Bowl Games 2023: Get Out the Nog

I got off to a pretty good start in bowl season, but things very much hit the skids last Saturday. You can see how I’m doing here. With that, let’s dive right into the next batch.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Tuesday, December 26

2:00: Minnesota vs. Bowling Green (Quick Lane Bowl @ Detroit, MI; ESPN): This one is tough for me to predict. I don’t think either of these teams is good exactly, though it’s at least somewhat gratifying that the MAC team we lost to this year is in a bowl game. Somehow I don’t think they’re going to be able to pull the “beating a P5 twice” trick.
SP+ line: Gophers -4.7
Vegas line: Gophers -3.5
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: In 1986, the Gophers won 31-7. Their most recent meeting went the other way, with the Falcons pipping the Gophers 14-10. Overall, the series is even at 2-2.
Last bowl game: This will be the Gopher’s third bowl in a row. In 2021, they beat WVU 18-6 into the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, and last season they beat Syracuse 28-20 in the Pinstripe Bowl. Last season, Bowling Green lost 24-19 to New Mexico State in this very game.
Announcers: Connor Onion, Dustin Fox, and Tori Petry

5:30: Texas State vs. Rice (First Responder Bowl @ Dallas, TX; ESPN): First off, shout out to the Bobcats for making the first bowl game in school history. Not only that, they’ve got a matchup they can be pretty competitive in, to the point where I think they’ll also get the first bowl win in school history.
SP+ line: TSU -4.2
Vegas line: TSU -4
Watchability tier: I
Previous meetings: This is the first FBS meeting between these two teams, though the overall series is 2-2.
Last bowl game: This is the first ever FBS bowl game for the Bobcats. The Owls lost 38-24 to Southern Miss in the Lending Tree Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Neal, Aaron Murray, and Morgan Uber

9:00: Nevada-Las Vegas vs. Kansas (Guaranteed Rate Bowl @ Phoenix, AZ; ESPN): This game could go a couple of ways. Kansas could just come out and whip a demoralized UNLV squad that lost to the most mid Boise State team in years in their last game. Or UNLV will remember that they got here by running a fun offense, and this thing is just a wide open shootout that keeps those of us on the East Coast up too late. While I have the former scenario as my official prediction, I’m secretly hoping for the latter.
SP+ line: KU -7.3
Vegas line: KU -12.5
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Just two. UNLV won the first in 2002 31-20, and Kansas won 46-24 in 2003.
Last bowl game: This is the first bowl game for UNLV since a 36-14 loss to North Texas in the 2013-14 Heart of Dallas Bowl. The Jayhawks lost last season’s absolute banger of a Liberty Bowl 55-53 to Arkansas.
Announcers: Beth Mowins, Kirk Morrison, and Stormy Buonantony

Wednesday, December 27

2:00: Virginia Tech vs. Tulane (Military Bowl @ Annapolis, MD; ESPN): It was a year that exceeded all expectations in Blacksburg, with the Hokies getting back to a bowl. The Green Wave had a chance to repeat last season’s rousing success, but it turns out they just weren’t as good as the team that won the Sugar Bowl last season. Regardless, I think they will be able to hang with the Hokies, and more than that, win. This could be a fun one.
SP+ line: VPI -0.6
Vegas line: VPI -7.5
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Nine overall, but it’s been a while. The first was a 21-14 Tulane victory in 1956, and the last was a 30-13 Hokies win in 1989. The Hokies hold a 5-4 lead in the series.
Last bowl game: The Green Wave beat USC in last season’s Cotton Bowl 46-45. Virginia Tech’s last postseason appearance was the 2021 Pinstripe Bowl, where they lost 54-10 to Maryland.
Announcers: Jay Alter, Rene Ingoglia, and Alex Chappell

5:30: North Carolina vs. West Virginia (Mayo Bowl @ Charlotte, NC; ESPN): The mayonnaise dunk after the game generally draws a decidedly mixed reaction, though at least no one will probably get as done bad as Shane Beamer a few years ago (when the cooler containing the mayo bonked him on the head). Either way, you’ve got a UNC team that once again failed to meet expectations versus a WVU team that absolutely smashed them. And that’s definitely reflected in the lines below, with the computer still favoring UNC and the folks in the desert favoring the ‘Neers. Well, as for myself, I think Carolina still just has too much talent.
SP+ line: Heels -4.8
Vegas line: Neers -5.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Only twice, and both in bowl games. Carolina won 20-13 in the 1996-97 Gator Bowl, and the ‘Neers got their revenge with a 31-30 win in the 2008 Car Care Bowl.
Last bowl game: This is UNC’s fifth straight bowl game, dating to a 55-13 win over Temple in the 2019 Military Bowl. Last season they lost 28-27 to Oregon in the Holiday Bowl. WVU last made a bowl in 2021, where they lost 18-6 to Minnesota in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.
Announcers: Matt Barrie, Dan Mullen, and Harry Lyles Jr.

8:00: Louisville vs. Southern California (Holiday Bowl @ San Diego, CA; FOX): Picking bowl games is sometimes an an entirely vibes-based enterprise, as the kids might say. And no game personifies that more than this one. I cannot imagine USC having any motivation in this one. And their defense has been awful enough all season to allow even the Cardinals reduced offense to move the ball. This could get bad.
SP+ line: Cards -2.9
Vegas line: Cards -7.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This is the Cardinals’s third straight bowl appearance, dating to the 2021 First Responder Bowl, where they lost 31-28 to Air Force. Last season they beat Cincinnati 24-7 in the Fenway Bowl. USC lost last seasons Cotton Bowl to Tulane, 46-45.
Announcers: Gus Johnson, Joel Klatt, and Jenny Taft

9:00: Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M (Texas Bowl @ Houston, TX; ESPN): I had no idea how to read this one: in the games the Aggies did play after firing Jimbo the offense did seem to work better, and the Pokes being frauds more-or-less got exposed in their last three games. That said, I didn’t really trust SP+ on this one and only picked TAMU by three. Hopefully, this confusion will result in an interesting game.
SP+ line: Aggies -9.5
Vegas line: Aggies -3
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: 28 overall, bolstered by their mutual time in the Big 12. The first though was a 3-0 Cowboys win in 1913. The last was a 24-21 Aggies win in the 2019 Texas Bowl. In between, the Aggies have compiled a 18-10 record.
Last bowl game: The Pokes have one of the longest bowl streaks in the country, with 18 straight bowl season appearances. The streak started with the 2006 Independence Bowl, where Oklahoma State won 34-31 over Alabama. Last season they lost 24-17 to Wisconsin in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. TAMU was supposed to play in the Gator Bowl in 2021, but they didn’t, so their last postseason appearance a 41-27 win over UNC in the 2020-21 Orange Bowl.
Announcers: Roy Philpott, Roddy Jones, and Taylor McGregor

Thursday, December 28

11:00: Boston College vs. Southern Methodist (Fenway Bowl @ Boston, MA; ESPN): SMU figures to pick up their first ACC conference win a little early in this one.
SP+ line: Ponies -15.4
Vegas line: Pones -10.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Just one: a 31-29 SMU win in 1986.
Last bowl game: BC hasn’t made a bowl since a 38-6 loss to Cincinnati in the 2019-20 Birmingham Bowl. SMU made a bowl game in 2019, losing to FAU 52-28 in the Boca Raton Bowl. They opted out in 2020 and their 2021 appearance in the Fenway Bowl was canceled, so they were last seen in December losing 24-23 to BYU in last season’s New Mexico Bowl.
Announcers: Chris Cotter, Mark Herzlich, and Sherree Burruss

2:15: Miami vs. Rutgers (Pinstripe Bowl @ New York, NY; ESPN): If having another game in the northeast makes you hope for a good game, well, it might be raining during the Fenway Bowl, but it seems like it might just be cold for this one. Alas. Either way, Miami should win this one, but that’s never stopped them before.
SP+ line: Canes -9.4
Vegas line: Canes -1.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This is a Big East-tastic matchup. As one might guess, the Canes have a pretty good record in this series, and in fact, it’s a perfect 11-0. The first was a 31-17 Miami win in 1993, and the last was a 34-10 Canes win in 2003.
Last bowl game: For the Canes, their last bowl game was a 37-34 loss to Oklahoma State in the 2020 Cheez-It Bowl. For The State University of New Jersey, their last bowl game was 38-10 loss to Wake Forest in the 2021 Gator Bowl.
Announcers: Drew Carter, Rod Gilmore, and Taylor Davis

5:45: North Carolina State vs. Kansas State (Pop Tarts Bowl @ Orlando, FL; ESPN): This has the potential to just be one of the most solid games of bowl season. There’s no narratives here. Just two teams that had good seasons and they’re going to go play a football game in Florida (that will feature a supposedly edible mascot, to boot). Ultimately I think K-State’s brand of smash mouth football will see them through, but this could be fun along the way.
SP+ line: K-State -6
Vegas line: K-State -3
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these teams.
Last bowl game: This should be NCSU’s fourth bowl in a row, but their 2021 Holiday Bowl was canceled. Thus, their current streak is two. They lost last season’s Mayo Bowl to Maryland, 16-12. This is K-State’s third bowl game in a row, dating to a 42-20 win over LSU in the 2021-22 Texas Bowl. Last season they lost 45-20 to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
Announcers: Anish Shroff, Andre Ware, and Paul Carcaterra

9:15: Oklahoma vs. Arizona (Alamo Bowl @ San Antonio, TX; ESPN): I like the Sooners here, but that’s not say this isn’t going to be interesting. There’s a ton of ways this could go. Hopefully, the possibilities remain in the middle of keeping it interesting. I have the Sooners as a slight favorite, but as stated I won’t be surprised by anything that happens in the Alamodome.
SP+ line: Sooners -4.3
Vegas line: Wildcats -3
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: Just two: a regular season home-and-home in 1988 and 1989. The Sooners won the first one 28-10, but lost the second 6-3.
Last bowl game: The Sooners are owners of the second longest active bowl streak, at 25 in a row. The streak started with a 27-25 loss to Ole Miss in the 1999 Independence Bowl. Last season, they lost 35-32 to Florida State in the Cheez-It Bowl. For Zona, this is their first bowl game since a 38-35 loss to Purdue in the 2017 Foster Farms Bowl.
Announcers: Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers, and Cole Cubelic

Friday, December 29

12:00: Clemson vs. Kentucky (Gator Bowl @ Jacksonville, FL; ESPN): Let’s roll right into Friday, mostly because that gives me more time to write up the New Year’s Six bowl games. At any rate, this was a weird year for both teams. Clemson though comes in as the team that got better as the year went on, while Kentucky slid… and then beat Louisville out of nowhere on Rivalry Saturday. I slightly like the Tigers here.
SP+ line: Tigers -1.7
Vegas line: Tigers -4.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: Thirteen previous meetings, with the last three in bowl games. The first, however, was a 19-6 Kentucky win in 1925. The most recent was a 21-13 Clemson win in the 2009 Music City Bowl. The Wildcats have an 8-5 overall lead in the series.
Last bowl game: This will be Clemson’s 19th bowl game in a row, dating to the 2005 Champs Sports Bowl, a 19-10 win over Colorado. As I’ve probably noted often, they could have a 25 game streak dating to the 1999 Peach Bowl, but they didn’t make a game after going 6-5 in 2004. Last season, they lost 31-14 to Tennessee in the Orange Bowl. Kentucky has an eight game streak dating to their 33-18 loss to Georgia Tech in the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl. Lats season they were blanked 21-0 by Iowa in the Music City Bowl.
Announcers: Wes Durham, Tim Hasselbeck, and Taylor Tannebaum

2:00: Notre Dame vs. Oregon State (Sun Bowl @ El Paso, TX; CBS): Y’all this could be fun. For starters, the Sun Bowl is just such a weird and unique game anyway. Next, “fun” isn’t often a word associated with one of the most staid brands in the sport, but this Notre Dame team can move the ball and will probably let the Beavers hang around. Which is also good, because Oregon State has been fun to watch all season and while the future is full of uncertainty, this should be a rewarding game for them to cap off a good season.
SP+ line: Domers -4.4
Vegas line: Domers -6.5
Watchability tier: IV
Previous meetings: Two, and just in bowl games. The Beavers won 41-9 in the 2000-01 Fiesta Bowl, and also won the follow-on game 38-21 in the 2004 Insight Bowl.
Last bowl game: This is the seventh bowl game in a row for Notre Dame, dating to a 21-17 win over LSU in the 2017-18 Citrus Bowl. Last season they beat South Carolina 45-38 in the Gator Bowl. For the Beavers, this is their third in a row, with a 24-13 loss to Utah State in the 2021 LA Bowl and a 30-3 win over Florida in last season’s Las Vegas Bowl.
Announcers: Brad Nessler, Gary Danielson, and Jenny Dell

3:30: Iowa State vs. Memphis (Liberty Bowl @ Memphis, TN; ESPN): If not for West Virginia, Iowa State would be the team we’d be talking about as saving a coach’s job this season. Memphis is a pretty good team and this will effectively be a home game for them, but I just like Iowa State here.
SP+ line: Clones -5.8
Vegas line: Clones -8.5
Watchability tier: II
Previous meetings: This game might seem kind of familiar, as the Cyclones beat the Tigers 21-10 in the 2017… Liberty Bowl.
Last bowl game: The ‘Clones last made a bowl in 2021, where they lost 20-13 to Clemson in the Cheez-It Bowl. For Memphis, this is their tenth straight bowl bid, dating to a 55-48 win over BYU in the greatest Miami Beach Bowl ever in 2014. However, I should note their appearance in the 2021 Hawaii Bowl was canceled. Last season they beat Utah State 38-10 in the First Responder Bowl.
Announcers: John Schriffen, Rocky Boiman, and Dawn Davenport

8:00: Missouri vs. Ohio State (Cotton Bowl @ Arlington, TX; ESPN): And finally, a New Year’s Six game. Which sort of means we’re almost done with bowl season y’all. With no bowl games on Sundays, there’s only really two more days after this. At any rate, one of the biggest storylines of the postseason so far has to be that the guy who started every game for Ohio State at quarterback this season, Kyle McCord, is transferring to Syracuse. What isn’t obvious to, well, anyone is who exactly do the Buckeyes have lined up behind him that pushed him out? While transfers will probably be here to stay, I don’t expect many “twelve game starter for the Ohio State freakin’ Buckeys” transfers to be part of the new normal. Either way, the game. Despite the many opt-outs for the Buckeyes, they just simply have depth that all but the top 3-5 teams in the sport lack. They demonstrated that in a similar situation against Utah in the Rose Bowl a few years ago, where a freshman Marvin Harrison, Jr. had his coming out party. It figures history will repeat itself in Jerryworld.
SP+ line: Buckeyes -8.9
Vegas line: Tigers -2.5
Watchability tier: III
Previous meetings: Twelve! And as one might expect, it hasn’t been so good for the Tigers. The Buckeyes won the first matchup 19-0 in 1939 and kept it rolling through the 40’s, though Mizzou did get a 13-13 tie in 1946. Mizzoui’s only win was a 22-21 win in Columbus in 1976. Their most recent game was a 35-14 Ohio State win 1998, giving the Buckeyes and overall 10-1-1 record.
Last bowl game: This is Mizzou’s third bowl in a row. In 2021 they lost 24-22 to Army in the Armed Forces Bowl, and last season they lost 27-17 to Wake Forest in the Gasparilla Bowl. For the Buckeyes, this is their eleventh bowl game in a row, dating to a 40-35 loss to Clemson in the 2013-14 Orange Bowl. Last season, they went wide right and lost 42-41 to Georgia in the Peach Bowl.
Announcers: Dave Pasch, Dusty Dvoracek, and Tom Luginbill