Bowl season kicks off tomorrow and from Saturday through January 9, we get 35 more college football games to wrap up the season. The Notebook will preview each game individually as they come. For now, here’s a general outline to help you plan your TV watching…
Saturday, December 17
New Mexico Bowl: Temple-Wyoming (2 PM ET, ESPN)
Idaho Potato Bowl: Ohio-Utah State (5:30 PM ET, ESPN)
New Orleans Bowl: San Diego State-UL Lafayette (9 PM ET, ESPN)
Tuesday, December 20
Beef O’Brady’s Bowl: Florida International-Marshall (8 PM ET, ESPN)
Wednesday, December 21
Poinsettia Bowl: TCU-Louisiana Tech (8 PM ET, ESPN)
Thursday, December 22
Las Vegas Bowl: Arizona State-Boise State (8 PM ET, ESPN)
Saturday, December 24
Hawaii Bowl: Nevada-Southern Miss (8 PM ET, ESPN)
Comments: Don’t dismiss all these games as evidence there’s too many bowls. Just focus all that derision of Florida International-Marshall, which is every bit as ugly as it looks after FIU had a disappointing season. Then appreciate some solid under-the-radar games. Temple-Wyoming offers the Owls’ talented running back Bernard Pierce against a Wyoming squad that was steady in the Mountain West all year. Seeing if UL-Lafayette’s dynamic quarterback Blake Gautier can keep pace with San Diego State and their excellent all-purpose running back Ronnie Hillman might be more entertaining than Dallas-Tampa Bay on Saturday night. Anyone who saw Southern Miss nail Houston and Case Keenum has to be intrigued by their Christmas Eve showdown with Nevada. Tivo the game and watch it after Christmas festivities for the night are done. And no game in this slot is better than TCU-Louisiana Tech, in which both teams have won seven straight. TCU shocked Boise to win the Mountain West and Tech’s win in Nevada to steal the WAC title was almost as surprising.
Monday, December 26
Independence Bowl: Missouri-North Carolina (5 PM ET, ESPN)
Tuesday, December 27
Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl: Western Michigan-Purdue (4:30 PM ET, ESPN)
Belk Bowl: Louisville-NC State (8 ET, ESPN)
Wednesday, December 28
Military Bowl: Toledo-Air Force (4:30 ET, ESPN)
Holiday Bowl: Cal-Texas (8 ET, ESPN)
Thursday, December 29
Champs Sports Bowl: Florida State-Notre Dame (5:30 PM ET, ESPN)
Alamo Bowl: Washington-Baylor (9 PM ET, ESPN)
Comments: If the ACC was a deep enough conference to merit two BCS bids for the first time, North Carolina will get a chance to prove it against Missouri in a good game that can’t get prime-time because of New Orleans-Atlanta on Monday Night Football. Cal-Texas is another good one. The Golden Bears have playing well, with Isi Soefele running the ball and Zac Maynard throwing it, but the Longhorns can play some solid defense. And both December 27 games are pretty good. Louisville won a share of the Big East title after a tough September and N.C. State also played its best football down the stretch. In the fabled Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl, which Purdue team shows up? The one that beat Ohio State or the one that barely scraped by Indiana? If it’s the latter, the passing combo of Alex Carder-to-Jordan White will have a big night for the Broncos.
THREE DAYS WALL-TO-WALL
Friday, December 30
Armed Forces Bowl: BYU-Tulsa (Noon ET, ESPN)
Pinstripe Bowl: Rutgers-Iowa State (3:20 ET, ESPN)
Music City: Miss State-Wake Forest (6:40 ET, ESPN)
Insight: Iowa-Oklahoma (10 ET, ESPN)
Comments: Iowa-Oklahoma is officially starting to scare me. I had it circled as an upset spot and now more college football fans I talk to are seeing it the same way. So much for sneaking under the radar. BYU-Tulsa’s a nice early game, although it lost a lot of steam with the way the Golden Hurricane looked against Houston in a Black Friday battle for the C-USA West title. The middle two games are as ho-hum as they appear on paper.
Saturday, December 31
Meineke Car Care Bowl: Texas A&M-Northwestern (Noon ET, ESPN)
Sun Bowl: Georgia Tech-Utah (2 ET,CBS)
Liberty Bowl: Cincinnati-Vanderbilt (3:30 ET, CBS)
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Illinois-UCLA (3:30 ET, ESPN)
Chick-fil-A Bowl: Virginia-Auburn (7:30 ET, ESPN)
Comments: Vanderbilt and Auburn could make another bowl strike for the SEC if they beat teams who are, relative to their conference, better overall. Illinois and UCLA is the game that exposes how ridiculous it is for coaching changes to be made during the middle of the postseason. Both schools are being coached on an interim basis with new bosses Tim Beckham (Illinois) and Jim Mora Jr. (UCLA) watching from on high. The same goes for A&M and Kevin Sumlin who takes on a Northwestern team that won four of its last five, including a victory at Nebraska.
Monday, January 2
TicketCity Bowl: Houston-Penn State (Noon ET, ESPNU)
Outback Bowl: Michigan State-Georgia (1 ET, ABC)
Capital One Bowl: Nebraska-South Carolina (1 ET, ESPN)
Gator Bowl: Ohio State-Florida (1 ET, ESPN2)
Comments: With January 1 an NFL Sunday this year, these games are pushed back a day. The early part of the day has more coaching dramas surrounding it, with Houston and Penn State both in the market, and Urban Meyer’s presence dominating the Ohio State-Florida game. How is it possible that South Carolina, a 10-2 team out of the SEC continues to slide under the radar? They play great defense, have overcome the loss of Marcus Lattimore and the fiasco that was Stephen Garcia’s season and can make a solid national statement against a Nebraska team that’s failed its key challenges this season. Michigan State-Georgia is the best overall game of the early afternoon as both teams look to rebound from conference championship game losses.
Monday, January 2
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin-Oregon (5 ET, ESPN)
Fiesta Bowl: Stanford-Oklahoma State (8:30 ET, ESPN)
Tuesday, January 3
Sugar Bowl: Michigan-Virginia Tech (8:30 ET, ESPN)
Wednesday, January 4
Orange Bowl: West Virginia-Clemson (8:30 ET, ESPN)
Comments: We’ll be doing in-depth previews of these games as they come, but some early thoughts are that there’s a lot of pressure on most teams to win, not just celebrate a good season. The ACC as a conference needs wins and Virginia Tech most certainly does, given their Orange Bowl drubbing last year. Both Chip Kelly and Bret Bielama need to prove they can do more than make the Rose Bowl, they can also win it. Oklahoma State can make a statement about its championship-worthiness and Stanford needs some redemption for the way they played against Oregon in the regular season.
CLEANUP BEFORE THE CHAMPIONSHP
Friday, January 6
Cotton Bowl: Kansas State-Arkansas (8 ET, Fox)
Saturday, January 7
Compass Bowl: SMU-Pitt (1 ET, ESPN)
Sunday, January 8
GoDaddy.com Bowl: Arkansas State-Northern Illinois (8 ET, ESPN)
Comments: Is it a sign that I need to get a life if I immediately thought Arkansas State-Northern Illinois looked like a great game, with NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish trying to penetrate a solid Red Wolves’ defense? Or that I thought SMU-Pitt was an interesting rematch of the 1982 Cotton Bowl played in the sleet in Dallas? Don’t answer. This year’s Cotton Bowl is a great game, the best of the non-BCS matchups. The weekend games will have an impossible time getting attention with first-round NFL playoff action going.
MONDAY, JANUARY 9: BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
LSU-Alabama (8:30 ET, ESPN)
Comments: Plenty has been written and plenty more will be written. The Notebook will weigh in when the game gets closer.