(And by rapid, I mean that I'm going through them fairly quickly, not that they're coming immediately after announcements, because, well, yeah.)
First, I hope, as I always to, that the full bands get to attend each bowl game. My previous refrain was if an athletic department couldn't afford to send its full operation - band cheer, dance, etc. - to the postseason, they weren't equipped to compete at that level; however, I understand that programs were hit hard this past year with the pandemic, so I'm not nearly as critical now.
One of the first things I typically go looking for any bowl season is dual Sudler matchups, and it's a slim slate - just three to start, with a fourth in the championship game if Alabama wins its semifinal game against Cincinnati. Beyond the other semifinal game, Michigan vs. Georgia in the Orange Bowl (where they won't do halftime), LSU meets Kansas State in the TaxAct Texas Bowl and Penn State and Arkansas will meet in the Outback Bowl.
The field at Raymond James Stadium will also see an in-state pairing as Florida plays UCF in the Gasparilla Bowl, just over a week prior. It will be Florida's second trip there this year, as the Gators played USF early in the season; UCF makes their way there every other year in the annual War on I-4. Two schools that call themselves Carolina also have a short trip ahead of them, as North Carolina and South Carolina will meet in Charlotte in the Duke's Mayo Bowl. I intend to be at the game, which will be the third name under which I will attend the bowl in Charlotte. I'll also make my way out to at least the parade, if not the game, for the Military Bowl while in Maryland for the holidays, meaning I'll catch North, South, and East Carolina.
The New Year's Six matchups are a mixed bag of familiar and unfamiliar. Both the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl will feature traditional tie-ins: Big Ten/Pac-12 and Big 12/SEC, respectively. #5 Notre Dame returns to the Fiesta Bowl for the third time since 2000, while Oklahoma State, who sat literal inches from making the playoff conversation much more interesting, returns for the first time since finishing #3 in the then-BCS standings following the 2011 season. But most seemingly out of place is the Peach Bowl. This year's game, which will feature a Pat Narduzzi-helmed, ACC Champion Pitt against Narduzzi's previous employer Michigan State, will host no southern schools for only the second time in the bowl's history, the other being Army vs. Illinois in 1985.
But fear not, Atlanta - the South is still coming through. The Sonic Boom of the South, that is, who will meet the Marching 101 in the Celebration Bowl, back after a pandemic hiatus. Both Jackson State and South Carolina State are making their first appearances as the SWAC and MEAC representatives, respectively. Jackson State in particular has been getting outsized attention for an FCS program generally and an HBCU specifically from sports media due to having Coach Prime - NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders - at the helm as head coach.
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