Tusk to Tail: Bowl games, portals, opt outs and a Georgia repeat

The 2022 college football bowl season has begun in earnest. The first of 43 games kicked off last week when Texas-San Antonio slipped past Miami of Ohio in the Bahamas Bowl, and won’t let up until the College Football Championship crowns a winner on Jan. 9.

Tusk to Tail breaks down some of the more relevant matchups, including the Liberty Bowl featuring Arkansas and Kansas, below.

Friday, Dec. 23
Gasparilla Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Missouri
Arkansas would have been playing in this Tampa bowl game against Wake Forest, but Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz asked to switch out of fear of losing to Kansas. The Gasparilla Bowl matches two teams trending in opposite directions. Wake was once ranked #21, beating Florida State and losing a double overtime heartbreaker to Clemson before losing four of their last five games. Mizzou started out slow, but upset South Carolina and Arkansas to become bowl eligible. Led by quarterback Sam Hartman, the Demon Deacons have an explosive offense. I’m not sure the Tigers can keep up. Drinkwitz suffers his third straight bowl loss, 31-27.

Wednesday, Dec. 28
Liberty Bowl: Arkansas vs. Kansas
Arkansas will be missing several key components for this game. Defensive coordinator Barry Odom left to become head coach at UNLV, and will take linebackers coach Michael Scherer with him after Scherer serves as interim DC for the Liberty Bowl. Injuries, the transfer portal, and players opting out to prepare for the NFL draft have left gaping holes at wide receiver, tight end, linebacker, and the offensive and defensive lines. Meanwhile, Kansas comes in highly motivated, playing in their first bowl since 2008. ESPN predicts a Razorbacks’ victory, and TTT would agree if this game had been played in October. The Hogs will need to lean heavily on KJ Jefferson and Rocket Sanders, or else this could be a tough row to hoe.
Dale: Arkansas 23, Kansas 21.
Craig: Arkansas 21, Kansas 28.
Greg: Arkansas 17, Kansas 24.
Mark: Arkansas 17, Kansas 14.
Todd: Arkansas 35, Kansas 34.

Texas Bowl: Texas Tech vs. Ole Miss
The Rebels faltered during Lane Kiffin’s dalliance with Auburn over their coaching vacancy. Kiffin got a raise, and the Rebels’ offense should be too much for a Big 12 also-ran to stop. Ole Miss 38, Texas Tech 30.

Thursday, Dec. 29
Alamo Bowl: No. 12 Washington vs. No. 20 Texas
Hey, look! Our first Top 25 matchup! Texas is back in a middling bowl where they will have homefield advantage in San Antonio. Washington’s high powered passing attack led by QB Michael Penix Jr. should keep it interesting, but the Longhorns have the complete package to get coach Steve Sarkisian a win over his former employer, 41-33.

Friday, Dec. 30
Gator Bowl: No. 19 South Carolina vs. No. 21 Notre Dame
The Irish had a rough start and the Gamecocks didn’t fare much better to begin the season. But Carolina and QB Spencer Rattler finished strong, upsetting Tennessee and Clemson in their last two games. The momentum should continue in Jacksonville. South Carolina 31, Notre Dame 24.

Orange Bowl: No. 6 Tennessee vs. No. 7 Clemson
Both teams turn to highly regarded quarterbacks who began the season as backups. The difference will be the Tigers’ defense. Tennessee 27, Clemson 33.

Saturday, Dec. 31
Music City Bowl: Iowa vs. Kentucky
Don’t expect a lot of offensive firepower in this one. Kentucky should win, maybe 13-6. Just bet the under and thank us later.

Sugar Bowl: No. 5 Alabama vs. No. 9 Kansas State
Alabama rarely seems motivated to win their bowl game if they are not playing for a championship under coach Nick Saban. This year seems different. Saban has been ranting that the Crimson Tide belong in the playoffs, and now it’s time for his team to prove it. Quarterback Bryce Young and linebacker Will Anderson, widely expected to be two of the first picks in the NFL draft, are both expected to play for Bama, and will be better than anyone the Wildcats have seen all year. Alabama 35, K-State 13.

Fiesta Bowl (College Football Playoff semifinal): No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 TCU
TCU has been fun to watch in their miracle season. Expect QB Max Duggan to keep the Horned Frogs in the game, at least through the first half, before Michigan’s running game takes over. Michigan 30, TCU 17.

Peach Bowl (College Football Playoff semifinal): No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Ohio State
Ohio State has the horses to keep up with Georgia. Unlike most playoff matchups, this game should be competitive for four quarters. Georgia coach Kirby Smart should have an edge over Ohio State’s Ryan Day, and that may be the difference. The Bulldogs survive the Buckeyes 31-30.

Monday, Jan. 2
ReliaQuest Bowl: No. 22 Mississippi State vs. Illinois
Mississippi State coach Mike Leach tragically died at age 61 December 12th from complications related to a heart condition. There will never be another like him. The Bulldogs should be inspired to play hard for the late legend, but that seems like a lot to overcome. Bret Bielema will have his Illini defense ready for the Air Raid attack. Illinois should have just enough to win in an otherwise emotional tribute to The Pirate. Illinois 14, Mississippi State 13.

Citrus Bowl: No. 17 LSU vs. Purdue
Purdue coach Jeff Brohm has left the Boilermakers to lead his alma mater Louisville. The Bayou Bengals have the weapons to win this one in a cakewalk. LSU 38, Purdue 12.

Cotton Bowl Classic: No. 10 USC vs. No. 16 Tulane
If USC had won the Pac-12 championship game, they would be in the playoffs. Tulane, on the other hand, experienced a worst-to-first turnaround under coach Willie Fritz. Several players are opting out of playing for the Trojans, but they still have an advantage in talent. I’ll give the edge to the Green Wave, who should be motivated to prove they belong on the big stage. USC 27, Tulane 30.

Rose Bowl Game: No. 8 Utah vs. No. 11 Penn State
It may not be a classic Rose Bowl matchup, but these teams are good. Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford closes his college career with a big win. Utah 28, Penn State 36.

Who will win the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship Game Monday, Jan. 9?
Mac: Georgia 24, Michigan 30.
Sean: Georgia 38, Michigan 42.
Willard: Georgia 27, Michigan 28.
Todd: Georgia 31, Michigan 34.
David: Someone has to pick against Michigan. Whether it’s against Georgia or an unexpected rematch with Ohio State, I’ll say Big Blue goes down.

Editor’s note: Now in its 11th year, Tusk to Tail is the sport of tailgating as organized, performed and perfected by a group of Hog fans who have been tailgating together sober and otherwise for more than a decade. The primary focus of Tusk to Tail will be to follow the Hogs through the fans’ perspective with their insightful, irreverent, smart-alecky and sometimes practical style. The diehards may also be followed on their Facebook page. Or follow the crew on Twitter and Instagram, all @TuskToTail.

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