2011 Bowl Games: 50 Reasons to Love College Football's Bowl Season
Let's clear the air right now.
The BCS title game is a rematch, and that's OK.
But other than the trips to warm destinations for tailgating and getting one more chance to watch Kellen Moore play, what are the top 50 things to love about college football's bowl season?
This list runs them down, from more proof that the BCS sucks to which bowl matchup should be the sixth BCS game.
50. 'Stangs Are Back
News flash: SMU is back.
It's been three straight bowl games now for the 'Stangs. I think it's safe to say they are recovered from the "death penalty."
Now we get to see them take on a BCS opponent in Birmingham.
49. Harnish vs. Red Wolves
Chandler Harnish is a darn good quarterback.
The senior has led the NIU Huskies to some very successful seasons and will be looking to go out with a bang against Sun Belt champ Arkansas State.
Harnish can throw, run and generally wreak havoc on defensive game plans.
This will be your last opportunity to check him out in college.
48. Cold-Weather Bowls
Most of the bowl games are played in balmy, pleasant weather.
There is a good reason for that.
When contact takes place and it is any colder than 35 degrees on the football field, one of two things takes place.
The part of the body taking said contact hurts exponentially worse than it would in, say, 50-plus-degree weather, or your body is so cold that it cannot feel the punishment it is absorbing.
Great football weather.
Some bowls, notably the Pinstripe Bowl played in Yankee Stadium, are a little more on the frigid side.
For a pleasant diversion from all the warm locales gracing your television set during bowl season, tune in to the Pinstripe to see plenty of snow and guys playing in insanely cold weather.
47. Nonstop Football
Starting December 17 and going until January 9, there are 35 bowl games.
That's right—35 games in 24 days.
I think this is a glimpse of what Heaven must be like...
Teams from non-automatic qualifying conference, namely Boise State, Utah and TCU, have provided us with some incredible bowl moments in the past.
This season, even though the Utes are now part of a BCS conference, there are still plenty of non-AQs in position to make some noise.
Houston, while out of BCS contention, faces Penn State, which will give Case Keenum a chance to show us he can make plays against a decent defense.
45. Big-Time Matchups
While some of the bowl matchups leave a little something to be desired, there are plenty of huge games to look forward to.
From Oregon vs. Wisconsin and Oklahoma State vs. Stanford to Georgia vs. Michigan State, there are enough prime pairings to fill up all of your spare DVR space.
44. BCS Games
As much as we like to complain about the matchups and yell for some kind of playoff format, the BCS has not failed to deliver some entertaining games for our viewing pleasure.
Last season, the BCS title game was decided on a last-second field goal, while the Rose Bowl hung on a two-point conversion in the waning minutes, and the Sugar Bowl provided a highly entertaining bout between two teams with very different styles.
Sure, any game involving the Big East is a waste of time unless you are a diehard fan of one of the teams from the conference, but other than that, these games are going to be entertaining.
43. Case Keenum vs. a Real Defense
It would have been nice to see what Case Keenum and the Cougars could do against a top-flight opponent, but it will still be interesting to see what they do against even a decent team.
The fact that the offense is so unbalanced really hurt the Cougars against a Southern Miss team that had already lost to UAB, and it could come back to bite them again against a foe such as Penn State.
The TicketCity Bowl on January 2 will feature Keenum against a stout Penn State defense.
42. Non-Conference Tilts
Let's face it: While the non-conference games we see during the regular season are usually entertaining, there is no arguing the fact that bowl games always feature some of the best non-conference battles every year.
Pac-12 vs. Big Ten, ACC vs. Big East, SEC vs. Big 12—every team will be out to win a game against an opponent that it might not usually face and make a statement for its conference's supremacy.
41. Fresh Swagger
Somebody is going to step up and make a name for himself.
Last year's Rose Bowl, for example, featured the stellar defensive play of TCU linebackers Tank Carder and Tanner Brock.
Watch for somebody fresh to make statement during this year's bowl season.
40. Big Ten vs. SEC
Apologies to the Big 12, Pac-12 and the ACC.
These two conferences have the most avid, dedicated and, yes, sometimes vitriolic fanbases in the nation.
The rivalry between the staid institutions in the North and the winners in the South gets heated at times.
The Big Ten has taken a beating in this rivalry lately, and how it handles its brethren to the south this season will be a good gauge of how deep the conference is this season.
39. Oregon Trying to Win a Game Against a Major Non-Conference Opponent
Chip Kelly and his Ducks have not had much luck beating ranked non-conference foes over the past few years.
In 2008, it was a loss to Boise State at home, but the season ended with a victory over Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl.
2009 brought another loss to those pesky Broncos, and the season culminated in a loss to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.
In 2010 they lost the BCS title game to their only ranked non-conference foe, Auburn.
You know about the loss to LSU to start this season.
Now they get to face an explosive Wisconsin team that plays a punishing style of football.
Can they finally break through in a BCS game?
38. The MWC
This conference ended up getting shafted in the bowl selection process.
Boise State and TCU both got left out of the BCS and relegated to games against the fifth-place Pac-12 team and a WAC opponent, respectively.
The conference is deeper than some BCS conferences and has the potential to go 5-0 in its bowls.
One of the great storylines of bowl season is always following the fans.
It doesn't matter if your team was overrated and is in the "Toilet Bowl." Fans show up, fill the stadium and pull for their team with intensity that is unrivaled by fans of any other American sport.
If you are reading this, chances are you are a fan of football, and likely a bowl team.
Keep up the stellar work.
36. Programs in Turmoil
Teams whose coaches are in the middle of transitioning out sometimes have a tougher time focusing in the midst of the distraction.
While teams like Illinois and UCLA are not premier programs at the moment, fans of those teams will be engrossed in the drama engulfing their program.
Ironic, is it not, that these two will face each other.
Let's not even get started on the whole Penn State mess.
35. BCS Returnees
Michigan is back in the BCS for the first time since 2006.
The Wolverines have shown marked improvement over last season's squad and are looking to boost the Big Ten's rep with a big BCS win.
If the defense plays the way it did during the Big Ten slate, the Wolverines will emerge "The Victors."
34. Next Year's Stars
Keith Price, Chris Borland, Tyrann Mathieu, Casey Pachall: these are the stars of next year.
The opportunity to see these guys step up in a big game is a great reason to stay attached to your television during bowl season.
33. Last-Second Drama
Last season's title game and the Rose Bowl were decided by a combined five points.
With the slate of solid matchups we have coming our way this bowl season, there is no doubt that at some point we will be glued to some games that are decided by a touchdown or less.
They are not exactly football-related, but the holidays offer an apt excuse for taking time off to spend time with family (which is interpreted as "watch nonstop bowl games").
Christmas provides the perfect resting point after all of the early bowls, while for the casual fan, New Year's signals that it's time to tune in to catch the games they actually care about.
31. The Heisman Presentation
Yes, it is a week before the bowl games start, but in a sense it could be termed the "kickoff" to the entire season.
This is the most prestigious award in college football, and this year's race is as wide open as they come.
The front-runners, according to the media, are Andrew Luck and Trent Richardson, but guys like Matt Barkley, Montee Ball, Tyrann Mathieu and Robert Griffin III should get some consideration.
30. Nebraska's First Bowl as a Big Ten Member
The Huskers might have had a somewhat disappointing inaugural season in the Big Ten.
However, they will have a chance to boost their fanbase and the Big Ten's rep against South Carolina.
Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks have had a tendency to disappear in bowl games, but at least they don't have to watch any film of the Huskers' passing game.
It's practically nonexistent.
29. Tajh Boyd to Sammy Watkins
Clemson has been one of the biggest surprises this season.
The catalyst for its run to the ACC title has been the Tajh Boyd to Sammy Watkins connection.
Its opponent, West Virginia, has shown the tendency to allow athletic quarterbacks and physical wide receivers to cause issues in the secondary.
If you have not seen these guys play this year, make sure you check this one out.
28. A Healthy LMJ
LaMichael James has battled through some injuries this season.
He is undoubtedly still one of the most exciting, dangerous playmakers in the game, and it will be great to see him at his best after a month of rest.
At least, it will be good if you are not a Sconnie fan.
27. A Little Luck
Andrew Luck has been all over every sports media outlet since he decided to return for the 2011 season.
This is almost certainly the last opportunity we will have to see him in action, and it will be in a battle with a resurgent Oklahoma State defense.
Whether you agree that he deserves the Heisman or not, you can't miss the chance to see his last college game.
It happens every season.
Somebody goes down that had no business losing.
The infamous Fiesta Bowl, in which Boise State first burst onto the scene, comes to mind, as well as Alabama vs. Utah in the Sugar Bowl.
This season, given the relative depth of conferences such as the Big Ten and Big 12, we are likely to see some higher-ranked teams with better records take the plunge into the loss column.
25. Texas A&M vs. Dan Persa
Texas A&M is in the midst of some incredible turmoil.
Mike Sherman is gone, the Big 12 is nearly a thing of its past and it has to find a way to stop Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa.
Persa is a dual-threat quarterback that finds a way to put up points but is limited by his defense.
The Wildcats had a disappointing season, but they are not close to being your grandfather's Northwestern, taking beatings on a regular basis.
24. BCS Snubs
Fans of a playoff system love to see the BCS mess up.
As the guys pointed out on the selection show, it appeared as if the selection committees were just trying to fill hotel rooms.
Boise State and Kansas State both got shafted in favor of Michigan, Virginia Tech and Stanford.
That just does not seem quite right.
23. The "Hoke"ie Bowl
Yep, Brady Hoke is the man.
Don't tell me this was Rich Rodriguez's team. The man implemented change, did the right things and got the Wolverines to a BCS game.
Now they have to take on a tough opponent in Va. Tech.
Hoke vs. the Hokies will be an interesting matchup.
22. Dominating Defenses
South Carolina gets to test its defensive mettle against Nebraska.
Michigan State and Georgia match up in Tampa.
And of course, there is the title game between LSU and Alabama.
If solid defense is what gets you amped up, there are plenty of offerings for you to enjoy this bowl season.
21. Sugar Not so Sweet
The Sugar Bowl is not exactly a matchup between the two best options for BCS at-large bids.
Michigan could not even win its division of the Big Ten but sneaks in by virtue of its fanbase.
Virginia Tech got absolutely embarrassed for the second time this year by Clemson, and yet it makes it to the BCS, while the Big 12 has only one BCS representative.
That is a load of crap.
20. Texas Defense vs. Maynard and Allen
Cal has been somewhat inconsistent this season, but Mack Brown's team is likely to have its hands full trying to control quarterback Zach Maynard and wide receiver Keenan Allen.
The Longhorns have shown some holes in their secondary and the tendency to turn the ball over on a pretty regular basis against solid competition.
Cal could make Longhorns fans even more miserable.
19. Kirk Cousins
Kirk Cousins is one sharp guy.
His speech at the Big Ten's media days earlier in the season made national news, as the senior made a passionate plea to fans and players across the nation.
Then he spent his season making mincemeat of opposing secondaries.
He is no Luck or Griffin III, yet he deserves some accolades, and you should check him out against a tough Dawgs defense.
18. Futility Bowl
Why do we have to suffer through this game?
Clemson has been wildly inconsistent, and though the Tigers are ACC champs, it could be argued they are overrated.
Let's not even get started on the Big East representative, West Virginia.
Whoever wins (Clemson) can stake a claim to one of the most meaningless BCS wins in history.
17. The "Overrated" Bowl
A couple of teams with incredibly disappointing seasons to forget meet in hopes of erasing some of their bitter memories.
Notre Dame and FSU both had preseason BCS hopes, and both ended up nowhere near sniffing said BCS game.
It will be interesting to see who Brian Kelly uses at quarterback against an FSU defense that has been getting stouter as the season moves on.
16. T.Y. Hilton
Trust me, this guy is reason enough to watch FIU take on Marshall.
He is explosive, dynamic and any other adjective that might be associated with an exciting player all rolled into one.
If he gets a crease on a punt return, it's over.
15. Insight Mismatch
I'm sorry, but Iowa is outclassed.
Of course, that's kind of what we thought in last season's Insight Bowl as well, but the Hawkeyes came through against Missouri.
That said, this Oklahoma team is a totally different animal.
The talent the Sooners can throw on the field is ridiculous, and Iowa has been pretty underwhelming all season.
Expect Landry Jones to have a big day.
14. Tyrann Mathieu
I am sick of hearing this guy called "Honey Badger" every time he turns around.
It was appropriate when used spontaneously and worked for a short time, but now it seems forced at every available opportunity.
That said, the guy is a monster.
You can't punt him the ball; he'll bring it back.
You can't throw in his vicinity; if the pass is complete, he will rip it out and recover a fumble.
Mathieu should be getting a Heisman invite as one of the top players in the game, but won't sadly.
At least we get to see him in the title game...
13. Georgia's Passing Game vs. Sparty's Secondary
Aaron Murray and Georgia are slightly overrated.
Michigan State will have a chip on its shoulder, getting shut out of the Rose Bowl for the second consecutive season, and that secondary is fantastic.
Expect Murray to have a tough day against MSU's defense.
12. Urban Meyer Storyline
Ohio State vs. Florida.
Urban Meyer's former championship-winning program vs. the program he hopes to win championships with next.
The game itself might not be entirely all that interesting, but the storyline and the hype sure will be.
When these two meet in the Gator Bowl, expect plenty of Urban-centric news.
11. Montee Ball
Wisconsin's touchdown machine of a running back has now scored 38 on the season and also has one passing score.
He put an exclamation point on his season with four touchdowns against Penn State in the Badgers' last game of the season and then accounted for 24 of the Badgers' 42 points in the Big Ten title game.
Ball runs with a punishing style, making guys pay for tackling him, and has a ridiculous nose for the end zone.
With two more scores in the Rose Bowl, he will break Barry Sanders' record for most touchdowns in a season.
How is he not getting more Heisman love?
10. Twitter Stealing ESPN's Thunder
OK, is it just me, or was the whole "selection show" thing a little anticlimactic?
If you checked Twitter on a regular basis in the hours leading up to the show, all of the bowl selections were old news.
9. Kellen's Goodbye
Kellen Moore holds the NCAA record for most wins by a starting quarterback.
Sadly, his last game will be against a team the Broncos should handle fairly easily, but ironically, we get to see Moore go out against a BCS conference foe.
He is nearly perfect against teams from the BCS conferences, and I don't expect that to be any different in this one.
8. New Tailgating Scenes
That greatest of all time-honored football traditions, the tailgate, takes a sometimes exotic turn during bowl season.
Fans, especially those north of the Mason-Dixon Line, get the opportunity to take a pilgrimage to a distant locale, where the weather is above freezing, and enjoy tailgating at a whole new venue.
It's almost enough to make you wish your team was playing in the Hawaii Bowl.
7. Sixth BCS Game
In what should be another BCS matchup, Arkansas is taking on K-State in the Cotton Bowl.
These are two teams that put up points in very different ways with very different styles.
Collin Klein has been the catalyst for Bill Snyder's offense and will have his work cut out for him moving the ball against an Arkansas defense that continues to improve.
6. January 2nd
Normally, the first of the year is the biggest day of bowl season.
However, due to the fact that New Year's Day falls on Sunday this year and the NFL has a full slate of games, we get to devour a veritable cornucopia of matchups on the second day of the year instead.
Six of the 35 bowl games take place on January 2 this season, including the Rose Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl.
Make sure you do not go back to work until Tuesday, January 3, or you might regret it.
5. Price vs. RGIII
If Robert Griffin III comes back in 2012, the Alamo Bowl will be an early preview of two potential 2012 Heisman candidates.
Keith Price, before going into a midseason mini-slump, was the hottest quarterback in the country.
Griffin is the most accurate quarterback with his deep ball we have seen in a while, and you can expect the two of them to put up a ton of points in San Antonio.
4. Weeden vs. Luck
The Fiesta Bowl is going to be a pass-fest.
Two of the most prolific passers in the nation are taking each other on in Glendale.
Brandon Weeden and Andrew Luck are going to put on a fireworks show in the Arizona desert.
3. Richardson Carrying 'Bama
In the initial matchup of LSU and 'Bama, Trent Richardson accounted for over 50 percent of Alabama's offensive production.
Can he repeat that against a solid LSU defense?
I think so, but it will not be enough for this potential Heisman winner and the Tide as LSU takes care of business.
2. The Rose Bowl
This is going to be a great one.
Oregon scores in bunches with its explosive playmakers.
The Badgers steamroll teams with their run game and then burn them over the top with a healthy dose of Russell Wilson.
Wisconsin needs this win to validate its place in the game and redeem itself for its loss to TCU last season.
Take the over—it's going to be high-scoring.
1. The Rematch
Like it or not, it's what we have in the way of a title game.
Since I have no choice, I will just choose to enjoy the game.
Two of the best defenses in the country slugging it out for field position.
People who love good defensive play got an early Christmas present when this matchup was announced.
If you are a fan of the SEC, this is a little extra incentive to love this bowl season.