2023 College Football Bowl Previews (Fri 12/29)


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2023 College Football Bowl Previews (Fri 12/29)

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Gator Bowl

Clemson Tigers @ Kentucky Wildcats (+5.5)

Friday, December 29, 2023 - 12:00 PM ET

Jacksonville, Florida


The Clemson Tigers face the Kentucky Wildcats in the Gator Bowl for a Noon kickoff this Friday. Despite having much fewer opt-outs, the Wildcats find themselves as 5.5-point underdogs after finishing the season 7-5. Their last win was a memorable one versus in-state rival Louisville, 38-31. Kentucky’s offense had very high expectations going into this year with a veteran QB, Devin Leary, and several very talented skill position players. Unfortunately, the offense never fully reached its potential, averaging a meager 334.7 YPG. RB Ray Davis was the lone bright spot, accumulating close to 1,400 total yards and 20 TDs. Defensively, Kentucky is stingy against the run, allowing 3.3 YPC, but their secondary can be exposed as they are allowing 237.9 PASS YPG.

On the other side, Clemson had a down year by their standards as they ended the season 8-4. However, they caught fire at the end of the season en route to rattling off four straight wins. They also covered the spread in those games. The common denominator in those games was a greater commitment to the run game. Over that four-game stretch, Phil Mafah and Will Shipley combined for 139 carries, 738 yards, and 5 TDs. QB Cade Klubnik settled into more of a game-manager role and threw for 6 TDs over that stretch. Defensively, Clemson will be without some key pieces in the bowl game, but is still one of the top units in the country littered with talent at all three levels of the defense.

TL;DR: Bottom line is that Clemson should be able to control this game by leaning on their running game and top-10 defense. HC Dabo Swinney will be motivated to win this game and end the season on a 5-game winning streak, which would quiet the negative narrative surrounding this team throughout this last season. Our entire staff is picking Clemson to win this game and cover the spread.


  • WR Beaux Collins

  • TE Sage Ennis

  • OL Mitchell Mayes

  • DL Ruke Orhorhoro

  • LB Jeremiah Trotter

  • S Andrew Mukuba

  • CB Toriano Pride

  • CB Nate Wiggins


  • EDGE Keaten Wade
  • LB Martez Thrower


Josh ChevalierZach HallMatt WispeRick KamlaMike Bainbridge

Sun Bowl

Oregon State Beavers @ Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-6.5)

Friday, December 29, 2023 - 2:00 PM ET

El Paso, Texas


Jonathan Smith did a great job bringing Oregon State to the National stage. After three straight winning seasons, he’ll take over the Michigan State job and leave bowl coaching duties to passing game coordinator Kefense Hynson. In addition to losing Smith, the Beavers will be without both starting QB, DJ Uiagalelei and backup Aidan Chiles. Instead, they’ll be starting Ben Gulbranson, who started 8 games in 2022. Gulbranson has completed 62.7% of his career pass attempts for an average of 7.5 yards per attempt and has a 10 to 5 touchdown to interception ratio. Star RB Damien Martinez is unlikely to play following an arrest. The defense allows 236.2 passing yards and 104.1 rushing yards per game. The defense ranked inside of the top 25 in both havoc and points per opportunity (points allowed when the opponent crosses 40).

After a difficult debut season, Marcus Freeman rebounded with a 9-3 season. The Irish averaged 39.1 points per game while allowing 16.6. WIth Sam Hartman opting out of the game in preparation for the NFL Draft, Steve Angeli will get the nod at QB. As a whole, Notre Dame will have a generally new look. In addition to QB, they’ll be without the starting RB, three starting WRs, three offensive line starters, and starting TE. The offense will likely lean on RB Jeremiyah Love at the center of the running game. During the year, Notre Dame had a 27.7 to 34.1 pass play to run play ratio. With the missing players, I’d expect this to lean even further into the run. The defense will be starters in the secondary, but the rest of the defense that ranked 8th in scoring will be intact.

TL;DR: What is there to even say about these two teams? Both Oregon State and Notre Dame will be playing with new QBs and missing key starters across the board, so the regular season statistics largely mean nothing. But in a situation like this, you have to lean towards the team with more overall talent and depth. For that reason, all five of the staff writers picked Notre Dame to win and cover.


  • QB DJ Uiagalelei

  • QB Aidan Chiles

  • TE Jack Velling

  • WR Anthony Gould

  • RT Taliese Fuaga

  • LB Easton Mascarenas-Arnold

  • S Akili Arnold

  • CB Jermod McCoy

  • TE Jake Overman portal

  • PK Atticus Sappington


  • QB Sam Hartman
  • RB Audric Estime
  • RT Blake Fisher
  • LT Joe Alt
  • CB Cam Hart
  • CB Thomas Harper
  • C Zeke Correll
  • WR Rico Flores
  • WR Tobias Merriweather
  • WR Chris Tyree
  • TE Holden Staes
  • WR Braylon James
  • DE Nana Osafo-Mensah
  • DL Aidan Keanaaina
  • S Ramon Henderson
  • S Antonio Carter
  • LB Marist Liufau
  • DB Thomas Harper


Josh ChevalierZach HallMatt WispeRick KamlaMike Bainbridge

Liberty Bowl

Memphis Tigers @ Iowa State Cyclones (-9.5)

Friday, December 29, 2023 - 3:30 PM ET

Memphis, Tennessee


The Iowa State Cyclones and the Memphis Tigers face each other in a rematch of the 2017 Liberty Bowl. The Cyclones pulled off a narrow victory in that game, playing at the Tigers’ home stadium. Iowa State is at its best when it has a dynamic RB to lean on in the running game. Unfortunately, that RB has been missing from their offense over the better part of the last two years. That all changed in the season finale when the Cyclones were forced to lean on their true freshman RB Abu Sama versus Kansas State. In that snowy game, Sama ran the ball 16 times for 276 yards and 3 TDs, breaking off several long runs in that game. Sama’s explosiveness has been evident from the very beginning, as he averaged almost 9 YPC throughout the year. Defensively, Memphis is allowing 169.5 YPG and 4.8 YPC on the ground, making them one of the worst run defenses in the country. If they cannot stop Sama, then the Tigers do not have much of a shot at winning this game.

Memphis does have a top-20 offense in the nation, averaging 452.2 YPG and 6.4 YPP. Their passing attack is dynamic, averaging 301.4 YPG while leaning on three primary receiving weapons in Roc Taylor, Demeer Blankumsee, and Blake Watson. Watson is the focal point of the offense as he totaled 1,500 yards of offense along with 17 TDs. In the passing game alone, he had 50 receptions for 463 yards. While Iowa State’s defense is very good, Memphis has the scheme and talent to score points and keep this game close.

TL;DR: This game will ultimately come down to whether Memphis can stop Abu Sama on the ground. If they can, then they have a shot to pull off the upset. However, the majority of our staff believes Iowa State will win this game and cover the spread.


  • QB Tevin Carter

  • OT Makylan Pounders

  • RG Davion Carter

  • S Cameron Smith


  • RB Eli Sanders
  • RB Cartevious Norton
  • OG Darrell Simmons


Josh ChevalierZach HallMatt WispeRick KamlaMike Bainbridge

Cotton Bowl Classic

Missouri Tigers @ Ohio State Buckeyes (-1.5)

Friday, December 29, 2023 - 8:00 PM ET

Arlington, Texas


Eli Drinkwitz’s fourth season in Missouri saw a stark improvement from simply becoming bowl-eligible. The Tigers went 10-2 and scored 34.1 points per game while allowing 22.3. Brady Cook’s second year as a starter was a major improvement from year one with a noteworthy improvement from a 2:1 TD to INT ratio to a 3.33:1 ratio and a 26% improvement in yards per attempt. Star WR Luther Burden and RB Cody Schrader are the players to watch as they accounted for 54.5% of the total offense. The defense that struggled with explosive plays and stopping drives will be without two starters.

For Ryan Day and Ohio State fans, the season came down to one regular season game which didn’t go in the Buckeyes' favor. The Buckeyes went 11-1 while averaging 32.8 points per game and allowing 11.0. Starting QB Kyle McCord entered the transfer portal which leaves Devin Brown under center. Although it hasn’t been formally announced yet, the Buckeyes will almost assuredly be without Heisman finalist Marvin Harrison, who has not been practicing. Brown had a close off-season competition with McCord and had packages for him before suffering an ankle injury during the season. And even without Harrison and Julian Fleming, there will be no shortage of WR talent. In what is becoming a tryout game for Brown, the offense is unlikely to alter significantly. The defense ranked 15th in success rate, fourth in points per opportunity, and third in explosive plays allowed and is expected to be missing only one starter.

TL;DR: The exit of McCord in the portal, expected opt outs, and myriad of portal exits caused the line to drastically move in favor of Missouri. As news confirming Ohio State's player availability emerged, the line moved back in OSU’s favor. With their total depth, most of our staff believe they’ll be too much for a good Missouri team. Four of the five staff writers have picked Ohio State to win and cover.


  • LB Dameon Wilson


  • WR Marvin Harrison Jr.
  • QB Kyle McCord
  • WR Julian Fleming
  • DT Michael Hall Jr.
  • CB Jyaire Brown
  • S Kye Stokes
  • CB Cam Martinez
  • DB Ryan Turner
  • RB Evan Pryor
  • DE Omari Abor
  • C Vic Cutler
  • RB Chip Trayanum
  • RB Miyan Williams


Josh ChevalierZach HallMatt WispeRick KamlaMike Bainbridge