The third installment of our tiptoe through the 2022 college football bowl schedule covers the four games spread between Thursday and Saturday, which also serves as Christmas Eve.
It’s another subset of contests that will air exclusively on ESPN, so set the channel, tune in at the designated time, and you’re set. It’s also another quality grouping with all four games with spreads of a touchdown or fewer.
Here’s your Part III mental checklist.
(1) Thursday’s sole game airs in primetime – at 7:30pm ET – and features a nine-win Mountain West club squaring off with last season’s Big 12 champs.
(2) Friday is home to a double header with kick times at 3pm ET and 6:30pm ET. The second game is a quality pairing, and a first-ever meeting, between SEC and ACC members.
(3) Saturday features just one game, a night affair airing at 8pm ET, or just a few hours before Santa’s sleigh delivers every fan’s Christmas wish, an even better season for our beloved team next year!
The college football fans were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of national championships danced in their heads.
Even the delusional fans with no clear path to the CFP bracket enjoyed a long pipe dream,
Perhaps it was Jolly Old Saint Nick, but more probably it was that one extra glass of Baileys Irish Cream.
On Arizona, On Texas Tech, On Minnesota! On Virginia, South Carolina, and Michigan State!
None of y’all is really gonna win the Natty, but tonight we’re going to let you believe it’s your fate.
For the sad truth was declared as the CFP committee rode their ESPN money sleigh out of sight,
“We’re just going to keep putting Alabama and Ohio State in the playoff even when we know it’s not right!”
Thursday, Dec. 22
Lockheed Martin ARMED FORCES BOWL
BAYLOR (6-6) vs. AIR FORCE (9-3)– Big 12 vs. MWC – Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas – 7:30pm ET – ESPN
First year: 2003
Previous names: Fort Worth Bowl (2003-05)
Most appearances: Houston (2-3), Air Force (1-4)
Last year: Army 24 – Missouri 22
Baylor is 14-12 in bowl play, last winning the 2021/22 Sugar Bowl 21-7 over then (8) Ole Miss.
Air Force is 14-11-1 in bowl action, most recently downing Louisville 31-28 in last year’s First Responder Bowl, also its third-straight bowl win.
Baylor and Air Force have met three times previously but not since 1977. The Bears have never lost to the Falcons. The two programs have plans to play a home-and-home in 2024 and 2027.
Line: Baylor -4
This pairing has at least two compelling matchups. First up, it’s Air Force’s option-tastic offense – ranked No. 1 in the USA in rushing yards per game – taking on a Baylor defense ranked No. 3 in the Big 12 vs. the run. It’s the same unit that limited a (9) K-State ground game averaging 210 yards (No. 17 in the FBS) to 194 and a (3) TCU attack averaging 200 (No. 25) to a season-low 115.
Next up, did you know that Air Force’s defense is ranked No. 3 in the nation in scoring, No. 9 vs. the run, and No. 2 vs. the pass? It all adds up to a No. 1 ranking in total defense! But – and this is “Did you know part two” – did you know that the Falcons have only faced two offenses ranked in the top half of the FBS in scoring? The most offensive opponents were Army, averaging 29.4 points per game (No. 58) and Boise State, averaging 29.1 (No. 61). Of their other nine FBS opponents, seven are ranked in the bottom 30 (No. 101 or poorer) in scoring. It makes Baylor, ranked No. 31 in points, the best offense it’s faced in 2022. This is a tremendous matchup.
Players to Watch
Baylor: freshman RB Richard Reese (#29) (tied for No. 14 in the FBS in rushing TDs)
Air Force: senior RB Brad Roberts (#20) (No. 5 in the FBS in rushing yards per game)
Friday, Dec. 23
Radiance Technologies INDEPENDENCE BOWL
LOUISIANA (6-6) vs. HOUSTON (7-5) – Sun Belt vs. AAC – Independence Stadium, Shreveport, La. – 3pm ET – ESPN
First year: 1976
Previous names: AdvoCare V100 Bowl (2013)
Most appearances: Ole Miss (4-1), Louisiana Tech (3-1-1)
Last year: UAB 31 – (12) BYU 28
Louisiana is 6-3 in bowl action, most recently downing Marshall 26-21 in last season’s New Orleans Bowl, also its third-straight bowl win.
Houston is 12-16-1 in bowl play, edging Auburn 17-13 in last year’s Birmingham Bowl.
Louisiana and Houston have met nine times previously. The Cougars hold a 6-3 advantage, the Cajuns’ only wins coming in the first two games of the series (1946 and 1948) and in the most recent meeting (2006).
Line: Houston -7
The common denominator in Louisiana’s losses this year was a struggle to stop opponents on third-down. Where the Cajuns’ D allowed just a 24 percent conversion rate in its six wins, the number skyrocketed to 52 percent in the six defeats. It makes Houston – which has been successful on 48 percent of its third-down tries this season, earning it a No. 12 rank nationally – a scary opponent. Speaking of the Cougars, did you know that they’re ranked a dismal No. 115 in the FBS in turnover margin and No. 125 in penalties? If they can limit mistakes, they’ll win back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 2014-15.
Players to Watch
Louisiana: senior S Bralen Trahan (#24) (tied for No. 17 in the FBS in interceptions)
Houston: senior QB Clayton Tune (#3) (No. 4 in the FBS in passing yards per game, tied for No. 1 in passing TDs), junior WR Nathaniel Dell (#1) (No. 2 in the FBS in receiving yards per game, tied for No. 1 in receiving TDs)
Union Home Mortgage GASPARILLA BOWL
WAKE FOREST (7-5) vs. MISSOURI (6-6) – ACC vs. SEC – Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla. – 6:30pm ET – ESPN
First year: 2008
Previous names: magicJack Bowl (2008), Beef O’Brady’s Bowl (2009-13), St. Petersburg Bowl (2014-16)
Most appearances: UCF (3-2)
Last year: UCF 29 – Florida 17
Wake Forest is 10-6 in bowl play, most recently drubbing Rutgers 38-10 in last season’s Gator Bowl.
Missouri is 15-19 in bowl action, last falling 24-22 to Army in the 2021 Armed Forces Bowl, also its third-straight bowl loss. Its most recent win came in the 2014 Citrus Bowl, a 33-17 victory over Minnesota.
This is Wake Forest and Missouri’s first-ever football meeting.
Line: Wake Forest -1
After starting the season 6-1 (with the only loss coming vs. No. 7 Clemson) and rising as high as No. 10 in the AP, Wake Forest lost four of its last five, ending with a thud – its first defeat at Duke since 2014. What killed the Deacons down the stretch were turnovers. Where they committed three giveaways in their first six games (two interceptions and a fumble), they erupted for 15 in their last six (10 interceptions and five fumbles). Missouri’s defense has been middle-of-the-road in takeaways, scoring ten interceptions (No. 59 nationally/tied for No. 3 in the SEC) and recovering 16 fumbles (No. 60/tied for No. 9).
Players to Watch
Wake Forest: junior QB Sam Hartman (#10) (No. 7 in the FBS in passing yards per game, tied for No. 5 in passing TDs), junior WR A.T. Perry (#9) (tied for No. 7 in the FBS in receiving TDs)
Missouri: junior LB Ty’Ron Hopper (#8) (tied for No. 22 in the FBS in tackles for a loss)
Saturday, Dec. 24
EasyPost HAWAII BOWL
MIDDLE TENNESSEE (7-5) vs. SAN DIEGO STATE (7-5) – C-USA vs. MWC – Ching Complex, Honolulu, Hawaii – 8pm ET – ESPN
First year: 2002
Most appearances: Hawaii (5-4)
Last year: Canceled due to COVID-19
Middle Tennessee is 3-6 in bowl play, most recently downing Toledo 31-24 in last season’s Bahamas Bowl.
San Diego State is 7-9 in bowl action, beating then (24) UTSA 38-24 in last year’s Frisco Bowl.
This is Middle Tennessee and San Diego State’s first-ever meeting on the gridiron.
Line: San Diego State -7
San Diego State’s offense averaged 151 rushing yards per game this season, its lowest mark since 2019. Despite the digression, the Aztecs’ fortunes have rested on their ground game, averaging 184 yards per game in their seven wins vs. 104 in the five losses. SDSU hasn’t lost a game when it’s rushed for more than 170 yards since Nov. 24, 2018, when it hung up 224 yards on Hawaii and fell 31-30. It all adds up to Middle Tennessee – ranked a lofty No. 26 in the FBS/No. 1 in C-USA vs. the run – becoming an intriguing bowl partner. The Blue Raiders D only gave up 170-plus rushing yards twice this season – 261 in the opener at James Madison (ranked No. 41 in rushing offense, averaging 187 yards) and 303 at UAB (No. 7, averaging 243).
Players to Watch
Middle Tennessee: junior CB Decorian Patterson (#33) (tied for the most interceptions in the FBS), senior DE Jordan Ferguson (#9) (tied for No. 14 in the FBS in sacks, No. 11 in tackles for a loss), senior QB Chase Cunningham (#16) (No. 15 in the FBS in completion percentage)
San Diego State: senior DL Jonah Tavai (#66) (tied for No. 14 in the FBS in sacks)