Nevada kicks off bowl season
December is one of the greatest months of the year.
Christmas. Winter break. Tons of sweets. And lots of football.
Football postseason begins in the college circuit this weekend with Nevada opening up the bowl schedule against Louisiana-Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl. On the bigger stage, several teams are making a push in the NFL to score one of the wild card berths or divisional titles.
This month shouldn’t be any different compared to previous bowl seasons, however, as the Wolf Pack return after a one-year absence. Not only has Nevada rebounded this season to a 7-5 record and bowl berth, the Wolf Pack will also have the country watching as they fight the Ragin’ Cajuns in the first bowl of the year.
With more bowls to count than what you probably have in your cupboard, here’s a quick guide on those games you should keep an eye on as well as some that it’s OK to let the DVR activate or just miss completely.
DON’T TURN OFF THE TV
New Orleans Bowl – Nevada vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, Saturday, ESPN
The first bowl of the season is pretty exciting because it gets everyone ready for the rest of the schedule and the new four-team playoff. But what makes this even better is the local flavor.
Nevada has won only two bowl games since breaking through on a consistent basis back in 2005 and it faces a tough Sun Belt team in the Superdome. It’s viewed as a home game for the Ragin’ Cajuns, who call home just an hour away.
Nevertheless, the Wolf Pack are back in the postseason and in the first bowl of the year.
Las Vegas Bowl – Colorado State vs. No. 22 Utah, Saturday, ABC
If not for the Boise State and Air Force losses, Colorado State would be entering with a perfect mark at 12-0 and playing on New Year’s Day. Instead, the Rams get a great opportunity to make the Mountain West proud as they face the Pac-12.
Fiesta Bowl – No. 10 Arizona vs. No. 20 Boise State, Dec. 31, ESPN
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Boise State’s playing in the desert on primetime. The Broncos are no stranger to the Fiesta Bowl after stealing the show against Oklahoma several years ago and then knocking off TCU. Can they make it three in a row?
Rose Bowl – No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State, Jan. 1, ESPN
Florida State is one of the most overrated teams in the country. The Seminoles play in a weak ACC and have had to come back in the fourth quarter in nearly every game. A 21-point win by the Ducks will easily prove my point.
National Championship Game, TBD, Jan. 12, ESPN
If you’re asking why isn’t the other semifinal listed, it’s because whoever wins that game will be favored to take home the championship trophy next month. Alabama’s been rolling lately, but Ohio State’s thumping of Wisconsin turned some heads, especially in the committee’s war room during the selection process. This is the first step in determining a true champion.
TUNE INTO THE FOURTH QUARTER
Sun Bowl, Duke vs. No. 15 Arizona State, Dec. 27, CBS
The Sun Devils nearly won the Pacific South division, only to see their instate rival compete against Oregon in the conference title game. Duke’s becoming more relevant in football after the basketball teams have been hogging the spotlight in December.
Music City Bowl – Notre Dame vs. No. 23 LSU, Dec. 30, ESPN
Just two years ago, the Irish were playing for the national title before being embarrassed by Alabama. Notre Dame gets a shot at redemption against the SEC with LSU, which could be favored to win it all next season.
Peach Bowl – No. 6 TCU vs. No. 9 Ole Miss, Dec. 31, ESPN
The Horned Frogs did everything right except beat Baylor, which led to them watching Ohio State sneak past both teams and take the final playoff spot. Expect a feisty game between TCU and Ole Miss, especially after the Rebels were the No. 1 team in November before losing to Alabama.
Outback Bowl – No. 18 Wisconsin vs. No. 19 Auburn, Jan. 1, ESPN
A Bloomin’ Onion isn’t the only good thing coming out of this bowl game. The Badgers have one of the best rushing attacks before laying an egg in the most important game of the season. The Tigers were playing for a national title one year ago but lapses on defense cost them of a trip to the playoffs.
Cotton Bowl – No. 5 Baylor vs. No. 8 Michigan State, Jan. 1, ESPN
Baylor had its chance, like TCU, but playing Michigan State isn’t an easy task. The Spartans have come back to good form since losing to Oregon earlier in the year and do you remember what they did to Stanford in the Rose Bowl last year?
FORGET ABOUT IT
GoDaddy Bowl – Toledo vs. Arkansas State, Jan. 4, ESPN
I feel bad for teams who have to play less than a week before the national championship.
Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, Western Kentucky vs. Central Michigan, Dec. 24, ESPN
I shouldn’t be too harsh on these teams. After all, it’s where some of the best coaches start.
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl – South Alabama vs. Bowling Green, Saturday, ESPN
The 49ers are playing that night.
Armed Forces Bowl – Pittsburgh vs. Houston, Jan. 2, ESPN
It’s awesome that a bowl is dedicated to those who fight to protect the country, but I’m not too sold on the matchup.
December looks to be another great month of football and hopefully we’ll see the playoff system expand after the success this year’s format will bring.
Thomas Ranson can be contacted at email@example.com.