Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Gators

Our college football bowl guide, from Florida Gators vs. UCF to the College Football Playoff

Here are the matchups you need to watch plus some thoughts on Miami, the Outback Bowl and Billy Napier’s former team.
The Florida Gators have won four in a row in Tampa, including an Outback Bowl triumph over Iowa at the end of the 2016 season.
The Florida Gators have won four in a row in Tampa, including an Outback Bowl triumph over Iowa at the end of the 2016 season. [ Times (2017) ]
Published Dec. 15, 2021

Six bowls worth watching outside the New Year’s Six/College Football Playoff:

Boca Raton Bowl (11 a.m. Saturday, ESPN): Western Kentucky vs. Appalachian State pits the Hilltoppers’ No. 1 passing offense against a Mountaineers defense that has more interceptions (15) than touchdown passes allowed (12).

Frisco Bowl (7:30 p.m. Tuesday, ESPN): No. 24 Texas San Antonio and San Diego State were two of the season’s top Group of Five teams. It’s a shame they don’t have a chance to take on a Power Five team in a bowl, but this matchup is a nice consolation prize.

Gasparilla Bowl (7 p.m. Dec. 23, ESPN): State supremacy, such as it is in this historically bad year, is on the line when the Gators and Knights meet at sold-out Raymond James Stadium.

Related: Gasparilla Bowl sells out Florida Gators vs. UCF matchup

Liberty Bowl (6:45 p.m. Dec. 28, ESPN): Remember when Texas Tech fired Mike Leach, prompting years of messy litigation that went all the way to the state’s supreme court? You can bet Leach will when his Mississippi State team faces the Red Raiders.

Alamo Bowl (9:15 p.m. Dec. 29, ESPN): Oregon’s coach (Mario Cristobal) left for Miami, while Oklahoma’s coach (Lincoln Riley) left for USC. That weirdness adds an extra layer to a top-20 matchup of big-name programs.

Gator Bowl (11 a.m. Dec. 31, ESPN): Jimbo Fisher will be back in the state when his No. 23 Aggies play No. 20 Wake Forest. Will Texas A&M’s top-three scoring defense slow down the Demon Deacons’ top-five scoring offense?

Gators in Tampa

The Florida Gators have had some recent success in Tampa, including a win over Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
The Florida Gators have had some recent success in Tampa, including a win over Iowa in the Outback Bowl. [ Times (2017) ]

UF’s Gasparilla Bowl appearance will be the program’s 46th game in Tampa, dating to an unforgettable 44-0 win in 1912 over something called the Tampa Athletic Club. The Gators’ first game against Tennessee was also in Tampa (a 24-0 loss in 1916). More recently — and relevantly — UF has won its last four at Raymond James Stadium, including a 42-20 win over USF this season and Outback Bowl triumphs in January 2006, ’11 and ’17.

Related: Gasparilla Bowl sells out Florida Gators vs. UCF matchup

Local of the week

Isaiah Bolden, seen here from his time at Wesley Chapel High, has been a valuable special-teams player at Jackson State.
Isaiah Bolden, seen here from his time at Wesley Chapel High, has been a valuable special-teams player at Jackson State.

Jackson State defensive back Isaiah Bolden (Wesley Chapel High)

The transfer from Florida State has returned two kickoffs for a touchdown this season, including a go-ahead 91-yarder in the SWAC championship against Prairie View A&M. He has the chance to be an X-factor for Deion Sanders’ Tigers in the Celebration Bowl against South Carolina State (noon Saturday, ABC).

Eye on the NFL draft

Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner is one of the elite NFL draft prospects to watch in the College Football Playoff.
Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner is one of the elite NFL draft prospects to watch in the College Football Playoff. [ JEFF DEAN | Associated Press ]

With many so top prospects continuing the opt-out trend, we’ll focus on the playoff. In the Cotton Bowl, Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner will try to shut down Alabama receiver Jameson Williams in a matchup of likely first-round picks. The Orange Bowl features three of the top 10 draft-eligible running backs by The Athletic: Georgia’s Zamir White and James Cook plus Michigan’s Hassan Haskins. Remember those names on New Year’s Eve, NFL fans.

Tyler in Texas

Miami quarterback Tyler Van Dyke will likely pass the 3,000-yard mark in the Sun Bowl.
Miami quarterback Tyler Van Dyke will likely pass the 3,000-yard mark in the Sun Bowl. [ WILFREDO LEE | Associated Press ]

Miami quarterback Tyler Van Dyke will enter the Sun Bowl against Washington State (2 p.m. Dec. 31, CBS) with 2,931 passing yards. A 3,000-yard season is a near certainty, and he has a good shot at climbing past Malik Rosier (3,120 yards in 2017) and into the top 10 in Hurricanes single-season passing history. Not bad for a freshman who began the year as a backup behind D’Eriq King and attempted only one pass through three games.

Related: Mario Cristobal hiring shows Hurricanes are a new Miami

At ‘steak’ for Penn State

Four of Penn State's losses were by one score, including a heartbreaker against Illinois.
Four of Penn State's losses were by one score, including a heartbreaker against Illinois. [ BARRY REEGER | Associated Press ]

Penn State is better than its 7-5 record suggests. Advanced metrics consider them a top-20 team, but the Nittany Lions were doomed by four losses of four points or fewer: against Michigan, at Iowa, at Michigan State and against Illinois in nine overtimes.

“It’s every single aspect of it,” coach James Franklin said. “We’ve done a good job of finding ways to win those games in the past, and we did that early in the season.”

If the Nittany Lions can return to the early-season form (one-score wins over Wisconsin and Auburn), they have a good chance to top Arkansas in the Outback Bowl (noon Jan. 1, ESPN2).

Four thoughts on the New Year’s Six

Notre Dame's Marcus Freeman will make his head-coaching debut in the Fiesta Bowl.
Notre Dame's Marcus Freeman will make his head-coaching debut in the Fiesta Bowl. [ ROBERT FRANKLIN | Associated Press ]

1. The entertainment factor of the Peach Bowl (7 p.m. Dec. 30, ESPN) depends on opt-outs. If Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett and Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker play — both have been noncommittal — this game should be a blast. If not, this won’t be must-watch TV.

2. The Fiesta Bowl (1 p.m. Jan. 1, ESPN) will give us an early peek at No. 5 Notre Dame’s future without coach Brian Kelly (now at LSU). Former defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman’s head-coaching debut will be against No. 9 Oklahoma State and its excellent defense.

3. I’m not sure which is more surprising: the fact that No. 8 Mississippi and No. 6 Baylor combined for 21 wins in their coaches’ second years or the fact that neither Lane Kiffin nor Dave Aranda jumped to other jobs this cycle. Instead, they’ll meet in the Sugar Bowl (8:45 p.m. Jan. 1, ESPN).

4. No. 10 Utah vs. No. 7 Ohio State (5 p.m. Jan. 1, ESPN) is a nice Rose Bowl but would be a fascinating playoff game. The Buckeyes are loaded with talent, while the Utes went 9-1 with two convincing wins over Oregon after Cameron Rising became the starting quarterback. Both teams would be dangerous in a 12-team bracket.

By the numbers: Bowl edition

Ohio State's Noah Ruggles, a Steinbrenner High product, has been one of the best kickers in the nation.
Ohio State's Noah Ruggles, a Steinbrenner High product, has been one of the best kickers in the nation. [ REBECCA S. GRATZ | Associated Press ]

122 Points scored by Ohio State kicker Noah Ruggles (Steinbrenner High). That’s tied for fifth nationally.

296 Yards needed for Louisiana quarterback Levi Lewis against Marshall in the New Orleans Bowl (9:15 p.m. Saturday, ESPN) to pass Jake Delhomme (9,216) for the highest career total in program history.

Related: Can Billy Napier Sabanize the Florida Gators where Jim McElwain, Will Muschamp couldn’t?

0-4 North Texas’ bowl record under coach Seth Littrell. He’ll try to change that against Miami (Ohio) in the Frisco Football Classic, which was added earlier this month to make sure every eligible team can play in a bowl game.

2-0 Greg Knox’s career record as an interim coach. He led UF to a win over Florida State last month and guided Mississippi State to a win over Louisville in the 2017 TaxSlayer Bowl. He’ll coach the Gators against UCF.

2008 The last time Miami won in Texas (41-23 at Texas A&M). Since then, the Hurricanes lost a neutral-site opener to LSU and Sun Bowls to Washington State and Notre Dame.

• • •

Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.

Advertisement

This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge