College Football Picks: College Football Bowl Games Part II
For a lot of us, the days between Christmas and New Year's are a blur. They run together, you're unsure what day of the week it is, and you wonder how many more leftovers you can eat.
The good news is that from Tuesday to Saturday, there are a bunch of college football games on TV to keep us entertained. This slate includes great matchups and exciting players.
We've got you covered with predictions for every non-New Year's Six game during these five days, so let's dive in.
Author's note: We'll predict the College Football Playoff semifinals and New Year's Six bowls in a separate piece.
All times Eastern. Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.
Gambling problem? Call 877-8-HOPENY/text HOPENY (467369) (NY).
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, crisis counseling and referral services can be accessed by calling 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) (IL/IN/LA/MD/MI/NJ/PA/TN/WV/WY), 1-800-NEXT STEP (AZ), 1-800-522-4700 (CO/KS/NH), 888-789-7777/visit ccpg.org (CT), 1-800-BETS OFF (IA), visiting OPGR.org (OR), ConnexOntario 1-866-531-2600 (CA-ONT), or calling 1-888-532-3500 (VA).
Odds and lines subject to change. 21+ (19+ CA-ONT) (18+ NH/WY). Physically present in AZ/CO/CT/IL/IN/IA/KS/LA (select parishes)/MD/MI/NH/NJ/NY/OR/PA/TN/VA/WV/WY/CA-ONT only. Eligibility restrictions apply. See terms at draftkings.com/sportsbook. DraftKings operates pursuant to an Operating Agreement with iGaming Ontario. Please play responsibly.
Tuesday, Dec. 27
Camellia Bowl: Georgia Southern vs. Buffalo
When: Noon (ESPN)
Line: Georgia Southern -4
Each of these teams had to win their last contest to become bowl-eligible. Buffalo opened the year with three straight loses but then rattled off five straight wins. After losing to Ohio, Central Michigan and Kent State, the Bulls beat Akron 23-22 at the end of the year.
Georgia Southern started 2-0, including an upset victory at Nebraska. The Eagles lost six of their next nine but recorded an incredible overtime victory against Appalachian State in the last week of the regular season.
This game also features a quarterback facing his former team. Georgia Southern's Kyle Vantrease started for three seasons with the Bulls before transferring. He's thrown for a career-high 3,901 yards and 25 touchdowns with 15 interceptions.
Prediction: Georgia Southern 33, Buffalo 27
First Responder Bowl: Memphis vs. Utah State
When: 3:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Line: Memphis -7.5
Memphis will be eager to play in a bowl game after last season's Hawai'i Bowl was canceled because of a COVID-19 outbreak in the Hawai'i program. Utah State is 6-6 just a year after winning the Mountain West.
Memphis is favored in this one, likely because of its offense and the Utah State defense. The Tigers, led by quarterback Seth Henigan, rank fourth in the American Athletic in scoring, putting up 35.1 points per game. The Aggies are 103rd nationally in scoring defense, giving up 30.6 points per game.
Utah State finished stronger than Memphis did—winning five of seven compared to the Tigers' dropping five of seven. But I like the Memphis offense.
Prediction: Memphis 35, Utah State 24
Birmingham Bowl: Coastal Carolina vs. East Carolina
When: 6:45 p.m. (ESPN)
Line: East Carolina -7
We might as well call this the Carolina Bowl. It's an interesting matchup between two schools that are less than 200 miles apart. East Carolina is located in Greenville, North Carolina, and Coastal Carolina is in Conway, South Carolina.
The other cool thing about the Birmingham Bowl? These two teams have never played each other. They are evenly matched. Coastal puts up 29.1 points per game, while ECU is at 30.8. The Pirates have a slight edge on defense, giving up 27.0 points per game compared to the Chanticleers' 30.1.
But the biggest storyline in this game is CCU quarterback Grayson McCall. Though he has entered the transfer portal, he will play.
"I think that shows you the selflessness of him," interim head coach Chad Staggs said, per Danny Kelly of the Post and Courier. "I think it shows you the character of the team and what he means to them. I don't know anywhere else that that would be the case where the coach leaves and he was still willing to do that for his teammates."
McCall is the only player to have won the Sun Belt Player of the Year award three times. In his career, he has thrown for 8,019 yards and 78 touchdowns with just eight interceptions.
Staggs is filling in for Jamey Chadwell, who was hired by Liberty.
McCall can lead this team to its 10th win in a tight one.
Prediction: Coastal Carolina 38, East Carolina 35
Guaranteed Rate Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Oklahoma State
When: 10:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Line: Wisconsin -3.5
Wisconsin and Oklahoma State will meet for the nightcap. These teams had opposite seasons. The Badgers opened the season 2-3 and moved on from longtime head coach Paul Chryst after a 34-10 home loss to Illinois. They finished 4-3 under Jim Leonhard. The Cowboys were 6-1 with a double-overtime road loss to TCU. But they lost four of their last five.
Each team will be without its starting quarterback. Wisconsin's Graham Mertz entered the transfer portal and is heading to Florida, and Oklahoma State's Spencer Sanders is in the portal, as well. The Badgers' No. 12-ranked defense will likely have the edge, matching up against an offense without its biggest star.
Prediction: Wisconsin 23, Oklahoma State 17
Wednesday, Dec. 28
Military Bowl: UCF vs. Duke
When: 2 p.m. (ESPN)
Line: Duke -3.5
Duke is playing its first bowl game since 2018. The 8-4 Blue Devils made a drastic improvement under first-year head coach Mike Elko after finishing 10-25 over the last three seasons.
UCF is 9-4 after a loss to Tulane in the AAC Championship Game. This game will feature a pair of very productive quarterbacks.
Duke's Riley Leonard has thrown for 2,794 yards and 20 touchdowns with six interceptions. He also leads the Devils with 636 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. UCF's John Rhys Plumlee, who started his career at Ole Miss before transferring last offseason, has thrown for 2,404 yards with 14 touchdowns against seven interceptions. Plumlee also leads the Knights rushing attack with 841 yards plus 11 touchdowns.
This game will come down to which quarterback has the better day. Leonard's numbers are better than Plumlee's in their last three games. And Duke's four losses each came by one score. UCF lost to a bad Navy team two weeks before the conference title game, so the Blue Devils carry the momentum.
Prediction: Duke 42, UCF 38
Liberty Bowl: Kansas vs. Arkansas
When: 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Line: Arkansas -3
This game could have been the renewal of a longtime rivalry between Kansas and Missouri, but the Tigers reportedly declined to face the Jayhawks. How bad is that?
Instead, Kansas, which is playing in a bowl game for the first time since 2008, will face Arkansas, which lost three of its last four.
For Kansas, we could finally see quarterback Jalon Daniels fully healthy again. The Jayhawks' dark-horse Heisman Trophy candidate missed four games with a shoulder injury but played the last two of the season, struggling in his return.
A fully healthy Daniels isn't the best news for a defense that ranks 123rd nationally. The Razorbacks will also be without associate head coach and defensive coordinator Barry Odom, who is the new head coach at UNLV. Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson can make this one entertaining, but I like the Jayhawks to win as underdogs.
Prediction: Kansas 27, Arkansas 24
Holiday Bowl: Oregon vs. North Carolina
When: 8 p.m. (Fox)
Line: Oregon -14
We're in for a treat. That's because two of the nation's most talented quarterbacks—Oregon's Bo Nix and North Carolina's Drake Maye—will face off. That's great news for the Holiday Bowl, which was canceled in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic and in 2021 because of COVID-19 issues with UCLA.
Maye has been sensational all season and ranks second in the nation in total offense with 4,768 yards. The redshirt freshman will be without one of his go-to targets, however. Receiver Josh Downs is off to the NFL and won't play while he prepares for his pro future.
Nix enters with a ton of momentum. He is eligible for the 2023 NFL draft but announced he will return to Eugene for another season. He's put up the best numbers of his collegiate career after spending 2019-21 at Auburn. He has 3,388 passing yards with 27 touchdowns to six interceptions plus 504 rushing yards with 14 touchdowns.
UNC has lost two of its three bowl games in Mack Brown's second stint.
Each team will be without its offensive coordinator. Phil Longo took the same job at Wisconsin under Luke Fickell, and Kenny Dillingham is the new head coach at Arizona State.
Prediction: Oregon 41, North Carolina 34
Texas Bowl: Texas Tech vs. Ole Miss
When: 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Line: Ole Miss -3.5
Ole Miss is just a year removed from making the Sugar Bowl. The 8-4 Rebels lost four of their last five games, including a 24-22 loss to Mississippi State. Texas Tech, meanwhile, won its last three games to get to 7-5 under first-year head coach Joey McGuire.
The Rebels' finish was disappointing, especially since they were out of SEC West contention. There's no question Lane Kiffin was hired to win the division, and Ole Miss hasn't done so over his three seasons.
A win may not make up for that, but Ole Miss should beat Texas Tech thanks to true freshman running back Quinshon Judkins. He has been sensational with 1,476 yards and 16 touchdowns. And the Red Raiders rush defense ranks 90th in the nation.
Prediction: Ole Miss 45, Texas Tech 21
Thursday, Dec. 29
Pinstripe Bowl: Syracuse vs. Minnesota
When: 2 p.m. (ESPN)
Line: Minnesota -9.5
Syracuse was 6-0 before losing five straight. The Orange got their first win since mid-October with a 32-23 victory over Boston College in their regular-season finale. Minnesota can have two straight nine-win seasons with a win over Syracuse. If the Golden Gophers win, it'll mark the fourth straight bowl victory for head coach P.J. Fleck.
Syracuse will be missing running back Sean Tucker, who led the Orange with 1,060 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is heading to the NFL. The Orange will also be without offensive coordinator Robert Anae, who left for North Carolina State.
The Golden Gophers shouldn't have too many problems reaching win No. 9.
Prediction: Minnesota 24, Syracuse 10
Cheez-It Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Florida State
When: 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Line: Florida State -9.5
Oklahoma struggled during head coach Brent Venables' first season. Despite entering the year as a dark-horse College Football Playoff candidate, the Sooners finished 6-6, including losses in three of their last four.
Florida State is having its best season under head coach Mike Norvell. If the Noles get a win over Oklahoma, they'll reach 10 for the first time since 2016.
Florida State looks like it'll be a contender in the ACC in 2023 with the return of quarterback Jordan Travis. He enters with 2,796 yards passing and 22 touchdowns against four interceptions. Travis should have a big day against the Sooners defense, which checks in at 120th nationally.
Oklahoma will be without star running back Eric Gray, who is preparing for the NFL draft. The Sooners just won't have enough firepower to keep pace with FSU.
Prediction: Florida State 38, Oklahoma 20
Alamo Bowl: Texas vs. Washington
When: 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Line: Texas -3.5
The nightcap should be fun, if you like watching high-flying quarterbacks. And if you haven't seen Washington's Michael Penix Jr., here's your opportunity.
He has been appointment viewing all season. Penix is second in the nation in passing yards with 4,354 and has 29 touchdown tosses to seven interceptions. His two leading receivers, Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan, have more than 1,000 yards apiece.
Texas' 8-4 record was a drastic improvement from its 5-7 debut under Steve Sarkisian. But the Longhorns will likely struggle to keep up with Washington, which puts up 40.8 points per game. That's because running back Bijan Robinson, who led Texas with 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground, won't play to prepare for the NFL draft.
Penix, who has already announced he's returning to Seattle for the 2023 season, should close the season on a high note.
Prediction: Washington 42, Texas 35
Friday, Dec. 30, and Saturday, Dec. 31
Duke's Mayo Bowl: Maryland vs. NC State
When: Noon (ESPN)
Line: NC State -1
The Duke's Mayo Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina, is one of my favorite bowl games to watch. Not because of any teams that have played but because the winning head coach gets a mayonnaise bath afterward. For the second consecutive season, the winning team can donate $10,000 to a charity for a mayo dump. Just look at how glorious it is:
Mayo-dumping aside, this should be an entertaining matchup. Maryland is a slight favorite. The Terrapins offense is led by dynamic signal-caller Taulia Tagovailoa, who has thrown for 2,787 yards and 17 touchdowns with six interceptions. Redshirt freshman running back Roman Hemby has 924 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.
NC State will be eager to play in this one after the Holiday Bowl last season was canceled because of UCLA's COVID-19 issues. I like Tagovailoa, who should be fully healthy after being banged up toward the end of the year, to play well in this one.
Prediction: Maryland 28, NC State 24
Sun Bowl: Pitt vs. UCLA
When: 2 p.m. (CBS)
Line: UCLA -5.5
UCLA will play in a bowl game for the first time since 2017 after the Bruins dropped out of the aforementioned Holiday Bowl last year due to COVID-19 issues. They have had their best season at 9-3 since Chip Kelly arrived in 2018. Pitt is 8-4 just a year after winning the ACC.
The Panthers will be missing a slew of players, including All-American defensive lineman Calijah Kancey (shoulder injury), quarterback Kedon Slovis (transfer portal) and safety Brandon Hill and linebacker SirVocea Dennis, who are off to prepare for the draft.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson enters with 2,883 passing yards and 25 touchdowns against seven interceptions and should have a big day.
Prediction: UCLA 34, Pitt 17
Gator Bowl: Notre Dame vs. South Carolina
When: 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Line: Notre Dame -2.5
These teams had interesting seasons for different reasons. Notre Dame started 0-2, including a shocking home loss to Marshall. But the Irish rebounded to get to 8-4, including an upset victory against Clemson. South Carolina capped the season with a pair of huge upsets, beating Tennessee and Clemson.
Notre Dame is a slight favorite. Quarterback Drew Pyne is in the transfer portal, but Week 1 starter Tyler Buchner, who suffered a shoulder injury against Marshall and hasn't played since, will be available.
The Gamecocks will be without running back MarShawn Lloyd (transfer portal), while receiver Josh Vann is questionable with a knee injury, and tight ends Jaheim Bell and Austin Stogner are also transferring. Quarterback Spencer Rattler will have a tough time matching up against Notre Dame's No. 23-ranked defense without several of his targets around him.
Prediction: Notre Dame 28, South Carolina 9
Arizona Bowl: Ohio vs. Wyoming
When: 4:30 p.m. (Barstool)
Ohio is 9-4, including a seven-game winning streak before the MAC Championship Game, a 17-7 loss to Toledo.
Wyoming will be looking to win its fourth straight bowl game, which would match a program record.
The Cowboys might have a tough time with the Bobcats offense, which ranks first in the MAC in scoring with 31.9 points per game. Wyoming will be thin at running back, as leading rusher Titus Swen is headed to the NFL draft. Second-leading rusher Dawaiian McNeely will miss the game with an injury, and third-leading rusher D.Q. James is out with a knee injury.
I think the Ohio offense will be too much for the Wyoming defense to handle.
Prediction: Ohio 31, Wyoming 10
Music City Bowl: Iowa vs. Kentucky
When: Noon (ABC)
Line: Iowa -2
These teams performed under expectations. Kentucky expected to be a contender inside the SEC East but lost to South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Georgia. Iowa had a chance to make it back to the Big Ten Championship Game but lost to Nebraska at the end of the regular season to send Purdue to represent the Big Ten West instead.
Key offensive players will be missing for each team. Iowa is down to its third-string quarterback in Joe Labas. Starter Spencer Petras is out with a shoulder injury, and his back-up, Alex Padilla, entered the transfer portal. Kentucky quarterback Will Levis and running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. will be preparing for the NFL draft. And Wildcats offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello was fired.
This one will likely be ugly and low-scoring, but I think the Hawkeyes defense, which ranks fourth in the nation, can give Iowa the edge.
Prediction: Iowa 13, Kentucky 10