If you’re reading this, I’m guessing it’s pretty safe to say that you’ll watch at least a couple of bowls this season. You’ll watch the Rose Bowl between Oklahoma and Georgia because hey, it’s a playoff game, and two of the most historically-successful schools are playing for the first time in history (yeah, the scheduling in this sport is dumb) in the best venue in all of sports.
You’ll watch the Sugar Bowl because it’s the third installment of the Clemson/Alabama series, and also has playoff implications. You’ll probably watch the Cotton Bowl, because it’s a nostalgic matchup between Ohio State and USC, two college football superpowers, and you’ll probably even watch other top matchups: the Peach Bowl with Auburn and UCF, the Fiesta Bowl with Washington and Penn State, and the Citrus Bowl with Notre Dame and LSU.
But maybe you think that there are way too many bowls. You might think that college football should have a more conventional postseason like the NFL and get rid of the barnacles, the bowls that you might think hang on to the popularity of the Playoff and the New Year’s Six, the ones that you might think don’t mean anything and should be eliminated.
Well, I’m here to sell you on those barnacles. Here are five mid-to-lower-level bowls that you should at least flip on for a while, and might start to even your mind about the bowl system.
Bahamas Bowl: UAB vs. Ohio - Friday, Dec. 22, 12:30 p.m. on ESPN
This bowl will probably consist of well-executed, pretty fun football between two competitive mid-major teams. Ohio should have played in the MAC championship game if it didn’t have a bone-headed loss to an inferior Akron, and UAB came within two games of the C-USA title.
But no, I am not going to tell you to watch this game for the fireworks on the field.
I’m telling you to watch it because UAB literally did not have a football team take the field for the two previous seasons. That’s right, UAB had their program shuttered in 2014 in a questionable decision allegedly influenced by bunk accounting numbers made up by the Alabama Board of Trustees, a group that oversees football at the flagship campus in Tuscaloosa, as well as the team in Birmingham. One such trustee allegedly wanted the program shut down because a former UAB coach accused Bear Bryant of cheating in 1991. Yeah, Alabama is weird that way.
Head coach Bill Clark refused to step down, and the school later reversed their decision after the story got covered in the national media. Fast forward to 2017, and the undead Blazers won eight games in a season for the first time in school history.
By my money this is the biggest cinderella story in sports. It’s massive for the 16 seniors who stayed through the dead years to lead the team to eight wins, and on top of that, they get to go to a bowl game in the Bahamas.
Birmingham Bowl: Texas Tech vs. South Florida - Saturday, Dec. 23, 12:00 p.m. on ESPN
If you love points, this is definitely the game for you. South Florida QB Quinton Flowers is one of the most electric players in the nation, and while he’s been on and off this year, the Bulls’ offense showed up in spades during their last game of the season against UCF, so expect it to make an appearance again in this game.
Texas Tech has traditionally aired the ball out a whole ton, but they’ve leaned on their running game more than usual this year. However they’ve gotten there, Texas Tech once again has an explosive offense this year, and the Birmingham Bowl will be one of the most entertaining bowl games this season.
Foster Farms Bowl: Arizona vs. Purdue - Wednesday, Dec. 27th, 8:30 p.m. on FOX
This game will take place on a Wednesday night directly during rush hour in Santa Clara county, in front of literally hundreds of people, and just happens to feature two of the most fun teams in college football this year.
Jeff Brohm, Purdue’s rising star head coach, has turned West Lafayette into a mecca for innovative offense, something that seemed impossible even a year ago. Purdue runs a situational two-quarterback offense with tons of trick plays and innovative play designs.
On the other side of the ball, it turns out that Arizona had Tecmo Bo Jackson sitting on their bench for last season and part of this season, until former starter Brandon Dawkins got hurt in week two. Khalil Tate stepped in, and proceeded to put up mind-blowing numbers.
His first game of the season, Tate rushed for 327 yards and four touchdowns on only 14 carries, and he’s been running ever since. He leads the country with 10.2 yards per carry, more than a yard over the next player, and plays the game like he’s a D1 prospect in a high school highlight film. Needless to say, this game is circled on my calendar, and should be circled on yours too.
Las Vegas Bowl: Oregon vs. Boise State - Saturday, Dec, 16, 3:30 p.m. on ABC
Their recent coaching troubles aside, Oregon and Boise State should still put on quite a show for the first day of the bowl season. Oregon has looked great on offense since starting quarterback Justin Herbert came back, and PAC-12 All-Conference running back Royce Freeman is always fun to watch.
Boise State looked shaky in the first few weeks of the season, getting blown out by Virginia and losing in overtime to Washington State, but soon got back to the Boise State we all know and love, ripping off seven straight conference wins in a row, falling to Fresno State in the last week of the regular season, then rallying to beat them in the Mountain West championship the next week.
If nothing else, this game will be played in UNLV’s Sam Boyd Stadium, which features really cool Vegas-themed on-field numbers shaped like red and silver stars.
Arizona Bowl: New Mexico State vs. Utah State - Friday, Dec. 29, 5:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network
Here’s a fun fact: The last time New Mexico State was in a bowl game, it was in the Sun Bowl, also against Utah State, in 1960. Let me say that again: New Mexico State had not made a bowl in 57 years before this season.
When the Aggies beat Sun Belt opponent South Alabama with a dramatic last-minute touchdown on Saturday to become bowl-eligible, it was an incredibly emotional moment. The fans rushed the field and tried to take down the goal posts, the color commentator (a former New Mexico State player) and head coach Doug Martin both choked up talking about it.
All of Las Cruces went nuts for making maybe the lowest-tier bowl game out there, that wasn’t even shown on national TV until this year. It shows that every bowl means something to some team, even when it’s not on the biggest stage.
Oh, and the game is going to be pretty fun too. New Mexico State has been stagnant on offense the past few games, but quarterback Tyler Rogers really likes to sling it around, and I figure they’ll definitely show up for their first bowl game in over 50 years. Utah State runs a really fun spread offense, so this game should be some solid empty calories to throw on in the background on a Friday afternoon.
Luke Swanson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.