College Football Bowl Season Preview

College Football Bowl Season Preview
Reading Time: 7 minutes.

College Football Bowl Preview

‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year’ 

 How do you know when it’s Christmas?

Kids at home going crazy, while they wait for Santa to visit?

Last Christmas by Wham blaring out in every shop? 

Morecambe and Wise and Two Ronnies special on the TV?

Well all of the above. But it is especially Christmas when Bowl season starts and we get daily viewing of College Football! 

 Bowl season is something unique in the world of sport. It is a cross between an end of season friendly, a celebration and a cup final.

Successful teams (you usually have to have at least a 6-6 record to participate) are lured across the country. All in the hope of drawing more tourists for that particular city. To then play a match usually against a team from another conference, who they wouldn’t play in normal regular season play.

 The bowls themselves often have unusual corporate sponsors, who are keen to associate themselves with the great game. My favourite being the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a potato from Idaho, least of all a famous one. Maybe a more appropriate bowl might be the Barstools Sports Arizona Bowl. Or the Cricket Celebration Bowl (which has no link to Ben Stokes and his team’s recent successes) .

 The college teams themselves often have differing approaches to the game. For some it can be a bit of a drag after maybe missing out on a conference title or playoff position. While for others it can be an expression of joy. And a victory to put the cherry on top of a successful season. 

Apart from the National Championship semi-finals, which form part of the bowl season, the games are a one off. They don’t count for any division standings. So we often get to see more unusual plays – 4th down attempts, gimmick plays, fake punts etc. Which makes it all the more enjoyable. The downside is that many top players who are eligible for the draft tend to skip the bowls. As they see only downside in potential injury risk. Although even this does provide us with the opportunity to see next season’s potential college football stars. Similarly, coaches who are in the process of switching teams or moving rarely coach in the bowl game.

Because of the differing attitudes to the game, missing stars and uncommon opponents, predicting game winners is even more unpredictable than usual. (Just see the UK and Ireland College Media Picks – where anything over .500 is seen as a major success. AKA a Nebraska).

With that in mind please take the following predictions with a hefty pinch of salt (or even cranberry sauce).

College Football Bowl Previews

Weds 28th 

  Guaranteed Rate Bowl : Wisconsin v Oklahoma State 

Image Credit: Fiesta Bowl

Wisconsin has had by their standards a very mediocre season, going 6-6 in the very poor Big 10 West. 

QB Graham Mertz is leaving and reportedly joining Florida, so won’t participate. The Badgers strength this season has been their defence. But as they have largely competed against some moribund offences within their division. So it will be interesting to see how they cope with the faster, spread them out Cowboys. 

At the halfway point of the college football season, the Cowboys were in contention for the Big 12. But a disastrous finish saw them lose 4 of their last 5 games. Part of this change in fortunes can be attributed to dual threat QB Spencer Sanders. Who on his day was one of the best in the division. But could also be very unpredictable. He threw 5 INTs in the losing streak. Sanders has also decided to move on. So back-ups Garret Rangel and Gunnar Gundy will be keen to impress. And stake a claim for the starting role for next season. 

 The Cowboys high powered offence to prevail.

 Oklahoma State by 7

Autozone Liberty Bowl: Kansas v Arkansas 

For Kansas reaching a post-season bowl game represents a huge success. Much of which can be attributed to the play of QB Jalon Daniels. He ran coach Leipold’s offence with great aplomb, both running and throwing. However, Daniells was injured, which coincided with a slump in form for the Jayhawks. He is now close to full fitness and will be keen to demonstrate his earlier form.Possibly even launching a Heisman campaign.

Arkansas have had a mixed college football season. With some impressive wins against Cincinnati, S Carolina and Ole Miss. But some equally disappointing defeats to Liberty, Texas A&M and Missouri, highlighting how tough the SEC can be. They have some quality players in QB K J Jefferson 22 TDs v 4 INTs and RB Raheim Sanders. But will also be without key defensive starters LB Drew Sanders and LB Bumper Pool. Who have opted out of the game. 

 For the Jayhawks, this game will be a celebration, but the Razorbacks have too much talent across their roster.

 Arkansas by 10 

Thurs 29th :

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: Oregon v N Carolina

Image Credit: San Diego Tribune

This should be a fascinating encounter between two nearly teams. Who are evenly matched, and who probably would never play each in regular season action.  It will also be a good assessment of the relevant strengths of the ACC and Pac-12 conferences. And features two outstanding QBs.

Oregon appeared set for a place in Pac-12 title game. At one point they led rivals Oregon State 31 -10 late in the 3rd quarter. But as we know, anything can happen in rivalry games, and the Ducks fell apart to eventually lose 34 – 38.

The star performer for Oregon this season has been QB Bo Nix. Who, after his transfer from Auburn, demonstrated his undoubted talents, but without some of the costly mistakes of previous campaigns. Over the course of 8 straight games during the season, the Ducks powerful offence scored over 40 points. However at the same time, their defence was vulnerable. As highlighted by the collapse against Oregon State.

North Carolina had an exciting and improved season. Particularly highlighted by their ability to win close games, with 5 of their wins by 3 points or less. Despite losing their last 2 regular season games, they still made it to the ACC title game. Where they were soundly beaten by Clemson. 

In QB Drake Maye, they have one of the most exciting players in the country. He is an early favourite for next season’s Heisman, and even No1 draft pick. Over the season he threw for over 4,000 yards with 35 TDs and demonstrated great game presence. Indeed, he was so good, that there have been rumours of other teams, trying to poach him via the NIL portal. 

Maye will put in a strong performance for the Tar Heels. But remember the ACC has been on a down year, while the Pac 12 has been on the rise. And the Ducks high powered offence will make up for any defensive deficiencies. 

 Oregon by 10 

 Tax Act Texas Bowl: Texas Tech v Ole Miss

Texas Tech had an exciting finish to the regular season. Winning their final 3 games and scoring over 40 points against both Kansas and Oklahoma. They will be full of confidence. Their upturn in fortune was due largely to a change of QB, with the keys to the offence being handed to Tyler Shough. 

Ole Miss had a particularly disappointing end to the regular season. Losing their last 3 games, including a heartbreaking 2-point loss in a rivalry game with Mississippi State. In which they failed on a last-minute 2-point conversation attempt. (Sadly, legendary Bulldogs coach Mike Leech’s final game before his tragic death). However, the Rebels, have some talented players on offence, notable QB Jaxson Dart and freshman, RB Quinshon Judkins.

 Judkins will be eager to demonstrate his talent to a wider audience, particularly against a suspect Red Raiders defence.

 Ole Miss by 7

Cheez-It Bowl: Oklahoma v Florida State

A few years ago, this would have been a matchup between two of the top teams in the country, probably battling for a national title, but this year they have been reduced to the Cheez-It bowl.

 Oklahoma have had a disappointing season going only 6-6 and suffering devastating losses to Texas, TCU, Kansas State and Texas Tech, their defence being particularly poor, conceding over 40 points in those 4 games. On offence, they have talent in QB Dillion Gabriel and RB Eric Gray but have been let down, by a less-than-stellar OL.

 Florida State is currently on an upward streak, having won their last 5 games, averaging over 43 points in those games, which included an impressive win over arch-rival Florida. On current form, they look to be one of the best teams in the nation and an early dark horse for next season. QB Jordan Travis has been sensational, throwing for 11 TDs v 1 INT in that 5-game winning streak. 

 The Seminoles are currently one of the hottest teams in the country and should feast on a poor Sooners defence.

 Florida State by 20

Fri 30th :

 TaxSlayer Gator Bowl: Notre Dame v S. Carolina 

Image Credit: Good Bull Hunting

Another exciting and even matchup between two teams who finished the regular season strongly. 

After a disappointing start, Notre Dame won 8 out of 9 games, before losing their final game to a Caleb Williams inspired USC. 

Their football was based on a strong run game and defiant defence, with QB Drew Pyne, doing just enough when required.  However, it will be interesting to see how they cope without their star offensive player TE Michael Mayer, one of the best TEs in the country who has left to prepare for the NFL draft, where he is set to be a 1st round pick.

 S Carolina finished the regular season with two very impressive victories, beating top ten teams in Tennessee and Clemson. 

The hot streak was built around QB Spencer Rattler, a transfer from Oklahoma, who always had talent, but finally put it all together for consecutive games, throwing for 8 TDs over those 2 games. 

 The Gamecocks look hot, but will Rattler’s form continue into a 3rd consecutive game? While the Irish are certain to play a solid game of football, looking to dominate at the line of scrimmage. 

 Notre Dame by 4

I hope you enjoy all of the above games; I’ve found they are even better if accompanied by a festive mince pie or two and a cheeky Bailey’s (other Irish whiskey cream-based liqueur are available)

Thanks to Andy Normile for producing this College Football preview. We are thrilled to have him on board and you can see more of his work here in the Future!

If you enjoy Andy’s writing find more from him here.

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