The Five Most Intriguing Non Playoff Bowl Games of 2023/2024

How good will these games be?

These games may or may not be the most competitive of the non-College Football Playoff bowl games. The Transfer Portal, opt-outs, and level of motivation for many teams will all play roles in the outcomes.

The Most Intriguing Non-CFP Bowl Games Of 2023-24

Fiesta Bowl: Liberty vs. Oregon

News flash. Liberty can really score. News flash. Liberty has an outstanding head coach in Jamey Chadwell. News flash. Liberty is undefeated and will be highly motivated to remain so. News flash. Oregon can really score as well.

They have a good head coach in Dan Lanning, although he may not be on Chadwell’s level despite leading the much higher-level program of the two. News flash. Oregon quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Bo Nix is going to play despite likely being a high NFL draft pick this coming spring.

How motivated will Oregon be to play in this game after narrowly missing out on the playoff with a close loss to Washington in the swan song of the PAC 12 Championship? What we do know is that the Ducks are favored by more than two touchdowns, adding to the motivation the Flames bring into this game.

Cotton Bowl: Ohio State vs. Missouri

Again, motivation will be key. Ohio State also won’t have quarterback Kyle McCord who has entered the Transfer Portal. Another Heisman finalist, Buckeyes wide receiver Marvin Harrison, Jr., might not play as he is currently weighing his options. And let’s not forget about head coach Ryan Day who is feeling the heat after three consecutive losses to Michigan. A loss in the bowl game would only make his seat hotter going into next season.

On the other hand, Missouri will be motivated to make a good showing as they appear in a New Year’s Bowl Game for the first time in many years. Stud running back Cody Schrader is expected to play. Shrader ran wild against the vaunted Georgia Bulldogs defense in a late-season matchup that the Dawgs won late.

The aforementioned opt-outs, Transfer Portal, and perceived motivation levels by the oddsmakers make for some interesting lines. Favoring Missouri by 1.5 points just looks odd. We will see if the bookies knew what they were doing with this one.

Orange Bowl: Georgia vs. Florida State

This one is all about motivation. The Seminoles are obviously more than upset about getting left out of the College Football Playoff even though they are an undefeated Power Five Conference. Had they not lost star quarterback Jordan Travis to a season-ending injury, they would be in. Not having him available may hurt them more than a high level of motivation helps them.

The Georgia Bulldogs could be highly motivated to prove the College Football Playoff Committee wrong for dropping them all the way to sixth in the final poll after a three-point loss to Alabama. Or they could come up with a poor effort knowing the ultimate prize is no longer within reach.

The oddsmakers seem to think head coach Kirby Smart will have his guys ready to go. That is a wise assumption.

Holiday Bowl: Louisville vs. USC

Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams won’t play for the Trojans. Neither will wide receiver Brenden Rice. Both of them are getting ready for the NFL draft. It will be interesting to see not only what kind of effort USC puts forward, but we will get an opportunity to get a look at some of next year’s stars. Picked as a possible playoff team before the season. the Trojans have stumbled down the stretch finishing at 7-5 on the season. They will undoubtedly finish strong to erase some of the bad taste in their mouths.

Louisville, on the other hand, was projected to finish eighth in the ACC this season but made it all the way to the conference championship game before falling to Florida State. The top players for the Cardinals such as Jack Plummer and Jawhar Jordan are expected to play. Louisville should be able to put up points against a very poor Trojan defense. The questions can the USC offense match them with a different cast of characters leading the way.

Liberty Bowl: Memphis vs. Iowa State

Offense v defense. Can Memphis’ high-flying offense led by quarterback Seth Henigan and running back Blake Watson put up points against a stingy Cyclones defense that held playoff participant Texas to their lowest point total of the season?

Iowa State showed they have some punch with a late season 42-35 road win at Kansas State in the annual showdown called Farmageddon. In that game, quarterback Rocco Becht only threw twelve passes but completed eight for 230 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Abu Sama III also ran for 276 yards on only 16 carries in that game and also accounted for three touchdowns. Reversion to the mean would suggest those performances are not likely to be repeated in the bowl game.

Which team will impose their will on the other?


All of these games figure to be entertaining if not close. As always, they will be fun to watch and serve as tasty appetizers to the main course on New Year’s Day.

Main Image: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

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