Alright we are finally at the bowl season…almost. We have some games this coming Friday and Saturday highlighted by the Army-Navy game. That game will be on CBS at 3:00 on Saturday. Also for people who have the specialty packs, a couple of FCS semifinals are coming your way. Chattanooga-New Hampshire is showing at 8:00 on Friday night and then Coastal Carolina-North Dakota State is on at noon on Saturday. The other two semifinals are on ESPN3, thus not available in our area.
The bowl lineup has been set and, of course, some games are better than others. This happens every season. I will say, though, that there seem to be quite a few more good games to watch than in previous years. First off, The Committee did a great job with the College Football Playoff matchups and also with the New Year’s Six pairings. I think the bigger turning point is more subtle. It comes from the SEC and ACC. Their idea to put bowl games in tiers rather than the traditional method of having numbered slots for all their tie-ins proved to be a smart one. This allowed some teams that never would have been selected for a bowl (either they would already have been selected or ranked too low to be picked) to actually be selected. It allowed for some better matchups than we normally would have seen. Conferences from the Group of Five like Conference USA allowed the best team to choose their bowl destination, then the next best team, and so on, until all the tie-ins have been filled.
What follows will be my totally biased (somewhat) look at the bowl games and ranking them based on their watchability (if that’s even a word…I’m being told no). And in honour of a man who has called many of the best SEC games over the past two decades, this will be done on the Verne Lundquist scale, from a whopping 6 Vernes for games you have to watch even if you aren’t a college football fan to 1 Verne which are the games that only diehard fans (like myself) would watch because FOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOTBALLLLLLLLL! Alright here we go:
We are going to do this in chronological order and I will have the broadcasting information (for us Canucks) as best as possible here. The rankings for each bowl are after the bowl game’s paragraph.
New Orleans Bowl: Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Nevada (Dec. 20, 11:00 am, TSN3) – We start with the New Orleans Bowl this season. And to be honest, this is probably the least likable bowl of the bunch this season. ULL is here for a fourth straight season. They might as well change the name to the Ragin Cajun Bowl. Sun Belt participation award winners (since the true champs from Georgia Southern aren’t eligible) against a mediocre Nevada team that limped to the finish line. This would have been ranked in negative Vernes if it wasn’t for the fact they should have a decent turnout.
New Mexico Bowl: Utah State vs. UTEP (Dec. 20, 2:20, TSN3) – Another low-rated bowl, this year the start of bowl season isn’t the New Mexico Bowl, which had been the case the last few years. The last couple New Mexico Bowls have ended up being thrillers. Not enough to get it out of 1 Verne range since this is one of the most lopsided matchups but you never know with this one.
Las Vegas Bowl: Colorado State vs. #22 Utah (Dec. 20, 3:30, ABC/TSN2) – The first game of the year that, on paper, looks like a sweet matchup. Two mountain schools, both who have been quite good this year, facing off in a bowl on ABC, a rarity these days. Colorado State was so close to going to the New Year’s Six and Utah hung with the big boys of the Pac-12 South most of the season. Should be a good one although I am still not sure if Jimmy McElwain is coaching the Rams in this one before he heads to Gainesville or not.
Idaho Potato Bowl: Air Force vs. Western Michigan (Dec. 20, 5:45, TSN3) – This is a sneaky good matchup. Air Force is back to their old tricks and look better than they have in at least a decade. P.J. Fleck, the youngest FBS head coach, has turned around his Broncos FAST! His “Row the Boat” philosophy has gone over very well with his team. Could he be moving up the chain to a better conference soon? Wouldn’t surprise me in the least.
Camellia Bowl: Bowling Green vs. South Alabama (Dec. 20, 9:15, TSN3) – It is honestly very tough to get excited about this game. I mean I love college football but considering this will be the fifth game of a relatively mediocre bowl day, it will be hard to watch. Not saying I won’t because I definitely will watch every minute. I am curious as to how many fans will show up to this brand new bowl game as I was skeptical when they announced the damn thing.
Miami Beach Bowl: BYU vs. Memphis (Dec. 22, 2:00, TSN1/TSN4) – Seriously? A bowl game on a Monday at 2 in the afternoon? Who the fuck thought of this? Also, this is a 5-Verne bowl. A seriously good matchup (although it would have been one of the best if the Cougs still had Taysom Hill). Instead I have to put it on the PVR and watch it later since I, you know, have to work.
Boca Raton Bowl: Marshall vs. Northern Illinois (Dec. 23, 6:00, specialty pack) – For viewers who don’t get the specialty pack (Super Sports Pack for Rogers or U.S. College Sports Package for Bell), you are missing out on this one. This one has the makings of one the best non-CFP, non-NYS games this season. Still waiting for when one of these teams will move onto another conference as they are that good.
Poinsettia Bowl: Navy vs. San Diego State (Dec. 23, 9:30, TSN2) – This game was played a few years ago. Same bowl, same two teams. As much as I enjoy service academy football (and option offense football), there’s very little to watch here. Let’s either hope that a) it’s a close game or b) Keenan Reynolds rushes for eight touchdowns.
Bahamas Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky (Dec. 24, Noon, TSN1/TSN4) – Talk about some lucky players. I mean there may only be 7,000 people watching this game but it’s in the BAHAMAS! What’s not to like? I would say something about it being an afternoon game again but it is Christmas Eve so I will lay off a bit.
Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State vs. Rice (Dec. 24, 8:00, TSN2) – I remember when this bowl used to be on Christmas Day. Now it’s Christmas Eve night. And usually it’s relatively unwatchable. It’s almost like college football is giving this bowl the Pro Bowl treatment; flaunting its importance in a half-assed way, yet doing nothing to really promote it. I’ll watch it while finishing wrapping my kids’ presents.
Heart of Dallas Bowl: Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech (Dec. 26, 1:00, specialty pack) – If you don’t get the specialty pack, don’t worry…you’re probably not missing a whole lot here. At least the Heart of Dallas Bowl, sponsored by Zaxby’s (which looks like a restaurant I wouldn’t even take my kids to) got to move from early afternoon on New Year’s Day when no one watched it (because there were so many other things to watch at the same time) to Boxing Day where there’s a chance at least some people will watch. Too bad the teams they got were still kind of crappy, although LaTech gave Marshall a run for their money last weekend.
Quick Lane Bowl: North Carolina vs. Rutgers (Dec. 26, 4:30, specialty pack) – I don’t even know what Quick Lane is or does and I don’t feel like Googling it to find out. It’s probably automotive since it’s in Detroit. I don’t really know what to say with this bowl. It’s two teams who disappoint on the reg so I can see this being either a 10-7 snorefest or a 56-55 defense-optional game. It should be close since neither team is that much better than the other. I really have put way much more thought into this matchup than I should have.
Bitcoin Bowl: NC State vs. UCF (Dec. 26, 8:00, TSN2) – Something else I truly do not understand. Bitcoin. Or is it bitcoins? I don’t know and I don’t care. At least I have heard of this, unlike Beef O’Brady’s which sounds like a place that would make Zaxby’s look like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. Anyway, this should be good. A decent ACC team against a team that should put the American conference in their rear-view mirror if they’re smart (and get the opportunity).
Military Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech (Dec. 27, 1:00, specialty pack) – This seems to be the day when they start showing a ton of bowl games over about a six-day span, which I am totally not complaining about at all. Starts with this game which should be a good one if Frank Beamer gets his Hokies to actually show up. Otherwise Tubs is gonna make him pay.
Sun Bowl: #15 Arizona State vs. Duke (Dec. 27, 2:00, CBS) – This is Uncle Verne’s last college football broadcast so lucky for him he gets a 4-Verne game here. If David Cutcliffe can get his Blue Devils jacked up for this game, this should be one of the best pre-New Year’s games on the entire slate. I still don’t get why CBS’s only bowl telecast is a bowl that doesn’t involve SEC teams but no point in continuing to ask. We’ll just blame ESPN.
Independence Bowl: Miami vs. South Carolina (Dec. 27, 3:30, ABC) – I refuse to put sponsor names for the bowl game name unless it’s actually called that. I don’t give a shit if the Duck Dynasty guys are sponsoring this one. I hate the show, period. And considering these two teams are highly disappointing this season, it may not even be a fun bowl game to watch. Then again it’s Al Golden & Al Golden’s Tie against the Head Ball Coach…yeah that still doesn’t excite me.
Pinstripe Bowl: Boston College vs. Penn State (Dec. 27, 4:30, specialty pack) – Have you noticed that TSN’s coverage drops off the cliff come Christmas? That’s called the World Junior Hockey Championship effect. I love college football but even I understand the World Juniors are a MASSIVE ratings hit. So why fight it? Oh as for this game, it’s between two teams that should have been part of that super-East-Coast conference back in the 80s but they wouldn’t let the Nittany Lions in. Idiots. Maybe James Franklin can make them pay for that egregious error.
Holiday Bowl: Nebraska vs. #24 USC (Dec. 27, 8:00, TSN2) – A very good matchup that luckily TSN picked up. USC, I think, is underrated and Nebraska is Nebraska. Always good but never great. I do feel bad for Bo Pelini but unfortunately, Husker football works a little differently than most programs. I just hope Mike Riley doesn’t turn into the second coming of Bill Callahan. Remember that guy? Yeah he sucked big time.
Liberty Bowl: Texas A&M vs. West Virginia (Dec. 29, 2:00, specialty pack) – And after a day off we are back with more bowl game fun. Here’s the cowards from Texas A&M facing off against West Virginia and their Red Bull and vodka-drinking coach Drunk Uncle Dana Holgorsen. A&M was supposed to face Texas in the Texas Bowl but it sounds like they pussed out. Too bad, would have been a good game. This game not so much since the Aggies should mop the floor here.
Russell Athletic Bowl: #17 Clemson vs. Oklahoma (Dec. 29, 5:30, specialty pack) – Here is, what I believe, the best non-CFP, non-NYS bowl of the season. Clemson was so very close to grabbing the Orange Bowl bid. Oklahoma has been shaky late in the season but with Perine running the rock, who knows what could happen. Definitely a must-watch.
Texas Bowl: Arkansas vs. Texas (Dec. 29, 9:00, specialty pack) – Should have been the Longhorns and Aggies. I will say this is still an interesting matchup though. Can BielemaBall make a statement here? Is this the launching point for Charlie Strong and his Longhorns? I see this one being really close which says more about the SEC West than the Big XII as a whole.
Music City Bowl: #23 LSU vs. Notre Dame (Dec. 30, 3:00, TSN2) – Well it’s not like the Irish wouldn’t be invited to a bowl game. I just find the whole ACC affiliation thing to be ridiculous to be honest with you. Just invite the damn team and let them keep their NBC contract. You can be a big shot by not allowing them to be shown on shitty ACC Network telecasts or something like that. Just do it already. Oh, and I have this feeling that LSU will mop the floor with Touchdown Jesus in this one. Not that I would be complaining. This coming from a moderate Notre Dame fan. Oh, and Rudy was offside.
Belk Bowl: #13 Georgia vs. #21 Louisville (Dec. 30, 6:30, TSN2) – I guess TSN2 gets almost no World Juniors action today. In my estimation, this bowl has the best team not in the Big Boy bowls (Georgia) against a team who one day soon will dominate the ACC (Louisville). Plus it will be fun to see Fun Bobby Petrino get all worked up. Looks like he will have an aneurysm about six times a game.
Foster Farms Bowl: Maryland vs. Stanford (Dec. 30, 10:00, TSN2) – Wow, now that’s a huge swing. We go from LSU-ND to UGA-UL to this. I can see not many people watching this affair. I will but I think there may be something wrong with me.
Peach Bowl: #9 Ole Miss vs. #6 TCU (Dec. 31, 12:30, TSN2) – And now we get into the big games. The first game is the HOLY SHIT they dropped Chick-fil-A from the name! About damn time. Peach Bowl name is iconic despite the fact they play in the shithole known as the Georgia Dome. This is the second best game of the bowl season right here and should be a great one.
Fiesta Bowl: #10 Arizona vs. #20 Boise State (Dec. 31, 4:00, specialty pack) – Now this is a heaping pile of bullshit. A New Year’s Six bowl and it is relegated to the specialty pack? Problem is it is going up against Canada-USA at the World Juniors. If TSN had ten channels, they would put this game on damn near every one. Sucks that a huge game like this gets this treatment but what can you do?
Orange Bowl: #12 Georgia Tech vs. #7 Mississippi State (Dec. 31, 8:00, TSN3/TSN5) – This game will make one of these programs. Not saying neither of these teams have been good in the past. But they are programs that are ignored more than they should be. And they both had great seasons. The winner probably starts a new era of being consistent top 25 teams for the next decade or so.
Citrus Bowl: #25 Minnesota vs. #16 Missouri (Jan. 1, 12:30, ABC/TSN2) – This is the start of the pinnacle day of the college football season. New Year’s Day. And what a start. Two great underrated teams with two great underrated coaches. And it’s not the Capital One Bowl anymore thank God. Back to the Citrus Bowl name where it belongs.
Cotton Bowl: #5 Baylor vs. #8 Michigan State (Jan. 1, 12:30, TSN3) – This is, in my very honest opinion, the best game of the bowl season other than the title game. Arguably the best offense in the nation versus arguably the best defense in the nation. Going to have to work my remote control into a frenzy with this one plus two other great games to watch early afternoon.
Outback Bowl: #19 Auburn vs. #18 Wisconsin (Jan. 1, 1:00, specialty pack) – I sure hope Wisconsin can recover from the ass kicking they took at the hands of Ohio State. That was beyond brutal. And it probably cost Melvin Gordon any chance of winning the Heisman (although it was still a long shot at best). Unfortunately, you’ll need the specialty pack for this one.
Rose Bowl: #2 Oregon vs. #3 Florida State (Jan. 1, 5:00, TSN1) – With no World Juniors on today, college football gets to take centre stage. We now being the College Football Playoff, revolutionary for FBS football (which is known for being only about 40 years behind when it comes to this type of thing). This year’s Heisman winner against last year’s Heisman winner is most of the storyline going into this one. Still, Oregon has to get out to an early lead because the Noles will play their typical last 35 minutes-plus of amazing football to make up for the first 25 minutes of crap.
Sugar Bowl: #1 Alabama vs. #4 Ohio State (Jan. 1, 8:30, TSN1) – Ohio State will need to play the same way they did in the Big Ten Championship to have a chance against the Tide. Many thought Baylor or TCU should be here. I believe The Committee made the right choice but it might not matter. This has the makings to be a blowout if the Buckeyes don’t handle things early on. Don’t want to see Urban ordering that pizza sometime during the first quarter.
Armed Forces Bowl: Houston vs. Pittsburgh (Jan. 2, Noon, specialty pack) – Colour me shocked that Pitt somehow didn’t end up in Birmingham. I think this may be the last year I can use that joke since it’s becoming apparent that ULL’s ties to the New Orleans Bowl are becoming even more ridiculous. Anyway, I don’t think you’re missing much by not seeing this game so let’s all hope it’s close.
TaxSlayer Bowl: Iowa vs. Tennessee (Jan. 2, 3:20, specialty pack) – Another not-so-great bowl game. And no, it’s the Gator Bowl. Please get that TaxSlayer shit out of here.
Alamo Bowl: #11 Kansas State vs. #14 UCLA (Jan. 2, 6:45, TSN2) – Now things get interesting. Many are saying this is one of the bowls they are looking forward to and I wholeheartedly agree. The Wildcats were so close to a New Year’s Six bowl so I am hoping they don’t play like they’re disappointed here since UCLA will show no quarter. Should be a fantastic bowl and makes up for a sloppy Jan. 2 schedule otherwise.
Cactus Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Washington (Jan. 2, 10:15, TSN2) – Some of these bowl names are getting absurd although at least it’s not a corporate sponsor (although I am sure one is attached to this). Two VERY disappointing teams with two good coaches. Chris Petersen is already looking towards next year when Oregon is Mariota-less and it’s their chance to pounce on the Pac-12 North while OSU is trying their damnedest to get out of the Big XII midcard and get back to contending.
Birmingham Bowl: East Carolina vs. Florida (Jan. 3, Noon, TSN2) – An interesting pairing here. East Carolina has that run-and-gun offense that’s fun to watch, whereas Florida has, well, what Florida has, which is a mediocre team these days. Storyline will of course be Jim McElwain so the game might be overshadowed by that.
GoDaddy Bowl: Arkansas State vs. Toledo (Jan. 4, 9:00, TSN2) – Even though it will be in a timeslot all its own, it’s ratings will undoubtedly be hurt by the NFL playoff games earlier that day. It should be a fun game to watch with possible future Conference USA member Arkansas State facing a Toledo team that has always been upper echelon in the MAC. A nice way to head into the week-long break before the national title game.
College Football Playoff Championship Game (Jan. 12, 8:30, TSN1) – The season ends with the first-ever FBS playoff championship game. Yes, it’s only a four-team playoff but it has created so much excitement that it will be considered a huge success. Then in twelve years, we are probably looking at an 8-team playoff since people will bitch and complain and whine and moan. But until then, enjoy this as college football at the highest level has finally done what should have been done 30 years ago…created a playoff.