These 10 college football programs are poised to bounce back and return to bowling in 2022

The college football postseason is the subject of annual debate, as critics lament its expansion to a a whopping 43 games for the 2022-23 season and claim the bowls just don’t mean what they used to. With many star players choosing to forego the bowls due to health concerns and training transitions, there’s no question that simply making it to a bowl game isn’t always a great reward for a great season. Sometimes, it’s just a display at the end of a lackluster season.

However, for the few dozen teams that miss a bowling game each year, getting back to one can be a particularly significant achievement. Just look at South Carolina, which snapped a two-year drought in 2021 with a 6-6 regular-season record and beat cross-border rival North Carolina 38-21 in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. The Gamecocks weren’t expected to do much in coach Shane Beamer’s first season, but reaching (and winning) a game of bowling validated the program’s hiring of a beloved former assistant.

As the 2022 season approaches and the interrupted 2020 season, along with its disjointed bowling season, fades further into the background, the normal rhythms of the sport have returned. That means bowling trips are expected on some shows, and there are some strong brands looking to break bowling streaks in the upcoming season.

So which shows are most likely to return to bowling games after losing them last season? Here are the selections divided into levels.

obvious picks

These teams look like safe bets to make it to bowl games in the 2022 season

USC: On the heels of a 4-8 season, the program’s worst since 1991, first-year coach Lincoln Riley has replenished the roster with a bevy of playmakers to ensure the Trojans quickly return to respectability. Talk of the college football playoffs might end up sounding premature, but it would be downright surprising if USC doesn’t go back to a bowl game. The last time USC finished with a losing record in back-to-back seasons was 1960 and 1961. With Oklahoma transferring Caleb Williams at quarterback, former Oregon star Travis Dye at running back and current Biletnikoff winner and the Pittsburgh transfer Jordan Addison Among a group of talented wide receivers, USC should be elite enough offensively to get past a questionable defense and leave the 2021 losing record in the rearview mirror.

Texas: The Longhorns went 5-7 under Charlie Strong in 2015 and 2016, so there is recent precedent for missing bowls in back-to-back seasons. But with some of the nation’s top talent in running back Bijan Robinson and receiver Xavier Worthy playing with a possible, if unproven, star QB in Quinn Ewers, this team is a safe bet to bowl in Year 2 with Steve. Sargsian. If defense sucks again, former TCU coach Gary Patterson is now on staff to help stabilize the ship.

State of Florida: The Seminoles finished with a losing record four straight seasons, which is surprising for a brand program that posted a 27-1 record during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Simply making a bowl may not be enough to save the coach’s job. junior Mike Norvell, but it seems likely the Seminoles will at least hit that threshold in 2022. At a minimum, FSU should be 2-2 in non-conference versus 1-3. posted last season. From there, even a repeat of last season’s 4-4 mark in ACC play would take the ‘Noles to a bowl.

can definitely be

You’d think these shows would end up bowling in 2022, but at least there’s some reason to pause.

Washington: You’d think Washington is destined for bowl eligibility with a schedule that starts with Kent State and Portland State and avoids USC and Utah. However, the Huskies had a similarly favorable league slate last season and stumbled to a 4-8 record. With offensive mind Kalen DeBoer replacing Jimmy Lake as head coach, Washington should begin to find the end zone again and quickly return to the competition. The defense may take a step back in the post-Lake era, but with former All-Pac 12 first-team defensive end Zion Tupuola-Fetui back after an injury-plagued 2021 season, the closet isn’t empty.

Nebraska: The Cornhuskers knocked Michigan heavyweights Michigan State and Ohio State out of the Big Ten East last season and lost those three games by a combined 15 points as they struggled to go 0-7 in one-possession games over a season. 3-9. The Wolverines are still on the schedule, but with Indiana and Rutgers serving as the Cornhuskers’ other cross-divisional foes, one would think they might finally reach bowl eligibility in coach Scott Frost’s fifth season. Much of Nebraska’s ambition appears to hinge on how first-year offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, who comes from Pittsburgh, works with quarterback Casey Thompson, who was transferred from Texas.

Troy: The Trojans return significant production to first-year coach Jon Sumrall, who was previously on the staff during some of the high points of Neal Brown’s tenure. Defensively, a front of seven led by first-team All-Sun Belt players Javon Solomon and Carlton Martial should be unpleasant. Offensively, there is work to be done for new coordinator Joe Craddock with a unit that ranked 109th in total offense last season. But with running back Kimani Vidal and receiver Tez Johnson back after showing off their star power last season, the unit should improve.

If the breaks go well

These teams will return to bowl games as long as they get a couple of breaks.

Northwest: The dawn of Name, Image, and Likeness and mass transfer has prompted some predictions of competitive extinction for schools with high academic standards like Northwestern that also register on the low end of booster fanaticism. However, if a couple of layoffs go well, the Wildcats will return to a bowl game after the 2022 season. Coach Pat Fitzgerald has been too consistent entering his 17th season to allow a repeat of the 3-game fiasco. 9 from last season. The offensive line is well-fortified and the skill positions talented enough, highlighted by the return of 1,000-yard rusher Evan Hull, for Northwestern to find three Big Ten wins to go along with what should be a 3-0 road record. of the conference against Duke, in southern Illinois. and Miami (Ohio).

UTC: The Horned Frogs are just 16-18 in the past three seasons and start this season with someone other than Gary Patterson as head coach for the first time since 2000. If things work out, though, they’ll be back in a bowl game. under Sonny Dykes, as there are some good talents left on the roster. The defense disintegrated under Patterson last season, but star cornerback Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson is back along with a late threat in Dylan Horton. Otherwise, a solid transfer crop should help remove the 2021 horror from the defense system. Offensively, wide receiver Quentin Johnson is poised for a big season and will catch passes from rookie Chandler Morris or veteran Max Duggan. Both are quality options that can help guide TCU back to the bowl.

UAF: It’s Year 3 for Willie Taggart at FAU, and with the transfer of Miami N’Kosi Perry back for his second season as the starting QB, look to get the Owls back to bowling. This team was on the cusp last season before losing its last four games, so it’s not like there’s a big step to take. Provided FAU avoids a catastrophic injury streak, the schedule is manageable enough to put a bowl appearance within easy reach. Taggart and his new defensive coordinator, Todd Orlando, were considered rising stars just six or seven years ago. Both have fallen on hard times, but the bet here is that they find some success this season.

long shot selection

Never say Never

Akron: This is a long shot, but give it a try. Joe Moorhead takes over a show that went just 3-27 the last three seasons, and he’s been hitting the portal like crazy. The Zips got 11 Power Five trades among their haul, including some players with proven track records. Shocky Jacques-Louis caught 83 passes for 1,010 yards in four seasons at Pitt, and safety Kerry Martin made 50 tackles as a freshman at West Virginia in 2019. The new players combine with some decent returners at key points to give the Zips the chance to complete what would be a miraculous turnaround. It’s true that a bowl spot is overkill, but this team should be almost unrecognizable and should win as many games as it has in the last three seasons combined (or more).

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