The 10 Most Intriguing 2016 College Football Bowl Games
Will we see this scene — Alabama celebrating a title — again this college football postseason?
If you're a college football fan who is in a longtime relationship, where you get incessantly hounded about the amount of time you've spent in front of the television on Saturdays over the last three months, then you're well aware of the scary part of the calendar on which we're about to embark. If you're in a relationship with an overly clingy significant other for the first time this time of year (and love college football), let this post serve as a warning. And if you're a college football fan who is not in a relationship of any sort, I'd wait until mid-January (or maybe never!) to start.
Bowl season is here, and if your significant other thought your attention was divided on Saturdays since September, then damn, it's about to ugly. Starting this Saturday, we get 41 college football games over the next few weeks. FORTY ONE.
Many of these games involve teams on which you probably can't name a single player. (NOTE: This is why gambling was invented.) Many of them involve traditional powers that attract millions of eyeballs a weekend. Regardless, this is a glorious time of year for football junkies, a true present from the football gods.
Of the few dozen games we are about to consume, here are the ten that I am most excited about and why, along with preview videos and predictions for each one. (Have I mentioned I am 56-32-2 against the spread picking games this season?)
Here we go....
10. ADVOCARE V100 TEXAS BOWL - KANSAS STATE vs. TEXAS A&M
DATE: December 28, 9 p.m.
VENUE: NRG Stadium - Houston, TX
LINE: TEXAS A&M -2
STORYLINE: Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin tries to pull his team out of a late season tailspin, which saw them go from No. 4 in the nation to giving up 54 points to LSU in less than a month. This is a tall task against 105-year-old Bill Snyder and Kansas State, who thrive in this underdog role. In Houston, the game should have an Aggie home game feel. A loss here turns the temperature on Sumlin's seat up to about 400 degrees.
PREDICTION: Kansas State 38, Texas A&M 27
9. RAYCOM MEDIA CAMELLIA BOWL - TOLEDO vs. APPALACHIAN STATE
DATE: December 17, 5:30 p.m.
VENUE: Cramton Bowl - Montgomery, AL
LINE: TOLEDO -1
STORYLINE: Normally, it's bowl games with at least one "name" team that draw attention, but the presence of zero name teams actually intrigues me here. You have Toledo, whose been a MAC stalwart the last few years, and the Appalachian State Mountaineers, who are the poster child for the Davids out there this time of year since beating Michigan in 2007. I compare this to a very watchable match between two independent cult hero wrestlers as an opener on a WWE pay per view.
PREDICTION: Appalachian State 30. Toledo 28
8. HYUNDAI SUN BOWL - NORTH CAROLINA vs. STANFORD
DATE: December 30, 2 p.m.
VENUE: Sun Bowl Stadium - El Paso, TX
LINE: STANFORD -3.5
STORYLINE: If you recall last bowl season, Baylor ran through North Carolina like a hot knife through melted cheese. Now, a year later, here comes Stanford, with an NFL offensive line and Christian McCaffrey fully healthy. After some hiccups in the middle portion of the season, the Cardinal are back to playing "Stanford football." Might want to mix in some McCaffrey prop bets, if possible. He likes bowl season (see: Iowa, last season).
PREDICTION: Stanford 43, North Carolina 24
7. CAPITAL ONE ORANGE BOWL - FLORIDA STATE vs. MICHIGAN
DATE: December 30, 8 p.m.
VENUE: Hard Rock Stadium - Miami Gardens, FL
LINE: MICHIGAN -6.5
STORYLINE: Jim Harbaugh has spent the last few days fending off what he calls false rumors about his interest in the now-vacant Rams job in the NFL. I'm assuming the rumors will have died down by the time the Wolverines arrive in Miami to take on Dalvin Cook and the Seminoles. We will take Harbaugh with a month to prepare versus Jimbo Fisher.
PREDICTION: Michigan 28, Florida State 17
6. LAS VEGAS BOWL presented by GEICO - HOUSTON vs. SAN DIEGO STATE
DATE: December 17, 3:30 p.m.
VENUE: Sam Boyd Stadium - Las Vegas, NV
LINE: HOUSTON -3.5
STORYLINE: Getting the Major Applewhite hire sewn up should have a calming effect on the Coogs, who were looking at the possibility of playing this game with an interim head coach before this week, although that worked out well last time with Tony Levine against Penn State in 2012 (at least, until Mack Rhodes actually went and hired Levine full time). The nation will get a look at two of the best at what they do — Houston freshman defensive tackle Ed Oliver and 2,000 yard Aztec rusher Donnel Pumphrey.
PREDICTION: Houston 31, San Diego State 29
5. ROSE BOWL presented by Northwestern Mutual - PENN STATE vs. USC
DATE: January 2, 5 p.m.
VENUE: Rose Bowl - Pasadena, CA
LINE: USC -6.5
STORYLINE: Four weeks into the season, USC was falling to 1-3 and Penn State was losing 49-10 to Michigan. I'm not sure what the payout would have been on a bet that these two would meet in the Rose Bowl, but suffice it to say that you could probably take a few months off if you bet a few hundred bucks. Honestly, it's cool to see traditional helmets like this thumping each other in a hallowed venue like Pasadena.
PREDICTION: USC 34, Penn State 21
4. GOODYEAR COTTON BOWL CLASSIC - WISCONSIN vs. WESTERN MICHIGAN
DATE: January 2, 1 p.m.
VENUE: AT&T Stadium - Arlington, TX
LINE: WISCONSIN -7.5
STORYLINE: In two seasons of the New Year's Six bowl games, the Group of Five representative — Boise State in 2014, Houston in 2015 — is 2-0. Let's call for 3-0 and act super smart when it actually happens!
PREDICTION: Western Michigan 36, Wisconsin 34
3. BWW CITRUS BOWL - LOUISVILLE vs LSU
DATE: December 31, 11 a.m.
VENUE: Camping World Stadium - Orlando, FL
LINE: LSU -3.5
STORYLINE: The first game of the no-longer-interim Ed Orgeron Era at LSU is against the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, Lamar Jackson, who quite frankly, did everything he could to lose the award over the final few weeks of the season, losing 36-10 to Houston and then losing to in-state rival 6-6 Kentucky. He followed that up by hanging out with Johnny Manziel after the Heisman ceremony. The one team that used to give Manziel fits? LSU. I have no idea what that all means, but too much bad mojo for Louisville here.
PREDICTION: LSU 27, Louisville 26
2. CHICK-FIL-A PEACH BOWL (national semifinal) - WASHINGTON vs. ALABAMA
DATE: December 31, 3 p.m.
VENUE: Georgia Dome - Atlanta, GA
LINE: ALABAMA -15.5
STORYLINE: Alabama is a wrecking machine this season. Sorry, Washington.
PREDICTION: Alabama 38, Washington 13
1. PLAYSTATION FIESTA BOWL (national semifinal) - OHIO STATE vs. CLEMSON
DATE: December 31, 7 p.m
VENUE: University of Phoenix Stadium - Glendale, AZ
LINE: OHIO STATE -3
STORYLINE: The winner of this game likely gets something they've experienced before — Alabama in a playoff game. The Buckeyes knocked out the Crimson Tide in 2014, and the Tigers bowed out in the title game to the Tide last season. This is an interesting matchup of quarterbacks — Deshaun Watson of Clemson, J.T. Barrett of Ohio State — who have their teams right where they expected to be, but whose individual seasons were a notch or two below what they expected. Watson's season was still good enough for a trip to New York last week, but Barrett will need to throw the ball consistently for the Buckeyes to get back to the title game. ESPN is rooting like crazy for the Buckeyes, as Ohio State versus Alabama would do a monster number.
PREDICTION: Ohio State 24, Clemson 19
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Houston, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.