The 2018 college football bowl season is here, and it’s time for a new year of highs and lows. Will Auburn continue its winning streak? Is LSU ready to compete in the SEC West? Who will win the College Football Playoff National Championship Game between Alabama or Georgia? If you’re looking for some answers, this article may be able to help you out.
The “2021-22 college football predictions” is a blog post that provides analysis of the upcoming season.
7 a.m. ET
Bowl season in college football is here! Starting this week and lasting through the Playoffs for College Football, here are the essential players and stories you need to know for every team in every game.
Friday, December 17th
Middle Tennessee vs. Toledo in the Bahamas Bowl
Noon, ESPN, and the ESPN App, Thomas Robinson Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas
Middle Tennessee is located in the state of Tennessee (6-6)
QB Nick Vattiato is a player to keep an eye on. This season, Vattiato has been one of several quarterbacks for the Blue Raiders, although he’s been in charge of late. In five games, he has passed for 754 yards, five touchdowns, and six interceptions.
Storyline to watch: Vattiato, a freshman, will have a tough challenge against Toledo’s 20th-ranked SP+ defense. The Middle Tennessee offense has gone through a lot of changes this season, and Toledo has shown it can compete despite its 7-5 record (like almost beating Notre Dame). Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry
Toledo is a city in the state of (7-5)
Bryant Koback, running back, is a player to keep an eye on. With 1,274 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns, the athletic running back led the club in rushing yards.
Storyline to follow: Toledo finished 3-1 in their last four games of the season, averaging 45.5 points per game. Koback rushed for 639 yards and 10 touchdowns in the four games. If Koback can produce at a similar level versus Middle Tennessee State, Toledo has an excellent opportunity to win. Tom VanHaaren (Tom VanHaaren)
Northern Illinois vs. Coastal Carolina in the Tailgreeter Cure Bowl
Orlando, Florida’s Exploria Stadium ESPN2 and the ESPN App at 6 p.m.
Northern Illinois is located in the state of Illinois (9-4)
Clint Ratkovich, running back, is a player to keep an eye on. Ratkovich doesn’t have a lot of running yards (448), but he does have 12 rushing touchdowns for Northern Illinois this season.
Northern Illinois is 9-4 on the season, however the squad has given up 425 points, which ranks 118th in the nation. Northern Illinois’ defense will be put to the test against Coastal Carolina, which is sixth in the nation in offensive points scored per game, averaging 38.33 points per game. Tom VanHaaren (Tom VanHaaren)
South Carolina’s coast (10-2)
Grayson McCall, quarterback, is a player to keep an eye on. For the second time in school history, he topped the FBS in passing efficiency (207.95) and passed for 2,558 yards and 23 touchdowns, guiding the Chanticleers to a 10-win season. For the second consecutive year, he was awarded the Sun Belt’s offensive player of the year after averaging 255.8 passing yards and 280.8 total yards per game.
Watch for this storyline: Coastal Carolina didn’t garner nearly as much public attention in 2020, when it went 11-0 in the regular season. The Chanticleers only won two games this season, but they’ll have a chance to win a bowl game for the first time in their five years as an FBS team. With a 37-34 overtime victory at the Cure Bowl last season, Liberty destroyed Coastal Carolina’s perfect season. Schlabach, Mark
Saturday, December 18th
RoofClaim.com Western Kentucky vs. Appalachian State in the Boca Raton Bowl
Boca Raton, Florida’s FAU Stadium ESPN and the ESPN App, 11 a.m.
Kentucky’s western region (8-5)
QB Blake Zappe is a player to keep an eye on. I mean, he had 5,545 yards throwing to lead the FBS. Western Kentucky’s offense is entertaining to watch, and Zappe is a big part of it. Against this App State defense, he’ll be a fascinating matchup.
Watch this storyline to see who Western Kentucky’s big receivers will be. Jerreth Sterns leads the team in receiving yards with 1,718. However, with four receivers having at least 690 yards on the season, everyone in the offense has a chance to shine. Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry
Appalachian State University (10-3)
CB Steven Jones Jr. is a player to keep an eye on. This season, he tied for the FBS lead with five interceptions, returning three of them for touchdowns. Jones scored a 14-yard interception return for a touchdown against Louisiana-Monroe and two more against Arkansas State the following week. No FBS athlete has recorded three pick-six touchdowns in a shorter time frame (two games), according to Appalachian State, since Houston’s Johnny Jackson had three against Texas in 1987.
Watch for this storyline: The Mountaineers will strive to keep their pristine bowl record intact. Appalachian State has been in seven consecutive bowl games since becoming eligible for the playoffs as an FBS club in 2015, winning six of them. Only five teams have won more than seven straight bowl games, with Florida State leading the way with 11 (1985-1995). Schlabach, Mark
South Carolina State vs. Jackson State in the Cricket Celebration Bowl
Atlanta Noon, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, ABC, and the ESPN App
State of South Carolina (6-5)
DE Jablonski Green is a player to keep an eye on. During an undefeated run through the MEAC, the Bulldogs allowed just 15.6 points per game, and Green (19.5 TFLs, 3.5 sacks) and another dynamite lineman, Patrick Godbolt (11 TFLs, three sacks), were the main reasons for it.
Watch for: After a 1-4 start to the season, the Bulldogs turned things around in conference play, winning a string of close games to finish 6-5 and earn their first trip to the Celebration Bowl. If they keep things close in the second half, they may be able to find the edge and sabotage JSU’s outstanding season. Bill Connelly’s quote
Jackson State University is a public university in Jackson (11-1)
LB is a player to keep an eye on. Houston, James. Shedeur Sanders may have won the Jerry Rice Award this year, but the JSU defense is the best in the league, and Houston is a complete wreck: In 12 games, he has 21.5 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks, and seven forced fumbles.
Watch this space for more on Deion Sanders’ first year as JSU coach, when he signed a slew of FBS transfers and brought his blue-chip son, Shedeur, to town. The Tigers have enjoyed the advantages right away, going 11-1 and on their way to their first 12-win season with a victory in Atlanta. Bill Connelly’s quote
UTEP vs. Fresno State in the PUBG Mobile New Mexico Bowl
Albuquerque, New Mexico’s University Stadium ESPN and the ESPN App, 2:15 p.m.
UTEP (University of Texas at El Paso) (7-5)
DE is a player to watch. Amaewhule deserves praise. Amaewhule has been the Miners’ greatest player at getting players behind the line of scrimmage, and Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener is no joke. Amaewhule has 38 total tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks in 12 games. If UTEP is going to win this game, he’ll have to step up big time.
Dana Dimel has brought this UTEP squad a long way after going a total 2-22 in his first two seasons and 3-5 in the upcoming season of 2020. Now he’s giving his club the opportunity to win UTEP’s first bowl game since 1967 against a Fresno State team that had two rated victories this season. Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry
Fresno State University (9-3)
QB Jake Haener is a player to keep an eye on. When considering returning to Washington after Fresno State coach Kalen DeBoer accepted the position in Seattle, Haener changed his mind and will attempt to finish off a fantastic season with the Bulldogs. More significantly, he’ll be back in the Valley next season as head coach Jeff Tedford returns.
With DeBoer and offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb departing for Washington, Lee Marks will lead the Bulldogs through the bowl game. A victory would give the Bulldogs their third 10-win season since Tedford took over and revitalized the team in 2017. Since 1992, Fresno State has only had two 10-win seasons. Kyle Bonagura (Kyle Bonagura)
UAB vs. BYU in the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl
Shreveport, Louisiana’s Independence Stadium ABC and the ESPN App at 3:30 p.m.
RB DeWayne McBride is a player to keep an eye on. In 2021, the sophomore showed that he has a bright future by averaging 6.7 yards per carry for 1,185 yards and 12 touchdowns. In order to beat BYU, he’ll have to be at the top of his game.
Storyline to watch: BYU’s offensive is rated 17th in SP+, while UAB’s defense is ranked 27th. That’s very certainly going to be the game’s deciding matchup, or at the very least, the most fascinating matchup. Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry
BYU (Brigham Young University) (10-2)
Tyler Allgeier, the running back, is a player to keep an eye on. With 20 running touchdowns, the second-team All-American back is tied for the most in the country, and at 5-11, 220-pounds, he can bulldoze opponents when required. It’s also the reason he was allowed to play linebacker this season. This season, the sophomore rushed for over 1,400 yards and averaged over five yards per carry.
BYU has had a banner season, going from being rated as high as 10th to dominating and winning all five games they played against Pac-12 opponents this season. Kalani Sitake’s season drew attention from a number of schools, including Oregon, but in the end, BYU was able to retain him in Provo by agreeing to a “unprecedented” agreement that would keep him in Provo until 2027. With Big-12 membership only a year away, they’ll be aiming for 11 victories this season, the first time the Cougars have had back-to-back 11-win seasons since 2006 and 2007. Paolo Uggetti (Paolo Uggetti)
Eastern Michigan vs. Liberty in the LendingTree Bowl
Mobile, Alabama’s Hancock Whitney Stadium ESPN and the ESPN App at 5:45 p.m.
Michigan’s Eastern Shore (7-5)
RB Samson Evans is a player to keep an eye on. Evans got 11 running yards and three touchdowns on five touches in the season’s opening game. The remainder of his numbers are similar, with a lot of touchdowns and short yardages. He only rushed for 264 yards this season, but he did score 12 touchdowns. He’s also thrown three touchdown passes for Eastern Michigan this season, so he can do a little bit of everything.
Eastern Michigan has surrendered 334 points this season, which ranks 82nd among all FBS institutions. Liberty has been averaging 31 points per game on offense, so Eastern will have its work cut out for them to keep them off the scoreboard. Tom VanHaaren (Tom VanHaaren)
The right to be free (7-5)
QB Malik Willis is a player to keep an eye on. Willis’ 2021 season was a tad rougher than his previous one, with 12 interceptions and 50 sacks. However, he remains one of college football’s most dynamic run/pass quarterbacks, with ESPN’s Todd McShay projecting him to be the third quarterback picked and the 17th overall choice in the 2019 NFL draft. Willis, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 225 pounds, has 24 passing touchdowns and 11 rushing scores this season and is a nightmare to tackle when he scrambles.
The Flames have lost their previous three games for a reason, and it’s no secret why. In those three defeats, they handed the ball over 11 times and did not cause any turnovers. If they want to win their third consecutive bowl game, they’ll have to find a way to win the turnover fight. Liberty’s turnover margin (minus-11) is 125th in the country, therefore Willis and the Liberty offense must prevent negative yardage plays. Chris Low (c)
Utah State vs. Oregon State, Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl pres. by Stifel
Inglewood, California’s SoFi Stadium ABC and the ESPN App, 7:30 p.m.
Utah State University is a public university in Utah is a state in the United States (10-3)
Player to keep an eye on: WR Deven Thompkins collected 96 catches for 1,589 yards and nine touchdowns during the regular season, making him one of ten semifinalists for the Fred Biletnikoff award. The senior had a breakthrough season after averaging 69 receptions in his previous three seasons.
The Aggies were one of college football’s finest stories last season, capturing the Mountain West championship in coach Blake Anderson’s first season. Utah State may make the final AP poll for just the third time since 1962 with a victory against Oregon State. Kyle Bonagura (Kyle Bonagura)
Oregon State University (7-5)
B.J. Baylor is a player to keep an eye on. Baylor’s persistence eventually paid off when he suited up for the Beavers in his sixth year with the club. After questioning if he’d ever have the chance to be Oregon State’s starting running back after the coaching change in 2018, Baylor has carried for almost 1,400 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns this season. Baylor was named to the Pac-12’s first-team all-conference team for his efforts this season.
The Beavers were still in contention for the Pac-12 North late in the season after losing to Oregon in their regular-season finale. With head coach Jonathan Smith now under contract through 2027, Oregon State believes this season, which is the Beavers’ first over.500 season since 2013, is a promising indication of things to come. A victory in the bowl game would carry the team’s momentum into the next season. Paolo Uggetti (Paolo Uggetti)
Louisiana vs. Marshall in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
New Orleans, Caesars Superdome, 9:15 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App
Louisiana is a state in the United States (12-1)
LB is a player to keep an eye on. Chauncey Manac is a character in the film Chauncey Manac. Manac began his undergraduate career at Georgia, then moved to Garden City Community College in Kansas for a season before arriving at Louisiana in 2018. With 10.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss this season, he was third in the Sun Belt, along with 55 tackles, 7 quarterback hurries, 1 fumble recovery, and 2 forced fumbles.
The Michael Desormeaux era began in the New Orleans Bowl, with previous coach Billy Napier departing for Florida. Desormeaux, who was a record-setting quarterback for the Ragin’ Cajuns from 2005 to 2008, has spent the last six seasons as an assistant coach at UL, guiding the club to four straight Sun Belt West crowns and its first outright conference championship this season. Schlabach, Mark
Marshall is a great guy (7-5)
RB is a player to keep an eye on. Rasheen Ali is a Pakistani actress. Ali is one of the country’s most dynamic running backs. He carried for 1,241 yards and 20 touchdowns in 12 games, while also catching 329 yards and a score. He took a kickoff to the house on a terrific trick play the one time head coach Charles Huff allowed him return one this season — maybe we’ll see it again.
The Sun Belt announced Marshall’s addition to the league on Oct. 30, and the New Orleans Bowl will serve as a preview of what will become a regular showdown in a conference that has been on the upswing in recent years. Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry
Monday, December 20th
Old Dominion vs. Tulsa in the Myrtle Beach Bowl Presented by TaxAct
Conway, South Carolina’s Brooks Stadium ESPN and the ESPN App, 2:30 p.m.
Dominion of the United States of America (6-6)
RB is a player to keep an eye on. Watson, Blake. Watson has rushed for 1,039 yards and eight touchdowns this season, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Typically this season, when Watson has played well, the Monarchs’ outcomes have favored them.
The Monarchs are attempting to win their second bowl game in school history (2016 Bahamas Bowl). However, coming back from a 1-6 start to win a bowl game would be one of the more amazing turnarounds in college football this season. Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry
Tulsa is a city in Oklahoma (6-6)
Shamari Brooks, running back, is a player to keep an eye on. After missing the whole 2020 season due to a ruptured ACL, the senior has a chance to carry for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons. He had 922 yards and six touchdowns entering the contest.
Keep an eye on the storyline: Defensive coordinator Joseph Gillespie has departed to join TCU’s Sonny Dykes’ staff. The defense has been the Golden Hurricane’s strength this season, but how they handle an Old Dominion squad that is coming in hot will be crucial. Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry
Tuesday, December 21st
Kent State vs. Wyoming in the famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Boise, Idaho’s Albertsons Stadium ESPN and the ESPN App, 3:30 p.m.
Kent State University is a public university in Kent (7-6)
QB Dustin Crum is a player to keep an eye on. Because Kent State has a balanced offense, this choice might go to running back Marquez Cooper or receiver Dante Cephas. Crum has 2,922 yards and 16 touchdowns passing and 633 yards and 11 touchdowns running this season.
Watch this storyline: While Kent State has a balanced assault, Wyoming only allows 177 passing yards and 22 points per game. The Flashes’ attack will be tested by Wyoming’s defense, but Kent State has a number of playmakers to guard who have been scoring all season. Tom VanHaaren (Tom VanHaaren)
Wyoming is a state in the United States (6-6)
Player to keep an eye on: Chad Muma, a first-team All-Mountain West honoree, was second in the country in solo tackles per game (6.7) and fourth in total tackles (four) (10.8). On the Walter Camp All-American team, he was chosen second team.
Storyline to follow: No coach in school history has won more than one bowl game with the Cowboys until Craig Bohl’s debut in 2014. Bohl would win his third game in five years if he beats Kent State. Kyle Bonagura (Kyle Bonagura)
UTSA vs. San Diego State in the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl
7:30 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App, Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas
UTSA is a university in the state of Texas (12-1)
Frank Harris, the quarterback, is a player to keep an eye on. In what has been a fantastic season for Harris, he has made some huge plays for the Roadrunners. Harris has a 66 percent completion percentage, almost 3,000 yards passing, 25 touchdowns, and just five interceptions in 13 games. This season, he has also ran for 565 yards and six touchdowns, as well as a receiving score.
The Roadrunners (13-1) are attempting to win their first bowl game in school history. A victory in the Frisco Bowl, their third bowl participation overall, would be the cherry on top. Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry
San Diego State University is a public university in San Diego (11-2)
Player to keep an eye on: San Diego State’s defense, headed by lineman Cameron Thomas, was the best in the league for lengthy portions of the season. The past three seasons, the MWC Defensive Player of the Year has been chosen first-team All-MWC.
Storyline to follow: Punter Matt Araiza is on track to surpass the single-season punting average, and unless something unusual happens, he will most likely do it. He’s now averaging 51.47 yards per punt, which is better than the previous best of 50.98 set by Texas A&M’s Braden Mann in 2018. Kyle Bonagura (Kyle Bonagura)
Tuesday, December 22nd
Missouri vs. Army in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
8 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App, Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas
Missouri is a state in the United States (6-6)
RB is a player to keep an eye on. Tyler Badie is a character in the film Tyler Badie. With 1,604 running yards and 14 touchdowns on 268 carries, Badie led the SEC and was third in the FBS. This year, the New Orleans native established a Missouri single-season running yardage record. In five games, he rushed for more than 200 yards, including a career-high 254 yards and two touchdowns in a 37-28 win against Vanderbilt.
Will the Tigers be able to shut down Army’s flexbone triple-option offense? Under first-year defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, the Tigers were terrible against the run in 2021. Missouri was 124th in the FBS with 229.3 running yards allowed per game. On the ground, the Black Knights averaged 301.7 yards per game, which was good for second best in the nation. Schlabach, Mark
Armed Forces (8-4)
Christian Anderson, the quarterback, is a player to keep an eye on. Army’s rushing offense is well-balanced, but Anderson leads the way with 586 yards and seven touchdowns this season. He only threw 59 passes all season, for a total of 653 yards and five touchdowns.
Can the Black Knights bounce back from a devastating setback against the Navy Midshipmen? Army, who were 7-point favorites against their archrival, remained scoreless in the second half and lost 17-13 to the Midshipmen, who entered the game with a 3-8 record. Ryan Canner-O’Mealy (Ryan Canner-O’Mealy)
Thursday, December 23rd
North Texas vs. Miami in the Frisco Football Classic (Ohio)
Frisco, Texas’ Toyota Stadium ESPN and the ESPN App, 3:30 p.m.
Texas’s northwestern region (6-6)
RB is a player to keep an eye on. Torrey, DeAndre. With 1,214 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground, the senior running back has been the backbone of the North Texas attack. He also has 12 catches for 115 yards and a score for a total of 115 yards and a touchdown.
The Mean Green won’t have to go far to compete in the first Frisco Football Classic, which will be held at Toyota Stadium, the home of FC Dallas. They just defeated UTSA 45-23, delivering the Roadrunners their lone loss of the season. It will be interesting to see what they do for an encore. Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry
Miami (Ohio) is a city in the state of Ohio (6-6)
WR Jack Sorenson is a player to keep an eye on. With 1,290 receiving yards and 10 receiving touchdowns for Miami, the gifted receiver is ranked sixth in the nation. He’s averaging 18.7 yards per catch this season and has just seven drops.
The RedHawks boast one of the strongest passing attacks in the FBS, averaging 282.7 yards per game via the air (20th in FBS). They’re headed by quarterback Brett Gabbert, who has 2,418 yards, 24 touchdowns, and six interceptions while completing just 58 percent of his passes this season. Gabbert and the passing offense will be crucial if the RedHawks are to beat North Texas (whose defense ranks 88th in SP+). Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry
UCF vs. Florida in the Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl
Tampa, Florida’s Raymond James Stadium ESPN and the ESPN App, 7 p.m.
Mikey Keene, quarterback, is a player to keep an eye on. Dillon Gabriel, who fractured his collarbone in Louisville in September, was replaced by Keene. Gabriel has entered the transfer portal, which means he will have the opportunity to prove what he can accomplish against Florida in front of a national audience.
The in-state contest is the one to keep an eye on. Despite Florida having a bad year and playing under an interim head coach, UCF has been waiting for a battle like this. It will, however, mean more to UCF than to Florida, which is about to embark on a new era under Billy Napier. Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry
Florida is a state in the United States (6-6)
Emory Jones, the quarterback, is a player to keep an eye on. Jones will take over as quarterback for the Gators before transferring next season, as quarterback Anthony Richardson is expected to miss the bowl game due to a right knee injury. Jones has 2,563 passing yards and 19 touchdowns while also rushing for 697 yards and four more touchdowns. Jones, on the other hand, threw 13 interceptions and fumbled twice. In a 70-52 win against FCS team Samford, he threw for 464 yards and six touchdowns and ran for 86 yards and one score, establishing a UF record for total offense in a single game.
Storyline to watch: How motivated will the Gators be to defeat UCF after Dan Mullen was dismissed and Louisiana’s Billy Napier was hired to replace him? Zach Carter, the team’s leading pass rusher with 1112 tackles for loss and eight sacks, has opted out and will begin his preparations for the NFL draft. Jacob Copeland, the team’s top receiver (39 receptions for 607 yards and four touchdowns), and Mohamoud Diabate, the team’s leading tackler (89 tackles), have both entered the transfer portal and aren’t anticipated to play. UCF will be motivated, so the Gators had better be as well. Schlabach, Mark
Friday, December 24th
Memphis versus. Hawai’i in the EasyPost Hawai’i Bowl
8 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App, Clarence T. C. Ching Athletics Complex, Honolulu
Memphis is a city in Tennessee (6-6)
Calvin Austin III, WR, is a player to keep an eye on. Austin has been one of the greatest wide receivers in the FBS the last two seasons and will be selected in the NFL draft in April. He has 1,149 yards and eight touchdowns receiving in 12 games. When Memphis chooses to put him back in the punt return game, he’ll be a danger.
Following a 3-0 start, the Tigers have dropped six of their past nine games. Hawaii isn’t particularly strong on either side of the ball (Memphis has struggled against the stronger defenses it has played), but given the Tigers’ ups and downs this season, keep a watch on how they do in this one, whether hot or cold. Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry
Hawaii is a state in the United States (6-7)
Player to watch: LB Darius Muasau, a second-team All-Mountain West honoree, ended the regular season with 109 tackles and 14 tackles for loss.
Storyline to follow: According to a report from SFGate, numerous players are considering transferring from Hawai’i due to second-year coach Todd Graham’s culture. Chevan Cordeiro, the starting quarterback, was the first major name to go, having previously committed to San Jose State. Kyle Bonagura (Kyle Bonagura)
Saturday, December 25th
Georgia State vs. Ball State in the TaxAct Camellia Bowl
Montgomery, Alabama’s Cramton Bowl ESPN and the ESPN App, 2:30 p.m.
Georgia State University is a public university in Georgia (7-5)
S Antavious Lane is a player to keep an eye on. With four interceptions, six pass breakups, and a forced fumble, the two-time All-Sun Belt Conference pick was second in the conference. With 72 tackles, he was the Panthers’ third-leading tackler. With eight interceptions in only two seasons, he is Georgia State’s career interceptions leader. Lane coached a defense that set a school record with 84 tackles for loss while allowing just one offensive score against five opponents.
Storyline to keep an eye on: Under coach Shawn Elliott, the Panthers have had their best run of success in a long time. In four of his five seasons with the team, he has led them to a bowl game. For the first time in school history, Georgia State is in the playoffs for the third consecutive year. After beating Western Kentucky 39-21 in the LendingTree Bowl last season, the Panthers are 2-2 in bowl games. Schlabach, Mark
Ball State is a university in the state of Indiana (6-6)
S Bryce Cosby is a player to keep an eye on. This season, the senior safety was second on the team with 101 total tackles, four sacks, and 10.5 tackles for loss. He also had two interceptions, two pass breakups, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery.
Storyline to follow: Both Ball State and Georgia State’s offenses have struggled to score points this season. With 24.42 points per game, Ball State is ranked 94th, while Georgia State is ranked 82nd with 26.25 points per game. However, both teams’ defenses have struggled to keep scores off the board, so this should be a close game that might come down to a few points. Tom VanHaaren (Tom VanHaaren)
Monday, December 27th
Western Michigan vs. Nevada in the Quick Lane Bowl
11 a.m., Ford Field, Detroit, ESPN and the ESPN App
Michigan’s western region (7-5)
QB Kaleb Eleby is a player to keep an eye on. He was one of the finest quarterbacks in the league this season, throwing for 3,115 yards and 21 touchdowns. In addition to his passing touchdowns, he also scored five times on the ground.
Keep an eye on the following plot: Nevada’s offense has averaged 439.6 yards per game and has scored 33.17 points per game, which is good for 22nd in the USA. Western Michigan’s defense has allowed 343 total points this season, which ranks 89th among all FBS teams. The Broncos haven’t given up a lot of yards this season, but they’ll have a hard time keeping scores off the board against Nevada. Tom VanHaaren (Tom VanHaaren)
Nevada is a state in the United States (8-4)
Player to watch: Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year Carson Strong threw for 4,186 yards, 36 touchdowns, and eight interceptions, but his availability for the game is still in question due to a knee injury.
Storyline to Watch: The Wolf Pack find themselves in a unique situation after losing their head coach, Jay Norvell, to another conference club at the conclusion of the regular season. Ken Wilson, a veteran assistant under former Nevada coach Chris Ault and Oregon co-defensive coordinator, has been appointed to take over as Norvell’s replacement and will take over after the game. Kyle Bonagura (Kyle Bonagura)
Boston College vs. East Carolina in the Military Bowl presented by Peraton
Annapolis, Maryland’s Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium ESPN and the ESPN App, 2:30 p.m.
Boston College is a public university in Boston, Massachusetts (6-6)
QB Phil Jurkovec is a player to keep an eye on. Jurkovec had high expectations coming into the season since the offense was built around him, but a wrist injury caused him to miss six games. When he returned, he failed to regain his form, and the Eagles had trouble protecting their offensive line. Between the completion of the regular season and the bowl game, some extra time off will be useful in a number of ways.
Watch this space for more on the storyline: After a 4-0 start, BC finished 2-6, including a demoralizing 41-10 defeat to eventual Atlantic Division winner Wake Forest. Because of the pandemic last year, BC was denied a bowl bid, so its first playoff participation under Jeff Hafley, along with all the practices and prep time that comes with it, could be a huge lift heading into a critical offseason. Andrea Adelson’s remark
East Carolina University (7-5)
Keaton Mitchell, running back, is a player to keep an eye on. Mitchell has 1,132 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground in 12 games this season. He’s the most dependable member of ECU’s attack.
Keep an eye on the following plot: ECU is playing in their first bowl game since losing to Florida in the Birmingham Bowl in 2014. Mike Houston looks to have gotten the program back on track, which was once regarded as one of the finest in the Group of 5. Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry
Tuesday, December 28th
TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl is a football stadium in Birmingham, Alabama Auburn vs. Houston
Birmingham, Alabama’s Protective Stadium ESPN and the ESPN App at Noon
Houston is a city in Texas (11-2)
CB is a player to keep an eye on. Marcus Jones is a fictional character. Jones is an accomplished cornerback, as seen by his 47 total tackles, 13 pass deflections, five interceptions, and one forced fumble. With two kick returns for touchdowns and two punt returns for touchdowns, he’s one of the most dangerous return guys in the nation.
The Cougars are coming off an AAC title game defeat to Cincinnati in which they looked drastically different than they had in their previous 11 victories. The story will be how they perform against a 6-6 Auburn club. Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry
Auburn is a city in the state of (6-6)
CB Roger McCreary is a player to keep an eye on. McCreary is one of the greatest shutdown cornerbacks in the nation when it comes to press coverage. This season, he has 49 tackles, one sack defended, and two interceptions. With 14 pass breakups and 16 passes defended, he leads the SEC. McShay rates him as the No. 13 overall prospect and No. 2 cornerback among those eligible for the 2022 NFL draft, behind LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr.
Keep an eye on the following plot: Bo Nix, the Tigers’ starting quarterback, injured his ankle in a game against Mississippi State on Nov. 13. Without him, the offense struggled down the stretch, finishing 10th in the SEC in both scoring and overall offense (29.6 points) (405.4 yards). As a consequence, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo was sacked after only one season by first-year coach Bryan Harsin, who would reportedly call offensive plays in the bowl game. Harsin was the offensive coordinator at Boise State from 2006 to 2010, although he didn’t call plays in his first two seasons as coach of the Broncos in 2014 and 2015. Before the 2016 season, he took over as playcaller. Schlabach, Mark
Air Force vs. Louisville in the Servpro First Responder Bowl
University Park, Texas’ Gerald J. Ford Stadium ESPN and the ESPN App at 3:15 p.m.
Army Air Forces (9-3)
RB is a player to keep an eye on. After running for 1,279 yards and 14 touchdowns during the regular season, Brad Roberts was awarded first-team all-conference. Roberts has been reliable throughout the season, while he isn’t a long-run danger.
Watch for: A victory would give coach Troy Calhoun his fourth 10-win season in 15 years at the school, matching Fisher DeBerry’s 23-year run. Kyle Bonagura (Kyle Bonagura)
Louisville is a city in Kentucky (6-6)
QB Malik Cunningham is a player to keep an eye on. Because the ACC’s quarterback performance was so good in 2021, Cunningham’s accomplishments are generally ignored. Cunningham, on the other hand, had his greatest season of his career, leading the Cardinals to a bowl game with 3,701 total yards (14th in the NCAA) and 37 total touchdowns.
Keep an eye on the following plot: Louisville has been a difficult team to anticipate throughout the season because of its inconsistent performance. The Cardinals seem invincible in certain games, as as against Syracuse and Duke. They have failed to put a full game together in others, including a disheartening defeat to rival Kentucky to end the regular season. It begs the question: who will represent Louisville in the bowl game? Andrea Adelson’s remark
Mississippi State vs. Texas Tech in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Memphis, Tennessee’s Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium ESPN and the ESPN App, 6:45 p.m.
Mississippi State University is a public university in Mississippi (7-5)
QB Will Rogers is a player to keep an eye on. Rogers, a sophomore from Brandon, Mississippi, has been the quarterback under coach Mike Leach’s Air Raid style. Rogers has completed 75.1 percent of his throws, which leads the FBS and is the most of any starting quarterback tutored by Leach. Rogers also leads the nation in passing yards with 474 and is third in passing yards per game with 370.9. Rogers, a nominee for the Manning Award, which is given to the sport’s best quarterback, has 35 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Keep an eye on the following plot: The matchup pitting Leach against his old club, Texas Tech, where he began his FBS head-coaching career in 2000, is one of the more intriguing stories of the playoffs. Following an altercation with a player, Leach was dismissed in December 2009 after leading the Red Raiders to an 84-43 record, making him the winningest coach in school history. Texas Tech was sued by Leach for wrongful termination, but a judge decided that the university was immune from Leach’s allegations. Sonny Cumbie, the Red Raiders’ interim coach, was a walk-on quarterback for Leach at Tech. Schlabach, Mark
Texas Tech is a university in the state of Texas (6-6)
Whoever starts as quarterback is the one to watch. Tyler Shough, an Oregon transfer and starter, has yet to be cleared medically after breaking his collarbone against Texas in September. Donovan Smith has thrown for 859 yards, six touchdowns, and two interceptions in four games since then, including 323 yards and three touchdowns against Iowa State in a victory.
Sonny Cumbie, the Red Raiders’ temporary coach, was first retained by new Tech coach Joey McGuire, but then went on to become the head coach at Louisiana Tech. How will the players fare in an emotional finale to a tumultuous season with a new staff in place and an old crew driving the ship? Dave Wilson is an author.
UCLA vs. NC State in the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl
San Diego, Petco Park, 8 p.m., Fox
UCLA is a university in Los Angeles (7-5)
Dorian Thompson-Robinson is a player to keep an eye on. This season, UCLA’s quarterback may be most known for scoring a touchdown against USC, signing an autograph in the stands, and then being punished for it. DTR remains one of the Bruins’ most gifted players, as seen by his performance this season. Despite the team’s troubles, the senior quarterback would prefer to end the season on a high note, with UCLA’s remarkable early victory over LSU serving as the lone bright light.
In gorgeous Westwood, California, a hot seat can only grow so hot, yet it’s almost hard to believe it took Chip Kelly four seasons to bring UCLA to a bowl game. It’s finally beginning to seem like the clock is ticking if Kelly stays. A bowl victory would undoubtedly change the tone of next season, at least to begin with. Paolo Uggetti (Paolo Uggetti)
State of North Carolina (9-3)
Player to watch: Although NC State lost its top two linebackers, Payton Wilson and Isaiah Moore, during the season, the Wolfpack saw no drop-off owing to Drake Thomas’ outstanding performance, which included 99 tackles, 13.5 TFL, six sacks, nine QB pressures, and three interceptions. He’s been a rock in the midst of an ACC defense that’s been among the league’s finest.
What to look for: Can NC State win its tenth game? The Wolfpack had their share of memorable moments, from defeating Clemson in double overtime to an incredible comeback victory against North Carolina in a rivalry game. They can cap it off with a bowl victory, which would give the program 10 victories for the first time in program history (2002). ‘David Hale’
West Virginia vs. Minnesota in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl
Phoenix’s Chase Field ESPN and the ESPN App, 10:15 p.m.
West Virginia is a state in the US (6-6)
QB Jarret Doege is a player to keep an eye on. In the Mountaineers’ two most recent victories against Texas and Kansas, the senior averages 242 yards per game and has six touchdowns and one interception. However, he’ll be put to the test against a Minnesota defense that allows just 184.7 passing yards per game, which is the 10th best in the country.
Watch this storyline: The Mountaineers have gone 5-7, 6-4, and 6-6 this season under Neal Brown. Brown is 17-17 at West Virginia and has lost numerous players to the transfer portal this season. He could need the momentum that a bowl victory can offer, not to mention prevent a second consecutive losing season. Dave Wilson is an author.
Minnesota is a state in the United States (8-4)
QB Tanner Morgan is a player to keep an eye on. Under offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca, who was just brought back at Minnesota, the Gophers quarterback enjoyed a lot of success. This season, Morgan has passed for 1,935 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Keep an eye on the following plot: Minnesota concluded the season with a 6-2 record, with one of the two losses coming by a five-point margin against Iowa. The Minnesota defense only allows 284.8 yards per game and 18.25 points per game. Furthermore, Ciarrocca formerly worked as a West Virginia analyst, so he may be able to assist in game planning against the Mountaineers. Tom VanHaaren (Tom VanHaaren)
Tuesday, December 29th
SMU against. Virginia in the Wasabi Fenway Bowl
11 a.m., Fenway Park, Boston, ESPN and the ESPN App
QB Tanner Mordecai is a player to keep an eye on. Mordecai, a transfer from Oklahoma, had a solid first season, completing almost 68 percent of his throws for 3,628 yards, 39 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. Reggie Roberson, his main target, has declared for the NFL draft, so he’ll be missed, but he’ll still be worth watching.
Storyline to follow: How will SMU fare now that coach Sonny Dykes has left for TCU across town? After beginning the season unbeaten, the Ponies have had a rocky finish, losing four of their final five games after opening the season undefeated. Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry
Virginia (Virginia) (6-6)
Brennan Armstrong, the quarterback, is a player to keep an eye on. If you didn’t have a chance to see Armstrong play during the regular season, here is your chance. Armstrong, one of the most exciting players in the ACC, does it all for the Cavaliers, leading the country in total offensive yards per game (427.3) and total yards (4,700).
Keep an eye on the following plot: To say the Cavaliers’ season ended in disappointment would be an understatement. Virginia finished the season with four consecutive defeats, including one to Pitt on Nov. 20 that would have clinched the Coastal Division for the Cavaliers. The larger heartbreaker was losing to Virginia Tech in the regular-season finale. In the bowl game, how will the Cavaliers react? Andrea Adelson’s remark
Maryland vs. Virginia Tech in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl
New York Yankee Stadium, 2:15 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App
Maryland is a state in the United States (6-6)
QB Taulia Tagovailoa is a player to keep an eye on. The Terps have had a rollercoaster season, but Tagovailoa has passed for 3,595 yards and 24 touchdowns.
On paper, this is a very equal contest, with both sides having struggled against stronger opponents. Maryland started the season with a win against West Virginia, but then fell 2-6 in its following eight games. Can the Terps reclaim their early-season form after a few weeks of rest and preparation? Tom VanHaaren (Tom VanHaaren)
Virginia Tech is a university in the state of Virginia (6-6)
RB is a player to keep an eye on. Blackshear, Raheem. On offense, the Hokies have failed to move the ball consistently this season, but Blackshear has been a bright spot. He had 100-yard passing performances in two of the last three games of the season, including a season-high 169 yards in a crucial victory over rival Virginia that put the Hokies in bowl contention.
Watch for: Interim coach J.C. Price did an excellent job getting Virginia Tech ready for the Cavaliers, and the same should be anticipated for the bowl game. Virginia Tech has lost three consecutive bowl games and is in the midst of a coaching change, with Brent Pry taking over as head coach. The preparation and performance of this squad will surely be a big storyline to follow. Andrea Adelson’s remark
Clemson vs. Iowa State in the Cheez-It Bowl
Orlando, Florida’s Camping World Stadium ESPN and the ESPN App at 5:45 p.m.
Clemson is a university in Clemson, South (9-3)
Player to watch: Clemson linebacker James Skalski is playing in his last game after a stellar, albeit underappreciated, career. Skalski was the seasoned captain of this year’s defense, which was perhaps the second best in the country after Georgia. He had 88 tackles, nine quarterback hurries, and 2.5 sacks in five years at Clemson, which coincided with the program’s amazing run of success.
Despite Clemson’s poor season, the Tigers have had their share of standout performances, from true freshman Will Shipley’s breakthrough to a stacked defense headed by Myles Murphy, Trenton Simpson, and Andrew Booth Jr. However, the focus in the bowl will remain the same as it has been all season: quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei. No one has carried the brunt of Clemson’s woes more than he has, and if he can put together a full effort in his last game of the season, it may be a significant turning point. ‘David Hale’
Iowa State University (7-5)
QB Brock Purdy is a player to keep an eye on. The senior has 31 school records and has completed 73% of his throws this season, but all seven of his interceptions have come in four of ISU’s five defeats. Breece Hall hasn’t stated his plans for next season, but he’ll be a focal point if he plays in the bowl game. Purdy’s ability to make defenders pay will have a huge impact on the Cyclones.
Keep an eye on the following plot: It’s the last season for a class that created history at Iowa State, but the Cyclones’ lofty 2021 hopes faded in a season in which they lost five games by a combined score of 29 points. The veteran cast will face a Clemson squad that just lost both coordinators and is looking for one final huge victory. Dave Wilson is an author.
Oregon vs. Oklahoma in the Valero Alamo Bowl
9:15 p.m., Alamo Dome, San Antonio, ESPN and the ESPN App
Oregon is a state in the United States (10-3)
Travis Dye is a player to keep an eye on. The Ducks needed someone to step up after starting running back CJ Verdell sustained a leg injury that forced him to miss the remainder of the season. Dye was a revelation throughout the final eight games of the season. The uncommon running back who doesn’t wear gloves quickly established himself as a dependable safety valve for an Oregon offense that really needed it. He rushed for over 1,000 yards and scored 28 touchdowns in the process (20 rushing, eight through the air).
Storyline to follow: With Mario Cristobal headed to Miami and Kayvon Thibodeaux set to join the NFL, Oregon is left to pick up the pieces and prepare for next season. By the time this bowl game takes place, the Ducks are expected to have a new head coach, which will certainly eclipse any storylines in this meeting between two teams who have lost their head coaches. And, depending on who they employ, the Ducks may need some positive news on the field before next season. Paolo Uggetti (Paolo Uggetti)
Oklahoma is a state in the United States (10-2)
Caleb Williams, the quarterback, is a player to keep an eye on. Lincoln Riley has always had a significant role in working with quarterbacks, both as a position coach and as a play caller. The Sooners will benefit from prolonged bowl practices to acclimate, but Williams will have to adapt to new voices in his ear.
Following Lincoln Riley’s departure, Sooners supporters have fallen even harder for the ever-loyal Bob Stoops, and will be ecstatic to see the OG visor back on the sideline. It’s a rare positive for this year’s Sooners, who, apart from a spectacular second half versus Texas, disappointed in a season that started with national title hopes. David Wilson is a writer.
Thursday, December 30th
North Carolina vs. South Carolina in the Duke Mayo Bowl
Charlotte, North Carolina’s Bank of America Stadium ESPN and the ESPN App, 11:30 a.m.
North Carolina is a state in the United States (6-6)
QB Sam Howell is a player to keep an eye on. Howell was on preseason Heisman Trophy watch lists as the season started. While that hasn’t worked out, you might argue that no one was more vital to their club this season than Howell, whose tenacious effort will be remembered for a long time (2,851 yards passing, 815 yards rushing, 34 total touchdowns).
Watch for: The Tar Heels started the season rated No. 10 in the country, but they couldn’t seem to get on the same page on offense or defense. North Carolina failed to replace the talent players it lost a year ago (the Howell-Josh Downs show took over), and the defense was never consistent enough, allowing far too many points. Last year, North Carolina’s greatest players opted out of the Orange Bowl. Will anything similar happen in a lower-tier game? Andrea Adelson’s remark
South Carolina is a state in the United States (6-6)
DB is a player to keep an eye on. Foster, Jaylan. Foster transferred from Gardner-Webb in 2017 and came to South Carolina as a walk-on. Before the 2020 season, he was put on scholarship, yet he went on to become the Gamecocks’ most effective defender this year. He has five interceptions, tied for second in the FBS, and leads the team with 90 tackles. In addition, he recorded two sacks, two forced fumbles, and two pass breakups.
Storyline to keep an eye on: With a win against the Tar Heels, the Gamecocks can end with a winning record in coach Shane Beamer’s first season, which would be a huge achievement given the team’s roster in August. Despite having to play three quarterbacks due to injury and having fewer scholarship players than most of their opponents, the Gamecocks upset Florida and Auburn to earn their first bowl bid since 2018. Schlabach, Mark
Tennessee vs. Purdue in the TransPerfect Music City Bowl
Nashville, Tennessee’s Nissan Stadium ESPN and the ESPN App, 3 p.m.
Tennessee is a state in the United States (7-5)
Cedric Tillman, wide receiver, is a player to keep an eye on. In his first three seasons, Tillman only caught eight passes, but this year he has developed into a big-play threat for the Volunteers. He has 57 receptions for 931 yards and nine touchdowns to lead the club. Even more astounding, in defeats to Alabama and Georgia, the Las Vegas native caught 17 catches for 352 yards and two touchdowns. Not bad for a man who had had UNLV, Hawaii, and FCS college Weber State as scholarship offers.
Josh Heupel has done incredible job, particularly on offense, given what the Volunteers lost via the transfer portal when previous coach Jeremy Pruitt and his staff were fired following the 2020 season. In three of their previous four games, the Volunteers have scored 45 points or more. Virginia Tech transfer quarterback Hendon Hooker is completing 69 percent of his throws for 2,567 yards, 26 touchdowns, and two interceptions. To stay up with the high-scoring Boilermakers, the Vols’ offense will have to be just as good. Schlabach, Mark
Purdue University (8-4)
QB Aidan O’Connell is a player to keep an eye on. O’Connell is the big name for the Boilermakers, with David Bell and George Karlaftis opting out of the bowl game. Without Bell as their top receiver, they’ll need him to step up and make plays. O’Connell passed for 3,178 yards, 23 touchdowns, and eight interceptions this season, but Bell caught 1,286 of them.
Tennessee has allowed opponent quarterbacks to complete 62 percent of their passes this season, allowing them to gain 251.4 passing yards per game. Aidan O’Connell, the Purdue quarterback, has passed for 3,178 yards and 23 touchdowns this season. O’Connell is expected to have a strong game and will be counted on to help the Boilermakers win this game. Tom VanHaaren (Tom VanHaaren)
Michigan State vs. Pittsburgh in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
ESPN and the ESPN App, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, 7 p.m.
Michigan State University (10-2)
RB is a player to keep an eye on. Kenneth Walker III is a fictional character. This season, the Doak Walker Award winner was second in overall run yards (1,636) and ninth in rushing touchdowns (18). One of Walker’s season’s more astounding figures is that he leads the league in rush yards after first contact, with 995 of his 1,636 yards coming after first contact.
The Spartans face Pitt, whose offense is powered by Heisman contender Kenny Pickett, who leads the nation in passing yards with 4,319 yards. With 42 throwing touchdowns, Pickett is third among all quarterbacks, which does not bode well for Michigan State’s secondary. With 26 passing touchdowns allowed, the Spartans’ defense is worst in pass yards per game, 61st in opponent passing touchdowns per attempt, and 109th in passing touchdowns allowed. Tom VanHaaren (Tom VanHaaren)
Pittsburgh is a city in Pennsylvania (11-2)
Player to keep an eye on: It would be unfair to hold Kenny Pickett responsible for all of Pitt’s success this season, but suffice it to say that this team would not be playing in a New Year’s Six game if Pickett had not elected to remain for a fifth season with the Panthers. Pickett is a Heisman contender who broke Dan Marino’s school record for lifetime touchdowns and Deshaun Watson’s ACC record for season touchdown throws. Pickett wants to depart Pitt as a school icon rather than a conquering hero, so a Peach Bowl victory would be a last feather in his crown.
Keep an eye on the following plot: Coach Pat Narduzzi spent eight years as the defensive coordinator at Michigan State, and he has sought advice from former Spartans coach Mike Dantonio during 2021. Currently he’ll face his previous school, which is now managed by Mel Tucker, who received a lucrative new deal following a 10-2 season. Narduzzi was a key figure in transforming Michigan State into a perennial winner, including as the defensive coordinator during the Spartans’ previous New Year’s Six game, so this is more than simply a bowl game for Pitt. It’s a private matter. ‘David Hale’
Las Vegas Bowl SRS Distribution Arizona State vs. Wisconsin
Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium ESPN and the ESPN App, 10:30 p.m.
Wisconsin is a state in the United States (8-4)
RB Braelon Allen is a player to keep an eye on. Despite the fact that he is just a freshman, Allen has played a key role in Wisconsin’s comeback from a 1-3 start. Allen has 1,109 running yards and 12 touchdowns to lead the club.
Storyline to follow: The Badgers had an up-and-down season, winning by 7 points against Nebraska before losing by 10 points against Minnesota. Against the Gophers, the defense was strong, but Allen and the offense couldn’t get going. Only 62 run yards were gained by the squad. To get the offense rolling against Arizona State, Allen has to have a great game. Tom VanHaaren (Tom VanHaaren)
Arizona State University (8-4)
Quarterback Jayden Daniels has confirmed his return to Tempe for the 2019 season, giving him another opportunity to prove he’s more like the explosive quarterback Arizona State witnessed last year. Daniels succeeded beyond expectations as a freshman and made few errors, but he has failed to maintain that level of excellence since then. This season, Daniels has evolved into a dual-threat weapon, scoring six running touchdowns, which bodes well for a strong senior season.
Keep an eye on the following plot: Arizona State has had a peculiar year, as the Sun Devils entered the season ranked in the top 25, but also with a cloud of NCAA investigations hanging over them. On the latter front, nothing has been settled, but Herm Edwards & Co. are still in charge. Though Edwards has said that he would return to coaching, it seems like things in Sun Devil land will stay tense for the foreseeable future, making Arizona State a program to watch both on and off the field. Paolo Uggetti (Paolo Uggetti)
Friday, December 31st
Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl
Jacksonville, Florida’s TIAA Bank Field ESPN and the ESPN App, 11 a.m.
Wake Forest is a place where you may relax and (10-3)
Player to keep an eye on: Although it’s tough to single out one player of Wake’s offensive line for this role, the unit as a whole is likely to be the Deacons’ X factor. Pitt’s defensive front dominated Wake’s offensive line in the ACC championship game, going to QB Sam Hartman often and effectively shutting down the Deacons’ run attack. Left tackle Zach Tom is one of the finest blocks in the ACC, and he’ll have to lead the way, but center Michael Jurgens and guards Sean Maginn and Loic Ngassam Nya, especially against Texas A&M’s ferocious interior, will be key if Wake is to win.
Keep an eye on the following plot: Hartman has been the driving force behind Wake Forest’s historic season, but his last game turned into a nightmare when he threw four interceptions in the Deacons’ ACC title game defeat to Pitt. Hartman had returned to his hometown of Charlotte and thrown four interceptions in a Wake defeat for the second time in less than a year. Following the game, Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson stated the loss shouldn’t be blamed on his quarterback and guaranteed Hartman will be an important part of the team’s future success. Will Hartman be able to turn the page in time for the bowl game and lead Wake Forest to their 11th victory? ‘David Hale’
Texas A&M University is located in College Station, Texas (8-4)
DL Micheal Clemons is a player to keep an eye on. With All-SEC performer DeMarvin Leal sitting out of the bowl game to prepare for the NFL draft, the graduate student has been a force on the defensive line this season, and he’ll have to be even more disruptive. In ten games, Clemons has 11 tackles for loss and seven sacks. In a 27-24 defeat against LSU, he had 312 sacks, and in a 20-3 victory over Auburn, he scored the game’s lone touchdown on a 24-yard fumble return.
The Aggies will be aiming for retribution after losing 55-52 to the Demon Deacons in the 2017 Belk Bowl. After Kevin Sumlin was sacked, the Aggies were managed by interim coach Jeff Banks; Jimbo Fisher would take over the following season. In what was then the fourth-highest-scoring bowl game in history, the teams combined for 1,260 yards of offense, 899 passing yards, and 63 first downs. With 2:18 remaining, Matt Colburn’s 1-yard touchdown run put the Demon Deacons up for good. Schlabach, Mark
Washington State vs. Miami in the Sun Bowl, Tony the Tiger
El Paso, Texas, Sun Bowl Stadium, 2 p.m., CBS
Washington is a state in the United States (7-5)
Quarterback Jayden de Laura is a player to keep an eye on. The effort put in by Wazzu players this season, especially considering the turbulence that surrounded them early in the season, makes de Laura’s season even more noteworthy. In his debut season, the Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year led the league in passing yards (2,757) and touchdown passes (23). De Laura is already a hero in Pullman after leading the Cougars to their first Apple Cup victory since 2012. His future in Pullman seems bright.
Following an impressive run as an interim coach that kept Washington State not only afloat following Nick Rolovich’s resignation, but also bowl-eligible, Jake Dickert coaches his first game as the Cougars’ permanent head coach. There was no need for the school to start a search for a new coach, because Dickert has already shown that he is capable of doing the job. A victory in the Super Bowl would be the cherry on top. Paolo Uggetti (Paolo Uggetti)
Miami is a city in Florida (7-5)
QB Tyler Van Dyke took over in Week 3 when starter D’Eriq King was injured, and the results were mixed at initially (2 TDs, 3 INTs in his first two starts vs. ACC opponents). Van Dyke, on the other hand, went on to become one of the most productive quarterbacks in the nation after that. He had six consecutive games over 300 throwing yards and three touchdowns to end the regular season.
Keep an eye on the following plot: Everything at Miami is focused on the 2022 season and beyond, and the bowl game is just another showcase for what’s to come. Freshmen spearheaded the Hurricanes’ late-season push, from Van Dyke to receivers Key’Shawn Smith and Xavier Restrepo to safety Kamren Kitchens and D-lineman Jahfari Harvey, and this is their largest platform yet to set the tone for what lies ahead. ‘David Hale’
Sports Barstool Central Michigan vs. Boise State in the Arizona Bowl
2 p.m., Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Arizona
Michigan’s Central (8-4)
RB Lew Nichols III is a player to keep an eye on. Nichols, who rushed for 1,710 yards and 15 touchdowns for Central Michigan, was the team’s best rusher. Nichols has been a key element of the Chippewas’ attack, averaging 5.5 yards per carry.
Central Michigan’s offense includes a lot of playmakers, including Nichols, Kalil Pimpleton, Dallas Dixon, and JaCorey Sullivan, who have combined for 24 receiving touchdowns this season. Pimpleton has a season average of 16.02 yards per catch and two punt return touchdowns. In this game against Boise State, the Chippewas will need all of their key players to have an impact. Tom VanHaaren (Tom VanHaaren)
Boise State University (7-5)
Player to watch: WR Khalil Shakir had a tremendous year for Boise State, catching 77 catches for 1,117 yards and seven scores in a bad year for the Broncos. He was named to the Mountain West’s first team.
If Boise State (7-5) loses, it would have ended only one game above.500 for the first season since 1998, when it was still a part of the Big West Conference. The Broncos have never completed a full season with less than eight victories since entering the WAC in 2001. Kyle Bonagura (Kyle Bonagura)
Penn State vs. Arkansas in the Outback Bowl
Tampa, Florida’s Raymond James Stadium 12:00 p.m., ESPN2, and the ESPN App
Penn State is a university in Pennsylvania (7-5)
Sean Clifford, quarterback, is a player to keep an eye on. Penn State’s run defense has been a liability all season, and the offense suffered when Clifford went down with an injury. If the Nittany Lions are to have a shot against Arkansas, Clifford will have to carry the offense.
Storyline to keep an eye on: Arkansas has faced several high-powered offenses this season, so the defensive rankings and metrics are definitely exaggerated. In the season finale versus Michigan State, Penn State had just 61 yards running, while Clifford passed for 313 yards and three touchdowns. This game may be tight if Penn State can find success via the air and contain Arkansas, which ranks 37th in offensive points scored per game. Tom VanHaaren (Tom VanHaaren)
Arkansas is a state in the United States (8-4)
Arkansas cornerback Montaric Brown was named to the All-SEC team after tying for the league lead with five interceptions. He had the second-highest total in the FBS. He is the first Arkansas player to have five or more interceptions since Tramain Thomas in 2011. Brown made 53 tackles to go along with 10 pass breakups, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
Watch this space for more on Sam Pittman’s incredible season at Arkansas, where he led the Hogs to a 4-0 start and won four of their final five games. Arkansas can win nine games for the first time since finishing 11-2 under Bobby Petrino in 2012 if they beat the Nittany Lions. It would also be the Hogs’ first bowl victory since a 45-23 triumph at the conclusion of the 2015 season under Bret Bielema. Schlabach, Mark
Iowa vs. Kentucky in the Vrbo Citrus Bowl
Orlando, Florida’s Camping World Stadium ABC and the ESPN App at 1 p.m.
Iowa is a state in the United States (10-3)
RB is a player to keep an eye on. Tyler Goodson is a writer. Goodson leads Iowa’s rushing attack with 1,151 yards and six touchdowns. The pass attack has had its ups and downs this season, but Goodson has been consistent.
Storyline to keep an eye on: Iowa’s pass defense has 22 interceptions and has been solid all season. With 12 interceptions, Kentucky is 90th in the country in interceptions thrown, thus the duel between the Wildcats’ offense and Iowa’s defensive will be crucial in this game. Tom VanHaaren (Tom VanHaaren)
Kentucky is a state in the United States (9-3)
RB is a player to keep an eye on. Chris Rodriguez Jr. is a member of the Rodriguez family. He has been one of the driving forces behind Kentucky’s offensive revolution, with quarterback Will Levis and receiver Wan’Dale Robinson. With 1,272 yards and eight touchdowns, Rodriguez is the SEC’s No. 2 runner. In each of the previous four games and eight this season, he has rushed for 100 yards or more. With 2,633 career running yards, he’s just 15 yards away from tying for sixth all-time at UK, and his 25 career rushing touchdowns are tied for fourth. Only Levis, Rodriguez, and Robinson are the only three players in school history to have 2,000 passing yards, 1,000 running yards, and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season.
Keep an eye on the following plot: Kentucky has had a season full with streaks. For the first time since 1950, the Wildcats began 6-0, but lost three straight before winning three straight to finish the regular season. They were 5-3 in SEC play, just the second time they had a winning record in the conference since 1977. For the fourth time in school history, Kentucky can win 10 games in a season, and Mark Stoops can become the first coach to accomplish it twice. Bear Bryant led the Wildcats to an 11-1 record in 1950, a 10-1 record under Frank Curci in 1977, and a 10-3 record under Stoops in 2018. Schlabach, Mark
Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma State in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
Glendale, Arizona’s State Farm Stadium ESPN and the ESPN App, 1 p.m.
Notre Dame is a Catholic university in the United States (11-1)
DE is a player to watch. Foskey, Isiah It’s uncertain if the California sophomore will go pro, but he seems to be playing in the bowl. He’ll have an opportunity to build on an outstanding pass-rush season: He has ten sacks and five forced fumbles in his debut season as a full-time starter.
The Fiesta Bowl marks the beginning of a new era for Notre Dame football. Marcus Freeman takes over as head coach, and the Irish will take on Oklahoma State minus a few of stars (Kyren Williams and Kyle Hamilton), but with a lot of promising potential stars. Bill Connelly’s quote
Oklahoma State University is a public university in Oklahoma City (11-3)
QB Spencer Sanders is a player to keep an eye on. Sanders is the mastermind behind the OSU offense, and although being much better this season, he still threw 12 interceptions, seven of which came in two games versus Baylor. The Cowboys will be a difficult opponent if first-team All-Big 12 Sanders is on the roster. If they have Sanders, who struggled against Baylor’s defense, the defense may be placed in a difficult situation.
The Cowboys have a lot of experience on defense (the average age of their starters is 21.9 years old, according to The Oklahoman), are rated third in overall defense and seventh in scoring defense, and allow just 4.4 yards per play, which is fourth in the nation. After this game, coordinator Jim Knowles will leave for Ohio State, therefore it will be the last ride for most of what has been OSU’s calling card this season. Dave Wilson is an author.
Capital One Venture X is the title sponsor of the Rose Bowl Game, which pits Ohio State against Utah.
Pasadena, California’s Rose Bowl ESPN and the ESPN App, 5 p.m.
Ohio State is a university in the state of Ohio (10-2)
QB C.J. Stroud is a player to keep an eye on. Stroud, who is No. 8 in passing yards and No. 5 in passing touchdowns, leads the Ohio State attack. The Buckeyes have a lot of offensive options, but Stroud is the one who distributes them.
Watch this storyline unfold: When Ohio State faced Michigan, the Wolverines applied consistent pressure to Stroud, disrupting the attack. With 41 sacks this season, Utah is tied for fifth in sacks and second in interrupted dropbacks. Utah will use the Michigan blueprint to put pressure on Stroud in this game. Tom VanHaaren (Tom VanHaaren)
Britain Covey is a player to keep an eye on. Covey still has a year of eligibility remaining after six years, five seasons, approximately 2,000 receiving yards, over 1,000 return yards, and 16 touchdowns. Because he has said that he will not return to Utah, this will be the last opportunity to witness Covey burst on a punt return while wearing the Utah colors. Covey has the most punt return yards in the country and has two punt returns for touchdowns. He also owns the Utah record for punt return yards in a career.
Keep an eye on the following plot: Utah’s season has been incredible to watch. On the field, the Utes struggled to a 1-2 start before finishing 9-1 and earning their first Rose Bowl berth. There’s no equating such difficulties with the team’s off-field troubles, which include the abrupt and sad loss of teammate Aaron Lowe less than a year after Ty Jordan was slain in a shooting. Kyle Whittingham has kept this team on course during an emotional season, and the hard work on the field has paid off, regardless of whether or not the team wins the Rose Bowl. Paolo Uggetti (Paolo Uggetti)
Ole Miss vs. Baylor in the Allstate Sugar Bowl
8:45 p.m., Caesars Superdome, New Orleans, ESPN and the ESPN App
Ole Miss is a college in Oxford, Mississippi (10-2)
QB Matt Corral is a player to keep an eye on. Coach Lane Kiffin’s high-flying system looks tailor-made for the California native. Corral has thrown for 3,339 yards, 20 touchdowns, and four interceptions on 68 percent of his throws. He’s also rushed for 597 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s the only FBS player with more over 3,000 throwing yards and 500 running yards this season. He has the third most running touchdowns by an Ole Miss quarterback in a single season, and he is one of just three FBS quarterbacks with at least 20 throwing touchdowns and 11 or more rushing touchdowns. Corral is the No. 16 overall talent and No. 2 quarterback available in the 2022 NFL draft, according to ESPN’s Todd McShay.
Storyline to follow: In only two seasons at Ole Miss, Kiffin has led the Rebels to 10 regular-season wins for the first time in school history. Since its inception in 1902, the Rebels have never won 12 games in a season. The school just awarded Kiffin with a new contract for an average of $7.5 million per year. Schlabach, Mark
Baylor is a university in the state of Texas (10-2)
Abram Smith, who started six games at linebacker previous season, returned to his natural position of running back this season and carried for 1,429 yards on 6.2 yards per carry. Baylor can play their game and keep the Ole Miss offense off the field if they can get him going.
Storyline to watch: Despite quarterback Charlie Brewer transferring and this year’s starter, Gerry Bohanon, missing their last 212 games, the Bears have been one of the finest tales in college football this year, rebounding back from a 2-7 season in Dave Aranda’s first year to Big 12 winners. Baylor has an opportunity to make a statement against a strong SEC club after winning the Big 12 championship. Dave Wilson is an author.
4th of January
LSU vs. Kansas State in the TaxAct Texas Bowl
Houston, NRG Stadium, 9 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App
QB Garrett Nussmeier is a player to keep an eye on. Nussmeier is the only scholarship quarterback remaining on LSU’s roster, with starter Max Johnson and former starting Myles Brennan both transferring earlier this season. He will, however, burn his redshirt if he plays against the Wildcats in the bowl game, since he has already played in four games this season. Will the Tigers forego a year of Nussmeier’s eligibility in order to compete in a bowl game, or will they rely on walk-ons Tavion Faulk and Matt O’Dowd?
Watch for this storyline: The Tigers will be without former coach Ed Orgeron, who was sacked by the school on Oct. 17 but returned for the last five regular-season games. Interim coach will be offensive line coach Brad Davis, a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He’ll be the Tigers’ first Black coach to take the field. Kerry Joseph, the receivers coach, departed for Nebraska, while Tommy Moffitt, the longstanding strength and conditioning coach, was not retained by incoming head coach Brian Kelly. Schlabach, Mark
Kansas State University (7-5)
Deuce Vaughn, running back, is a player to keep an eye on. Vaughn, who is 5-6 and weighs 172 pounds, is a difficult man to bring down and one of the most entertaining college football players in the nation to watch. He has 1,258 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground and 47 receptions in the passing game.
Keep an eye on the following plot: After the regular season, Kansas State coach Chris Kleiman sacked offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham and fullbacks/TE coach Jason Ray, handing the offense over to Collin Klein, a former Wildcats standout and 2012 Heisman Trophy contender, who had been teaching the quarterbacks. Can Klein, who rushed for 55 touchdowns at Kansas State, help the offense get back on track? Dave Wilson is an author.
College Football Playoff
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Cincinnati in the CFP Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
Friday, December 31, 2021, 3:30 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Cincinnati is a city in Ohio (13-0)
Coby Bryant is a player to keep an eye on. The winner of the Thorpe Award will be crucial in containing Jameson Williams and Alabama’s passing threat. Bryant and Sauce Gardner are one of college football’s top cornerback tandems, and they’ll have to be at their best in the Cotton Bowl.
Can Cincinnati show that the Group of 5 can hold its own against the Power 5? It’s unreasonable to heap such pressure and expectations on Cincinnati, particularly considering all the Bearcats have accomplished in the last two years to get here, but their performance in this game will surely be scrutinized. Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry
Alabama is a state in the United States (12-1)
WR Jameson Williams is a player to keep an eye on. While Alabama quarterback Bryce Young won the Heisman Trophy, it’s difficult to envision where the Tide would be if Williams, an Ohio State transfer, hadn’t joined the team. He has 15 receiving touchdowns, 1,445 receiving yards, and a 21.3 yard average on 68 receptions, which places him second in the FBS. After teammate John Metchie III tore his ACL in his left knee against Georgia in the SEC championship game, he’ll have to be even better. This season, Williams and Metchie have combined to collect 68.3 percent of Alabama’s completions; the only other Tide receiver with more than 15 receptions is Slade Bolden (32 catches for 333 yards and two touchdowns).
Keep an eye on the following plot: Was Alabama’s dominance a one-off or a foreshadowing of things to come in the playoffs? The Crimson Tide plowed over a Georgia defense that had been dominating after appearing average in close-than-expected victory over LSU, Arkansas, and Auburn to end the regular season. Alabama’s much-maligned offensive line, which allowed seven sacks in the Iron Bowl, fared well against Georgia’s lauded defensive front. Can Nick Saban’s Alabama team keep rolling and put together two more solid performances to capture their seventh national title? Schlabach, Mark
No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Georgia in the Capital One Orange Bowl
Friday, December 31, 2021, 7:30 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App, Orange Bowl, Miami
Georgia is a country in the United States (12-1)
LB is a player to keep an eye on. Dean Nakobe Dean received the Butkus Award as the best linebacker in the FBS after leading Georgia’s top-ranked scoring defense. He has 812 tackles for loss and is tied for first place with 61 tackles. He’s also has five sacks, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions, one of which was a pick-six against Florida. He’s a significant reason the Bulldogs are second in overall defense and first in scoring defense (9.5 points) (254.4 yards).
Watch this storyline to see how the Bulldogs respond to their first setback of the season, a 41-24 loss to Alabama in the SEC championship game. Georgia coach Kirby Smart had to know it wouldn’t be easy to end the program’s 41-year wait for a national championship. Georgia was undefeated in the regular season, finishing 12-0, but was later beaten by the Crimson Tide in another humiliating defeat. Smart praises his team’s leadership, and the Bulldogs will have to forget about their loss against the Wolverines in order to advance to a rematch against Alabama in the CFP National Championship on Jan. 10. Schlabach, Mark
Michigan is a state in the United States (12-1)
RB is a player to keep an eye on. Hassan Haskins is a character in the film Hassan Haskins. Haskins or Blake Corum are at the heart of Michigan’s offense when things are going well. If the Wolverines are to have any chance against Georgia’s defense, they’ll need Haskins to help them move the ball.
Watch out for this storyline: Michigan’s offense will have its hands full against Georgia’s defense. With 36.62 points per game, the Wolverines are 19th in overall offensive yards per game, ninth in run yards per game, and 11th in offensive points scored per game. The Georgia defense is rated well in almost every statistical category, so Michigan will have to find a way to score against a squad that allows just 9.5 points per game. Tom VanHaaren (Tom VanHaaren)
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The “college football rankings” is a list of the best college football teams, ranked by their performance in the previous season. The list was created by Jeff Sagarin and can be found on his website.
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