mountain West. So in the “who wants it more” department, which matters a lot in bowl games, it’s Broncos all the way here.
SP+ line: UCLA -0.5
Vegas line: UCLA -3.5
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Just one: a 38-7 UCLA win in 1999.
Last bowl game: UCLA lost last season’s Sun Bowl 37-35 to Pitt. The Broncos, meanwhile, should by all rights have a bowl streak dating to 1998, which is amazing considering they’ve only been playing DI-A/FBS football since 1996. They didn’t go bowling in 1998 despite being 6-5, but the next year they won the then-Humanitarian Bowl 34-31 over Louisville. At 8-4 in 2001 they were left out again, but reeled off a streak that lasted until 2018. That game did kickoff, but with about 5 minutes left in the first quarter a thunderstorm moved in and didn’t move much afterward, and the game was called after a two hour delay. In 2020 Boise went 5-2, but, well, you know. And in 2021 they were set to play in the Arizona Bowl, but a COVID outbreak on the team led to the game getting scrapped. So because of all of that, Boise’s bowl streak is now at… two. They beat North Texas 35-32 in last season’s Frisco Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Flemming, Brock Osweiler, and Kayla Burton

9:15: Texas Tech vs. California (Independence Bowl @ Shreveport, LA; ESPN): “Shreveport After Dark” sounds like something from a campy slasher film, but that’s we’ve got here: two teams no one has any idea what to do with. This game will be somewhere between “unwatchable” and “team driving with less than a minute left down 62-60”. Well, maybe not so much the latter (I’m not sure Cal can score 60 even if there’s not a defense on the field) but that’s the gist of how I feel about this one. I’ll probably go with the Red Raiders but this one is a total coin flip.
SP+ line: TTU -2.6
Vegas line: TTU -2.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Just one: a 45-31 Texas Tech win in the 2004 Holiday Bowl.
Last bowl game: This is the third straight bowl game for the Red Raiders, who beat Miss State 34-7 in the 2021 Liberty Bowl and Ole Miss 45-24 last season in the Texas Bowl. Unfortunately for them, this year their opponent is Cal. Speaking of the Bears, this is their first bowl game since the now-defunct semi-hometown Redbox Bowl, where they beat Illinois 35-20.
Announcers: Kevin Connors, Rocky Boiman, and Marilyn Payne