Anybody who followed the 2015 college football season knows a handful of improbable, wacky plays could have ushered several other teams into the College Football Playoff than the Final Four eventually invited…Clemson, Alabama, Michigan State and Oklahoma.
As for the overall Bowl system it remains bloated and brimming with unworthy teams. There were too many Bowls created too long ago to even remember where it all went so very wrong. At one time a Bowl was about awarding a school for a successful season and not these Power Conferences looking for additional money and a couple extra weeks for their teams to prepare for next season’s “Dash for the Cash.” It was bad enough when teams winning but half their games started to get invites. This year we have three – yes three – teams that went 5-7.
(Didn’t we just have a national debate earlier THIS YEAR about giving out “participation trophies” to children…?)
As well…Head Coaches get fired right and left as the pressure has boiled over on producing immediate results so many are waiting for a call to be rewarded or removed…their assistants are scrambling to figure out if their families will be in the same city come a couple months from now…some disgruntled players are playing out the string in a Bowl much lesser than hoped for…or are eyeing transfer opportunities elsewhere.
You know hard-core predictions are in short supply on this site. Make me a double when it comes to Bowl games. Some teams are thrilled to be playing in these exhibitions while others can’t wait for the final whistle to move on to the next season, the next school, the next chapter, etc.
My goal here is solely to give even the most uninformed individual one or two things they can chat about if suddenly ambushed by an individual at a Holiday gathering who actually knows something about any or all of these games. You’ll sound so cool…like you know what you’re talking about…at least until you can excuse yourself to go get more “cheer.”
Cure Bowl – Orlando, Florida – San Jose State (5-7) vs. Georgia State (6-6) – This is Georgia State’s first Bowl after six years of playing FBS (big-time) ball. The Panthers enter the game on a four-game winning streak after starting out 1-4.
New Mexico Bowl – Albuquerque, New Mexico – Arizona (6-6) vs. New Mexico (7-5) – Arizona has lost four of its last five contests. That’s not good. Neither is having to play this Bowl on New Mexico’s home field.
Las Vegas Bowl – Las Vegas, Nevada – BYU (9-3) vs. Utah (9-3) – Their campuses are 43 miles apart and they call playing each other “The Holy War.” This is BYU’s HC Bronco Mendenhall’s finale before leaving for the top job at Virginia. Utah started out 6-0.
Camellia Bowl – Montgomery, Alabama – Ohio (8-4) vs. Appalachian State (10-2) – Ohio enters this Bowl on a three-game win streak…as does Appalachian State, who is appearing in their first FBS Bowl.
New Orleans Bowl – New Orleans, Louisiana – Louisiana Tech (8-4) vs. Arkansas State (9-3) – These teams are meeting for the first time since 1998. Louisiana Tech is led by Florida Gator transfer QB Jeff Driskel. Arkansas State has scored over fifty points in each of their last three games and has won eight straight.
Miami Beach Bowl – Miami, Florida – South Florida (8-4) vs. Western Kentucky (11-2) – Western Kentucky QB Brandon Doughty leads the FBS with 45 TD passes this season. The Hilltoppers average 44 points per game and have won their last five. South Florida is on a four-game win streak. The Bulls have a chance for their first nine win season since 2007.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl – Boise, Idaho – Akron (7-5) vs. Utah State (6-6) – Akron is on a four-game winning streak. This is their first winning season since 2005. Utah State was undefeated at home until losing their last game of the season to BYU. Obviously they didn’t do so well on the road…but they do get injured star QB Chuckie Keeton back for this one.
Boca Raton Bowl – Boca Raton, Florida – Temple (10-3) vs. Toledo (9-2) – Temple used to be a member of the Mid-American Conference which Toledo represents. Both teams started out their seasons on fire at 7-0. The Owls feature the nation’s top tackler, LB Tyler Matakevich. Toledo doesn’t feature HC Matt Campbell who left for Iowa State. Jason Candle, the offensive coordinator the last seven years with the Rockets, is the new HC.
Poinsettia Bowl – San Diego, California – Northern Illinois (8-5) vs. Boise State (8-4) – This is the first time these two teams have ever met. Northern Illinois has lost their last three Bowl games. Boise State – as you might have heard – does pretty well in Bowls. Both defenses rank among the country’s leaders in forcing turnovers.
GoDaddy Bowl – Mobile, Alabama – Bowling Green (10-3) vs. Georgia Southern (8-4) – Bowling Green lost HC Dino Babers to Syracuse so defensive coordinator Brian Ward will coach the Falcons. This is the first Bowl for Georgia Southern after they stepped up to the FBS level.
Bahamas Bowl – Nassau, Bahamas – Middle Tennessee State (7-5) vs. Western Michigan (7-5) – Middle Tennessee State is on a four game win streak. Both teams score well…and give up scores equally as well.
Hawaii Bowl – Honolulu, Hawaii – Cincinnati (7-5) vs. San Diego State (10-3) – San Diego State has won their last nine games after a 1-3 start. Cincinnati is one of the best teams in the nation in passing offense even while featuring a fairly balanced attack.
St. Petersburg Bowl – St. Petersburg, Florida – Connecticut (6-6) vs. Marshall (9-3) – Marshall will be looking for their third straight Bowl win is as many seasons. Connecticut won three of their final four contests …including knocking off previously-undefeated Houston.
Sun Bowl – El Paso, Texas – Miami (Florida) (8-4) vs. Washington State (8-4) – Al Golden was fired as Miami’s HC after a 58-0 loss to Clemson in mid-season. Interim leader Larry Scott then guided the Hurricanes to four wins in five games. Washington State is in their second Bowl in the last three seasons.
Heart of Dallas Bowl – Dallas, Texas – Washington (6-6) vs. Southern Mississippi (9-4) – Southern Miss only won three games a year ago and rebuilt their program after going completely winless in 2012. Washington was a rude host to rival Washington State 45-10 in both teams’ regular-season finales. The Huskies have the best defense in the pass-happy Pac-12.
Pinstripe Bowl – New York, New York – Duke (7-5) vs. Indiana (6-6) – Indiana will be in their first Bowl since 2007. They had been tied with Colorado for the most years without a Bowl appearance. Duke is in a Bowl for the fourth straight season. They had a common opponent this season…both teams defeated Wake Forest (for whatever that’s worth since Wake was 3-9).
Independence Bowl – Shreveport, Louisiana – Tulsa (6-6) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6) – Legendary HC Frank Beamer leads Virginia Tech into his final game after piloting the Hokies for 29 years. They have been to a Bowl game for 23 consecutive seasons, the second longest such streak. Tulsa likes to throw but has trouble stopping the other team from doing so.
Foster Farms Bowl – Santa Clara, California – Nebraska (5-7) vs. UCLA (8-4) – Nebraska upset Playoff-bound Michigan State 39-38 in an otherwise disappointing first season under new HC Mike Riley. UCLA started out 4-0.
Military Bowl – Annapolis, Maryland – Navy (10-2) vs. Pittsburgh (8-4) – Navy’s QB Keenan Reynolds has 85 career TD runs, an FBS record. He should have been in New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony and a legit candidate. The Panthers come in losing three of their final five games after a 6-1 start…as well as coming in to Navy’s stadium for this Bowl.
Quick Lane Bowl – Detroit, Michigan – Central Michigan (7-5) vs. Minnesota (5-7) – Minnesota enters this Bowl having lost five of their last six. Central Michigan has won five of their last six.
Armed Forces Bowl – Fort Worth, Texas – California (7-5) vs. Air Force (8-5) – These two teams played in the 2007 edition of this Bowl when California rallied for a 42-36 win. Cal started this season 5-0.
Russell Athletic Bowl – Orlando, Florida – North Carolina (11-2) vs. Baylor (9-3) – These two teams are playing for the first time. Baylor was 8-0 before literally running out of QB’s. North Carolina would have made things very interesting for the Playoff Committee had they managed to defeat Clemson in the ACC Championship.
Arizona Bowl – Tucson, Arizona – Nevada (6-6) vs. Colorado State (7-5) – This Bowl is, believe it or not, between two teams from the very same Conference. Yes…that’s how silly things have gotten when it comes to the number of Bowls. Oh wait…this game is also only going to be available for viewing online and with mobile devices. That’s even more ridiculous.
Texas Bowl – Houston, Texas – Texas Tech (7-5) vs. LSU (8-3) – Texas Tech is second in the nation in passing offense averaging almost 390 yards per game. LSU got off to a 7-0 start before the wheels completely came off and almost cost HC Les Miles his job.
Birmingham Bowl – Birmingham, Alabama – Auburn (6-6) vs. Memphis (9-3) – Auburn travels for two hours to play this Bowl. Tigers versus Tigers. Auburn’s DC Will Muschamp is now the HC at South Carolina and Memphis’ HC Justin Fuente has left for Virginia Tech. Memphis will be coached by Darrell Dickey. A win gives these Tigers their first 10-win season in program history.
Belk Bowl – Charlotte, North Carolina – N.C. State (7-5) vs. Mississippi State (8-4) – N.C. State’s QB Jacoby Prescott is one of only four players in FBS history to throw for 60 TD’s and rush for 40. The likely better known QB is across the field in the Bulldogs’ very talented Dak Prescott. N.C. State started the year 4-0.
Music City Bowl – Nashville, Tennessee – Louisville (7-5) vs. Texas A & M (8-4) – Texas A & M won its first five before the bottom fell out and the Aggies dropped four of their last seven contests. Louisville…on the other hand…bounced back from a 0-3 start. Impressive.
Holiday Bowl – San Diego, California – Wisconsin (9-3) vs. Southern California (8-5) – This is USC’s second straight visit here…last year they defeated Nebraska. Wisconsin is making their fourteenth straight Bowl appearance, the longest active streak in the Big Ten. The Badgers have the top-ranked scoring defense in the country allowing about 13 points per game.
Peach Bowl – Atlanta, Georgia – Florida State (10-2) vs. Houston (12-1) – Florida State holds the nation’s longest consecutive Bowl streak at 34 seasons. The Seminoles were National Champs two years ago and made the Playoff last season. Houston gets into a “big-time Bowl” as the best of the “second tier” Conferences pathetically called the “Group of Five” instead of the “Power Five”…but I digress. The Cougars only lost to Connecticut when their star QB Greg Ward Jr. got hurt.
Orange Bowl – Miami Gardens, Florida – Clemson (13-0) vs. Oklahoma (11-1) – College Football Playoff Semifinal. The Tigers looked bored down the stretch and Oklahoma did not. It’s still hard to explain the Sooners’ 24-17 loss to Texas in mid-season. Clemson’s QB Deshaun Watson is a dynamic force meeting a defense that averages over three sacks a game. Oklahoma’s QB Baker Mayfield is a gutsy force meeting a defense that is probably the best “third-down, get-off-the-field” group in the nation.
Cotton Bowl – Arlington, Texas – Alabama (12-1) vs. Michigan State (12-1) – College Football Playoff Semifinal. Both teams were packing lucky charms this year as the Tide got into the SEC Championship when Ole Miss lost in bizarre fashion to Arkansas while the Spartans won in bizarre fashion against Michigan. Alabama RB Derrick Henry – the Heisman Trophy winner – is 240 pounds of pure power that represents just about all of the Tide’s offense. Michigan State’s defense just got done stuffing Ohio State and Iowa’s rushing attacks. It would be helpful if their QB Connor Cook heals completely before facing Alabama…whose defense has allowed only 13 drives into the red zone since their upset loss to Ole Miss. Michigan State’s loss…an equally upsetting performance against Nebraska.
Outback Bowl – Tampa, Florida – Northwestern (10-2) vs. Tennessee (8-4) – Two teams with five game win streaks. Northwestern’s streak features four of those contests being decided by seven points or less. Tennessee’s four losses this season were by a combined total of only 17 points. Note…the Volunteers lost two of those games to College Football Playoff teams Alabama and Oklahoma…and not by much on either occasion.
Citrus Bowl – Orlando, Florida – Michigan (9-3) vs. Florida (10-3) – This is the third time these two teams have met with Michigan winning both previous encounters. Michigan got hammered in their finale against rival Ohio State…Florida encountered much the same fate against Florida State, then struggled against Alabama in the SEC Championship. The Gators’ season would likely have been much different had QB Will Grier not been suspended a year for a positive performance-enhancing test in October. Michigan’s season might have been much different had their punter not tossed the ball to Michigan State at their game’s end.
Fiesta Bowl – Glendale, Arizona – Notre Dame (10-2) vs. Ohio State (11-1) – Both of these teams suffered crushing late-season losses. Defending National Champ Ohio State lost at the buzzer at home to Michigan State. Notre Dame left too much time on the clock and came up short in the final seconds at Stanford. Ohio State’s DE Joey Bosa is absolutely one of the best players in college football. The Buckeyes’ inconsistency at QB with Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett has been fortunately offset by star RB Ezekiel Elliott. QB DeShone Kizer saved the season for Notre Dame after starter Malik Zaire was injured for the season in Week 2. Yet…it is the Irish defense that has eyes smiling led by DT Sheldon Day and LB Jaylon Smith.
Rose Bowl – Pasadena, California – Iowa (12-1) vs. Stanford (11-2) – Iowa’s undefeated season and College Football Playoff berth was lost in the final seconds to Michigan State but at least the Hawkeyes now get to attend the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1991. The Cardinal lost both their opener at Northwestern 16-6 and towards the end of the year at home to Oregon 38-36…which dashed their hopes of making the Playoff even as Pac-12 Champion. All-purpose weapon Christian McCaffrey is the best player in the nation in my opinion. Stanford plays the run very well led by DE Solomon Thomas. Iowa’s QB C.J. Beathard has been inconsistent. LB Josey Jewell has not been, playing the run especially well.
Sugar Bowl – New Orleans, Louisiana – Mississippi (9-3) vs. Oklahoma State (10-2) – This is the third time these teams have met in a Bowl since 2004 and Ole Miss won both games…both Cotton Bowls. The Rebels were the only team to defeat Playoff-bound Alabama…at Alabama no less. Oklahoma State reeled off ten wins before losing their final two to Baylor and Oklahoma to end their Playoff hopes…the Cowboys had the Final Four in their sights but couldn’t close the deal.
TaxSlayer Bowl – Jacksonville, Florida – Penn State (7-5) vs. Georgia (9-3) – This is the first time these teams have met since the 1983 Sugar Bowl when the Nittany Lions defeated Herschel Walker and the Bulldogs to win the 1982 National Championship. Penn State has lost three in a row. Georgia has won four in a row but still fired HC Mark Richt, who has since returned to his alma mater Miami (Florida). Georgia has been to a Bowl for nineteen consecutive seasons, the third-longest streak of its kind. This is the second time in three years the Bulldogs have been in this Bowl.
Liberty Bowl – Memphis, Tennessee – Kansas State (6-6) vs. Arkansas (7-5) – Kansas State won its final three games while Arkansas won six of their last eight after a slow start…including the insanity that was their 53-52 OT win at/against Mississippi when a fourth-and-25 lateral play bounced their way…and helped Alabama into the SEC Championship game…and the Playoff of course.
Alamo Bowl – San Antonio, Texas – TCU (10-2) vs. Oregon (9-3) – Two teams with pre-season National Championship aspirations still wound up both averaging over 40 points per game. Oregon is on a six-game win streak. The Horned Frogs’ losses were to Oklahoma (Playoff team) and Oklahoma State (almost Playoff team).
Cactus Bowl – Phoenix, Arizona – West Virginia (7-5) vs. Arizona State (6-6) – Arizona State will travel about 10 miles to play at Chase Field, home of the baseball Diamondbacks. This Bowl is usually played on their home field but it is undergoing renovations. West Virginia has won four of their last five. Arizona State has lost four of their last six.