Monday, December 5, 2016

College Football: The Good (And Bad) of the Bowl Schedule.

On Sunday everything was finalized for College Football.  The College Football Playoff Committee made their choices, which almost everyone declared to either be either the best or worst of all worlds, there is no middle ground. In all fairness however, this year, the strange and crazy year, provided the Committee with a no-win situation.

Should Penn State have been in the top 4? Possibly.  But they lost to Michigan 49-10 and they lost to Pitt 42-39.  Washington did get in, with one of the weakest strength of schedules you're likely to see in a top 4 team. Ohio State also got in, despite losing to Penn State.  Oklahoma was out, despite running the table in the Big XII but losing to Houston and Ohio State, the latter at home. Michigan got left out, despite beating up Penn State but losing to Iowa and Ohio State, both on the road.

As it stands though, this is your top six.

1. Alabama. (13-0) - No arguments here. Consistently the best team in the land, the defending champion, undefeated and almost unchallenged most of the year.

2. Clemson (12-1) - Again, no arguments. And while Virginia Tech made it close in the ACC Championship game this is the team most likely to have a shot at challenging Alabama.

3. Ohio State (11-1) - No 13th game for the Buckeyes because Penn State beat them and played for the B1G championship. It's hard to argue against them unless you believe that winning the conference is of the utmost importance.

4. Washington (12-1) - The Pac-12 champions whose out of conference schedule included Rutgers, Idaho and Portand State. That loss to USC doesn't bode well for their chances to beat Alabama.

5. Penn State (11-2) - The team with the strongest argument for inclusion due to their winning the B1G and beating Ohio State.  Except they lost badly to.....

6. Michigan (10-2) - Has a fringe argument, except they lost to Iowa and Ohio State. Still, had a good season.

But the big games happen later in the schedule.  First things first, this season is gifting us with 41(!!) bowl match-ups, a handful involving 5-7 teams which is a sure-fire sign we have too many bowls. The thing is, we keep adding bowls and not retracting, so there's going to come a time when we run out of 5-7 teams if this keeps up.

As with any bowl season there are some good games (on paper) some bad, and some downright ugly. Here are my initial thoughts.

Games to watch:

Las Vegas Bowl 
Houston vs. San Diego State University. 3:30 PM EST, December 17th

One of the pluses of ESPN ownership of multiple bowl games is that they're allowed to tweak the invitations among them to better the match-ups.  This is the case here. UH was originally slotted into the St. Petersburg Bowl, where they would have likely played Mississippi State. A mid-Decmeber match-up against Donnel Pumphrey and the Aztecs is much more interesting. The only caveat to this is that Houston might lack motivation.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
BYU vs. Wyoming. 9 PM EST, December 21st.

This should be a solid match-up pitting two well coached teams against one another in a game that's usually exciting.  Wyoming head-coach Craig Bohl has the Cowboys on the map in his first season of back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back FCS Championships at NDSU.

Popeye's Bahamas Bowl
Old Dominion vs. Eastern Michigan, 1PM EST December 23rd.

There are worse things you could do while wrapping presents than tuning into this game pitting two teams with no bowl history matching up in the Bahamas. You probably haven't seen these two teams play much, which is another reason to tune in.

Russell Athletic Bowl
West Virginia vs. Miami(Fl) 5:30 PM EST, December 28th.

Possibly the most entertaining head coaching match-up as newly extended Dana Holgerson of West Virginia takes on first year Miami coach Mark Richt. Richt did a good job with Miami this year and Dana has a defense. I'm thinking this is a competitive game if both teams are motivated.

AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl.
Texas A&M vs. Kansas State. 9:00 PM EST, December 28th.

Any time you can get aTm playing a Big XII team it's a good thing.  This is also likely to be K-State coach Bill Snyder's last game so that's worth the price of admission in and of itself.

Valero Alamo Bowl
Oklahoma State vs. Colorado. 9:00 PM EST, December 29th.

This game is typically a flat affair between two teams that had NY6 bowl hopes but got blasted in the championship game.  It's no different this year but I think these two former Big 8 rivals might decide that they don't want to lose this game.

Capital One Orange Bowl
Michigan vs. Florida State. 8:00 PM EST, December 30th.

The first of the so-called 'NY6' bowls this one gives us a match-up between Florida State's offense, and Michigan's excellent defense. I'm expecting a low-scoring, hard hitting affair.

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl.
LSU vs. Louisville, 11:00 AM EST, December 31st.

Wake up early on New Year's Eve and watch this. Lamar Jackson vs the LSU defense alone makes this potentially one of the better things in what has been a fairly crap 2016 to be honest.

Rose Bowl
USC vs. Penn State, 5:00 PM EST, January 2nd.

If nothing else, the Rose Bowl is the best of the bowl games just because.  Plus, this might be the last chance you get to see Adoree Jackson play college football. The setting is beautiful, so wake up early, watch the parade and get ready for college football as it's meant to be.

Games to miss: (I'll be watching most of these, so you don't have to)

St. Petersburg Bowl
Miami(OH) vs. Mississippi State. 11:00 AM, December 26th.

A bowl game pitting a team that went 0-6 before winning it's last six to become bowl eligible versus as 5-7 Bulldog team whose coach has mailed it in this year?  I would wake up early and possibly go to the malls to spend your Christmas money rather than watch this snoozer.

National Funding Holiday Bowl
Minnesota vs. Washington State. 7 PM EST, December 27th.

Two 6-6 teams that are ranked 88th and 89th in ARPI respectively. This is the most average, middle of the road bowl in possibly ever. Plus, I don't think Minnesota has the team speed to hang with Wazzu. I'm not expecting a very compelling game.

Motel 6 Cactus Bowl.
Baylor vs. Boise State. 10:15 PM EST, December 27th

Baylor should have declined a bowl invite and ended this disaster of a season. But, it's Baylor, so they didn't.  That doesn't mean that you should stay up late to watch this mess.

Belk Bowl
Arkansas vs. Virginia Tech. 5:30 PM EST, December 29th.

There's not a lot to get excited about in this pairing, as an overrated Arkansas team looks to get demolished by Virginia Tech. Unless, and this is more likely, neither team shows up very motivated.

Pure ugliness (I'm not even sure I'll be watching this one.)

Outback Bowl
Florida vs. Iowa. 1:00 PM EST, January 2nd.

A noon kick off the day after New Year's provides little reason to not sleep way in.  This is your last day of the holiday. Don't waste it watching this snoozer of a game.

Obviously also you're going to want to watch the College Football Playoff games, except for the late game played on December 31st. (Again, I'll be at home watching because I don't go out on amateur night)  I'll be back with full reviews of all the games in segments as we get closer to them.

Get some rest. It's going to be a long bowl season to cap off what was an entertaining year of College Football.

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