Best of the Rest: January 2 College Football Bowl Games
We’re all still getting used to the college football playoff being played on New Year’s Eve. As the College Football Playoff expands in 2024, the “tradition” of New Year’s Day football will change from the days of old.
In 2023, we have a unique situation. Due to the NFL’s expanded schedule that now pushes into January, January 1, 2023, is now week 17 of the NFL schedule. Therefore, the usual slate of New Year’s Day football games will be played on January 2.
Luckily, since January 2 is New Year’s Day observed, college football fans will still be able to take in a full day of football. Let’s take a look at some of the match-ups for our adjusted New Year’s Day.
Rose Bowl & Cotton Bowl
The New Year’s Day “prestige” games this year are the Rose Bowl and Cotton Bowl. In the Rose Bowl, we have the traditional Big Ten/Pac-12 match-up. The Penn State Nittany Lions will face off against the Utah Utes. In the Cotton Bowl, we have USC facing off against Tulane.
The Rose Bowl has a point total of 51.5 points. The Utes are favored by 2.5 points. The Nittany Lions will be playing their last game with Sean Clifford under center. He has been the Nittany Lions’ starting quarterback since 2019. The Utes are coming into the matchup after playing spoiler to USC’s college football playoff hopes in the Pac-12 championship game, defeating the Trojans 47-24.
The Cotton Bowl between USC and Tulane has a total of 62 points, with the USC Trojans being favored by 2 points. This year will be the first time that Tulane has played in a New Year’s Day Bowl since 1940 when they played in the Sugar Bowl and were still members of the SEC. We’re still waiting to find out if Caleb Williams will be playing in this game. He suffered a hamstring injury in the Pac-12 championship game, but may be able to go in the Cotton Bowl because of the extended break.
Smaller Bowl Games: Big Ten vs SEC Match-Ups
January 2’s smaller bowl games offer a couple of Big Ten vs SEC match-ups. The Citrus Bowl features a match-up between conference championship runner-ups Purdue and LSU. The ReliaQuest Bowl features Mike Leach and Mississippi State facing off against the Illinois Fighting Illini.
The Citrus Bowl has a total of 58 points, with LSU favored by 8 points. There should be plenty of points in this game. Purdue had a great passing offense this year, and LSU just had 50 points hung on them in the SEC Championship Game vs Georgia.
The ReliaQuest Bowl has a total of 45 points, is a pick ‘em, and features a nice contrast in styles. Mike Leach’s teams utilize the Air Raid Offense, which is all about spreading the ball around and getting points on the board. That will contrast with Illinois, who led the Big Ten in total defense in 2022.