John McGrath

The highs and lows of an overloaded bowl season

Oklahoma State place kicker Ben Grogan attempts a field goal during the Cactus Bowl against Washington, Friday, Jan. 2, 2015, in Tempe, Ariz. Oklahoma State won 30-22.
Oklahoma State place kicker Ben Grogan attempts a field goal during the Cactus Bowl against Washington, Friday, Jan. 2, 2015, in Tempe, Ariz. Oklahoma State won 30-22. The Associated Press

The most cluttered postseason calendar in college football history is calling for 40 games to be played between Saturday and Jan. 11.

A preview:

BEST ATHLETIC EXHIBITION — The drum majors for Alcorn State’s marching band, which will perform Saturday in the appropriately named Celebration Bowl. Between Alcorn State’s Sounds of Dyn-O-Mite and North Carolina A&T’s Blue and Gold Marching Machine, halftime will take center stage.

BEST BOUNCE-BACK JOB — In 2012, former Washington assistant Trent Miles inherited a 1-10 Georgia State program and went on to finish 0-12 and 1-11. There are easier gigs than recruiting players to appear before 50,000 empty seats in the Georgia Dome, but Miles has achieved respectability for the 6-6 Panthers, who on Saturday will face 5-7 Fresno State in the Cure Bowl.

Georgia State, by the way, has submitted a bid to buy Turner Field when the Braves vacate it after 2016. The school plans to convert the ballpark into a football stadium.

BEST REASON TO TUNE INTO THE BOCA RATON BOWL — What, you need a reason Saturday to watch the Temple Owls take on the Toledo Rockets in south Florida? If that’s the case, keep an eye on Owls linebacker Tyler Matakevich, winner of the Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation’s top defensive player.

WORST SCHEDULING CONFLICT — With so many bowl games, there are bound to be overlaps. But couldn’t somebody figure out a way to prevent Washington and Washington State from playing simultaneously? Twenty minutes after the Cougars and Miami kick off in the Sun Bowl (11 a.m., Dec. 26), the Huskies will meet Southern Mississippi in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

On the bright side, the five or six UW fans who’ve made travel arrangements to Texas are in for a treat. The stadium that’s home for the Heart of Dallas Bowl — the Cotton Bowl — is a college-football cathedral with some fabulous sight lines in the upper deck.

BEST MOTIVATION TO WIN A HO-HUM GAME — The Independence Bowl matchup between Virginia Tech and Tulsa, also set for Dec. 26, will find Hokies’ head coach Frank Beamer on the sidelines for the last time.

Cool Beamer stat: Since he began his 29-year career at Tech, players have scored touchdowns from all 11 defensive positions.

Cooler Beamer stat: Special teams have accounted for 35 touchdowns.

WORST FATE FOR A GOOD GUY — Under former Oregon State head coach Mike Riley, Nebraska is preparing for a Dec. 26 assignment against UCLA in the Foster Farms Bowl. So there’s that. But even if the Cornhuskers win, they’ll go 6-7. And if they lose? It will represent epic failure for a proud powerhouse: Not since 1957, when Nebraska finished 1-9, have the ’Huskers lost as many as eight games in a season.

BEST CASE FOR ARGUING THERE ARE TOO MANY BOWL GAMES — The Arizona Bowl, on Dec. 29, will pit Nevada against Colorado State. Because both teams belong to the Mountain West Conference, this is less an intriguing collision than a rare one: only the second bowl game between conference opponents.

The first? The 1979 Orange Bowl between Oklahoma and Nebraska. Although the Cornhuskers lost, 31-24, Tom Osborne managed to remain employed as head coach for 18 more years.

BEST CHANCE TO CHECK OUT A POSSIBLE FIRST OVERALL PICK IN THE NFL DRAFT — The Birmingham Bowl, on Dec. 30, will showcase Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch against Auburn. Lynch is a 6-foot-6 slinger whose 28-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio this season suggests he dominated inferior competition.

Auburn has been a disappointment — the Tigers went 6-6 overall, and 2-6 in the SEC — but this is the kind of power-conference opponent Lynch doesn’t see on a weekly basis.

BEST BOWL DAY — New Year’s Eve, which looms as football’s version of semifinal Saturday at the Final Four. It starts with a blockbuster quarterback duel in the Orange Bowl between Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, a Heisman Trophy finalist, and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, a viable Heisman candidate.

The Alabama-Michigan State nightcap, in the Cotton Bowl, figures to be a defensive scrunge — a turn-back-the-clock clash of authentic football.

My mouth is watering at the anticipation, and yet I’m wondering: What’s the deal about New Year’s Eve replacing New Year’s Day on the college fan’s Must-See, Can’t-Miss calendar?

BEST NEW YEAR’S DAY GAME — Notre Dame vs. Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. If a couple of plays turn out differently, both teams are in the semifinals instead of occupying roles as day-after leftovers.

The campuses are separated by 250 miles, and yet the natural foes, who ply talent from the same territory and own 14 Heisman Trophies between them, have faced each other other only five times.

It’s a crazy aberration not unnoticed by administrators. The schools have scheduled a two-year, home-and-home series for 2022-23.

BEST INDICATION COLLEGE FOOTBALL HAS TURNED YOUR BRAIN INTO A SPONGE — Jan. 2, when the TaxSlayer Bowl (Penn State-Georgia) will be followed by the Liberty Bowl (Kansas State-Arkansas), the Alamo Bowl (Oregon-TCU) and the Cactus Bowl (West Virginia-Arizona State).

Two days after the Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl determine the finalists for the Jan. 11 national championship, four essentially inconsequential games have been arranged because, hey, inconsequential college football beats no college football.

In the meantime, Sounds of Dyn-O-Mite, the floor is yours.

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