Maybe bowl season isn’t what it used to be. What used to be a hallowed tradition has admittedly become less appreciated with the implementation of the playoff, and many of the stadiums that used to be filled with crazed fans struggle to find a crowd.
Whatever. I still love it. Division One college football is the one sport where dozens of teams can end their season with a postseason win, and the constant barrage of good football games is a fantastic holiday present. We’ve already seen Miami get shut out, multiple 80-plus point shootouts, and a phenomenal Pitt-EMU matchup last night in which the latter team’s quarterback got himself ejected with ten seconds left in his final career game for accidentally punching a ref. And the true marquee matchups are yet to come!
But why should you, the discerning Northwestern fan, tune into any of the remaining games? What could motivate you to watch a contest of amateur athletes that many regard as meaningless and does not even involve your Wildcats, especially when they will not even be making a postseason appearance this year?
Well, allow me to enlighten you. For the sake of organization, let’s take this in calendar order, starting with (checks watch) the one that starts 15 minutes from now:
Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman: Temple (8-4) vs North Carolina (6-6)
Watch Because: North Carolina produces close, competitive games. Nine of their 12 contests were one score affairs this year, and considering that Temple is consistently one of the best teams in the group of five, this should be both a fun and close one.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Michigan State (6-6) vs Wake Forest (8-4)
Watch Because: You’re a Big Ten disciple and this game could likely show how truly bad the ACC is. The Spartans were a below average team in the conference, while the Demon Deacons were probably the 4th or 5th best in theirs. Michigan State is currently a 3.5 point favorite. Conference supremacy may be just hours away!
Academy Sports + Outdoor Texas Bowl: Oklahoma State (8-4) vs Texas A&M (7-5)
Watch Because: This is a Big 12 reunion matchup, y’know, back when conferences actually had the same amount of teams as their names indicated. Ahh, good times.
SD County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: #22 USC (8-4) vs #16 Iowa (9-3)
Watch To: See how the vast difference in the job security of the head coaches affects things. People speculated all year that Clay Helton would get fired, and for a brief time it was actually reported that he was in the process of being fired. In the end, he was given a contract extension. Meanwhile, Kirk Ferentz has been the identity of the Iowa program for 21 years, and short of hitting a player over the head with a two-by-four, just about nothing could get him removed.
Cheez-it Bowl: Air Force (10-2) vs Washington State (6-6)
Watch Because: It’s Mike Leach and the air raid offense in the Cheez-It Bowl. He might start a philosophical debate about the salty snack in the post-game press conference for all we know.
Camping World Bowl: #15 Notre Dame (10-2) vs Iowa State (7-5)
Watch Because: ISU quarterback Brock Purdy is involved. He’s a delight to watch, finishing his sophomore season with over 3,760 yards, 27 touchdowns and a 66.3% completion rate. But more importantly, the name Brock Purdy is an 8 out of 10 on the unintentional comedy scale, and his younger brother, Chubba Purdy, might just break the scale entirely.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: #17 Memphis (12-1) vs #10 Penn State (10-2)
Watch Because: As Wildcats, we must keep an eye on all “Battles of the ‘Cats.” The Nittany Lions and the Tigers are the 3rd and 5th-highest ranked felines in college football, respectively, making this is a very important clash in our particular ecosystem.
College Football Semifinal (Peach Bowl): #1 LSU (13-0) vs #4 Oklahoma (12-1)
Watch Because: This could be the last time you get to see Joe Burrow put up video game numbers before he faces a real defense in the national championship.
College Football Semifinal (Fiesta Bowl): #2 Ohio State (13-0) vs #3 Clemson (13-0)
Watch For: The 0.0000000000001% chance that Ohio State beats Clemson by 50 or more points, making the ‘Cats better than the defending national champions by the totally reliable and not at all ridiculous transitive property of college football.
SERVPRO First Responder Bowl: Western Kentucky (8-4) vs Western Michigan (7-5)
Watch Because: It’s the battle for “Western” Midwestern dominance. We have to find a way to recognize this. Maybe allow the winner to wear a giant ‘WMW’ patch next season?
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Mississippi State (6-6) vs Louisville (7-5)
Watch Because: Of one of the funniest, weirdest subplots of the bowl season. Mississippi State’s starting quarterback Garrett Schrader has been ruled out after getting into a fight with middle linebacker Willie Gay during practice, resulting a facial injury to the former. Gay has previously been suspended for academic fraud and ejected for fighting, yet his coach has not suspended him for this game even after he punched the starting quarterback in the face.
Redbox Bowl: California (7-5) vs Illinois (6-6)
Watch Because: Illinois is still HAT-less, and due to them making a bowl game for the first time since 2014, we have been provided another game where we can watch and revel in said HAT-less-ness.
Capital One Orange Bowl: #9 Florida (10-2) vs #24 Virginia (9-4)
Watch Because: Bryce Perkins is a boss. That dude runs harder than any quarterback I’ve seen in college football in a long time. Sure, the Cavaliers are probably going to get trounced, but Perkins is quality entertainment regardless.
Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl: Arizona State (7-5) vs Florida State (6-6)
Watch For: The shockingly thin quarterbacks that will take the field. I’ll let these pictures speak for themselves.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: #23 Navy (10-2) vs Kansas State (8-4)
Watch Because: Just about every college football fan loves these teams. The troops who double as gridiron giants fully deserve our respect and thankfulness, while K-State climbed out from the pit of Division One football in the ‘80s in order to become a consistently competitive program. Sounds a lot like another purple Wildcat team that we’re all familiar with!
NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl: Wyoming (7-5) vs Georgia State (7-5)
Watch Because: Both these teams have wins over SEC opponents. In the opening week of the season. Wyoming downed Missouri, and Georgia State dismantled Tennessee. I find it hilarious that they magically got matched up in the same bowl game. Glorious.
Valero Alamo Bowl: #11 Utah (11-2) vs Texas (7-5)
Watch Because: Depending on the outcome, you can either make “Texas is back!!!!!!” jokes, or jokes about how fake Utah and the Pac 12 were if/when they get trampled by a 7-5 Big 12 team.
Vrbo Citrus Bowl: #13 Alabama (10-2) vs #14 Michigan (9-3)
Watch Because: Michigan is going to get curb stomped. I don’t know if any of our readers despise that program as much as I do, but I have to imagine most of you are not fond of them. I have a feeling that the Tide are going to lay the smack down, and it will be glorious.
Outback Bowl: #12 Auburn (9-3) vs #18 Minnesota (10-2)
Watch For: The extremely large quantity of body mass in the battle between the Gophers’ O-Line and the Tigers’ D-Line. Minnesota has the heftiest set of linemen in the the country, headlined by niche college football legend Daniel Faalale, a 400-lb dude that didn’t know what a yard was or how first downs worked back when he lived in Australia. On the other side, Auburn isn’t abnormally large, but has multiple superstars, such as Derrick Brown, Big Cat Bryant and Marlon Davidson. This will be a trench clash to watch.
Rose Bowl: #6 Oregon (11-2) vs #8 Wisconsin (10-3)
Watch Because: Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor is only 165 rushing yards away from breaking into the top five of career rushing leaders in college football despite only using three seasons of eligibility.
Allstate Sugar Bowl: #5 Georgia (11-2) vs #7 Baylor (11-2)
Watch Because: This game has potentially the widest variety of potential outcomes among the bigger bowls. Georgia is better than Baylor and it’s not even close. However, SEC teams that just miss out on the playoff/championship have been known to sleepwalk through their New Year’s Six Bowl game and end up getting beat, à la Florida in 2012-13, Alabama in 2013-14 and the Dawgs themselves last year.
TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl: #21 Cincinnati (10-3) vs Boston College (6-6)
Watch To: See how the offense Mike Bajakian left behind performs without him at the helm. Feel free to completely base your initial opinion of the new Northwestern OC on how the Golden Eagles perform in this game.
TaxSlayer Gator Bowl: Indiana (8-4) vs Tennessee (7-5)
Watch For: The 2016 Outback Bowl vibes. At 10-3, Northwestern entered that game with a better record than the Volunteers, yet were 8.5 point underdogs. The odds makers knew what they were doing that time around, as the ‘Cats lost 45-6. Tennessee is a 1.5 point favorite over the Hoosiers, and I’m curious to see how this plays out.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Ohio (8-4) vs Nevada (7-5)
Watch Because: It’s the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and you only get to watch so many Famous Idaho Potato Bowls in your life. What other game offers a trophy with more than 2000 calories stuffed into a glass bowl?
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Southern Miss (7-5) vs Tulane 6-6)
Watch For: The chance that Tulane wears these absolutely sick baby blue uniforms. I might have to cop one of these for myself regardless.
Lending Tree Bowl: Louisiana, Lafayette (10-3) vs Miami, OH (8-5)
Watch Because: This is now three straight years of the Ragin’ Cajuns not playing in the New Orleans Bowl after playing in it every year from 2011 through 2016. We need to change it to some kind of automatic bid, like how Hawaii always get to play in the Hawaii Bowl should they qualify. Otherwise, it feels like we’re doing the state of Louisiana an injustice.
College Football Playoff National Championship: LSU (14-0) vs TBD
Cool it, I’m just kidding about LSU ... kind of. Either way, I doubt you need a reason as to why you should watch the climax of what has been a thoroughly entertaining college football season. Regardless of the eventual matchup here, there will be storylines galore and plenty of entertaining football to go along with them.