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Bowl Extravaganza: Projecting every bowl game, from Fenway to the Superdome

82 teams, 41 games; let’s go bowling


With Conference championship weekend wrapping up, the playoff is shaping up to have its most unique foursome since its inception in 2014. Tennessee will get its first taste at a New Year’s Six bowl while Tulane and Kansas State are poised to do the same. As for the rest of the field of 82, the plethora of great matchups are endless. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, so let’s dive in, shall we?

Special thanks to @statsowar for the EPA figures you’ll see throughout the article.

*Disclaimer: I had the graphics all ready and done prior to New Mexico State being granted bowl eligibility. Congrats to the Aggies! Now, should Buffalo defeat Akron, that leaves one APR slot left rather than two. Rice would get that spot, and Auburn would be left out.*

New Year’s Six (non-CFP)

Orange Bowl - Dec. 30 | Hard Rock Stadium | Miami, FL

Team Stats
Clemson (10-2): 1st in ACC Atlantic
— 34.3 P/G, 0.039 off. EPA/play (56), 20.9 PA/G, -0.137 def. EPA/play (12)
Ohio State (11-1): 2nd in B1G East
— 44.5 P/G, 0.241 off. EPA/play (4), 19.2 PA/G, -0.134 def. EPA/play (11)
Top Players
Clemson: Myles Murphy: 37 tackles, 11.0 TFL, 6.5 sacks
Ohio State: CJ Stroud: 3340 pass yds (66.2%), 37 TD, 6 INT, 10.7 AY/A

Fun Meter: 6/10: A battle between two stalwarts of New Year’s Six bowls and the CFP, this matchup would only happen if the whispers about Ryan Day and the Buckeyes not wanting to accept another Rose Bowl invite are true. Just for now, we’re going to buy into these very real rumors, although, Tennessee getting a crack at Clemson here would be at least a bit more intriguing, especially when you consider the star players who are likely not going to play.
My Pick: Ohio State

Sugar Bowl - Dec. 31 | Caesars Superdome | New Orleans, LA

Team Stats
Kansas State (9-3): 2nd in Big 12
— 33.4 P/G, 0.078 off. EPA/play (43), 19.4 PA/G, -0.034 def. EPA/play (40)
Alabama (10-2): 2nd in SEC West
— 40.8 P/G, 0.128 off. EPA/play (20), 18.0 PA/G, -0.086 def. EPA/play (20)
Top Players
Kansas State: Deuce Vaughn: 285 touches, 1643 scrimmage yds, 10 tot. TD, 5.3 YPC
Alabama: Bryce Young: 3007 pass yds (64.1%), 31 tot. TD, 5 INT, 9.3 AY/A

Fun Meter: 7/10: Alabama, like Clemson, is having an off year by their standards, but here they still are playing in a New Year’s Six game. As for Kansas State, no one saw them here. Finally out from behind the Oklahoma shadow, the Big 12 became the most competitive conference amongst the Power-Five, and Kansas State emerged from the pack. This will be a heavy point spread against the Wildcats, but these Big 12 teams have proven they can fight.
My Pick: Alabama

Cotton Bowl - Jan. 2 | AT&T Stadium | Arlington, TX

Team Stats
Tulane (10-2): 2nd in AAC
— 34.4 P/G, 0.079 off. EPA/play (42), 19.8 PA/G, 0.01 def. EPA/play (54)
Tennessee (10-2): 2nd in SEC East
47.3 P/G, 0.195 off. EPA/play (8), 23.5 PA/G, 0.041 def. EPA/play (75)
Top Players
Tulane: Tyjae Spears: 210 touches, 1417 scrimmage yds, 16 tot. TD, 6.2 YPC
Tennessee: Jalin Hyatt: 67 receptions, 1267 yards, 15 TD, 18.6 YPR

Fun Meter: 7/10: The Vols will land at either the Orange or the Cotton Bowl, and it will make for an excellent showcase opportunity for Joe Milton. With Hendon Hooker out, Milton will get a chance to go bombs away against a decent Tulane defense that hasn’t faced anything quite like this Vols offense. As for the Green Wave, this is a monumental moment for this program. Should they vanquish their lone conference loss in the championship game, they’ll have a real shot to topple a Power-Five giant here.
My Pick: Tennessee

Rose Bowl - Jan. 2 | Rose Bowl | Pasadena, CA
Conference tie-ins: Big 10, PAC-12

Team Stats
Washington (10-2): 3rd in PAC-12
— 40.8 P/G, 0.299 off. EPA/play (2), 26.3 PA/G, 0.154 def. EPA/play (117)
Penn State (10-2): 3rd in B1G East
— 35.8 P/G, 0.047 off. EPA/play (54), 18.0 PA/G, -0.157 def. EPA/play (7)
Top Players
Washington: Michael Penix Jr.: 4354 pass yds (66.0%), 33 tot. TD, 7 INT, 9.2 AY/A
Penn State: Kalen King: 27 tackles, 2 INT, 9 PBU

Fun Meter: 7/10: Should USC continue on their tremendous run and win the PAC-12 Championship, that leaves them in the Playoff and the next highest ranked PAC-12 team, Washington, in the Rose Bowl. No one saw Washington here at all in the preseason, let alone just a couple weeks ago, but with a great win at Oregon behind tremendous play from former Indiana QB, Michael Penix, Washington and their high powered offense find themselves in their best case scenario for their season: in the Rose Bowl.

As for Penn State...the Nittany Lions are a very underrated team with an elite defense that has quietly flown under the radar all season because, despite putting together a 10-win season, their only losses have been to Ohio State and Michigan, which led to them being put on the back burner for NY6 consideration and largely any discussion point for the best teams in college football. However, with Ohio State allegedly bucking tradition, that slots Penn State into the most prestigious non-CFP game the Big Ten can get.

Penn State has a very controversial history with Penix. In 2020 when Penix was at Indiana, he beat Penn State 36-35 on an overtime 2-point dive at the pylon in one of the closest calls ever. They ruled he broke the plane, and Penn State fans still seethe over it to this day. This could be fun.
My Pick: Penn State

The Rest

Bahamas Bowl - Dec. 16 | Thomas Robinson Stadium | Nassau, Bahamas
Conference tie-ins: Conference-USA, MAC

The asterisks mark that this one has been officially announced already.

Team Stats
UAB (6-6): 3rd in C-USA West
— 30.6 P/G, 0.171 off. EPA/play (11), 23.4 PA/G, 0.044 def. EPA/play (79)
Miami (OH) (6-6): 4th in MAC East
— 20.2 P/G, -0.127 off. EPA/play (119), 22.5 PA/G, 0.052 def. EPA/play (85)
Top Players
UAB: DeWayne McBride: 233 carries, 1713 yards, 19 TD, 7.4 YPC
Miami: Aveon Smith: 1137 pass yds (48.7%), 9 TD, 5 INT, 503 rush yds, 6 TD

My Pick: UAB

Cure Bowl - Dec. 17 | Exploria Stadium | Orlando, FL
Conference tie-ins: Sun Belt, MAC

Team Stats
BGSU (6-6): 2nd in MAC East
— 23.8 P/G, -0.161 off. EPA/play (124), 33.2 PA/G, 0.01 def. EPA/play (53)
Marshall (8-4): 3rd in Sun Belt East
— 24.2 P/G, -0.115 off. EPA/play (115), 16.2 PA/G, -0.265 def. EPA/play (1)
Best Players
BGSU: Matt McDonald: 2639 pass yds (61.3%), 22 TD, 8 INT, 7.3 AY/A
Marshall: Owen Porter: 54 tackles, 14.0 TFL, 9.5 sacks

My Pick: Marshall

Fenway Bowl - Dec. 17 | Fenway Park | Boston, MA
Conference tie-ins: ACC, AAC, Notre Dame

Team Stats
Syracuse (7-5): 5th in ACC Atlantic
— 28.3 P/G, 0.023 off. EPA/play (66), 22.7 PA/G, 0.027 def. EPA/play (65)
East Carolina (7-5): 6th in AAC
— 30.8 P/G, 0.123 off. EPA/play (23), 27.0 PA/G, 0.106 def. EPA/play (105)
Best Players
Syracuse: Sean Tucker: 206 carries, 1060 yards, 13 tot. TD, 5.1 YPC
East Carolina: Keaton Mitchell: 179 carries, 1325 yards, 13 TD, 7.4 YPC

Fun Meter: 5/10: This would be a matchup with two teams heading in opposite directions. ECU running back Keaton Mitchell has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in six straight games for the Pirates. I expect this to be a high scoring game because of ECU’s offense and pretty pedestrian defense, but Syracuse and especially Sean Tucker have played well against poor defenses all season, so I would lean in favor of the Orange.
My Pick: Syracuse

New Mexico Bowl - Dec. 17 | University Stadium | Albuquerque, NM
Conference tie-ins: AAC, C-USA, Mountain West

Team Stats
Western Kentucky (8-5): 1st in C-USA East
— 35.8 P/G, 0.113 off. EPA/play (26), 23.5 PA/G, -0.036 def. EPA/play (39)
Air Force (9-3): 4th in MWC Mountain
— 27.7 P/G, 0.125 off. EPA/play (21), 13.2 PA/G, -0.036 def. EPA/play (37)
Best Players
Western Kentucky: Austin Reed: 4249 pass yds (64.4), 44 tot. TD, 10 INT, 8.2 AY/A
Air Force: Brad Roberts: 308 carries, 1612 yards, 15 TD, 5.2 YPC

Fun Meter: 6/10: Styles make fights, and this is about as big of a style clash as you could imagine. Western Kentucky is second in the country in passing yards per game, while Air Force is first in the nation in rushing yards per game to go with just 79 passing attempts on the season. Air Force allows the fewest opponent plays per game in the FBS largely because their ground attack creates substantially long drives, and if they can control this game on the ground as they’ve done all season, I like their chances to win. WKU simply won’t get enough chances to air the ball out.
My Pick: Air Force

LendingTree Bowl - Dec. 17 | Hancock Whitney Stadium | Mobile, AL
Conference tie-ins: MAC, Sun Belt

Team Stats
Toledo (7-5): 1st in MAC West
— 33.3 P/G, 0.023 off. EPA/play (71), 27.1 PA/G, -0.066 def. EPA/play (22)
Coastal Carolina (9-2): 2nd in Sun Belt East
— 29.4 P/G, 0.143 off. EPA/play (17), 28.7 PA/G, 0.099 def. EPA/play (103)
Best Players
Toledo: DeQuan Finn: 1973 pass yds (58.6%), 29 tot. TD, 12 INT, 522 rush yds
Coastal Carolina: Grayson McCall: 2314 pass yds (68.9%), 21 TD, 1 INT, 11.0 AY/A

Fun Meter: 7/10: A matchup that, if reputation speaks for itself, would heavily lean Coastal Carolina, but don’t be so sure about that. This matchup would showcase a pair of dynamic G5 quarterbacks, and while we’ve all heard the name Grayson McCall, it’s Toledo QB DeQuan Finn who could really make this game memorable. Coastal’s defense has taken a heavy step back compared to their last couple years, and Toledo gave up 27.6 points per game against MAC opponents. This could get really fun really quickly.
My Pick: Coastal Carolina

Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl - Dec. 17 | SoFi Stadium | Inglewood, CA
Conference tie-ins: PAC-12, Mountain West

Team Stats
Fresno State (8-4): 1st in MWC West
— 30.9 P/G, 0.06 off. EPA/play (49), 20.8 PA/G, 0.01 def. EPA/play (67)
Washington State (7-5): 7th in PAC-12
— 27.8 P/G, 0.023 off. EPA/play (65), 22.4 PA/G, 0.017 def. EPA/play (60)
Best Players
Fresno State: Jake Haener: 2432 pass yds (73.5%), 17 TD, 3 INT, 9.2 AY/A (8 gms)
Washington State: Cam Ward: 3094 pass yds (64.1%), 23 TD, 8 INT, 6.9 AY/A

Fun Meter: 7/10: Utah State won the Mountain West and played in this new bowl game a year ago, so I’m assuming Fresno State will do the same. Them beating Boise State is no foregone conclusion, but they’ve been a different team since quarterback Jake Haener returned from injury, and Fresno State’s defense has allowed more than 30 points just twice over its last seven games to go with the big offensive numbers. Incarnate Word transfer Cam Ward leads Washington State into this bowl game having scored at least 28 points in each of their last four games. Ward has not thrown an interception in five straight games. This game will be close late, but if Fresno State can get their inconsistent ground game rolling, I see Haener and the Bulldogs pulling away late in a likely upset.
My Pick: Fresno State

Las Vegas Bowl - Dec. 17 | Allegiant Stadium | Las Vegas, NV
Conference tie-ins: PAC-12, SEC

Team Stats
UCLA (9-3): 6th in PAC-12
— 39.6 P/G, 0.246 off. EPA/play (3), 28.3 PA/G, 0.13 def. EPA/play (111)
Arkansas (6-6): 5th in SEC West
— 30.7 P/G, 0.097 off. EPA/play (36), 28.8 PA/G, 0.09 def. EPA/play (97)
Best Players
UCLA: Dorian Thompson-Robinson: 2883 pass yds, 631 rush yds, 36 tot. TD, 8.6 AY/A
Arkansas: Raheim Sanders: 219 carries, 1426 yards, 12 tot. TD, 6.5 YPC

Fun Meter: 7/10: Don’t let the records fool you, this would be a high-scoring, hard fought game in Las Vegas. DTR and Zach Charbonnet lead a Chip Kelly offense that ranks within the top 20 in scoring for a third straight season while Arkansas, when KJ Jefferson is healthy, can be equally as explosive. However, that single point of data is why I lean UCLA. Jefferson has been playing through an injury since returning two weeks ago, and though they roughed up Ole Miss, he was clearly not 100-percent against Missouri in a surprising loss to close out the regular season. For that factor alone, I’ll take UCLA.
My Pick: UCLA

Frisco Bowl - Dec. 17 | Toyota Stadium | Frisco, TX
Conference tie-ins: Any Group-of-Five

Team Stats
Boise State (9-3): 1st in MWC Mountain
— 30.2 P/G, 0.035 off. EPA/play (59), 17.8 PA/G, -0.141 def. EPA/play (9)
South Alabama (10-2): 2nd in Sun Belt West
— 31.9 P/G, 0.084 off. EPA/play (40), 19.4 PA/G, -0.114 def. EPA/play (18)
Best Players
Boise State: Taylen Green: 1730 pass yds (64.5%), 20 tot. TD, 4 INT, 8.5 AY/A (10 gms)
South Alabama: Carter Bradley: 2966 pass yds (64.2%), 25 TD, 10 INT, 8.1 AY/A

Fun Meter: 8/10: From new to old, South Alabama will try to defeat one of the titans of the Group-of-Fives in Boise State. Relative FBS newcomer South Alabama has transformed under head coach Kane Wommack while Boise has more 10-win seasons this century than South Alabama has active years as an FBS program. Both teams have been successful largely due to their defenses. Boise quarterback Taylen Green is the X-factor as he has developed nicely as the year has gone on, totaling 14 touchdowns over their last five games with no interceptions. Should it happen, this would be an underrated gem of a game.
My Pick: South Alabama

Myrtle Beach Bowl - Dec. 19 | Brooks Stadium | Conway, SC
Conference tie-ins: AAC, MAC, Sun Belt

Team Stats
Memphis (6-6): 8th in AAC
— 35.1 P/G, 0.039 off. EPA/play (57), 27.3 PA/G, -0.035 def. EPA/play (71)
Georgia Southern (6-6): 5th in Sun Belt East
— 33.7 P/G, 0.104 off. EPA/play (31), 32.3 PA/G, 0.174 def. EPA/play (122)
Best Players
Memphis: Seth Henigan: 3275 pass yds, 23 tot. TD, 8 INT, 7.9 AY/A
Georgia Southern: Jalen White: 184 touches, 1132 scrimmage yds, 11 tot. TD

Fun Meter: 4/10: Georgia Southern’s defense is among the worst in the country, allowing 496.1 total yards of offense per game. Despite another uninspiring season of Memphis football, I could see them putting up a big number here, especially on the ground. Memphis’ defense has forced six turnovers over the last four games, and Georgia Southern QB Kyle Vantrease leads the nation in interceptions.
My Pick: Memphis

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl - Dec. 20 | Albertsons Stadium | Boise, ID
Conference tie-ins: MAC, Mountain West

Team Stats
Utah State (6-6): 3rd in MWC Mountain
— 23.2 P/G, -0.049 off. EPA/play (94), 30.6 PA/G, 0.035 def. EPA/play (72)
Eastern Michigan (8-4): 2nd in MAC West
— 28.8 P/G, 0.058 off. EPA/play (51), 28.6 PA/G, 0.048 def. EPA/play (82)
Best Players
Utah State: Calvin Tyler: 237 carries, 1043 yards, 8 tot. TD, 4.4 YPC
Eastern Michigan: Samson Evans: 224 carries, 1084 yards, 13 TD, 4.8 YPC

Fun Meter: 3/10: This would be a battle of pedestrian offenses against very bad defenses, but Eastern Michigan’s defense is just a little bit better, as is their offense overall. That being said, Utah State has been playing better of late, and a late season three-game winning streak is why they’re bowl eligible. Utah State put up just shy of 470 total yards against a very good Boise State defense and 430 in their upset win over San Jose State the week before. I’ll take the Aggies here, but not by much.
My Pick: Utah State

Boca Raton Bowl - Dec. 20 | FAU Stadium | Boca Raton, FL
Conference tie-ins: Any Group-of-Five

Team Stats
Wyoming (7-5): 2nd in MWC Mountain
— 20.8 P/G, -0.063 off. EPA/play (104), 23.4 PA/G, 0.047 def. EPA/play (81)
Southern Miss (6-6): 3rd in Sun Belt West
— 24.2 P/G, -0.124 off. EPA/play (118), 23.5 PA/G, -0.056 def. EPA/play (30)
Best Players
Wyoming: Titus Swen: 207 carries, 1039 rush yds, 8 TD, 5.0 YPC
Southern Miss: Frank Gore Jr.: 207 carries, 1053 yds, 10 tot. TD, 5.1 YPC

Fun Meter: 4/10: This would be a very interesting matchup of strengths matching up with substantial weaknesses. Southern Miss struggles to pass the ball, and outside of Frank Gore Jr, yes that’s his son...I feel old too, Southern Miss is very poor on the ground. They rank 119th in rushing EPA per play and 117th in yards per carry. Wyoming defensively defends the pass very well, but they struggle mightily against the run. It would be intriguing to see which dam breaks.
My Pick: Wyoming

New Orleans Bowl - Dec. 21 | Caesars Superdome | New Orleans, LA
Conference tie-ins: Sun Belt, C-USA

Team Stats
UTSA (10-2): 1st in C-USA West
— 37.9 P/G, 0.185 off. EPA/play (9), 26.5 PA/G, 0.045 def. EPA/play (80)
Troy (10-2): 1st in Sun Belt West
— 24.6 P/G, -0.011 off. EPA/play (75), 16.8 PA/G, -0.058 def. EPA/play (27)
Best Players
UTSA: Frank Harris: 3524 pass yds (69.6%), 35 pass TD, 7 INT, 539 rush yds, 9.6 AY/A
Troy: TJ Jackson: 52 tackles, 14.5 TFL, 8.0 sacks

Fun Meter: 9/10: Behind the winner of Tulane and UCF, these two teams would be next in line for the Group-of-Five’s New Year’s Six bid. This has usually been the landing spot for the Sun Belt champion in the CFP era while the Conference USA champ mostly lands in the Boca Raton Bowl, but this is too good of a matchup to pass up. Troy boasts one of the best defenses amongst the G5 teams, especially against the pass, while UTSA has one of its best offenses, especially their passing attack. This is about as good of a bowl game as one could ask for, and I really hope we get it.
My Pick: UTSA

Armed Forces Bowl - Dec. 22 | Amon G. Carter Stadium | Fort Worth, TX
Conference tie-ins: AAC, C-USA

Team Stats
SMU (7-5): 4th in AAC
— 38.4 P/G, 0.112 off. EPA/play (27), 34.7 PA/G, 0.181 def. EPA/play (125)
North Texas (7-5): 2nd in C-USA
— 34.5 P/G, 0.107 off. EPA/play (30), 30.1 PA/G, 0.09 def. EPA/play (98)
Best Players
SMU: Tanner Mordecai: 2874 pass yds (63.6%), 27 TD, 9 INT, 8.0 AY/A (10 gms)
North Texas: RB trio of Ikaika Ragsdale, Oscar Adaway III, Ayo Adeyi
— 293 touches, 1793 scrimmage yds, 16 tot. TD, 6.04 YPC

Fun Meter: 8/10: Two great offenses, two pretty bad defenses, a whole lotta points. Tanner Mordecai leads SMU’s high-powered passing attack while North Texas’ running back committee leads a potent ground attack to go with an efficient air game of their own. The health of both Oscar Adaway and Ayo Adeyi are up in the air against UTSA in the C-USA Championship, but come late December, at least one of them will likely will be healthy and would be able to run all over one of the nation’s worst run defenses.
My Pick: SMU

Gasparilla Bowl - Dec. 23 | Raymond James Stadium | Tampa, FL
Conference tie-ins: AAC, ACC, SEC

Team Stats
Houston (7-5): 5th in AAC
— 37.2 P/G, 0.182 off. EPA/play (10), 33.5 PA/G, 0.054 def. EPA/play (87)
Auburn (5-7): 6th in SEC West (2nd in APR rankings among 5-loss teams)
— 24.8 P/G, -0.057 off. EPA/play (100), 29.5 PA/G, 0.016 def. EPA/play (58)
Best Players
Houston: Clayton Tune: 3845 pass yds (67.4%), 42 tot. TD, 10 INT, 489 rush yds, 8.8 AY/A
Auburn: Tank Bigsby: 209 touches, 1150 scrimmage yds, 10 rush TD, 5.4 YPC

Fun Meter: 6/10: Assuming Buffalo takes care of business against Akron, Auburn will get one of the two empty slots for 5-win teams due to them having the second highest Academic Progress Rate (APR) amongst 5-win eligible teams, behind only Rice. Considering the new hire of Hugh Freeze, what Auburn’s roster will look like is up in the air, but if you haven’t seen Clayton Tune run Dana Holgorsen’s offense, it would be a treat to watch against an SEC school.
My Pick: Houston

Independence Bowl - Dec. 23 | Independence Stadium | Shreveport, LA
Conference tie-ins: C-USA, Army (if eligible)

Team Stats
Cincinnati (9-3): 3rd in AAC
— 31.1 P/G, 0.032 off. EPA/play (62), 20.3 PA/G, -0.057 def. EPA/play (28)
Liberty (8-4)
— 28.2 P/G, -0.05 off. EPA/play (96), 24.9 PA/G, -0.105 def. EPA/play (15)
Best Players
Cincinnati: Ivan Pace Jr.: 119 tackles, 18.5 TFL, 8.0 sacks
Liberty: Durrell Johnson: 49 tackles, 22.5 TFL, 8.0 sacks

Fun Meter: 5/10: With no Army available or enough Conference-USA teams to fill the slot, these two teams would certainly fill the gaps quite nicely. A matchup between two programs that just lost their coaches would certainly grab some attention as the nation’s tackles-for-loss leader Durrell Johnson leads a stout Liberty defense against Cincinnati’s reputation-defining top flight defense, but they’ll be without Luke Fickell calling the shots.
My Pick: Cincinnati

Hawai’i Bowl - Dec. 24 | CTCC Athletics Complex | Honolulu, HI
Conference tie-ins: Mountain West, AAC, C-USA

*Game is already set*

Team Stats
Middle Tennessee State (7-5): 4th in C-USA
— 29.2 P/G, -0.026 off. EPA/play (83), 28.1 PA/G, 0.007 def. EPA/play (51)
San Diego State (7-5): 2nd in MWC West
— 21.3 P/G, -0.03 off. EPA/play (85), 20.2 PA/G -0.089 def. EPA/play (18)
Best Players
MTSU: Jordan Ferguson: 63 tackles, 16.0 TFL, 9.0 sacks
SDSU: Jonah Tavai: 56 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 9.0 sacks

My Pick: San Diego State

Quick Lane Bowl - Dec. 26 | Ford Field | Detroit, MI
Conference tie-ins: MAC, Big Ten

Team Stats
UConn (6-6)
— 19.8 P/G, -0.021 off. EPA/play (81), 26.1 PA/G, 0.012 def. EPA/play (57)
Buffalo (5-6)
— 29.5 P/G, 0.009 off. EPA/play (69), 27.6 PA/G, -0.036 def. EPA/play (38)
Best Players
UConn: Jackson Mitchell: 133 tackles, 8.0 TFL, 1.0 sacks
Buffalo: Shaun Dolac: 122 tackles, 10.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks

Fun Meter: 5/10: Should Buffalo beat Akron as they should this week, this slot lines up perfectly for them to meet UConn, who would be filling in for the Big Ten here as they would not have enough teams to cover it. Jim Mora Jr. has a chance to get UConn to an above .500 record for the first time since 2010 in just his first season. UConn has become the butt of the joke for years, so them getting a chance to silence that would be pretty awesome.
My Pick: UConn

First Responder Bowl - Dec. 27 | Gerald J. Ford Stadium | Dallas, TX
Conference tie-ins: AAC, ACC, Big 12

Team Stats
BYU (7-5)
— 31.9 P/G, 0.144 off. EPA/play (16), 30.0 PA/G, 0.15 def. EPA/play (116)
Oklahoma (6-6)
— 32.9 P/G, 0.11 off. EPA/play (29), 29.6 PA/G, 0.042 def. EPA/play (76)
Best Players
BYU: Jaren Hill: 3171 pass yds (66.0%), 34 tot. TD, 6 INT, 350 rush yds, 9.4 AY/A
Oklahoma: Eric Gray: 246 touches, 1593 scrimmage yds, 11 TD, 6.4 YPC

Fun Meter: 7/10: Two top 30 offenses facing off against each other is enough to sell this, but then you realize neither team has that good of a defense, and all of a sudden, you’re looking at first to 40 points wins. Brent Venables is a defensive coach, but he’s been left with the table scraps of an already below average Lincoln Riley defense while BYU has their worst defense in 21 years. This could be a shootout early.

Birmingham Bowl - Dec. 27 | Protective Stadium | Birmingham, AL
Conference tie-ins: AAC, SEC

Team Stats
Pittsburgh (8-4): 2nd in ACC Coastal
— 30.8 P/G, -0.013 off. EPA/play (78), 23.4 PA/G, -0.188 def. EPA/play (6)
Missouri (6-6): 6th in SEC East
— 25.5 P/G, -0.018 off. EPA/play (80), 25.0 PA/G, -0.061 def. EPA/play (25)
Best Players
Pittsburgh: Calijah Kancey: 31 tackles, 14.5 TFL, 7.5 sacks
Missouri: Isaiah McGuire: 40 tackles, 14.0 TFL, 8.5 sacks

Fun Meter: 5/10: A solid 8/10 on the sicko meter. This game would be, like, 10-7. Two very good defenses with two pretty bad offenses, and outside of Pitt running back Israel Abanikanda, there’s not exactly much offensive firepower to write home about in this one. The stars, however, are on the defensive side of the ball. Calijah Kancey was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year on Wednesday and is a Nagurski, Bednarik, and Outland Trophy finalist. It would be a defensive sludge fest, one that will have every viewer questioning their morals towards the sport of football.
My Pick: Pittsburgh

Camellia Bowl - Dec. 27 | Cramton Bowl | Montgomery, AL
Conference tie-ins: MAC, Sun Belt

Team Stats
Rice (5-7): 7th in C-USA (1st in APR among 5-win teams)
— 25.3 P/G, -0.016 off. EPA/play (79), 33.8 PA/G, 0.164 def. EPA/play (119)
Louisiana (6-6): 4th in Sun Belt
— 27.0 P/G, -0.039 off. EPA/play (90), 22.8 PA/G, -0.053 def. EPA/play (32)
Best Players
Rice: Ikenna Enechukwu: 33 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks
Louisiana: Zi’Yon Hill: 42 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 7.0 sacks

Fun Meter: 3/10: Rice will get the first slot among 5-win teams, and with there not being enough teams out of the MAC to fill in here, they fit the slot perfectly. Louisiana finished 6-6 in their first season post-Billy Napier, and a lot of that has to do with LaMar Morgan’s defense being able to maintain that same consistently good defense Louisiana prided themselves on under Napier. I couldn’t see this game being close. Despite Louisiana’s struggles on offense, their defense matched with Rice’s pretty average offense leans heavily towards the Ragin’ Cajuns.
My Pick: Louisiana

Guaranteed Rate Bowl - Dec. 27 | Chase Field | Phoenix, AZ
Conference tie-ins: Big 12, Big Ten

Team Stats
Kansas (6-6): 7th in Big 12
— 34.2 P/G, 0.203 off. EPA/play (6), 33.8 PA/G, 0.145 def. EPA/play (115)
Wisconsin (6-6): 5th in B1G West
— 26.5 P/G, -0.043 off. EPA/play (92), 20.5 PA/G, -0.104 def. EPA/play (16)
Best Players
Kansas: Jalon Daniels: 1470 pass yds, 19 tot. TD, 2 INT, 9.4 AY/A, 404 rush yds (8 gms)
Wisconsin: Braelon Allen: 208 carries, 1126 yards, 10 TD, 5.4 YPC

Fun Meter: 8/10: Kansas facing off against the Badgers in Kansas’ first bowl game in 14 years is already enough to peak interest. Adding to that, Lance Leipold, prodigal son and legend of Wisconsin football, is the head coach of the Jayhawks. Leipold was born and raised in Wisconsin and came over to Kansas from Buffalo. Prior to that, he coached Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater to six Stagg Bowl victories, going 34-1 in the D-III tournament over his eight seasons there. Add onto all of that that Luke Fickell will likely be involved in the game for Wisconsin, and you have all the storylines you could ever want leading into a bowl game.
My Pick: Kansas

Military Bowl - Dec. 28 | Navy-Marine Corps Memorial | Annapolis, MD
Conference tie-ins: AAC, ACC, Notre Dame

Team Stats
UCF (9-3): 2nd in AAC
— 34.9 P/G, 0.09 off. EPA/play (38), 21.3 PA/G, 0.024 def. EPA/play (63)
NC State (8-4): 5th in ACC Atlantic
— 25.3 P/G, -0.077 off. EPA/play (108), 19.4 PA/G, -0.044 def. EPA/play (35)
Best Players
UCF: John Rhys Plumlee: 2195 pass yds, 23 tot. TD, 7 INT, 848 rush yds, 7.8 AY/A
NC State: Drake Thomas: 90 tackles, 15.0 TFL, 6.5 sacks

Fun Meter: 5/10: The Gus Bus has found success at UCF, and though them being here means I think they’ll lose to Tulane in the AAC Championship, it’s been a very successful season. As for NC State, their defense has stepped up in a major way this season, but especially after QB Devin Leary’s season ending injury. This defense forces a lot of turnovers, and they’ve forced eight over their last six games. This is a major focal point because UCF has turned the ball over 13 times in their last six games. The winner of the turnover battle may win this offensive struggle.
My Pick: NC State

Liberty Bowl - Dec. 28 | Simmons Bank Liberty Bowl | Memphis, TN
Conference tie-ins: Big 12, SEC

Team Stats
South Carolina (8-4): 3rd in SEC East
— 31.7 P/G, 0.029 off. EPA/play (63), 27.5 PA/G, 0.054 def. EPA/play (88)
Oklahoma State (7-5): 5th in Big 12
— 31.8 P/G, -0.054 off. EPA/play (98), 29.3 PA/G, 0.037 def. EPA/play (73)
Best Players
South Carolina: Marshawn Lloyd: 129 touches, 749 scrimmage yds, 11 tot. TD, 5.2 YPC
Oklahoma State: Jason Taylor II: 87 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 6 INT, 4 PBU

Fun Meter: 6/10: Frankly, I have no idea what to think of this potential matchup. Oklahoma State alternates between games where they eclipse 400 total yards of offense or struggle to reach 300 while South Carolina, prior to upsetting both Tennessee and Clemson in consecutive weeks, was amongst the worst offenses in the SEC. It’s a coin flip in every sense, but with Spencer Sanders playing banged up and South Carolina on a bit of a heater, I’ll ride with the Gamecocks.
My Pick: South Carolina

Holiday Bowl - Dec. 28 | Petco Park | San Diego, CA
Conference tie-ins: ACC, PAC-12

Team Stats
Oregon (9-3): 4th in PAC-12
— 39.7 P/G, 0.24 off. EPA/play (5), 27.4 PA/G, 0.10 def. EPA/play (104)
Duke (8-4): 3rd in ACC Coastal
— 33.1 P/G, 0.135 off. EPA/play (19), 22.8 PA/G, 0.032 def. EPA/play (69)
Best Players
Oregon: Bo Nix: 3388 pass yds (71.5%), 41 tot. TD, 6 INT, 504 rush yds, 9.7 AY/A
Duke: DeWayne Carter: 35 tackles, 11.0 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 3 FF, 1 def. TD

Fun Meter: 6/10: Oregon were well on their way to at least a New Year’s Six berth before blowing a three score lead against Oregon State. That being said, give Bo Nix a month of rest and I think he’ll be back to his normal self if he decides to play. Mike Elko has done an incredible job in year one at Duke, but I don’t think they have enough firepower offensively to keep up.
My Pick: Oregon

Texas Bowl - Dec. 28 | NRG Stadium | Houston, TX
Conference tie-ins: Big 12, SEC

Team Stats
Baylor (6-6): 6th in Big 12
— 33.6 P/G, 0.079 off. EPA/play (41), 26.6 PA/G, 0.054 def. EPA/play (86)
Mississippi State (8-4): 3rd in SEC West
— 32.7 P/G, -0.047 off. EPA/play (93), 24.2 PA/G, -0.045 def. EPA/play (34)
Best Players
Baylor: Richard Reese: 203 touches, 1051 scrimmage yds, 14 TD, 5.1 YPC
Mississippi State: Emmanuel Forbes: 39 tackles, 6 INT, 3 def. TD, 6 PBU

Fun Meter: 5/10: Lost in all of Mike Leach’s madness is the fact that he has a really good defense this year, and that side of the ball have helped boost an inconsistent offense to an eight-win season, their first under Leach. Dave Aranda has Baylor bowl eligible again, though they fell well short of expectations. Mississippi State’s offense has eclipsed 400 total yards of offense once in their last six games while Baylor has failed to keep anyone under that mark over their last four.
My Pick: Mississippi State

Pinstripe Bowl - Dec. 29 | Yankee Stadium | Bronx, NY
Conference tie-ins: ACC, Big Ten

Team Stats
Louisville (7-5): 4th in ACC Atlantic
— 27.2 P/G, -0.061 off. EPA/play (102), 20.2 PA/G, -0.102 def. EPA/play (17)
Iowa (7-5): 3rd in B1G West
— 17.4 P/G, -0.177 off. EPA/play (127), 14.4 PA/G, -0.152 def. EPA/play (8)
Best Players
Louisville: Yasir Abdullah: 57 tackles, 13.0 TFL, 8.0 sacks, 2 INT, 4 FF
Iowa: Jack Campbell: 115 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2 INT, 1 FF

Fun Meter: 4/10: Iowa is painful football. No one will tell you that quicker than Iowa fans themselves. While Iowa boasts an elite defense led by Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Jack Campbell, their offense is stuck in a different decade of football played a very long time ago. They have eclipsed 300 total yards of offense just three times this season. They have six passing touchdowns altogether. With that being said, Louisville’s offense hasn’t exactly been a pillar of excellence either. Malik Cunningham is a very dynamic quarterback, but he’s been a shell of what he had been the previous three seasons for the Cardinals. Louisville is 6-1 when they eclipse 190 rushing yards this season, but Iowa allows just 104.1 rush yards per game. I would take the under on this game.
My Pick: Iowa

Cheez-It Bowl - Dec. 29 | Camping World Stadium | Orlando, FL
Conference tie-ins: ACC, Big 12

Team Stats
Texas Tech (7-5): 4th in Big 12
— 33.6 P/G, -0.036 off. EPA/play (88), 29.5 PA/G, 0.011 def. EPA/play (55)
Florida State (9-3): 2nd in ACC Atlantic
— 36.2 P/G, 0.158 off. EPA/play (12), 19.7 PA/G, -0.052 def. EPA/play (33)
Best Players
Texas Tech: Tyree Wilson: 61 tackles, 14.0 TFL, 7.0 sacks, 1 FF
FSU: Jordan Travis: 2796 pass yds (63.2%), 29 tot. TD, 4 INT, 367 rush yds, 9.7 AY/A

Fun Meter: 6/10: Texas Tech is a solid team that epitomizes the struggle that is playing in the Big 12 this season. Their QB play has been strange, and that’s largely due to it being a revolving door due to injury. Between Donovan Smith, Behren Morton, and Tyler Shough, they’ve combined for over 3500 passing yards, and 36 total touchdowns, but their big issue has been turnovers. The three QBs have combined for 17 interceptions, and Tech has five games with 3-plus turnovers. Enter Florida State. FSU has a very good pass defense, largely due to their great pass rush. Add that to what Jordan Travis, Trey Benson, and the FSU offense can do, they’ve become one of the more underrated teams in the country.
My Pick: Florida State

Alamo Bowl - Dec. 29 | Alamodome | San Antonio, TX
Conference tie-ins: Big 12, PAC-12

Team Stats
Utah (9-3): 2nd in PAC-12
— 39.4 P/G, 0.125 off. EPA/play (22), 20.1 PA/G, -0.077 def. EPA/play (21)
Texas (8-4): 3rd in Big 12
— 35.7 P/G, 0.074 off. EPA/play (44), 21.2 PA/G, -0.071 def. EPA/play (24)
Best Players
Utah: Cameron Rising: 2629 pass yds (66.4%), 28 tot. TD, 7 INT, 391 rush yds, 8.3 AY/A
Texas: Bijan Robinson: 277 touches, 1894 scrimmage yds, 20 tot. TD, 6.1 YPC

Fun Meter: 9/10: Out of all of the projections, this one grabs me more than almost any other. There are stars everywhere on both offenses, most notably Bijan Robinson. Robinson is among the best players in the nation and has largely carried Texas through QB struggles all season. Robinson has eclipsed 100 total yards of offense in all but one game this season and ranks sixth in all of FBS in rushing yards and tied for fourth in touchdowns. For Utah, it largely comes from QB Cam Rising. Rising leads a top 10 scoring offense in the country, and both his arm and legs make him an incredibly dynamic threat. Tight end Dalton Kincaid leads the team in receiving as he’s burst onto the scene as one of the country’s premiere tight end threats. Utah still has a chance to play their way into the Rose Bowl, but should we get this game, buckle in. It’s going to be great.
My Pick: Utah

Duke’s Mayo Bowl - Dec. 30 | Bank of America Stadium | Charlotte, NC
Conference tie-ins: ACC, Big Ten, SEC

Team Stats
North Carolina (9-3): 1st in ACC Coastal
— 37.1 P/G, 0.20 off. EPA/play (7), 30.3 PA/G, 0.167 def. EPA/play (120)
Illinois (8-4): 2nd in B1G West
— 25.4 P/G, -0.012 off. EPA/play (76), 12.2 PA/G, -0.191 def. EPA/play (5)
Best Players
UNC: Drake Maye: 3847 pass yds (67.7%), 41 tot. TD, 5 INT, 629 rush yds, 9.8 AY/A
Illinois: Chase Brown: 355 touches, 1883 scrimmage yds, 13 tot. TD, 5.0 YPC

Fun Meter: 7/10: Super freshman Drake Maye against the nation’s best secondary and the winner gets to eat mayo? Say less.
My Pick: Illinois

Sun Bowl - Dec. 30 | Sun Bowl | El Paso, TX
Conference tie-ins: ACC, PAC-12

Team Stats
Oregon State (9-3): 5th in PAC-12
— 32.4 P/G, 0.053 off. EPA/play (52), 21.4 PA/G, -0.058 def. EPA/play (26)
Wake Forest (7-5): 6th in ACC Atlantic
— 36.8 P/G, 0.114 off. EPA/play (24), 29.2 PA/G, 0.092 def. EPA/play (99)
Best Players
Oregon St.: Damien Martinez: 162 touches, 1031 scrimmage yds, 7 TD, 6.1 YPC
Wake Forest: Sam Hartman: 3421 yards (63.0%), 35 TD, 11 INT, 9.3 AY/A

Fun Meter: 7/10: This game has a great chance to just get weird. Oregon State just beat Oregon 38-34 despite completing just six passes and turning the ball over three more times than the Ducks while Wake Forest routinely plays in high scoring roller coaster games. This has a pretty good chance to be exactly that.
My Pick: Oregon State

Gator Bowl - Dec. 30 | TIAA Bank Field | Jacksonville, FL
Conference tie-ins: ACC, Big Ten, SEC

Team Stats
Notre Dame (8-4)
— 30.7 P/G, 0.034 off. EPA/play (60), 21.8 PA/G, -0.007 def. EPA/play (47)
Florida (6-6): 5th in SEC East
— 31.8 P/G, 0.116 off. EPA/play (25), 28.8 PA/G, 0.094 def. EPA/play (100)
Best Players
Notre Dame: Michael Mayer: 67 receptions, 809 yards, 9 TD, 12.1 YPR
Florida: Anthony Richardson: 2549 pass yds, 26 tot. TD, 9 INT, 654 rush yds, 7.6 AY/A

Fun Meter: 6/10: The wild ride that is the 2022 Florida Gators stays relatively close to home here. Anthony Richardson, famous for his high variance play, has been playing some pretty good ball lately. Richardson has 16 total touchdowns over his last six games to just two interceptions, his usual achilles heel. He’s still been inaccurate, but it’s been an improvement. Notre Dame is a pretty balanced offense, and since their early season slip ups against Marshall and Stanford, they’ve quietly put together a good season in Marcus Freeman’s first season. Getting an SEC matchup in his first ever bowl game would be a great way to cap it off.
My Pick: Notre Dame

Arizona Bowl - Dec. 30 | TIAA Bank Field | Jacksonville, FL
Conference tie-ins: MAC, Mountain West

Team Stats
San Jose State (7-4): 3rd in MWC West
— 27.5 P/G, 0.101 off. EPA/play (32), 20.3 PA/G, -0.056 def. EPA/play (29)
Ohio (9-3): 1st in MAC East
— 34.0 P/G, 0.11 off. EPA/play (28), 29.3 PA/G, 0.03 def. EPA/play (67)
Best Players
SJSU: Junior Fehoko: 65 tackles, 18.5 TFL, 9.0 sacks, 2 FF
Ohio: Curtis Rourke: 3257 pass yds (69.1%), 29 tot. TD, 4 INT, 10.1 AY/A

Fun Meter: 6/10: Ohio has won seven straight and is as hot as any Group-of-Five team in the country right now. In this winning streak, they’ve failed to score more than 30 points just once, and they’ve allowed more than 21 points twice. Quarterback Curtis Rourke had been playing as good of football as you could ask for in that span as well, averaging 290 passing yards, and just shy of three touchdowns per game while throwing just two interceptions, but he will miss the remainder of Ohio’s season with a knee injury. San Jose State is kind of a Mississippi State-lite in the fact that more often than not, they struggle to run the ball, but they’re capable of surprising you every so often. Everything goes through QB Chevan Cordeiro and his favorite target, Elijah Cooks. San Jose State also has a pretty solid defense, but they’d be tested in this matchup.
My Pick: San Jose State

Music City Bowl - Dec. 31 | Nissan Stadium | Nashville, TN
Conference tie-ins: ACC, Big Ten, SEC

Team Stats
Maryland (7-5): 4th in B1G East
— 29.2 P/G, 0.061 off. EPA/play (50), 24.1 PA/G, -0.063 def. EPA/play (24)
Kentucky (7-5): 5th in SEC East
— 22.1 P/G, -0.01 off. EPA/play (73), 19.1 PA/G, -0.065 def. EPA/play (23)
Best Players
Maryland: Roman Hemby: 195 touches, 1200 scrimmage yds, 11 tot. TD, 5.6 YPC
Kentucky: Chris Rodriguez Jr.: 175 carries, 904 yds, 6 TD, 5.2 YPC (8 gms)

Fun Meter: 4/10: This matchup and its result would be dependent on two quarterbacks. Will Taulia Tagovailoa be healthy enough to play, and will Will Levis opt out? It’s a big bag of question marks of what would overall be a fairly interesting matchup.
My Pick: Maryland

ReliaQuest Bowl - Jan. 2 | Raymond James Stadium | Tampa, FL
Conference tie-ins: ACC, Big Ten, SEC

Team Stats
Ole Miss (8-4): 4th in SEC West
— 34.2 P/G, 0.098 off. EPA/play (35), 24.2 PA/G, 0.061 def. EPA/play (90)
Minnesota (8-4): 4th in B1G West
— 28.2 P/G, 0.064 off. EPA/play (47), 13.3 PA/G, -0.113 def. EPA/play (13)
Best Players
Ole Miss: Quinshon Judkins: 264 touches, 1592 scrimmage yds, 17 tot. TD, 5.9 YPC
Minnesota: Mohamed Ibrahim: 304 carries, 1594 yards, 19 TD, 5.2 YPC

Fun Meter: 10/10: Without letting myself sound too giddy, I need this game more than I need air to breathe. In an era of the pass-heavy offenses, this game features not one, not two, but three fantastic running backs. Quinshon Judkins has exploded as a freshman for Ole Miss, leading all Power-Five running backs in rushing yards and setting the school record in rushing touchdowns while his teammate, TCU transfer Zach Evans, has racked up just shy of 1000 scrimmage yards on the season himself. On the other side, it’s Mo Ibrahim, who, just this season, broke Minnesota’s career rushing yards and touchdowns records and sits just 35 yards shy of the single season mark. I cannot emphasize enough how badly I need this game.
My Pick: Minnesota

Citrus Bowl - Jan. 2 | Camping World Stadium | Orlando, FL
Conference tie-ins: ACC, Big Ten, SEC

Team Stats
Purdue (8-4): 1st in B1G West
— 28.6 P/G, -0.012 off. EPA/play (77), 23.1 PA/G, -0.032 def. EPA/play (42)
LSU (9-3): 1st in SEC West
— 32.5 P/G, 0.141 off. EPA/play (18), 21.5 PA/G, -0.028 def. EPA/play (43)
Best Players
Purdue: Devin Mockabee: 188 touches, 1066 scrimmage yds, 8 TD, 5.1 YPC
LSU: Harold Perkins: 59 tackles, 10.0 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 1 INT, 2 FF

Fun Meter: 5/10: This projection would be pretty silly should both of these teams pull off major upsets in their respective conference championship games, but let’s say they don’t and meet here. LSU would be a heavy favorite, and rightfully so, but they have played some of their worst football lately. If scoring 13 points against a poor Arkansas defense was smoke, the fire was against Texas A&M. As for Purdue, they were the Big Ten West team that found a way to limp the fastest to the finish line. LSU’s pass rush would give them the major edge here.
My Pick: LSU

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