The fifth installment of our trek through the 2022 college football bowl schedule covers the eight games spread across a jam-packed Thursday and Friday.
Though it lacks the meaningful appeal of the forthcoming Semifinal games, this set features nine members of the CFP Top 25 including two ranked vs. ranked matchups, one of which is an all-Top Ten affair. If that weren’t enough, all but two of the contests have a spread of six points or fewer and 14 of the 16 participants are Power 5 clubs. It also includes the first of the New Year’s Six bowls.
Friends, this is not the time to start watching basketball.
Here’s your mental checklist leading up to New Year’s Eve:
(1) Thursday serves up three consecutive games, all on ESPN, which kick off at 2pm ET, 5:30pm ET, and 9pm ET.
(2) Friday’s five-game set begins early, at Noon ET on ESPN, with the action switching over to CBS for the only time this bowl season at 2pm ET. After that it’s back to ESPN at 3:30pm ET, over to Barstool at 4:30pm ET and then, once again, to ESPN for the Orange Bowl at 8pm ET.
Thursday, Dec. 29
Bad Boy Mowers PINSTRIPE BOWL
SYRACUSE (7-5) vs. MINNESOTA (8-4) – ACC vs. Big Ten – Yankee Stadium, Bronx, N.Y. – 2pm ET – ESPN
First year: 2010
Most appearances: Syracuse (2-0), Rutgers (1-1), Boston College (0-2)
Last year: Maryland 54 – Virginia Tech 10
Syracuse is 16-9-1 in bowl action. It hasn’t been bowling since the 2018 Camping World Bowl, a 34-18 win over then (15) West Virginia, also its fourth-consecutive bowl victory.
Minnesota is 10-12 in bowl play, most recently downing West Virginia 18-6 in last season’s Guaranteed Rate Bowl, also its fifth-straight bowl win.
A rematch of the 2013 Texas Bowl (a 21-17 win for the Orange), these two have met five times previously, Minnesota holds a 3-2 lead.
Line: Minnesota -10
Syracuse started the season on a 6-0 run rising as high as No. 14 in the AP only to drop its next five games. The losing skid finally ended in the regular season finale, an unconvincing 32-23 victory over three-win Boston College. The common denominator in the slide was an inability to stop the run. Where the Orange held its first six opponents to, on average, 95 rushing yards per game, it coughed up a whopping 228 to its next five. It makes Minnesota – currently ranked No. 11, in the entire nation, in rushing offense – a scary bowl opponent. And if the Gophers’ ground game isn’t enough to worry ‘Cuse fans, their elite defense (ranked an all-world No. 3 nationally in scoring, No. 15 vs. the run and No. 8 vs. the pass) is worthy of a full-on panic attack.
Syracuse will be without its leading rusher sophomore RB Sean Tucker (#34) (No. 32 in the FBS in rushing yards per game) who has opted out of the Pinstripe Bowl to declare for the NFL Draft.
Players to Watch
Syracuse: junior QB Garrett Shrader (#6) (tied for No. 30 in the FBS in completion percentage, also the team’s No. 2 rusher)
Minnesota: senior RB Mohamed Ibrahim (#24) (No. 2 in the FBS in rushing yards per game and rushing TDs), senior DB Tyler Nubin (#27) (tied for No. 17 in the FBS in interceptions)
OKLAHOMA (6-6) vs. (13) FLORIDA STATE (9-3) – Big 12 vs. ACC – Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Fla. – 5:30pm ET – ESPN
First year: 1990
Previous names: Blockbuster Bowl (1990-93), Carquest Bowl (1994-97), MicronPC Bowl (1998-2000), Tangerine Bowl (2001-03), Champs Sports Bowl (2004-11), Russell Athletic Bowl (2012-16), Camping World Bowl (2017-19)
Most Appearances: Miami Fla. (3-3)
Last year: (22) Clemson 20 – Iowa State 13
Oklahoma is 31-23-1 in bowl action, most recently downing then (15) Oregon 47-32 in last season’s Alamo Bowl.
Florida State is 28-17-2 in bowl play, it hasn’t been bowling since the 2019 Sun Bowl, a 20-14 loss to Arizona State. Its last win came in the 2017 Independence Bowl, a 42-13 beatdown of Southern Miss.
A rematch of the 2000/01, 1980/81 and 1979/80 Orange Bowls as well as the 1964/65 Gator Bowl (the Seminoles’ only win in series history), Oklahoma and Florida State have met seven times previously most recently in a home-and-home in 2010/11.
Line: Florida State -10
Oklahoma is currently ranked No. 120 in the nation in total defense, giving up 451 yards per game. It makes Florida State, ranked No. 15 nationally in total offense, a real threat to usher the Sooners into the offseason with their first losing record since 1998. The matchup with the most potential for ugliness pits the Seminole’s rushing attack – ranked No. 12 in the FBS – against an Oklahoma D that’s No. 108 nationally/No. 9 in the Big 12 vs. the run. The Sooners have faced three other elite ground games this year, all resulting in losses. They gave up 275 rushing yards to a (9) K-State attack averaging 210 (No. 17 in the FBS) in a 41-34 loss, a season-high 361 to a (3) TCU unit averaging 202 (No. 25) in a 55-24 defeat and then 296 to a (20) Texas squad averaging 200 (No. 26) in the 49-0 shutout debacle. The performance vs. the Horned Frogs was the most rushing yards allowed by an OU team since Nov. 19, 2016, when it coughed up 388 in a 56-28 win at then (14) West Virginia.
Oklahoma will be without its leading rusher – senior RB Eric Gray (#0) (No. 14 in the FBS in rushing yards per game) – who has opted out of the Cheez-It Bowl to declare for the NFL Draft.
Players to Watch
Oklahoma: sophomore LB Danny Stutsman (#28) (No. 13 in the FBS in total tackles, tied for No. 15 in solo tackles), senior DB C.J. Coldon (#22) (tied for No. 17 in the FBS in interceptions)
Florida State: sophomore RB Trey Benson (#3) (No. 4 in the ACC in rushing yards per game), sophomore RB Treshaun Ward (#8) (No. 5 in the ACC in rushing yards per game), sophomore DE Jared Verse (#5) (tied for No. 19 in the FBS in tackles for a loss)
Valero ALAMO BOWL
(20) TEXAS (8-4) vs. (12) WASHINGTON (10-2) – Big 12 vs. Pac-12 – Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas – 9pm ET – ESPN
First year: 1993
Most appearances: Texas (4-1)
Last year: (14) Oklahoma 47 – (15) Oregon 32
Texas is 31-24-2 in bowl play, most recently downing Colorado 55-23 in the 2020 edition of the Alamo Bowl, also its fourth-consecutive bowl victory.
Washington is 18-20-1 in bowl action. It last went bowling in the 2019 Las Vegas Bowl, a 38-7 win over then (18) Boise State. It hasn’t beaten a current Power 5 member in bowl play since zapping Nebraska 19-7 in the 2010 Holiday Bowl.
A rematch of the 2001 Holiday Bowl (a win for the Longhorns) and the 1979 Sun Bowl (the Huskies’ only win in series history), Texas and Washington have played four times previously.
Line: Texas -3
Texas has one offensive stat that, without even looking at the final score, indicates whether it won or lost a game this season – third down conversion rate. If the Longhorns were successful 35 percent or better on third down in a game, they won and, if they went below that mark, they lost. Where they converted, on average, 47.9 percent of their third downs in the eight wins that number plummeted to 20.9 percent in the four losses. Washington’s defense allowed successful third down conversions 44.9 percent of the time this season, earning it a dismal No. 120 rank nationally. On the flip side, how will Texas’ defense – ranked No. 88 in the nation vs. the pass – look against a Husky air attack ranked No. 1 in the USA in pass offense? Will it be the Longhorns’ D that coughed up an average of 350 passing yards in a three-game run vs Iowa State, Oklahoma State, and (9) K-State, or instead the guys who closed out the regular season limiting (3) TCU, Kansas, and Baylor to an average of 182 yards? This is a quality matchup.
Texas will be without its leading rusher – junior RB Bijan Robinson (#5) (No. 6 in the FBS in rushing yards per game, tied for No. 4 in rushing TDs) – who is opting out of the Alamo Bowl to declare for the NFL Draft.
Players to Watch
Texas: junior LB Jaylan Ford (#41) (tied for No. 17 in the FBS in interceptions)
Washington: junior QB Michael Penix Jr. (#9) (No. 1 in the FBS in passing yards per game), sophomore WR Rome Odunze (#1) (No. 7 in the FBS in receiving yards per game), senior EDGE Jeremiah Martin (#3) (tied for No. 20 in the FBS in sacks) – Martin has declared for the NFL Draft but will still play in the Alamo Bowl
Friday, Dec. 30
DUKE’S MAYO BOWL
MARYLAND (7-5) vs. (23) NC STATE (8-4) – Big Ten vs. ACC – Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C. – Noon ET – ESPN
First year: 2002
Previous names: Continental Tire Bowl (2002-04), Meineke Car Care Bowl (2005-10), Belk Bowl (2011-19)
Most appearances: North Carolina (1-4)
Last year: South Carolina 38 – North Carolina 21
Maryland is 12-14-2 in bowl action, most recently destroying Virginia Tech 54-10 in last season’s Pinstripe Bowl.
NC State is 17-15-1 in bowl play. It was scheduled to play UCLA in last season’s Holiday Bowl, but that game was canceled due to COVID-19 protocols. Before that, it fell 23-21 to Kentucky in the 2020 Gator Bowl. The most recent win came in the 2017 Sun Bowl, a 52-31 victory over Arizona State.
Maryland and NC State shared conference membership in the Southern (1921-51) and the ACC (1953-2013) but haven’t played since the Terrapins joined the Big Ten. The series is deadlocked at 33 games apiece with the two splitting the last four meetings.
Line: NC State -1
NC State represents a serious challenge for Maryland because of its defense. The Terrapins played six opponents ranked in the top 40 in the FBS in total defense in 2022 and lost to all but one of them, Rutgers at No. 37. Included were the two worst offensive performances of the year – gaining 189 total yards in the 23-10 loss at Wisconsin (No. 13 in total D) and a season-low 134 in the 30-0 shutout loss at (11) Penn State (No. 15 in total D). Both results were less than half of the 406 total yards that Maryland’s offense averaged this season. NC State is ranked No. 21 in total defense. Its faced four offenses ranked in the Top 25 in yards per game and, in each case, held the opposing unit to fewer yards than its average output. Even better all four games – at East Carolina, vs. Texas Tech, vs. (13) Florida State and at North Carolina – resulted in wins.
NC State will be without starting QB Devin Leary who, after missing the last six games of the season due to injury, entered the transfer portal and reemerged at Kentucky. As of the publication of this article, it’s unclear whether freshman MJ Morris (#16) or freshman Ben Finley (#10) will start under center for the Wolfpack in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl.
Players to Watch
Maryland: junior QB Taulia Tagovailoa (#3) (No. 9 in the FBS in completion percentage)
NC State: junior LB Drake Thomas (#32) (tied for No. 16 in the FBS in tackles for a loss) – Thomas has declared for the NFL Draft but will still play in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl, sophomore CB Aydan White (#3) (tied for No. 17 in the FBS in interceptions)
Tony the Tiger SUN BOWL
PITTSBURGH (8-4) vs. (18) UCLA (9-3) – ACC vs. Pac-12 – Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, Texas – 2pm ET – CBS
First year: 1935
Previous names: John Hancock Bowl (1989-93)
Most appearances: Texas Tech (1-8)
Last year: Central Michigan 24 – Washington State 21
Pitt is 14-22 in bowl action, most recently falling 31-21 to then (11) Michigan State in last season’s Peach Bowl. Its last win came in the 2019 Quick Lane Bowl, a 34-30 victory over Eastern Michigan. Pitt hasn’t beaten a current Power 5 member in bowl play since downing Kentucky 27-10 in the 2010 BBVA Compass Bowl.
UCLA is 16-19-1 in bowl history. It was slated to play then (18) NC State in last year’s Holiday Bowl, but that game was canceled due to COVID-19. Prior to that its most recent appearance was in the 2017 Cactus Bowl, a 35-17 loss to Kansas State. The last win came in the 2014 Alamo Bowl, a 40-35 victory over then (11) Kansas State.
Pitt and UCLA have met 14 times previously but not since 1972. The Bruins lead the all-time series 9-5 and have won seven out of the last eight. This is the first-ever postseason meeting.
Line: UCLA -6
In one of the best strength vs. strength matchups of bowl season, tune in to this one to see UCLA’s all-world rushing attack – ranked No. 4 in the USA – take on a Pitt defense ranked No. 7 vs. the run. The Bruins have faced two other elite rushing defenses this year, rushing for 144 yards vs. a South Alabama D giving up, on average 88 (No. 5 in the FBS) in a narrow 32-31 win and hanging up 203 on a (8) Utah defense allowing 107 (No. 16) in a 42-32 victory. The Panthers, on the other hand, have only faced three offenses ranked in the top 40 in the FBS in rushing yards per game, two of which resulted in losses. They limited a (6) Tennessee ground game averaging 206 yards (No. 19 in the FBS) to 91 in a 37-24 loss, held a Louisville unit averaging 194 (No. 35) to 122 in a 24-10 defeat and squeezed a Duke attack averaging 185 (No. 40) to a mere 63 in a 28-26 win.
Pitt will be without both starting QB senior Kedon Slovis (#9) who entered the transfer portal and reemerged at BYU and leading rusher junior RB Israel Abanikanda (#2) (No. 7 in the FBS in rushing yards per game, No. 1 in rushing TDs) who opted out of the bowl game to declare for the NFL Draft.
Players to Watch
Pitt: senior WR Jared Wayne (#5) (No. 15 in the FBS in receiving yards per game), backup QB senior Nick Patti (#12) – who the Panthers named as the starter for the Sun Bowl on Dec. 26 – (9-of-20 for 79 yards, one TD and zero INTs)
UCLA: senior RB Zach Charbonnet (#24) (No. 4 in the FBS in rushing yards per game), junior LB Laiatu Latu (#15) (tied for No. 10 in the FBS in sacks)
TaxSlayer GATOR BOWL
(21) NOTRE DAME (8-4) vs. (19) SOUTH CAROLINA (8-4) – Independents vs. SEC – TIAA Field, Jacksonville, Fla. – 3:30pm ET – ESPN
First year: 1946
Previous names: TaxSlayer Bowl (2014-17)
Most appearances: Florida (7-2), Clemson (4-5)
Last year: (20) Wake Forest 38 – Rutgers 10
Notre Dame is 19-21 in bowl play, falling 37-35 to then (9) Oklahoma State in last year’s Fiesta Bowl. It hasn’t won a bowl game since downing Iowa State 33-9 in the 2019 Camping World Bowl.
South Carolina is 10-14 in bowl action, most recently beating North Carolina 38-21 in last season’s Mayo Bowl.
Notre Dame and South Carolina have met four times previously but not since 1984. The Irish lead the all-time series 3-1, the Gamecocks’ only win coming in the most recent meeting, a 36-32 victory in South Bend.
Line: Notre Dame -2.5
The common thread in Notre Dame’s four defeats this season was an inability to establish the running game. Where the Irish averaged 218 ground yards in their eight wins, that number plummeted to 112 in the losses. It sets up for what looks like, at least on paper, a solid opportunity against a South Carolina defense that’s had success vs. the pass – earning a No. 27 rank in the FBS in yards allowed – but not so much vs. the run, No. 113 nationally/No. 13 in the SEC. But the Gamecocks’ rankings warrant a deeper dive as five of its 11 FBS opponents this season are ranked in the top 20 nationally in rushing offense. So, it’s not like they gave up a bunch of yards to a string of cupcakes. The Carolinians went 2-3 vs. the elite rushers, the wins coming over Georgia State (No. 15 in the FBS in rushing offense) and (6) Tennessee (No. 19) and the losses coming against Arkansas (No. 9), Florida (No. 16), and (1) Georgia (No. 18).
Notre Dame will be without junior TE Michael Mayer (#87) (tied for No. 15 in the FBS in receiving TDs) and junior DL Isaiah Foskey (#7) (tied for No. 4 in the FBS in sacks), who have both opted out of the Sun Bowl to declare for the NFL Draft. Also missing for the Irish is starting QB sophomore Drew Pyne (#10) who entered the transfer portal and reemerged at Arizona State.
Players to Watch
Notre Dame: freshman CB Benjamin Morrison (#20) (tied for No. 8 in the FBS in interceptions), backup QB sophomore Tyler Buchner – who the Irish named as the starter for the Gator Bowl on Dec. 26 – (28-of-50 for 378 yards, zero TDs and two INTs)
South Carolina: junior QB Spencer Rattler (#7) (No. 20 in the FBS in completion percentage)
Barstool Sports ARIZONA BOWL
OHIO (9-4) vs. WYOMING (7-5) – MAC vs. MWC – Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Ariz. – 4:30pm ET – Barstool
First year: 2015
Most Appearances: Nevada (2-0)
Last year: Canceled due to COVID-19 protocols.
Ohio is 5-8 in bowl action. It last went bowling in 2019, beating Nevada 30-21 in the Potato Bowl, also its third-consecutive bowl victory.
Wyoming is 9-8 in bowl play, most recently downing Kent State 52-38 in last year’s Potato Bowl.
Ohio and Wyoming have met twice previously, a home-and-home in 2007/08 – both wins for the Cowboys but only by a combined three points.
Line: Ohio -2
Ohio’s nine-win regular season, its best since 2011, was all about its air attack. The Bobcats went from a No. 108 rank in pass offense last season to a No. 18 rank this year. Averaging 285 yards per game, it’s the best passing attack in program history. Leading the way was junior QB Kurtis Rourke (#7), who sizzled his way to a No. 12 national rank in passing yards per game, a No. 7 mark in completion percentage, and a No. 6 rank in passer rating. It made his season-ending ACL injury – suffered during the Nov. 15 game at Ball State – catastrophic. Ohio went from averaging 315 passing yards per game with Rourke to 180 without him, including a season-low 163-yard day in the 17-7 loss to Toledo in the MAC Championship. Beyond that unavoidable deficiency, the Bobcats’ defense has been inconsistent vs. the run, giving up an average of 100 rushing yards per game in its nine wins vs. a whopping 250 in its four losses. It makes Wyoming, ranked No. 37 in the FBS/No. 2 in the MWC in rush offense, a challenge waiting to be taken.
Players to Watch
Ohio: senior WR Sam Wiglusz (#12) (tied for No. 7 in the FBS in receiving TDs), backup QB sophomore CJ Harris (#10) (32-of-64 for 391 yards, one TD and one INT)
Wyoming: sophomore LB Easton Gibbs (#28) (No. 22 in the FBS in total tackles), sophomore DE DeVonne Harris (#93) (tied for No. 20 in the FBS in sacks)
Capital One ORANGE BOWL
(6) TENNESSEE (10-2) vs. (7) CLEMSON (11-2, ACC Champions) – SEC vs. ACC – Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla. – 8pm ET – ESPN
First year: 1935
Most appearances: Oklahoma (12-8)
Last year: (3) Georgia 34 – (2) Michigan 11 – CFP Semifinal Game
Tennessee is 29-25 in bowl action, most recently losing 48-45 in overtime to Purdue in last season’s Music City Bowl. Its last win came in the 2019 Gator Bowl, a 23-22 victory over Indiana.
Clemson is 26-22 in bowl play, it downed Iowa State 20-13 in last year’s Cheez-It Bowl.
Tennessee and Clemson have met 19 times previously. The Vols lead the all-time series, which dates to 1901, 11-6-2, but the Tigers won the last meeting, a 27-14 decision in the 2004 Peach Bowl, snapping a seven-game losing skid.
Line: Clemson -5.5
What cost Tennessee a trip to the CFP bracket is twofold. First up, in the loss at (1) Georgia it gained only 94 rushing yards, the second fewest of the season and 112 yards less than its season average of 206 (earning it a No. 19 rank nationally in rush offense). It’s no surprise that the Bulldogs were also the best rushing D that the Vols faced this year, ranked No. 1 in the FBS vs. the run. The only other defense to hold UT to fewer than 100 ground yards was Pitt, ranked No. 7 vs. the run, which only allowed 91 yards in what was a narrow 34-27 escape for the Volunteers. Clemson is ranked No. 10 in the nation vs. the run. That said, the Tigers have only faced one rushing attack ranked in the top 30 this season – (13) Florida State – ranked No. 12 – which it allowed 206 yards (the second most of the season) in a 34-28 win.
Next up, where Tennessee’s defense is ranked a decent No. 43 in scoring and an admirable No. 19 vs. the run, it’s a dismal No. 127 in the nation vs. the pass. Only four teams have given up more yards through the air! It’s a weakness that got completely exposed in the season-ending loss to (19) South Carolina. The Gamecocks hung up 453 air yards and six scores on the Vols, and while that sounds like a record-setting performance, Tennessee’s D is a repeat offender. Indeed – it’s the same unit that coughed up 453 passing yards in the 38-33 win over Florida and a whopping 455 in the epic 52-49 victory vs. (5) Alabama. Ranked No. 74 nationally in passing offense, Clemson isn’t necessarily the East Coast version of (10) USC, but it has a golden opportunity to look inspired through the air in the Orange Bowl.
Tennessee will be without both senior starting QB Hendon Hooker (#5) (No. 2 in the FBS in passer rating) who suffered an ACL injury in the loss at (19) South Carolina and leading receiver junior Jalin Hyatt (#11) (No. 4 in the FBS in receiving yards per game, tied for No. 1 in receiving TDs) who has opted out of the Orange Bowl to declare for the NFL Draft.
Clemson will be without starting QB junior DJ Uiagalelei (#5) who entered the transfer portal and reemerged at Oregon State.
Players to Watch
Tennessee: backup QB senior Joe Milton III (#7) (32-of-54 for 720 yards, seven TDs and zero INTs)
Clemson: sophomore RB Will Shipley (#1) (tied for No. 11 in the FBS in rushing TDs), backup QB freshman Cade Klubnik (#2) (31-of-46 for 377 yards, two TDs and one INT)