College Football Bowl Projections 2022: A Green Wave washes over the Cotton Bowl

With the 2022 season well underway, it's time to look towards the most wonderful time of the year with our college football bowl projections.

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With Week 3 of the 2022 season in the rearview mirror, it’s time to start looking towards the future with some college football bowl projections. If you are like us and bowl season is your favorite holiday, then you’ll be just as excited as we are for some of the matchups that our bowl projections have thrown together. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

2022 college football bowl projections

Bahamas Bowl | North Texas vs. Kent State

Kicking us off in style at 11:30 a.m. ET on Dec. 16 is the Bahamas Bowl. What better way to begin the college football bowl schedule than with a shootout between two historically high-scoring offenses? Kent State’s brutal out-of-conference schedule might impede their progress towards bowl season. However, our projections still see them representing the MAC in Nassau. Meanwhile, North Texas’ offense should see them squeak into bowl season as the fifth-ranked Conference USA team.

Cure Bowl | Appalachian State vs. Northern Illinois

If you don’t get excited for a matchup between the top-ranked team in the MAC and one of the Sun Belt contenders, then do you even deserve to watch the Cure Bowl? Northern Illinois has had some tough matchups to begin the year but should still emerge as the top team in the MAC. Meanwhile, Appalachian State’s brand of heart attack football should make this one of the most exciting college football bowl projections.

Fenway Bowl | Virginia vs. UCF

We’ve been waiting two years, but our projections for the 2022 college football bowl season suggest that we’ll finally see postseason football at Fenway Park. The AAC vs. ACC matchup has previously fallen victim to the global pandemic, and Virginia take up the spot they were scheduled to fill last December. They’ll face a UCF team that has shown early promise but might fail to finish high enough to secure a more lucrative AAC bowl slot.

Celebration Bowl | Florida A&M vs. South Carolina State

Every year, the second-place teams from the SWAC and the MEAC battle in the Celebration Bowl. Why the second-place teams? Well, the top teams will be involved in the FCS Playoffs. With Jackson State and North Carolina Central flying high early on, projections would suggest that South Carolina State will return to college football bowl season, where they’ll be joined by a strong Florida A&M team rebounding from a difficult start.

New Mexico Bowl | Liberty vs. Nevada

The New Mexico Bowl was one of six bowl tie-ins announced for the independent Liberty Flames ahead of the 2019 season. With our college football bowl projections suggesting a lack of eligible MAC, C-USA, or AAC teams, they land in Albuquerque to face Mountain West contender Nevada, who have had a mixed start to their 2022 campaign.

LA Bowl | Fresno State vs. UCLA

It may only be in its second year, but the Jimmy Kimmel Bowl LA Bowl has the potential to be one of the most glamorous bowl games on the schedule. Hosted at SoFi Stadium, the home of the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers, UCLA becomes the third LA home team as a result of our college football bowl projections. The LA Bowl should play host to the Mountain West champions, which is exactly what Fresno State could be by December behind quarterback Jake Haener.

Lending Tree Bowl | Rice vs. James Madison

It’s very early in the college football season to be making bold projections, but James Madison could legitimately be in contention for a postseason berth. They’ve built their team the right way to compete, and they represent the Sun Belt in the Lending Tree Bowl here. Rice has a shot at being bowl eligible for the first time since their appearance in the 2014 Hawaii Bowl.

Las Vegas Bowl | Oregon vs. Maryland

Although the Las Vegas Bowl is meant to be a Pac-12 vs. SEC affair, last year saw Wisconsin replace the SEC element, and we’re sticking with that formula for our college football bowl projections. While Oregon might be considered a lock for one of the more prestigious Pac-12 bowl game tie-ins, we’re not 100% sold on this Ducks team. Meanwhile, Maryland has the offensive firepower to do battle with almost anyone.

Frisco Bowl | UTSA vs. Wyoming

Last season the Frisco Bowl played host to the top team from C-USA, and you’d be a fool to bet against that being UTSA again. The combination of Frank Harris and Zakhari Franklin is one of the best in the land. Meanwhile, Wyoming has the potential to finish second in the Mountain West behind Fresno State, with running back Titus Swen proving a real handful for opposition defenses.

Myrtle Beach Bowl | Marshall vs. SMU

Conway, South Carolina, plays host to one of the most entertaining college football bowl games on the schedule, so it’s only right that our projections reflect that. With Tanner Mordecai and Rashee Rice, SMU has the weaponry to test any defense. Here, they’ll face a significant Sun Belt challenge from a Marshall defense that has already helped the Thundering Herd trample Notre Dame.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl | Eastern Michigan vs. UNLV

Is there anything more college football than getting covered in a bath of fries on a Tuesday afternoon? Did we mention that the grass is blue at the host stadium? This annual matchup between the MAC and Mountain West is must-watch entertainment. UNLV hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2013. But, the program is starting to show signs of success and has a shot at six wins this season. Meanwhile, Eastern Michigan has the potential to be the third-best team in the MAC this year.

Boca Raton Bowl | UAB vs. South Alabama

Last year’s Boca Raton Bowl saw the second-ranked teams in the C-USA and Sun Belt go to battle, and our college football bowl projections have those teams being the UAB Blazers and South Alabama Jaguars. Carter Bradley looks like the quarterback the Jaguars have been missing for the six years since their last bowl appearance. Meanwhile, Bryant Vincent should pick up where Bill Clark left off — by leading the Blazers to one of the top C-USA bowl game slots.

New Orleans Bowl | Coastal Carolina vs. Florida Atlantic

When you win the Sun Bowl, the New Orleans Bowl is your reward, and this could be the year that Coastal Carolina finally gets to claim an outright title. In our college football bowl projections, they’ll face a Florida Atlantic team who combines a commanding ground game with some defensive playmakers to pose a genuine threat in C-USA play. It’s 15 years since the Owls won the New Orleans Bowl as the Sun Belt representative.

Armed Forces Bowl | Army vs. Vanderbilt

The global pandemic allowed the Armed Forces Bowl to attract SEC teams to Fort Worth, and with no current active conference tie-ins, our college football bowl projections will continue that theme. Vanderbilt has a genuine chance to hit that magical six-win bowl threshold, especially with the discovery of freshman QB AJ Swann. The Armed Forces Bowl does have a tie-in with one team — Army — and they’ll look to defeat SEC opposition for the second consecutive season.

Independence Bowl | Western Kentucky vs. BYU

Although the Independence Bowl is scheduled to feature Army and a team from the American, we’ve factored BYU’s move to the Big 12 for the 2023 campaign into our college football bowl season projections. The Cougars get one final go-around in Shreveport against a Western Kentucky team that should challenge at the top of C-USA this fall. Austin Reed vs. Jaren Hall is a potential 2023 NFL Draft QB clash.

Gasparilla Bowl | Houston vs. Washington State

The Gasparilla Bowl is one of the most complicated projections on the 2022 college football bowl schedule, with tie-ins to eight different conferences. Oh, and Army and BYU can join in the fun if they choose. Speaking of fun, how about a clash between two exciting offenses led by two quarterbacks with NFL aspirations in Clayton Tune and Cameron Ward. Houston’s defense is also one of the most ferocious in the nation.

Hawaii Bowl | Notre Dame vs. San Jose State

Having become accustomed to unprecedented levels of success, Notre Dame hasn’t made the trip to Hawaii in bowl season since 2008. However, this is a Fighting Irish team in transition, and expectations of the Orange Bowl or Cheez-It Bowl should be discounted at this point. The Mountain West provides the mandatory opponent, with San Jose State set to take up the challenge.

Quick Lane Bowl | Purdue vs. Bowling Green

In recent years, the Quick Lane Bowl has welcomed ACC and Mountain West teams to Ford Field. Yet its primary tie-in is to the Big Ten and the MAC, and our college football bowl projections reflect that. Purdue might struggle to live up to their nine-win 2021 campaign but should have enough wins to head to Detroit. Meanwhile, Bowling Green should fill the sixth MAC spot, buoyed by an early upset over Marshall.

Camellia Bowl | Louisiana vs. Western Michigan

In a competitive Sun Belt conference, Louisiana might struggle to compete for a championship and ultimately one of the premier bowl games — especially after an early season defeat to Rice. However, they should secure the fourth-ranked spot that saw Georgia State head to the Camellia Bowl last year. They’ll meet a Western Michigan team that hasn’t had a losing season in the MAC since 2013. Chris Smith and Sean Tyler are two of the top running backs in the Group of Five.

First Responder Bowl | Boise State vs. Syracuse

With a pool of conference tie-ins, the possible First Responder Bowl projections for the 2022 college football season are endless. Last season, the third-ranked Mountain West team (Air Force) and sixth-ranked ACC team (Louisville) faced off. If that same formula was to be followed, we’d have a Boise State vs. Syracuse game that would pit Orange running back Sean “Trackspeed” Tucker against Broncos safety JL Skinner and feature two of the toughest QBs in college football.

Birmingham Bowl | Cincinnati vs. Mississippi State

In a comedown from last season’s appearance in the College Football Playoffs, the Cincinnati Bearcats take a berth in the Birmingham Bowl for the third time in the event’s history. They’re 2-0 in this bowl game, which doesn’t bode well for SEC representative Mississippi State. Despite the loss of a ton of talent, the Bearcats have already played SEC opposition close this year. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs make it 13 consecutive seasons with a bowl game appearance.

Guaranteed Rate Bowl | Iowa State vs. Michigan State

The Guaranteed Rate Bowl flipped to being an annual Big Ten vs. Big 12 clash from 2020 and will be so through the 2025 season. Both Iowa State and Michigan State might struggle to return to the high-level bowls of last season. However, their matchup in Arizona features some exciting playmakers and has the makings of a high-scoring game if the Spartans’ offense can keep pace with Hunter Dekkers and his ability to dice up their secondary.

Military Bowl | Duke vs. East Carolina

Are Mike Elmo’s Duke Blue Devils legit? They’ve not been to a bowl game since 2018, but early indications are that could change. In our 2022 college football bowl game projections, they follow the route that their ACC cohorts Boston College took to last year’s Military Bowl. There, they’ll meet an ECU team that features all-time AAC passing yards record holder Holton Ahlers and rare running back talent Keaton Mitchell.

Liberty Bowl | Texas Tech vs. Texas A&M

Texas Tech returns to the Liberty Bowl for the second consecutive season, where they’ll meet a Texas A&M team that couldn’t field a team despite accepting an invitation to the Gator Bowl. Despite their plethora of five-star recruits, the Aggies will struggle to make one of the marquee SEC bowls this season as they try to find quarterback consistency. They’ll have their hands full with a Zach Kittley-engineered Red Raiders offense.

Holiday Bowl | Wake Forest vs. Utah

A hot favorite to defend their Pac-12 title prior to the season, expectations have cooled a little on the Utah Utes after their opening day defeat to Florida and the imposing way that USC has started the Lincoln Riley era. As such, a CFB Playoff or Rose Bowl berth seems a long-shot at the moment. However, a Holiday Bowl matchup with Wake Forest gives college football fans something to look forward to. Sam Hartman vs. Cameron Rising is a late Christmas present we can get behind.

Texas Bowl | Kansas vs. Auburn

No, there’s not a spelling error here. No, there shouldn’t be a “state” after Kansas. They’ve been college football’s whipping boys since 2008, but under Lance Leipold, the Jayhawks might actually be the real deal. In our 2022 college football bowl projections, Kansas takes the fifth-ranked Big 12 spot in the conference’s Texas Bowl matchup with the SEC. An Auburn Tigers team that might just limp into bowl contention awaits them.

Pinstripe Bowl | Pittsburgh vs. Wisconsin

Since 2014, the Big Ten and the ACC have been doing battle in the Pinstripe Bowl, and both of the teams in our projections for 2022 have made an appearance in Yankee Stadium before. While Pittsburgh’s defense is dominant, their offense might handicap them from repeating as conference champions. Meanwhile, Wisconsin likely doesn’t trouble the top of the Big Ten. However, they were victorious in their last appearance in the Pinstripe Bowl, whereas the Panthers tasted defeat in 2016.

Cheez-It Bowl | Florida State vs. Baylor

Two ferocious defenses that love to fly to the ball. Two offenses that love to get the ground game going. This Cheez-It Bowl matchup would be one for the ages. While it’s a projection at this point, Florida State has looked good enough to be in contention in the ACC this fall. Meanwhile, Baylor — despite its defeat to BYU — are still very much a key player in the Big 12 race.

Alamo Bowl | Texas vs. Washington

The Pac-12’s priorities are the CFB Playoff and the Rose Bowl. With the conference’s inability to get out of its own way, the former is a pipe dream. That means the champion heads to the Rose Bowl, with the second-ranked team taking their place in the Alamo Bowl. Washington — with Michael “hotter than fish grease” Penix Jr. at the wheel — has the potential to take that spot. In our college football bowl projections, they face a Texas team who once again comes up short in the Big 12.

Duke’s Mayo Bowl | Rutgers vs. LSU

Due to a lack of eligible teams, Rutgers accepted an invitation to the Gator Bowl last season, but they’re capable of more than just making up numbers this year. Greg Schiano’s team battles it out with an LSU team that is unlikely to return to the pinnacle of the SEC in Brian Kelly’s first season at the helm. Which head coach will be doused in mayonnaise at the final whistle?

Sun Bowl | Miami (FL) vs. Oregon State

The Sun Bowl welcomes the ACC and the Pac-12 annually, with the event featuring as the fourth-ranked bowl game for the latter conference. That’s exactly where I expect an impressive Oregon State Beavers team to finish the year. Meanwhile, the ACC’s rotational policy means that any team that finishes fourth to eighth in the conference will head to El Paso. Tyler Van Dyke faces a stern test against the Oregon State secondary in what would be a fascinating matchup.

Gator Bowl | North Carolina vs. Florida

Unsurprisingly for a bowl game that shares the program’s nickname, Florida is tied for the most appearances in the Gator Bowl. If our 2022 college football bowl projections prove true, they’ll own the record with 10 appearances. Florida will be as successful as Anthony Richardson’s development allows this year, which may mean missing out on the bigger bowls. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s strong ground game and electric QB in Drake Maye should see them contend near the top of the ACC.

Arizona Bowl | Toledo vs. Air Force

You couldn’t get a more contrasting pair of teams to contest the Arizona Bowl. Air Force’s option attack with a heavy ground presence is in stark contrast to Toledo’s aerial attack led by quarterback Dequan Finn. After being canceled last season, the Arizona Bowl would come back with a bang with this enticing matchup between the second-ranked MAC team and fourth-ranked Mountain West program.

Orange Bowl | Penn State vs. Clemson

Now we’re into the serious end of the 2022 college football bowl projections. The Orange Bowl hosted the College Football Playoffs last season, but this year it reverts to its Big Ten/Notre Dame/SEC vs. ACC tie-in. While there are some significant issues with the Clemson offense, their run game and the most devastating defense in the nation should carry them to the Orange Bowl.

With two SEC teams in the final four, a surging Penn State team buoyed by freshman RB Nicholas Singleton, a potential NFL Draft first-rounder paving the way for him in Ole Fashanu, and a defense teeming with playmakers earns a spot near the top table after settling for the Outback Bowl last year.

Music City Bowl | Iowa vs. Ole Miss

The 2021 Music City Bowl was an absolute classic. While it might struggle to live up to that billing, a projection of Iowa vs. Ole Miss for the 2022 college football bowl season has an allure of its own. Iowa’s defense has been one of the best in the Big Ten, while Ole Miss can kill you by land or by air with running back duo Zach Evans and Ulysses Bentley IV or quarterback Jaxson Dart. Could Tory Taylor be the first ever Music City Bowl punter MVP?

Sugar Bowl | Kentucky vs. Oklahoma

After taking part in the Citrus Bowl last year, our 2022 college football bowl projections have Kentucky going one better and landing a spot in the Sugar Bowl. They’re currently the top contender to be “best of the rest” in the SEC. The Wildcats would face an Oklahoma team who can’t parlay a Big 12 Championship into a final four placing. Dillon Gabriel and Will Levis facing off should make for an entertaining offensive showcase.

Peach Bowl (College Football Playoff) | #2 Ohio State vs. #3 Alabama

Here. We. Go. An unbeaten Ohio State team waltzes into the College Football Playoff on the back of a nearly unstoppable offense comprising C.J. Stroud and a plethora of premier pass catchers. This matchup could help decide whether Stroud or Bryce Young is the first QB off the board in the 2023 NFL Draft. Alabama slides in as the third seed despite losing the SEC Championship Game to Georgia in these 2022 college football bowl projections.

Fiesta Bowl (College Football Playoff) | #1 Georgia vs. #4 North Carolina State

The Fiesta Bowl hosts the second College Football Playoff game, which in our bowl games projections features the number one ranked Georgia Bulldogs and a surprise contender for the final playoff spot. While NC State began the season as a dark-horse contender on the back of Devin Leary’s potential to lead the offense, they’ve proven that they’re equally dangerous defensively. Winning the ACC is one thing, making it to the National Championship is quite another.

ReliaQuest Bowl | Arkansas vs. Indiana

Formerly the Outback Bowl, the ReliaQuest Bowl features a Big Ten versus SEC matchup that has ended with the SEC team being successful more often than not. While Indiana has gotten off to a hot start to this college football season, they’ll be somewhat outmatched by an Arkansas team that has built a defensive bully in the image of head coach Sam Pittman. Meanwhile, K.J. Jefferson might be one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the nation.

Cotton Bowl | Tulane vs. Oklahoma State

Watch out college football world, there’s a Green Wave coming to wash over the established order of things. Okay, strictly speaking, that might not be true, but Tulane has the potential to emerge as the top Group of Five team this season. Michael Pratt can lead an offense that’s packed with playmakers at every position while the defense is ferocious. Their reward in these college football bowl projections is a Cotton Bowl date with an Oklahoma State team that finished second in the Big 12.

Citrus Bowl | Minnesota vs. Tennessee

The Citrus Bowl plays host to the fourth-ranked teams from both the Big Ten and SEC. Right now, those project to be Minnesota and Tennessee. The Golden Gophers are riding Mohamed Ibrahim all the way back to relevancy. Meanwhile, Hendon Hooker is consistently in the national spotlight as he orchestrates an offense that is banishing the ghosts of recent Vols’ units. Tennessee probably shades this game on the strength of an underrated defense, but it’d be an entertaining Monday matchup.

Rose Bowl | Michigan vs. USC

The crown jewel of the Pac-12 and Big Ten conference, a picture postcard of college football history, the Rose Bowl is the most iconic game on the bowl season schedule. With Ohio State otherwise engaged in the College Football Playoff, Michigan sits as the highest ranked Big Ten program and books a date with Pac-12 champion USC.

Despite losing Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo to the NFL, the Wolverines’ defense is once again loaded with talent and should prove a tough test for the Trojans’ electric offense led by Caleb Williams and a stellar supporting cast.

Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft and College Football Analyst for Pro Football Network. Check out the rest of his work here, and you can find him on Twitter: @ojhodgkinson.

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