Big Bowl Preview X

AN-CURE-BOWL_SHIELD-SM-GL2Ten. I’ve now done this ten straight years. It started as a long-form email and has evolved to something a whole dozen people anticipate annually.

The first time I did this, it was merely to kill time at work. It was a typical Friday afternoon with nothing much to do as the year was winding down. I just typed up a quick email (it took several hours) and sent it out with a list of all the bowl games. Enough people enjoyed it and/or passed it along that I just kept doing it.

This may be the closest I’ve come to not doing it since then. There was that time back in 2008 where a nearly cross-country move in December stopped me. I ended up doing it in two parts, which I’ve vowed to never do again – mostly because I don’t want to make more than one post. This year the birth of child #2 (“the deuce”) has resulted in some busier times in the bowl preview household.

But, screw it. These things can pretty much take care of themselves anyway, right? Crying = happiness, amirite? Plus, there are a record number of bowl games this year. Can’t quit now!

As always, any predictions should be taken as fact. I mean it’s not like you’re going to do any research yourself, so you may as well use this preview as your sole gambling guide.

(All times EST. All rankings based off the final college football playoffs rankings made by some people sitting in a hotel conference room.)

Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl
Mount Union (14-0) vs. St. Thomas (14-0)
7:00 PM, December 18, Salem, VA
ESPNU

Mount has made the game for the 11th straight season. St. Thomas appeared one other time – three years ago when they lost to Mount 28-10. Wisconsin-Whitewater has appeared every other year of this bowl preview, but they lost to Mount in the semifinals this year after losing their head coach to an FBS school following last year’s Stagg Bowl victory.

Both teams average more than 50 points per game while allowing under 10, which means both teams are used to blowing out their opponent. This is just another reminder that Division III football lacks parity.

Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl
North Carolina A&T (9-2) vs. Alcorn State (9-3)
Noon, December 19, Atlanta, GA
ABC

We’re still not to the FBS bowl games. These two teams are FCS schools from the MEAC and SWAC, respectively – two conferences made up of HBCUs. ESPN has created this event for reasons I couldn’t easily discover so I don’t care. These teams are their respective conferences champion, so I assume they are bypassing the FCS playoffs to play in this game? Honestly, I have no idea how the FCS playoffs work – I just know they’re actual playoffs with a bracket and everything. I assumed it is fair enough to allow all conference champions in the tournament, but perhaps I’m wrong. This is something else I don’t care to look up.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Arizona (6-6) vs. New Mexico (7-5)
2:00 PM, December 19, Albuquerque, NM
ESPN

Say what you want about the previous two non-FBS bowl games, but at least those teams had good regular/post seasons and earned their way to an extra game. These two teams are garbage. Arizona was 5-2 before losing 4 out of 5 to end the year. (RICH ROD!!) New Mexico’s win over Boise State would be sweet if it was 2008. The good news for the Lobos? They’re playing a home game. Literally. It’s their stadium.

This is the first of five FBS bowl games on December 19, some of which will actually overlap. The late games will also overlap with an NFL game. Two of the games won’t be on ESPN.

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
BYU (9-3) vs. #22 Utah (9-3)
3:30 PM, December 19, Whitney, NV
ABC

An inter-state rivalry between two decent teams not far from home should make for a good game considering we’re still in December and the date ends in “teen.” The BYU Vegas Theorem has been tested four times since the inception of this bowl preview and has been proven true three out of four times, including in 2010 when BYU drubbed Utah 26-3. Utah did win this game last year, so perhaps they’ve learned how to handle Sin City, although I can’t imagine they’re in BYU’s class.

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
Ohio (8-4) vs. Appalachian State (10-2)
5:30 PM, December 19, Montgomery, AL
ESPN

Did you know Appalachian State was an FBS school? I sure as hell didn’t. Apparently they’re in their second year in the FBS as a member of the Sun Belt Conference. Their only two losses this year came against Sun Belt champion Arkansas State and the only undefeated team in FBS play – Clemson. So, they seem to be adapting well.

HOWEVA… App State has yet to face #MACtion since entering the FBS. They may be in for a rude awakening when the Bobcats come calling. (Or not. #MACtion takes on many forms.)

AutoNation Cure Bowl
San Jose State (5-7) vs. Georgia State (6-6)
7:00 PM, December 19, Orlando, FL
CBS Sports Network

New Bowl Alert!! AutoNation sells cars. Proceeds from the bowl will be donated to help find a cure for breast cancer. Kind of hard to find an easy way to make fun of this new bowl game.

I believe there are 40 FBS bowl games this year. I could count them, but I honestly do not care that much. Point being, when you have 40 bowl games, you need 80 teams with .500 records or better to fill them. Alas, the FBS contingent came up with only 77 teams meeting this criteria, so we’re going to have to take some 5-7 squads. (SPOILER ALERT: The other two 5-7 teams won’t appear until after Christmas!)

I’m sure CBS is just thrilled that the one bowl game televised by their struggling sports network is between these two garbage teams. I’m sure they’re even more thrilled that ESPN will be televising bowl games before and after this one, which will likely prevent the average sports fan from bothering to find CBSSN on their cable/satellite provider.

(That said, I have concocted this hilarious scene in my head in which one die hard Georgia State fan calls up DISH demanding to know where CBSSN is on their package.)

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Louisiana Tech (8-4) vs. Arkansas State (9-3)
9:00 PM, December 19, New Orleans, LA
ESPN

This makes three straight bowl games featuring(?) teams from the Sun Belt Conference. Tis a glorious day, indeed. For the record, the Jets will be playing the Cowboys during this time if you would like to watch professional athletes play the game. FUN FACT: If either QB attempts 34 or more passes in this game (possible!), they will have attempted more passes in this game than Matt Cassel did his entire collegiate career.

Of course, Cassel gets the last laugh. He’s earned nearly $60 million in the NFL.

Miami Beach Bowl
Western Kentucky (11-2) vs. South Florida (8-4)
2:30 PM, December 21, Miami, FL
ESPN

ESPN Programming guy: “Hey, you know what would really get people fired up for a Monday Night Football game between two hopeless teams?”

That guy’s boss: “What?”

ESPN Programming guy: “Another bowl game between two non-Power Five schools!”

That guy’s boss: “You’re fired… along with 299 of your co-workers.”

Guy: “Uhh… what?”

Boss: “Yeah… you know, budget cuts and all. Gotta make ends meet. Money doesn’t grow on trees.”

Guy: “I thought Disney did grow money trees.”

Boss: “Well, yeah, but we’ve run out of land to grow them, so…”

Guy: “OK… Well, tell me you’re at least moving on from First (HOT) Take(s) and Stephen A./Skip.”

Boss: “No, but we are gonna dump Grantland.”

Guy: /joins ISIS

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Akron (7-5) vs. Utah State (6-6)
3:30 PM, December 22, Boise, ID
ESPN

The weather is setting up to be quite nice in the eastern half of the US during the bowl game season, so the chance of a snow game is probably confined to some place in the west like, say, Boise, Idaho. I’m not saying it’s going to snow for this game. I’m just saying that’s probably the only way I’m going to watch it.

Marmot Boca Raton Bowl
Toledo (9-2) vs. #24 Temple (10-3)
7:00 PM, December 22, Boca Raton, FL
ESPN

You’re probably wondering why Toledo only played 11 games. Or you never actually noticed. Or you noticed and really don’t care. Anyway, Toledo kicked off their season against (powerhouse) Stony Brook at home. The first half featured three hours worth of weather delays thanks to lightning in the area. The teams were about to kickoff the third quarter shortly after MIDNIGHT when more weather moved in and forced the complete cancellation of the game. Toledo was winning 16-7 at the half, but all stats were erased.

(That’s two straight games where I mentioned weather. I’m not dead yet.)

Temple made things interesting when they opened 7-0 before facing Notre Dame at home. A win would’ve put them in the discussion for the playoff, but they lost a close one late. Two weeks later they were unexpectedly smoked by South Florida. A loss in the AAC championship game against Houston ultimately ended their bid for a New Year’s Six bowl game. So, instead, they get to go to Boca Raton on a Tuesday evening. They’re probably really jazzed about this game.

I’m pretty sure Marmot makes outdoor gear, but I’m going to pretend this game is sponsored by large squirrels.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Boise State (8-4) vs. Northern Illinois (8-5)
4:30 PM, December 23, San Diego, CA
ESPN

Remember when these two teams would make BCS bowls? Well, those days are gone and now they’re playing each other in the SDCCU Poinsettia Bowl.

GoDaddy Bowl
Bowling Green (10-3) vs. Georgia Southern (8-4)
8:00 PM, December 23, Mobile, AL
ESPN

I’m guessing Georgia Southern came in with App State two years ago. It appears the Sun Belt Conference is a team’s way into FBS play. Georgia Southern actually won the conference last year but was ineligible for a bowl game because the NCAA is probably the worst organization in all of sport. Well, maybe after FIFA.

Popeyes Bahamas Bowl
Western Michigan (7-5) vs. Middle Tennessee (7-5)
Noon, December 24, Nassau, Bahamas
ESPN

This completes five straight bowl games featuring #MACtion. Western Michigan beat a ranked Toledo team (#24) the last week of the season to get to 7-5. Middle Tennessee won four straight to finish the season. My question is, how well can these coaches and ADs predict where there team might go for a bowl game? Do you think coaches were putting up pictures of the Bahamas during the last weeks of the season in an effort to motivate these kids to play? These kids are walking around places like Kalamazoo, MI and Murfreesboro, TN. I have to think Nassau in December looks pretty good.

Hawai’i Bowl
Cincinnati (7-5) vs. San Diego State (10-3)
8:00 PM, December 24, Honolulu, HI
ESPN

On the other hand, San Diego State kids… you’re already in San Diego. Do you really need Hawai’i? Of course, SDSU went undefeated in conference play and won their conference championship game. So, if they want this game, they should get it.

I have to ask… who’s watching this game? I know not everyone celebrates Christmas, but a heck of a lot of people do. To the point where the TV ratings for this have to be awful. (Granted, the TV ratings for anything on Christmas Eve/Day have to be bad.) I can understand the game being on in the background, but who is sitting down and watching even 50% of the snaps? You’d have to be an alum of one of the schools or a recluse, right?

St. Petersburg Bowl
Connecticut (6-6) vs. Marshall (9-3)
11:00 AM, December 26, St. Petersburg, FL
ESPN

This is the annual game held in the dump that is Tropicana Field. So, I suppose it’s fitting we have these two nondescript teams. Again, the weather looks rather nice across the eastern US around Christmas (keeping in mind I’m typing this more than a week in advance), so finding something else to do with your time shouldn’t be difficult.

Hyundai Sun Bowl
Miami (8-4) vs. Washington State (8-4)
2:00 PM, December 26, El Paso, TX
CBS

Washington State began the year by losing to an FCS school (Portland State, if you’re curious). This should automatically disqualify you from postseason play.

However, disqualifying WSU from postseason play would mean disqualifying Mike Leach from additional press conferences, and America can’t have that. This man is a gem. Here’s Leach on his favorite fast food place:

“The Mexican places that are right next to car washes and stuff are off the charts. Those are the best. The Mexican food at the trucks and the parks are off the charts,” said Leach. ” Jimmy Johns would be the one. Pretty good for you, good stuff. I get the Turkey.”

Taco trucks and Jimmy Johns for all.

Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl
Washington (6-6) vs. Southern Miss (9-4)
2:20 PM, December 26, Dallas, TX
ESPN

I’m trying to find something interesting to write about this game, but there is literally nothing. Southern Miss should be allowed to bring back Favre just to make it watchable.

There. I wrote something.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Duke (7-5) vs. Indiana (6-6)
3:30 PM, December 26, Bronx, NY
ABC

This could be a good game if the schools’ basketball teams were playing each other. Actually, I have no idea if that’s true in the present day as my college basketball viewing has dwindled to checking scores of just a few teams. But, historically, these are basketball schools.

I wonder if Duke would be in El Paso instead of NYC had they not been screwed by the refs (including those in the replay booth) against Miami. The video of the play is below. The Miami runner is down prior to lateraling at 00:22 and there is a clear block in the back at the 15 yard-line at 00:35.

The best part of that video comes after the first lateral when the announcer exclaims, “THEY PRACTICED THAT ON WEDNESDAY!!!” Oh, well then it should definitely work – as long as the refs aren’t watching at all.

But, again, had Duke rightly won the game, they would be 8-4 and Miami would be 7-5. Would that mean Duke and Miami would swap bowl games putting Duke in El Paso? If so, then I would say Duke won in the end.

Camping World Independence Bowl
Virginia Tech (6-6) vs. Tulsa (6-6)
5:45 PM, December 26, Shreveport, LA
ESPN

I made the mistake of visiting the Camping World web site. Obviously the matchup is terrible, so I thought I’d visit our new sponsor to read up on them. Let’s just say Camping World sells a lot more than tents and sleeping bags. For example, they sell portable satellite dishes so you never have to miss a moment of television while stupidly exploring the outdoors. It appears these dishes automatically adjust based on your location, which is baller. On a normal camping trip you’d be stuck without TV or internet and be forced to talk to other people. Camping World has the tools to resolve this personal hell.

You can also go ahead and buy an RV through Camping World because of course you can.

Foster Farms Bowl
Nebraska (5-7) vs. UCLA (8-4)
9:15 PM, December 26, Santa Clara, CA
ESPN

Ahh… another 5-7 team. This will be the first of two from the Big Ten with Fourteen Teams.

UCLA’s quarterback is Josh Rosen, who is apparently the golden child of QBs in college football. He’s only a freshman, but he started every game this year and was used heavily. In 12 games, he attempted 447 passes – good for an average of 37 per game. UCLA played five teams ranked in the top-25 at the time this year and won four of them, so it appears he can play well against good competition.

None of this is really important since he has at least two more years to either solidify his status as a top pick in the 2018 NFL draft or turn into hot garbage. What is important is that this kid put a hot tub in his dorm room…

The school has since removed it because it’s an obvious disaster waiting to happen. Something tells me Rosen will just go ahead and find some off-campus housing in the near future so he can bring it back. I just hope the apartment complex is wise enough to put him on the first floor.

Military Bowl
Pittsburgh (8-4) vs. #21 Navy (10-2)
2:30 PM, December 28, Annapolis, MD
ESPN

Navy QB Keenan Reynolds is the one reason to watch this game. He holds the NCAA Division I record for career rushing touchdowns (85) as part of Navy’s triple option attack. Reynolds finished 5th in the Heisman voting earlier this year – the highest finish by a service academy player since Roger Staubach won the award in 1963.

As with New Mexico, Navy gets a home game to end their season. Of course, it is the Military Bowl and Navy went 10-2 this year, so maybe they deserve it.

Quick Lane Bowl
Minnesota (5-7) vs. Central Michigan (7-5)
5:00 PM, December 28, Detroit, MI
ESPN2

Here’s our third and final 5-7 team. Let’s understand something – there are 127 FBS teams. 80 teams are required to fill the 40 bowl games. Thus, you’re bound to have to fill these games with some sub-.500 squads if you’re determined to play this many.

Apparently, the NCAA is going to re-examine the bowl schedule this offseason. That’s nice, except the NCAA has very little to do with these games. The bowls are largely run by the conferences and networks (primarily ESPN). The NCAA only helps with determining eligibility. I’m not sure the NCAA can stop new bowls from forming if they want to. I suppose they could set strict guidelines for bowl eligibility, thus forcing bowls to go dark if there aren’t enough teams to fill them, but that doesn’t seem like the wisest move.

People may tell you that bowl games were originally designed to reward teams for a good season and pit them against a team from another conference, but that’s a lie. Bowl games were developed for one reason – money. You aren’t going to get conferences, networks, communities, and sponsors to pony up cash just to “reward these teams for a good season.” They believe there is money to be made. This is why the bowl schedule has continued to expand.

There is also a competitive football aspect to bowl expansion. This isn’t to say the games themselves are meaningful in terms of their outcome, but you can be sure the coaches enjoy the extra weeks of practice. There’s also the exposure. You know damn well that Middle Tennessee coach is calling every recruit and saying, “HEY SON, WE’RE GOING TO THE BAHAMAS! THIS COULD BE YOU!” Anytime coaches or athletic departments believe another school has an advantage on them, they’re going to demand leveling the playing field, hence more bowl games.

I can think of two “solutions” to this supposed issue:

  1. Expand the playoffs to include at least 16 teams. This would necessitate at least 15 games to determine a champion. You can use existing bowls for most of these 15 games as is done under the current format. If you don’t make the playoffs, your season is over. No bowl game for you. (I suppose there could be secondary tournaments similar to what happens in collegiate men’s basketball. It provides an opportunity for postseason play without the reward of winning a championship. Secondary bowl games could be used for this.)
  2. Do nothing. Remove all eligibility restrictions. Let the bowl schedule expand until it reaches a tipping point and collapses upon itself. At some point the consumers will stop consuming the product and it will no longer be profitable for the parties involved. Stop thinking of bowl games as a reward for a good season and just think of it as an extra game against a team from another conference.

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
California (7-5) vs. Air Force (8-5)
2:00 PM, December 29, Fort Worth, TX
ESPN

Cal QB Jared Goff is supposedly going to be one of the first QBs taken in the NFL draft next year. I read a line somewhere that he has Jay Cutler-like talent. Let’s hope he doesn’t have Jay Cutler-like personality.

jay-cutler-dont-care

Russell Athletic Bowl
#10 North Carolina (11-2) vs. #17 Baylor (9-3)
5:30 PM, December 29, Orlando, FL
ESPN

Poor North Carolina. Down 8 with time running out in the ACC Championship Game, UNC had no choice but to attempt an onside kick. Miraculously, they managed to recover the kick and keep hope alive for a game-tying TD and two-point conversion. Just one, small issue… they were flagged for being offsides on the kick. Here’s the visual evidence:

What? You can’t see the UNC player offsides? That’s because there isn’t one. It was a terrible call and ultimately cost UNC the game. Now is probably a good time to remind you that Miami and Duke are also in the ACC. Those refs had quite the year, huh?

The conspiracy theorists were out immediately in full force. The main theory was the ACC wanted Clemson to win to ensure a team in the playoff. Forget the fact UNC still had to score a TD and two-point conversion to even tie the game. Let’s say they did, and let’s say UNC went on to win in OT. Were they really going to be held out of the playoff? UNC was #10 in the country playing an undefeated #1. It would’ve meant 12 straight wins for UNC and easily their best win of the season. Yes, they lost their first game of the season to South Carolina at home – a loss that looked pretty bad by the end of the season, but they were undefeated since then.

Sound familiar? It’s pretty much the same road Ohio State took last year. Yes, Ohio State trounced Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, but Wisconsin wasn’t an undefeated #1. The alternative would’ve been Pac-12 champion Stanford with two losses to unranked opponents.

Anyway, as stupid as all that was, it’s over. This Russell Athletic Bowl seems like the first legit bowl game of the season. It could actually be fun to watch even if it’s being played at 5:30 PM on a Tuesday. (Bang up scheduling job, ESPN!)

Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl
Colorado State (7-5) vs. Nevada (6-6)
7:30 PM, December 29, Tucson, AZ
CampusInsiders.com

Woo boy… this is the kind of bowl game made for this preview. Random sponsor? Check. Two terrible teams from the same conference? Discount double check. The game is televised almost exclusively on the internet? Triple threat check. I may live tweet this game – it’s so awesomely terrible!

I guess the Mountain West is super-duper mad about two of their schools facing off against one another. Really ruins the conference postseason records, which are totally meaningless but probably used by coaches in recruiting. I suppose it’s frustrating when three 5-7 teams make bowl games and your two eligible schools are basically forced to play each other.

According to Wikipedia, which is never wrong and desperately wants my money, this game has tie-ins with Conference USA and the Mountain West. The Sun Belt can even fill in if needed. The Mountain West finished with seven bowl-eligible teams, but only six tie-ins. So, I guess that’s how we get this matchup.

It’s so bad, it’s good.

AdvoCare Texas Bowl
Texas Tech (7-5) vs. #20 LSU (8-3)
9:00 PM, December 29, Houston, TX
ESPN

Yes, LSU, like Toledo, had their season opener canceled when weather delays mounted. I know you were wondering.

It’s been a strange year for LSU. They began the year 7-0 before losing to Alabama. Somehow that sparked rumors about Les Miles losing his job. Yes, he’s lost five straight to Alabama, including the 2011 BCS National Championship Game. If you can’t get past Bama, it’s going to be hard to win titles, but not many get past them.

LSU lost the following two games and the rumors about Miles exploded to the point where it started seeming like it was a foregone conclusion he was done.

Then, LSU beat Texas A&M at home to complete the season, the players carried Miles off the field, and LSU promptly declared he was still their coach for the next season. (Miles does have the top-ranked recruiting class according to somebody who ranks recruiting classes.) So why didn’t LSU squash the rumors earlier as they began to boil? Did they really decide to retain him because he won that last game?

Like I said, it’s been strange.

Birmingham Bowl
Auburn (6-6) vs. Memphis (9-3)
Noon, December 30, Birmingham, AL
ESPN

True fans of the bowl preview might recall the Birmingham Bowl has served as one of the bookends to NFL Wild Card weekend in previous years. (The GoDaddy bowl was the other.) Given NFL Wild Card weekend is January 9-10 this year, it appears the two bowls have been ushered back in with the pack. So, either way, no one will notice them.

Memphis started the year 8-0 and were ranked as high as #13 in the country. There was a lot of buzz about them potentially making the playoffs. Had they won out, it would’ve been a good argument, as they would’ve beaten Navy and Houston on their way to an undefeated season. Alas, Keenan Reynolds and the Midshipmen blasted Memphis out of the water and Houston followed them up with another defeat of the Tigers.

Memphis QB Paxton Lynch is another highly-respected prospect for next year’s NFL draft. It’s probably between him and Jared Goff for first QB selected. Lynch has thrown for 3670 yards, completed 69% of his passes (nice), and thrown 28 TDs to only 3 INTs. Those numbers are a little inflated thanks to SMU.

After losing their 3rd straight to Temple, Memphis played SMU at home in the season finale. I think Memphis was mad about the previous three games and SMU was looking to end their horrendous season. These polarizing approaches led to Memphis demolishing SMU 63-0, including a 56-0 lead at halftime. In that first half, Lynch completed nine total passes, seven of which went for TDs.

Belk Bowl
Mississippi State (8-4) vs. NC State (7-5)
3:30 PM, December 30, Charlotte, NC
ESPN

Maybe they can let Cam Newton play QB for both teams. That would at least make it interesting.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Texas A&M (8-4) vs. Louisville (7-5)
7:00 PM, December 30, Nashville, TN
ESPN

It’s Bad SEC Teams Day on ESPN!

Holiday Bowl
Wisconsin (9-3) vs. #25 USC (8-5)
10:30 PM, December 30, San Diego, CA
ESPN

You think LSU had a strange year? They have nothing on USC.

Steve Sarkisian began the year as USC’s head coach. I’m not sure he remembers that, but it’s true. Sark was asked to go home on October 11 after showing up to work intoxicated. There are additional reports alleging that Sark was intoxicated on the sidelines during past games. He was initially placed on an indefinite leave of absence. The next day, he was fired, which may come back to haunt USC a little bit. It’s not a good look when you seemingly look past your employee’s drug or alcohol problems and then kick him to the curb when it becomes a public issue.

The good news? Wisconsinites are coming to town with their steel livers and I’m sure they’ll be happy to remind the crowd of USC’s troubles earlier this year.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
#18 Houston (12-1) vs. #9 Florida State (10-2)
Noon, December 31, Atlanta, GA
ESPN

The New Year’s Six kicks off with a fun matchup. Houston’s only loss is a bad one – UConn. They managed to take care of Memphis, Navy, and Temple at the end of the season, but got tripped up at UConn – their only road game in their final six. Houston is coached by Tom Herman who served as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator and QB coach the previous few seasons, which includes their national championship run last year while playing a third string QB. It appears that wasn’t a fluke as he has Houston back in a big time bowl game in his first season in charge.

Florida State somehow lost to Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech lost nine of their final ten games with the one win being against FSU. Otherwise, Tech beat Alcorn State and Tulane. So this loss is basically unforgivable and yet FSU is in the top-10 in the nation. It should be noted that the loss to Tech ended on something of a fluke play, but it should’ve never been that close in the first place. Nonetheless, enjoy this…

You can tell the announcer put his head down thinking the play was over and had to regain form quickly as Tech was returning the ball. He seemed to have overshot his landing though, as he exclaimed, “WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE!”

Easy there, champ.

Capital One Orange Bowl
Playoff Semifinal Game
#1 Clemson (13-0) vs. #4 Oklahoma (11-1)
4:00 PM, December 31, Miami Gardens, FL
ESPN

You hadn’t seen that enough, right?

There was very little debate about the final four teams going into the selection show. The only question was seeding. I suspected the committee would matchup Clemson/Oklahoma and Alabama/Michigan State, and they did. This basically creates a New School Bowl and Old School Bowl with the winners facing off in the national championship game. Of course, that’s probably not why they’re matched up, but it sounds like a reason.

This should be an entertaining game. It will be interesting to see how the ratings compare to last year when ESPN set cable viewership records with each game that passed, culminating in the national championship game. Last year’s games were held on New Year’s Day – a day synonymous with college football and bowl games. These games will be held in the late afternoon and evening hours (in eastern time, of course) on New Year’s Eve. I’m not sure what, if any, effect this will have on ratings. Suffice it to say, if the ratings are similar or better, we can probably start talking about expanding the playoffs.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
Playoff Semifinal Game
#2 Alabama (12-1) vs. #3 Michigan State (12-1)
8:00 PM, December 31, Arlington, TX
ESPN

Michigan State probably shouldn’t be here…

If Michigan simply gets the punt off (or throws it to the wide open gunner at the top of the screen), Michigan State loses. Of course, had Michigan State lost that game, perhaps they would’ve been more focused against Nebraska and not allowed that game to come down to this…

(You know it’s a bad call when both radio announcers think the opposite of the officials.)

So maybe it all evened out, and now Michigan State, like Ohio State last year, will face the Alabama juggernaut in the playoffs. There’s no doubt Saban and the players who return remember what happened last year. I imagine they’ll be out for revenge in this game. That said, Mark Dantonio always seems to have his teams prepared. I would be a little surprised if this game was a blowout in either direction. Should be another good one.

Outback Bowl
#13 Northwestern (10-2) vs. #23 Tennessee (8-4)
Noon, January 1, 2016, Tampa, FL
ESPN2

Did anyone notice that Tennessee won eight games this year? Granted, they didn’t beat any teams that one would consider “good.” But, hey, eight wins!

Northwestern’s two losses are to Michigan and Iowa by a combined score of 78-10, which are the only two decent teams they played outside of beating Stanford in the opening week. (Yes, that’s a good win, but I think we’ve covered how much can change from Labor Day weekend to now.)

This is the Misleading Records Bowl.

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
#14 Michigan (9-3) vs. #19 Florida (10-3)
1:00 PM, January 1, Orlando, FL
ABC

Prior to that debacle against Michigan State, Michigan had shutout three straight opponents. It looked like Jim Harbaugh had gotten his players ahead of schedule in his first season (probably by screaming at them constantly). Even after that unfortunate loss, Michigan rebounded to win four straight before getting smoked by Ohio State at the end of season at home.

I don’t know what happened to Florida and I don’t care enough to dig into it. They were rolling along quite well and then apparently forgot how to score points. Here are their November games:

Vandy – W: 9-7
@ South Carolina – W: 24-14 (Remember Spurrier was long gone and probably turning through Amen Corner for the fourth or fifth time this Fall.)
FAU – W: 20-14 in OT
Florida State – L: 27-2

I believe both teams have first year coaches, which is too bad for Florida. Had Will Muschamp still been at Florida, ABC could’ve racked up some great footage of the two coaches just yelling and screaming. Even if the game was terrible (likely!) they’d at least get to show Harbaugh and Muschamp trying to out-lose-their-minds one another.

BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl
#8 Notre Dame (10-2) vs. #7 Ohio State (11-1)
1:00 PM, January 1, Glendale, AZ
ESPN

I’d write up a whole thing about BattleFrog, but someone already did it at SB Nation, and they’re probably better at writing. Basically, it’s the NASCAR of obstacle course races. Seriously, there’s apparently these races all over the country and BattleFrog is the series. At least that’s what I’ve been able to glean by doing very little research. On the plus side, their commercials might be enjoyable.

{Continues to pour one out for Tostitos – it was the perfect sponsor.}

As for the game itself, it should be a good one. Notre Dame’s two losses are to #1 Clemson and #6 Stanford – each by only two points. Ohio State’s only loss is to #3 Michigan State by three. So, these two teams could easily be in the playoffs. (Expansion, anyone?)

I do encourage a visit to the BattleFrog site, though. Make sure you put the sound on by clicking near the top-right of the page. There’s some sweet battle anthem music playing that will get you jacked to run one of these races before you go back to eating an unhealthy number of cookies this holiday season. They actually have races for kids that look awesome, mainly because it would totally exhaust the kids and you wouldn’t have to deal with them for like 18 hours after it was over.

I guess I did way more research than anticipated on BattleFrog. Dear Santa, please let their commercials be sweet.

Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual
#5 Iowa (12-1) vs. #6 Stanford (11-2)
4:30 PM, January 1, Pasadena, CA
ESPN

I just noticed there’s a link on the BattleFrog site for their TV spot. Let’s just hope that isn’t what they’re running on TV New Year’s Day.

This is another good game that will probably have people pining for at least eight teams in the playoff. The collective voices will probably be buoyed by the fact these games are played after the semifinal games. Last year, the semifinal games were the last of the New Year’s Six. It also helps that #5 through #8 are playing one another in these two games. It wasn’t as neatly stacked last year.

The hype for this game will focus on Christian McCaffrey – the leading rusher and receiver for the Cardinal. McCaffrey finished runner-up in the Heisman voting. He’s responsible for eight rushing TDs, four receiving TDs, and two passing TDs this season. He’s the son of a former NFL player. He’s an extremely talented skill position player who is also white. Bring a towel for when Brent Musburger’s drool begins to ooze through your TV. (Yes, Musburger is announcing the game. Here’s hoping Christian McCaffrey is single.)

Allstate Sugar Bowl
#12 Ole Miss (9-3) vs. #16 Oklahoma State (10-2)
8:00 PM, January 1, New Orleans, LA
ESPN

While a playoff expansion to eight teams is probably a good idea – and will likely happen at some point if the ratings keep up – it’s games like this that tell you we don’t need to go beyond an eight team playoff – at least not right now. Both of these teams had their shot and missed badly. Yes, #5 through #8 also had their chance, but the margins were much more slim and it’s hard to win them all.

Oklahoma State was undefeated going into the final two weeks with both games at home. They proceeded to surrender a combined 103 points to Baylor and Oklahoma in route to losing both games.

Ole Miss beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa. They were golden. They could lose a game and still be in the SEC Championship Game against Not Alabama. So, they lost to Florida two weeks later by 18 when Florida still knew how to play offense. Kind of early to take that loss, but they’re still in the pole position. Then, they lost to Memphis on the road by two scores. Not ideal, but that’s not a conference loss, so they’re still okay.

After wins against Texas A&M and Auburn, Ole Miss welcomed Arkansas in to town. I’m not sure if Ole Miss was looking ahead to LSU, but their normally respectable defense allowed 45 points to Arkansas in regulation. Thankfully, their offense was able to match them and get the game to overtime where Ole Miss scored a TD with their possession.

Arkansas got the ball for their possession and went backwards thanks to a penalty and a sack. The Razorbacks had 4th and 25. The game is pretty much sealed at this point. Just stop them from getting 25 yar….

(What that highlight doesn’t show you is that Arkansas failed on their first two point conversion attempt. However, a facemask penalty on Ole Miss gave them another try.)

Naturally, Ole Miss went on to defeat LSU and Mississippi State to finish out their season.

TaxSlayer Bowl
Penn State (7-5) vs. Georgia (9-3)
Noon, January 2, Jacksonville, FL
ESPN

Thanks to the way in which the calendar falls, January 2nd will be the last day for bowl games. Thank God.

Georgia was one of 24 FBS teams looking for a new coach in 2016. This is the strange thing about college football. In some sense, the job is more secure because you have to have the chance to recruit kids, get them in the building, and play with them before the school can decide to move on. On the other hand, if your program isn’t contending for, or winning, championships, they’ll move on from you eventually, no matter how much you win.

Mark Richt went 145-51 in his 15 years at Georgia, but he only had one one-loss season and never went undefeated, which meant he never played for a national championship. Apparently, he and the school mutually parted ways and the school indicated he may stick around in some capacity. A few days later, Richt was the coach at Miami.

You know the game is good when I spend this section talking about a coach who is no longer coaching for either team. Something tells me the announcers will be doing the same at some point.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Kansas State (6-6) vs. Arkansas (7-5)
3:20 PM, January 2, Memphis, TN
ESPN

I think I’m actually allowed to talk about this game now that the old man is retired. Unfortunately, it’s a terrible game and I don’t want to talk about it at all. I’m guessing the announcers don’t either. That’s the benefit to having the semifinal games played a couple days earlier. The announcers can basically ignore this game and talk about what happened in other bowl games as well as preview the championship game matchup. “Oh… did Kansas State just score? Well, let’s talk about Oklahoma vs. Alabama!”

Valero Alamo Bowl
#11 TCU (10-2) vs. #15 Oregon (9-3)
6:40 PM, January 2, San Antonio, TX
ESPN

This is the only game on 1/2 to feature a ranked team. Really bringing that strong finish to the bowl season, aren’t we, ESPN? I mean, seriously, the way the calendar shakes out, why couldn’t we have some decent games on January 2? It’s a Saturday. There are no NFL games to compete with since they will all be held on Sunday, 1/3. Couldn’t we have slid some combination of the Outback, Citrus, and Russell Athletic Bowls to this day? Somebody’s going to tell me the Outback Bowl is a New Year’s Day staple??? It’s named for a shitty steakhouse based on a country, who, by the the time this game is played, has already moved on to January 2nd!!!

Motel 6 Cactus Bowl
West Virginia (7-5) vs. Arizona State (6-6)
10:15 PM, January 2, Phoenix, AZ
ESPN

Welp. Here’s your grand finale. Satisfied? No? Well, let me pique your interest…

WE’RE PLAYING IT IN A BASEBALL STADIUM!!!!

 

Ok… ok… We’ll get Tom Bodett to announce the game.

College Football Playoff National Championship
Orange Bowl winner vs. Cotton Bowl winner
8:30 PM, January 11, Glendale, AZ
ESPN

This really isn’t a bowl, but I put it here last year, so I suppose I should do so again. I mean, how else are you going to know when this game will take place? You’d probably have to look deep in the sports section of your local paper to find it. They should really remind you of these things on television or that internet thing.

 

WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE!

We’ll leave the light on for you.

Happy Bowling!

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