It’s the most, wonderful time, of the year.
December is my favorite month of the calendar year and, hopefully, Christmas time is one of your most wonderful times of the year as well. One reason why I like this month so much happens to be bowl season. Originally known as “bowl day” back in your parents’ adolescence, the explosion of college football’s popularity, combined with the big corporate money being introduced into the picture, has (for better or worse, mostly worse) made “bowl day” into “bowl season”. I question how necessary this is. In a context where the BCS has given rise to America’s latest dumb obsession with accurately measuring the second best team in college football, a series of meaningless exhibition games involving either meager programs with minute fanbases or bigger programs with horribly disappointing seasons can’t be expected to be the best thing for college football. This is doubly true when the introduction of corporate sponsorship has made it unclear why the bowl game is important or why anyone should care about winning the [Latest dot.com Bubble to Burst] Bowl. Alas, I like footbaw. You like footbaw. So we watch footbaw, even when it’s mid-December and the bowl games are being sponsored by trucking companies or food stuffs of which I’ve never heard.
So, here’s what’s on this Saturday while you’re watching Ohio State shooty hoops.
- Temple v. Wyoming [Gildan New Mexico Bowl] (ESPN, 2:00pm ET). I’m disappointed in the New Mexico Bowl. This is the first time in the bowl’s six year history that it has a corporate sponsor, being on of the last holdouts (for sheer lack of interest, no doubt). Enter Gildan, a clothing manufacturer based out of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. As you might have guessed, that is not indigenous to the state of New Mexico and the peculiar history of America’s first to last continental state.1 The inaugural Gildan® New Mexico Bowl pits the Temple Owls against the Wyoming Cowboys. Temple seems like an odd fit for this bowl game, and for good reason: the Mid-American Conference does not have a tie-in to this bowl game. It is supposed to pit the 7th and last Pac-12 team against a Mountain West team. Even after giving 6-7 UCLA a bowl waiver (later cashed into the Kraft Fight Hunger (oy…) Bowl), the Pac-12 does not have enough bowl-eligible teams after sending both Stanford and Oregon the BCS. So, Temple it is. You might actually want to root for Temple this game. It’s a possibility we’ll be poaching Steve Addazio’s staff for some assistant coaches. If you had asked me a week ago, I would’ve been confident Chuck Heater would be one of those coaches. Knowing what we now know about Everett Withers, we could still poach Temple for some coaches. This time, it might be Zach Smith. He is a possibility as a wide receiver coach. He’s also Earle Bruce’s grandson and former grad assistant for Urban Meyer at Florida, Zach Smith’s alma mater.
- Ohio @ Utah State [Famous Idaho Potato Bowl] (ESPN, 5:30pm ET). Ohio’s reward for blowing a 20-nil lead in the MAC Championship Game is a trip west to balmy Boise, Idaho to play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, one of the few corporate sponsorships that makes the slightest bit of sense.2 It’s an unfortunate outcome for Frank Solich, who found his way to Athens after getting canned at Nebrasky that is now hiring his fourth head coach at Pittsburgh in a year. The move has been great overall for the Bobcats; Solich might be the best they’ve ever had. Opposite Solich on the sidelines is Utah State head coach Gary Andersen, who just got a contract extension for a 7-5 season best remembered for almost beating defending national champion Auburn in Auburn to begin the season. But that’s not the news about Gary Andersen you probably read. For a 7-5 season with no signature win, not even over a then very “meh” Brigham Young squad, the bowl game means he had to make good on a promise to his players to get a tattoo of the school’s logo on his upper back. I imagine this will be very awkward when he’s interviewing for BCS jobs in a few years.
- San Diego State v. Louisiana-Lafayette [R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl] (ESPN, 9:00pm ET). I was new to the Deep South when R+L Carriers started sponsoring this bowl game in 2006, having not a clue in blue hell what R+L Carriers was. Without being too bothered by it to Google it, I found out eventually two years ago when I got stuck behind one of their freighters while driving through Mississippi (don’t ask). It seems like San Diego State is one of those programs that would rather host its own bowl game if it were bowl eligible to begin. Last year’s Poinsettia Bowl (in San Diego) was the Aztec’s first bowl game since 1998. Their last bowl appearance before that? The 1991 Freedom Bowl. Before that? The 1986 Holiday Bowl against Hayden Fry’s #19 Iowa Hawkeyes. Before that? 1969… the Pasadena Bowl! Remember that one? That was the Junior Varsity Rose Bowl. In that particular installment, San Diego State College, led by the legendary Don Coryell, beat Boston University 28-7. So, this is uncharted territory for the Aztecs. This is uncharted territory for Louisiana-Lafayette as well. It’s the Ragin Cajuns’ first postseason ever as a college football program, excluding the 1970 Grantland Rice Bowl when Louisiana-Lafayette competed in the Small College Division and then 1944 Oil Bowl, when Louisiana-Lafayette competed against community colleges in the National Junior College Athletic Association. For their first ever appearance, it seems nice that it gets to stay in-state and bring its fanbase (which is into the double digits, I’m sure) to New Orleans. Consider it a perk for 2005, when Lafayette hosted the New Orleans Bowl in the wake of damage done to New Orleans as a result of Hurricane Katrina.