Preseason bowl projections: Matchups for every game and the CFP

NCAAF

The 2022 college football season kicks off Saturday with 11 FBS games and shifts into high gear Sept. 1, with the start of the full Week 1 schedule. While there will be a whole lot of action between then and December, it’s never too early to dream about bowl season and the College Football Playoff.

To that end, ESPN college football reporters Kyle Bonagura and Mark Schlabach present their preseason bowl projections, and they’ll have new ones every week as the season rolls along. They’ll also provide analysis in explaining their CFP picks and offer other insights about their predictions.

All times Eastern

College Football Playoff

CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T
SoFi Stadium (Inglewood, California)
Jan. 9, Time TBD, ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Alabama vs. Ohio State
Schlabach: Alabama vs. Ohio State

CFP Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta)
Dec. 31, 4 or 8 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Alabama vs. Clemson
Schlabach: Alabama vs. Clemson

CFP Semifinal at the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl
State Farm Stadium (Glendale, Arizona)
Dec. 31, 4 or 8 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Ohio State vs. Georgia
Schlabach: Ohio State vs. Georgia

CFP breakdown

Bonagura: Georgia and Alabama are machines. It doesn’t matter how many NFL players departed from their rosters, they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt and — as meaningless as preseason predictions are — deserve to begin the season in the top four. After that, it’s less straightforward. Ohio State’s dominance over Michigan ended last season, but with what the Buckeyes have coming back — including prolific passer C.J. Stroud — they’re the favorites in the Big Ten. That distinction is enough for top-four status just about every year. Utah and Oklahoma received strong consideration for the final spot, but ultimately Dabo Swinney’s track record over the past decade was the justification for putting the Tigers in.

Schlabach: I think Alabama and Ohio State are head and shoulders above the other CFP contenders heading into the season, but defending national champion Georgia could get to that level by season’s end. The Bulldogs have to replace 15 players who were selected in the NFL draft and helped them win their first national title in 41 years. The losses are especially heavy on defense. Under Kirby Smart, Georgia has reached a level where it simply reloads, but there might be some early growing pains. Still, it would be difficult to find a regular-season opponent that can beat the Bulldogs. I considered the same three teams as Kyle did for my final CFP spot — Clemson, Oklahoma and Utah — and ended up going with the Tigers for now. Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei is going to have to dramatically improve for Clemson to get to the top four.


New Year’s Six

Dec. 30

Capital One Orange Bowl
Hard Rock Stadium (Miami Gardens, Florida)
Time TBD, ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Pittsburgh vs. Baylor
Schlabach: NC State vs. Notre Dame

Dec. 31

Allstate Sugar Bowl
Caesars Superdome (New Orleans)
Noon, ESPN and the ESPN App
Bonagura: Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma
Schlabach: Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma


Team ready to make the leap to an NY6 bowl

Bonagura: Texas A&M was an NY6 team in 2020, but the COVID-modified schedule cast a shadow over everything that happened that year. So, while it hasn’t technically been a long absence for the Aggies, this feels like the year where an unqualified breakthrough is possible. They have everything they need to reach the NY6 (including not having to play Georgia in the regular season).

Schlabach: Remarkably, NC State has won 10 games in a season just once in its 117-year history of playing football. It happened under Chuck Amato in 2002, when the Wolfpack went 11-3 and won the Gator Bowl. NC State might have won 10 contests last season, but UCLA pulled out of the Holiday Bowl because of COVID-19 issues. With eight starters, including quarterback Devin Leary coming back on offense and nine returning on defense, the Wolfpack could challenge for the ACC title if things bounce their way.


Jan. 2

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)
1 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Notre Dame vs. Cincinnati
Schlabach: Baylor vs. Houston

Rose Bowl Game
Rose Bowl (Pasadena, California)
5 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Michigan vs. Utah
Schlabach: Michigan vs. Utah


Bowl season

Dec. 16

HomeTown Lenders Bahamas Bowl
Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium (Nassau, Bahamas)
11:30 a.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: UAB vs. Toledo
Schlabach: Florida Atlantic vs. Miami (Ohio)

Duluth Trading Cure Bowl
Exploria Stadium (Orlando, Florida)
3 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Coastal Carolina vs. Northern Illinois
Schlabach: Tulane vs. Central Michigan

Dec. 17

Wasabi Fenway Bowl
Fenway Park (Boston)
11 a.m., ESPN and the ESPN App
Bonagura: Boston College vs. Houston
Schlabach: Boston College vs. UCF

Cricket Celebration Bowl
Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta)
Noon, ABC and the ESPN App
Bonagura: South Carolina State vs. Jackson State
Schlabach: South Carolina State vs. Jackson State

New Mexico Bowl
University Stadium (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
2:15 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Fresno State vs. BYU
Schlabach: North Texas vs. Air Force

Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl Presented by Stifel
SoFi Stadium (Inglewood, California)
3:30 p.m., ABC and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Oregon State vs. Boise State
Schlabach: Washington State vs. Fresno State

LendingTree Bowl
Hancock Whitney Stadium (Mobile, Alabama)
5:45 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: North Texas vs. Troy
Schlabach: Coastal Carolina vs. BYU

SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl
Allegiant Stadium (Las Vegas)
7:30 p.m., ABC and the ESPN App

Bonagura: UCLA vs. Ole Miss
Schlabach: UCLA vs. Tennessee

Frisco Bowl
Toyota Stadium (Frisco, Texas)
9:15 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Louisiana vs. Louisiana Tech
Schlabach: Colorado State vs. Washington

Dec. 19

Myrtle Beach Bowl
Brooks Stadium (Conway, South Carolina)
2:30 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Florida Atlantic vs. Tulsa
Schlabach: UTEP vs. Louisiana

Dec. 20

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Albertsons Stadium (Boise, Idaho)
3:30 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Air Force vs. Buffalo
Schlabach: Boise State vs. Northern Illinois

RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl
FAU Stadium (Boca Raton, Florida)
7:30 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: East Carolina vs. Marshall
Schlabach: East Carolina vs. Marshall

Dec. 21

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Caesars Superdome (New Orleans)
9 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Western Kentucky vs. Appalachian State
Schlabach: UTSA vs. Appalachian State

Dec. 22

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Amon G. Carter Stadium (Fort Worth, Texas)
7:30 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Texas Tech vs. Memphis
Schlabach: West Virginia vs. Cincinnati

Dec. 23

Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl
Independence Stadium (Shreveport, Louisiana)
3 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Army vs. SMU
Schlabach: Army vs. Arizona State

Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl
Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, Florida)
6:30 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Virginia Tech vs. South Carolina
Schlabach: Virginia Tech vs. UAB

Dec. 24

EasyPost Hawai’i Bowl
Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex (Honolulu)
8 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: UTSA vs. San Jose State
Schlabach: Western Kentucky vs. Utah State

Dec. 26

Quick Lane Bowl
Ford Field (Detroit)
2:30 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Iowa vs. Miami (Ohio)
Schlabach: Maryland vs. Toledo

Dec. 27

Camellia Bowl
Cramton Bowl (Montgomery, Alabama)
Noon, ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Western Michigan vs. Middle Tennessee
Schlabach: Buffalo vs. Troy

SERVPRO First Responder Bowl
Gerald J. Ford Stadium (Dallas)
Time TBD, ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Tulane vs. Utah State
Schlabach: Memphis vs. Liberty

TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl
Protective Life Stadium (Birmingham, Alabama)
Time TBD, ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Washington State vs. Mississippi State
Schlabach: Charlotte vs. Mississippi State

Guaranteed Rate Bowl
Chase Field (Phoenix)
10:15 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Kansas State vs. Purdue
Schlabach: TCU vs. Purdue

Dec. 28

Military Bowl presented by Peraton
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (Annapolis, Maryland)
2 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Louisville vs. UCF
Schlabach: Virginia vs. SMU

AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (Memphis, Tennessee)
5:30 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: TCU vs. Arkansas
Schlabach: Kansas State vs. Florida

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl
Petco Park (San Diego)
8 p.m., Fox

Bonagura: North Carolina vs. Oregon
Schlabach: North Carolina vs. Oregon

TaxAct Texas Bowl
NRG Stadium (Houston)
9 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Iowa State vs. Tennessee
Schlabach: Iowa State vs. Ole Miss

Dec. 29

Bad Boy Mowers Pinstripe Bowl
Yankee Stadium (New York)
2 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Virginia vs. Nebraska
Schlabach: Pittsburgh vs. Iowa


School/coach that most needs to make a bowl

Bonagura: While most of the country smirks at the idea that Nebraska can return to prominence as a national power in modern college football, it’s still hard to comprehend how, after reaching 48 bowl games in 50 seasons, the Cornhuskers haven’t gone bowling the past five years. If that streak reaches six, it’s hard to imagine coach Scott Frost would remain with the program.

Schlabach: Geoff Collins faced a monumental rebuilding job at Georgia Tech when he was hired to replace Paul Johnson after the 2018 season. Collins and his staff had to rebuild much of the roster on offense, going from Johnson’s triple-option spread attack to a more pro-style system. The early results haven’t been good. Collins’ teams went 9-25 in his first three seasons, including 7-18 in the ACC. Worse, the Yellow Jackets have been pummeled by rival Georgia by a combined score of 97-7 the past two seasons. It might be make-or-break time for Collins. Unfortunately for him, Tech’s schedule is very difficult with nonconference road games at UCF and Georgia and a contest against Ole Miss in Atlanta.


Cheez-It Bowl
Camping World Stadium (Orlando, Florida)
5:30 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Wake Forest vs. Texas
Schlabach: Miami vs. Texas

Valero Alamo Bowl
Alamodome (San Antonio)
9 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Oklahoma State vs. USC
Schlabach: Oklahoma State vs. USC

Dec. 30

Duke’s Mayo Bowl
Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, North Carolina)
Noon, ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: NC State vs. Minnesota
Schlabach: Wake Forest vs. Michigan State

Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl
Sun Bowl Stadium (El Paso, Texas)
2 p.m., CBS

Bonagura: Florida State vs. California
Schlabach: Florida State vs. Oregon State

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl
TIAA Bank Field (Jacksonville, Florida)
3:30 p.m., ESPN and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Miami vs. Florida
Schlabach: Louisville vs. LSU

Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl
Arizona Stadium (Tucson, Arizona)
4:30 p.m.

Bonagura: San Diego State vs. Central Michigan
Schlabach: San Diego State vs. Kent State

Dec. 31

TransPerfect Music City Bowl
Nissan Stadium (Nashville, Tennessee)
Noon, ABC and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Penn State vs. Auburn
Schlabach: Minnesota vs. South Carolina

Jan. 2

ReliaQuest Bowl
Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, Florida)
Noon, ESPN2 and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Michigan State vs. LSU
Schlabach: Wisconsin vs. Arkansas

Citrus Bowl
Camping World Stadium (Orlando, Florida)
1 p.m., ABC and the ESPN App

Bonagura: Wisconsin vs. Kentucky
Schlabach: Penn State vs. Kentucky

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