10 college football teams in need of a bowl win
Some bowl games simply mean more than others, and some teams have had to deal with more chaos on and off the field this season than others. That all culminates during bowl season, when several teams will compete in non-playoff bowls simply for bragging rights and a victorious end to the season.
For some teams, this means more. Outgoing coaches, momentum for the future, and a silver lining to a disappointing season are all potential incentives for teams contesting these games. We’ve excluded the two College Football Playoff semifinals, as the incentive for victory there is quite obvious, but the other games have their fair share of storylines as well. Here are ten teams that could really use a bowl win to cap off their season.
10. Kentucky Wildcats
The Wildcats can be pretty satisfied with what they’ve done this season no matter how the Citrus Bowl goes for them, but a win over Penn State would be an excellent way to cap off the year. Kentucky would get to ten wins if they can win this game, the first time the program will have done so since 1977. They probably should have gotten there already, but an upset loss to Tennessee made the task harder than it had to be. They’d hate to miss out on that landmark on account of that defeat.
9. Auburn Tigers
This was supposed to be a much better season for the Auburn Tigers, who instead finished fifth in the SEC West with a losing conference record. Now they’ll face Purdue in the Music City Bowl, another team motivated to play hard after their head coach committed to the school. And while it’s far too late for the Tigers to salvage any real good feeling from this season, a win to close things out would at least allow them to go out on a positive note, especially for a coach who is under pressure. They have the ability — they beat Washington and Texas A&M — but they’ve lacked the consistency. They only need to be good for one day.
8. Miami Hurricanes
The Hurricanes weren’t all that far from the College Football Playoff last season before things fell apart late in the season, and that collapse carried over to 2018. The Hurricanes lost four straight to unranked opponents late in the season, turning a promising season into a 7-5 campaign and an underwhelming Pinstripe Bowl date with fellow disappointment Wisconsin. Mark Richt had a lot of momentum going with this program, and a win would at least leave one bright spot at the end of a disappointing season.
7. UCF Knights
There are a couple reasons a UCF win would be very nice for them. The first is the fact that McKenzie Milton is hurt, and beating LSU in the Fiesta Bowl without him would be quite the statement about the depth and sturdiness of the UCF program. The second? A second consecutive undefeated season would probably prompt another wave of hefty trolling. The Knights answered a lot of questions with their play this season and deserve full credit for keeping things moving despite a coaching change. Another unbeaten season would be a real coup.
6. Michigan State Spartans
The resurgent Spartans entered 2018 with Big Ten title aspirations, only to see those fall flat along with their offense in a disappointing 7-5 season that would have been much worse if not for a surprising road upset of Penn State. Without injured quarterback Brian Lewerke, this is a team that nearly dropped its regular season finale at home to Rutgers. They’re headed for the Redbox Bowl against an established program in Oregon, a nice opportunity to close a mediocre season out with a good win.
5. Boston College Eagles
The Eagles sat at 7-2 before losing three straight games to close out the regular season, bringing the year down from very exciting to somewhat underwhelming in the span of a month. They’ve subsequently dropped to the First Responder Bowl against Boise State, which isn’t quite the caliber of game they would have hoped for a month ago. Boise State is a tough opponent, though, and a Boston College win would be a decent accomplishment to cap off a season that should feel better than it does.
4. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
This will be Paul Johnson’s final game as head coach of Georgia Tech, capping off his 11th season at the helm. There’s a lot of incentive for the Yellow Jackets to send Johnson out with a victory. One of Georgia Tech’s finest coaches will, in their view, deserve a winning sendoff as the team faces Minnesota in the Quick Lane Bowl. A win would mean Johnson’s sixth season with eight or more victories, and wrap up his tenure nicely. It’s not vital, but nobody wants to go out with a defeat in the final game of their career. Georgia Tech should be motivated.
3. Michigan Wolverines
Even with all the prep time the Wolverines will have for the Peach Bowl, this game may feel like a very unpleasant hangover. With the wind seemingly at their back, Michigan was blown out by archrival Ohio State, costing them a likely visit to the College Football Playoff. They must regroup against Florida to at least put a win at the end of a season that will probably be most remembered for unfulfilled promise. They’ll be expected to contend again next season, fairly or not, and they won’t want to go into the offseason on the back of their third straight bowl defeat.
2. Texas Longhorns
The Longhorns gave Oklahoma all they could handle in the Big 12 title game, and they were rewarded for their strong season with a Sugar Bowl bid against SEC powerhouse Georgia. Texas is probably “back” no matter how this one ends, but victory in a bowl game of this magnitude is a milestone that has eluded the program for a decade now. Their last win in a New Year’s Six equivalent came in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl. Texas can firmly put themselves back on the map with a win here, setting them up for a return to college football’s elite in the years to come.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes sit firmly at a crossroads and so many factors go into this game. There may be a bit of lingering resentment that they were excluded from the playoff despite a Big Ten title. This is Urban Meyer’s final game before he hands over the reins to assistant coach Ryan Day. It may prove to be Dwayne Haskins’ final game with the Buckeyes, though that is less clear. Basically, a Rose Bowl win over Washington would send Meyer and possibly Haskins out victorious, see a new era enter with a victory, and at least somewhat soften the blow of their playoff exclusion. The program will look a lot more chaotic — and the season much more disappointing — without a victory here.