2023 Quick Lane Bowl, First Responder Bowl and Guaranteed Rate Bowl Preview

December 26, 2023

Hopefully everyone had a very Merry Christmas and time spent with friends and family.

Now that the holiday is officially over, back to the important stuff – college football bowl games.

Let’s take a quick look at the games on the docket for Boxing Day.

Quick Lane Bowl

Bowling Green vs. Minnesota (Tuesday, 2 PM ET – ESPN)

On its face, this is the kind of slug-it-out game that could set up well for the non-Power 5 conference team taking on a Big Ten foe. Bowling Green is solid but not great at just about everything, and even on its best day won’t run Minnesota out of the building. Something the Falcons will need to contend with in this one is the loss of its second leading rusher Ta’ron Keith to the transfer portal – depth at the position could be an issue.

That being said, Minnesota has been sluggish offensively to say the least and will be without its starting quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis (transfer portal). The Golden Gophers are bigger and faster defensively and will need to use those advantages to keep Bowling Green from converting third and manageable situations to sustain long, clock consuming drives. A loss to a MAC school at this point in his career would be a step back for P.J. Fleck – he won’t let it happen.

Around The Corn’s Pick: 27-13 Minnesota

Bowl Mania Confidence: 22 points

SERVPRO First Responder Bowl

Texas State vs. Rice (Tuesday, 5:30 PM ET – ESPN)

Though the Bobcats have been bowl eligible twice before, Texas State will be making its first appearance in an FBS bowl game in program history. G.J. Kinne has taken what he started at FCS Incarnate Word and applied it to his new program, turning the Bobcats into a 7-5 team, three games better than their 2022 campaign. The Owls fared decently in their first season in the AAC, posting a .500 conference and overall record to qualify for the postseason.

The Bobcats were the Sun Belt’s top offense in 2023 and were relatively balanced on that side of the ball. Defensively, Rice was sound against the pass and faced stiffer competition than Texas State throughout the conference slate, so Kinne’s offense may find more success on the ground than through the air. If that happens, Rice should be able to keep this game close. Otherwise, Texas State has the firepower to open things up and run away with things if the passing game gets going.

Around The Corn’s Pick: 24-20 Texas State

Bowl Mania Confidence: 1 point

Guaranteed Rate Bowl

Kansas vs. UNLV (Tuesday, 9 PM ET – ESPN)

Given what both of these teams have been able to do on offense this season, it should be a fun watch to watch in the desert if you’re willing to stay up for it. Despite injuries scattered throughout the season to some of its most talented players, Kansas has managed to average 33.6 points per game in 2023. Not to be outdone, UNLV’s upstart offense led the Mountain West in the same category and did slightly better than the Jayhawks, averaging 34.3 points per game for the year.

It is possible that both stars at quarterback, Kansas’s Jalon Daniels and UNLV’s Jayden Maiava, could be out for this game. That would hurt the Runnin’ Rebels more than the Jayhawks, as Kansas has already had to play the majority of the season without Daniels and boasts a top ten running game nationally. However, Kansas could put a lot of pressure on UNLV’s suspect pass defense if quarterback Jason Bean comes out firing on all cylinders. With a younger quarterback who has committed to stay at the program, UNLV may be more motivated in this one, but the Jayhawks will be difficult to stop in the run game.

Around The Corn’s Pick: 34-27 Kansas

Bowl Mania Confidence: 19 points

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