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Monday, December 14, 2015

Banshee's Bowl Season Preview

Over the next three weeks, college football will take over the sports landscape with forty-one bowl games.  That's right.  Forty-one.  For all but the most dedicated fans, that dazzling array may seem overwhelming.  In order to help you all through the viewing process, I will pick one game from each set of bowl games as must-see game of the group.

The Holy War
The Pre-Christmas Games:  Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl.  BYU vs. #22 Utah.  December 19, 2015 at 3:30 EST on ABC.

Twelve bowl games will take place before St. Nick finishes his rounds for 2015.  The Las Vegas Bowl stands out from the rest of that crowd.  First of all, the irony of the Holy War between BYU and Utah being renewed in Sin City is just too rich.  After taking a year off in 2014, we will get the 96th battle between these longtime in-state rivals.  All things considered, with a 9-3 record, BYU has to be pleased with this bowl game.  Utah comes into the game with an identical 9-3 record, but with wins over Michigan, Oregon and Cal to their credit, Utah fans have to be a little miffed about a pre-Christmas bowl.  I'm thankful this is not a gambling post because I do not want to make a prediction except to say that this will be entertaining.

Runner up:  Marmot Boca Raton Bowl.  Toledo vs. #24 Temple.  December 22, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. EST on ESPN.


The Tweener Games:  Russell Athletic Bowl.  #10 North Carolina vs. #17 Baylor.  December 29, 2015 at 5:30 p.m. EST on ESPN.

The bowl committee overlooked the fact that neither of these teams wear Russell Athletic uniforms and put together a terrific matchup.  The #10 North Carolina Tarheels and the #17 Baylor Bears square off in one of the best games of the bowl season.  It is a traveshamockery that this game is buried in an afternoon time slot on a Tuesday.  One of the most intriguing aspects of this game is the quarterback situation at Baylor.  Due to injuries, Baylor finished the season with a wide receiver taking snaps in their season finale against Texas.  With a month to prepare and heal, it is safe to assume that Baylor will have a competent offense in the bowl game.  North Carolina is more of a known factor.  Clemson fans know that North Carolina gave them all they could handle in the ACC Championship.  This may not turn out to be the offensive explosion that some expect, but it should be an interesting and competitive matchup right to the end.

Runner up:  Birmingham Bowl.  Auburn vs. Memphis.  December 30, 2015 at 12:00 p.m. EST on ESPN.


Iconic Sooner Schooner
New Year's Eve Games:  Capital One Orange Bowl.  #4 Oklahoma vs. #1 Clemson.  December 31, 2015 at 4:00 p.m. EST on ESPN.

There are only three bowl games on New Year's Eve.  They are staggered throughout the day, so there is no legitimate reason to miss any of these games.  But, if you have to pick just one game, I recommend the Capital One Orange Bowl between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Clemson Tigers.  The main reason is that there is more novelty in semi-final playoff game than in the other.  The Big 12 did not have a team in last year's playoffs, so Oklahoma is a fresh face.  Clemson is also a team that is not part of the national championship discussion every year.  Both teams have explosive offenses led by electrifying quarterbacks, so this game will remain up for grabs until the final gun.

Runner up:  Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.  #3 Michigan State vs. #2 Alabama.  December 31, 2015 at 8:30 p.m. EST on ESPN.


The Rose Bowl at sunset
New Year's Day Games:  The Rose Bowl Game.  #6 Stanford vs. #5 Iowa.  January 1, 2016 at 5:00 EST on ESPN.

New Year's Day is no longer the jam packed bowl bonanza that it was in the days of my youth, but there are still plenty of good games to choose from.  The Rose Bowl between Stanford and Iowa is the best of the bunch.  Based on pure aesthetics, the Grandaddy of Them All is a joy to watch.   The colors of the split stadium are dazzling as the California sun sets over the San Gabriel Mountains.  Then there is the history of the game.  This bowl has been played continuously since 1916.  It is also one of the only bowl games that still has true conference ties.  With rare exception, this game is played between the Pac 12 and the Big Ten.  Then there is the 2016 game itself.  Stanford is led by Heisman Trophy finalist Christian McCaffery.  Iowa is perhaps the least publicized top five team in decades, but the Hawkeyes lone loss came against Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship.  This game is the perfect combination of history, pageantry and skill that should not be missed.

Runner up:  BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl.  #8 Notre Dame vs. #7 Ohio State.  January 1, 2016 at 1:00 p.m. EST on ESPN.


Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, TX
The Remaining Games:  Valero Alamo Bowl.  #15 Oregon vs. #11 TCU.  January 2, 2016 at 6:45 p.m. EST on ESPN.

Over the years, the Alamo Bowl has put on many entertaining shows.  Usually the game was played before New Year's.  This year, the Alamo Bowl is in a time slot worthy of this matchup.  This bowl could easily be named the Mayo Clinic What If Bowl.  Oregon and TCU both came into this season with realistic national championship hopes, but key injuries derailed those hopes and left these teams facing each other in the Alamo Bowl.  Despite the fact that both of these programs have been in the national championship discussion over the past few years, because of their time zones and conference affiliations, east coast fans don't regularly watch their games.  This is a perfect time to change that.

Runner up:  TaxSlayer Bowl.  Penn State vs. Georgia.  January 2, 2016 at 12:00 p.m. EST on ESPN.


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