It’s that time of year again when we ask the question: “Is a Gasparilla Bowl more or less important than a Frisco Bowl?”
And, “Wouldn’t the world be a better place without ‘Spuddy Buddy,’ mascot for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl?”
And what’s the chance college football can just expand to 16-team playoff and junk all of the bowls except maybe the Hawaii, Bahamas, Boca Raton and Las Vegas bowls, because if my team can’t win a championship, I either want to be on a beach or a place with 24-hour Keno.”
There are 39 bowl games, not counting the national championship. There’s maybe a dozen bowls worth watching. The others are simply ways to avoid “Miracle on 34th Street.”
I’ve ranked all 39 bowl games below. But first, about this constant screaming to expand the playoffs. In a word: Don’t.
• The playoffs shouldn’t be expanded. I don’t care about the Alabama vs. Ohio State vs. Whoever debate. Debate is great. Debate is what makes college football special. The season already is too long. Remember holidays? Remember school? The playoffs started with two teams. Now it’s four. Nick Saban was right when he said, “If we go to eight teams, I’m sure it won’t be long after that you all want to be talking 16.”
• Logic suggests there will be expansion at some point because money usually decides everything with college administrators who otherwise claim to be all about academics but seldom are. (See: every scandal involving money, strippers or the UNC Department of Afro-American Studies.) If the postseason grows, the regular season needs to shrink.
• Conference title games have become too big to eliminate. So cut the regular season from 12 to 11 games. Mandate Power 5 schools play at least nine conference games – I’m talking to you, SEC – and that no more than one opponent be from outside the Power 5. Mississippi State went 8-4. Four wins came over Charleston Southern, Louisiana Tech, BYU and UMass. Frauds.
• Bowls were meant to be rewards, not serious postseason games, which is fine. But there didn’t used to be 39 bowls. Teams that go 6-6, 6-5 or 7-5 teams shouldn’t be rewarded. There are 32 -- 32! -- of those teams in bowls. See how quickly we can eliminate 16 games?
• All playoff games except the championship should be played on campuses. It saves travel expenses for fans and schools and gives the edge to higher seeds. One neutral-site game seems to work for the NFL.
With that, here’s the postseason spread:
1. Sugar: Alabama vs. Clemson (Jan. 1). They’re the past two champions and the two most compelling programs in college football, notwithstanding that Alabama didn’t even make it into the SEC title game and probably shouldn’t be here.
2. Rose: Georgia vs. Oklahoma (Jan. 1). A cool game with two young head coaches whose programs may rank among the elite for a while. The matchup is completely out of place in Pasadena, Calif., but I suspect 50,000 Georgians and maybe a Waffle House will make the trip.
3. Cotton: Ohio State vs. USC (Dec. 29). This would be a traditional Pac 12-Big Ten, Rose Bowl game. Instead, we’ll just call it the, “Les Miserables Bowl,” for the bitter disrespected conferences.
4. Fiesta: Penn State vs. Washington (Dec. 30). Penn State was upset by Michigan State, but James Franklin felt better about himself after beating Maryland 66-3, his most joyous occasion since freezing the Georgia State kicker in the final seconds of a 56-0 win. Go Huskies!
5. Peach: Auburn vs. Central Florida (Jan. 1). I can’t imagine a more entertaining game that means absolutely nothing. UCF coach Scott Frost is gone. Auburn Gus Malzahn is still here. Two things I did not expect.
6. Citrus: LSU vs. Notre Dame (Jan. 1). Both teams can be entertaining, but mostly I’m curious to see Ed Orgeron and Brian Kelly match wits. Or wit.
7. Alamo: Stanford vs. TCU (Dec. 28). In the last four weeks of the season, Stanford beat No. 9 Washington, No. 8 Notre Dame and lost to No. 10 USC by a field goal. Two teams with great coaches (David Shaw vs. Gary Patterson) and athletes who play hard.
8. Orange: Miami vs. Wisconsin (Dec. 30). Miami was 10-0, but lost its last two games by a combined score of 62-17. Wisconsin was 12-0 before losing the Big Ten title game to Ohio State. They each get a nice pat on the head.
9. Camping World: Oklahoma State vs. Virginia Tech (Dec. 28). Mike Gundy’s offense (46.3 points per game) vs. Bud Foster’s defense (13.5). But if the Hokies give up more than 13 points, they’re probably dead.
10. Liberty: Iowa State vs. Memphis (Dec. 30). This might be a high-water mark for traditionally one of the worst bowls. Iowa State is a 7-5 team you can give a pass to because the Cyclones upset Oklahoma and TCU and barely lost to Oklahoma State (49-42). Memphis went 10-2, with both losses coming to Central Florida.
TV or Clean Out Garage?
11. Taxslayer: Louisville vs. Mississippi State (Dec. 30). Dan Mullen got a better job. Bobby Petrino is stuck at Brimstone U without another job offer. Oh, this is glorious. But the game should be watchable.
12. Outback: Michigan vs. South Carolina (Jan. 1). This actually could be an ugly game. Like 12-6 ugly. But how can Jim Harbaugh vs. Will Muschamp not be good theater at some point?
13 . Foster Farms: Arizona vs. Purdue (Dec. 27). It’s 7-5 (Arizona) vs. 6-6 (Purdue), but the Boilermakers are on the rise with Jeff Brohm, and if they win this game against Rich Rodriguez, I’m pretty sure an angel will get his wings.
14. Las Vegas: Boise State vs. Oregon (Dec. 16). Would’ve been nice if Willie Taggart stuck around Eugene, Ore., more than five minutes before taking the Florida State job. I NEVER want to hear anybody criticizing a college athlete for looking out for himself.
15. Holiday: Michigan State vs. Washington State (Dec. 28). The Spartans wanted to go to the Outback Bowl. Instead, they’ll be in San Diego, where it’s 72 degrees. Suck it up.
16. Sun: Arizona State vs. N.C. State (Dec. 29). I just want to see if Herm Edwards shows up to say ... anything.
17. Boca Raton: Akron vs. Florida Atlantic (Dec. 19). Lane Kiffin!
18. Armed Forces: Army vs. San Diego State (Dec. 23).
19. Military: Virginia at Navy (Dec. 28).
20. Music City: Kentucky vs. Northwestern (Dec. 29).
21. Dollar General: Appalachian State vs. Toledo (Dec. 23).
22. Texas: Missouri vs. Texas (Dec. 27).
23. New Mexico: Colorado State vs. Marshall (Dec. 16).
24. Belk: Texas A&M vs. Wake Forest (Dec. 29).
25. New Orleans: North Texas vs. Troy (Dec. 16).
26. Birmingham: South Florida vs. Texas Tech (Dec. 23).
27. Heart of Dallas: Utah vs. West Virginia (Dec. 26)
28. Hawaii: Fresno State vs. Houston (Dec. 24).
29. Bahamas: Ohio vs. UAB (Dec. 22).
30. Idaho Potato: Central Michigan vs. Wyoming (Dec. 22)
31. Frisco: Louisiana Tech vs. SMU (Dec. 20).
32. Quick Lane: Duke vs. Northern Illinois (Dec. 26).
33. Arizona: New Mexico State vs. Utah State (Dec. 29).
34. Cure: Georgia State vs. Western Kentucky (Dec. 16). The Panthers were mostly ignored in their first season under Shawn Elliott, so I’m giving them their own category. Besides, they seem to play better in other area codes. (This is in Orlando, by the way.)
The Bottom Rung
35. Pinstripe: Boston College vs. Iowa (Dec. 27). The Bronx wanted a college football game. We gave them this.
36. Cactus: Kansas State vs. UCLA (Dec. 26). The Bruins have subbed out Jim Mora for Chip Kelly. Forget the game, they’ve already won.
37. Camellia: Arkansas State vs. Middle Tennessee State (Dec. 16). Why?
38. Gasparilla: Florida International vs. Temple (Dec. 21). In case you’re wondering whatever happened to the St. Petersburg Bowl or Butch Davis (FIU), they’re both here.
39. Independence: Florida State vs. Southern Miss (Dec. 27). The NCAA should’ve made Jimbo Fisher stay for this.
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