2023 College Football Bowl Previews (New Year's Day)


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2023 College Football Bowl Previews (New Year's Day)

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Reliaquest Bowl

Wisconsin Badgers @ LSU Tigers (-9.5)

Monday, January 1, 2024 - 12:00 PM ET

Tampa, Florida


The Wisconsin Badgers take on the LSU Tigers in the Reliaquest Bowl in Tampa, Florida. On paper, this game looked like it could be a fun matchup. However, like most bowl games, there are significant opt-outs on each side. After winning the Heisman, QB Jayden Daniels decided to sit out the bowl game. It remains to be seen whether his two star WRs, Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas, follow suit, but that would be my expectation. Fortunately, the Tigers have a very good, and intriguing, backup QB in Garrett Nussmeier. At WR, I’m intrigued to see what Aaron Anderson and Chris Hilton look like with more playing time. Both were big-time recruits coming out of high school, so they will have a significant opportunity to display their talent. All the LSU RBs should play in this game, but I’d love to get an extended look at Kaleb Jackson. Defensively, LSU will be missing some key pieces in the secondary, but they should have enough talent to stifle a depleted receiving corps on the Wisconsin side.

On the other side, Wisconsin was hit pretty significantly by opt-outs too. Star RB, Braelon Allen, decided to opt out of this bowl to focus on the draft along with C Tanor Bortolini and CB Jason Maitre. The Badgers will be without two starting WRs who hit the transfer portal, Chimere DIke and Skyler Bell. This offense was a disappointment this year after ranking 77th in the country in total YPG (370.2). RB Jackson Acker averaged a little over four yards per carry, making him a significant downgrade from Allen. Defensively, the Badgers were still a top-40 unit, only giving up 331.8 YPG. They were great at limiting explosive passing plays, holding opposing QBs to 6.2 YPA. LSU ranked first in YPA (11.0) through the air, so this will be an interesting matchup to watch. If Wisconsin wants to win this game, it starts by winning this battle.

TL;DR: Even with all the opt-outs, LSU simply has too much depth and talent for Wisconsin to overcome with all-world RB Braelon Allen. Our staff is all-in on LSU winning this game, while a majority of us think they will cover the spread too.


  • RB Braelon Allen

  • WR Chimere Dike

  • WR Skyler Bell

  • C Tanor Bortolini

  • OL Trey Wedig

  • DL Rodas Johnson

  • DE Darian Varner

  • LB Jordan Turner


  • QB Jayden Daniels
  • CB Sage Ryan
  • CB Duce Chestnut


Josh ChevalierZach HallMatt WispeRick KamlaMike Bainbridge

Citrus Bowl

Iowa Hawkeyes @ Tennessee Volunteers (-7.5)

Monday, January 1, 2024 - 1:00 PM ET

Orlando, Florida


The 2023 season was the epitome of Iowa. They ranked 130th in scoring with 16.6 points per game, but they ranked 4th in scoring defense, allowing just 13.2. En route to a Big Ten Championship game appearance, they famously fell short of their offensive goals. They’ll come into this game with no meaningful opt-outs, but with injuries that could impact their offensive line and the secondary. For Iowa’s offense to be successful, Deacon Hill has to limit his mistakes, and the running game that averaged 116.2 yards per game needs to have an impact a couple of times. The reality is that Iowa’s path to victory is likely based around Ray Guy Award winner, Tory Taylor, controlling field position and giving the defense an opportunity to create a havoc play or two.

Josh Heupel’s Tennessee offense will have a new look as Joe Milton, Jaylen Wright, and Jabari Small have all chosen to opt out. Five-star true freshman, Nico Iamaleava, gets his first start after attempting just 26 passes during the regular season. He’ll have his top WR options, but will likely be leaning on Dylan Sampson at RB, who attempted 86 runs and had 471 yards and seven touchdowns. The defense will be without one of their top edge rushers and three members of the secondary. After a season that saw the Volunteers average 31.5 points per game while allowing 22.0, the team will have a new look as a preview for the future.

TL;DR: Tennessee’s new QB is getting thrown in the deep end in his first start. Iowa will keep this game ugly by playing high-end defense and completely ineffective offense. Four out of our five staff writers believe that Tennessee will win (In the interest of full disclosure, I changed my pick with the Milton opt out), but only Rick believes that Tennessee will cover a spread over a touchdown.


  • WR Diante Vines

  • QB Spencer Petras


  • QB Joe Milton
  • RB Jaylen Wright
  • RB Jabari Small
  • DE Tyler Baron
  • S Wesley Walker
  • CB Doneiko Slaughter
  • CB Tamarion McDonald
  • CB Brandon Turnage
  • CB Warren Burrell
  • LG Addison Nichols
  • OG Mo Clipper


Josh ChevalierZach HallMatt WispeRick KamlaMike Bainbridge

Fiesta Bowl

Liberty Flames @ Oregon Ducks (-17.5)

Monday, January 1, 2024 - 1:00 PM ET

Glendale, Arizona


The Oregon Ducks take on the Liberty Flames in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona. Liberty has taken off in their first year under HC Jamey Chadwell, going undefeated and playing in their first ever NY6 bowl. The Flames should be proud of what they have accomplished to this point, and they might not be done surprising people. Chadwell runs a nontraditional run-based spread option offense that takes elements of the triple option, but runs them from the pistol or shotgun formation. The creativity of this offense, paired with high-level talent like Kaidon Salter and Quinton Cooley, comparatively speaking, can give opposing defenses fits. That’s pretty much what happened all year, as this offense was a top 5 in overall YPG, yards per play, rush YPG, rush attempts, yards per rush, and points per game (40.8). Defensively, the Flames were average against the run, but not very good against the pass. However, they were able to limit explosive passing plays, making teams be efficient in order to score points. Their ability to make Oregon be patient, and limit explosive plays, offensively will be a major key to this game.

The Oregon Ducks had their heart and mind set on one goal this year: to win a national championship. After getting beat by the Washington Huskies twice, that goal went out the window. It brings up the question of how motivated this Oregon team will actually be in this game. This is one of the very best offenses in the country at full strength, but we have already seen WR Troy Franklin opt out of this game. While QB Bo Nix and RB Bucky Irving intend to play, are we expecting them to play the full game? I’m not so sure. Defensively, Oregon has been stout against the run, making this a good matchup for them on paper, particularly with the discrepancy in overall talent between the two teams. The Ducks, if they are motivated in the slightest, should be able to slow down this Flames’ offense.

TL;DR: The Oregon Ducks are simply too talented to lose to a Liberty Flames that play in the worst conference in college football. This is a huge step up in talent for Liberty. However, I can see a very legitimate path to Liberty covering the spread in this game due to a lack of motivation and players opting not to play on the Oregon side in the second half. Our entire staff is picking the Ducks to win, and a majority are picking them to cover as well.


  • CB Preston Hodge

  • DL Kendy Charles

  • DE Bryan Whitehead


  • WR Troy Franklin
  • C Jackson Powers-Johnson
  • CB Khyree Jackson


Josh ChevalierZach HallMatt WispeRick KamlaMike Bainbridge

Rose Bowl

Alabama Crimson Tide @ Michigan Wolverines (-1.5)

Monday, January 1, 2024 - 5:00 PM ET

Pasadena, California


The Alabama Crimson Tide take on the Michigan Wolverines in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, in the first matchup of the College Football Playoffs. This game is either going to be a complete snoozer or one of the greatest playoff games of all time. I could not be more excited for our two playoff games. You can argue about who does or doesn’t deserve to be in, but these games certainly generate excitement and viewership. Both teams come into this game almost fully healthy. The Michigan Wolverines have complete alignment in culture, identity, and scheme. They want to lineup across from you, beat you up, and break your will over the next 60 minutes. They are a very tough and physical team on both sides of the ball. RB Blake Corum is the heart and soul of this team. They follow his lead. While his overall efficiency and rushing numbers were down from last year, he was able to grind out tough yards and score 22 TDs. While backup RB Donovan Edwards struggled on the ground, he still managed to catch 26 passes for 230 yards. QB JJ McCarthy has not been asked to do much over the last three to four weeks, but he has been very efficient in passing the ball with the exception of the Maryland game. Defensively, this unit is truly special. They are at least top 8 in every meaningful statistical category. They are number one in points per game (9.5). This is a dominant unit that will make life very difficult for opposing QB, Jalen Milroe.

On the other side, you have an Alabama team that seems to be peaking at the right team. They have rattled off 11 straight wins since losing to Texas at home in one of the best games of the year. QB Jalen Milroe is the heart and soul of this offense. While he has improved as a passer, it’s his running ability that makes him truly special. As a runner, he reminds me of another former Alabama QB, Jalen Hurts. Michigan hasn’t seen a QB like Milroe at all this year, so it remains to be seen how they will limit his impact on the game. Defensively, Alabama is a top-20 unit, but teams have been able to put up points on them at times this year. They are one of the best defensive units at creating pressure on the QB, averaging 3.0 sacks per game. If the Crimson Tide can get a lead and force McCarthy to drop back, then this game will tilt in favor of Alabama

TL;DR: This matchup is going to be an extremely tough and physical game. I imagine whoever makes it out of this game victorious is going to be pretty beat up going into the National Championship game. I believe Jalen Milroe’s dynamic ability as a runner is ultimately the difference in this game. A majority of our staff is picking Alabama to win and cover the spread.


  • WR Ja’Corey Brooks


  • None


Josh ChevalierZach HallMatt WispeRick KamlaMike Bainbridge

Sugar Bowl

Texas Longhorns @ Washington Huskies (+4.5)

Monday, January 1, 2024 - 8:40 PM ET

New Orleans, Louisiana


After two underwhelming seasons under Steve Sarkisian, Texas finds themselves in the playoffs for the first time. The only hiccup for this 12-1 team was a 34-30 loss to Oklahoma in early October. But they have the only win against another playoff team after they went into Tuscaloosa and beat Alabama by 10. Quinn Ewers came back and threw for 3,161 yards and 21 touchdowns to only six interceptions. We saw his completion % go from 58.1% last year to 70.7% this year. Xavier Worthy and Adonai Mitchell were the favorite targets for Ewers. Worthy hauled in 73 receptions for 969 yards and five touchdowns, while Mitchell had 51 receptions for 813 yards and 10 touchdowns. Jonathan Brooks was the lead back until his injury, but he still managed to rush for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. Look for CJ Baxter (129-595-4) and Jaydon Blue (56-339-2) to help carry the load.

Washington has taken off under Kalen DeBoer and QB Michael Penix Jr. They are 25-2 over the last two seasons. It felt like everyone just kept waiting for this Washington team to drop one this year, and it never did. They had two big wins over Oregon as well to make it to the playoffs. This offense has a 4,000-yard passer (Penix), a 1,000-yard rusher in Dillon Johnson, and two 1,000-yard receivers in Rome Odunze and Ja’lynn Polk. The return of Jalen McMillan makes this offense even better.

This game feels like it could come down to which defense can stop the opposing offense. This Texas D is only giving up 17.5 points a game but is 95th against the pass. The strength has been against the run, where they are 2nd overall. Washington comes in at 123rd against the pass and 40th against the run. The edge here goes to Texas, but you can’t count out this Huskie team. They just keep winning.

TL;DR: Two high-powered offenses matchup in the 2 vs 3 playoff matchup. Texas might have the edge on D but this Washington team has just found a way to win every game on the schedule. I might be on an island here, but I’m going with Washington pulling this one out.


  • None


  • None


Josh ChevalierZach HallMatt WispeRick KamlaMike Bainbridge