We say goodbye to a 2021 that was, in many ways, every bit the unmitigated shitshow that 2020 was. Sometimes you gotta’ just laugh it off; elsewise, you’ll be huffing gas in a Greyhound bathroom, wondering just how in the hell you wound up in Bakersfield, where your pants are, and where it all went wrong.
You know exactly how, your mother is disappointed, and your pets are judging you.
Fortunately, we have football to get us through these moments. So, enjoy them we shall. Here’s today’s schedule in God’s right and proper Central Time Zone.
Here’s to a better 2022! Have a safe and happy New Year’s
|Outback Bowl: Arkansas vs. Penn State||11:00 am||ESPN2: 209|
|Citrus Bowl: Iowa vs. Kentucky||12:00 pm||ABC (cable):|
|Fiesta Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma State||12:00 pm||ESPN: 206|
|Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Utah||4:00 pm||ESPN: 206|
|Sugar Bowl: Baylor vs. Ole Miss||7:45 pm||ESPN: 206|
I was going to try and figure out some unwatchable filth for the day, but honestly, every last one of these games is intriguing for a variety of reasons, and most figure to be very competitive. In terms of sheer mano e mano, it’s rare we get a NY6 this evenly-matched.
I’ve got nothing. So grab some hair o’ the dog, order a pizza and co’ cola, shake off that regrettable final tequila shot from last night, and just enjoy.
Outback Bowl: Arkansas -2.5 vs. Penn State — Penn State is all talent and no head. The Hogs are the exact opposite; there’s no one in the country that plays harder, or that does more with less than Sam Pittman’s Piggies. With a very good WR1 and a freshman backfield, Arkansas is favored for a reason, despite their defensive limitations. Keep an eye on the outstanding freshmen skills players for the Hogs. They’re a handful, especially if you’re not ready to match their intensity. For the Nitty Kitties, attacking a weak Arkie interior front is going to be the key to the game. And, to Franklin’s credit, his teams have tended to play hard in bowl games, even in losses.
Citrus Bowl: Iowa +3 vs. Kentucky — Sure, it is a citrus fruit, but so are under-ripened lemons. This is the rock fight of the bowl season: forget Clemson-Iowa State, Michigan-Georgia, Wisconsin-ASU. If you want to see two teams line up and just smack the shit out of one another, tune in for this one. I’m honestly not sure it will be good football, but it will be compelling.
Matchup of the game? Honestly, either of the erratic turnover-prone quarterbacks vs. either of the secondaries (the Hawkeyes’ in particularly is filthy, notching 24 interceptions). Did I mention that Iowa is T-1st in TOM at +14 while UK is next-to-last at -13? There is a zero percent chance Kentucky throws this ball more than a dozen times. If Stoops doesn’t come out in the flexbone or Notre Dame Box, then what is the meaning of it all?!
I, for one, am ready for so much sexy punting.
Fiesta Bowl: Notre Dame -2 vs. Oklahoma State — This game is going to be intriguing for how the coaches work around their opt-outs and missing dudes. Four Pokes entered the Portal after their last-second loss to Baylor in the B12CG. Leading rusher Jaylen Warren, who missed that game with an injury, is allegedly going to be back for this one. But count me among those doubtful he’ll actually play (or take many snaps, if he does). ND didn’t lose quite as many, but the two they did lose were their two best players: first-round CB Kyle Hamilton and starting RB Kyren Williams.
It will also be interesting to see how new coach Marcus Freeman does in his maiden voyage. He’s extremely popular with the program, with players, with fans...hell, even his staff: he was able to retain most of those guys when Brian Kelly bolted for LSU. His opposite, Mike Gundy isn’t exactly known for big game performances. And for Notre Dame’s Marcus Freeman, this is a big game.
Will it be a slog? At times. Will it be as glacial as Iowa-Kentucky? Likely not; the defenses really are just going to be that good, and the pads a’popping. First team to 13 wins.
Rose Bowl: Ohio State -4 vs. Utah — Is there any team that takes quite the glee in lining up and wrecking seasons quite like the Utes? I already liked Utah in this game before the Buckeyes opt-outs; I like them even more afterwards.
Why? OSU is soft, that’s why. Utah doesn’t have the talent of the Ducks or the Wolverines, but they’ll play the same way: ground-first, get after Stroud. exploit mistakes. And not only are they soft, OSU is without their sacks leader, their starting left tackle, and their two star WRs — among others. All are NFL opt-outs. Imagine telling a Big 10 purist that a quarter of your starting roster is skipping the Rose Bowl.
That’s a lot of experience and talent to take off the table. And, it’s not like OSU’s interior run defense can bail them out either. If the Utes get rolling, they’ll just be relentless, springing an upset they have absolutely no business pulling off. If so, I look forward to all the Buckeyes salt.
Sugar Bowl: Ole Miss -1.5 vs. Baylor — This is the matchup of the New Year’s Day schedule, and honestly one of the top 2 or 3 of the entire Bowl schedule. It’s also a symbolic changing of the guard, if you will, as older coaches give way to the next generation. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more compelling matchup of younger head coaches, with better resumes, than the emotionless defensive mastermind Dave Aranda vs. the bombastic offensive guru Lane Kiffin. (I hate to point out the obvious here, but if Nick Saban retired tomorrow, both of these guys would be on Alabama’s to-contact list. They’re both waiting on the right one of those elite gigs to open up at the right time, and whether it’s Alabama, Texas or some other elite program, they’ll get them.)
No worries about motivation here, either. This is just the second Ole Miss Sugar Bowl appearance in the last half-century (and that 2015 game was eventually vacated cuz of cheatin’.) For the first time in the post-segregation era, the Rebels have a chance to bring home a win in the SEC’s banner bowl game. So too has Baylor announced its return-arrival. While not hitting quite the depths of the Rebels, the Bears had much to atone for following its sexual assault scandal. And, like Ole Miss, a housecleaning and a damned good string of hires have been the cure to what ails them — this new-look Baylor Bears program is built for sustained success (particularly in a Big 12 that has shed Oklahoma / Texas).
As for the game itself, it figures to be strength-on-strength, and relative weakness-on-weakness: OM’s 10th best offense, vs. the Bears 11th best defense; Baylor’s 25th best offense vs. OM’s 30th best defense; Ole Miss’s 4th best special teams unit vs. Baylor’s 6th. In short, this game is a near pick’em because the teams are that close.
Grab your butt, this is probably coming down to the wire.
Most likely bowl upset...
This poll is closed
Baylor over Ole Miss
Penn State over Arkansas
Kentucky over Iowa
Utah over Ohio State
Oklahoma State over Notre Dame