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The Hot and Not of the bowl season
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Long a graveyard for teams disinterested in a December trip to Boise, the Vandals are ecstatic to be playing in the Humanitarian Bowl, their first postseason game in 11 years. And playing just a five-hour drive from campus, Idaho should be well-represented in the stands.
It’s been three decades since the Owls last bowled, making this month's EagleBank Bowl a special — and unexpected — event on the program's timeline. Will Al Golden be on the sidelines for the game? That’s the only downside to this year’s improbable nine-win campaign.
8. The service academies
Not only have Navy and Air Force already earned bids to the Texas Bowl and Armed Forces Bowl, respectively, but Army has a chance to join them if it can defeat the Middies on Saturday for the first time since 2001.
7. The Hawaii Bowl
June Jones returns to Hawaii as the head coach of SMU, which has made the postseason for the first time in a quarter-century. Nevada sports one of the nation’s most explosive offenses. That's enough to make the Hawaii Bowl the most underrated game of December.
6. The Independence Bowl
Georgia on one side. Texas A&M on the other. Okay, so neither is a vintage product, but both schools travel well and have rich histories, which gives the Independence Bowl its best match up in years.
5. Boston College
This is the year that the Eagles finally miss out on a bowl berth, right? Nope. Despite a slew of upheaval and offseason changes, Boston College has earned its spot into the postseason for an eleventh consecutive year.
The Wildcats simply don’t do New Year’s Day…until Pat Fitzgerald came on board, that is. Northwestern’s trip to the Outback Bowl is the school’s first January bowl game since the mid-1990s when Fitzgerald was an All-American linebacker.
3. The Rose Bowl
Not only does the Rose Bowl get its traditional pairing of the Pac-10 and Big Ten champs, but it has a very interesting match up to boot. The high-flying Oregon offense against the stingy Ohio State defense is one of the better games-within-the-game of the postseason.
2. The BCS championship game
For all the sniping about Texas' tepid finish, you could do a lot worse than two unbeaten powerhouses meeting in Pasadena. Once the holidays pass, the ‘Horns versus the Crimson Tide for a national championship will really pick up steam and generate more interest than it is today.
1. The non-automatic qualifiers
When one non-AQ breaks the glass ceiling, it’s exciting. Two in the same cycle? That’s a sign of some tangible progress that wouldn’t have been possible without the addition of a fifth BCS bowl game. Too bad Boise State and TCU will be facing off in the Fiesta Bowl instead of getting a chance to take one of the big boys down a peg.
10. The Little Caesars Bowl
Ohio against head coach-less Marshall in Detroit. Oh, boy. If there’s a poster child for a bowl slate that’s become too bloated, this one might very well be it. Well, at least the new sponsor has a little more oomph than the old Motor City Bowl.
9. The International Bowl
And why exactly do we have a bowl game in Toronto? As if this isn’t already a tough enough venue to generate interest, don’t expect a pair of directional schools, South Florida and Northern Illinois, to get the locals buzzing.
So close to the Orange Bowl. So disappointed to be playing in the Music City Bowl. The Tigers’ late loss to Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship game means it’ll be Kentucky in Nashville instead of Iowa in Miami.
7. The Insight Bowl
Could the Insight Bowl committee have paired up two worse offenses? Both Iowa State and Minnesota average 21 points a game and rank 97th and 82nd, respectively, in passing offense.
Since when did college football go March Madness on us by adding a play-in game? The Bruins didn't control their own destiny, needing Army to lose to Navy in order to qualify for a shot at Temple in the EagleBank Bowl. And the prize? We all get to see a Pac 10 team face a MAC squad.
And playing the part of Alabama this year is … The Gators are basically where the Tide was in last year’s Sugar Bowl, a month removed from a tough loss in the SEC title game and trying to find the motivation for an under-the-radar unbeaten team. Florida will say all the right things, but the defending national champs will struggle to get pumped for a date with Cincinnati.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The Trojans haven’t just missed out on a BCS bowl game for the first time in seven years. They weren’t even close to qualifying for the Holiday Bowl, the Pac-10 prize for the runner-up. Have fun getting these guys amped for Boston College and the Emerald Bowl.
3. The ACC, Big East, Big 12, and Pac-10
With TCU and Boise State earning spots in the Fiesta Bowl, only two at-large berths were available. Florida out of the SEC and Iowa out of the Big Ten gobbled them up. The ACC, Big East, and Pac-10 are used to sending just their league champ to the party. For the Big 12, this will be uncharted waters.
So just what is the penalty for blowing a three-touchdown lead at home to Cincinnati last Saturday? How about a date with North Carolina in the Meineke Bowl rather than a marquee event in primetime for a whole lot more money?
1. Notre Dame
Ahhh, the hubris of the Irish. When faced with the prospects of another second-tier bowl invitation, the 6-6 program turned up its nose and voted to ditch the postseason all together. Yeah, you were pointing to much bigger things in 2009, but go showcase your mediocrity and play the game like everyone else.
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