Once upon a time I loved the bowls, and I won’t deny that I still watch some of the bowls with eager anticipation or when I’m bored, but let’s be frank here– this is not the most wonderful time of the year. Period!
Would you look at that! It’s December 20th and the bowl season starts today! Now I hate to be a kill-joy, but bowl games just aren’t what they once were. Let’s see, what are there, 119 major college football teams? And what, 68 of those go to bowl games? More teams make a bowl game nowadays, then miss the post-season party. At what point do you cut new bowls off? 40? 50? Maybe we can get everyone a bowl game! Because nothing says school spirit like celebrating Washington’s winless season! That’s what people want to see right?
Let’s take this Saturday’s slate of games for example.
Nothing against Navy and Wake Forest, but I think watching someone try to pick a glued penny off the ground is more exciting than watching these two play. There was a game late in the year when the Deacs played Boston College where I almost fell asleep because the game was so boring. How low is Wake Forest on the totem pole? Well, they were the last team left out of ACC bowl eligible teams, so the EagleBank Bowl had no choice but to take them. And Navy was locked into this game after they won their sixth game. Seriously, what kind of crap is that? Navy won eight games this year. Eight! Yet they’re playing in the first bowl game of the year in D.C. Aren’t bowl games about getting a chance to go somewhere nice after a good year? Well, the bowl arrangements are so tightly wound that Navy probably would have had to end up going undefeated to get into a different bowl.
St. Petersburg Bowl
And I guess I’m just bothered by the idea of having bowl games for the sake of bowl games. Thanks to the new St. Petersburg Bowl (I don’t even choose to acknowledge their sponsor), the Memphis Tigers, who finished 6-6 in Conference U.S.A. get to go bowling. I’m sorry but Memphis didn’t even finish with a winning record in it’s division! They beat one team that is going to a bowl (Southern Miss). But hey, this is the system that we have, so we might as well enjoy their number 22 ranking for total offense. And we’d give them credit for that, but that leaves them fifth in their own conference. Talk about a defenseless conference! Lest us forget: SI.com has the Tigers ranked as the 80th best team in the country. 64 teams make bowls! Yeesh.
USF gets to play the Tigers in their own stadium. The Bulls must be thrilled about the way their season has gone. After starting out the season 5-0 the Bulls finished 2-5. Ironically, their conference record in the Big East was also 2-5. The Bulls were the sixth best team in an eight team conference. Again, I reiterate, where do you draw the line? Hilariously, they’re big favorites to beat Memphis, so what does that say about the Tigers?
New Mexico Bowl
The Colorado State Rams are ranked 77th in SI.com’s power rankings. They too went 6-6. They too finished with a .500 conference record. Give them credit though: they did beat Houston. And that’s about it. Take a look for yourself at some of their bigger games, and you tell me if they belong in a post-season game (And let it be known, I don’t care if they went 3-9 last year, they still shouldn’t be in a bowl)!
@ Cal 42-7 L
vs. TCU 13-7 L (Not a bad loss though, we won’t hold that against them)
@ Utah 49-16 L
vs. BYU 45-42 L (Another close loss to a quality team)
So where am I going with this? Well, I guess I’m simply asking if ‘close’ is good enough to get you an extra game. That’s all. No harm in that right?
How about Fresno State? Each year they come into the season with BCS expectations, and each year they end up disappointed. It’s kind of hard to defend a team’s bowl worthiness when they get obliterated 61-10 in their last game of the year. Cause nothing says we’re worthy of a bowl like ending the season with a 51 point loss! Once again, the Bulldogs played five teams that wound up in a bowl. Okay, fair enough tough schedule. They won one: their first game of the season against a then struggling Rutgers team.
Las Vegas Bowl
Okay, so maybe Arizona isn’t the greatest team in the land, or close for that matter, but they had a 5-4 record in the Pac 10, and they won seven games. That should be good enough, right? Wrong! The Wildcats played four bowl teams, and beat just one (Cal). Sure, they offered tough challenges for USC and Oregon State, but they also lost to New Mexico for Pete sakes. Three of Zona’s wins came against Washington State, Washington, and Stanford, three teams that finished a combined 6-31. But hey, don’t hate the team, hate the system that rewards the team for simply winning the games its supposed to win.
Once upon a time, in order to make a bowl game you truly had to have a good season, most of the time a great year. You had to beat good teams, you had to win your conference, and you sure as heck didn’t get by with six or seven wins. But times have changed, and the lower-tier bowls now get the big boys’ leftovers.
And lest us forget BYU. BYU is one of the few teams in these early bowls that actually got shafted. The Cougars went 10-2, including 6-2 in a tough MWC, and their reward is a middle tier Pac 10 team? I know, I know, that’s the way these bowl affiliations are set up, but… wait a minute, looking at BYU’s schedule, who exactly did they beat? O, I found one: Colorado State, by a field goal. Actually, against the only two good teams they played (TCU and Utah) the Cougars lost by a combined 49 points. So you know what? I take it back. They didn’t really accomplish much either. But don’t tell the pollsters who have them ranked 16th that. They might start yelling at you.
So there you have it. I’m not bitter. Just dumbfounded on how some of these teams earn their bowl berths. I just went through all four Saturday games, looking for something, and I came up with nothing. Just a few nice wins was all I wanted. Instead I found mediocre conference records in mediocre conferences, and losses to teams like New Mexico. Nothing personal, there never is, but these teams shouldn’t be playing in bowls. There, I said it. Now send me your hate mail. I’m waiting for it.
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