If we’ve learned anything from this year’s bowl games, transfers and opt-outs make bowl games impossible to predict and typically very different from a regular season outcome, yet you don’t really hear anything about it once the game has been won.
In actuality, that should be about all that matters. If your team is picked to play a semi-similarly leveled team and most of their best players decide not to play, how can you even pretend that the game’s outcome is what should happen in a real game of football?
Yes, I’m on my soapbox and some of you’d expect that I’m making an excuse for an eventual, possible Auburn loss. I’m not.
Auburn is the better team, has less opt-outs, and doesn’t have their starting quarterback voluntarily sitting on the sideline. My stance is really about all bowls, but in regards to this one, Auburn stands nearly nothing to win by beating a Maryland team they should beat anyway, but now Tua’s brother has decided he’s too good to risk injury for a possible CFL run, meaning the response to the win is “oh they beat a mid-level Big 10 team without their best, most experienced player.”
Yes, the positive of bowl games not in the College Football Playoffs is extra practice time, but it really should be about league/region/school bragging rights. Sure, if Auburn wins, it’s great. But I watch and pull for Auburn so that I can brag about Auburn winning. Tua’s brother has dampened that. He has stolen it from me.
Auburn will be without their best WR (from the Iron Bowl at least), and arguably 3 of the 4 or 5 best defensive players. Maryland is without a starting QB, TE, CB, and LB.
But Auburn has their quarterback, all of their running backs, their best defensive back, and their best receiver. Maryland will be playing two quarterbacks with a COMBINED 42 snaps ever. It’s the position that matters, and Auburn has the major advantage.
There will be approximately eight million Auburn fans in attendance. Maryland will have a nice little group that will be really into it, but will look shellshocked by Auburn’s fanbase, fanfare, tradition, and pretty much everything. It’s how most bowls go.
A better Auburn football team will take the field, missing a few key pieces. A lesser Maryland football team will take the field, missing the key piece. It shouldn’t have been close before, now it really won’t.
It won’t be the 2018 Music City Bowl when Auburn was up 56-7 on Purdue at halftime, but it will be close to it. A receiver we’ve wanted to step up all season will step up. Jarquez Hunter will play so well we’ll be scared he goes pro after the game. Jaylin Simpson will have two interceptions.
The promising Iron Bowl performance, the Signing Day success, the bowl win, and the return of a quarterback and staff will have the hype going into 2024 at a very high level. So even though your rival friends will downplay it, relish it. It’s a bowl win. It’s a winning season. It’s all looking up. In year one.
Auburn 31, Maryland 17