Bowl season is upon us, and as usual, the BCS and the bowl selection committees have generally made a real mess of things, so that there can be endless discussions of who should have done what, and who should be where to take up the time on the wannabe sports talk shows like The Herd on ESPN, and the plethora of local shows on local stations (we have four sports talk radio stations here in Houston). Among the flotsam of meaningless games, there are a few bowls that managed to hit the jackpot in terms of matching up two teams that will most likely provide fans with a terrific game to watch, worthy of an afternoon or evening in front of the television set. Here are my choices for best bowl games of the season.
Holiday Bowl: Arizona plays Nebraska in a rematch of the same bowl game in 1998. Since then, both Arizona and Nebraska have crashed into the pits of their respective conferences, and are in the process of pulling themselves out. Arizona lost a Rose Bowl bid to Oregon by literally a few inches inside the upright of a goal post in double overtime. Nebraska was one dubious second away from the Big 12 Championship against Texas. Both teams feature sound and solid defensive units and the game is not just meaningless post season. I’m a little bit biased in this one, since I am an Arizona Wildcat fan, and Nebraska is also one of my favorite teams, but I think this is good stuff. The outcome is tough to predict. The Cornhuskers got a lot of attention when Suh was nominated for the Heisman, and Arizona’s success the past two years is still on the second page. It will come down to whether Nebraska’s defense can keep Sonny Dykes’ offense and QB Nick Foles from scoring more than 14 points.
Fiesta Bowl: A lot of people think the BCS did TCU and Boise State wrong by pitting the two undefeateds from non-BCS conferences against each other. But with the question looming as to whether both of them would even get into a BCS bowl at all, the fact that they did was recognition of what they have accomplished, and it is highly likely that the winner will achieve the #2 ranking in the final poll, which for either of these programs would be no small accomplishment. Boise State is from Idaho, plays on a blue carpeted field, and is a relative newcomer to the scene. TCU once looked forward to its annual Southwest Conference matchup with Rice for the hope of its only win of the season. It will, therefore, be a good game with as much at stake for both teams as the national championship game. TCU should prevail, and then face the question, “Where do we go from here?” It’s hard to think of Ft. Worth as the home to a major football powerhouse.
The Fiesta may have, once again, struck gold with this choice. Boise State and TCU have small, but energized alumni and fan bases and they’re both close enough to travel to Glendale in sufficient numbers to sell out the 68,000 or so seats. And the television ratings will go through the roof.
Capital One Bowl: A classic matchup between the over-rated SEC and the Big 10 will take place in Orlando when Penn State and LSU meet up. If both teams take the game seriously, seeing it as a way to enhance their standing and give them a boost into next season, it ought to be a good game. Give this one to the Nittany Lions, 24-13.
Rose Bowl: The Granddaddy gets a Pac-10, Big-10 matchup most of the time now that an additional national championship game has been added to the mix, and while Ohio State’s appearance is almost ho-hum, the rare entrance of Oregon makes this very interesting. Oregon is one of those teams from the Pac-10 that plays off the radar screen because they are in the Pacific time zone and far away from the Eastern sports press. They are one of the teams that, in recent years, has helped to bulk up the Pac-10 under USC, and have made it one of the best football conferences in the country that no one knows about. They’ve proven their ability to conquer the best of the Big 12 in the regular season, and they win bowl games, unlike some schools that begin with the letter “O”. Oregon 35, Ohio State 17.
Eagle Bank Bowl: This one is interesting precisely because who even knows there is an Eagle Bank Bowl? It is played in, of all places, Washington, D.C., in RFK Stadium. December in Washington ought to be nice. And the two opponents? This is what makes it interesting. Temple University, which has appeared in just two other bowl games, goes up against UCLA, which had to wait on the outcome of the Army-Navy game to learn whether it was in or out. Temple’s other bowl appearances include the inaugural, 1935 Sugar Bowl, and a 1979 appearance in the now-defunct Garden State Bowl. Washington isn’t going to provide the bowl-season atmosphere, or climate, of the Florida-Arizona-California bowl season, but it’s a two hour drive from the Temple campus and it’s a bowl game. UCLA might consider this a consolation prize, considering where it has been in football in recent years, but I’ll bet they don’t sell out their allotment of tickets. This one is a toss-up.
Those are the most intriguing, or the most interesting, aside from the National Championship between Texas and Alabama, which should be a barnburner. Here are the real stinkers:
Gator Bowl: Whatever Bobby wants, Bobby gets because his buddies in the Eastern sports press club will get it for him whether he deserves it or not. Just like the national championship they fixed for him after he got clobbered by Notre Dame, the Gator Bowl is a fix. The problem is that it might be hard to convince West Virginia to lay down and die for their old coach so he can exit the scene he should have left years ago in style. I pity the sports analysts who will have to find a way to make Bobby look good going out after the whipping that the Mountaineers are going to lay on the ‘Noles.
Insight Dot Com Bowl: The new venue for college football greatness moved to Glendale, Arizona when the Fiesta Bowl became a tennant in University of Phoenix Stadium, and when it hosted the national title game a couple of years ago. The vacuum left in cross-town Tempe sucked in the Insight Bowl, which brings together Minnesota and Iowa State. So two teams from the upper Midwest get a vacation in the sun in Arizona, and no one else cares.
Brut Sun Bowl: Stanford vs. Oklahoma? Yuk. And Stanford is the team with the Heisman runner up, and the favorite. What do you expect from a bowl game named after cheap cologne?
Armed Forces Bowl: Houston vs. Air Force. So, someone wanted to see if the UH Cougars, and Case Keenum, can put up more points than the 74 they laid on Rice in their last regular season game, huh?
Bowl season should be, as usual, something largely to avoid.