Bowl Season Begins as Lower-Level Playoffs Finish
As ESPN reminds us on a regular basis, Saturday begins bowl season and “the most wonderful time of the year.”
I can’t say that I disagree.
People screaming for a playoff in Division I college football must realize that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the college bowl system. It’s how the NCAA crowns its champion that is screwed up.
A post-bowl, four-team playoff is the way to go, but that’s a different argument for a different day.
I love bowl season, but there are too many of them. To have 68 out of 120 teams playing in bowl games is just too much.
The Insight Bowl, with a pair of 6-6 teams in Iowa State and Minnesota matching up is about the least intriguing of any bowl game.
That being said, there are some good matchups this weekend, beginning on Saturday.
Just as an appetizer to the bowl schedule, the Division III championship game is Saturday morning.
Congratulations to Villanova for beating unbeaten Montana Friday night to claim the Division I FCS (I-AA) championship, and to Northwest Missouri State for winning the D-II title.
On to the bowl games. All times are Central and BCS rankings are used when applicable. Games are listed in chronological order through Christmas Day.
Alonzo Stagg Bowl, Division III championship: Mt. Union vs. Wisconsin-Whitewater at Salem, Va., Saturday, 10 a.m.
For the fifth consecutive season, the Purple Raiders and Warhawks meet up in Virginia to decide the D-III champion.
Mount Union has won three of the previous four title tilts, with Whitewater’s lone win coming in 2007.
Both teams are undefeated this season, 14-0, and this is what championship football is supposed to look like.
There may not be any future NFL stars on the field Saturday, but this should be a must-watch game.
New Mexico Bowl: Fresno State (8-4) vs. Wyoming (6-6), Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Fresno State probably had the wildest ending to the 2009 regular season of any team, needing a tip-drill catch by an offensive lineman to score a two-point conversion in the final seconds to beat Illinois 53-52.
Wyoming is the clear underdog, but is a capable team. The Cowboys trailed Texas at halftime 14-10 earlier this season before getting blown out in the second half.
Wyoming will need more consistency against the Bulldogs, who boast the WAC’s leading rusher in Ryan Mathews (pictured).
Fresno’s record could be better had it not been for a 34-31 overtime loss to 9-3 Wisconsin and a 28-20 setback at unbeaten Cincinnati.
Its only other losses were to undefeated Boise State and 8-4 Nevada.
St. Petersburg Bowl: UCF (8-4) vs. Rutgers (8-4), Saturday, 7 p.m.
Rutgers is making its fifth consecutive bowl appearance, a tribute to the job Greg Schiano has done resurrecting the program.
UCF is back in a bowl game after a one-year absence. One thing is for sure in this one...the Knights will win.
The Scarlet Knights of New Jersey had three losses to really good teams in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and West Virginia, but one bad loss to Syracuse.
They can’t afford a letdown against a Conference USA team whose only losses are to bowl-bound Southern Miss, No. 15 Miami, unbeaten Texas, and C-USA champion East Carolina.
The Golden Knights rebounded from their 35-3 loss to the Longhorns to knock off C-USA runnerup Houston, 37-32. They followed that up with a 49-0 trouncing of Tulane and a 34-27 win over UAB.
The UCF offense is on a roll, and will be a real test for the Rutgers defense.
New Orleans Bowl: Southern Mississippi (7-5) vs. Middle Tennessee State (9-3), Sunday, 7:30 p.m.
It’s the second straight trip to New Orleans for the Golden Eagles, and their second straight matchup with a Sun Belt team.
MTSU had an impressive season that included a win at Maryland. Its only three losses were to Clemson, Sun Belt champion Troy and Mississippi State.
The Blue Raiders have won six straight thanks to a defense that ranks third in sacks and first in tackles for a loss.
It will be tested by a high-scoring Southern Miss offense led by senior tailback Damion Fletcher, who has over 5,200 rushing yards and 45 total touchdowns in his career.
He needs 63 rushing yards against MTSU to go over 1,000 for the fourth consecutive year.
Las Vegas Bowl: No. 18 Oregon State (8-4) vs. No. 14 BYU (10-2), Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Another Pac-10 vs. Mountain West matchup gives us something to watch Tuesday night. BYU lost last season’s Las Vegas Bowl to Arizona, and will look to rebound against an Oregon State team that missed out on the Rose Bowl with its season-ending loss to Oregon.
BYU is in Vegas for the fifth straight season, going 2-2 in the previous four years. This will be the final game in the career of quarterback Max Hall (pictured), and the Cougars would love to send him out on a high note.
There could be a lot of points scored in this one. Hall has thrown for 30 touchdown passes, while the Beavers feature quarterback Sean Canfield and the Rodgers brothers, running back Jacquizz and receiver James.
Poinsettia Bowl: No. 23 Utah (9-3) vs. California (8-4) at San Diego, Wednesday, 7 p.m.
The Utes cap another solid season with another chance to knock off a BCS conference opponent.
Utah was the nation’s lone unbeaten last season, demolishing Alabama in the Sugar Bowl...the same Alabama team that eventual BCS champ Florida had trouble beating a game earlier.
Cal had high hopes for this season, and was once ranked sixth before blowout losses to Oregon and USC. Utah played three ranked teams this year (TCU, BYU and Oregon) and lost to all of them.
Cal is a slight favorite, probably in the hopes that star running back Jahvid Best is able to play.
Hawaii Bowl: Nevada (8-4) vs. SMU (7-5), Thursday, 7 p.m.
June Jones (pictured) returns to Hawaii, where he coached and helped build a respectable Hawaii program.
His Christmas Eve return to Aloha Stadium probably won’t be a pleasant one. While he should be commended for leading SMU to its first bowl appearance in 25 years, the Mustangs are simply overmatched against a Nevada team that has three 1,000 rushers: Vai Taua (1,345), Colin Kaepernick (1,160) and Luke Lippincott (1,034).
Nevada’s potent offense is led by Kaepernick, who had 1,875 passing yards and 35 total touchdowns. The Wolf Pack lost their first three games to Notre Dame, Colorado State, and Missouri before finding their rhythm with eight straight wins.
Nevada is the nation’s highest scoring offense at 41 points per game and will be too much for an SMU defense that allowed 30 or more points eight times this season.