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Viewer Guide to All the College Bowl Games: Sorting Through the Madness

Peter KentContributor IIIDecember 7, 2012

Viewer Guide to All the College Bowl Games: Sorting Through the Madness

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    Now that we know what teams are going to be playing in the various college football bowl games, the only thing left is to figure out which ones you’re going to watch.  That may not be easy, as there are 35 bowl games to be played over a three-week period. 

    The first game is not until December 15, so you have a little time to sort through it all and plan your strategy. 

    Some games will be obvious, like the one(s) with schools from which you graduated, or the ones next door.  Those are the easy choices. 

    But what about the rest?

    Let me suggest some ways—some conventional and some quirky—to slice and dice the mayhem about to unfold.

    After that, I’ll give you a complete list so you can use the data to do your own slicing and dicing.

Who’s in and Who's Out?

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    For starters, the NCAA requires that a team have six wins to be bowl-eligible.  Then there are the 35 bowl games which get to pick and choose teams from 12 different Division I conferences.  Note that this includes the Independents as one of the conferences.

    In total, there are 124 teams in those 12 conferences.  Of those, 72 were bowl-eligible this year.  But there are only 35 bowl games, which means 70 teams.  Thus, two teams had to be excluded.

    Most schools play a 12-game schedule.  With the advent of championship games in many conferences, a few teams got to play one more game, or 13 in total.  With the requirement of six wins for bowl eligibility, it was theoretically possible for a team to have a losing record and still play in a bowl game.  

    This year there was one such school.  It was the Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech.  That’s a good-sized school (14,000 undergrads) with a strong following.  In other words, they can bring in reasonable TV advertising dollars.  So they’re in.

    Georgia Tech got matched with another underachiever with a huge following: USC.  The Trojans were a preseason No. 1 in the polls, but ended up with a 7-5 record.

    Both will in the Sun Bowl on New Year’s Eve.  

    Unless you have a connection to one of these two schools, you may wish to pass on that game.  How were they lucky enough to get invited to a reasonably good bowl game?

    Who got excluded?  Or in other words: Who got the short end of the stick?

    The two teams on the outside looking in are Middle Tennessee (8-4) from the Sun Belt Conference, and Louisiana Tech (9-3) from the WAC.  They both had good seasons, but may not have been good draws for TV audiences. 

    Sadly, they got left behind.

The Crazy Calendar: Mayhem Will Start Soon

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    Yes, the college football regular season is over, and we have a short breather right now.  But if you blink your eyes, there will be college games on TV like crazy.

    It all begins on Saturday, December 15.  

    You really need to prepare.  The schedule builds to a crescendo around New Year’s Day, then tapers off for another week. 

    Here are the numbers of games in that time frame:

    • Eight games over 13 days from Dec. 15 through Dec. 27
    • Five games over the next three days through Dec. 31
    • Six games on New Year’s Day 
    • Six more games over the next six days, one per day culminating with the national championship 

    Yes, it’s true that—in general—the better games are the later games.  But that is not always the case.  There are a few games toward the end that are not a huge deal to most folks, and there are some very interesting games before January 1.

    It’s a bit of a slow start on Dec. 15.  There are two games that day.

    What?  You mean you’re not waiting with bated breath for the New Mexico Bowl or the Idaho Potato Bowl?

    Well, you might be if you’re a fan of Nevada or Arizona for the first game, or Utah St. or Toledo for the second game.  But the rest of you can probably pass on those and wait until the following Thursday. 

    After that, the games come fast and furious.  Strategy will be needed.

Locations for the Bowl Games

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    Traditionally bowl games are played in warm-weather climates.  That’s not always true, and certainly not necessary since there are indoor stadiums throughout the country.  But tradition still rules.

    Your first guess for location would probably be Florida or California, and those are good choices.  Florida houses seven bowls, and California four.  But did you realize that Texas has six bowl games?

    Florida, Texas and California host 17 of the 35 games.  The rest are scattered over 13 states.  Most have just one.  Four have more.

    Alabama, Arizona and Tennessee each play host to two bowl games, while Louisiana hosts three.

    Just in case that last fact caught you by surprise, here are the Louisiana bowls:

    • New Orleans Bowl (East Carolina vs. Louisiana-Lafayette)
    • Independence Bowl (Louisiana-Monroe vs. Ohio)
    • Sugar Bowl (Florida vs. Louisville)

    You may want to follow the games in your state, or in another of your favorite states.  Here’s the number of bowls by state:

    1. Florida - 7
    2. Texas – 6
    3. California – 4
    4. Louisiana – 3
    5. Alabama – 2
    6. Arizona – 2
    7. Tennessee - 2
    8. Georgia – 1
    9. Hawaii – 1
    10. Idaho – 1
    11. Michigan – 1
    12. North Carolina – 1
    13. New Mexico – 1
    14. Nevada – 1
    15. New York – 1
    16. Washington DC – 1

Which Conference Teams Should I Watch?

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    There was a lot of hype this year about the SEC having so many teams ranked highly in the polls.  Part of that is because they have a big conference.  Of course, they do have several good teams. 

    However, other conferences stacked up as well—or better.

    Here’s a quick look at the teams from each conference that are playing in bowl games, as well as the number of teams in the conference.

    You'll note that the SEC has nine teams playing in bowl games.  That’s out of a total of 14 teams, or 64 percent.

    The Big 12 did better.  They also have nine teams playing in bowl games, but out of a total of 10 teams, or 90 percent.  (Isn't it interesting that the Big 12 has 10 teams?  This realignment stuff is going to have to settle down sooner or later.)

    The Independents did well, though they are small.  Three of the four teams, or 75 percent, are in bowl games.

    Two other conferences are particularly well represented in bowl games.

    The Pac-12 has eight of its 12 teams (67 percent) playing in the post season, while the Big East has five of its eight teams playing, or 63 percent.

    Here are the participating teams by conference:

    ACC

    1. Clemson
    2. Duke
    3. Georgia Tech
    4. North Carolina State
    5. Virginia Tech

    Big 12

    1. Baylor
    2. Iowa State
    3. Kansas State
    4. Oklahoma
    5. Oklahoma State
    6. TCU
    7. Texas
    8. Texas Tech
    9. West Virginia

    Big East

    1. Cincinnati
    2. Louisville
    3. Pitt
    4. Rutgers
    5. Syracuse

    Big Ten

    1. Michigan
    2. Michigan State
    3. Minnesota
    4. Nebraska
    5. Northwestern
    6. Purdue
    7. Wisconsin

    Conference USA

    1. East Carolina
    2. Rice
    3. SMU
    4. Tulsa
    5. University of Central Florida

    Independents

    1. BYU
    2. Navy
    3. Notre Dame

    Mid American

    1. Ball State
    2. Bowling Green
    3. Central Michigan
    4. Kent State
    5. Northern Illinois
    6. Ohio
    7. Toledo

    Mountain West

    1. Air Force
    2. Boise State
    3. Fresno State
    4. Nevada
    5. San Diego State

    Pac-12

    1. Arizona
    2. Arizona State
    3. Oregon
    4. Oregon State
    5. Stanford
    6. UCLA
    7. USC
    8. Washington

    SEC

    1. Alabama
    2. Florida
    3. Georgia
    4. LSU
    5. Mississippi State
    6. Ole Miss
    7. South Carolina
    8. Texas A&M
    9. Vanderbilt

    Sun Belt

    1. Arkansas State
    2. Louisiana-Lafayette
    3. Louisiana-Monroe
    4. Middle Tennessee
    5. Western Kentucky

    WAC

    1. San Jose State
    2. Utah State

     

How About the Teams with the Best Records?

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    It would be logical to assume that the teams with the best records play in the best bowl games at the end of the bowl game schedule.  To some degree, that’s true. 

    But not completely.

    A possible sort for selecting games to view would be to combine the number of victories between the two teams in any particular bowl game.

    Keepers.  At the high end, very few teams have 10 or more wins.  Thus, it would be natural to assume that bowl games where the combined number of wins is 20 or more would be the most selective.  That’s pretty much true. 

     

     

    Here’s a breakdown of combined wins for those games:

    Wins          Bowl                                  Teams

    24              BCS Championship           Notre Dame (12-0) vs Alabama (12-1)

    23              Orange                             No. Illinois (12-1) vs Fla. St. (11-2)

    22              Fiesta                              Kansas St. (11-1) vs Oregon (11-1)

    21                  Capital One                      Georgia (11-2) vs. Nebraska (10-3)

                     Sugar                               Florida (11-1) vs. Louisville (10-2)

     

    20               Chick-fil-A                         LSU (10-2) vs. Clemson (10-2)

                   Cotton                              Texas A&M (10-2) vs Oklahoma (10-2)

                   GoDaddy.com                   Kent St. (11-2) vs. Arkansas St. (9-3)

     

    Sleepers (could be missed).  All but one of the games listed above are played in January.  The only exception is the Chick-fil-A bowl on Dec. 31.

    At the other end of the scale, many teams had six to eight wins each.  Therefore, it would be logical to assume that teams with combined wins of 16 or less would be uninteresting.  In fact, if you were to eliminate from your viewing plans all of those bowl games, you’d knock out 19 of the 35 games.

    You would logically assume that most of those would be December games.  While mostly true, you would be wrong about the following two January games:

                  Heart of Dallas                       Purdue (6-6) vs. Oklahoma St. (7-5)

                  BBVA Heart of Compass         Pitt (6-6) vs. Ole Miss (6-6)

                 

    Tweeners.  That leaves nine bowl games in the middle with teams that have a combined number of wins between 17 and 19.  Of those, six are played in December, and three on Jan. 1.  One New Year’s Day game is a BCS Bowl game that should probably be on the keeper list:

                Rose Bowl                 Stanford (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (8-5)

What About the Rankings?

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    Of course, the most common way of determining the best bowl games is by the ranking.  This is where the Bowl Championship Series list comes into play as the top BCS teams usually go to the best bowls. 

    The final BCS Ranking is given below.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Final BCS 2012 Ranking

    1. 1. Notre Dame
    2. 2. Alabama
    3. 3. Florida
    4. 4. Oregon
    5. 5. Kansas State
    6. 6. Stanford
    7. 7. Georgia
    8. 8. LSU
    9. 9. Texas A&M
    10. 10. South Carolina
    11. 11. Oklahoma
    12. 12. Florida State
    13. 13. Oregon State
    14. 14. Clemson
    15. 15. Northern Illinois
    16. 16. Nebraska
    17. 17. UCLA
    18. 18. Michigan
    19. 19. Boise State
    20. 20. Northwestern
    21. 21. Louisville
    22. 22. Utah State
    23. 23. Texas
    24. 24. San Jose State
    25. 25. Kent State

    The five BCS bowl games, including the national championship game, are:

    1. 1/1/13              Rose (8 Stanford vs Wisconsin)
    2. 1/1/13              Orange (15 No. Illinois vs 12 Fla. St.)
    3. 1/2/13              Sugar (3 Florida vs 21 Louisville)
    4. 1/4/13              Fiesta (5 Kansas St. vs 4 Oregon)
    5. 1/7/13              Nat'l Championship (1 Notre Dame vs 2 Alabama)

    According to the rankings, the last two games should be the best, with No. 4 playing No. 5, and No. 1 playing No. 2. 

    Wisconsin does not show up in the BCS rankings, but got to the Rose Bowl by virtue of winning the Big Ten and the automatic bid that went with it.  Of course, it helped that both Ohio State (12-0) and Penn State (8-4), who were ahead of Wisconsin in the Big Ten Leaders Division, were ineligible for bowl considerations due to NCAA sanctions.

    There are four games with highly ranked teams going against each other that are not BCS bowl games, but should be interesting:

    1. 12/31/12         Chick-fil-A Bowl (8 LSU vs 14 Clemson)
    2. 1/1/13             Capital One Bowl (7 Georgia vs. 16 Nebraska)
    3. 1/1/13             Outback Bowl (10 South Carolina vs. 18 Michigan)
    4. 1/4/13             Cotton Bowl (9 Texas A&M vs. 11 Oklahoma)

    These are possible keepers, though the Capital One and Outback bowls are played at the same time.

Which TV Stations Should I Watch?

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    If your cable box happens to be stuck on the ESPN channels, you’re in luck.  Between ESPN and ESPN2 you will get to see most of the games.

    If, however, you do not get those channels, you’re in trouble.  A full 31 of the 35 games will be shown on the ESPN channels.

    The other four will be shown (one each) on: ABC, CBS, Fox, and ESPNU.  Here they are:

     

    • 12/31/12  Sun Bowl, Georgia Tech vs. USC

    Get that cable box fixed now!

The Full Bowl Game Schedule

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    Now that you have several criteria to keep or drop games from your planned viewing schedule, here’s the complete list.  Grab a glass of wine and a Sharpie and get to it.

    It will be a fun and crazy three weeks, but then it will be over. 

    Another year of college football is almost behind us.  We hope it goes out with a flurry of great games, and that you get to see the ones you wish to follow.

    (East Coast times) 

    1.

    Sat

    12/15/12

    New Mexico Bowl

    Alubquerque, NM

    Nevada (7-5) vs.

    Arizona (7-5)

    ESPN

    10:00 AM

    2.

    Sat

    12/15/12

    Idaho Potato Bowl

    Boise, ID

    Utah St. (10-2) vs.

    Toledo (9-3)

    ESPN

    1:30 PM

    3.

    Thu

    12/20/12

    Poinsettia Bowl

    San Diego, CA

    San Diego St. (9-3) vs.

    BYU (7-5)

    ESPN

    5:00 PM

    4.

    Fri

    12/21/12

    Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl

    St. Petersburg, FL

    Ball St. (9-3) vs.

    UCF (9-4)

    ESPN

    4:30 PM

    5.

    Sat

    12/22/12

    New Orleans Bowl

    New Orleans, LA

    East Carolina (8-4) vs.

    La.-Lafayette (7-4)

    ESPN

    9:00 AM

    6.

    Sat

    12/22/12

    Maaco Bowl

    Las Vegas, NV

    Boise St. (10-2) vs.

    Washington (7-5)

    ESPN

    12:30 PM

    7.

    Mon

    12/24/12

    Hawaii Bowl

    Honolulu, HI

    SMU (6-6) vs.

    Fresno St. (9-3)

    ESPN

    5:00 PM

    8.

    Wed

    12/26/12

    Little Caesars Bowl

    Detroit, MI

    Central Mich. (6-6) vs.

    W. Kentucky (7-5)

    ESPN

    4:30 PM

    9.

    Thu

    12/27/12

    Belk Bowl

    Charlotte, NC

    Duke (6-6) vs.

    Cincinnati (9-3)

    ESPN

    3:30 PM

    10.

    Thu

    12/27/12

    Holiday Bowl

    San Diego, CA

    Baylor (7-5) vs.

    UCLA (9-4)

    ESPN

    6:45 PM

    11.

    Thu

    12/27/12

    Military Bowl

    Washington, DC

    San Jose St. (10-2) vs.

    Bowling Green (8-4)

    ESPN

    Noon

    12.

    Fri

    12/28/12

    Independence Bowl

    Shreveport, LA

    La.-Monroe (8-4) vs.

    Ohio (8-4)

    ESPN

    11:00 AM

    13.

    Sat

    12/15/12

    Russell Athletic Bowl

    Orlando, FL

    Virginia Tech (6-6) vs.

    Rutgers (9-3)

    ESPN

    2:30 PM

    14.

    Sat

    12/15/12

    Meineke Bowl

    Houston, TX

    Minnesota (6-6) vs.

    Texas Tech (7-5)

    ESPN

    6:00 PM

    15.

    Sat

    12/29/12

    Armed Forces Bowl

    Fort Worth, TX

    Air Force (6-6) vs.

    Rice (6-6)

    ESPN

    8:45 AM

    16.

    Sat

    12/29/12

    Fight Hunger Bowl

    San Francisco, CA

    Navy (7-6) vs.

    Arizona St. (7-5)

    ESPN2

    12:15 PM

    17.

    Sat

    12/29/12

    Pinstripe Bowl

    New York, NY

    Syracuse (7-5) vs.

    W. Virginia (7-5)

    ESPN

    12:15 PM

    18.

    Sat

    12/29/12

    Alamo Bowl

    San Antonio, TX

    Texas (8-4) vs.

    Oregon St. (9-3)

    ESPN

    3:45 PM

    19.

    Sat

    12/29/12

    Wild Wings Bowl

    Tempe, AZ

    Mich. St. (6-6) vs.

    TCU (7-5)

    ESPN

    7:15 PM

    20.

    Mon

    12/31/12

    Music City Bowl

    Nashville, TN

    Vanderbilt (8-4) vs.

    NC State (7-5)

    ESPN

    9:00 AM

    21.

    Mon

    12/31/12

    Sun Bowl

    El Paso, TX

    Georgia Tech (6-7) vs.

    USC (7-5)

    CBS

    11:00 AM

    22.

    Mon

    12/31/12

    Liberty Bowl

    Memphis, TN

    Iowa St. (6-6) vs.

    Tulsa (10-3)

    ESPN

    12:30 PM

    23.

    Mon

    12/31/12

    Chick-fil-A Bowl

    Atlanta, GA

    LSU (10-2) vs.

    Clemson (10-2)

    ESPN

    4:30 PM

    24.

    Tue

    1/1/13

    Gator Bowl

    Jacksonville, FL

    Mississippi St. (8-4) vs.

    Northwestern (9-3)

    9:00 AM

    25.

    Tue

    1/1/13

    Heart of Dallas Bowl

    Dallas, TX

    Purdue (6-6) vs.

    Oklahoma St. (7-5)

    0.375

    26.

    Tue

    1/1/13

    Capital One Bowl

    Orlando, FL

    Georgia (11-2) vs.

    Nebraska (10-3)

    ABC

    10:00 AM

    27.

    Tue

    1/1/13

    Outback Bowl

    Tampa, FL

    South Carolina (10-2) vs.

    Michigan (8-4)

    ESPN

    10:00 AM

    28.

    Tue

    1/1/13

    Rose Bowl

    Pasadena, CA

    Stanford (11-2) vs.

    Wisconsin (8-5)

    ESPN

    2:00 PM

    29.

    Tue

    1/1/13

    Orange Bowl

    Miami, FL

    No. Illinois (12-1) vs.

    Florida St. (11-2)

    ESPN

    5:30 PM

    30.

    Wed

    1/2/13

    Sugar Bowl

    New Orleans, LA

    Florida (11-1) vs.

    Louisville (10-2)

    ESPN

    5:30 PM

    31.

    Thu

    1/3/13

    Fiesta Bowl

    Glendale, AZ

    Kansas St. (11-1) vs.

    Oregon (11-1)

    ESPN

    5:30 PM

    32.

    Fri

    1/14/13

    Cotton Bowl

    Arlington, TX

    Texas A&M (10-2) vs.

    Oklahoma (10-2)

    Fox

    5:00 PM

    33.

    Sat

    1/5/13

    BBVA Compass Bowl

    Birmingham, AL

    Pitt (6-6) vs.

    Ole Miss (6-6)

    ESPN

    10:00 AM

    34.

    Sun

    1/6/13

    GoDaddy.com Bowl

    Mobile, AL

    Kent St. (11-2) vs.

    Arkansas St. (9-3)

    ESPN

    6:00 PM

    35.

    Mon

    1/7/13

    BCS Natl Championship

    Miami, FL

    Notre Dame (12-0) vs.

    Alabama (12-1)

    ESPN

    5:30 PM

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