Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pre-Bowl Season Winners and Losers

If you earn bowl eligibility in the MAC, you can either head to Detroit... Or here.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

We are about to achieve maximum football this weekend, as college bowl season kicks off to complement the final two weeks of the NFL season, as well as playoffs at both the pro and college levels.

The only days we won't have a bowl game between Saturday and January 4th will be December 21st, December 25th and December 28th, simply because college football can't mess with the NFL of Jesus.

But before bowl season even starts, we can pick out some clear winners and losers based on where teams are headed (ie, TCU and Baylor; losers. Ohio State; winner), so here are your Pre-Bowl Season Winners and Losers.


Colorado State

It's a little odd for a school to get as excited about losing a coach as Colorado State did, but give the Rams credit for turning Jim McElwain's departure for the University of Florida into a positive. CSU has as much positive momentum as it has ever had, and McElwain's explosive offense is a big reason why.

Plus, the Rams get to play in Vegas against a ranked Pac 12 team in Utah.

Look for a fun, high-scoring game in the desert, and some rare national exposure for the Colorado State program as announcers continually reference McElwain's offensive genius and the stellar play of quarterback Garrett Grayson, along with the vast potential of star sophomore receiver Rashard Higgins.

The Boca Raton Bowl, Music City Bowl & Texas Bowl

Boca got into the bowl hosting game hoping to find a niche as a a fun mid-major bowl game. Well, call this first installment of the (totally unnecessary) Boca Bowl a success, as high-powered 12-1 Marshall gets set to face dangerous 11-2 Northern Illinois. With a pair of mid-major teams that were sniffing the New Year's Six bowls earlier this year, and a reputation for explosive offense and upsets of the big boys, this bowl game really couldn't have a better inaugural match up.

Meanwhile, the Music City and Texas Bowls found ways to grab cash and create relevant match ups. The former pits traditional powers Notre Dame and LSU against each other in Nashville, a market close enough to both Indiana and Louisiana that there should be a large crowd, and the national fan bases of each school will assure TV ratings most mid-level bowl games can only dream of.

The Texas Bowl, meanwhile, went old-school regional, pitting the Texas Longhorns (obviously a huge draw in Houston, and everywhere else in the Lone Star State) against former Southwest Conference rival Arkansas. It may not exactly be 1969's Game of the Century, but both of these programs are dragging themselves out of the doldrums with new coaches, powerful running games, and inconsistent quarterbacks. Sounds like it should be a fun reincarnation of this dormant rivalry, which hasn't been played since an inter-conference game in 2008.


You know you've made it as a company when you have an irrelevant bowl game named after you, but Bitcoin also has the distinction of becoming the first currency to sponsor a bowl game. It's a little frustrating that Vietnam's currency didn't get in on that action first, because I would way rather watch NC State play UCF in The Dong Bowl.

Central Michigan and Western Kentucky

Each of these teams is decidedly mediocre (7-5 and around .500 in their respective mid-major conferences), but WKU has a big win over Marshall on its resume, and CMU has won its fair share of games against Power-5 opponents the last few years.

But, what really makes these two winners is that they will be facing off in the Bahamas Bowl! That's right, instead of heading to Idaho, Detroit, Mobile or Montgomery like their conference brethren, the Chippewas get to party on Paradise Island. Conference-USA has a slightly more appealing bowl slate (WKU could have ended up in Hawaii, or at least St. Petersburg. Both conferences also have tie-ins with the Boca Raton Bowl as well), but it's still harder to think of a better place to play a mid-level bowl game.

Enjoy the vacation guys, and have fun on the field, because nobody is going to remember who won or lost this game. All party, no pressure.

Boston College

BC coach Steve Addazio has put the Eagles back on the map, taking the program to its second bowl appearance in his two seasons on the job. After last season's upset of Arizona, the Eagles will have a lot to live up to, but they'll have a national stage and cool venue to sell their program in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

Playing in Yankee Stadium is one thing, but playing there against the most storied college football program in the Northeast (Penn State) is certainly another. Winning this game, or at least showing well, should give Addazio a recruiting bump in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

Boise State

It's been a while, but those lovable, BCS-busting Broncos are back in a marquee bowl. While "New Year's Six busting" doesn't sound nearly as good, Boise State has once again reached college football's top tier as the highest ranked team from the "Group of Five" mid-major conferences. Yes, there are a lot of new stupid names and terms to remember, but the Broncos riding an eight-game winning streak and gunning for Pac 12 South champion Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl just seems so right.

Alabama and Oregon

Obviously, as the Top-2 ranked teams in the College Football Playoff Rankings, these two are winners, but geography will do them both some favors in the semifinals. While the committee could have pitted Alabama against Florida State in the Sugar Bowl, making it a Southeastern affair in New Orleans, they chose instead to send the Seminoles all the way to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl to face Oregon. With a smaller alumni base in Southern California, and the prospect of having to buy ANOTHER ticket for the actual championship game, it remains to be seen if FSU fans will travel for their school's game against the Ducks.

Alabama isn't quite as lucky, as Ohio State fans travel well pretty much everywhere, but they do get a virtual home game in the SuperDome against a team traveling from the Midwest. The rankings certainly worked out well for the playoff's top two seeds.


The Poinsettia Bowl & Heart of Dallas Bowl

If you wanted to make an argument that there are too many bowls (I certainly wouldn't, because, uh, I like football), these two games would be exhibits A and B. The former used to be one of the best mid-major bowl games of the season, but the death of the Western Athletic Conference, and the defections of former mid-major darlings TCU and Utah to major conferences, along with BYU going independent, have severely hurt this bowl's ability to create quality match ups.

I've grown so used to seeing TCU, Boise State, Utah, BYU and good San Diego State teams play in this game, that this year's match up of a bad SDSU team and Navy just seems stale.

The Heart of Dallas Bowl has pretty much been a stinker, other than the inaugural game in 2011 between high-powered Texas Tech and a fun Northwestern team.

Since then, we've been treated to the Big Ten's worst bowl eligible team getting smacked twice (Houston crushing Penn State in 2012 and Oklahoma State annihilating Purdue in 2013), and a mediocre mid-major blowing out a bad mid-major (North Texas beating UNLV 36-14). This year could bring a combo of the two as Illinois (yes, Illinois is bowl eligible. God help us all) faces a pretty good Louisiana Tech squad. This game has the potential to be either very not fun (Illinois wins), or more likely a little fun and a little sad (Louisiana Tech blow out the Illini).

Either way, I probably won't be watching.

South Carolina and Miami (FL)

Expectations were pretty high for both these teams in the preseason, as Steve Spurrier was hyping up his Gamecocks as potential SEC champions, while The U's hype machine was pushing running back Duke Johnson as a Heisman candidate. Well, both teams went 6-6, and now they have to play each other in Shreveport…

My how the mighty have fallen.


Florida's season went fairly poorly, but the Gators still had an outside shot at the SEC East championship as recently as November 15th.

But, after choking away their SEC hopes at home against equally terrible South Carolina (not to mention a major upset chance against Florida State two weeks later), the Gators need a win just to avoid back-to-back non-winning seasons. The last time UF went two years without a winning football team? 1978 and 1979.

Yeah, it's been a while, so these Gators need to pick up a win to avoid a dubious distinction.

The problem is, they'll be playing in the Birmingham Bowl, a bowl so boring and poorly located that they couldn't even keep a corporate sponsor on it, if for no other reason, than to hide the fact that it's in Birmingham. Apparently this bowl is below and BBVA Compass, the game's former sponsors.

And it's one of those games that tries to trick you into thinking it's important by being scheduled after New Year's Day. Come on guys, we all know those bowls are reserved for directional Arkansas schools taking on crappy teams like Pitt.

Instead, the Gators will battle a solid Eastern Carolina team that will probably treat the game as their Super Bowl, while Florida's players likely won't even show up until halftime when they realize Will Muschamp is no longer coaching them.


Another team making a coaching change, only the Huskers' players nearly staged a Twitter mutiny when coach Bo Pelini was shown the door.

Now Nebraska has to head to Southern California to take on a red-hot USC team that is maybe just remembering what USC teams are supposed to play like. The Holiday Bowl should be a nice vacation from the corn fields of Nebraska, but it will also likely include a whooping at the hands of a steadily improving Trojan team.

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