Ah yes, the bowl season surrounds us once again in the joyous holiday season. To me, there are too many bowl games. Instead of surrounding me, it feels like an intestine-like boa constrictor wrapped around my neck.
Even if we exclude the national championship game, there will be 41 bowl games this season.
Forty-one bowl games!
That means 82 teams.
So, let me see if I’ve got this straight. There are 133 teams in FBS, and 82 of them will get to a bowl game. That means only 39% of FBS is too lousy for even the greediest bowl associations. In fact, 22 teams in this year’s bowl schedule don’t even have winning records.
Whoever devised the modern bowl scheme needs to be examined. A child could do better. So I say, let’s lock the bowl schemer in a room, give him some toys to play with, and only let him out when he proves he’s ready to do some adulting.
Let’s fly six of the lowest-ranked bowl teams off of the continent to play back-to-back-to-back in the Hawai’i Bowl so only 6,600 fans will be annoyed, and then let’s fly another six entirely out of the country to the Bahamas Bowl, where only 11,000 foreigners will have to put up with them.
Even after that, we’ll still have ten teams playing in bowl games even though they don’t have winning records. I know. It’s not enough. But at least it’s a start.
PAC-12 Northwest fans don’t have to worry about their teams being undeserving because all three of this year’s bowl teams from the Northwest were winners last year and are among the nation’s top 30 this year.
[Rankings and predictions that follow are from my savvygameline.com prediction system and not those of coaches polls, wire services, betting lines, etc.)
Oregon State (8-4) vs #17 Notre Dame (9-3)
Which of these programs will shine after losing talent to the transfer portal? Both have lost their starting quarterbacks, critical defensive players, and spectacular tight ends, but Oregon State must replace its head coach, offensive coordinator, and top two quarterbacks.
Yes, Beaver backup quarterback Aidan Chiles will be a Michigan State Spartan. He has a special allegiance to new MSU head coach Jonathan Smith and a curious interest in the MSU mascot. It doesn’t hurt that all of the other Spartan quarterbacks hit the transfer portal, and Chiles now can walk right into the starting spot.
Even without that roster upheaval, the Beavers would have had difficulty dealing with Notre Dame because the Fighting Irish began to surge mid-season and never curtailed. Meanwhile, Oregon State hit its ceiling in mid-October and just did not surpass projections on my system after that.
My Savvy Index system projects a 30-21 win for Notre Dame in the Sun Bowl.
#3 Texas (12-1) vs #4 Washington (13-0)
This is the Texas team that traveled to Birmingham and handed Alabama its only loss this year. It’s the same Longhorn group that won the Big 12 championship game by 28 points. However, this is also the same outfit that needed a full 60 minutes to take down Houston and TCU, both of which finished 2023 with losing records.
The ‘Horns are 2-1 against ranked teams, and although several reserve defensive backs won’t be with the team, the secondary still has plenty of effective depth and should hold up well against UW Heisman finalist Michael Penix, Jr.
Texas is 12th in the nation for coming up with interceptions, but that won’t hold up well against Washington because the ‘Horns will not likely be able to pressure Penix.
Both teams have their starting rosters intact, so this should be one of the best games on the docket for the entire bowl season. With the national championship in play for the winner, this will be a hard-fought, well-played, and exciting game that fans should not miss.
Both teams performed above Savvygameline projections this season, but Washington made most of its impression in the first six weeks of the season and faded after that. Texas was strong throughout and gained nearly half its positive markers in the last three weeks.
Texas has the momentum. Washington has Michael Penix, Jr.
Betting lines say Texas by less than a touchdown. Savvygameline says Texas will win by a single point. I personally think Texas’ momentum will give the Longhorns a win of at least nine points.
#11 Liberty (13-0) vs #8 Oregon (11-2)
I have a friend who huffs with disgust that Oregon wasn’t given a “better” opponent in the Fiesta Bowl than the Liberty Flames. He complains that LU didn’t play any team currently ranked in the top 25, and the Flames are too fresh from FCS to be considered worthwhile.
But I would argue that the Flames have been in FBS for five years now, and seven of their wins this season were posted over teams that made it to a bowl game.
This was an off-year for Liberty scheduling, and we know that when we look at four previous seasons in which LU had plenty of prominent name opponents.
Just last year, the Flames beat Wake Forest and Brigham Young, both of which were 8-5 and ranked during the 2022 season.
Liberty’s new head coach, Jamey Chadwell, is often regarded as the most creative offensive mind in college football. After taking over a losing program at Coastal Carolina in 2020, Chadwell led CCU to 11 straight wins and a top-ten ranking in his second season. When that season ended, he was named national coach of the year.
Liberty’s defense is in the top 25 for defending passes and 50th for stopping the run. The Flames have several departures from their defensive line, so expect the LU defense to be solid but not impressive.
Oregon has a top 25 defense, but it hasn’t seen the likes of Chadwell’s schemes, and it is those schemes that gave the Flames a running back with over 1300 rushing yards and a quarterback with more than 1000.
The Flames are ranked third in the nation for total offense, right behind Oregon, ranked second.
Despite losing to Washington in its previous game, Oregon has led the nation in performance metrics on my Savvy system all season. While Liberty has performed well, it hasn’t been as spectacular.
Oregon has momentum, and coach Dan Lanning won’t let the Ducks pout. My system says Oregon will win the Fiesta Bowl 35-28.
Even though Oregon didn’t get to the national championship, this year’s lemon-and-lime is not a group that will fade. Besides, we have readers in Eugene, and I suspect it might be offensive to say anything about Flaming Duck.
Predictions for all bowl games this season can be seen by visiting savvygameline.com.