Bowl season has come and gone, and thus the 2021 season has concluded. When looking at the real-life season, our simulation provided us with both some wacky and not-so-wacky results. Before we take a step back and look at the season with a bird’s-eye-view, let’s analyze some of the big bowl results first.
Holiday Bowl (San Diego, CA) – #17 Miami 34 – USC 24
-Scott: Miami 35, USC 24
-Gavin: Miami 38, USC 31
While COVID-19 has negated the Holiday Bowl the last two seasons in real-life, Miami continued its upward trajectory under Manny Diaz, getting its 10th win of the season. The U won double digits for the first time since the 2017 season, and this serves as its first bowl win since 2016! In perhaps the most “Clay Helton-esque” season yet, USC finishes 9-5, with a division championship and some success. But for a top 5 program in college football, this is not good enough. Not even close.
Cheez-It Bowl (Orlando, FL) – #18 NC State 44 – #23 Iowa State 33
-Scott: NC State 33, Iowa State 30
-Gavin: Iowa State 28, NC State 24
Iowa State ended up playing in the same bowl in real-life as in our sim, and in both cases, they ended up on the short end of the stick. The Cyclones dropped four straight in a horrendous finish to the season as they ended up just 8-5. NC State ended up having a wonderful season under Dave Doeren, as the Wolfpack record their sixth Cheez-It Bowl appearance, notching a 4-2 record overall. Quarterback Devin Leary was the difference here, as the Cyclones only forced one punt all game.
Alamo Bowl (San Antonio, TX) – #15 TCU 28 – #16 Arizona State 22
-Scott: TCU 39, Arizona State 23
-Gavin: TCU 24, Arizona State 21
TCU improves to 3-0 in Alamo Bowls all time, and this victory was much less chaotic than the last one. If you remember, you remember Gary Patterson’s legendary shirt change. With the win, TCU gets to double digit wins for the first time since 2017, and this season was a welcome rebound for Frog fans after the program’s future looked a bit murky. On the other side, ASU showed some fight here, and a 10-3 season is nothing to sneeze at. However, with a down Pac-12, Sun Devil fans probably wanted a little more nationally relevant season.
Las Vegas Bowl (Las Vegas, NV) – Northwestern 35 – #19 Oregon 23
-Scott: Oregon 36, Northwestern 9
-Gavin: Oregon 42, Northwestern 28
In the first edition of the new Las Vegas Bowl format, Northwestern pulls a bit of a shocker and handles the Oregon Ducks. 10-win seasons don’t come easy in Evanston. Pat Fitzgerald just earned his fourth at the helm. All other coaches in Wildcat history have combined for two! All of a sudden, a team that struggled to win a bowl for decades has now won five straight bowls. Oregon had a pretty disappointing campaign under Mario Cristobal. At 9-4, the record was good, but with how they’ve been recruiting, the talent should be enough to get closer to winning the conference. We’ll see if they can transition to a higher level next season.
Gator Bowl (Jacksonville, FL) – #20 Notre Dame 32 – Ole Miss 23
-Scott: Notre Dame 38, Ole Miss 24
-Gavin: Notre Dame 35, Ole Miss 28
Neither of these teams were as successful in our simulation as they were in the actual 2021 season, but Notre Dame definitely was closer to hitting that mark than the Rebels. This game is a reason why. The Irish get to 10-3 on the season, winning 10 or more games for five straight seasons. That’s the first time that’s ever happened in the history of this storied program. Yes, the number of games has increased, but this is no small feat for Brian Kelly. On the other end, Ole Miss did pretty well for itself in a challenging SEC. Lane Kiffin’s team improved a lot from 2020, but they probably would have liked a little better finish to the year.
Sun Bowl (El Paso, TX) – #21 Louisville 52 – Utah 33
-Scott: Louisville 28, Utah 26
-Gavin: Utah 24, Louisville 23
Louisville closed out its very impressive 2021 season with a throttling of Utah in one of the oldest bowl games out there. The Cards won their first game against the Utes, as they were 0-4 beforehand. Malik Cunningham is the real deal. UL couldn’t even win ten games with Heisman-winner Lamar Jackson at the helm. Similar to TCU, this program needed this season, as the future was not looking all too great. This wasn’t a bad year for Kyle Whittingham’s Utes, but it was perhaps a bit of a disappointment. Nevertheless, I have faith that this program is consistent enough to get back where it wants to be in 2022.
Arizona Bowl (Tucson, AZ) – Buffalo 30 – Air Force 16
-Scott: Air Force 44, Buffalo 23
-Gavin: Air Force 35, Buffalo 17
For a fairly new bowl game, the Arizona Bowl reeled in a couple of G5 powers in Air Force and Buffalo, most likely since both were upset in their respective conference championship games. In their first ever meeting, the Bulls pulled the upset over the Falcons, getting to an astounding 11-3 record, even without Lance Leipold, who left late in the offseason. With the win, Buffalo gets to 11 wins for the first time since 1970! Despite the loss, I still really like the trajectory of this Falcon team as well, and coach Troy Calhoun has built a pretty consistent winner in Colorado Springs. 11-3 is a massive accomplishment for them as well.
Citrus Bowl (Orlando, FL) – #22 Wisconsin 27 – #12 Alabama 20
-Scott: Alabama 34, Wisconsin 10
-Gavin: Alabama 31, Wisconsin 17
The disappointments just keep coming for Bama, as the Badgers pull a massive upset on New Year’s Day, giving the Tide a 9-4 season, and their first ever Citrus Bowl loss, dropping them to 3-1 all-time. The Badgers will celebrate this win exponentially, as they should. Wisconsin continues to have success under Paul Chryst, and this win should bump their recruiting a good deal. Chryst’s fifth 10-win season had some ups and downs, but the ending was fabulous. Nick Saban’s program may be at a crossroads. The Tide looked mortal a good number of times this season, Bama won just nine games for the first time since Nick Saban’s first season. That’s since 2007 just so you know.
Outback Bowl (Tampa, FL) – #13 Auburn 33 – #25 Michigan 18
-Scott: Auburn 30, Michigan 13
-Gavin: Auburn 42, Michigan 21
Michigan stands alone, notching its 7th Outback Bowl appearances, the most all-time. But Auburn emerged victorious in this one, earning a double-digit win campaign in Bryan Harsin’s first season. This could spell the end of the line for Jim Harbaugh at his alma mater. While 2021 was an improvement over a weird 2020, this is not where this program should be. The Wolverines also haven’t won a bowl game since 2015. Auburn seems to be trending upward as well, with lots of talent slated to come back next year.
Peach Bowl (Atlanta, GA) – #11 North Carolina 23 – #8 Oklahoma State 8
-Scott: North Carolina 43, Oklahoma State 37
-Gavin: Oklahoma State 38, North Carolina 35
It turns out the hype was real surrounding Mack Brown’s Tar Heel program heading into 2021. While they struggled in November, and did not end up making the CFP, this program recorded 11 wins, and gave Clemson a push as well. While Sam Howell and the UNC offense led this team the entire season, the defense showed up in Atlanta. Carolina wins its first-ever New Year’s Six bowl. OK State was oh-so-close to the Playoff, and it looked like they were emotionally drained from just missing out. Spencer Sanders was horrendous, as the offense was pretty inept. Despite the result, an 11-3 season for Mike Gundy should be a huge success, as the Pokes outperformed expectations by a good deal.
Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, AZ) – #14 Cincinnati 35 – #10 Texas 12
-Scott: Texas 34, Cincinnati 17
-Gavin: Texas 28, Cincinnati 17
While it was no playoff appearance for the Bearcats, maybe they should have been considered a little more based on this result. In their first-ever meeting, UC waxed the Longhorns in the Fiesta Bowl to earn a school-best 13th win of the season. Luke Fickell’s team had a heck of a 2021, and I bet they’re wishing they could have that one-point loss back to South Florida from back in early November. Despite the setback, Steve Sarkisian had quite the debut season in Austin. 10-3 and a New Years Six berth is a great first season. Now, it’s time to build upon it, and start winning the Big XII and getting to the CFP.
Rose Bowl Game (Pasadena, CA) – #7 Ohio State 32 – #6 Washington 13
-Scott: Ohio State 38, Washington 27
-Gavin: Ohio State 45, Washington 31
Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, LA) – #5 Oklahoma 32 – #9 Florida 20
-Scott: Oklahoma 43, Florida 31
-Gavin: Oklahoma 35, Florida 28
The Huskies and Buckeyes met up for their second Rose Bowl in four years, with the Bucks emerging victorious yet again. Despite both teams narrowly missing the CFP, they both looked pretty excited to play in the historic venue. Ohio State notched a 12-1 season and is a perfect 8 for 8 in reaching at the very least a New Year’s Six bowl game. They will be as hungry as ever for a CFP berth next year. Washington had a whale of a season, but they can thank their own conference members as to why they were denied a spot in the Playoff. Nevertheless, Jimmy Lake’s tenure has gotten off to a wonderful start. (P.S. – This is so much different than real-life it’s funny typing it out.)
CFP Semifinal – Cotton Bowl Classic (Arlington, TX) – #3 Georgia 25 – #2 Penn State 9
-Scott: Georgia 23, Penn State 16
-Gavin: Georgia 31, Penn State 28
As we make our way to the College Football Playoff, Georgia’s defense shone brightly, completely negating Penn State’s offense. UGA earned its way to the National title game for the second time in five seasons. Georgia has the chance to become the first two-loss national champion in college football history. For the Lions, this was a breakthrough campaign after a rough 2020 that saw PSU win 12 for the first time since 1994. James Franklin could always recruit, but this Penn State-Ohio State rivalry might be the game of the year for seasons to come if Penn State can perform on this high of a level.
CFP Semifinal – Orange Bowl (Miami Gardens, FL) – #4 Texas A&M 42 – #1 Clemson 16
-Scott: Clemson 36, Texas A&M 19
-Gavin: Clemson 42, Texas A&M 31
Clemson looked unbeatable all season long. Being the clear favorite and experienced team in this year’s playoff, they seemed to be everyone’s pick. Then the Orange Bowl happened. The Tigers’ seventh straight playoff appearance was not the deciding factor at all. The newcomer Aggies throttled Clemson from the get-go, forcing turnovers and capitalizing on the other side of the ball. A&M has been building for a long time under Fisher. After slowly improving at first, and just missing out on the CFP last season, the Aggies finally will have their shot for a national title, in a rematch against the Dawgs. As bad as this one looked for Clemson, I fully expect them to be right back in the playoff mix next season. This team is still extremely talented and in a great position.
Our Pick Results:
Scott: 10-5 (92-49 on season)
Gavin: 7-8 (89-52)
After heading into bowl season tied, Scott is able to get all three games correct in which the two counterparts chose differently, giving him a narrow victory for the 2021 season.
National Championship (Indianapolis, IN) – #3 Georgia 27 – #4 Texas A&M 12
In a battle of programs with championship droughts, the Georgia Bulldogs once again are led by their defense and defeat Texas A&M in Indy. For the second time in three games, the Dawgs proved to be the more physical team on the line of scrimmage, and it showed. For the first time since 1980, Georgia has won the national title! Kirby Smart’s diligent work on the recruiting front has finally paid off and the Dawgs have broken the curse. A&M had quite the season as well, but for now, 1939 is still the last time the Aggies have been crowned champions of the sport. As sour as TAMU fans feel right now, this program should only continue to grow and get better, as Jimbo Fisher is recruiting his tail off as well. Don’t be surprised if we see these two programs face off with massive implications again very soon.
That’s a wrap on our 2021 simulated season everyone! Unlike last season, our national champ lines up with reality! Thank you to everyone for all of your support and please feel free to spread the word to all! We will have plenty of offseason content ahead so make sure to check our twitter account @ncaafbsim for updates! We’ll get through this long, cold offseason together. Come back soon!