The 131 teams competing in the Bowl Subdivision in 2022 were full of surprises and disappointments, highs and lows. Four of them advanced to the College Football Playoff. Another eight made it to the New Year’s Six games, and 82 have postseason dates.
The extravaganza begins on Friday and will last three weeks, culminating in the playoff semifinals and the national championship game. The final four include both new and familiar faces. The same is true for the other major bowls and the rest of the bowl schedule. Everyone will find something they enjoy.
In the first season of the playoff, the Horned Frogs were ranked third entering the final weekend. Despite a convincing win over Iowa State, they dropped three spots and missed the semifinals. It would have been understandable if TCU fans were having flashbacks to 2014, when the Frogs were also ranked third heading into this year’s Big 12 title game before losing in overtime to Kansas State.
The committee instead kept the Horned Frogs at No. 3, and they will play Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl. The choice made some history. TCU became the first Big 12 team other than Oklahoma to make the playoffs, and Sonny Dykes became the program’s first head coach to lead his team into the field in his first season. Lincoln Riley of Oklahoma and Ryan Day of Ohio State did it in their first campaigns, but both were assistants at the time. TCU is also the first team chosen from the state of Texas.
Others have previously visited this location.
The rest of the College Football Playoff field is recognisable, despite the absence of the two schools with the most appearances. Alabama and Clemson have competed seven and six times, respectively, but will now advance to the New Year’s Six games rather than the semifinals. Oklahoma made four trips and was out of the running this year. After being selected for the fifth time, Ohio State is the most experienced member of this year’s playoff group. But the Buckeyes almost didn’t make it. Only Southern California’s loss to Utah in the Pac-12 championship game allowed them to move up to No. 4 and face No. 1 Georgia in the Peach Bowl.
If Ohio State had not been selected, it would have been the first time that at least one of the Buckeyes, Alabama, Clemson, or Oklahoma had not been chosen. At least three of those schools had appeared in every playoff game since 2015, with Alabama being the sole exception.
Georgia, which finished second in 2017 and defeated Alabama in the championship game last season, will be competing for the third time. Michigan made its first trip to the Orange Bowl in 2021, falling to the Bulldogs. It returns for the second season in a row.
While Georgia seeks to become the first team to repeat as national champions since Alabama in 2011-12, other schools hope to end long droughts. Michigan last shared the championship in 1997, Ohio State won the playoff in 2014, and TCU finished first in 1938.
The coaching carousel causes uncertainty.
When it comes to firing coaches, schools no longer waste time. Because of the growing importance of the transfer portal and early signing day, action must be taken quickly, either before or immediately after the regular season ends. Because of the domino effect of the openings, they are frequently filled by sitting coaches at other schools, causing additional change at a time when teams should be preparing for bowl games rather than worrying about who will be their coach next season.
One chain starts with Wisconsin firing Paul Chryst in the middle of the season. The Badgers then hired Luke Fickell from Cincinnati, forcing the Bearcats to look elsewhere. Scott Satterfield of Louisville was brought in. The Cardinals were now on the clock, so they turned to former quarterback Jeff Brohm, who had just led Purdue to the Big Ten championship game. And the Boilermakers responded by hiring former Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters as their new head coach.
To make matters worse, Cincinnati and Louisville will meet in the Fenway Bowl.
Brohm was not the only coach who resigned after leading his team to the conference championship game. North Texas fired Seth Littrell after the team’s final weekend loss to Texas-San Antonio.
When Auburn let go of Bryan Harsin in November, the other game of connect the dots began. Hugh Freeze was brought in from Liberty by the Tigers. The Flames then signed Coastal Carolina’s Jamey Chadwell. The chain ended with the Chanticleers hiring Tim Beck from North Carolina State.
There won’t be many places where stars will shine.
Some teams will suffer greatly as a result of the transfer portal and injury concerns surrounding the NFL draught. Kentucky’s Will Levis, Clemson’s DJ Uiagalelei, Florida’s Anthony Richardson, Notre Dame’s Drew Pyne, and Pittsburgh’s Kedon Slovis are among the quarterbacks who have switched schools or skipped games.
The Guaranteed Rate Bowl will feature two backup quarterbacks: Oklahoma State’s Spencer Sanders and Wisconsin’s Graham Mertz.
Other notable matchups
The biggest games on the calendar receive a disproportionate amount of attention. However, there are several games worth watching, including three against ranked opponents.
The Alamo Bowl features No. 12 Washington and No. 21 Texas. The Longhorns’ defensive coordinator, Pete Kwaitkowski, previously served as the Huskies’ defensive coordinator for seven years.
The Gator Bowl pits No. 19 South Carolina against No. 20 Notre Dame. The schools haven’t met since 1984, but they do have one thing in common. The Fighting Irish and Gamecocks were the last two stops for Hall of Fame coach Lou Holtz.
The Cure Bowl will pit No. 22 Texas-San Antonio against No. 24 Troy, the Conference USA and Sun Belt champions, respectively.
North Carolina State and Maryland haven’t met since the Terrapins joined the Big Ten following the 2013 season. They’ll meet in the Mayo Bowl at Duke.
East Carolina and Coastal Carolina are neighbours but have never met before their Birmingham Bowl matchup. Except for Appalachian State of the Sun Belt, the Chanticleers have not faced a team from North Carolina since their promotion to the FBS.
One of the memorable postseason games was between BYU and SMU in the New Mexico Bowl. The Mustangs led by 20 points in the final three minutes of the 1980 Holiday Bowl before the Cougars rallied for a win on a Hail Mary on the final play.
Several bowl regulars will remain at home.
With all but 49 FBS programmes participating in the postseason, you’d think most of the sport’s biggest names would be there. However, several bowl regulars will remain at home.