2023 Peach Bowl and Music City Bowl Preview

December 30, 2023

Overall the quality of the bowl games this season has been pretty good.

To keep that statement true, we may need to erase the memory of the Cotton Bowl from our minds.

Around The Corn has been covering bowl games for almost 15 years, and watched them for longer than that, and nothing immediately comes to mind that would top last night’s game as the worst bowl game of all-time.

Here’s to hoping that Saturday will be a cleanser.

Let’s take a quick look at the early games on the Saturday slate.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

#11 Mississippi vs. #10 Penn State (Saturday, 12 PM ET – ESPN)

This is one of the rare instances in today’s game where two Top 15 teams playing in a pre-New Year’s Day bowl game won’t be significantly affected by opt outs. Both the Rebels and Nittany Lions will be at nearly full strength, setting up a very interesting matchup. Mississippi’s aggressive defensive front, which racked up 34 sacks and 77 tackles for loss this season, will look to create issues for the Big Ten’s top rushing offense. Penn State boasts the country’s top defense in terms of yards per game allowed, but will have its hands full containing Jaxson Dart and Quinshon Judkins.

Multiple teams have proven that the Nittany Lions have an issue moving the ball through the air, with Drew Allar failing to take the type of developmental step forward that James Franklin and the offensive coaching staff had hoped he would this season. Part of the issue may also lie with former offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, who was relieved of his duties last month. Allar has had a full bowl practice schedule to gel with new OC Andy Kotelnicki, who did impressive things at Kansas, so it will be interesting to see how much Allar has picked up in his short time with Kotelnicki. Although Penn State is fully capable of playing the Rebels straight up, until Allar proves everyone wrong, we’ll take an established offense over the established defense.

Around The Corn’s Pick: 27-19 Mississippi

Bowl Mania Confidence: 27 points

TransPerfect Music City Bowl

Auburn vs. Maryland (Saturday, 2 PM ET – ABC)

The Terrapins are looking for their third straight bowl victory, but that will be a tough task without the help of Taulia Tagovailoa, who opted out of this game. In Tagovailoa’s place at quarterback will be sophomore Billy Edwards, who has more rushing yards than passing in very limited action this season. Edwards won’t be able to replicate the dynamic nature of Tagovailoa, but it is a chance for the Maryland coaching staff to see what they’ve got heading into 2024.

Though Auburn will have more experience at the quarterback position, it isn’t a sure thing that the Tigers will get better play from Payton Thorne. A game manager in every sense of the word, Maryland may opt to be aggressive and force Thorne to make throws he hasn’t been asked to make a ton this season. Auburn tends to rely more on its run game than on Thorne’s arm, but Maryland is solid against the run and won’t give up anything on the ground easily. Hugh Freeze’s squad has a slight edge in this one, but Maryland moving on from Tagovailoa earlier than expected might be the best thing for this program’s development.

Around The Corn’s Pick: 31-23 Auburn

Bowl Mania Confidence: 7 points

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