Wednesday, August 17

10 bowl games outside of the college football playoff we’re eager to see



Bowl season doesn’t have to be just the college football playoff.

There are 42 bowls that will cap off the 2021-22 college football season, and there’s more than enough meaning to some of those low-key matchups.

PLUS: Picks, predictions for the 42 bowling games

Sporting News looks at 10 of those matchups outside of the college football playoff that are worth watching:

Boca Raton Bowl: Western Kentucky vs. Appalachian State

December 18, 11 a.m., ESPN

Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe (5,570 passing yards, 56 TDs) needs 263 yards and four TDs to tie the FBS season-long passing record in both departments. The Hilltoppers are second in the FBS with 43.1 points per game. Appalachian State is 6-0 all-time in bowl games, and two-time transfer Chase Brice will try to maintain that streak. This bowl game is tied for the highest level of under / over 67.5.

Gasparilla Bowl: Florida vs. UCF

December 23, 7 p.m. ESPN

The Gators and Knights have a 2 for 1 series that will arrive in 2024, but this will be an interesting showdown within the state. UCF has won five of its last six games with freshman coach Gus Malzahn, who faces an SEC school for the first time since leaving Auburn. Florida lost four of its last six games, and this could be the time to unleash Anthony Richardson once and for all.

Quick Lane Bowl: West Michigan vs. Nevada

December 27, 11 a.m., ESPN

Will Nevada quarterback Carson Strong play? We are still awaiting the response from the Wolf Pack quarterback who has attracted attention for the 2021 NFL Draft. Strong passes for 4,186 yards, 36 TDs and eight interceptions this season. Western Michigan is close to home in Detroit, and Kaleb Elleby has 3,115 yards, 21 TDs and five interceptions. Both teams average more than 30 points per game. Put it on while you put away the Christmas decorations.

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Liberty Bowl: Texas Tech vs. the State of Mississippi

December 28, 6:45 pm, ESPN

Mike Leach will be the center of attention here. He trained at Texas Tech from 2000 to 2009 before being fired. He is 11-12 in two seasons with Mississippi State with the same old happy passing offense. Mississippi State is third in the FBS at 385.7 yards per game, and there’s no question Leach will continue to attack if the Bulldogs are in control. Sonny Cumbie, one of Leach’s former quarterbacks, will be the interim coach for the Red Raiders before taking the job at Louisiana Tech. Expect more than 100 passes in this game.

Music City Bowl: Tennessee vs. Purdue

December 30, 3:30 pm, ESPN

Purdue is looking for a nine-win season with a passing offense averaging 340.4 yards per game. Boilermakers standout George Karlaftis has yet to decide whether to play in this game, but his presence will be welcome. Tennessee averaged 41.8 points in its last four games, and Josh Heupel stayed in Knoxville through a wild turn of the coaching carousel. Tennessee can reach eight victories here. Both teams will be reversed.

MORE: Updated List of College Football Stars Who Skip Bowling Games

Outback Bowl: No. 21 Arkansas vs. Penn State

January 1, 12 p.m., ESPN

Penn State and Arkansas each had three losses to teams that reached the sixth day of the New Year or the college football playoff. The Razorbacks are trying to complete a nine-win season with second-year coach Sam Pittman, one that would be especially sweet if completed against a Big Ten team. The Nittany Lions are committed to coach James Franklin for the long haul, and he’s 3-3 in bowl games at Penn State. It feels like a tight game that will have a wild ending.

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

December 30, 7 p.m. ESPN

Two overcomers square off in Atlanta, and it’s an exhibition game for Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett and Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III. Mel Tucker has a chance to cap an 11-win season, and the Spartans are 6-0-1 all-time against the Panthers. Of course, Pat Narduzzi knows Michigan state well from his time as defensive coordinator from 2007 to 2014.

Sugar Bowl: No. 7 Baylor vs. No. 8 Ole Miss

January 1, 8:45 pm, ESPN

Baylor is back in the Sugar Bowl for the second time in three years, and second-year coach Dave Aranda has all 12 major champions on a roll. The Bears win with a strong defensive and running game, and that will pose a challenge to Ole Miss’s powerful offense. Matt Corral is expected to play. Can Lane Kiffin pull off an 11-win season in his sophomore year with the Rebels?

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

January 1, 5 p.m., ESPN

The Utes were one of the hottest teams on the FBS at the end of the season, and they have tough defense and a strong running game around Tavion Thomas, who had 20 rushing touchdowns this season. Ohio State has the best offense in the nation at 551.4 yards per game, and Heisman Trophy finalist CJ Stroud will have another shot at big numbers. The Buckeyes are making their 16th appearance in the Rose Bowl. The Utes are doing the first. Expect both of you to play appreciating the value of the game.

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Fiesta Bowl: No. 5 Notre Dame vs. No. 9 Oklahoma State

January 1, 1 pm, ESPN

Marcus Freeman will be making his Notre Dame debut, and that’s going to get a lot of buzz. The Irish were the first team out of the CFP and this is where you can have an instant impact. The Irish are 0-7 at BCS and in the New Years Day Six Bowls, and Oklahoma State is a worthy opponent with a tough defense. Will the Cowboys be in the fog after the Big 12 championship game loss?




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