It’s that time of year again. As we pass Thanksgiving, the college football season is working its way toward the postseason. It’s time to start projecting how the bowl season is going to shake out. Obviously, this continues to be a moving target, but that’s half the fun.
This is the fourth year of the new bowl contract cycle, which has many of the lower-end ESPN-owned games as part of a pool, where the match-ups can vary within a select group of conferences. This can throw a potential wrinkle into predicting where teams might go because ESPN can and has juggled teams around before.
Here are the bowl games tied to the American Athletic Conference either directly or via a pool:
- New Year’s Six Bowl (most likely the Cotton Bowl in 2022)
- Duluth Trading Cure Bowl - December 16 - G5 Pool (AAC, C-USA, MAC, SBC, Army)
- Wasabi Fenway Bowl - December 17 - AAC vs AAC/Notre Dame
- New Mexico Bowl - December 17 - AAC/CUSA vs MWC
- Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl - December 17 - G5 pool (AAC, MAC, C-USA, MWC, SBC)
- Myrtle Beach Bowl - December 19 - G5 Pool (AAC, MAC, SBC)
- RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl - December 20 - G5 Pool (AAC, C-USA, MAC, SBC, Army)
- Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl - December 22 - G5 Pool (AAC, C-USA, Army)
- Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl - December 23 - Pool (AAC, ACC, SEC)
- Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl - December 23 - AAC vs Army (BYU or other)
- SERVPRO First Responder Bowl - December 27 - Pool (AAC, ACC, Big XII)
- TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl - December 27 - AAC vs SEC
- Military Bowl - December 28 - AAC vs ACC
The American will have seven teams that are bowl-eligible this bowl season. Here is a look at each school and our predictions:
UCF winning and Houston losing their respective final game gives the Knights a berth in the AAC Championship Game against Tulane and the winner goes to the Cotton Bowl. On the other side, a strange weekend rearranged the top teams. If everything plays out as expected, Penn State should get an invite to the Cotton.
Eric: Cotton Bowl - UCF Knights vs. Penn State Nittany Lions
With Cincinnati no longer in contention for the AAC title, they should land in a bowl that gives them a combination of geography and matchup. The Military Bowl would be a good destination for the Bearcats. Louisville would be a good story due to their conference affiliations over the years.
Eric: Military Bowl - Cincinnati Bearcats vs Louisville Cardinals
Cincinnati drops here and takes on Louisville in a good matchup for a bowl game.
The Fenway Bowl is an AAC exclusive, so ECU going would make sense more so than some of the southern schools. Syracuse is a good pick from a geography standpoint.
Eric: - Fenway Bowl -East Carolina Pirates vs. Syracuse Orange
ECU goes to Fenway. It works from a geography standpoint if the Military Bowl is not an option.
Houston gets to stay in Texas after a disappointing year of high expectations. Kansas would give this a future conference matchup as the Cougars will be joining the Jayhawks in the Big 12 next year.
Eric: First Responders Bowl - Houston Cougars vs. Air Force
Houston ends up staying in Texas against Air Force.
Memphis is only 6-6, but they’re a good team to bring to Birmingham geographically. Missouri became bowl eligible after a surprise win against Arkansas.
Eric: Birmingham Bowl - Memphis Tigers vs. Missouri Tigers
Memphis gets this bowl due to geography.
Andrew: Armed Forces Bowl - Southern Methodist Mustangs vs. Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners
This has been a disappointing year for SMU under new head coach Rhett Lashlee. They showed flashes of greatness, but could not consistently put things together. At least they’re bowl eligible and should stay in the south. UTSA makes for a good in-state opponent that is playing for the Conference USA championship.
Eric: Armed Forces Bowl - SMU Mustangs vs Kansas Jayhawks
SMU stays in state and gets a Big 12 opponent.
The Green Wave has had an amazing run and will be playing for a conference championship against UCF. The loser will likely end up here. With Army not being eligible, this would be an opportunity for a smaller conference team to get to a nicer bowl game, and Coastal Carolina, who is playing for the Sun Belt championship, would be an excellent pick.
Eric: Independence Bowl - Tulane Green Wave vs. South Alabama Jaguars
I would not be shocked if I see the loser of UCF/Tulane end up here, especially if it’s Tulane. UCF could end up in the Fenway or the Military as well.