By Alex Lauzon from the “Course of Life” podcast
LET’S. GO. BOWLING!
More delightful words have never been written, ah what a joyous season. If you’re a real one and a true college football junkie like myself, this past Sunday was not JUST about the CFB Playoff announcement and seeding. The real trove of gifts came in the following hours of the afternoon as a myriad of bowl games were announced to warm our souls this holiday season. It’s quite a data dump of games to digest, but I’m here to report that the spread is real and it’s spectacular. Spanning from Friday, December 16th to Monday, January 9th’s National Championship game, Bowl Season is officially here for the taking.
Admittedly, I’ve been gimpy with my recent CFB picks and I saw a specialist over the weekend. I’m completely readjusted and I refuse to limp into the end of the season on losing weeks. There are too many random and awesome bowls, just simply too many big games ahead for us to duck and hide. We will march back to the promised land above 50% ATS in short order! To do this, we’ll start bowl season with some intriguing and often overlooked matchups pre-Christmas, and then things start to get real out here after Santa makes his last stops. Let’s strap in to see what’s ahead as 43 games of Bowl Season gloriousness arrive at our doorstep.
BOWL SZN is here! Check out our Bowl Pick’em Pools and let’s go bowling!
Before we even get to Christmas week there are some tantalizing matchups to whet your appetite this bowl season, and they feature some programs that are playing a bowl game earlier than their successful season might dictate. First off, I like this greedy narrative where we start Bowl Season earlier and earlier, and right off the bat the Bahamas Bowl features UAB and Miami Ohio playing in paradise – so random you have to love it. The Conference USA Champions UTSA have an 11-2 season under their belt and have early bowl season action at the Cure Bowl, while the Mountain West Champions Fresno State led by star QB Jake Haener play in the Jimmy Kimmel bowl on Saturday 12/17. Yes, Jimmy Kimmel has his own bowl game. Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t shout out my Christmas Eve night tradition – grinding out the Hawaii Bowl. It features a couple of 7-5 teams that I’m sure are thrilled with this game location, Middle Tennessee State and San Diego State.
“WHO WANTS TO BE HERE?”
This is and will always be the defining question as I handicap each bowl game. It’s not factor #1 in a matchup on the field, but it is the last argument I look at before firing a play this time of year. I’ll say it once as clearly as I can – BOWL SEASON IS ALL ABOUT MOTIVATION. When you start to dig down the list of games below the playoffs and the prominent New Year’s six contests, you start to begin to check motivation levels more extensively. A couple of examples off the bat jump out at me in the motivation department: will PAC 12 teams like Oregon and USC that had playoff hopes show up to play the Holiday Bowl and Cotton Bowl respectively? Does a 6-6 Oklahoma team want to give it their all at Cheez-It Bowl against a red-hot Florida State team? Motivation vs preseason expectations has to weigh into lots of bowl season plays.
SCENE AND SETTING
Another quirky aspect of bowl season as it expands to roughly 56478 games is the location, climate, and setting of each game. I’ll date myself by noting that “back in my day” bowl games were played exclusively at warm weather climates, domes, or tropical destinations. Nowadays, you’ve got bowl games at Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium in the middle of the winter where ice and snow could play a factor. Adverse conditions, location, and climate can affect the performances of teams drastically, and determine how much effort is put into winning the game. For instance, did you notice that Michigan’s playoff matchup is in Arizona after months of cold weather in Big Ten football? Its effect could be minimal overall, but if you’re stuck between sides it could be the deciding factor.
5 EARLY LEANS IN BOWL MATCHUPS
- BYU and SMU in the New Mexico Bowl – It could be 70 degrees or snowing that day in Albuquerque, and these teams have contrasting styles of offense – I favor the OVER in points here.
- Marshall and UCONN in the Myrtle Beach Bowl – sounds like a screwy game of ad-libs there but UConn finds themselves in a bowl game for the first time in over a decade. Marshall should manhandle the Huskies.
- Coastal Carolina and East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl – A battle of the Carolinas featuring two teams with good bowl history, I lean with the Chants in this one.
- Texas vs Washington in the Alamo Bowl – I’m hoping to attend this one and it should be a shootout for the ages. Both teams let off some steam from underwhelming seasons. Give me the over!
- Tennessee vs Clemson in the Orange Bowl – The two most famous Orange schools in College Football come off double-digit win campaigns and play each other in the Orange Bowl. How fitting, this should be a classic but I like the Vols late.
REGULAR SEASON RECAP – LET’S FIND A HEATER
While I’ve avoided true disaster with my picks throughout the regular season, I’ve yet to deliver one of those “sweep the board, drinks on me” types of slates, so what I’m telling you is I’m due. All in all right at about 47% ATS so far, and Bowl Season presents the opportunity to do some deeper dives on individual games than you normally would. Not thrilled with the output, but 50% ATS is within sight as we begin bowling.
Week 14: 2-3 ATS, Season Overall: 35-40 ATS
Each week you can look forward to “This Week in Bowling” pieces where I’ll have plays and a breakdown for EVERY. SINGLE. BOWL. GAME. No exceptions! Plus here’s your reminder that our Bowl Pick’em Pools are LIVE, so Get on it!
Out of Office Days: Friday, December 16th (start of bowl season DUH), Tuesday, December 27th (four games starting at Noon ET), and Friday, December 30th (five games starting at Noon ET). You’re welcome in advance.
The Last Packed Schedule: Monday, January 2nd – the last day of holiday relaxation before the corporate world resets for 2023. Four glorious games capped with the Rose Bowl.
Strangest Matchup: New Mexico State and Bowling Green in the Quick Lane Bowl. I think I’ve found the WORST bowl matchup on the card. Eek.