Before getting to the 2013-14 college football bowl schedule and associated predictions and operations, a note on sponsored discourse. In this post-Musburger-for-all-the-Tostitos world, it is an unremarkable fact that the bowl games are not merely sponsored football contests but business entities in and of themselves, the sponsorship-style nomenclature– e.g., “the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl”– a mere reflection of the game’s less overtly monied past. Even the ostensible bastion of postseason intercollegiate purity now is known as “the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio.”
When a bowl game is a business, and not merely a happening, there is an associated shift in the commercial advertising language referential to that business. The NFL’s decision to prohibit the use of “Super Bowl” by non-league advertisers, who now must offer you late-January deals on new televisions for watching “the big game,” provides a rough analogy.
I understand and accept the logic behind a business’ desire to control its portrayal in other business’ advertisements and insist on inclusion of a game’s full, sponsored title in that portrayal. What I do not understand is why the news media plays along. This week, I heard a local sports talk show talk about talking about Georgia’s appearance in “the Taxslayer dot com Gator Bowl,” and that’s far from the only example. I understand that some of the sponsors have integrated their names into the bowl games’ names in such a way that it’s difficult– or, where the sponsor’s name and the bowl’s name are one and the same, impossible– to say the bowl’s name without saying the sponsor’s name as well (e.g., the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and the Capital One Bowl, respectively). “Taxslayer dot com” is a mouthful, though, and everybody already knows the Gator Bowl. “The Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio” is ridiculous to say, and things like “the Allstate Sugar Bowl,” “FedEx Orange Bowl,” and “Tostitos Fiesta Bowl” simply are superfluous. Why the sports news media feels obligated to append these sponsor names when discussing the bowls is beyond me, and you won’t find us doing it here, unless it’s something humorous like the Beef O’Brady Bowl or the RealOakFurniture.com Bowl.
Onto the bowl schedule, which begins this Saturday.
Two preliminary notes: 1) I recommend the simple, interactive bowl schedule SB Nation prepared as a handy and visually pleasing source for all of the logistical bowl basics, and 2) like last year, this will be a list of bowl highlights in chronological order.
- The first game of the bowl season is the New Mexico Bowl, which features ALDLAND favorites Washington State and ALDLAND goats/rams Colorado State. Like a night out at Michigan Tech, this should be an easy one for the Cougars.
- [Marker noting Famous Idaho Potato Bowl back again.]
- The New Orleans Bowl pits Louisiana-Lafayette against Tulane, otherwise represented as James Carville versus nature, which makes sense if you’re skeptical about the DNC’s platform and just watch the guy for five or twenty minutes. (He’s like Bizarro Tebow in that respect.) Ragin’ Cajuns still want nothing to do with Louisiana-Monroe, but they’ll handle Tulane just fine.
- The Beef O’Brady actually features two non-beef squads in East Carolina and Ohiomanjustkidding. Bobcats are lean, but they aren’t Albany (Polecats), and they are Ohio. Different story last year, but in 2013, I give this matchup of parental alma maters to ECU.
- Boise State and Oregon State meet on Christmas Eve in the Hawaii Bowl, which will not allow the Rainbow Warriors to play as a third team in the game, mostly because the field has a typical, two-endzone layout. (Cf.) Before this year, Hawaii appeared in six of the eleven Hawaii bowls, plus I’ll give them one for June Jones and SMU last year. Still the most competitive semiprofessional football being played annually in our newest state.
- After a one-day break for Christmas, the action resumes in Detroit, where Bowling Green and Pitt are co-hosting a fundraiser they’re calling “the Little Caesars Bowl” to support Mike Ilitch’s efforts to pay off Prince Fielder’s zombie contract. I’m picking BGSU to “win” because they almost beat Florida last year.
- Poinsettia Bowl: Utah State beats Northern Illinois easy as dying from eating a poisonous fern.
- The Texas Bowl has Syracuse and Minnesota, which are pretty much the least Texas schools in the nation. I know this is being played at Reliant in Houston, but if Jerry Jones yields, I think Minnesota will be allowed to win.
- After an improper snub last year, Middle Tennessee State is bowling in 2013. The Blue Raiders will face Navy in the Armed Forces Bowl on New Year’s Eve Eve. Ordinarily I’d give a military academy the advantage in this game, but, as you may be aware, Navy’s advantage is on water, not on land, and the Armed Forces Bowl is in landlocked Fort Worth. Navy did beat Army in Philadelphia, Hoth last week, so that probably negates my already foolhardy military analogy, but MTSU has a (blue) chip on its shoulder that is not an NSA tracking device, and they will win a close game.
- The Alamo Bowl offers Oregon the opportunity to reassert itself on a national stage after a season that didn’t go the Ducks’ way. I can’t imagine them having too much trouble with disorderly Texas. You’ll have to rely on my imagination, though, because this game probably will be on the Longhorn Network, still unavailable in your home.
- I don’t know who will win the Holiday Bowl, but it should be a holiday for people who bet the over. [Comment about rodents at Texas Tech and underdressed ASU students.]
- It’s been said that Rice belongs in a bowl, and the Liberty Bowl, which I have attended in the past, is a great spot for the C-USA champs. I’m seeing a lot of people picking Mississippi State to win in Memphis, but I do not agree. I think the game will be competitive, but I think Rice will find a way to win.
- By virtue of their drubbing at the hands of Florida State, Duke earned the honor of losing to Texas A&M. This game is the first must-watch of the bowl season, our last chance to see Johnny Manziel in his element before he goes to the NFL. He’ll be in Atlanta on New Year’s Eve, which means his post-game performance could be memorable too.
- Wisconsin and South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl is sort of a sneaky pairing. I expect this will be a good game too. Watch to see whether Jadaveon Clowney continues to try to preserve his health or goes for gold with a strong performance on the (roughly) one-year anniversary of the day you first learned his name.
- Michigan State is in the Rose Bowl. It feels great to type that, and their game against Stanford seems set to be a wonderful old-school battle. As always, the question for the Spartans is whether they can maintain discipline and focus in the spotlight. I think MSU has a great chance to win this game.
- The only way Alabama loses to an overrated Oklahoma team is if they make like Florida in last season’s Sugar Bowl and decide not to do any preparation for the game out of disappointment with the way their season ended. After Nick Saban spent last week in an indie youth hostel in Austin in order to force a contract extension from Alabama, I expect a Crimson Tide show of force in the Sugar this year.
- Oklahoma State beats Missouri by about ten in a high-scoring Cotton Bowl, and Mike Gundy says something dumb about Sports Illustrated on the podium.
- As much as I’m hoping for a different outcome, I think Ohio State will beat Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Alternatively, or not, this could be a good game for the departing Tajh Boyd.
- Vanderbilt will make it three bowl appearances in a row when they play Houston in the Compass Bowl on January 4 in Birmingham. Considering they’ve only played in six bowl games ever before this season, that’s a pretty remarkable achievement. This is their fourth bowl game since 2008, and they bring a 2-1 postseason record from those games into this one. Mobile backup quarterback Patton Robinette will start the game for Vandy on account of starter Austyn Carta-Samuels’ season-ending injury. Carta-Samuels played his last three games this season– all VU wins– with a torn ACL. Another Vandy note: Commodore players donated their bowl per-diem stipends to a children’s charity. Houston has had a resurgence in recent years, but they aren’t the same without Kevin Sumlin, Case Keenum, Clyde, and Olajuwon. The Commodores should register another nine-win season.
- Florida State and Auburn round things out in the final BCS National Championship Game before the implementation of the College Football Playoff next season. If this game was being played this weekend, I’d have an easier time picking Auburn to win. Although the Eagles/Tigers/Plainsmen have beaten Alabama, Missouri, Texas A&M, and everyone else on their schedule with the exception of LSU on the road, I think all of the time off will allow Florida State to better prepare for Auburn’s packaged offensive scheme. I can’t help being reminded of Auburn’s last national championship, in a game in which I also thought they were severely overmatched. Auburn’s giving up forty-two points to Missouri in the SEC championship game worries me, but they’re still my tentative pick to win it all on January 6.
A simple bowl schedule chart is here.