I’m not going to beat around the bush, faff about, engage in small talk, or anything else. There are no Windows of Opportunity. You know what time it is. It’s Bowl Season, and here’s the rest of what you should watch!
Georgia Southern vs Buffalo
The exciting question here: Can Buffalo stop the Eagles’ air attack? Georgia State quarterback Kyle Vantrease commands the fourth-best passing unit in the game, and head coach Clay Helton has exhibited a steady hand all year. The Bulls have a decidedly mid defense, but their secondary’s the best thing about it. We’ll see.
Guaranteed Rate Bowl
Wisconsin vs Oklahoma State
The problem with previewing this game is that both starting QBs and a host of top-tier talent for both teams are headed for the transfer portal. That’s a huge handicap for the Cowboys, who largely constructed victories on quarterback Spencer Sanders’ arm all year. It’s not as lethal for the Badgers, who still boast a terrifying and battle-tested defense.
UCF vs Duke
This one’s a question mark. UCF has a few notable folks transferring out on defense, as well as its top wide receiver Ryan O’Keefe. The Knights have a top-10 running attack led by running back Isaiah Bowser that should be tested by a stiff Blue Devil front. And quarterback Riley Leonard is looking more comfy under center for Duke.
Kansas vs Arkansas
The Hogs have a ton of talent in the receiving corps and on defense sitting out or transferring. That gives the Jayhawks an in, and their rushing attack should play well against Arkansas’ complete lack of a defensive front. But let’s also note Kansas’s complete lack of defensive gumption. Points should be in order.
Texas Tech vs Ole Miss
This one could be a secret banger. Most of the opt-outs, injured, or transferring folks on both sides are reserves, so we can probably evaluate these squads based on their regular season showing. Both have solid offenses. The Red Raiders are better passers, and the Rebs are better runners. Neither team has an astounding defense, but Ole Miss has a slight edge in the secondary so it might get a few more stops.
Texas vs Washington
The Alamo Bowl always gets wacky. And this year looks like it will live up to that billing. Two ranked teams, but here’s the difference: Bijan Robinson, Roschon Johnson and DeMarvion Overshown are opting out for hte Horns. They might be hamstrung, or the next guys up could handle themselves and quarterback Quinn Ewers might destroy Washington’s terrible secondary. The Huskies might keep up, though. There’s no one sitting out, and quarterback Michael Penix Jr. commands the single most prolific passing offense in America.
Duke’s Mayo Bowl
Maryland vs NC State
Both teams are depleted by the opt-out/transfer plague that’s making it really hard to write these previews. But enough of my venting! The winner of this one gets a giant thing of mayo to dump on its coach! Who will it be? Can quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa command the Terps to victory against the formidable Wolfpack defense with a depleted passing attack? That’s the big question, and I can’t wait to see (and then stick around postgame for the inevitable glorious mayo dumping).
Notre Dame vs South Carolina
After Drew Pyne bolted for Arizona State, Tyler Buchner is the likely starter at quarterback for the Irish. Hello, old friend! Perhaps more notably, the Irish will also be without tight end Michael Mayer and defensive lineman Isaiah Foskey. But if you think South Bend’s own have a disadvantage, South Carolina seems to be down everyone but quarterback Spencer Rattler. This one should be fun, not because of what these teams have done, but as a preview of the future. Which program can weather adversity better?
Tennessee vs Clemson
The Vols have played an outstanding season. It isn’t their fault that all-everything quarterback Hendon Hooker’s out injured, or that backup Joe Milton is an inaccurate passer with a tendency to make… odd decisions with the football. Or that BOTH Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman, two playmaking wideouts, have opted out. But it will hamstring their ability to reproduce the offensive success they showed off this season. Meanwhile, the Tigers’ starting quarterback, DJ Uiagalelei, bolted for Oregon State, meaning that the “Klub Level” is officially open for business and the Cade Klubnik era will officially start in in the bowl game.
Alabama vs Kansas State
Alabama’s about the only program in the game that would be disappointed with just a New Year’s Six bowl berth. Despite two missteps, the Tide are still dominant, and although some folks are transferring, no one’s opting out…including quarterback and 2021 Heisman winner Bryce Young. So that’s terrifying if you’re a Wildcat, but K-State can still run the ball insanely well, and they tend to hold opposing teams down well on defense.
Fiesta Bowl (CFP Semifinal)
TCU vs Michigan
TCU would love to wash the disgusting taste of its Big 12 conference title loss out of its mouth. The Frogs’ offense is lethal and balanced. They’ve got clear weaknesses on defense, but Michigan’s running game is down Blake Corum. Can TCU find a way to make JJ McCarthy show his youth? The Horned Frogs will have a chance…if quarterback Max Duggan and the offense can have success against one of the best overall defenses in the country.
Peach Bowl (CFP Semifinal)
Ohio State vs Georgia
I don’t have any idea who wins this game, and if you think it’s definitely Georgia, I have bad news for you. Statistically speaking, ignoring who’s out, Ohio State probably has a better offense (by a hair) than the Bulldogs.
The Buckeye defense limits opposing teams’ scoring chances better than almost anyone. Georgia, meanwhile, does everything well except defend the pass. I’d expect a really close and fun one.
Mississippi State vs Illinois
The Bulldogs are playing on after the horrible loss of head coach Mike Leach. They’re down a few running backs, but that should be fine. Their strength is the pass, and a defense that does a solid job of keeping them in games. The Illini, meanwhile, have a rash of opt-outs and transfers. They need to hope their defense can be the world-beater it was during the regular season and hold down air raid quarterback Will Rogers.
Tulane vs USC
The New Year’s Six game with a Group of Five team is always fodder for an upset. The Green Wave are feisty, and the starting offense is back in full. They get most of their yards rushing, but they do have an issue with depth in the backfield. What makes them stand out is a solid defense that’s particularly good at pass defense, something Heisman-winning quarterback Caleb Williams should take note of for the Trojans. USC lacks serious defense, and tries to outrace its opponents instead. That didn’t work out well for them in the Pac-12 championship, but perhaps it’ll be different in Jerry World.
Penn State vs Utah
The Nittany Lions are on a hot streak heading into this one, commanded by a sixth year quarterback in Sean Clifford, but they’re down some excellent starters thanks to opt-outs. They can’t afford too much of a step back, though, because Pac-12 champ Utah’s bringing in a fully loaded roster that does almost everything well. The Utes struggle occasionally at passing and in the secondary, so that may be where Penn State has an opening.
CFP National Championship
TCU/Michigan vs Ohio State/Georgia
It’s been a wonderful year, hasn’t it? This season’s rounded out in a way few expected, and I’ve had fun. I hope you have too. Take this one last chance to appreciate the top tier of this amazing sport vying for the ultimate prize. Celebrate, laugh, cry, enjoy. I don’t know who will win, and really, isn’t that the best thing?