Viewer Guide to All the College Bowl Games: Sorting Through the Madness
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?
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
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
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:
- Florida - 7
- Texas – 6
- California – 4
- Louisiana – 3
- Alabama – 2
- Arizona – 2
- Tennessee - 2
- Georgia – 1
- Hawaii – 1
- Idaho – 1
- Michigan – 1
- North Carolina – 1
- New Mexico – 1
- Nevada – 1
- New York – 1
- Washington DC – 1
Which Conference Teams Should I Watch?
- Georgia Tech
- North Carolina State
- Virginia Tech
- Iowa State
- Kansas State
- Oklahoma State
- Texas Tech
- West Virginia
- Michigan State
- East Carolina
- University of Central Florida
- Notre Dame
- Ball State
- Bowling Green
- Central Michigan
- Kent State
- Northern Illinois
- Air Force
- Boise State
- Fresno State
- San Diego State
- Arizona State
- Oregon State
- Mississippi State
- Ole Miss
- South Carolina
- Texas A&M
- Arkansas State
- Middle Tennessee
- Western Kentucky
- San Jose State
- Utah State
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:
How About the Teams with the Best Records?
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?
- 1. Notre Dame
- 2. Alabama
- 3. Florida
- 4. Oregon
- 5. Kansas State
- 6. Stanford
- 7. Georgia
- 8. LSU
- 9. Texas A&M
- 10. South Carolina
- 11. Oklahoma
- 12. Florida State
- 13. Oregon State
- 14. Clemson
- 15. Northern Illinois
- 16. Nebraska
- 17. UCLA
- 18. Michigan
- 19. Boise State
- 20. Northwestern
- 21. Louisville
- 22. Utah State
- 23. Texas
- 24. San Jose State
- 25. Kent State
- 1/1/13 Rose (8 Stanford vs Wisconsin)
- 1/1/13 Orange (15 No. Illinois vs 12 Fla. St.)
- 1/2/13 Sugar (3 Florida vs 21 Louisville)
- 1/4/13 Fiesta (5 Kansas St. vs 4 Oregon)
- 1/7/13 Nat'l Championship (1 Notre Dame vs 2 Alabama)
- 12/31/12 Chick-fil-A Bowl (8 LSU vs 14 Clemson)
- 1/1/13 Capital One Bowl (7 Georgia vs. 16 Nebraska)
- 1/1/13 Outback Bowl (10 South Carolina vs. 18 Michigan)
- 1/4/13 Cotton Bowl (9 Texas A&M vs. 11 Oklahoma)
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
The five BCS bowl games, including the national championship game, are:
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:
These are possible keepers, though the Capital One and Outback bowls are played at the same time.
Which TV Stations Should I Watch?
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
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)
New Mexico Bowl
Nevada (7-5) vs.
Idaho Potato Bowl
Utah St. (10-2) vs.
San Diego, CA
San Diego St. (9-3) vs.
Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl
St. Petersburg, FL
Ball St. (9-3) vs.
New Orleans, LA
East Carolina (8-4) vs.
Las Vegas, NV
Boise St. (10-2) vs.
SMU (6-6) vs.
Fresno St. (9-3)
Little Caesars Bowl
Central Mich. (6-6) vs.
W. Kentucky (7-5)
Duke (6-6) vs.
San Diego, CA
Baylor (7-5) vs.
San Jose St. (10-2) vs.
Bowling Green (8-4)
La.-Monroe (8-4) vs.
Virginia Tech (6-6) vs.
Minnesota (6-6) vs.
Texas Tech (7-5)
Fort Worth, TX
Air Force (6-6) vs.
Fight Hunger Bowl
San Francisco, CA
Navy (7-6) vs.
Arizona St. (7-5)
New York, NY
Syracuse (7-5) vs.
W. Virginia (7-5)
San Antonio, TX
Texas (8-4) vs.
Oregon St. (9-3)
Wild Wings Bowl
Mich. St. (6-6) vs.
Vanderbilt (8-4) vs.
NC State (7-5)
El Paso, TX
Georgia Tech (6-7) vs.
Iowa St. (6-6) vs.
LSU (10-2) vs.
Mississippi St. (8-4) vs.
Heart of Dallas Bowl
Purdue (6-6) vs.
Oklahoma St. (7-5)
Capital One Bowl
Georgia (11-2) vs.
South Carolina (10-2) vs.
Stanford (11-2) vs.
No. Illinois (12-1) vs.
Florida St. (11-2)
New Orleans, LA
Florida (11-1) vs.
Kansas St. (11-1) vs.
Texas A&M (10-2) vs.
BBVA Compass Bowl
Pitt (6-6) vs.
Ole Miss (6-6)
Kent St. (11-2) vs.
Arkansas St. (9-3)
BCS Natl Championship
Notre Dame (12-0) vs.