I’m an outlier on this, but I love college football’s bowl season. I’m not blind to the problems with it—there are too many games, the games have moved further and further past New Year’s Day, the BCS is unfair, a playoff would be more exciting. And then there’s the ridiculous names
Is it me or should these two bowls be working together?
But even though bowl games are designed mainly to line the pockets of the bowl organizers and tv networks, I get caught up in bowl season every year. Why? It’s hard to say. Aside from the prerequisites of enjoying college football and preferring to watch sports rather than spend the holidays with friends and family, I think I like the uniqueness of it. Unlike in other sports, college football has a postseason of what are basically meaningless exhibition games. All that’s on the line for the players and fans is pride. Sure, in some cases you have teams that limped into the end of the season, teams that are upset they missed out on better bowls, or teams going through off the field turmoil, all of which could mean that their effort in the bowl game is going to be suspect. But 99% of the time [completely legitimate statistic by the way] you see two teams give each other their best shot.
Anyways, I’m not going to waste digital ink trying to convince you to love the bowls or to get you to watch all the bowl games. But what I am going to do is run down for you six bowl games you, the casual football fan, might not have been planning on watching but won’t want to miss. Why six? Because this way when one of these games inevitably turns out to be less thrilling than the Beef O’Brady’s bowl you’ll still have five quality games to watch. I’m skipping the BCS games for equally arbitrary reasons.
Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl
Who: Northern Illinois (10-3) vs. Fresno State (8-4)
When: Dec. 18, 5:30 pm, ESPN
Where: Bronco Stadium, Boise Idaho
Swag: Last year the players got to visit a Sony gift suite and also received a Garmin GPS, and a Nike parka. In past years they also got to go tubing at a ski resort!
Why to watch: This is the infamous blue turf bowl. The game is played on the retina-destroying blue turf that Boise State calls home. Normally I like to avoid burning out the pixels on my television that accompanies watching games played at Bronco Stadium, but this year’s match-up between two very solid mid-major teams could be too good to resist. The pre-Christmas bowl games often have terrible mismatches, but not this one. I also get some kind of weird pleasure at the trucking ads that air every year during the Humanitarian Bowl. It’s like I’m getting glimpses at a secret world I’m not supposed to be seeing. Then I feel bad that these small companies are getting price gouged to sponsor this bowl game so I go to their websites/truck stops to give them business. But that’s neither here nor there. Both of these teams play an up-tempo style. Put on your sunglasses and your Nike parka and watch what should be a great game.
Prediction: Fresno 28, Northern Illinois 25
Who: #12 Missouri (10-2) vs. Iowa (7-5)
When: Dec. 28, 10:00 pm, ESPN
Where: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona
Swag: Last year players got a Sony gift suite, Fossil watch, Hat, Ogio Bounty Hunter or Hermit laptop pack.
Why to watch: Not long ago both of these teams still had BCS aspirations. But the best laid plans of mice and men….I’m not sure how that expression ends and I don’t care to look it up. Regardless, these are two very good teams. Iowa is strong on both sides of the ball and lead by quintessential college quarterback Ricky Stanzi. With all of the attention in the Big 12 paid to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Nebraska, Missouri really has flown under the radar this season and seem to be drawing surprisingly little notice despite upsetting Oklahoma, tying Nebraska for the Big 12 north, and closing out the season with three straight wins.
Prediction: Missouri 24 Iowa 13
Valero Alamo Bowl
Who: Arizona (7-5) vs. #13 Oklahoma State (10-2)
When: Dec. 29, 9:15 pm, ESPN
Where: Alamodome, San Antonio Texas
Swag: Last year players received 32-gig iPod Touch, Dr. Dre Monster Beats headphones, Fossil watch, Oakley Antix sunglasses, Shutt mini-helmet, panoramic photo.
Why to watch: Big-12 vs. Pac-10 match-ups are always exciting because there’s lots of offense. The teams score faster and more often than a Tom Brady look alike at a Justin Bieber concert. [That analogy beat out “As fast paced as if both teams were on four loko”] Oklahoma State tied hated rival Oklahoma in the Big-12 south but missed out on a chance at the conference championship because of weaker computer rankings. They have an exciting offense and more oil money than Qatar. Arizona finished in the middle of the Pac-10 after closing out the season with four straight losses. But they were competitive in all of the losses and are better than their record. Watch this game for a contest that should feature lots and lots of offense. If the Dougie hasn’t jumped the shark as an end zone celebration already, it will by the end of this game.
Prediction: Arizona 35, Oklahoma State 31
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Who: Syracuse (7-5) vs. Kansas State (7-5)
When: Dec. 30, 3:15 pm, ESPN
Where: Yankee Stadium, New York
Swag: Yankee caps, free admission to the Rockettes, breakfast at the burrito cart at Columbus Circle. [I totally made these up, couldn’t find the swag list online.]
Why to Watch: This is the inaugural Pinstripe bowl, played at Yankee Stadium. I think having a bowl game in New York is pretty cool so that’s the main reason I put it on this list. Sorry. The game itself should be good, with two evenly matched teams that are both enjoying a resurgence of sorts. But mainly I’m watching to play the “drink every time they play ‘New York New York’ and ‘Empire State of Mind’” game.
Prediction: Kansas State 18 Syracuse 17
Chick-fil-A [Peach] Bowl
Who: #23 Florida State (9-4) vs. #20 South Carolina (9-4)
When: Dec. 31, 7:30 pm, ESPN
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta Georgia
Swag: Last year the players got a $250 Best Buy gift card, Fossil watch, Russell Athletic knit cap, Russell Athletic travel bag, Football, Chick-fil-A gift card.
Why to watch: First, and most importantly, Chick-fil-A has in the past given out free chicken nuggets to people watching the game. There might be terrifying conditions to getting those chicken nuggets, such as traveling to South Carolina, but I’m willing to take that risk. As for the game itself, it should go without saying that a match-up between two highly ranked teams that were runners-up of their respective conferences could be a real slobberknocker (credit Jim Ross). Both programs are on the rise after recent periods of (relative) mediocrity. South Carolina games also provide you the unique opportunity to make immature jokes involving the word “Cocks” to impress your friends.
Prediction: Florida State 30, South Carolina 17
Capital One Bowl
Who: #7 Michigan State (11-1) vs. #18 Alabama (9-3)
When: Jan. 1, 1:00 pm, ESPN
Where: Citrus Bowl, Orlando Florida
Swag: Best Buy party (aka $420 shopping spree) and a watch.
Why to watch: Both of these teams were BCS and even national title contenders at one point this season. The Capital One Bowl is one of the most respected non-BCS games, so it isn’t a bad consolation prize. Michigan State has been perhaps the most fun team to watch all season, getting almost all of their wins in improbable, come from behind fashion, including defeating Notre Dame on a touchdown scored on a fake field goal that caused their coach to have a heart attack. Thus it is probably classless to dub them the “cardiac kids,” but facts are facts. Alabama ended the regular season with a heart-wrenching (but not heart-attacking) loss to their hated rival Cam Newton’s father Auburn but are still an incredibly talented team on both sides of the ball. On paper Alabama should walk away with this one, but Michigan State has proven that they can’t be counted out even when they’re facing an absurd deficit.
Prediction: Alabama 33, Michigan State 32