As 2022 comes to an end, one of the best parts of the college football season arrives. Throughout the upcoming week, some of the nation’s best players and most prestigious programs will face off against each other in the sport’s biggest bowl games.
Here’s a look at some of the marquee matchups still to come.
Capital One Orange Bowl, No. 6 Tennessee vs No. 7 Clemson
In a true orange vs orange matchup, the Volunteers and Tigers battle it out in one of the classic New Years Six bowl games.
Tennessee was one of the most exciting teams in the nation all year long, led by Hendon Hooker and Biletnikoff Award winner Jalin Hyatt. The Volunteers opened the year 8-0 before falling to the Georgia Bulldogs. Hooker proceeded to go down with a season-ending injury before Tennessee again lost, this time to South Carolina. It was still a very successful season for the Volunteers, who spent all of November and December inside the CFP top 10.
Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers find themselves outside of the CFP for the second straight year. However, they did find themselves back on top of the ACC after a one-year hiatus. The Tigers similarly lost to South Carolina, which ended a seven-year losing streak for the Gamecocks. Much of the attention will be on Cade Kulbnik, who has taken over the starting quarterback role after the benching of DJ Uiagalelei. Uiagalelei has announced he will be transferring to Oregon State, which in the meantime means that this is Kulbnik’s team.
The Capital One Orange Bowl kicks off from Hard Rock Stadium Friday, Dec. 30 at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
Allstate Sugar Bowl, No. 5 Alabama vs No. 9 Kansas State
Alabama and Kansas State earned bids into the Sugar Bowl as the two highest-ranked SEC and Big 12 teams to not make the CFP.
Alabama narrowly missed the CFP, coming in at No. 5.. This is the first year since the CFP started in 2014 that both Alabama and Clemson have been left out of the field. Still, there is a lot to be proud of for Nick Saban and his team. The Crimson Tide boasted a potent offense, led by last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young and talented running back Jahmyr Gibbs. Alabama will be at full strength, as Young and defensive star Will Anderson Jr. announced they will not sit out the bowl game.
Kansas State ended TCU’s bid for an undefeated season with a win in the Big 12 Championship. The Wildcats found themselves on top of the conference for the first time since 2003. Will Howard and Deuce Vaughn led a talented Kansas State offense, but the defense may be the most impressive aspect for the Wildcats. Kansas State has the most efficient defense in the Big 12 and the Big 12 sack leader in Felix Anudike-Uzomah.
The Allstate Sugar Bowl from the Caesars Superdome kicks off Saturday, Dec. 31 at noon on ESPN.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, No. 10 USC vs No. 16 Tulane
The Pac-12 runner-up USC Trojans earned a matchup with the AAC champion Tulane Green Wave in the Cotton Bowl.
Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams will have the opportunity to bounce back from the Trojan’s loss in the Pac-12 Championship against Utah. Williams was the leader of a tremendous offense which led the conference in points per game. USC was just one win away from a CFP berth, but could not avenge its loss to Utah from earlier in the season.
The Green Wave find themselves in a NY6 bowl for the first time since they played in the Sugar Bowl back in 1940. They get the bid as the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion. Tulane has had an impressive year, going 11-2, with both losses being one-possession games. The victory against UCF in the AAC Championship game evened the season series against the Knights who took down Tulane earlier in the year. Running back Tyjae Spears was a crucial aspect of the Green Wave offense, ending up in the top 15 in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns nationally.
The Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic gets underway from AT&T Stadium at 1 p.m. on ESPN.
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Prudential, No. 8 Utah vs No. 11 Penn State
The “Granddaddy of Them All,” the Rose Bowl Game once again features a marquee matchup of Big Ten and Pac-12 teams.
The Pac-12 champion Utah Utes thumped USC’s CFP hopes in their last game. Cam Rising has been spectacular for much of the year, although he did struggle in several big games. That argument was put to rest in the Pac-12 Championship game, as Rising completed 22 passes for 310 yards and three scores.
Penn State slips into the Rose Bowl, despite being the third highest-ranked team in the Big Ten. However, CFP bids for Michigan and Ohio State find the Nittany Lions back in the Rose Bowl for the fifth time in program history. Penn State narrowly lost in 2017 against USC in one of the most memorable Rose Bowls in recent history. Senior quarterback Sean Clifford will hope to rewrite Rose Bowl lore with a win in likely his final game with the Nittany Lions.
The 109th Rose Bowl Game kicks off from Pasadena on Monday, Jan. 2 at 5 p.m. on ESPN.
Best of the Rest
No. 13 Florida State vs Oklahoma, Cheez-It Bowl, December 29, 5:30 p.m. ESPN
No. 12 Washington vs No. 20 Texas, Valero Alamo Bowl, December 29, 9 p.m. ESPN
No. 19 South Carolina vs No. 21 Notre Dame, TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, December 30, 3:30 p.m. ESPN
No. 17 LSU vs Purdue, Cheez-It Citrus Bowl, January 2, 1 p.m. ESPN