Bowling For (fill in the blank)
December 24, 2015
The college football bowl season is upon us. Forty-one games strong. On a side note, can you believe there are 80 schools that are bowl-worthy? I spoke of 80 schools because two fortunate schools will get to play in an extra bowl game to determine the national championship.
Each bowl game means different things for different schools. Obviously, the playoff bowl games have national title implications. Some bowl games mean nothing but an extra month of practice for coaches to continue developing their players.
Some bowls mark the end for iconic coaches like Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer. Others feature minimal coaching staffs with graduate assistants overseeing position groups as head coaches and assistant coaches are already in the midst of location changes.
Some bowls pair teams with plenty of motivation. Just ask Ohio State. Virtually all football fans know the Buckeyes are one of the top four teams in the country. But a loss at Michigan State, on a rainy night with a wet field, ended their national championship thoughts.
Some bowls feature unexpected teams who get a winter vacation to a tropical-like setting. Like Western Michigan and Middle Tennessee who will meet in the Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl.
Here are some of my thoughts as I review the schedule.
I believe the SEC has a chance to get some prestige back. An underwhelming bowl performance last season (7-5 overall but only 2-5 by ranked teams) preceded a shaky regular season this fall. The SEC has only one top-10 team and arguably the weakest division (East) among Power 5 conferences. Alabama can end the SEC’s brief national title drought, but a stronger overall showing is key as oddsmakers favors all 10 SEC teams in their bowl matchups. If the SEC stumbles again, its annual claim of being the nation’s top conference will ring hollow entering next season.
Here are some shorter thoughts.
I think the TCU-Oregon game could produce over 100 points in the Alamo Bowl. Look for the Ducks to win their seventh straight game.
I think Ohio State will take out its frustration on Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. These two programs have hardly ever met on the gridiron despite their geographical proximity to each other.
I would not rule out Michigan State versus Alabama in their playoff matchup. Spartans’ head coach Mark Dantonio is a protege of Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban. So there is some familiarity there coupled with the fact that Michigan State is 8-2 in its last 10 games against top 10 opponents.
I think Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M is one head coach who really needs a win. Sumlin and the Aggies will square off against Louisville in the Music City Bowl. He has found life after Johnny Manziel increasingly difficult and faces significant questions after the recent news of two quarterbacks leaving his program.
I think Houston has a lot to gain in its Peach Bowl game against Florida State. The Cougars won their first conference title since 2006 and would emerge as a top-10 team if they can upset the Seminoles.
I think UCLA has the most to lose. The Bruins were mentioned all summer as a possible playoff team. Injuries and inconsistent play left them with a 8-4 record. Losing to 5-7 Nebraska in the Foster Farms Bowl would be embarrassing.
Time for another side note. You know there are too many bowl games when a school with a losing record is still playing football.
Let me close with my playoff projections. Personally, I would love to see Clemson bring home a national title. But I see them falling to Oklahoma and I like Alabama over Michigan State. That leaves me with Alabama winning yet another national championship.
Enjoy the games.