It’s that time of year again. As we near Thanksgiving, the college football season is working its way towards 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 second 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
FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl - December 17 - G5 Pool (AAC, C-USA, MAC, SBC, Army)
RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl - December 28 - G5 Pool (AAC, C-USA, MAC, SBC, Army)
New Mexico Bowl - December 18 - G5 Pool (AAC, C-USA, MWC)
Myrtle Beach Bowl - December 20 - G5 Pool (AAC, MAC, SBC)
Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl - December 21 - G5 pool (AAC, MAC, C-USA, MWC, SBC)
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl - December 22 - G5 Pool (AAC, C-USA, Army)
Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl - December 23 - Pool (AAC, ACC, SEC)
EasyPost Hawaii Bowl - December 24 - AAC vs. MWC
Military Bowl - December 27 - AAC vs ACC
TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl - January 28 - AAC vs SEC
SERVPRO First Responder Bowl - December 28 - Pool (AAC, ACC, Big XII)
Wasabi Fenway Bowl - December 29 - AAC vs AAC/Notre Dame
The American is likely to have six teams bowl eligible by the end of the season. Five are eligible so far with Memphis and Tulsa being one win away. Here is a look at each school and our predictions:
Andrew: Birmingham Bowl vs. Auburn Tigers
I originally had the UCF Knights in the Military Bowl based on preseason predictions, but the truth is that UCF is likely going to be in a logjam with a conference record of 5-3. At this point, going somewhere geographically friendly would be the AAC’s best option instead of sending them to the best game. With Auburn likely finishing 6-6, they create an immediate buzz-worthy matchup where Gus Malzahn would face his old team.
Eric: Gasparilla Bowl vs. Florida State Seminoles
The winner of Florida State-Florida on Saturday is bowl eligible and a strong candidate for Tampa. Tim Reynolds of AP in Miami tweeted on Monday that the bowl game wants a All-Florida Bowl game.
Hearing Gasparilla Bowl types are quite enthused about the prospects of a Florida school vs. Florida school matchup. A Florida win over FSU might make the possibility of Gators-Canes there too good to pass up.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) November 22, 2021
If Florida wins, the Gators-Canes matchup makes sense. But if FSU wins, one has to wonder if Bowl games make the push for FSU-UCF with the storylines around McKenzie Milton possibly playing UCF on the same very field where he suffered his career-threatening injury in 2018 on what was his last game as a Knight. Knight fans would be excited about playing FSU or Miami in Tampa. This would make a ton of business sense for the bowl game.
After this weekend’s games, I’m ready to take a dive. Oregon is out and with Cincinnati putting a hurting on SMU, I have them defeating Houston in the AAC championship game. With Alabama in the top four, the standings have already baked in the possibility of them upsetting Georgia, but a Bulldogs win will push the Tide out. Ohio State or Michigan will also get pushed out after next week and the CFP committee is going to have a mess on their hands if the choice is between Cincinnati or Notre Dame considering the Bearcats defeated the Irish in South Bend.
Eric: Orange Bowl vs. Georgia Bulldogs
Welcome aboard Andrew! The Bearcats are in a great spot. Oregon losing at Utah opened the door for The Bearcats who made a good impression by destroying SMU. The Bearcats will be in the top 5 in Playoff rankings but remember Ohio State plays Michigan and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State play this weekend and in two weeks, Alabama and Georgia play. If Georgia beats Alabama in the SEC title game, The Bearcats will be in as long as they beat ECU and Houston.
My top 4 after WEEK 12— Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) November 21, 2021
Next 2@GoBearcatsFB @CowboyFB
Interesting aspect in my rankings OSU/UM play this weekend and UGA/Bama next week-In my opinion if UC wins their next 2 they will be in the playoff.
Andrew: Military Bowl vs. Louisville Cardinals
After moving UCF out of this game, East Carolina makes the most sense. It’s not a far trek for them and pairing them with Louisville is also a good regional matchup between two former Conference USA mates.
Eric: Military Bowl vs. Louisville Cardinals
I agree with Andrew 100%
Andrew: Fenway Bowl vs. Boston College Eagles
This is a new bowl and the AAC is trying to prop it up as one of their top games. It would make sense to send their runner-up, expected to be Houston. While it’s a long trip for them, their opponent is right around the corner and it should help create some local buzz.
Eric: Fenway Bowl vs. Boston College
This will be 2nd time in 2021 that a Team from Houston plays a team in Boston. The Astros and Red Sox played three games in the ALCS at Fenway. It’s only fitting we have two college football teams in the city play in the bowl game.
Andrew: Hawaii Bowl vs. Nevada Wolfpack
This is an AAC exclusive bowl this year. With Memphis losing to both UCF and East Carolina, they’re on the bottom of the bowl totem pole with a must-win against Tulane. With Aloha Stadium being rebuilt, this game is at the 9,000 seat temporary home for Hawaii football. They aren’t expecting many people. If San Jose State can get eligible, they might slide in on the Mountain West side. If Tulsa somehow upsets SMU and becomes bowl eligible, they’ll end up here and Memphis will go somewhere else.
Eric: Hawaii Bowl vs. Wyoming
Good note by Andrew on the bowl game being an AAC exclusive this year. The AAC hasn't played here since 2017.
Andrew: First Responder Bowl vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders
An old Southwest Conference showdown on SMU’s home turf. Playing in your home stadium for a bowl game does happen from time to time, but it’s rare. There could be a bowl game trade to move SMU away from their home. The Gasparilla Bowl could be an option if Florida does not beat Florida State.
Eric: Armed Forces Bowl vs. Air Force
I have SMU playing not too far away from TCU where Mustangs Head Coach Sonny Dykes could end up and not even coach in the bowl game.