In a past life, I was the sports editor for a small town Wyoming newspaper and tried to diversify the stories about little kid soccer games and high school sports with an annual “pick the bowl game winners” contest. One of the local restauranteurs was also a big sports fan and donated a couple dinners for prizes.
This year, I noticed that there are a lot of Mountain West Conference teams in the December bowl games and made my guesses. I also think most of the bowl game sponsors are a little odd and fans know less about them than the teams.
I’ll pick the January games, including the BCS tournament games after Christmas.
Back in the 1990s, there were 19 bowl games. Today that number has grown to 38 and shows the parity in football these days.
I was a big college football fan back then having followed Wyoming to a couple Holiday Bowls the Las Vegas Bowl and a couple Copper Bowl games.
It was a good time to run into old friends. Cowboy football brought people together. I always saw Jim Izzo at the game. When a team has good and bad years, it’s tough to get any fan consistency.
One winter, a pal and I flew into New Orleans on Christmas day and road tripped to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis – also the first trip I made to Graceland; the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville – the first time I’d tried chitlins and hawg maw, the Orange Bowl in Miami – it was freezing that night.
I used to religiously follow Nebraska in the post season: Fiesta Bowl – met up with lots of college mates; Rose Bowl – Huskers blown out in the national championship game, Alamo Bowl – Bo Pelini’s first and last head coaching gig before working at LSU.
I’m onto other pursuits these days, but nonetheless, here are my picks for the December bowl games.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl – Nevada v Louisiana – Lafayette
Dec. 20, New Orleans (11 a.m. ET)
The game is sponsored by a big trucking company. R+L must be hauling a lot of stuff. Being a Mountain West Conference fan, I’m pulling for Nevada. That’s a team that’s bounced around conferences. I mostly remember them being in the old Big Sky Conference, like Wyoming was in the original Western Athletic Conference.
In these lesser bowls, organizers always have to pick a local team to guarantee attendance and Louisiana-Lafayette fits that bill this year.
The game should be a good one to watch since both teams play a wide open offense.
My Guess: Nevada in a high scoring game.
Gilden New Mexico Bowl – Utah State v UTEP
Dec. 20, Albuquerque, New Mexico (2:20 p.m. ET)
A clothing manufacturer sponsors this game. I bet part of the sponsorship is cheap T-shirts. I indirectly advertise for the game, but too bad the tags are inside the shirt.
This is another Mountain West match up with Utah State taking on UTEP. The Aggies are another team that has bounced around having been in the Big Sky Conference. I miss UTEP, which also was a member of the Western Athletic Conference with Wyoming.
Utah State had an up and down season with a couple quarterback changes this year. If Utah State can take an early lead, that passing offense is tough to stop, considering the Miners are predominantly a running team.
My Pick: Utah State in a lopsided blow out
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl – Utah v Colorado State
Dec. 20, Las Vegas (3:30 p.m. ET)
Have you ever heard of Royal Purple synthetic oil? Not me.
For a fan like me, this is a great throwback to the Western Athletic Conference in which both teams originally competed and evolved into members of the Mountain West Conference.
Utah fled for the PAC-12 during the big shake up in 2011 and experienced culture shock there. After a couple bad seasons, the Utes have turned it around, but still not at the top of the league. Incidentally, CU joined the PAC-12 at the same time and is still trying to find a football identity.
As opposed to Colorado State, which has been dominant under erstwhile coach Jim McElwain who took the Florida job and won’t be working.
My Guess I think this is going to be a close one. I’m going with a better balanced Utah team
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl- Western Michigan v Air Force
Dec. 20, Boise, Idaho (5:45 p.m. ET)
This potato group has been advertising on cable TV lately. This game used to be called the Humanitarian Bowl, which I thought was a little strange. It features yet another Mountain West Conference tie-in with Air Force making the trek to Boise. I don’t know much about Western Michigan, but Air Force has always had a great running game and this year has been no different. Air Force had a bit of a topsy turvy season having upset both Colorado State and Boise State – both teams had a shot at the At Large BCS football tourney spot.
My Guess: Air Force, but the game could be a yawner
Raycom Camellia Bowl – Bowling Green v South Alabama
Dec. 20, Montgomery, Alabama (9:15 p.m. ET)
I don’t know anything about these two teams. What I do think is interesting about the game is its sponsor, Raycom. It’s a media conglomerate that owns a bunch of TV stations in the south and a sports media company that started up it’s own bowl game. The other interesting thing about Raycom, is that it is owned by the Alabama public employees pension fund.
My Guess: A shot in the dark with South Alabama
Miami Beach Bowl – BYU v Memphis
Dec. 22, Miami (2 p.m. ET)
The American Athletic Conference puts on this game. The home team is Memphis. BYU was the most despised team in the Western Athletic and the Mountain West conferences. So much so, the Cougs bowed out because they didn’t like to play Wyoming in any sport.
My Guess: I don’t like to ever cut BYU any slack – Memphis
ESPN Events Boca Raton Bowl – Northern Illinois v Marshall
Dec. 23, Boca Raton, Florida (6 p.m. ET)
This game is sponsored by ESPN. ESPN should sponsor all the games. I’m thinking I should get a bunch of indie producers and partner up with a public access TV station and organize a bowl game someplace. Marshall was close to getting into the national championship mix, but lesser schools with one loss don’t stand much chance. I don’t know anything about NIU except that they’ve won the Mid-America conference a bunch of times recently. This may be one of the better games of the post season.
My Guess: Whatever team gets the ball last will win, which I’m hoping is Marshall.
San Diego County Employees Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl – Navy v San Diego State
Dec. 23, San Diego (9:30 p.m. ET)
San Diego State is another Mountain West Conference mainstay. This is a home game for the Aztecs. There’s also a big US Navy presence there and should be a balanced crowd. The game is sponsored by the Credit Union and by the San Diego Bowl Game Association that also produces the Holiday Bowl. That’s a pretty good business – producing football games.
My Guess: San Diego State in a back and forth game.
Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl – Western Kentucky v Central Michigan
Dec. 24, Nassau, Bahamas (Noon ET)
This is the inaugural game and a strange one at that. The People’s Republic of China built the stadium, but it only has 15,000 seats. That’s probably a good crowd for a cricket match. On top of that, the game’s presenting sponsor is Popeye’s. There are at least three chicken restaurants sponsoring games.
This one of those games that will be the game any lesser team will want to play. I don’t think there’s enough room for the Notre Dame or Michigan fans.
My Guess: Western Kentucky, but I don’t know why.
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl – Fresno State v Rice
Dec. 24, Honolulu (8 p.m. ET)
It stands to reason that Sheraton sponsors this game. Fresno State was an early fave to win the Mountain West Conference, but I can think of worse places to play football on Christmas Eve.
It was all over for the Bulldogs when hapless Wyoming beat them 45 – 17 on national TV.
Wyoming and Rice were both in the reconfigured WAC that was way to massive of a conference. I always remember the Rice marching band as having played one of the more well known versions of “Louie, Louie.”
My Guess: Fresno State, even though the Bulldog’s don’t have much of a defense.
Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl – Illinois v Louisiana Tech
Dec. 26, Dallas (1 p.m. ET)
I don’t know much about either of these two teams except Lousisiana Tech scores a lot of points. The Illini play in the Big 10 and the game may be close. There must be a lot of successful chicken businesses in the south. This game is sponsored by one called Zaxby’s. I’ve never tried Zaxby’s Chicken.
My Guess: Louisiana Tech, but I think it will be close.
Quick Lane Bowl – Rutgers v North Carolina
Dec. 26, Detroit (4:30 p.m. ET)
This is another one of those games that I don’t know much about either team. It’s the inaugural bowl game in the Silver Dome sponsored by Quick Lane, which must have something to do with the automotive industry. I did a little research and I didn’t know that Rutgers is in the Big 10.
My Guess: Rutgers
Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl – Central Florida v North Carolina State
Dec. 26, St. Petersburg, Florida (8 p.m. ET)
Times have changed. Bitcoin and Bitpay signed on to sponsor this game for the next four years, along with ESPN events. Visa must still think it has image problems – or maybe they aren’t allowed to squander the credit card 18% interest fees on football games. I don’t know if I’ve seen a bitcoin ad on TV.
All I know about UCF is that it has a huge presence in Florida and has produced a lot of rocket scientists and quarterback Blake Bortles.
My Guess: UCF – the Knights still have an explosive offense.
Northrup Grumman Military Bowl – Cincinnati v Virginia Tech
Dec. 27, Annapolis, Maryland (1 p.m. ET)
I wonder why there isn’t a military connection to this game, since it also benefits the USO – maybe that’s Tech. The Hokies were involved in a big sex assault case a few years back that ended with SCOTUS gutting the Violence Against Women Act.
My Guess: Cincinnati
Hyundai Sun Bowl – Duke v Arizona State
Dec. 27, El Paso, Texas (2 p.m. ET)
No American car companies sponsor games, which is a good thing. I haven’t followed either of these teams this season. With so much parity among the middle tier of teams, and so many deals between conferences and games, it’s tough to keep the games straight. The Sun Bowl is tied to the PAC-12 number 4 and an at large ACC team.
My Guess: Arizona State, for no particular reason
Duck Commander Independence Bowl – Miami Florida v South Carolina
Dec. 27, Shreveport, Louisiana (3:30 p.m. ET)
This is another one of those games between middle of the pack teams from the ACC and SEC. If either of these schools were in other leagues they would be at the tops of their heaps. The game is sponsored by the Duck Dynasty guys. Who would have thought a duck call brand would present a football game. Logo on the hood of a NASCAR? Yes. Logo on a football scoreboard? No.
My Guess: Miami (FL) for no particular reason.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl – Boston College v Penn State
Dec. 27, Bronx, New York (4:30 p.m. ET)
It stands to reason that New Era caps would be the main sponsor for the Pinstripe Bowl played in Yankee Stadium. If a bowl game can be held in New York in the dead of winter, a bowl game can be played anywhere. You have to hand it to Penn State for bouncing back like it has after that sex abuse coaching scandal there. Again, a couple teams from the ACC and BIG-10.
My Guess: Penn State is my sentimental favorite.
National University Holiday Bowl – Nebraska v USC
Dec. 27, San Diego (8 p.m. ET)
I’m a big Nebraska fan and we’ll see how the Huskers play after Bo Pelini was fired. Big Red didn’t look that great in a few games, namely the Wisconsin thrashing. I don’t think Nebraska has ever defeated USC over the years. This game is sponsored by National University, which is one of those big private colleges.
My guess: USC is favored, but I’m going with Nebraska.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl – West Virginia v Texas A&M
Dec. 29, Memphis, Tennessee (2 p.m. ET)
I haven’t been paying attention to the SEC nor the BIG-12. Another match up between two “also-rans”. It should be an evenly matched game. Why do car oil companies and auto parts stores sponsor games, but American car companies don’t?
My Guess: Texas A&M
Russell Athletic Bowl – Clemson v Oklahoma
Dec. 29, Orlando, Florida (5:30 p.m. ET)
When I hear Russell Athletic, I always think of jock straps. Just another ACC – BIG-12 game. I have nothing on this.
My Guess: Clemson
Advocare V100 Texas Bowl – Texas v Arkansas
Dec. 29, Houston (9 p.m. ET)
This game used to be the Independence Bowl. It’s sponsored by Advocare, which, I think, is a multilevel marketing company. This game is one that old time college football fans will appreciate. The Frank Broyles v Darryl Royal game was always a classic game. That will be the hype this time around.
My Guess: Arkansas in a squeaker
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl – LSU v Notre Dame
Dec. 30, Nashville, Tennessee (3 p.m. ET)
The housing business must be pretty good with a mortgage company sponsoring the game. If I’m a homeowner, I’d rather have a lower interest rate than sponsoring a football bowl. Even though Notre Dame was on network TV every Saturday I didn’t watch a complete game. I do know that LSU has a pretty good running game and a good defense.
My Guess: LSU
Belk Bowl – Louisville v Georgia
Dec. 30, Charlotte, North Carolina (6:30 p.m. ET)
Belk is a department store in the south. Business must be good if it is sponsoring a bowl game. It used to be called the Queen City Bowl, the the Continental Tire Bowl and the Meineke Car Care Bowl. No wonder I have no heart in this one either.
My Guess: Louisville
Foster Farms Bowl – Maryland v Stanford
Dec. 30, Santa Clara, California (10 p.m. ET)
This is another one of those games with an identity crisis now sponsored by a chicken company. It has always had some food sponsor being known as the Fight Hunger Bowl, then the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, then the Emerald Bowl, then the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl. Luckily hometown Stanford is playing.
My Guess: Stanford
Chik-Fil-A Peach Bowl TCU v Ole Miss
Dec. 31, Atlanta (12:30 p.m. ET)
TCU has Mountain West Conference history. I was happy that they had a chance to move to the BIG-12. The Horned Frogs were the class of the league. There was a controversy a few years ago when the Peach Bowl was set for a Sunday and Chik-Fil-A refused to play the game on a day the conflicts with church.
My Guess: TCU in a rout
Vizio Fiesta Bowl – Arizona v Boise State
Dec. 31, Glendale, Arizona (4 p.m. ET)
Mountain West Conference Boise State gets a shot at the PAC-12 this year. Who can forget that trick play Dan Hawkins pulled on Oklahoma in a BCS Fiesta Bowl game a few years back to win the game? Bob Stoops was ticked. The game is sponsored by Vizio. In the past Frito Lay Tostitos were the long time sponsor until last year. I have Vizio TVs am I supporting the game in some way?
My Guess: Boise State is explosive, but I’m picking Arizona based on strength of schedule.
Capital One Orange Bowl – Georgia Tech v Mississippi State
Dec. 31, Miami (8 p.m. ET)
I have a Capital One credit card. That means I’m a part of this game. I went to the Orange Bowl when it was sponsored by FedEx. This should be a pretty good game. Mississippi State was tops in the nation for a few weeks then faded.
My Guess: Georgia Tech
There you have it. I hope some of my pals from other parts of the country and more aware of their regional college football teams will chime in and give their views.
Preparation for the bowl season is exhausting.
I’ll give my guesses for the January games including the BCS tournament in a wrrk or so.