2023 Military Bowl, Mayo Bowl, Holiday Bowl and Texas Bowl Preview

December 27, 2023

Enjoy the things you love most, because they’re typically the things that come and go in a flash.

Though it feels like it just began, we’ll have passed the midway point of the bowl season on Wednesday.

Let’s take a quick look at the games being played throughout the day.

Military Bowl

Virginia Tech vs. Tulane (Wednesday, 2 PM ET – ESPN)

Unfortunately, it seems as though the good vibes for this Tulane program have run out for the time being. On top of the AAC title game loss to SMU, gone is head coach Willie Fritz, who truly orchestrated the incredible two year run. Gone is quarterback Michael Pratt, who will sit this game out to prepare for the NFL Draft. Gone are many of the key pieces to the defense that held opponents to just over 93 rushing yards per game, good for ninth best in the country. What’s left? Well, a decent group that would do alright in the AAC but probably struggle against most decent Power 5 squads.

The big question is, how decent is Virginia Tech, really? The Hokies struggle converting third downs on offense, which will be important in this game. Brent Pry’s team is decent defensively, and get to the quarterback often, which will be a must against a relatively green signal-caller playing for Tulane. Virginia Tech is 0-3 in games decided by a touchdown or less this season, which is probably what this game is going to be. With all the missing pieces on Tulane’s side, the Hokies should win this game, but it’s bowl season.

Around The Corn’s Pick: 28-24 Virginia Tech

Bowl Mania Confidence: 39 points

Duke’s Mayo Bowl

North Carolina vs. West Virginia (Wednesday, 5:30 PM ET – ESPN)

This is another episode of “Who Wants to Be Here?” North Carolina once again failed to deliver on the expectations it set for itself preseason, choking on its 6-0 start with losses to Virginia and Georgia Tech midseason. Defensive coordinator Gene Chizik has already publicly come out and confirmed that he’ll use this game as a chance to see what the younger guys can do, and Drake Maye won’t suit up for the Tar Heels, opting instead to prepare for the NFL Draft.

Neal Brown surely saved his job with the season that the Mountaineers put together in 2023, defying the bleak expectations set for them by outsiders before the season began. West Virginia has a three-headed monster in the running game in quarterback Garrett Greene and running backs CJ Donaldson, Jr. and Jahiem White. They’ll be going against a North Carolina run defense that wasn’t great this season and may not care to boot. This could be a nationwide introduction to the group that quietly orchestrated the country’s fourth best rushing attack.

Around The Corn’s Pick: 30-21 West Virginia

Bowl Mania Confidence: 12 points

DIRECTV Holiday Bowl

#15 Louisville vs. Southern Cal (Wednesday, 8 PM ET – FOX)

If there’s a team that may care less about its postseason game than North Carolina, it would be Southern Cal. In a similar position considering coming up short compared with preseason expectations, the Trojans really wouldn’t be blamed for not caring about anything short of a CFP berth. And the Holiday Bowl is, sadly for its organizers, a far cry from the CFP. The opt out list for Lincoln Riley’s team is as long as they come, headed by the likes of Caleb Williams and Brenden Rice. It’ll have to be the Tajh Washington, Zachariah Branch and Relative Unknowns Show for Southern Cal to resemble anything it has been offensively during the regular season.

Louisville, on the other hand, had a surprisingly successful regular season and although it didn’t end the way that the Cardinals would have liked, can be the cornerstone of what Brian Brohm is trying to build at his alma mater. The Cardinals are sound defensively, dangerous on offense and have the opportunity to say that they beat one of the college football bluebloods to end the year. Coach Brohm’s team seems poised to come away victorious as long as they take things seriously.

Around The Corn’s Pick: 35-24 Louisville

Bowl Mania Confidence: 34 points

TaxAct Texas Bowl

Texas A&M vs. #20 Oklahoma State (Wednesday, 9 PM ET – ESPN)

Wednesday’s games certainly drew out some of the more uninterested programs. Texas A&M, reeling from the Jimbo Fisher fallout, has already been experiencing the succession of transfer portal activity, de-commits and national backlash that one would expect a program with so many former four and five-star players to face following a decision to begin paying a coach large sums of money to not coach. Elijah Robinson will lead the Aggies on an interim basis. On the other side, Oklahoma State has more continuity but has been highly inconsistent in 2023.

Jaylen Henderson took the reigns at quarterback for the Aggies the final three games of the regular season and showed promise, leading Texas A&M to two victories and amassing over 700 yards passing. The Cowboys are horrendous at defending the pass, so Henderson could continue his success in this game. However, with so many other pieces missing, the Aggies will likely need to force Oklahoma State’s offense into giving away the ball away at least a couple times to win this one. It could be ugly, it could be wild, but one thing is for sure – despite not knowing what else may happen, it should be fun in Texas.

Around The Corn’s Pick: 42-38 Oklahoma State

Bowl Mania Confidence: 35 points

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