Thursday, November 21, 2013

Better Bowl Projections: The Bowl Games I Want To See

I love college football. But I have an irrational love of bowl games.

rose bowl crowd
Back in my youth – because I’m so old – the college football bowl season was, just as ESPN’s jingle claimed, the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” I was off from school. Football was always on. During my college years, I made it a point to watch every game that I could.

Did I have a life? Eh, maybe not. But I was happy, dammit. And single. But still, very happy.

There are now 35 bowl games – good luck watching all of them – and everyone makes bowl projections. Some are good. Some are bad. Some are terrible. None are right. There are all the same, though. College football writers look at the bowl tie-ins, try to figure out who the bowls would take and put some matchups together.


In 2007, I went to Charlotte for the bowl game between UConn and Wake Forest. You probably have long forgotten it. I never will. It was exciting in part because of the atmosphere – though not a full house, 50,000+ people can make a lot of noise. And there are few things that match a sporting event where the crowd is evenly divided and energetic.

I left disappointed. Even more so when my Dad and I somehow ended up at a Wake Forest victory party that night to watch the Pats chase 16-0 – maybe the name “Cans” should have given it away. Regardless, it was awesome.

So instead of just picking random bowl games, let’s make the best damn bowl lineup ever!

All of these games could happen. They almost certainly won’t. But what’s the fun in that?

To make this dream lineup happen, two major things have to happen. First, UCF has to pass Fresno State and Northern Illinois in the standings. Secondly, the national title game has to be…well, that will spoil some of the fun.

These aren’t every bowl game, just the ones where I could create a fun matchup

In chronological order:

Las Vegas Bowl: (undefeated) Fresno State vs. USC
Yes, yes, a million times yes. USC has turned into an amazing story thanks to Coach O and the remarkable turnaround. Fresno State has always been an amazing story thanks to star QB Derek Carr (younger brother to former NFL QB David) and his newborn child, which made for a heart-wrenching angle in the lead up to the season opener.

Fresno State will be piping hot mad about missing the BCS and USC could be playing for Coach O to keep the permanent job. It will be played on 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 21, on ABC. Think that would attract some eyeballs? And even better if…

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: (undefeated) Northern Illinois vs. Boise State
Northern Illinois is in for a terrible bowl game. The Sun Belt has no one good to match up against in the GoDaddy Bowl. The Big Ten will likely not have a team  -- or a bad 6-6 Northwestern – available in Detroit, likely to be replaced by a 6-6 Syracuse or Pitt team. Yuck. The most promising unfilled spot – the Pinstripe Bowl in NYC – will definitely be filled by Notre Dame.

This is the MAC’s third tie-in and while Boise State is down, this bowl game is played in its home stadium. Boise State has traditionally shied away from playing in this game but an undefeated Northern Illinois would be different, right?

Better yet, this game kicks off at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 21 – imagine both undefeated non-BCS teams playing at the same time? Thank you, football gods.

new orleans bowl 2013
New Orleans Bowl: Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Tulane
Every projection all season has penciled this game in because it’s a no-brainer. La.-Lafayette has filled up the Superdome the past two years for this game, including an insane crowd of 48,828 last year. True story: when I arrived at my parent’s house last year in advance of Christmas, the first thing my Dad said to me was, “You have to see this bowl game.” He was blown away by the atmosphere and the amount of people watching a “meaningless” game between two non-BCS schools.

Well, this would be even more awesome, since Tulane hasn’t played in a bowl game since the 2002 Hawaii Bowl. Could the Superdome sellout for its not Sugar Bowl game? Remember last year’s Sugar Bowl outdrew the New Orleans Bowl by less than 6,000 people.

Fight Hunger Bowl: BYU vs. Washington State
BYU is locked in here. They’re going to play a Pac-12 team. Most other options are unappealing teams like Oregon State, Washington & Arizona. Yawn. But Washington State playing in its first bowl in a decade? Now we’re talking!

Of course, WSU Coach/Pirate Mike Leach has a storied past with BYU, as was evident in his first game back after his post-Texas Tech sabbatical when he played BYU. That wasn’t much of a game. Washington State has come a long way in two years. And it’ll be pretty amazing to see BYU’s legendary pass-happy offense used against it, while BYU focuses on zone-reads and options.

Pinstripe Bowl: Houston vs. Notre Dame
Notre Dame is practically locked into this game without a BCS berth or, really, any other options. So let’s make the most of it. Houston and Notre Dame have played once. It was a pretty famous Cotton Bowl featuring a pretty famous quarterback making a pretty famous comeback with a pretty famous nickname. Yep, the Chicken Soup Game is the one and only meeting between these schools.

Let’s relive that for a few weeks and the Yankee Stadium setting should provide another cold weather game. Could Tommy Rees play the role of Joe Mont-…never mind, Rees fumbled the soup.

Russell Athletic Bowl: Clemson vs. Louisville
It’s pretty much set in stone Louisville plays here. Clemson has been penciled into the Orange Bowl for weeks but what if they’re pushed out of that spot? A return trip to the Chick-fil-a seems remote, especially since South Carolina would be there. This wouldn’t be too bad though, right? Especially if Clemson beats South Carolina. We could have an 11-1 Clemson vs. 11-1 Louisville. Keep dreaming, right? Okay I will.

How would Clemson fall here? Pretty simply actually – Florida State would have to lose the ACC title game.

Buffalo Wild Wings: Oklahoma vs. Nebraska
This one is pretty self-explanatory, no? Even if both teams are down this year, it would be a nice rekindling of the rivalry and Sun Devil Stadium is a nice, big stadium in a desert paradise to accommodate everyone. This game, maybe more than any other here, has the most realistic chance of happening, outside of the New Orleans Bowl.

Armed Forces Bowl: Navy vs. Colorado State
Navy is going to this bowl. So it made me think, “styles make fights.” Who would be fun for Navy to play. Then I read about Colorado State’s Kapri Bibbs rushing for 291 yards and 6 touchdowns last week. Sign me up right now! And let’s begin the quickest bowl game ever.

Alamo Bowl: Baylor vs. Oregon
Drooooool. Let’s begin the longest bowl game ever! Baylor beat Washington 67-56 in the 2011 Alamo Bowl with Heisman Trophy winner RG3. What could we do here? What would the over/under be? Would the Holiday Bowl, supposed to be televised after this, ever been shown on ESPN? Who wouldn’t watch this game?

This game is a long way from happening – Oregon has to lose the Pac-12 title game, Baylor likely has to lose twice – but I don’t care. I want it to happen.

Sun Bowl: Miami vs. UCLA
The Sun Bowl, unlike many other bowls, really doesn’t care about selling tickets. It’s always going to sell a decent number to the locals and its real aim is to give longtime TV partner CBS a game to drive ratings. That’s why they lean toward teams like USC, Washington and Pittsburgh – teams in major TV markets that can help boost ratings.

TV markets don’t get much bigger than Miami and Los Angeles. It feels like it’s a bowl game from 1989, right? Two teams from opposite ends of the country meeting in the middle on New Year’s Eve on CBS? Nice story of two teams that were Top 10 teams in October and stumbled (badly) down the stretch. As a bonus, these teams have not played since the legendary 1998 game when Miami returned to glory and cost UCLA a shot at the first BCS title.

Liberty Bowl: East Carolina vs. Tennessee
I like sold-out stadiums for bowl games. Tennessee fans, considering the murderous schedule its team played, will gladly come out en masse for the school’s first bowl game in three, long, Dooley-ish years. 

As for East Carolina, well I’m just rooting for the American Athletic Conference to succeed and ECU will help.

Chick-fil-a Bowl: South Carolina vs. Duke
Duke’s biggest bowl game in 20 years…when Steve Spurrier was its coach. Yeah, that’ll do.

Gator Bowl: Michigan vs. LSU
The Les Miles Bowl! Even more crazy than that, these two programs have NEVER played. How is that even possible??

Heart of Dallas Bowl: Rice vs. Syracuse
Look, the Cotton Bowl stadium doesn’t host the Cotton Bowl anymore. This game will be played in a stadium that once meant everything to Southwest Conference team. Only one former SWC team still has the potential to play in this game. So they should, because I’m a sucker for history. Since the Big Ten won’t be able to fill the slot, I want to see Rice play another team with long-ago history at the Cotton Bowl.

And on the first day of 2014, we’ll party like it’s 1957.

Capital One Bowl: Auburn vs. Michigan State
Auburn runs the ball. Michigan State stops the run. Immovable object, meet irresistible force and BOOM! POW! EXPLOSION!

This game may have less interest if Alabama whips Auburn in the Iron Bowl but Michigan State, according to many, has the best non-Alabama defense out there. Auburn’s offense has been nothing short of a revelation this year. Of all the Big Ten/SEC matchups – and this is the last year we’re getting three every New Year’s morning – this would be the most appealing from an on-the-field standpoint.

Or would it…

rose bowl rematch
Rose Bowl: Arizona State vs. Wisconsin
Yeah, I bitched and moaned about the fallout in my picks post this week. And yeah, rematches in bowl games are almost always a bad idea. The only exception I can think of is Florida and Florida State playing The Fifth Quarter in the French Quarter about 20 years ago. Yep, that’s the list. At least in my memory.

Well, this one would be right up there, wouldn’t it? Maybe Arizona State wouldn’t be thrilled but the storylines overflowing from the Wisconsin side would be incredible. First, Wisconsin would be trying to avenge their controversial loss. Second, and maybe more importantly, Wisconsin would trying to avoid be the Buffalo Bills of college football by losing its fourth Rose Bowl in a row.

As for Arizona State? Well, they haven’t been in the Rose Bowl – or any major bowl – since Jake Plummer and haven't won the Rose Bowl – or any major bowl – since 1987. Think the Sun Devil faithful would be jacked up for this?

Let’s just hope Todd Graham doesn’t find another dream job before then.

Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Stanford
These two teams played one of the most exciting BCS bowls in recent years when #3 Oklahoma State downed the Andrew Luck-led Stanford team in the Fiesta Bowl two years ago in overtime. These teams are still relatively similar – Okie State likes to score, Stanford likes to punish people. Let’s do it again.

Sugar Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Florida State
So to make this work, Florida State has to lose in the ACC title game to Georgia Tech. It could happen! And if it does…wow, what a game this would be.

I think Johnny Football will win his second Heisman, so there’s no way the Sugar Bowl is passing up on him. Since Florida State, in this scenario, can’t play in the Orange Bowl, the Sugar Bowl snaps them up. We’d have the likely top 2 Heisman finishers against each other in New Orleans. Something tells me this game draws better than last year’s Sugar Bowl.

Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. UCF
The chaos! The anarchy! The BCS!

So Georgia Tech sneaks into the ACC title game and pulls the mightiest upset of all-time by knocking off Florida State. The Orange Bowl needs an opponent but it can’t be from the SEC…or the Big Ten….or the ACC. What will they do? 

With limited options – and desperate to sell tickets – they reach out to American champion UCF, which will sell out the stadium by itself and set up a juicy storyline with George O’Leary facing its own team.

And in one final twist of the knife to the Orange Bowl’s fade during the BCS era – it won’t be the most watched college football game of the night.

Cotton Bowl: Texas vs. Georgia
This screams Cotton Bowl, no? In the last year before the Cotton Bowl rejoins the “big boy” table of bowl games, it deserves to go out of its rehab phase with the best game possible. Texas is going to be a massive story during the bowl season as the fate of Mack Brown is discussed at length.

Meanwhile, Georgia and Aaron Murray in particular deserve a fitting sendoff. Georgia hasn’t played in the Cotton Bowl since January 2, 1984, when it knocked off then-undefeated, #2 Texas and cost the Longhorns a national title. The two schools haven’t played since. That seems wrong, no?

BBVA Compass Bowl: Rutgers vs. Pittsburgh
I’m sorry, I’m sorry, this would just be so funny, right? Rutgers is almost certain to land here. The other slot should be for an SEC team, but the SEC won’t have enough teams. The ACC will have too many teams for its bowl agreements and…oh man, I’m sorry, I’m laughing too hard. A fourth-straight trip to Birmingham in January for Pitt?

In a macabre way, this is the game I hope happens the most.

BCS Title Game: Alabama vs. Ohio State
This is the title game I want to see because I think, despite what Florida State has done, that Ohio State is better. I want to see Ohio State and its 25-game winning streak play Alabama, its 17-game winning streak and the SEC’s 7-year BCS title streak. I want to see Urban Meyer vs. Nick Saban – the coaches who have won 6 of the last 10 BCS titles – in arguably the most famous football stadium in the country.

This is the best game we can get – sorry Florida State. The Rose Bowl was the site where Alabama’s dynasty began four years ago. It would be only fitting that it either ends, or gets labeled as the greatest ever, in the last BCS title game at the site of the greatest BCS title game ever.

Oh, it’s all so juicy. So I’m sure none of these games will happen.

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11 comments:

  1. Worst Orange Bowl ever -0 yuck

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    1. yeah who wants to play GT? UCF deserves better.

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  2. no MIZZOU? how are they not in your picks?

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    1. These are just projections for fun games I'd want to see. I don't see a fun matchup out there for Missouri, for the average fan. Like they could play Minnesota in the Outback Bowl, but that wouldn't be as interesting as LSU playing Michigan, ya know?

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  3. they could play KU

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  4. You should be in charge of picking these games...

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  5. Nick Satan vs Urban would make me nut.

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  6. Good article, thanks, those bowl games would be good, I hope that Rose bowl game happens between A&M and FSU, I think that game would be as big as the national championship, same thing with the Title game between Alabama and Ohio, those are the two I want to see also for that, Baylor Oregon, these bowl picks would be good

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  7. I do like some of your match ups. Being from Michigan but now an OU fan, I would love to see OU vs Go Blue. Wisconsin would be okay for me too. I am not looking forward to the projection of OU at the Alamo Bowl. OU could beat Ok State in the final game and go somewhere like Cotton or Fiesta.

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  8. These are just projections for fun games I'd want to see.
    Tank addicting games

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