Top 10 Bowl Games with key stats
Looking for some key angles and stats for the college football bowl games? Chris King has put together some very important stats for 20 teams in our top 10 college football bowl games for 2021-22.
Cotton Bowl - #1 Alabama vs. #4 Cincinnati
Alabama brings an explosive offense and the likely Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Bryce Young into this contest. The Crimson Tide put together an offensive display in the SEC Championship Game as they took down previously unbeaten and #1 Georgia, putting up 41 points on a Bulldogs defense that allowed only 83 points in their first 12 games of the year. Alabama finished the year fourth in scoring offense by putting up 42.5 points per game this season while they finished a respectable 20th in the FBS by allowing 20.2 points per contest. The Crimson Tide was dangerous through the air, ranking seventh in the nation with 347.9 yards per game through the air, while they ended up a disappointing 79th in rushing offense with 147.6 yards per game. How Alabama adjusts to the loss of John Metchie III will remain to be seen. The Crimson Tide will have to find a way to do damage against a Cincinnati defense that held opposing quarterbacks to a 53.4% completion rate with 10 touchdown passes against 18 interceptions. Nick Saban is 14-5 in bowl games at Alabama in his career.
Cincinnati concluded their perfect regular season by dumping Houston in the AAC championship game, becoming the first Group of Five team to make the CFP in its existence. The Bearcats finished eighth in the nation in scoring offense with 39.2 points per game while they were fourth in scoring defense by allowing 16.1 points a contest. Cincinnati was 50th in the nation in passing offense with 248.7 yards per game and 49th in rushing offense by grinding out 179.4 yards per game on the ground. The Bearcats averaged 5.4 yards per carry and 34 scores on the ground this season: they’ll face an Alabama defense that finished fourth in the nation by allowing 84.2 yards per game on the ground and second by allowing only 2.6 yards per carry. Luke Fickell has gone 2-1 in bowl games as the head coach at Cincinnati.
Orange Bowl: #2 Michigan vs. #3 Georgia
Michigan overcame a loss earlier in the season to Michigan State as they closed the year with five straight wins, highlighted by a 42-27 win over Ohio State for their first win over the Buckeyes in the Jim Harbaugh era. That gave Michigan the Big Ten East Division crown and they pasted an offensively inept Iowa team in the Big Ten title game to reach the CFP for the first time. The Wolverines were 67th in passing offense with 228.1 yards per game through the air and 9th in rushing by averaging 223.8 yards per contest. Michigan was 13th in the nation in scoring offense with 37.7 points per game while they were fifth in scoring defense by allowing 16.1 points per game. The Wolverines averaged 5.3 yards per carry on the ground while finding the end zone 39 times via the run game. Michigan has to find a way against a Georgia defense that finished third in rushing defense by limiting opposing teams to 83.3 yards per game and third by allowing 2.7 yards per carry. Jim Harbaugh is just 1-4 in bowl games at Michigan, losing each of his last four.
Georgia was rolling along as an undefeated team ranked #1 in the country before seeing their vaunted defense dissected by Alabama in the SEC title game. That loss knocked the Bulldogs down to #3 in the CFP rankings and they’ll look to rebound after that showing. Georgia was 52nd in passing offense with an average of 247.9 yards per game while they finished the regular season 29th in rushing offense with 194.9 yards per game. The Bulldogs were seventh in the FBS in scoring offense by putting up 39.4 points per game and led the nation in scoring defense by allowing 9.5 points per contest. That number still leads the nation after giving up 41 points to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Georgia may have to decide whether Stetson Bennett IV can lead the team to success in the playoff or if they have to contemplate going back to J.T. Daniels under center. Kirby Smart is 4-2 in bowl games in his career at Georgia.
Fiesta Bowl: #5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. #9 Oklahoma State Cowboys
Notre Dame narrowly missed out on the CFP as they suffered a loss to #4 Cincinnati earlier this season. The Fighting Irish won their final seven games of the season to push themselves up in the rankings. Notre Dame will have to deal with the upheaval in the coaching ranks as Brian Kelly accepted the job at LSU last week. In his stead, Mike Freeman was named the new head coach of the program and he moves up from the defensive coordinator role. Notre Dame was tied for 33rd in passing offense with 263.6 yards per contest on the year while they were just 73rd in rushing offense with 152.2 yards per contest. The Fighting Irish were 21st in the FBS in scoring offense with 35.2 points per game while they ended up 9th in scoring defense by allowing only 18.2 points a game. Notre Dame will have to try and generate offense against an Oklahoma State team that was sixth in passing defense (180.3 yards per game), fifth in rushing defense (88.2 yards per game) and fourth by allowing just 2.7 yards per carry. This marks Freeman’s first bowl game in his career as it’s his head coaching debut.
Oklahoma State ended up falling just short of a potential spot in the College Football Playoff as they fell to Baylor in the Big 12 title game. The Cowboys finished the year 11-2 with a three-point loss at Iowa State and the five-point defeat to Baylor their lone blemishes on their resume. Oklahoma State was 79th in the nation in passing offense with 213.3 yards per game through the air. The Cowboys did a ton of damage on the ground, ranking fifth in rushing attempts (45.7) per game and 34th in rushing yards per contest as they averaged 192.4 yards a night. Oklahoma State was 34th in the FBS in scoring offense with 31.3 points per game while they finished sixth in scoring defense by allowing 16.8 points a night. The Cowboys are going to have to be better protecting the ball as they committed 19 turnovers on the season while Notre Dame has generated 23 turnovers. Mike Gundy has posted a 10-5 record in bowl games at Oklahoma State in his career.
Rose Bowl: #7 Ohio State vs. #10 Utah
Ohio State bounced back from an early-season loss to Oregon back in September to win nine straight games to put themselves in contention for a Big Ten crown. That fell apart as they were beaten by Michigan in the regular-season finale that left them out of the Big Ten title game. Ohio State brings a high-octane offense that led the nation in scoring offense (45.5 ppg), total offense (551.3 yards per game), fourth in passing offense with 364.9 yards per contest and 39th in rushing with 186.4 yards per game. The Buckeyes finished 23rd in scoring defense by allowing 20.9 points a game during the season. C.J. Stroud is going to have to find holes in a Utah defense that was 13th in total defense (321.3 yards per game) and 17th in passing defense by giving up 193.8 yards per game this season. Ryan Day is just 1-2 as head coach at Ohio State in bowl games. Meanwhile, he is 32-2 in the regular season.
Utah won their final six games of the season and nine of their last 10 after a 1-2 start to the year. The Utes went on to win the Pac-12 title as they hammered Oregon twice in the last three weeks of the year by a combined 75-17 score, including a 38-10 win over the Ducks in the Pac-12 title game. Utah didn’t really miss a beat when Cameron Rising took over the starting QB role from Charlie Brewer, who left the team after three games. The Utes finished the year 86th in passing offense with 208.4 yards per game and 11th in rushing offense with 218.7 yards a contest. Utah was 19th in the FBS in scoring offense with 35.1 points per game while they finished the regular season 23rd in the nation in scoring defense by allowing 20.9 points per contest. Tayvion Thomas and T.J. Pledger are going to be tested against a Buckeyes defense that is 19th in the nation by allowing 119.7 yards per game on the ground. Kyle Whittingham is 11-3 in bowl games in his career at Utah.
Sugar Bowl: #7 Baylor vs. #8 Ole Miss
Baylor played strong football down the stretch, winning their final four games and seven of their final eight to push up the rankings. The Bears finished the year 11-2 on the year and won the Big 12 title game by holding off Oklahoma State in the final minute with a goal-line stand. Baylor has really made big strides under second-year coach Dave Aranda here. The Bears were 85th in passing offense in the regular season with 209.4 yards per contest and 29th in rushing as they generated 197.9 yards per contest on the ground. Baylor was 49th in scoring defense by allowing 29.7 points a game while they were 17th in scoring defense as they gave up an average of 20.2 points per contest. The Bears have to take care of the ball after committing 14 turnovers in the regular season as Ole Miss forced 20 takeaways en route to a +12 margin in the giveaway/takeaway department. This is Dave Aranda’s first bowl game as a head coach with the program.
Ole Miss ended the regular season with a 10-2 mark with their two defeats on the ledger coming to the two programs from the Yellowhammer State, Auburn and Alabama. Lane Kiffin’s group edged Arkansas 52-51 in a wild game in October and downed Texas A&M at home in November as their marquee victories. The Rebels were 21st in the FBS in passing offense with 280.8 yards per game and 16th in rushing offense by grinding out 214.5 yards per contest, leaving them fifth in the nation in total offense. Ole Miss was 22nd in the country in scoring offense by averaging 34.3 ppg and stood 52nd in scoring defense as they allowed 25.7 points a contest. Running the ball could be an uphill climb as the Bears finished 18th in the nation by allowing 115.3 yards per game on the ground this season. Eight teams ran for 105 yards or less against Baylor and the Bears’ defense generated 24 turnovers. Kiffin won his lone bowl game at Ole Miss as they took the Outback Bowl 26-20 over Indiana last season. He is 3-2 in his career in bowl games.
Outback Bowl: Arkansas vs. Penn State
Arkansas took major strides forward in Sam Pittman’s second year at the helm as they improved from 3-7 in 2020 to an 8-4 mark in 2021. The Razorbacks were in most of their games this season, losing by one at Ole Miss and by seven at Alabama. Arkansas finished the year 71st in the nation in passing offense with 224.5 yards per game through the air and 19th in rushing offense with 211.5 yards per contest. The Razorbacks are 45th in the FBS in scoring offense with 30.3 points a game while they were 54th in scoring defense by allowing 25.9 points per contest this season. Arkansas is going to have to work the run against a Penn State defense that finished 23rd in the nation by allowing 3.6 yards per carry and 45th in rushing defense by allowing 142.6 yards per game in the regular season. This marks the first bowl game in Pittman’s run with the program.
Penn State started the year strong, winning their first five games of the year, but struggled down the stretch. The Nittany Lions dropped five of their final seven games to finish 7-5 overall and 4-5 in Big Ten play on the year. Penn State finished the regular season 39th in the nation in passing offense with 260.4 yards per contest while they were a dismal 113th in rushing offense with 108.7 yards per game and 120th in rushing offense by averaging 3.2 yards per carry. The Nittany Lions were 81st in the FBS in scoring offense with an average of 25.2 points per game while they were a stellar fifth in scoring defense by allowing only 16.7 points per contest. Sean Clifford and company will have to contend with an Arkansas defense that held opposing teams to a 59.8% completion rate with 15 touchdown passes against 11 interceptions on the year. James Franklin is 3-3 in bowl games at Penn State and 5-4 in bowl games in his career.
Citrus Bowl: #22 Kentucky Wildcats vs. #15 Iowa Hawkeyes
Kentucky won nine games in the regular season, finishing 9-3 for coach Mark Stoops. That marked the third-most wins in school history on the gridiron and they could reach double-digit victories for just the fourth time with a win here. Kentucky finished 72nd in the nation in passing offense with an average of 222.4 yards per contest while they were 14th in rushing offense with 215.5 yards per game. The Wildcats led all of the FBS in yards per carry as they averaged 5.6 yards a rush. Kentucky was 23rd in the FBS in scoring offense with 33.8 points per game and 30th in scoring defense by allowing 22 points per contest. The Wildcats have to deal with a strong Iowa defense that finished 17th in rushing defense by allowing 113.8 yards per game, ninth in yards per carry by holding opposing teams to 3.2 yards a rush and picked off 24 passes as part of their 30 takeaways. Stoops is 3-2 in bowl games in his career and has won his last three, including a win in the Gator Bowl over NC State last season.
Iowa was one of those teams that reminded many of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens: a lockdown defense and not much in the way of offense to speak of when you get down to it. The Hawkeyes finished the year 10-3 and earned the Big Ten West Division crown after Wisconsin was upended by Minnesota in the final week of the season. Iowa was overmatched in the Big Ten title game, getting drubbed 42-3 by Michigan. The Hawkeyes finished 109th in the nation in passing offense with 177.7 yards per contest, 101st in rushing offense (120 yards per game) and 113th in yards per carry (3.3) on the season. Iowa was 88th in the FBS in scoring offense with 23.9 points per game while they finished 13th in scoring defense by allowing 19.2 points a contest. The struggling offense for the Hawkeyes has to contend with a Kentucky
defense that is 15th in the nation in rushing defense with 115.7 yards per contest and 19th in total defense by allowing 337 yards per game. The Hawkeyes are 9-8 in bowl games under Kirk Ferentz and look to extend their bowl win streak to four games.
Gator Bowl: #25 Texas A&M Aggies vs. #17 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Texas A&M was an up-and-down team this season with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. The Aggies opened the year 3-0, then dropped two straight, before reeling off four straight wins. That included wins over #1 Alabama and Auburn with both games coming at home. Texas A&M dropped two of their final three games, losing to Ole Miss and LSU on the road, to finish 8-4 overall and 4-4 in the SEC. The Aggies finished the regular season 81st in passing offense with 212.3 yards per contest and 50th in rushing offense by grinding out 174.5 yards per game. Texas A&M finished 63rd in scoring offense with 27.3 points per game while they finished a stellar eighth in scoring defense by allowing 17.1 points per contest. The Aggies’ defense will be tested by a Wake Forest offensive attack that put up at least 35 points in 11 of their 13 games this season. Jimbo Fisher is 3-0 in bowl games at Texas A&M and 8-2 in bowl games overall in his career.
Wake Forest was rolling along and was knocking on the door of the CFP before seeing things fall apart late in the season. After starting the year 10-0, the Demon Deacons dropped two of their final three games, losing 48-27 on the road to Clemson and falling 45-21 to Pitt in the ACC Championship Game. Wake Forest has an explosive offensive attack that can keep them in games on a week in, week out basis but they have issues defensively. The Demon Deacons finished the regular season 12th in the nation in passing offense with 312.3 yards per contest and 63rd in rushing offense with 161.6 yards per game. Wake Forest was fourth in the nation in scoring offense by putting up 41.3 points per game while finishing 96th in scoring defense as they allowed 31.5 points a contest. The Demon Deacons are going to have to find a way to stop the run game of Texas A&M, which is something they struggled at in the regular season. Wake Forest finished 115th in rushing defense by allowing 207.5 yards per contest and 110th in yards per rush with five yards per game. Dave Clawson is 3-2 in bowl games at Wake Forest and 3-5 in bowl games overall in his career.
Peach Bowl: #12 Pitt vs. #10 Michigan State
Pitt put together a strong year under coach Pat Narduzzi, finishing the year 11-2 overall and 8-1 in the ACC. They won the ACC Championship after whipping Wake Forest in the conference title game but their losses were puzzling. The Panthers were beaten at home by Western Michigan out of the MAC and then fell to Miami in conference play. Pitt finished the regular season fifth in the FBS in scoring offense (40.2 ppg), sixth in total offense (486.1 yards per game), seventh in passing offense (341.5 yards per game) and 80th in rushing offense with 144.6 yards per game. The Panthers finished the season 44th in scoring defense by allowing 24.4 points per contest. Pitt will have to tighten up through the air defensively as they were 115th in pass defense by allowing 273.8 yards per game through the air along with 23 scores. Narduzzi is 1-3 in bowl games in his career.
Michigan State started the year 8-0 after beating Michigan on October 30, which pushed them to #2 in the CFP rankings, but they struggled down the stretch. The Spartans split their last four games, losing 40-29 at Purdue and then getting slaughtered 56-7 by Ohio State. That left Michigan State 10-2 on the year and 7-2 in the Big Ten. The Spartans were 59th in passing offense with 238.3 yards per contest while they finished 46th in rushing offense with 178.8 yards per game. Michigan State ended up 37th in the FBS in scoring offense with 31 points per contest while they were 61st in scoring defense by allowing 26.7 points per contest. The Spartans are going to have to find a way to get some stops defensively after ranking last in the FBS in pass defense by allowing 356.3 yards per game along with 26 touchdowns. Mel Tucker is coaching in his first bowl game here.
Las Vegas Bowl: Wisconsin Badgers vs. Arizona State Sun Devils
Wisconsin was in the driver’s seat for a shot at the Big Ten title but let it slip away as they were beaten in the final week before conference title games as they fell to Minnesota. That ended a seven-game win streak for the Badgers, who rebounded after a 1-3 start and finished 8-4 on the year. Wisconsin was just 116th in the nation in passing offense as they averaged 162.1 yards per contest through the air though they were 15th in rushing offense with 215.5 yards per game on the ground. The Badgers finished 78th in scoring offense by putting up 25.8 points per game on the season while they finished fourth in scoring defense by holding opposing teams to 16.4 points a contest. Wisconsin is going to have to contend with an Arizona State team that was extremely effective on the ground during the course of the year. Paul Chryst is 5-1 in bowl games at Wisconsin and 6-2 in bowl games in his career overall.
Arizona State put together an eight-win regular season, tying the 2019 team for the most wins the program has put up since a 10-win campaign in 2014. The Sun Devils finished the regular season 8-4 overall and 6-3 in the Pac-12, though they split their final six games after a 5-1 start. Arizona State is 94th in passing offense as they average 197.5 yards per game through the air and 23rd in rushing offense by grinding out 204.4 yards per contest. The Sun Devils were 57th in scoring offense with 28.6 points per game while they were 26th in scoring defense by allowing 21.5 points per contest. Arizona State faces a challenge on offense as Wisconsin was first in the nation in total defense (241.4 yards per game), first in rushing defense (65.8 yards per game), first in yards per carry (2.2) and fifth in passing defense (175.6 yards per game) this season. Herm Edwards is 1-1 in bowl games in his career.