Ranking the Top 19 College Football Bowl Games of the 2021-2022 Season

By Steve Tsilimos | Posted 11 months ago

As the year draws to an end and the New Year begins college football always provides the football world with plenty to watch. Every year there are some FBS bowl games that surprise and end up being must-see TV while others are a snooze fest. The list below ranks the top-20 bowl games and what makes them interesting. The list is composed of games that fall between Dec. 22, 2021, and Jan. 1, 2022 – excluding the College Football Playoffs. 

 

Oh, and if you are wondering why the random number 19, the Peach Bowl between Michigan State and Pitt was originally on the list. With Spartan RB Kenneth Walker declaring for the NFL draft and opting out of the game and the status of Panther QB Kenny Pickett uncertain, that fell out.

19. New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Maryland vs. Virginia Tech

Date: 2:15 p.m. on Dec. 29, ESPN

 

Maryland’s QB Taulia Tagovailoa has thrown a touchdown pass in 15 straight games – the longest streak in the country. Both offensives have plenty of fire-power, which could make this game fun to watch. Inconsistency with both these schools is the reason this game is not higher on the list.

 

In Maryland’s last nine games it has played in just one game that ended up closer than 17 points – a win over an awful Indiana team. Virginia Tech has provided itsr fans plenty to be happy about offensively which is why this game could be fun to watch. The problem is that VT is going through a slew of changes which could lead to sloppy play. 

18. SERVPRO First Responder Bowl: Air Force vs. Louisville

Date: 3:15 p.m. on Dec. 28, ESPN

 

If you love to watch ground-and-pound football then Air Force is your team. Air Force leads the country in rushing, averaging 342 yards a game – 41 more than the next best team (Army). 

 

Louisville is ranked 75th at stopping the run, which means the Cardinals will be committing extra defenders to the box all game. Cardinals’ QB Malik Cunningham is always fun to watch and should provide enough offense to make this game interesting. Louisville will be playing with a lot of urgency not wanting to lose to a non-Power Five team after a disappointing 6-6 season.

17. Vrbo Citrus Bowl: Iowa vs. Kentucky

Date: 1 p.m. on Jan. 1, ABC

 

Kentucky bowl games have been terrific lately under Mark Stoops and hopefully, this one follows that trend. Kentucky QB Will Levis is an electric player who will entertain you, with highlights and also costly mistakes. 

 

Iowa also has provided nice bowl action under Kirk Ferentz with outstanding wins in its last three bowl appearances. Hopefully, these underachieving programs can follow these recent trends and provide a back-and-forth thriller until the end. But most likely it will turn into a boring game filled with a lot of punts that you can nap through on New Year’s Day. 

16. Wasabi Fenway Bowl: SMU vs. Virginia

Date: 11 a.m. on Dec. 29, ESPN

 

Watching football being played in Fenway is one reason to tune into this one. Another reason is to watch the Cavaliers try their best to win for their coach Bronco Mendenhall, who is in his last game with the program.

 

Both offenses have been good this year and should be able to combine for close to 800 total yards of offense. The offensive firepower should make this game a fun one to watch. 

15. TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl: Auburn vs. Houston

Date: Noon on Dec. 28, ESPN

 

This game could get out of hand in what is essentially a home game for the Tigers. There are reports that QB Bo Nix is transferring and other players could be following his lead and leaving Auburn after the season. This means the players who want to be there will be playing to prove themselves.

 

Houston hasn’t beat anyone of note this year and has performed horribly in bowl games in recent years. Including a lifeless loss to Hawaii in last year’s New Mexico Bowl – played in Texas – and the 70-14 loss to Army in 2018. Let’s hope Houston puts up a fight in this one. 

14. Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl: UCF vs. Florida

Date: 7 p.m. on Dec. 23, ESPN

 

Nothing like a little brother getting a shot at big brother in the biggest game of the season. This game feels more like a rivalry than any other bowl game because UCF’s campus is only 120 miles from Florida’s campus and the Knights have been in the Gators’ shadow forever. 

 

If the Gators play to their full potential, then this game could end up like the only other time these programs met – 2006 Florida won 42-0. UCF has come a long way since that game and they are ready to show the world that they can play with their instate Power Five competition.

13. Military Bowl: Boston College vs. East Carolina

Date: 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 27, ESPN

 

East Carolina will enter the game hungry to prove they belong. It’s the program’s first bowl game since the 2014 season. The Pirates are an entertaining team that will bring offensive firepower on every possession. 

 

Boston College QB Phil Jurkovec is playing after a month of rest. It was believed Jurkovec’s season could be over after he injured his hand earlier in the year. He returned for the last month of the season but he has not been his old-self. Maybe the time off will help him get his team back on track for next season. 

12. TaxAct Camellia Bowl: Ball State vs. Georgia State

Date: 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 25, ESPN

 

It may not sound like the most interesting matchup, but it’s a college football game on Christmas. All seven game in the new era of the Camellia Bowl have been decided by eight points or fewer. 

 

These teams are committed to the run – each team averages less than 201 yards passing per game. So even if it is a low-scoring affair, I expect this game to be  entertaining and to come down to the wire.

11. Barstool Sports Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Boise State

Date: 2 p.m. on Dec. 31, Barstool Live

The only bowl game that will not be broadcast on linear TV but instead streamed on Barstool Sports should provide some fun viewing experience. Barstool Sports will be hosting a tailgate festival before the game and will have skydivers fly onto the field before kickoff. 

 

Central Michigan comes in on a roll and with a slew of offensive weapons. Boise State was terrific over the second half of the year before San Diego State rose up in the regular-season finale. The only issue is that this game is on at the same time as the Cincinnati-Alabama College Football Playoff semifinal.

10. Duke’s Mayo Bowl: North Carolina vs. South Carolina

Date: 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 30, ESPN

 

It is always fun when border wars are created during bowl mania. The Charlotte atmosphere should provide a great setting for the early game on a jam-packed Thursday. Even if the game disappoints the opposing fan bases should provide plenty of buzz around the game. 

 

These teams had different seasons but ended with the same 6-6 record. North Carolina, who was in the pre-season top-10 had huge expectations and fell very short of what they were hoping for. Meanwhile, South Carolina and coach Shane Beamer surprised many in his first season with wins over Auburn and Florida. 

9. Valero Alamo Bowl: Oregon vs. Oklahoma

Date: 9:15 p.m. on Dec. 29, ESPN

 

If this game was played a few months ago then it would have been the host for the College GameDay crew and would have had all the hype surrounding it. Now both head coaches are gone and many players will be opting-out which makes it less tantalizing. These teams were playoff hopefuls and now they are in rebuild mode. Goes to show how a few bad bounces can change the course of a program. 

 

The best thing about this game is that Bob Stoops will be on the sideline. The retiree is making his comeback as interim coach of the Sooners after Lincoln Riley’s departure to USC. Stoops last coached a college football game on Jan. 2, 2017, when the Sooners beat Auburn in the Sugar Bowl.

8. San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: UCLA vs. NC State

Date: 8 p.m. on Dec. 28, Fox

 

A game of first. Chip Kelly’s first game with his new team will be more important for his recruiting process than anything. It will also be the first football game played inside Petco Park – the baseball stadium where the Padres now play. It is also a homecoming of sorts for NC State’s coach, a San Diego native who was born on Coronado Island.

 

UCLA gets to travel right down the road for its first bowl appearance since 2017 with a shot at its first postseason win since 2014. NC State was quietly a hot team throughout the season, and it’ll be one of the early favorites in the ACC race in 2022. The Wolfpack have a shot at their first 10-win season under head coach Doeren. Both teams will be tough and physical, and both teams have good veteran quarterbacks who should put on a good late-night show.

7. TaxSlayer Gator Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M

Date: 11 a.m. on Dec. 31, ESPN 

 

This game features one of the most productive and high-scoring offenses against a very good SEC defense. Dave Clawson’s Demon Deacons have been trouble for opposing defenses this year and they rank 12th among offenses. Texas A&M DC Mike Elkohas the Aggies among the top-20 defenses nationally. Wake Forest should be able to score points but it does not seem they will be able to hang with one of the SEC’s best teams for four quarters. 

 

Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher is 3-0 in Bowls with A&M and 8-2 in his career. Even though many people expect Texas A&M to come out on top in this one, it is not guaranteed. The Gator Bowl is a rematch of the 2017 Belk Bowl, in which Wake won 55–52 in a thriller. 

6. TransPerfect Music City Bowl: Tennessee vs. Purdue

Date: 3 p.m. on Dec. 30, ESPN 

 

The Thursday afternoon will provide bowl fans with everything they wanted – offense and more offense. If you are like most college football fans and like to see high-scoring affairs with a pure lack of defense then the Music City Bowl is the game for you. Tennessee does not win games with defense, they just plan on out-scoring opponents with their offense. 

 

This bowl also plays host to the only team that beat two top-three teams this year. That’s right, the Boilermakers knocked off then No. 3 Michigan State and No. 2 Iowa. Purdue has a lethal passing attack which should give Tennessee’s poor defense all sorts of problems. The Boilermakers have been decent on defense but they will be without DE George Karlaftisbecause he is opting-out.

5. PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma State

Date: 1 p.m. on Jan. 1, ESPN

 

Marcus Freeman who is 35 years old, will be coaching in his first game as the permanent coach. Freeman was elevated from the defensive coordinator position to head coach after Chip Kelly departed for UCLA. You know Freeman wants to win his first game and carry that momentum into the offseason as he settles into his new role.

 

The Fighting Irish have their hands full with the Cowboys who were very close to winning the Big 12 Championship and being involved in the College Football Playoff. Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy has been fantastic in bowls – winning four of his last five and eight of his last 11. The Fighting Irish better show up ready to play or the Cowboys may run away with this one.

4. Outback Bowl: Penn State vs. Arkansas

Date: Noon on Jan. 1, ESPN2

 

It’s the first college football game of 2022 and it should be a great way to get your year started. There will surely be some opt-outs and Penn State has lost their defensive coordinator Brent Pry to Virginia Tech. Hopefully, we get to see one of the country’s best WRs Jahan Dotson play one last game before he starts playing on Sundays.

 

Penn State has had a relatively disappointing season, but the offseason should be fun with a bowl win and QB Sean Clifford set to return. Arkansas hasn’t played in a bowl since 2016 and hasn’t won one since 2015. A win would be huge momentum for the program after a breakthrough season.

3. Allstate Sugar Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Baylor

Date: 8:45 p.m. on Jan. 1, ESPN

 

Lane Kiffin led teams are always fun to watch. Ole Miss is averaging over 35 points a game and that comes mostly against SEC defenses. Ole Miss will be looking to cap off its fantastic season knowing they could have been in the playoff if it wasn't for their one slip up against Auburn this year.

 

Baylor has a lot riding on this game. It would look very bad for the Big 12 if an SEC team that was not in the conference championship rolled their conference champion. Baylor has enough weapons to keep up with the Rebels but they will need to win the turnover battle to win this game. 

2. AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Texas Tech

Date: 6:45 p.m. on Dec. 28, ESPN

The football Gods must be satisfied as they gave the college football world the Mike Leach bowl. Leach and Texas Tech have some deep history, and in one way or another, this should be entertaining both on the field and in the press conferences.

 

If you are looking for a high-scoring air-raid type of game then the Liberty Bowl is the game for you. If Mississippi State plays up to its capabilities. then this could turn into a blowout where Leach is running up the score on his former team. The Red Raiders have enough weapons to keep things close if they can have a few things go their way. I expect nearly 100 points to be scored in this one. 

1. Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Utah

Date: 5 p.m. on Jan. 1, ESPN

After the most sacred of Bowl games was moved to Texas last year it has returned to its rightful spot in California. At the beginning of the season it is championship or bust for Ohio State, but they cannot be too upset with another appearance in the Rose Bowl – the one non-playoff bowl everyone watches. QB C.J. Stroud and the Buckeyes’ offense is electric and is worth the watch in this one. 

 

For Utah, getting invited to the Rose Bowl is a huge deal and they should be ready to bring all the energy as they try to prove to everyone that they belong. Defeating Oregon in the Pac-12 championship was a huge step in the right direction for the Utes, and now they want to cap off their fantastic season with a huge win over one of college football’s perennial powerhouses.

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