Early predictions for 44 NCAA bowl games
As the Independence Day celebrations dissipate like fireworks in the sky, we’re already looking forward to the next great holiday season. No, not Thanksgiving or Christmas, we’re counting down to bowl season with our 2021 college football bowl projections. Although the start of the college football season is still some 50 days away, take a sneak peek at how it could all unfold over the next five months.
The full schedule for the 2021-22 NCAA college football bowl games was released on May 27. Once the regular season and conference championships are completed, the allocations for all bowl games will be announced on December 5. Although that’s nearly five months away, below are our college football bowl projections. The projections are based on traditional bowl tie-ins, coupled with our most recent college football power rankings of all 130 teams.
Let’s break down the bowl projections for the end of 2021.
Bahamas Bowl – UTSA vs. Toledo
The first of our college football bowl projections sees UTSA take on Toledo in the Bahamas Bowl. The Roadrunners are currently the second-best Conference USA team in our power rankings, while the Rockets are the fifth-ranked MAC program. The two programs have never previously met, but you can expect a high-scoring matchup. Both teams ranked in the top 50 for total offense last season.
Cure Bowl – North Texas vs. South Alabama
The two teams have met just once (back in 2012), with North Texas emerging with a 24-14 win. Both teams are closely ranked in our power rankings. While the Mean Green are renowned for their high-powered offenses, will their defense hold off the combination of Jake Bentley and Jalen Tolbert?
Boca Raton Bowl – San Diego State vs. Western Kentucky
Our college football bowl projections see a Boca Raton Bowl battle between our fifth-ranked Mountain West team and their counterpart in Conference USA. It would be just the eighth bowl game in Western Kentucky history. However, the Hilltoppers have a winning bowl record, whereas San Diego State is 6-8 in their bowl history.
New Mexico Bowl – Liberty vs. Nevada
The Liberty Flames signed a deal last year that guarantees them a slot in one of six potential bowl games. In our college football bowl projections, they land a mouthwatering matchup in the New Mexico Bowl against our favorite to win the Mountain West. Not only would it be an entertaining matchup on the field, the Malik Willis vs. Carson Strong 2022 NFL Draft subplot would add further drama.
Independence Bowl – BYU vs. UAB
The 2021 Independence Bowl is set to feature BYU against the C-USA. According to our college football power rankings, the best available opponent for the Cougars will be the UAB Blazers. Although BYU may suffer a decline without Zach Wilson, this should still be a highly entertaining matchup in what will be the first time that the two teams have met.
Lending Tree Bowl – Western Michigan vs. Louisiana
In our college football bowl projections, the Lending Tree Bowl pits our top-ranked MAC team against our second-ranked Sun Belt team. The teams have met once before (back in 1994) when the Ragin’ Cajuns came out on top in a closely fought game. Kaleb Eleby taking on Levi Lewis offers an intriguing quarterback matchup, with both teams boasting top-50 offenses last season.
L.A. Bowl – Stanford vs. Fresno State
The inaugural L.A. Bowl was scheduled to take place last year but unfortunately had to be postponed. It makes its debut pitting the Pac-12 against the Mountain West, with Stanford taking on Fresno State in our college football bowl projections. Watch out for Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener, who orchestrated a Bulldogs offense that ranked in the top 20 last season.
New Orleans Bowl – Marshall vs. Coastal Carolina
The top two teams from Conference USA and the Sun Belt do battle in this matchup in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Grant Wells and Grayson McCall are two of the best young quarterbacks in the nation and should provide an entertaining matchup. Although the Chants would be favorites going in, Marshall has a .750 bowl record from their 16 appearances in NCAA bowl games.
Myrtle Beach Bowl – Tulsa vs. Arkansas State
Although Tulsa blew out the Red Wolves in 2003, Arkansas State won the last clash between these two teams back in 2018. Two of their five matchups have been decided by less than a field goal. Therefore, this could be one of the most closely contested games from our college football bowl projections.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl – Kent State vs. Boise State
Unsurprisingly, the game held at Boise State’s Albertsons Stadium has featured the Broncos four times. However, this college football bowl projection would mark their first appearance there since 2005. The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl has a conference tie-in with the MAC, which Kent State represents for the first time. Who will emerge victoriously and be coated by a shower of fries?
Frisco Bowl – Colorado State vs. Buffalo
The Frisco Bowl has a tie-in with the AAC; however, as in the previous year, the conference champion makes a “New Year’s Six” bowl game in our college football bowl projections. Instead, the Mountain West and the MAC face-off with Colorado State and Buffalo. The two teams have never met before, but you can expect a slugfest on the ground from two run-heavy offenses.
Armed Forces Bowl – Tulane vs. Army
The AAC sends a representative to the Armed Forces Bowl for the fourth consecutive season. Tulane was victorious in their only previous appearance in the game, meanwhile, Army has a perfect 3-0 record to date. The Green Wave had a top-50 rushing defense last season, which should help them combat an Army team that only ranks 98th in our college football power rankings.
Gasparilla Bowl – Mississippi State vs. Virginia Tech
The Gasparilla Bowl has a complicated set of conference tie-ins that could see almost any possible lineup. However, for these college football bowl projections, the top available teams come from the SEC (Mississippi State) and the ACC (Virginia Tech). The two have never met before, but the Bulldogs have a significantly better record for bowl games, having won 14 of their 24 appearances.
Hawai’i Bowl – San Jose State vs. Memphis
Christmas Eve college football sees San Jose State take on Memphis in the Hawai’i Bowl. The Spartans are the third-ranked Mountain West team in our power rankings. Meanwhile, Memphis sits as the seventh-ranked AAC team. Much of the Tigers’ fortunes will rest on impressive wide receiver Calvin Austin, who snagged 1,053 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns last season.
Camellia Bowl – Ball State vs. Appalachian State
They haven’t met since the 1970s, but Ball State has a 2-0 record against the Mountaineers. The second-ranked MAC team and third-ranked Sun Belt team clash on Christmas Day in the Camellia Bowl, according to our college football bowl predictions. It should be a close matchup with the two teams ranked closely in our power rankings.
Quick Lane Bowl – Maryland vs. Miami (OH)
Maryland is the first Big Ten team to appear in our college football bowl projections, facing Miami (OH) of the MAC in the Quick Lane Bowl. Although the RedHawks won the only matchup between the two teams back in 1969, Maryland should be a comfortable favorite. The Terrapins are ranked as a top-50 team in our power rankings.
Military Bowl – Florida State vs. Houston
These two last met in the 2015 Peach Bowl, where Houston beat FSU 38-14. The Cougars have had overwhelming success against the Seminoles, winning 13 of their 17 matchups. Can the team from the AAC upset the ACC again? Houston is our fourth-ranked AAC team, whereas FSU is our ninth-ranked ACC team. As a result, a third consecutive win for the Cougars seems probable.