College Bowl Picks 2021-22: Predictions for Biggest Matchups After Poll Release
The intriguing college football bowl matchups start with the Group of Five clashes in mid-December and end with some fantastic Power Five showdowns on Dec. 30 and 31 and Jan. 1.
The top Power Five clashes go further than the two College Football Playoff matchups. There are seven bowls outside of the playoff that feature two Top 25 teams.
One of the most fascinating ranked matchups opens up the New Year's Eve slate, as the Wake Forest Demon Deacons offense does battle with the Texas A&M Aggies defense.
One day later, another SEC West team has a tricky game, this time against the Big 12 champion when the Ole Miss Rebels face the Baylor Bears.
You do not have to wait until New Year's Eve for a matchup of heavy hitters. The second day of bowl season features a heavyweight Group of Five battle in the Boca Raton Bowl.
The full schedule for all 42 bowl games can be found here.
Gator Bowl: No. 17 Wake Forest vs. No. 25 Texas A&M
The Wake Forest Demon Deacons entered November with a chance to make a push up the College Football Playoff rankings.
Dave Clawson's team suffered two regular-season losses and fell in the ACC Championship Game to finish at 10-3 and earn a Gator Bowl berth.
Wake Forest should relish the opportunity despite the struggles over the last month. It is the first time the program is playing in a major bowl game since the 2007 Orange Bowl.
The Demon Deacons typically play around Christmas Day in some of the third-tier bowl games against other average Power Five programs. They get a chance to beat a premier SEC program on New Year's Eve.
Quarterback Sam Hartman and the Wake offense face an A&M defense that allows 15.9 points per game. The Aggies held seven of the eight opponents they beat to under 20 points. The Alabama Crimson Tide were the only side to eclipse that mark in a 41-38 A&M win.
Jimbo Fisher's team could be susceptible to conceding a high total after it lost two of its last three games to Ole Miss and the LSU Tigers.
A&M conceded 916 total yards and 56 points in those defeats. Wake averages 469.1 total yards and 41.2 points per game.
If the Aggies defense that showed up in those losses appears in Jacksonville, Florida, Wake Forest could feast and come away with its 11th victory.
A Gator Bowl victory means more to the Demon Deacons because they are not typically at the top of their conference. That could serve as extra motivation to pick up a victory.
Prediction: Wake Forest 34, Texas A&M 24
Sugar Bowl: No. 7 Baylor vs. No. 8 Ole Miss
Baylor and Ole Miss can both use the Sugar Bowl as a chance to propel themselves into the offseason with more momentum.
Baylor's Dave Aranda and Ole Miss' Lane Kiffin were two potential candidates for some of the big coaching openings, but they received extensions and remained at their respective schools.
Baylor enters New Orleans with a Big 12 championship after it held the Oklahoma State Cowboys to 16 points.
The Bears limited three of their last four opponents under 20 points, and they will receive the ultimate defensive test against Ole Miss' offense.
Ole Miss averages 506.7 total yards and 35.9 points per game. Quarterback Matt Corral threw for 3,339 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Corral could play in the Sugar Bowl, or he may opt to focus on preparations for the 2022 NFL draft after declaring last month. For now, we have to assume Corral, who played two games since his announcement, will play until a decision is announced.
The junior could use a matchup with Baylor's tough defense to improve his draft stock a bit, but playing also comes with the risk of injury.
Ole Miss would take a hit without Corral, but it still has plenty of talent at the offensive skill positions, including running back Jerrion Ealy, who cause cause problems for the Baylor defense.
Baylor should view the Sugar Bowl as a test against a strong offense, and it may not matter if Corral playing if its defense continues its strong form. The Bears intercepted Oklahoma State's Spencer Sanders four times on Saturday.
Prediction: Baylor 27, Ole Miss 20
Boca Raton Bowl: Western Kentucky vs. Appalachian State
The third bowl game on the schedule represents one of the most fascinating postseason matchups.
The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers have one of the most prolific offenses in FBS. They average 528.4 total yards and 43.1 points per game.
Quarterback Bailey Zappe led the FBS with 5,545 passing yards and 56 touchdown throws. He attempted over 40 passes in all but one of his 13 games and led Western Kentucky on a seven-game winning streak to reach the Conference USA Championship Game.
The Appalachian State Mountaineers give up almost 100 fewer yards per game than Western Kentucky and held four straight opponents to 14 points or less before losing 24-16 to Louisiana-Lafayette in the Sun Belt Conference Championship Game.
App. State and Western Kentucky share similar motivations because they both lost in their conference title games, with the latter losing to UTSA 49-41.
That is where the similarities end since their approach to winning is much different. Western Kentucky tries to win through the air, while App. State likes to play smothering defense.
The difference on Dec. 18 in Boca Raton, Florida, could be something as simple as an offense's ability to strike quick, which should favor Western Kentucky.
The Hilltoppers can flip the game around with only a few throws and that could be the difference-maker.
Prediction: Western Kentucky 31, Appalachian State 24