Now that you’ve had time to digest the two College Football Playoff semifinal matchups, the CFP selection committee unveiled the rest of the New Year’s Six bowl games.
In addition to No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Ohio State in the Peach Bowl and No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 TCU in the Fiesta Bowl, here are the four other CFP-affiliated bowls on the schedule.
Orange Bowl: No. 7 Clemson (11-2) vs. No. 6 Tennessee (10-2)
Date: Dec. 30 | Time: 8 p.m. ET | TV: ESPN
Clemson’s streak of ACC championships and New Year’s Six bowl appearances came to an end last season, but Dabo Swinney’s program is back on a big stage in 2022. The Tigers posted a blowout win over North Carolina in the ACC title game on Saturday, marking their seventh conference championship in the past eight seasons. Clemson started the season 8-0 before enduring disappointing losses to Notre Dame and South Carolina. But in the win over UNC, we may have gotten a glimpse into Clemson’s future with Cade Klubnik replacing DJ Uiagalelei at quarterback. It’d be a shock if Klubnik doesn’t get the start in the Orange Bowl.
Like Clemson, Tennessee also started 8-0 and got to No. 1 in the CFP rankings thanks to massive wins over LSU and Alabama. But the undefeated streak came to an end with a road loss to Georgia, and then the Volunteers lost at South Carolina in Week 11. In that game, senior quarterback Hendon Hooker went down with a season-ending injury, putting an end to a Heisman-caliber season. Without Hooker, Tennessee blasted Vanderbilt, 56-0, in the finale to get to 10 regular-season wins for the first time since 2003. Now the Vols have the chance to win a major bowl game for the first time since 2004. UT last played in the Orange Bowl in 1998.
Sugar Bowl: No. 9 Kansas State (10-3) vs. No. 5 Alabama (10-2)
Date: Dec. 31 | Time: Noon ET | TV: ESPN
Thanks to a thrilling overtime victory over previously unbeaten TCU, Kansas State is the outright Big 12 champion for the first time since 2003. As a result, K-State punched its ticket to the Sugar Bowl for the first time in program history. The Wildcats last played in a major bowl game in 2012, when they lost to Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl. Including the win over TCU in the Big 12 title game, Kansas State enters bowl season having won five of its past six. In those five wins, the Wildcats are averaging more than 40 points per game as Will Howard has emerged as a star at quarterback.
On the other side is Alabama, which landed at No. 5 in the final CFP rankings — one spot outside the playoff field. Alabama won the national title in 2020 and was the national runner-up in 2021 but ended up losing two regular-season games in 2022. After a 6-0 start, the Tide fell, 52-49, on a last-second field goal to Tennessee before falling to LSU on a two-point conversion in overtime two weeks later. The Tide closed out the season with three straight wins to get to 10-2, but it wasn’t enough to crack the CFP top four. With so many upper-tier NFL draft prospects on the roster, we’ll have to keep an eye on who is and isn’t playing in this game from the Alabama roster. That includes QB Bryce Young, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner. Young is a surefire first-round pick.
Cotton Bowl: No. 10 USC (11-2) vs. No. 16 Tulane (11-2)
Date: Jan. 2 | Time: 1 p.m. ET | TV: ESPN
USC was on the verge of reaching the College Football Playoff — until it ran into Utah again. The Utes were the only team to beat USC during the regular season and it happened again Friday night in the Pac-12 title game. USC jumped out to a 17-3 lead but could not withstand the barrage from the Utes with star quarterback Caleb Williams hobbled with a hamstring injury. Losing out on the Pac-12 title and a CFP berth shouldn’t diminish from what has been a tremendous season for the Trojans in Year 1 under Lincoln Riley. USC went from 4-8 last year to 11 wins and a potential Cotton Bowl victory this year.
Going from a possible CFP semifinal to the Cotton Bowl may be disappointing for USC, but its opponent will be extremely motivated. Tulane trounced UCF on Saturday to win its first American Athletic Conference championship. It's the Green Wave’s first conference championship since 1998 when it won Conference USA. As the highest-ranked conference champion from a Group of Five league, Tulane gets a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl. The last time Tulane played in a bowl of this caliber was in 1939. This is a big deal for Willie Fritz’s program.
Rose Bowl: No. 8 Utah (10-3) vs. No. 11 Penn State (10-2)
Date: Jan. 2 | Time: 5 p.m. ET | TV: ESPN
Not only did Utah knock USC out of the CFP, it punched its ticket to the Rose Bowl for the second consecutive season as the back-to-back champion of the Pac-12. Utah had CFP aspirations of its own this season, but lost a high-profile road opener to Florida. Later, the Utes lost on the road to both UCLA and Oregon but were able to squeak into the Pac-12 title game thanks to Oregon’s loss to Oregon State (and a few other results) in Week 12. The Utes made it count by trouncing USC, 47-24. Utah lost last year’s Rose Bowl 48-45 in a thriller vs. Ohio State. Now the Utes get a chance for redemption.
On the other side is Penn State, a team that has been quietly blowing out everybody on its schedule — other than Michigan and Ohio State, of course. PSU lost 41-17 at Michigan and 44-31 at home to Ohio State. PSU won its 10 other games and all but one — a 35-31 road win over Purdue — came by a double-digit margin. Along the way, PSU has seen a slew of young players develop into stars, including the running back duo of Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen and linebacker Abdul Carter. With so many promising young players, PSU is going to be one of the most-hyped teams of the offseason — especially with five-star recruit Drew Allar next in line at quarterback. Before Allar seizes the job, sixth-year senior Sean Clifford will lead the Nittany Lions one final time.