2023 Myrtle Beach Bowl, Celebration Bowl, New Orleans Bowl, Cure Bowl, New Mexico Bowl, LA Bowl and Independence Bowl Preview

December 16, 2023

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Time to finish strong. Time to figure out what your team has got coming into the fold for next season. Time to forgo making holiday cookies with the family in favor of vegging out on the couch for over 12 straight hours of college football.

The bowl season is upon us, and it’s magical. Forty three games await, and things are about to get weird.

College football’s postseason has always been a little difficult to predict. The coaching carousel, upperclassmen opting to sit out in preparation for the NFL Draft and those occasional lingering injuries to players that we never knew about during the regular season often dictate a very different roster for bowl bound programs than the ones we’ve been used to all season.

But NIL and the transfer portal has amped up the uncertainty. And you know what? It’s bowl season – let’s enjoy it. Sorry, Vegas – you’re going to have a tough time with these ones.

Around The Corn is happy to confirm that its Bowl Mania group is back for its 17th season, and as tradition will provide commentary tying back to the group along with previews and predictions this holiday season. Disclaimer: take advice for your own predictions at your own risk.

Day 1 of the action is jam packed, with seven games on the slate for Saturday. Let’s take a quick look at them all.

Myrtle Beach Bowl

Georgia Southern vs. Ohio (Saturday, 11 AM ET – ESPN)

The Bobcats come into this game missing their starting quarterback, top two running backs and two of their top three wide receivers, as well as a few contributors to the MAC’s top scoring defense this season. That top ranked defense, though, could be a saving grace for Ohio. Georgia Southern quarterback Davis Brin, who will play in this game, has thrown 16 interceptions this season.

If the Bobcats are to win this game, it may be ugly as it is hard to know what to expect from the grossly depleted offense. But this is bowl season, so we’re rolling with the green and white.

Around The Corn’s Pick: 20-14 Ohio

Bowl Mania Confidence: 9 points

Cricket Celebration Bowl

Howard vs. Florida A&M (Saturday, 12 PM ET – ABC)

There are very few opt outs for this game, which make sense as the Celebration Bowl doubles as the HBCU national title game. The Rattlers are seeking their 16th national title, which would equal Tennessee State for the most all-time, while Howard is seeking its seventh overall and first since 1996.

While both of these teams are stout defensively (Florida A&M No. 2 in FCS in total defense, Howard tops in FCS pass defense), stars tend to emerge offensively in this game. The son of Edgerrin James, Eden, contributes to a powerful Howard run game, while Florida A&M has talent and athleticism at both the running back and wideout positions. While the MEAC has been rather dominant in this game as of late, the Rattlers can contain Howard’s balance offensive attack and get things done for the SWAC.

Around The Corn’s Pick: 24-21 Florida A&M

Bowl Mania Confidence: 2 points

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Jacksonville State at Louisiana (Saturday, 2:15 PM ET – ESPN)

James Madison may have been the squeaky wheel, but Jacksonville State is another former FCS school that benefits from a lack of bowl eligible teams in 2023, as the Jaguars are going bowling in their first full season as an FBS member (programs typically must wait two seasons before gaining bowl eligibility). Rich Rodriguez’s team likes to run the ball, and quarterback Zion Webb is a true dual-threat to watch in this one.

Louisiana’s defense has been decent this season, but may struggle to contain Webb. A good running team itself, the Ragin’ Cajuns may want to play keepaway from Webb and the rest of the Gamecocks’ offense.

Around The Corn’s Pick: 30-27 Jacksonville State

Bowl Mania Confidence: 21 points

Avocados From Mexico Cure Bowl

Miami (OH) vs. Appalachian State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET – ABC)

The Redhawks have been a resilient team already this season, having gone 5-0 to finish the regular season following the loss of original starter Brett Gabbert to injury. However, Gabbert’s replacement, Aveon Smith, has entered the transfer portal and thus Miami will be down to its third quarterback option in this game, which may turn out to be a duty by committee.

Appalachian State will be tricky to stop in the run game, with quarterback Joey Aguilar unafraid to tuck it and go. If Miami is to win this game, it will need an answer for Aguilar. The answer may come from sacks – Miami has 34 on the year, and Troy proved in the Sun Belt title game that getting to Aguilar in the backfield is a recipe for success.

Around The Corn’s Pick: 23-21 Miami (OH)

Bowl Mania Confidence: 17 points

Isleta New Mexico Bowl

New Mexico State vs. Fresno State (Saturday, 5:45 PM ET – ESPN)

The Bulldogs slumped down the stretch, trading issues stopping the pass midseason for run defense woes in the final three games (all losses). This is a major concern for Fresno State, which will be facing one of the most talented dual threat quarterbacks you probably don’t know in Diego Pavia. A “gamer” in the truest sense of the word, Pavia leads the Aggies in rushing yards this season but isn’t shabby with his arm, either.

Fresno State will also be without head coach Jeff Tedford, who continues to deal with a health concern. Though that might not normally be a deal breaker during bowl season, it feels like the Bulldogs would simply like to end 2023 and start fresh in the new year. New Mexico State will have the added benefit of playing in its home state.

Around The Corn’s Pick: 34-21 New Mexico State

Bowl Mania Confidence: 18 points

Starco Brands LA Bowl

UCLA vs. Boise State (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET – ABC)

Both teams will be without the quarterback who started during the regular season, but that isn’t really what this game was going to be about anyway. UCLA boasts the nation’s second ranked run defense, while the Broncos tout the No. 7 ranked rushing offense nationally. The Bruins will be without edge rusher Laiatu Latu, a big loss preparing for the NFL Draft, as well as other losses defensively (including former DC D’Anton Lynn) but may be bailed out if Boise State is one dimensional offensively.

This will likely be a battle in the trenches in which field position will play a major role in any scoring drives that do occur. Don’t expect a lot of points in this one, which should give the underdog Broncos a chance to pull off the upset.

Around The Corn’s Pick: 21-16 Boise State

Bowl Mania Confidence: 13 points

Radiance Tech Independence Bowl

California vs. Texas Tech (Saturday, 9:15 PM ET – ESPN)

If you’re unable to stay up for the entirety of this game, don’t be too upset – on paper it’s the least interesting of the games on Saturday. Cal isn’t particularly strong in any area of the game, though it is opportunistic enough defensively (26 turnovers forced) to neutralize a sometimes sloppy Texas Tech offense (21 turnovers) that will already be significantly depleted.

The Red Raiders should have enough offensive firepower to overwhelm the Golden Bears, but taking care of the football will be key. If Cal is able to force a few early and build a lead, this one could end up very close.

Around The Corn’s Pick: 27-20 Texas Tech

Bowl Mania Confidence: 16 points

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