Bowl Games 2023: Simply Having A Wonderful Christmastime

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Monday, December 18

2:30: Western Kentucky vs. Old Dominion (Bahamas Bowl @ Charlotte, NC; ESPN): So this bowl actually has a different name, since it’s not taking place in the Bahamas. That said, it’s much funnier this way, so I’m sticking with it. This could be an interesting game, but that said I’m hoping my flight has satellite TV so I can watch it. I like the Hilltoppers here.
SP+ line: WKU -8.7
Vegas line: ODU -2.5
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: These teams have met seven times as members of Conference USA. The first was during the second year of the Monarchs’ FBS transition in 2014, where the Hilltoppers won 66-51. The last was in 2021, a 43-20 WKU win. WKU leads the overall series 6-1.
Last bowl game: For the Hilltoppers, this is their fifth straight bowl game, dating to the 2019 First Responder Bowl, where they beat Western Michigan 23-20. Last season they beat South Alabama 44-23 in the New Orleans Bowl. For the Monarchs, this is their third ever bowl game. Their last postseason appearance was a 30-17 loss to Tulsa in the 2021 Myrtle Beach Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Neal, Tom Luginbill, and Abby Labar

Tuesday, December 19

9:00: Texas-San Antonio vs. Marshall (Frisco Bowl @ Frisco, TX; ESPN): This figures to more or less be a rout for the Road Runners, but it still may be worth keeping an eye on.
SP+ line: UTSA -12.4
Vegas line: UTSA -10
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: The Herd won the first meeting in 2013 34-10, and the last 23-0 in 2018. The Roadrunners got one in between, a 9-7 win in 2017.
Last bowl game: With this game, the Road Runners will have four consecutive postseason appearances, dating to the 2020 First Responder Bowl, where they lost 34-31 to Louisiana. Last season they lost 18-12 to Troy in the Cure Bowl. The Herd are pretty proficient at making bowl games. This will be their seventh appearance in a row, dating to the 2017 New Mexico Bowl, where they beat Colorado State 31-28.
Announcers: Jorge Sedano, Rocky Boiman, and Dawn Davenport

Thursday, December 21

8:00: Syracuse vs. South Florida (Boca Raton Bowl @ Boca Raton, FL; ESPN): Again, this figures to be a scenario where the ‘Cuse can cruise, but also they did fire their coach and this USF side is feisty. I like the Orange, but again, this may be worth keeping an eye on.
SP+ line: Cuse -8.5
Vegas line: Cuse -3
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: These teams have met ten times, and you likely wouldn’t guess the overall record. The first meeting was in 2005, a 27-0 USF win, and the most recent was in 2016, a 45-20 USF win. Suffice it to say, the Bulls are 8-2 overall.
Last bowl game: The Orange appeared in last season’s Pinstripe Bowl, losing 28-20 to Minnesota. For the Bulls, it’s been a minute. They were least seen in the postseason losing 38-20 to Marshall in the 2018 Gasparilla Bowl.
Announcers: Matt Barrie, Dan Mullen, and Harry Lyles Jr.

Friday, December 22

6:30: Georgia Tech vs. Central Florida (Gasparilla Bowl @ Tampa, FL; ESPN): It doesn’t seem like I’ll be able to make it to Tampa for this one. That said, I think this will be an interesting game for neutrals. Overall, I’m just thrilled to be playing again in December, and while the bowl page shows a pick for this game, it’s been a while since I had to point out that mostly I don’t pick Tech games.
SP+ line: UCF -5.8
Vegas line: UCF -4.5
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: The Jackets have a 3-2 overall lead on the Knights. They won the first meeting in 1996 27-20, but lost last season 27-10.
Last bowl game: We haven’t appeared in a bowl game since Paul Johnson’s last season (which says a lot about why the last guy got canned), where we lost 34-10 to Minnesota in the Quick Lane Bowl. This will be UCF’s eighth straight bowl game, dating to the 2016 Cure Bowl, a 31-13 loss to Arkansas State. Last season they lost 30-13 to Duke in the Military Bowl.
Announcers: Wes Durham, Tim Hasselbeck, and Taylor Tannebaum

Saturday, December 23


  • Northern Illinois vs. Arkansas State (Camellia Bowl @ Montgomery, AL; ESPN): I honestly can’t think of anything to say about this game other than hoping that NIU’s mascot will get some time on the screen.
    SP+ line: NIU -0.8
    Vegas line: ArkySt -1
    Watchability tier: I
    Previous meetings: The first was a 35-0 NIU victory in 1990, the most recent was a 38-20 NIU win in the 2011-12 Bowl. The Huskies lead the overall series 7-1.
    Last bowl game: NIU’s last bowl game was the 2021 Cure Bowl, a 47-41 loss to Coastal Carolina. Arkansas State is also ending a drought, as they last tasted the postseason in the 2019 Camellia Bowl, a 34-26 win over FIU.
    Announcers: Courtney Lyle, Hutson Mason, and Ashley Stroehlein
  • Duke vs. Troy (Birmingham Bowl @ Birmingham, AL; ABC): It definitely seems like Mike Elko got out at the right time, because while achieving any consistent football success at Duke is worthy of praise, they definitely seem to be on the decline. I think a loss to Troy will cemete that.
    SP+ line: Troy -0.9
    Vegas line: Troy -7.5
    Watchability tier: II
    Previous meetings: Just two, a home-and-home from 2013 and 2014. Duke won both times, 38-31 and 34-17, respectively.
    Last bowl game: Duke beat UCF in last season’s Military Bowl, 30-13. Troy beat UTSA 18-12 in last season’s Cure Bowl.
    Announcers: Tom Hart, Cole Cubelic, and Taylor Davis


  • Air Force vs. James Madison (Armed Forces Bowl @ Fort Worth, TX; ABC): It’s still baffling what happened to Air Force, and this could well be a game where JMU goes up big early and just cruises the rest of the way.
    SP+ line: Dukes -8.1
    Vegas line: Dukes -3
    Watchability tier: II
    Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
    Last bowl game: The Falcons have a three game streak going, dating to the 2021 First Responder Bowl, a 31-28 win over Louisville. They beat Baylor 30-15 in last season’s edition of this game. And for JMU, this is their first ever bowl game.
    Announcers: Anish Shroff, Andre Ware, and Paul Carcaterra
  • Utah State vs. Georgia State (Potato Bowl @ Boise, ID; ESPN): On the blue turf, we’ve got a couple of teams meeting for the first time. That said, the Aggies seem to be a better team on paper and by the eye test, and I like them here.
    SP+ line: Aggies -0.8
    Vegas line: Aggies -1
    Watchability tier: I
    Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
    Last bowl game: The Aggies have made three straight bowl games, dating to the 2021 LA Bowl, a 24-13 win over Oregon State. Last season they lost 38-10 to Memphis in the First Responder Bowl. For the Panters, they missed a bowl last year, so their last appearance was a 51-20 romp over Ball State in the 2021 Camellia Bowl.
    Announcers: Chris Cotter, Mark Herzlich, and Morgan Uber

7:00: Eastern Michigan vs. South Alabama (68 Ventures Bowl @ Mobile, AL; ESPN): It’s hard to have much analysis of this game other than “it’s amazing that EMU is here, and that USA will probably pave them over”.
SP+ line: USA -12.6
Vegas line: USA -16
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: EMU has now made three straight bowl games, which considering EMU’s history is amazing and tends to make one wonder why Chris Creighton hasn’t gotten the call to a better job yet. At any rate, the 2021 game was a 56-20 loss to Liberty in the Lendingtree Bowl, and last season they beat San Jose State 41-27 in the Potato Bowl. South Al meanwhile lost 44-23 to Western Kentucky in last year’s New Orleans Bowl.
Announcers: Taylor Zarzour, Matt Stinchcomb, Alyssa Lang

7:30: Utah vs. Northwestern (Las Vegas Bowl @ Paradise, NV; ABC): The Utes draw a Big Ten team once again, and once again they’re favored even despite any evidence they can actually score points. Tune into this one if you like defensive football, because while I think the Utes will win, them scoring a bunch seems unlikely.
SP+ line: Utah -9.8
Vegas line: Utah -7
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Three very spread out meetings. The first was a 13-6 Northwestern win in 1927. 54 years later, Utah won 42-0. Finally, they met in the 2018 Holiday Bowl, where the Cats won 31-20.
Last bowl game: The Utes should probably have 9 bowl games in a row, but they didn’t go bowling in 2020 for hopefully obvious reasons. That said, I still think it’s fair to count their streak going back to the 2014 Royal Purple Bowl, where they beat Colorado State 45-10. Last season they lost 35-21 to Penn State in the Rose Bowl. Unlike the Utes, Northwestern’s last bowl appearance was in the 2020-21 season, where they beat Auburn 35-19 in the Citrus Bowl.
Announcers: Sean McDonough, Greg McElroy, and Stormy Buonantony

10:30: San Jose State vs. Coastal Carolina (Hawaii Bowl @ Honolulu, HI; ESPN): Unfortunately, this isn’t a Christmas Eve Hawaii Bowl because the 24th is a Sunday. That said, take some time to appreciate your family (though I understand if you can’t) and maybe also that the weather in Hawaii is almost certainly better than where-ever you’re reading this from. Happy Holidays y’all. Also, I like the Silicon Valley Spartans here.
SP+ line: SJSU -1
Vegas line: SJSU -10
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: The Spartans lost last year’s Potato Bowl 41-27. This will be the fourth straight bowl game for the Beach Chickens, dating to the 2020 Cure Bowl where they lost 37-34 to Liberty. Last season they lsot the Birmingham Bowl 53-29 to East Carolina.
Announcers: John Schriffen, Orlando Franklin, and Marilyn Payne