College Bowl Picks 2022-23: Predictions For Biggest Matchups After Poll Release
Never has a bowl game name been better represented by its participants than the 2022 Orange Bowl featuring the Clemson Tigers and Tennessee Volunteers.
The stands inside Hard Rock Stadium on December 30 will be filled with the two shades of orange made famous by those respective ACC and SEC programs.
Each team carried College Football Playoff aspirations into November, but they both fell short and landed in a New Year's Six clash instead.
The Orange Bowl will be more about building for next season than celebrating this year's success for both programs. Clemson will likely give the starting quarterback nod to Cade Klubnik, who starred in the ACC Championship Game, while Tennessee should showcase its younger players with opt-outs likely coming in the next few weeks.
Before college football's top programs take the bowl stage, a few top Group of Five schools and overachieving Power Five schools will play in their respective bowls.
The Cure Bowl on Dec. 16 should be one of the best bowl matchups of the year, as it pits the Conference USA and Sun Belt champions against one another.
The Liberty Bowl will have our attention because it marks the Kansas Jayhawks' postseason return. KU last participated in a bowl in 2008.
Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Tennessee
Clemson has plenty of reason to be excited about the Orange Bowl despite it marking a failure to reach the College Football Playoff.
Freshman quarterback Cade Klubnik will have a chance to prove himself against a SEC opponent. He will likely take the reins of the offense next season, as DJ Uiagalelei is headed for the transfer portal.
Klubnik threw for 279 yards and a touchdown in the ACC Championship Game victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels. He also ran for 30 yards and a touchdown.
The weeks leading up to the Orange Bowl will be about preparing Klubnik for a big game that could skyrocket his hype and his team's expectations going into next season.
Some of Clemson's experienced players may be more willing to stay around for the Dec. 30 bowl game. The defense could look different for the Tigers since Myles Murphy and Bryan Bresee will likely be first-round picks, as could linebacker Trenton Simpson.
Absences in the middle of the Clemson defense could allow Tennessee's offense to put up more points than a typical Clemson opponent. The Tigers won eight of their 11 games by holding teams to 20 points or less.
Tennessee will have a motivated quarterback as well, as backup Joe Milton III has a chance to prove himself after being benched in favor of Hendon Hooker last season. After Hooker's season-ending knee injury, Milton took over against the Vanderbilt Commodores and led the Vols to a 56-0 win.
The Michigan transfer has an opportunity to go out on a high note against a potentially weakened Clemson defense.
Both quarterbacks have plenty to prove and that may lead to a high-scoring game.
Prediction: Tennessee 35, Clemson 31
Cure Bowl: UTSA vs. Troy
The only Top 25 matchup in the first 13 days of bowl season takes place at the Cure Bowl on Dec. 16.
The UTSA Roadrunners, the Conference USA champion, face off against the Sun Belt Conference champion Troy Trojans.
Both teams were dominant on each side of the ball in the final few games.
UTSA, led by quarterback Frank Harris, eclipsed the 40-point mark in four of its last five games.
Harris had 341 passing yards, 49 rushing yards and five total touchdowns in the C-USA title game.
Troy rode quarterback Gunnar Watson and an imposing defense to win its last three games by a combined 66 points.
Troy’s defense held seven straight opponents under 20 points to end the regular season. That unit will pose a tricky challenge to Harris in what could turn into a strength-versus-strength battle.
Troy shut down some of the best teams in the Sun Belt and has a bit of extra motivation to win its first bowl game appearance since 2018.
UTSA has never won a bowl in its FBS tenure, and that drought may extend to four games if it can’t figure out the Troy defense.
Prediction: Troy 24, UTSA 13
Liberty Bowl: Kansas vs. Arkansas
Kansas’ bowl motivation far outweighs that of the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Kansas became bowl-eligible for the first time in a decade thanks to a 6-3 start.
Head coach Lance Leipold did not leave the program despite interest from elsewhere. He can use the Liberty Bowl as a chance to build the program toward next year.
Arkansas also finished at 6-6, but it failed to live up to expectations. The Razorbacks lost three of their last four games.
The last type of matchup Arkansas wanted was a hungry and motivated power-conference team looking to finish over .500 for the first time since 2008.
Kansas can score at a fast pace. Its defense is not great, conceding over 40 points in each of its last three games, but that unit could improve against an Arkansas side that failed to score 20 points in two of its last three losses.
Prediction: Kansas 34, Arkansas 21