Bowl Games 2021-22: Predictions for Most Exciting Matchups on the Schedule

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 10, 2021

Bowl Games 2021-22: Predictions for Most Exciting Matchups on the Schedule

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    Jacob Kupferman/Associated Press

    The Peach Bowl has potential to set up an exciting three-day stretch of college football. 

    The Pittsburgh Panthers had one of the best passing offenses in the FBS this season, and they produced a Heisman Trophy finalist in Kenny Pickett. 

    Pickett's status for the December 30 game is still up in the air, but if he plays, he could have one more electric performance in royal blue and Vegas gold. 

    The ACC champion is facing one of the worst passing defenses in the country in the Michigan State Spartans, who were knocked out of College Football Playoff contention by the Ohio State Buckeyes offense. 

    Ohio State finds itself in an intriguing spot on New Year's Day against the Utah Utes. The Pac-12 champion is a team no one wants to play right now, and it should provide C.J. Stroud and Co. with a difficult test. 

    A few hours before Ohio State kicks off on January 1, another Big Ten team faces a different type of exciting matchup.

    The Iowa Hawkeyes and Kentucky Wildcats carry a ton of similarities, and that could make the Citrus Bowl one of the most even postseason contests. 

Peach Bowl: No. 12 Pittsburgh vs. No. 10 Michigan State

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    Jacob Kupferman/Associated Press

    Until Pickett says he is not playing on December 30, we have to approach the Peach Bowl like he will be on the field. 

    Pickett disclosed to The Dan Patrick Show earlier in the week that he is "undecided" on his status for the December 30 game in Atlanta. 

    Pickett is one of the top quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL draft class, and he just lost his offensive coordinator, Mark Whipple, to the Nebraska Cornhuskers. 

    The Pitt quarterback has every reason not to play, but the Panthers are not often in a position to participate in a New Year's Six bowl, and that could sway his judgement. 

    The potential to put up a ton of passing yards and points may also intrigue Pickett. The Spartans give up 337.7 passing yards per game. 

    Michigan State had its playoff hopes dashed after it gave up a six-touchdown performance to Ohio State's C.J. Stroud on November 20. Stroud became the Heisman Trophy front-runner for a week because of that game. 

    Pitt's defense faces a tough task of its own against Spartans running back Kenneth Walker III, who came up just short of being a Heisman finalist.

    The Panthers have not given up 100 rushing yards to a running back all season, and that could be the edge in the matchup.

    Pitt needs to force the Michigan State offense to beat it through the air, where it averages 105 fewer yards per contest. 

    Prediction: Pittsburgh 34, Michigan State 20

Rose Bowl: No. 11 Utah vs. No. 6 Ohio State

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Ohio State is still playing for something despite coming up short in the playoff hunt. 

    The Buckeyes can use the Rose Bowl as a building block toward the foundation of next season since C.J. Stroud, TreVeyon Henderson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba will all be back. 

    Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson could use the Rose Bowl as one final chance to showcase their talents to NFL draft scouts. 

    Utah boasts one of the toughest defenses in the country, and if Olave and Wilson shine in Pasadena, California, they could make one more mark on the field before hitting the pre-draft circuit. 

    Ohio State averages over 120 total yards per game more than Utah, but the Utes offense is no slouch. The Pac-12 champion averages 428.6 total yards per contest. 

    The Buckeyes defense conceded 49 additional yards per game compared to the Utes, so there could be plenty of chances for Kyle Whittingham's team to find the end zone. 

    Ohio State's star power combined with the momentum Utah has going into the Rose Bowl make it one of the most fascinating matchups of bowl season.

    The Buckeyes have NFL talent all across their offense, and that could make the ultimate difference in what could be a tight game.

    Prediction: Ohio State 37, Utah 31

Citrus Bowl: No. 15 Iowa vs. No. 22 Kentucky

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    Michael Clubb/Associated Press

    The Citrus Bowl will not provide an instant cure to your New Year's Day hangover. 

    If you watch the Iowa-Kentucky clash until the fourth quarter, you could be in for an exciting finish that leads nicely into the Rose Bowl. 

    The Hawkeyes and Wildcats will try to beat each other in similar ways through their ground approach. Kentucky is better at running the football, but Iowa averages 119.8 rushing yards per game. 

    Both programs like to win low-scoring games, but that may not be the situation they are in by the fourth quarter. The two Citrus Bowl participants both concede over 325 total yards per game. 

    It may take some time for the two offenses to get into a rhythm, but if they do, the game could turn into a back-and-forth affair. 

    Kentucky wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson, who played in the Big Ten with Nebraska, could be the X-factor in the fourth quarter. 

    Robinson is the most dynamic playmaker on either roster. He had 94 receptions, 1,164 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in the regular season.

    If Will Levis, who played quarterback at Penn State, finds Robinson on a frequent basis, Kentucky should pull away from Iowa in the final stages of the game.

    Prediction: Kentucky 27, Iowa 24