Big Bowl Preview IX

Bahamas Bowl

Things I realized when I once again ventured into the bowl preview this year:

1. The last post on this blog was last year’s bowl preview. Apparently I’ve lost touch with my inner weather enthusiast. That, or having a child and a new job tends to squeeze the old free time.

2. You know you’ve been doing this entirely too long when you have to double check the roman numerals you’re using in the title to ensure it represents the number you think it should represent.

3. About the only time I visit is when I’m making this bowl preview. They actually have a very concise bowl schedule that’s easy to reference when creating the bolded info part of each game. I recommend printing it out as an easy guide this bowl season.

4. There are a number of new bowl sponsors/games this year, so this preview should basically write itself.

As always, any predictions are for entertainment purposes only, but don’t let me stop you from using them to gamble your life away. After all, gambling on amateur* athletics is about as American as it gets. Well, perhaps it’s just below fully-grown adults obsessing over the college choice of an 18 year-old, but it’s close.

*Again, Ha!

(All times EST.)

Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl
(You know the teams)
7:00 PM, December 19, Salem, VA

For the 9th time in the last 10 years Wisconsin-Whitewater (14-0) will face off against Mount Union (14-0) in the Division III National Championship game. At this point, I’m not sure why they even have Division III football. It’s the same two teams almost every year. This is how Olympic events get squashed – a lack of parity/competition.

Mount Union’s road to here has been relatively smooth. Rival John Carroll is the only team to hold Mount Union under 58 points in a game this year. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Carroll lost both games by a single score, which is a heck of an accomplishment when you consider the scores of every other Mount Union game this year. The other three games Mount has played in the playoffs? 63-3, 67-0, 70-21. So, yeah, lack of competition applies.

All that said, Whitewater has won the last four Stagg Bowl games they’ve appeared in, defeating Mount every time. Whitewater won their last two playoff games by a combined 10 points, which would seem to favor Mount if you assume the bracket is evenly stacked (I’m not watching DIII film to scout these teams), but Whitewater has certainly had their number in this game as of late.

One sneaky factor: the Whitewater coach is leaving for an FBS school (Buffalo) after this game. Could be a difference maker. Speaking of FBS schools…

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Nevada (7-5) vs Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4)
11:00 AM, December 20, New Orleans, LA

The FBS bowl season gets started early on December 20 with the the Sun Belt Conference champion against a mediocre Mountain West school. Perhaps the Ragin’ Cajuns reward for winning the Sun Belt is that they can be done with their season before Christmas and just enjoy the holidays. That’s actually not a bad idea. It also helps that they’re basically at home in New Orleans.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Utah State (9-4) vs UTEP (7-5)
2:20 PM, December 20, Albuquerque, NM

This game is completely uninteresting, but you know what is interesting? NFL games on Saturday.

This year, the NFL brought back late season Saturday games. They had gotten away from this in previous seasons, which made absolutely no sense. The NFL loves money. Money fuels nearly every decision they make. So, why would they not take advantage of December weekends without college football (or with games as meaningless and terrible as this one)? I can’t answer that question, but it appears the NFL finally realized the error of its ways and rectified the Saturday games.

The end of this bowl game will overlap with the Eagles/Daniel Snyder’s of Landover game. The Eagles may very well trounce RGme, but it’s still better than Utah State/UTEP.

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
#22 Utah (8-4) vs Colorado State (10-2)
3:30 PM, December 20, Las Vegas, NV

ABC? Seriously? Isn’t there a Senior Skins Game you should be showing?

The good news is that you can flip around between a few different games thanks to the NFL and NCAA overlapping. Maybe one of them will be competitive? I’m not sure why you would want to watch this game. Perhaps you’ll be feeling under the weather and need a good nap to recover in time for Christmas.

Utah is ranked #22 because they are in the Pac-12 (remember?) and, hey, somebody has to be ranked #22.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Western Michigan (8-4) vs Air Force (9-3)
5:45 PM, December 20, Boise, ID

It’s in Boise on a blue field – maybe it will snow?

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
South Alabama (6-6) vs Bowling Green (7-6)
9:15 PM, December 20, Montgomery, AL

Raycom Media is headquartered in Montgomery, AL. The state flower of Alabama is the Camellia. The state government of Alabama owns Raycom Media through the state retirement system.

I’m just going to leave this here.

Miami Beach Bowl
BYU (8-4) vs Memphis (9-3)
2:00 PM, December 22, Miami, FL

As with the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, the Miami Beach Bowl is brand new this year. It will be played in Marlins Park – a baseball stadium. The big question here will be attendance – how many 2014 Miami Marlins games will have had more people in attendance than this bowl game between two schools nowhere near Miami? Over/Under 5.5.

And why does Miami Beach need to sponsor a bowl? Are they really having trouble getting people to visit?

Also, I’m curious what BYU is up to here. They used to go to Vegas almost every year for their bowl, now they’re heading to Miami Beach. Do they think the other team will give in to temptation and suffer on the field for it? It’s certainly worked in the past. From 2005-2009, BYU played in five straight Las Vegas Bowl games and won three of them. They’re 6-2 in their past eight bowl games and that is as much research/analysis as I care to conduct for this matchup.

Boca Raton Bowl
Marshall (12-1) vs Northern Illinois (11-2)
6:00 PM, December 23, Boca Raton, FL

From wikipedia: “According to Forbes, Boca Raton has three of the ten most expensive gated communities in the U.S. The Royal Palm Yacht and Country Club holds the #1 spot, The Sanctuary takes #6, and Le Lac takes the #8 spot.”

It must suck to live in Le Lac and have to take all that crap from Royal Palm and Sanctuary folks.

You may notice the records of these two teams are actually quite good. Marshall is your Conference-USA champion while Northern Illinois took the crown in the MAC. Marshall was undefeated (against nobody) going into their regular season finale against Western Kentucky. They found themselves down 49-42 at the half (good defense). After outscoring the Hilltoppers 17-10 in the second half (boring), the Thundering Herd forced overtime tied at 59. Marshall got the ball first and scored a TD immediately. The Hilltoppers responded with a TD of their own. Western Kentucky had pre-determined that if they scored the TD they would go for two (good call). They got it and handed Marshall their only defeat of the season.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Navy (7-5) vs San Diego State (7-5)
9:30 PM, December 23, San Diego, CA

I’ll admit the Poinsettia Bowl holds a special place in my heart. It kicked off the FBS portion of my first ever bowl preview (sent via email, but copied to this site) in 2006. Last year, it managed to find itself between Christmas and New Year’s, which is quite the accomplishment.

Given the two teams playing and the geographical location, this game should have a decent crowd two days before Christmas. I’m not sure how entertained they’ll be, but they’ll be a bunch of them there.

Popeyes Bahamas Bowl
Central Michigan (7-5) vs Western Kentucky (7-5)
Noon, December 24, Nassau, Bahamas

Coach: “Well, guys, I’ve got some good news, some bad news, and some more good news.”

Players: “What is it, coach?”

Coach: “Well, the good news is that we’re in a bowl game.”

Players: “Sweet, when is it?”

Coach: “Christmas Eve.”

Players: “Damn. Did you say something about having more good news?”

Coach: “The game is in the Bahamas and it’s sponsored by Popeyes”

Players: /commence celebratory riot

Hawai’i Bowl
Fresno State (6-7) vs Rice (7-5)
8:00 PM, December 24, Honolulu, HI

At least when they drag these crappy teams into crappy games on Christmas Eve they do it in really nice locales. Can you imagine playing on Christmas Eve in Boise, ID? Would your family even come to see you at the game or just tell you they’ll see you whenever you get back for Christmas?

Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl
Illinois (6-6) vs Louisiana Tech (8-5)
1:00 PM, December 26, Dallas, TX

Welcome to the post-Christmas bowl season where things really get heated up with matchups like thi-OH COME ON! Illinois??? This team is terrible.

(Full disclosure: I went to Illinois for my Master’s degree. So, I quasi-watch their athletics and semi-root for them to succeed. This is still awful.)

Let me tell you about the wonderful Illini football season:

Week 1: Trail to Youngstown State 9-7 after three quarters and 17-14 with under 10 minutes to go in the game. They eventually find their way and win 28-17 over a mediocre FCS school that ended up firing their coach (and somehow hiring Youngstown native Bo Pelini.)

Week 2: Once again trail their opponent (Western Kentucky) at home going into the 4th quarter before finding a way to score a couple TDs and put them away, 42-34.

Week 3: Get trounced on the road against Washington, 44-19.

Week 4: Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but they were trailing at home against a non-power conference school (Texas State) headed into the 4th quarter, but managed a couple scores in the final frame to put the game away 42-35.

Weeks 5-7: Lose their first three Big Ten games, including a 38-27 loss at home to Purdue. PUR-FREAKIN-DUE. Here are Purdue’s wins this year: Western Michigan, Southern Illinois, @ Illinois. That’s it.

Week 9: Somehow beat Minnesota at home 28-24. Seriously, Minnesota? I blame you for this bowl game.

Weeks 10-11: BBQs at Ohio State and at home against Iowa.

Weeks 12-13: Squeak out a come-from-behind win against a wretched Penn State team and then go on the road to defeat a worse Northwestern team.

Six wins. Bowl eligible. And Tim Beckman, the head coach, whose brother likes to frequent the Avon Lake, OH Buffalo Wild Wings to watch Illinois games, gets to keep his job. He was absolutely dead in the water after losing to Purdue at home. Winning three of your last five to slither into a bowl game apparently saves your job.

I’d like to let this go. I probably should’ve stopped several paragraphs ago, but I can’t. Here are Illinois’ FBS rankings courtesy of ESPN:

Passing yards/gm (243.2) – 52nd overall
Rushing yards/gm (117.1) – 114th overall (out of 120 FBS schools)
Points scored/gm (26.6) – 83rd overall
Points allowed/gm (33.9) – 108th overall

So, all this said, Illinois will probably beat Louisiana Tech because of course they will.

Quick Lane Bowl
Rutgers (7-5) vs North Carolina (6-6)
4:30 PM, December 26, Detroit, MI

You may think of this as a re-named Motor City/Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, but, actually, this is considered a brand new bowl game. This marks the fourth new bowl game so far this year. I’m starting to think these bowl games may be more work than they’re worth if they keep changing sponsors or just flat-out folding. Ford Motor Company is the true sponsor of this bowl, but will use their auto shop, Quick Lane, in the title. Does Darren Rovell think this is good for their brand?


Hey Darren, blink infinity times if you like this branding approach by Ford.

Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl
NC State (7-5) vs UCF (9-3)
8:00 PM, December 26, St. Petersburg, FL

Muscle memory forces me to throw an ‘h’ at the end of St. Petersburg each time I type it. I’ve been living in Pittsburgh too long and UCF won eight of their last nine. That’s all I got.

Military Bowl presented by Northrup Grumman
Cincinnati (9-3) vs Virginia Tech (6-6)
1:00 PM, December 27, Annapolis, MD

The Saturday before Thanksgiving, Virginia Tech went into Wake Forest and lost 6-3 in double overtime. I’ll wait a second while you use logical deduction to understand what happened in that game… You got it? Yes, they went into overtime tied at zero.

Watch this game at your own peril.

Hyundai Sun Bowl
#15 Arizona State (9-3) vs Duke (9-3)
2:00 PM, December 27, El Paso, TX

Duke was 8-1 and staring at aforementioned Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and Wake Forest coming into Duke for the last three games. They lost a tight one to Va Tech and then got smoked by North Carolina before beating Wake to end the season. Had they won the last three games, they would’ve played Florida State in the ACC Championship game. Remember, we’re talking about Duke football, not basketball.

Arizona State also controlled their own destiny (which isn’t possible by the strict definition of the word “destiny,” but I digress) to their conference championship game before somehow losing to Oregon State on the road. Still, had they beaten Arizona on the road in the regular season finale, they would’ve played in the title game (and likely gotten smoked by Oregon).

So, maybe this game could be good?

Duck Commander Independence Bowl
Miami (6-6) vs South Carolina (6-6)
3:30 PM, December 27, Shreveport, LA

This new sponsor is exactly what you think it is – duck calls from the company owned by the Duck Dynasty dudes. Perhaps it’s fitting they sponsor the Independence Bowl. After all, the independence in this great nation allowed them to start a duck call business that grew into a hit reality TV show, bringing them millions of dollars and allowing them to purchase the naming rights to a college bowl game.

The other great thing about independence? You are free to not watch this game.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Boston College (7-5) vs Penn State (6-6)
4:30 PM, December 27, Bronx, NY

Penn State is 120th (out of 120 FBS programs) in rushing yardage per game (103.6) according to Ki-Jana Carter must be rolling over in his grave. By contrast, BC ranks 15th in the nation in rushing (251.8). Both teams have good defenses, giving up an average of less than 21 points per game. This has all the makings of a 9-7 affair. So, take the over.

National University Holiday Bowl
Nebraska (9-3) vs #24 USC (8-4)
8:00 PM, December 27, San Diego, CA

Does Nebraska know it’s Nebraska? I understand Tom Osborne was a great coach. His last five years there were incredible by any standard (60-3, three undefeated seasons each with a national championship), but that ended in 1997. Frank Solich took over and went 58-19 over six seasons and was promptly fired. The Bill Callahan experiment did not go well. Then came Bo Pelini. The man seems like the personification of “jerk,” but he was 66-27 over seven seasons at the helm before being fired earlier this year.

Now, Nebraska has hired Mike Riley, who will turn 62 before next season and has never lost fewer than four games in any season as a head coach (something Pelini’s critics brought up about him).

You really think Mike Riley is going to start bringing in kids from all over the country to Lincoln, NE? Have you ever been to Lincoln, NE? I understand they sell out every game and it has a wonderful history, but it’s still Lincoln, NE.

Now, USC… you could get a robot for a coach and still recruit like crazy.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Texas A&M (7-5) vs West Virginia (7-5)
2:00 PM, December 29, Memphis, TN

We could be getting closer to a point where I’ll actually comment on this game. As some lazy sports journalists might say… HMMMMMMMM.

Russell Athletic Bowl
Oklahoma (8-4) vs #17 Clemson (9-3)
5:30 PM, December 29, Orlando, FL

This game seems like it should be good, but I can’t find anything interesting to say about it. It’s sort of like Russell Athletic. You’ve heard of it, but it doesn’t really grab your attention.

AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl
Arkansas (6-6) vs Texas (6-6)
9:00 PM, December 29, Houston, TX

Arkansas would have a much better record if they played in the ACC, Big Ten, or Big 12. Their SEC schedule was just brutal. Here are the national rankings of their SEC opponents at the time they played them:

6th, 6th, 7th, 10th, 1st, 17th, 8th, and 17th – no SEC opponent was unranked at the time they played them.

Every other team in their division (SEC-West) but Texas A&M finished in the top-25. Only two teams in the East division finished in the top-25 and Arkansas played them both. No Vanderbilt, Kentucky, or Tennessee for Arkansas this year. Arkansas managed to shutout LSU and Ole Miss in back-to-back weeks near the end of the season, making them bowl eligible.

Texas, on the other hand, couldn’t beat any decent opponent they faced. So, if Bret Bielema doesn’t sleep through the holiday, Arkansas should be able to win this one.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Notre Dame (7-5) vs #23 LSU (8-4)
3:00 PM, December 30, Nashville, TN

Notre Dame lost their last four games (and five of their last six), including home losses to Northwestern and Louisville. (That’s not good.) The opposition has scored at least 31 points in their last seven games. LSU has one of the better defenses in the country, so this looks like another SEC romp.

Belk Bowl
#13 Georgia (9-3) vs #21 Louisville (9-3)
6:30 PM, December 30, Charlotte, NC

I think this is the shortest-named bowl game, which is a poor way to market a game if it’s not well known. People still remember the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl because of its ridiculously long name.

I also think this is a pretty good matchup for two days before New Year’s, but it seems like that’s about to become the norm as we’ll learn shortly.

Foster Farms Bowl
Maryland (7-5) vs Stanford (7-5)
10:00 PM, December 30, Santa Clara, CA

There have been a couple of changes with this bowl. First, the sponsor has changed. Two years ago it was the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Last year it was simply the Fight Hunger Bowl. It appears we’re done fighting hunger and Foster Farms is here for all our poultry needs.

This game has also moved from AT&T Park in San Francisco to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. The 49ers would have you believe these cities are neighbors when in fact Santa Clara is about a 50 min drive from San Francisco without traffic (which probably never happens).

This is obviously a massive home field advantage for Stanford. More importantly, the game starts at 10:00 PM EST and features two barely-above-.500 schools. So, I imagine ratings in the central and eastern US will be rather poor.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
#9 Ole Miss (9-3) vs #6 TCU (11-1)
12:30 PM, December 31, Atlanta, GA

All right, folks, get the New Year’s Eve party started early because three of the six “big bowls” are played in 2014.

I went pretty in-depth explaining the new playoff/bowl system in last year’s bowl preview, so I won’t go into great detail here. Just remember there are now six major bowls (unlike four during the BCS years). The Peach Bowl no longer has tie-ins to any conference, so the playoff selection committee can matchup whichever teams they want of the highest ranked, non-playoff teams.

The committee strives to provide the best matchup while also considering geography relative to the two teams. It’s interesting that TCU is playing Ole Miss and not #7 Mississippi State. I haven’t paid all that much attention to the playoff selection committee, but it’s my understanding there are former coaches/analysts with them on Saturday breaking down the games. I’m guessing these people helped steer the Ole Miss/TCU matchup. Ole Miss has arguably the best defense in the country while TCU has arguably the best offense. (TCU still has a pretty good defense as well.) Perhaps that’s what they were looking at when creating this matchup.

Of course, TCU probably believes they should be in the playoff. Their lone defeat was a 3-point loss on the road at Baylor. However, they could’ve/should’ve lost to West Virginia in Morgantown and somehow allowed a terrible Kansas team to hang around all game, defeating them by only four points. This, combined with the Big 12 having only ten teams and, thus, not having a championship game, is what kept TCU out of the playoff.

VIZIO Fiesta Bowl
#20 Boise State (11-2) vs #10 Arizona (10-3)
4:00 PM, December 31, Glendale, AZ

The playoff selection committee must select a team from the “Group of Five” non-power conferences (AAC, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt). Boise State is the selection this year. It’s possible Marshall would’ve been selected had they completed their undefeated season, but Boise State’s experience in BCS games is definitely a plus.

Arizona is coached by Rich Rodriguez – the much-maligned former Michigan coach. In three years at Arizona, he’s 26-13 with two bowl game victories. His team made the Pac-12 championship game this year for the first time and handed playoff-bound Oregon their only loss this year (at Oregon). Not a bad rebound for old Rich-Rod.

The Fiesta Bowl, like the Peach Bowl, no longer has any conference tie-ins. It appears geography played a big role here as both teams are located in the West.

Capital One Orange Bowl
#7 Mississippi State (10-2) vs #12 Georgia Tech (10-3)
8:00 PM, December 31, Miami Gardens, FL

This game could push the envelope on the NYC ball drop. These bigger bowl games have long halftimes and the clock stops much more frequently in college football when compared to the pros. The good news is that both teams run the ball (GEORGIA TECH TRIPLE OPTION ALERT), so that should help move the clock.

Ideally this game finishes about 11:50. Then you can tune into CNN and watch Kathy Griffin make Anderson Cooper uncomfortable for a few minutes before counting down to the New Year, having a brief, half-tired celebration, and crashing for the night.

You gotta rest up – five more bowl games on New Year’s Day.

Outback Bowl
#19 Auburn (8-4) vs #18 Wisconsin (10-3)
Noon, January 1, 2015, Tampa, FL

In their last game, each team allowed the opposition to score over 50 points. At least Auburn scored 44 in their game. Wisconsin managed a Blutarsky – zero point zero.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
#8 Michigan State (10-2) vs #5 Baylor (11-1)
12:30 PM, January 1, Arlington, TX

This should be renamed the Dichotomy Bowl given the matchup. Michigan State plays classic Big Ten football – a balanced attack between power running and play-action passing along with good defense. Baylor tries to score as quickly as they can and hopes to wear down their opponent by the end of the game. The bad news for Michigan State is that their two losses came against top-5 offenses in Oregon and Ohio State. And Baylor’s offense is probably better.

The good news for Michigan State is that Baylor’s defense is decidedly worse than both Oregon and Ohio State. So, if they can methodically score some points and get a couple of stops, they can pull this game out.

As has been the case for the last several years, despite being named the Cotton Bowl, this game will be played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. This will also be the site of the national championship game later in January. It appears to be quite the advantage for Baylor, but their enrollment is only a third of Michigan State’s. So, don’t be surprised to see a strong contingent from Spartan Nation.

(Is Spartan Nation really a thing? Probably not, but every team uses “Nation” now, so I guess it works.)

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
#16 Missouri (10-3) vs #25 Minnesota (8-4)
1:00 PM, January 1, Orlando, FL

As mentioned earlier, Minnesota lost to Illinois. Missouri managed to lose to Indiana. Can both teams forfeit? Because they should out of shame.

Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual
College Football Playoff Semifinal
#2 Oregon (12-1) vs #3 Florida State (13-0)
5:00 PM, January 1, Pasadena, CA

Yes, it’s a semifinal game for the National Championship, but it’s still considered the Rose Bowl Game. The two semifinal games will rotate between pairs of the six “major bowls” for however long this playoff format is around.

Florida State’s “struggles” have been well-documented. They manage to keep a lot of games closer than necessary, but still manage to pull out wins. Here are their last four wins:

30-26 @ Miami
20-17 vs Boston College
24-19 vs Florida
37-35 vs #11 Georgia Tech (ACC Championship Game in Charlotte, NC)

This is why, despite being undefeated, Florida State is ranked #3. College football rankings are just as much beauty pageants as they are about wins and losses. To its credit, Florida State only played one true cupcake – the Citadel – while their other out-of-conference games were Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, and Florida (all playing bowl games).

Florida State has not lost a game since November 24, 2012 against Florida. Remember when I reviewed Tom Osborne’s record above? Jimbo Fisher is challenging it at Florida State. (Of course, if Florida State were to win the national championship in back-to-back undefeated years, it would arguably be more impressive in a BCS/Playoff era rather than the old bowl game tie-in era Osborne coached in.)

I know people tend to focus on Oregon’s uniforms, but this is a really good team, especially when you consider they lost their head coach to the NFL two years ago. Yes, they “slid” to 11-2 last season during Mark Helfrich’s first season and missed out on a BCS game. One year later, they’re #2 in the country with a Heisman trophy-winning QB who appears destined to be the first QB off the board in the 2015 NFL draft. (And, since he won the Heisman, will probably flop in the NFL.)

Should be a good game, but there’s a chance Oregon runs them out of the Rose Bowl given they should have something of a home field advantage on the West Coast.

Allstate Sugar Bowl
College Football Playoff Semifinal
#1 Alabama (12-1) vs #4 Ohio State (12-1)
8:30 PM, January 1, New Orleans, LA

Another game that should be very good, but like the previous game, one team may have a home field advantage given geography.

Coaches will be the focus of this game as Nick Saban and Urban Meyer are two of the most prominent coaches in college football right now. On the field, it will be Meyer’s offense against Saban’s defense that will likely decide the outcome. You have to think Saban has an advantage here as Meyer will be forced to go to his 3rd-string QB once again. Granted, that 3rd string QB led Ohio State to their most decisive victory of the season in the Big Ten Championship Game and now the Buckeyes have nearly a month to prepare for the Crimson Tide.

So, yeah, like I said, it should be a good game. Best wishes to those in the eastern time zone seeing the end of this game. You know it’s not going to start at exactly 8:30, and, as noted above, these halftime shows are longer in the bigger bowl games. I’ll set the over/under for the finishing time at 12:23 AM.

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Houston (7-5) vs Pittsburgh (6-6)
Noon, January 2, Fort Worth, TX

There are four games on January 2. This is one of them.

TaxSlayer Bowl
Iowa (7-5) vs Tennessee (6-6)
3:20 PM, January 2, Jacksonville, FL

I was stunned to learn these teams were bowl eligible. How is this even possible? (Here’s a hint: their wins came against really bad teams.)

Valero Alamo Bowl
#11 Kansas State (9-3) vs #14 UCLA (9-3)
6:45 PM, January 2, San Antonio, TX

Ooooh, look at that. It’s a real bowl game!

If you’re not aware of how TV-driven this bowl season is, just look at the starting times of each game on ESPN – about 3 hours and 15-25 minutes apart. ESPN just wants to roll from one game to the next, having only to stop at the studio during halftime and for a couple minutes between games.

TicketCity Cactus Bowl
Washington (8-5) vs Oklahoma State (6-6)
10:00 PM, January 2, Tempe, AZ

Buffalo Wild Wings moved on up to the Citrus bowl, leaving this game without a sponsor. TicketCity stepped up and answered the call.


Seriously, sponsoring a bowl game is like sentencing yourself to nearly certain death. (Except you San Diego County Credit Union. I heart you.)

Birmingham Bowl
East Carolina (8-4) vs Florida (6-5)
Noon, January 3, Birmingham, AL

It appears Florida only played 11 games this year. I’m not sure why and I’m not going to bother looking for an explanation.

This is the annual “Let’s kill some time before the NFL Wild Card round begins” game.

GoDaddy Bowl
Toledo (8-4) vs Arkansas State (7-5)
9:00 PM, January 4, Mobile, AL

This is going to be hard to believe, but there’s actually a storyline with this game. It has nothing to do with the action on the field, but still – a story!

Apparently some guy led a point shaving/gambling ring through players at the University of Toledo. He finally pled guilty to it this past month. Blah, blah, blah… here’s the relevant part:

[Quinton] Broussard admitted in court in 2011 that he purposely fumbled the ball in the 2005 GMAC Bowl for $500 from Manni [kingpin of this operation], though the Rockets went on to win the game 45-13.

Anybody know what the GMAC Bowl is now called? You guessed it – the GoDaddy Bowl. And Toledo is playing in the game! This almost makes it interesting!

College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T
8:30 PM, January 12, Arlington, TX

I see the championship game is doing their best to rival the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl in the long-winded name of games category.

So this playoff is going to eight teams sooner rather than later, right? There are six major bowls under their umbrella. Thus, four bowls could host the quarterfinal games, while the remaining two host the semifinal games and the national championship follows just as it does now. It’s really not that hard to imagine.

Since there’s a playoff, the championship game is not simply the Monday after New Year’s anymore. Instead, it’s 11 days later. Good luck remembering there is a national championship game on January 12. Of course, if you subject yourself to ESPN programming, I’m sure they will gladly remind you.


Happy Bowling!

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