It’s not “Capital One Bowl Week”, but it is Christmas week and the second week of bowl games for the college football consumer. Discounting Sundays and this particular Monday, for which the NFL has a monopoly, it is also the first (basically) full week of bowl games. The Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl may not be enough to plan the day around, but it should be enough to plan dinner around.
Including Saturday’s Hawaii Bowl, you will have four bowl games this week for your consideration. I mention some stuff about them in what follows.
- Florida International v. Marshall [Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl St. Petersburg] (ESPN, 8:00pm ET). That is not a misprint. The formal name of the bowl game has that suffix of “St. Petersburg” to remind you that Beef ‘O’ Brady’s (which I’ve never heard of) thinks it appropriate to label St. Petersburg, Florida as a destination for two college football fan bases. Formerly the magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl and the St. Petersburg Bowl Presented by Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, it normally features a Big East team against a Conference USA team. As if those will be separate conferences in the next two years. Anyways, the Big East could not send six teams to the bowl season to satisfy all of its bowl arrangements, so the Sun Belt steps in as an alternate. The alternate: Florida International, whose coach, Mario Cristobal, seems almost certain to be coaching in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania next year for either the Pitt Panthers or the Penn Shtate Nitts. I really like Cristobal and it should be fairly obvious why. Taking a program that was so starved for resources that the athletic department tried to eliminate its cheerleading program to reduce operating costs, Cristobal inherited a program whose only known means to remaining solvent were to take pin-me/pay-me games against the likes of Texas Tech, Alabama, and Penn Shate (among many others). Cristobal’s teams started fighting back in 2010, four years into his tenure. The 2010 season started at home to Rutgers, and on the road at Texas A&M, Maryland and Pittsburgh in consecutive weeks. The Panthers lost all four games, but came close to winning all of them. The season concluded with a conference championship and Florida International’s first bowl appearance, a win against Toledo in the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl. This year, Cristobal finally punked an opponent in a pin-me/pay-me payout game, knocking off future Big East co-champion Louisville on the road. As such, he may have earned a better gig in a BCS conference. Depending on who you read and whose sources you have, he could be Pitt-bound after this game and is wanting to hold off negotiations of his departure so to not distract his players.
- Texas Christian v. Louisiana Tech [San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl] (ESPN, 8:00pm ET). This is #18 Texas Christian’s third trip to San Diego for bowl season, following previous trips in 2006 and 2008. Curious too. This is the second tier bowl game for the Mountain West Conference in terms of tie-ins and the Texas Christian Battletoads (that’s what they’re called, right?) are the outright conference champions. However, the Maaco Bowl Las Vegas® gets to move first in its selection regardless of placement in the final standings, and they wanted Boise State. Texas Christian will just have to settle knowing that, next year in the Big XII, winning the conference championship means a much nice bowl game. On the opposite sideline is Louisiana Tech, whose nickname for football is “Bulldogs” when it should absolutely be “Techsters” (which the lady sports use). The team has a quintessential Hal Mumme stamp, led by Sonny Dykes and with an offense coordinated by Tony Franklin. Their resume is impressive. Winners of seven straight, three of their four losses on the season were by 1 point to Houston, 2 points to Southern Miss, and in overtime at Mississippi State, who ‘sposed to be SEC.
- Arizona State v. Boise State [Maaco Bowl Las Vegas] (ESPN, 8:00pm ET). One mistake — just one loss — and Boise State is back in Sin City. The 1pt loss in Boise against eventual Mountain West champion Texas Christian cost them what would have been a sure chance against LSU in the Superdome, given how screwy this season has been. Instead, they return to Las Vegas and will play the Arizona State Sun Devils, led by lame duck coach Dennis Erickson. You will recall, Erickson was fired this season for having a usually underperforming squad start 5-1, and finish 1-5 in its final six games. In related news, Boise State is going to win this game by a million billion points.
- Nevada v. Southern Miss [Sheraton Hawaii Bowl] (ESPN, 8:00pm ET). Southern Miss’ reward for upsetting Houston in the Conference USA championship game, denying Houston a BCS bowl, and costing the Conference USA millions of dollars is a trip to Hawaii for the holidays. I never understood the lure of Honolulu, Hawaii; it’s just not for me. Still, having been to Hattiesburg, Mississippi? Yeah, I’d take Hawaii any day. If you’re accustomed to seeing the Hawaii Warriors host their own bowl game, recall they’re bowl ineligible this year. So, the Hawaii Bowl, therefore, goes to the #3 team in the Western Athletic Conference, which happens to be the 7-5 Nevada Wolfpack. The WAC has only three bowl tie-ins and the best of them goes to the last of them.