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2021 Bowl Projections: Week 12

Updated bowl projections for Rivalry Week

We are rapidly approaching the end of the 2021 college football regular season. While the parting is such sweet sorrow, it brings about a fascinating period in the cycle: bowl season. Bowl games are always fun because they pair teams that rarely play each other in exotic or different locations. We have entered the final week of the college football regular season (for most teams), so the number of possible outcomes has dropped dramatically.

For the next few weeks, I’ll be putting out my weekly predictions of where every bowl-eligible team (and even some who aren’t technically eligible) into a game. These predictions are based on how I expect the rest of the season to play out, not necessarily where the teams’ current standings and records have them. I’ll provide the conference tie-ins/affiliations for each game and will do my best to adhere to them.

From a Boston College perspective, the Eagles are bowl-eligible, but just barely. They get Wake Forest at home this week but the Demon Deacons will be looking to get to 10 wins and lock up the ACC Atlantic. BC cannot win the division, so they are effectively eliminated from the New Year’s Six bowls and some of the higher-tier ACC bowls (Gator, Cheez-It, Sun). As the Eagles can only finish 7-5 or 6-6, there are only a handful of bowls that they could realistically make.

Bahamas Bowl: Nassau, Bahamas, December 17th, 12:00 PM ESPN (C-USA vs. MAC)

Charlotte vs. Ball State

Charlotte stays as I switch out two MAC teams. Toledo scored an unexpected victory this week, so they get bumped up, while Ball State “falls” to the Bahamas Bowl.

Cure Bowl: Orlando, Florida, December 17th, 6:00 PM ESPN2 (Group of 5 Conferences + Army)

Middle Tennessee State vs. Western Michigan

Another minor swap here as MTSU stays and Wyoming jumps up with their upset of Utah State, sending Western Michigan down.

Boca Raton Bowl: Boca Raton, Florida, December 18th, 11:00 AM ESPN (Group of 5 Conferences + Army)

Miami (OH) vs. Georgia State

Two swaps here, as Miami (OH) falls down a spot and Georgia State replaces a non-bowl eligible Hawai’i. Hawai’i could get to six wins this week but they’ll be traveling to the mainland so that will be a tough test for the Rainbow Warriors.

New Mexico Bowl: Albuquerque, New Mexico, December 18th, 2:15 PM ESPN (AAC/C-USA/MWC)

Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) vs. Boise State

No changes here. UAB very nearly knocked off undefeated UTSA this week, losing on a last-second tipped touchdown pass. Boise State may not be the dominant Broncos of years past but they’re still very solid.

Independence Bowl: Shreveport, Louisiana, December 18th, 3:30 PM ABC (BYU vs. C-USA)

Liberty vs. Western Kentucky

Independents are very tough to slot into bowl games, especially at the lower level. BYU has a connection to this game but being ranked might change things. Conversely, Liberty is coming off a loss to Louisiana and fits this game and this matchup much better. Western Kentucky has a chance to lock up the C-USA East title this week and if they win, they’ll probably jump up.

LendingTree Bowl: Mobile, Alabama, December 18th, 5:45 PM ESPN (MAC vs. Sun Belt)

Toledo vs. Troy

Two schools named after European (depending on how you define Turkey) cities match up here. Troy has to beat Georgia State this week to become bowl eligible, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt to get another team to eligibility.

Los Angeles Bowl: Inglewood, California, December 18th, 7:30 PM ABC (Pac-12 vs. MWC)

Oregon State vs. Wyoming

With a surprise upset of Utah State, Wyoming gets to travel down to Los Angeles to matchup against a frisky Oregon State team.

New Orleans Bowl: New Orleans, Louisiana, December 18th, 9:00 PM ESPN (C-USA vs. Sun Belt)

Texas-El Paso (UTEP) vs. Appalachian State

No changes here.

Myrtle Beach Bowl: Conway, South Carolina, December 20th, 2:30 PM ESPN (AAC/MAC/Sun Belt)

Kent State vs. Coastal Carolina

Two of the most explosive offenses in the Group of Five face off in a de facto home game for the Chanticleers.

Idaho Potato Bowl: Boise, Idaho, December 21st, 3:30 PM ESPN (MAC vs. MWC)

Eastern Michigan vs. Nevada

Nevada keeps dropping close games which is very disappointing. But fans will want to tune in to see their quarterback Carson Strong who should be a first-round draft pick in April.

Frisco Bowl: Frisco, Texas, December 21st, 7:30 PM ESPN (Group of Five Conferences)

Marshall vs. Air Force

Given that this game will take any team from the Group of Five conferences, it will probably see lots of changes from week to week. Marshall has a chance to win the C-USA East on Saturday and that could bump them up a few slots.

Armed Forces Bowl: Fort Worth, Texas, December 22nd, 8:00 PM ESPN (AAC/Army/C-USA)

Texas-San Antonio (UTSA) vs. Army

UTSA escaped defeat by the narrowest of margins against UAB this week. The committee already doesn’t respect the Road Runners very much so even if they win out, they will not be ranked very highly. Therefore, putting them in a bowl in Texas where they can draw fans well might be the best outcome.

Gasparilla Bowl: Tampa, Florida, December 23rd, 7:00 PM ESPN (AAC/ACC/SEC)

Syracuse vs. Florida

Here is the first matchup between two programs that could have losing records but still be invited to a bowl game. All the conferences involved do not have enough teams to fill their slots, and the Group of Five conferences do not have enough teams either to fill out the bottom of the bowl slate. With Dan Mullen being fired and Dino Babers possibly entering the final days due to two losses (with a third possibly imminent), both teams could be using an interim coach. But if that is the case, expect the bowls to try to find teams with intact coaching staffs.

Hawai'i Bowl: Honolulu, Hawai’i, December 24th, 8:00 PM ESPN (AAC vs. MWC)

Utah State vs. Memphis

A surprise loss to Wyoming knocks Utah State down a few spots. Memphis needs a win against a struggling Tulane team this week to get to bowl eligibility.

Camellia Bowl: Montgomery, Alabama, December 25th, 2:30 PM ESPN (MAC vs. Sun Belt)

Central Michigan vs. Louisiana

This could be a matchup of teams missing their head coaches. Both Billy Napier and Jim McElwain could be courted by major Power-Five programs. Napier has been a hot candidate for several seasons, while McElwain might also be looking to get back into a Power Five coaching job after a few successful seasons with the Chippewas.

Quick Lane Bowl: Detroit, Michigan, December 27th, 11:00 AM ESPN (Big Ten vs. MAC)

Rutgers vs. Florida State

Here is another game between teams that could finish with losing records. Florida State is riding a bit of a hot streak now, with close wins against Miami and Boston College and facing a destitute Florid squad this weekend. Rutgers plays Maryland this weekend and has a decent chance of defeating the Terps.

Military Bowl: Annapolis, Maryland, December 27th, 2:30 PM ESPN (AAC vs. ACC)

East Carolina vs. Boston College

After a disappointing loss to Florida State, BC falls pretty far down the slate of ACC bowls. They might finish last in the division, due to head-to-head losses and despite having better records than some teams. East Carolina escaped a nail-biter against Navy to move to seven wins.

Birmingham Bowl: Birmingham, Alabama, December 28th, 12:00 PM ESPN (AAC vs. SEC)

Central Florida vs. Auburn 

I unintentionally created the Gus Malzahn Revenge Bowl. This could be complicated further if Bryan Harsin is let go for not complying with the vaccine mandate deadline. Regardless, Auburn is struggling with Bo Nix out of the lineup, while UCF has played pretty well without Dillon Gabriel for most of the season.

First Responder Bowl: Dallas, Texas, December 28th, 3:15 PM ESPN (AAC/ACC/Big 12)

Southern Methodist vs. Fresno State

Hammer the over for this game. Both teams have fun quarterbacks that love to throw the ball all over the field. This will be a de facto home game for SMU which will most likely give them an advantage,

Liberty Bowl: Memphis, Tennessee, December 28th, 6:45 ESPN (Big 12 vs. SEC)

West Virginia vs. South Carolina

West Virginia defeated a hapless Texas this week and they’ll need to defeat Kansas on Saturday to get to six wins. South Carolina, on the other hand, clinched eligibility by upsetting Auburn.


Holiday Bowl: San Diego, California, December 28th, 8:00 PM FOX (ACC vs. Pac 12)

Louisville vs. Washington State

Washington State has shockingly rallied since letting go of Nick Rolovich and multiple coaches for being unvaccinated. Louisville has had an up and down year, losing several close games in the middle of the year. But blowouts of Syracuse and Duke got them to eligibility.

Guaranteed Rate Bowl: Phoenix, Arizona, December 28th, 10:15 PM ESPN (Big 12 vs. Big Ten)

Brigham Young vs. Maryland

Again, BYU is hard to deal with because they are ranked quite highly but their independent status clouds their future. They have some deal with the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, which is ostensibly more prestigious than the Independence Bowl. Furthermore, this location is also much better for the Cougars’ fanbase. On the other side, Maryland needs to defeat Rutgers on Saturday to get to six wins, which is very possible.

Fenway Bowl: Boston, Massachusetts, December 29th, 11:00 AM ESPN (AAC vs. ACC or Notre Dame)

Houston vs. North Carolina

North Carolina could jump up a few spots (and ostensibly play closer to home) if they upset rival NC State this weekend. Conversely, Houston has a chance to ruin Cincinnati’s perfect season in two weeks in the AAC Championship. I get the sense neither fanbase would be happy with this bowl, which could lead a player like Sam Howell to opt-out to prepare for the Draft.

Pinstripe Bowl: New York, New York, December 29th, 2:15 PM ESPN (ACC vs. Big Ten)

Miami (FL) vs. Minnesota

No changes here. Miami has not been as impressive the previous two weeks, dropping a close one to FSU and barely beating a Virginia Tech team fresh off of firing their head coach. Minnesota continues to paddle along towards another solid Big Ten season, even as they could technically still win the West.

Cheez-It Bowl: Orlando, Florida, December 29th, 5:45 PM ESPN (ACC vs. Big 12)

Pittsburgh vs. Iowa State

Here is a matchup between two veteran quarterbacks that have been in college football for a very long time. Kenny Pickett and Brock Purdy have combined for almost 6,500 snaps over nine total seasons in college football. However, their careers have taken opposite trajectories. Purdy impressed early in his career and some thought of him as an early draft pick. But he’s regressed every year, while Pickett could be a Heisman finalist in his fifth year with Pitt.

Alamo Bowl: San Antonio, Texas, December 29th, 9:15 PM ESPN (Big 12 vs. Pac 12)

Kansas State vs. Utah

There’s a slight chance Utah could end up in the Rose Bowl if they beat Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship. But I think Oregon will beat them in the rematch, leaving Utah in the Alamo Bowl. They’ll face a very solid Kansas State team. Both teams like to run the ball and play tough defense.

Duke's Mayo Bowl: Charlotte, North Carolina, December 30th, 12:00 PM ESPN (ACC vs. SEC)

NC State vs. Missouri

With the ACC missing out on the CFP and the New Year’s Six, some good ACC teams get pushed down in the order. That’s the case here, as a top-three ACC team faces a mediocre, barely bowl-eligible Missouri squad.

Music City Bowl: Nashville, Tennessee, December 30th, 3:00 PM ESPN (Big Ten vs. SEC)

Penn State vs. Mississippi State

If either of these teams wins their rivalry games this week, they’ll probably move to a later, more prestigious game. But they are both slated to face top-15 teams this upcoming week.

Peach Bowl: Atlanta, Georgia, December 30th, 7:00 PM ESPN (At-large vs. At large)

Baylor vs. Mississippi

Both teams could be coached by interims in this game. Dave Aranda has been the most popular candidate for both the LSU and the USC jobs in the last few weeks. Now, rumors are swirling that Lane Kiffin wants out of Ole Miss and he could head to Miami or one of the other high-profile openings.

Las Vegas Bowl: Las Vegas, Nevada, December 30th, 10:30 PM ESPN (Big Ten vs. Pac 12)

Purdue vs. UCLA

One team likes to throw the ball all over the field, the other wants to pound the rock down your throat. Naturally, the Big Ten team is the former and the Pac 12 team led by an offensive revolutionary is the latter.

Gator Bowl: Jacksonville, Florida, December 31st, 11:00 AM ESPN (ACC vs. SEC)

Wake Forest vs. Arkansas

Wake Forest’s loss to Clemson knocks them out of the New Year’s Six games. Even with an ACC title, they most likely won’t be ranked high enough to make one of those games, especially if BC upsets them this weekend. On the other side, after some midseason struggles, Arkansas is playing some very good football right now.

Sun Bowl: El Paso, Texas, December 31st, 12:30 PM CBS (ACC vs. Pac 12)

Clemson vs. Arizona State

No changes here. Clemson picks up a relatively surprising win over Wake Forest, while Arizona State drops one on the road to Oregon State. This will be a great opportunity for Dabo Swinney to go up against one of his greatest nemises: the Devil(s).

Arizona Bowl: Tucson, Arizona, December 31st, 4:30 PM Barstool Sports (MAC vs. MWC)

Northern Illinois vs. San Diego State

I made some changes to this game, as I believe it will pit the champions of the respective conferences against each other. However, I’m still not 100% sure of that. Regardless, both are among the best Group of Five teams this season and this should be an interesting matchup.

College Football Playoff - Orange Bowl: Miami, Florida, December 31st, 3:30 or 7:30 PM ESPN

Georgia vs. Notre Dame

No changes from last week. It will be interesting to see which team ends up beating Georgia Tech by more. I think Notre Dame will be able to squeak in, with Ohio State dispatching Michigan this weekend and the Big 12 cannibalizing itself over the next two weeks.

College Football Playoff - Cotton Bowl: Arlington, Texas, December 31st, 3:30 or 7:30 PM ESPN

Ohio State vs. Cincinnati

Another identical matchup from last week. Both schools are rounding into form towards the end of the season. Cincinnati just needs to make sure they don’t get tripped up in the AAC Championship.

Outback Bowl: Tampa, Florida, January 1st, 12:00 PM ESPN2 (SEC vs. Big Ten/ACC)

Kentucky vs. Wisconsin

Three in a row with no changes. Wisconsin is playing really well right now, currently riding a seven-game win streak. Their big true freshman back Braelon Allen is a sight to behold.

Citrus Bowl: Orlando, Florida, January 1st, 1:00 PM ABC (Big Ten vs. SEC)

Iowa vs. Texas A&M

The Big Ten teams in these two bowls are basically interchangeable, as it might depend on how badly whichever team loses to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship. All four teams play good defense so neither of the New Year’s Day Florida bowls should be high-scoring.

Fiesta Bowl: Glendale, Arizona, January 1st, 1:00 PM ESPN (At large vs. At large)

Oklahoma vs. Michigan State

This bowl pits two teams that squandered playoff opportunities with late-season losses. Ostensibly, either could be called up to their conference-specific New Year’s Day bowls but I think Oklahoma loses at least once in the next two weeks, and Michigan State’s blowout loss to Ohio State should keep them out.

Rose Bowl: Pasadena, California, January 1st, 5:00 PM ESPN (Big Ten vs. Pac 12)

Oregon vs. Michigan

The Wolverines will probably lose to Ohio State on Saturday, but they’ll most likely give the Buckeyes more trouble than Michigan State did. Despite not playing in the Big Ten Championship game, I think either of the Michigan schools will get into the Rose Bowl, as they will be ranked higher than the Big Ten West teams, especially after one of them loses to Ohio State. Meanwhile, Oregon is effectively out of the playoff after getting destroyed by Utah. Even if the Ducks avenge their loss in the Pac-12 Championship, it’s clear that their team has many flaws and Ohio State is the better team right now.

Sugar Bowl: New Orleans, Louisiana, January 1st, 8:45 PM ESPN (Big 12 vs. SEC)

Oklahoma State vs. Alabama

I think both of these teams could lose in their conference championship games, keeping them both out of the playoff. Okie State has a shockingly good defense, while the Tide have a very explosive offense led by Heisman candidate Bryce Young and presumed Biletnikoff finalist Jameson Williams.

Texas Bowl: Houston, Texas, January 4th, 9:00 ESPN (Big 12 vs. SEC)

Texas Tech vs. Tennessee

Two teams and lots of T’s involved here. Both squads pleasantly surprised this season. The Red Raiders have a revolving door at quarterback, while Tennessee rode Hendon Hooker to a very good season in their fast-paced offense.