John McGrath

Bowls, bowls and more bowls. A look at college football’s bowl season

That’s no kind of mascot. Ask the Orange Bowl’s mascot, Obie, who is posing with Miami head coach Mark Richt, if he can operate a rider mower.
That’s no kind of mascot. Ask the Orange Bowl’s mascot, Obie, who is posing with Miami head coach Mark Richt, if he can operate a rider mower. AP

The college football bowl season kicks off Saturday with six games, to be followed by 33 more games preceding the Jan. 8 national championship.

My thoughts:

▪  Best Indication Of The Bowl Season Traffic Jam Also Known As Gridlock: At 9 a.m. Saturday, North Carolina A&T will face Grambling in a Celebration Bowl match-up at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium. An hour later, North Texas will be in New Orleans to take on Troy in a Cure Bowl clash at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Two contests played simultaneously, in venues named after the same automobile company, suggests there’s either too many bowl games, or not enough stadium sponsors.

▪ Best Reason To Avoid Making A Prediction: Oregon’s Mario Cristobal will be on the sidelines Saturday at the Las Vegas Bowl, where his team gets a chance to impress its new head coach against Boise State, an infrequent but pesky Ducks nemesis.

Oregon is a 7.5-point favorite, but only one man has the ability to accurately foresee the outcome.

Cristobal.

▪ Best Evidence Not All Rumors About Lane Kiffin Are True: Kiffin, rumor has it, resurfaced season as head coach at Florida Atlantic, where he has quietly turned the Owls into a 10-3 team that figures to pummel 7-6 Akron in the Boca Raton Bowl on Dec. 19. It amounts to a home game for FAU, but when the bowl schedule was arranged, the Zips were not distressed to learn they’d be leaving Akron for a few days in south Florida.

▪ Best Bowl Game Name: What used to be called the St. Petersburg Bowl is now the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl – a mouthful to digest there, so let’s take it slow. The term “Gasparilla” is a reference to Jose Gaspar, a mythical Spanish pirate.

Bad Boy Mowers manufactures grass-cutting machines that resemble tractors. The company’s motto is “Mow With An Attitude.” Anybody who mows with an attitude presumably screams “Get Off My Lawn!” at trick-or-treat kids dressed up as Spanish pirates.

The Bad Boy Moyers Gasparilla Bowl game between Temple and Florida International, by the way, will be played on the artificial turf of St. Pete’s Tropicana Field.

▪ Best Story Involving Bowl Team’s Resurrection: When Bahamas Bowl-bound Alabama-Birmingham announced the school had second thoughts about its 2014 decision to discontinue football, cornerback Darius Willlams was driving a flower-delivery truck in Florida. Williams returned to UAB and has played like a lawn-mowing operator possessed this season, breaking up 15 passes while intercepting five others.

▪ Best Potential First-Round Draft Selection Who May Or May Not Play In A Bowl Game: At 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, strong-armed Wyoming senior quarterback Josh Allen has drawn comparisons to Philadelphia Eagles rookie Carson Wentz. But Allen sat out Wyoming’s last two games with a sprained right shoulder, and it’s questionable he’ll be ready for the Cowboys’ Dec. 22 Potato Bowl date against Central Michigan.

▪ Best Opportunity To Watch A Bowl Game That Is Completed More Quickly Than Any Oscar Acceptance Speech Requiring Notes: The Armed Forces Bowl, on Dec. 23, will pit Army and its top-ranked ground attack against a San Diego State team built around running back Rashaad Penny. Penny, whose 2,027 rushing yards led the FBS, will be looking to extend his streak of 200-yard performances to five.

▪ Best Bowl Team That Nobody Envisioned As A Bowl Team: Fresno State, which finished 1-11 in 2016 and fulfilled every definition of a cupcake opponent when Washington beat it silly in September. But coach Jeff Tedford stopped the bleeding, and the Bulldogs ended up with a 9-4 record and an invitation to the Hawaii Bowl against Houston.

▪ Best Coaching Contrast: UCLA’s Chip Kelly, recently appointed as the full-time successor to the fired Jim Mora, won’t be calling the shots for the Bruins in their Dec. 26 Cactus Bowl game against Kansas State. Meanwhile, Bill Snyder, the Wildcats’ 78-year old head coach, keeps on keeping on in the spirit of Amos Alonzo Stagg, who didn’t retire as a football coach until he was 96.

▪ Best Bulletin Board Words: “Our bad years are not that bad,” former Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds said in 2014. “Take a school like Missouri. Our bad years are better than their good years.”

Missouri will face the Longhorns in the Texas Bowl.

▪ Best Indication Bowl Season Is For Real: The Camping World Bowl, on Dec. 28, will introduce the concept of two nationally ranked teams as opponents. Oklahoma State (No. 19) takes on Virginia (No. 22).

Later that evening, as Stanford (No. 13) goes against TCU (No. 15) in the Alamo Bowl, Michigan State (No. 16) will square off against Washington State (No. 18) in the Holiday Bowl.

▪ Best Revenge Angle: New Mexico State is headed for an Arizona Bowl date with Utah State. The last time the New Mexico State Aggies appeared in a bowl game was in 1960, when they went to the Sun Bowl and lost to – who else? – the Utah State Aggies.

▪ Best Traditional Game Held On A Non-Traditional Stage: Because of the College Football Playoff, Rose Bowl staples USC and Ohio State were denied invitations to compete in the “The Granddaddy of ‘em All”. The Trojans will attempt to extend their winning streak over the Buckeyes to eight in the Cotton Bowl.

▪ Best Way To Describe Whatever The Rose Bowl Means These Days: No. 2 Oklahoma, led by Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield, versus No. 3 Georgia in the first national semifinal game. Hey, at least it’s on New Year’s Day.

▪ Best Game: The Sugar Bowl, where No. 1 Clemson will begin its crunch-time defense of the national championship against No. 4 Alabama.

When the teams met to decide the 2015 national championship, Alabama won, 45-40. Last year, with the national championship again at stake, Clemson scored a last-play touchdown to win, 35-31.

So who prevails in the third installment of this compelling trilogy?

The bad boys inclined to mow with an attitude, that’s who.

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