Bowl game schedule today: Breaking down the four college football bowl games on Dec. 27

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As the bowl season draws closer to the New Year’s Day main event, we begin to see more teams with numbers before their names participating.

The four-game Wednesday lineup features three ranked teams taking the field, hoping to protect their spot in the US LBM Coaches Poll and take a Top 25 finish into the offseason. That might be easier said than done in some cases as teams deal with coaching transitions, transfers, player opt-outs or a combination of all of the above, and their challengers will be equally motivated to close the campaign with a win against a ranked squad.

Here’s today’s schedule, in which the ACC and Big 12 figure prominently.

After coming up short in its bid to repeat as American Athletic champs, the Green Wave come to Annapolis without many of the people responsible for their run of success over the last two years, both on the field and on the sidelines. The Hokies, meanwhile, overcame a 1-3 start to make it back to the bowl lineup and look to continue their momentum. They’ll likely have much of the crowd in a neighboring state on their side as well. Tulane will be led by interim coach Slade Nagle with Willie Fritz off to Houston and Jon Sumrall on his way. QB Michael Pratt will not participate as he prepares for the draft, but backup Kai Horton is still around despite entering his name in the portal. Even so the passing game will lack its usual pop, so RB Makhi Hughes figures to be busy. The Virginia Tech offense isn’t flashy but will rely on QB Kyron Drones and RB Bhayshul Tuten to protect the ball and control the clock.

These representatives from the ACC and Big 12 would seem to be in different places as they arrive in Charlotte despite sporting identical 8-4 records. The Mountaineers having surprising success considerably cooled the seat of coach Neal Brown, while the Tar Heels stumbled late after starting 6-0 with ACC title aspirations, putting their fans in a much less charitable mood. West Virginia’s strong running game, featuring RBs C.J. Donaldson and Jahiem White with QB Garrett Greene also contributing, appears better constructed to take advantage of this game’s fluctuating personnel. Tar Heels QB Drake Maye is off to the NFL along with WR Tez Walker. The UNC offense will be in the hands of Conner Harrell, who has attempted just six passes on the season.

There’s entertainment potential here, though this is another game that is perhaps more notable for who won’t be there then for who will. The Cardinals enjoyed a breakout season despite coming up short in the ACC championship game. The Trojans are viewed far less favorably by their followers after the team fell far short of living up to its lofty preseason ranking. Heisman emeritus QB Caleb Williams is an expected opt-out along with USC teammate WR Brenden Rice, so the Trojans will hand the keys to QB Miller Moss, who appeared in four contests this year largely in mop-up duty but completed 23 of 32 passes with a TD and no picks. Louisville RB Jawhar Jordan will also skip the game, so Isaac Guerendo and Maurice Turner will likely take most of the handoffs from Cardinals QB Jack Plummer.

These teams met often as Big 12 opponents, and they also faced off in this same bowl in 2019. But there won’t be much familiarity in this encounter, especially with the Aggies in the midst of a staff and roster overhaul. Elijah Robinson will coach Texas A&M in the bowl game before Mike Elko takes over full time, and the QB reins will be handled by Jaylen Henderson. He has a few starts under his belt but will be without many of the team’s top weapons, including WR Ainias Smith, but the Cowboys’ pass defense might still be exploitable. The Oklahoma State program has considerably more stability, despite the Big 12 world changing all around it. QB Alan Bowman can be mistake prone when forced to take chances, but he’ll still have help from standout RB Ollie Gordon, who flirted with the transfer portal but decided to remain in Stillwater.

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Bowl game schedule today: Breaking down the four college football bowl games on Dec. 27

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