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You’re Nuts: Most interesting bowl game this year not involving Ohio State

Your (almost) daily dose of good-natured, Ohio State banter.

2021 American Conference Championship - Houston v Cincinnati Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

After spending the last two years in the CFP, Ohio State will miss out on making their fifth trip to the College Football Playoff after losing to Michigan. Even though the Buckeyes won’t be playing for another national title, they still get quite a consolation prize, as they’ll be headed to Pasadena to take on Utah in the Rose Bowl. While many are questioning the motivation Ohio State will have for this game, we certainly won’t be able to find any faults with the views we’ll get at “The Granddaddy of them All”.

This year’s bowl season starts on Friday, Dec. 17 with the Bahamas Bowl between Middle Tennessee State and Toledo, and wraps up on Monday, Jan. 10 with the CFP National Championship Game. There will be over 40 bowl games this year, with most of them taking place before the end of 2021. The last two bowl games of the calendar year will be the CFP Semifinals.

While there are some bowl games like the Barstool Bowl that give you absolutely no reason to watch, there are other bowl games that have some fun storylines even though they aren’t part of the CFP. Since the CFP games usually end up as blowouts, it might be a bad strategy to bank on the playoff games being the most exciting bowl games. Then again, since there is some fresh blood in the playoff, we could see the games this year play out a little different.

Today’s question: Which bowl game not involving Ohio State are you most excited to watch?

We’d love to hear your choices. Either respond to us on Twitter at @Landgrant33 or leave your choice in the comments.

Brett’s answer: The Peach Bowl Pitt vs. Michigan State

Imagine how crazy it would have sounded before the season started if you were told that Pitt and Michigan State would be meeting in one of the New Year’s Six bowl games. The Panthers and Spartans combined to post an 8-10 record last year, with neither team making a bowl game.

There is always a possibility that players in a bowl game that isn’t a playoff game could decide to sit out to protect themselves from injury in advance of heading to the NFL, but I don’t see that happening in this case. Not only will one of the top quarterbacks heading into the 2022 NFL Draft be playing, the second-leading rusher in the country will also be taking the field. Pitt’s Kenny Pickett will likely be one of the first quarterbacks taken in this year’s draft, while Kenneth Walker III is coming off an outstanding year with the Spartans after the running back transferred into the program from Wake Forest.

A big reason why Pickett shouldn’t sit out the Peach Bowl is because Michigan State’s pass defense is awful. C.J. Stroud and the Buckeyes were able to pass all over the Spartans, and there is no reason why Pickett shouldn’t be able to find Biletnikoff finalist Jordan Addison early and often in Atlanta. The Panthers are averaging over 500 yards per game and have scored at least 30 points in each of the last six games.

Even though the Spartans split their last four games of the season, Mel Tucker has restored excitement in East Lansing. Tucker expertly used the transfer portal this year to put Michigan State back on the fast track to success. A win in one of the premiere bowl games would be icing on the cake for Tucker, who just signed a hefty contract extension with Michigan State.

There should be plenty of points scored in this game, so it certainly won’t be boring. This feels like a situation of a bowl game that both teams want to be at, unlike a few other high-profile games. It’s hard to think of a better game to kick off a stretch that will see some of the more important bowl games of the year played.

Meredith’s answer: The Cotton BowlAlabama vs. Cincinnati

Bowl season is near the top of the list when it comes to “most wonderful time of the year,” and this year’s matchups do not disappoint. Beyond Ohio State, the matchup I’m looking forward to most has to be the Cotton Bowl between No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Cincinnati.

Might Cincinnati continue its Cinderella season? Could David slay college football’s Goliath? It makes a great story. There was that one time another team from Ohio beat Bama in the first round of the College Football Playoff back in 2014, after all. Oh, and also that time Oklahoma beat Bama in the Sugar Bowl in 2014, and that other time Utah beat Bama, also in the Sugar Bowl, in 2008.

If we can’t cheer for our team, we may as well root on for the underdog. After all, who didn’t enjoy watching Boise State beat Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl? As exciting as it is to be on top of the college football world year in and year out, how cool would it be to finally see someone from outside the Power Five shake things up?

It’ll be a tough road ahead for the Bearcats. No one is giving them much of a chance against Nick Saban and his merry band of future first-round draft picks. The Crimson Tide are 13.5-point favorites, which feels like a wide margin even for this Playoff matchup.

Alabama showed a spark of what we’ve come to expect from the Tide, especially after a season of relative mediocrity. Saban knows how to coach in a big game, and the Cotton Bowl will be no exception as he looks for a second-straight national title. But you can’t count Cincinnati out — a team that’s relied on an elite defense and anchored by an efficient, mobile and accurate quarterback in Desmond Ridder. Oh, and unlike every other team in the Playoff field, the Bearcats have a perfect, undefeated resume.

Plus, there’s Ohio State blood on this Cincinnati team. Luke Fickell is someone we should be cheering for. No matter our feelings about his success (or lack thereof) in his one year as interim head coach at Ohio State in 2011, Fickell has blossomed into a truly outstanding coach who has accomplished something few Power Five coaches and no Group of Five coaches have done in steering his team to a Playoff berth. This season has been spectacular for the Bearcats, and an upset over the No. 1 team in the country would be a cherry on top.