Eight of the 12 FBS programs from the state of Texas qualified for a bowl game. Three of those teams – Baylor, UTSA, and Houston – played for conference titles with Baylor winning the Big 12 and UTSA claiming the Conference USA title. The only four teams not to qualify for a bowl game were Texas, TCU, Rice, and Texas State. The other eight received bowl destinations and opponents on Sunday afternoon after the release of the four programs playing in the College Football Playoff.
We take an early look at the dates, times, and gambling lines for the eight bowl games involving programs from the Lone Star State. Lines provided by Bovada.
New Mexico Bowl – Dreamstyle Stadium, Albuquerque
UTEP vs. Fresno State, Dec. 18, 1:15 p.m.
Line: UTEP +13.5, O/U 52
Outlook: UTEP (7-5) won five games in the four seasons spanning from 2017 to 2020. The Miners were victorious seven times in 2021, the most for the program since 2014. The present received by the UTEP players for reaching such a milestone is a four-hour trip north to Albuquerque for the New Mexico Bowl against Fresno State (9-3). UTEP beat New Mexico and New Mexico State in the regular season.
UTEP ended the season with four losses in its last five games as the Conference USA schedule stiffened. The big-play offense found it harder to beat defenses deep, and the defensive unit failed to come up with as many stops. Wide receiver Jacob Cowing is the star of the team after catching 67 passes for 1,330 yards and seven touchdowns. The defense gave up 24.8 points per game.
Fresno State won four of its last five, including a win over ranked San Diego State. The Bulldogs average 33.6 points per game on offense and allow 20.3 on defense, which are both better marks than UTEP. Quarterback Jake Haener, a senior, leads the offense with 3,810 yards and 32 touchdowns through the air. His favorite target is Jalen Cropper, who caught 76 passes for 827 yards and 11 scores.
Frisco Bowl – Toyota Stadium, Frisco
UTSA vs. San Diego State, Dec. 21, 6:30 p.m.
Line: UTSA -2.5, O/U 49
Outlook: A 12-1 season and a Conference USA championship earned UTSA a trip to Frisco to take on 11-2 San Diego State. This will be a fun matchup for G5 football fans. UTSA’s only blemish was a loss at North Texas in the final week of the regular season after the Roadrunners already locked up the West Division. San Diego State slipped up in the Mountain West championship game against Utah State, but enters this game ranked. Both teams are 4-1 over their last five games.
The Roadrunners seek balance on offense and enter the game with a dangerous set of triplets. Running back Sincere McCormick is the program’s best player, maybe the best offensive player in school history. He ran for more than 200 yards in the Conference USA championship game win over Western Kentucky. The passing attack is led by quarterback Frank Harris and wide receiver Zakhari Franklin. Clarence Hicks leads a defense that allowed 23.6 points per game.
San Diego State averages 10 fewer points per game than UTSA at 26.6 per contest. Running back Greg Bell rushed the ball 220 times for 999 yards and eight touchdowns on the season. The offense struggled in the 46-13 loss to Utah State. Quarterback Lucas Johnson only passed for 1,091 yards on the season, and his 48.7 QBR is 91st in the nation. The San Diego State defense is stingy, especially against the run. The unit only allows 19.5 points per game and 77.6 rushing yards per contest.
Frisco Football Classic – Toyota Stadium, Frisco
North Texas vs. Miami Ohio, Dec. 23, 2:30 p.m.
Line: North Texas +3.5, O/U 52.5
Outlook: North Texas rode a five-game winning streak to close the season and earn bowl eligibility despite a 1-6 start. The finish likely saved head coach Seth Littrell’s job, and the Mean Green were among the best teams in Texas over the last month of the season. Both teams enter at 6-6 for the first ever edition of the Frisco Football Classic. The NCAA wanted to allow a 6-7 Hawaii team to stay home, so it invented a new bowl game, which was good news for a North Texas program that was likely getting snubbed for a bowl invite without the creation of this game.
North Texas became a running team down the stretch, leaning into its strengths. Running back DeAndre Torrey toted the rock 248 times for 1,214 yards and 13 touchdowns. He ran for over 100 yards in the team’s final two games of the regular season. Linebacker K.D. Davis leads the defense with 106 tackles, which is 38 more than any other player on the team.
Miami was 3-2 down the stretch. Quarterback Brett Gabbert passed for 2,418 yards and 24 touchdowns to only six interceptions as a sophomore. His favorite target is Jack Sorenson, who caught 69 balls for 1,290 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Miami defense allowed 23.8 points per game.
Birmingham Bowl – Protective Stadium, Birmingham
Houston vs. Auburn, Dec. 28, 11 a.m.
Line: Houston +3, O/U 52
Outlook: Houston (11-2) began and ended the regular season with a loss. The Cougars won the 11 games between those two contests. Quarterback Clayton Tune passed for 3,263 yards and 28 touchdowns to nine interceptions. Four of those interceptions came in a Week 1 loss to Texas Tech. His favorite target was Tank Dell, who recorded 80 receptions for 1,179 yards and 12 scores. Running back Alton McCaskill set a school record for rushing touchdowns scored by a freshman with 16. The defense, led by a defensive line known as “Sack Ave.” recorded nearly four sacks a game in 2021. Marcus Jones led the NCAA in interceptions and return touchdowns.
Auburn (6-6) struggled through the SEC schedule. The Tigers closed the regular season on a four-game losing streak, including a four-overtime loss to rival Alabama in the season finale. If healthy, the offense is dynamic at times under quarterback Bo Nix. He and running back Tank Bisby helped Auburn’s offense average more than 400 yards a game. The defense allowed 22.2 points per contest.
Liberty Bowl – Memorial Stadium, Memphis
Texas Tech vs. Mississippi State, Dec. 28, 5:45 p.m.
Line: Texas Tech +8.5, O/U 60
Outlook: This might be the most interesting game of the bowl season. Texas Tech (6-6) takes on a Mississippi State (7-5) squad led by former Red Raider head coaching legend Mike Leach. For Texas Tech, it’ll be the first game with Joey McGuire roaming the sideline as the new head coach. He watched as Sonny Cumbie, now the head coach at Louisiana Tech, led the Red Raiders as the interim head coach for the last four games of the season.
The Red Raiders lost four of their last five games but achieved bowl eligibility thanks to a 62-yard field goal by Jonathan Garibay as time expired against Iowa State. The group nearly pulled an upset in the season finale against eventual Big 12 champion Baylor, but Garibay’s kick to force overtime was missed to the left. The Texas Tech defense allowed 32.1 points per game.
Mississippi State looks like a Leach-coached team. The Bulldogs averaged 385.7 yards passing compared to just 63.9 on the ground. The difference from his time in Lubbock is that the Mississippi State defense is adequate. The unit only allowed 25.3 points per game, and barely over 100 yards rushing a contest. Mississippi State’s season included a win over Texas A&M.
Fenway Bowl – Fenway Park, Boston
SMU vs. Virginia, Dec. 29, 10 a.m.
Line: SMU -1, O/U 71.5
Outlook: The Rhett Lashlee era at SMU (8-4) begins with a contest against Virginia (6-6) in one of the most famous baseball stadiums in the world. The Mustangs limped to a 1-4 finish down the stretch as Sonny Dykes, now the head coach at crosstown rival TCU, was rumored for job openings across the state. The offense was tremendous in 2021, led by quarterback Tanner Mordecai. The Oklahoma transfer threw for 3,628 yards and 39 touchdowns. His favorite target was Danny Gray. When healthy, running back Ulysses Bentley IV is a real difference maker.
Virginia also possesses a high-octane passing attack. Quarterback Brennan Armstrong threw for 4,444 yards, the third-most in the country, and 31 touchdowns. He only threw 10 interceptions on 501 passing attempts. The problem for the Cavaliers is defensive. Teams averaged 31.8 points and 466 yards a game against Virginia.
Gator Bowl – TIAABank Field, Jacksonville
Texas A&M vs. Wake Forest, Dec. 31, 10 a.m.
Line: Texas A&M -6.5, O/U 58.5
Outlook: Texas A&M (8-4) entered the season with high hopes and College Football Playoff dreams. The season didn’t go as planned, however, as the Aggies could never get their offense in gear after losing quarterbacks Kellen Mond to the NFL and Haynes King to injury. Zach Calzada threw for 2,185 yards and 17 touchdowns to nine interceptions. He even led Texas A&M to an upset win over Alabama, but consistency was hard to find from an offense that averaged 29.3 points per game. Running back Isaiah Spiller finished the year with 1,011 yards and six rushing touchdowns. The Wrecking Crew defense was great, as expected, allowing just 15.9 points per game.
Wake Forest (10-3) sports an explosive offense averaging 41.2 points per game. The Demon Deacons averaged 469.1 yards offensively per game, including 307 through the air. Quarterback Sam Hartman threw for 3,924 yards and 36 touchdowns, which both rank in the top-10 nationally. His favorite target, A.T. Perry, caught 61 of those passes for 1,166 yards and 14 scores. Wake Forest fell to Pitt in the ACC championship game.
Sugar Bowl – Caesars Superdome, New Orleans
Baylor vs. Ole Miss, Jan. 1, 7:45 p.m.
Line: Baylor +1.5, O/U 52
Outlook: Baylor (11-2) won its third Big 12 championship game in program history, and its first under the leadership of Dave Aranda. The Bears outlasted Oklahoma State, coming up with a stop on fourth down in the final minute to clinch a conference title despite not scoring a point in the second half. Redshirt freshman quarterback Blake Shapen started the last two games of the year for an injured Gerry Bohanon, who figures to be healthy in time for the Sugar Bowl. Either way, Baylor relies on its ground game and a stout defense. Running back Abram Smith rushed for 1,429 yards and 12 scores. Jalen Pitre was the Defensive Player of the Year in the Big 12, and there might not be a more productive linebacker duo than Terrel Bernard and Dillon Doyle.
Ole Miss (10-2) is led by head coach Lane Kiffin and star quarterback Matt Corral. It’ll be interesting to see if Corral, an NFL prospect, plays in the Sugar Bowl or if he gets a head start preparing for the upcoming draft. The Heisman candidate threw for 3,329 yards and 20 touchdowns to only four interceptions on 380 passing attempts. Ole Miss averaged 35.9 points per game, while the defense gave up 25.
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