For the second time in 4 years, Vol Nation gets to enjoy bowl season the same way I usually enjoyed it as a Wyoming fan: from the warm, cushy comfort of the recliner in front of the TV. When your favorite team isn't in a bowl game, a lot of the excitement of the bowl season disappears. But there are still a lot of football games out there, and for the most part, the games pair up some pretty good matchups. Occasionally, the conference tie-in requirements produce some screwy results, but those games can be easily ignored (a feat that is much safer to do when you know that your own team isn't in one of those games...).
So I'd like to take a look at the bowl games and see which ones are worth watching and which ones are worth skipping. As I've said waaaaay too many times already, I'm in it for the entertainment. I don't really care so much who's playing, but whether the game should be decent.
Let's look first at the earliest 11 games. (Later we'll look at the middle 11 and the final 12.) Below are my quick knee-jerk opinions on the games. I have done absolutely no research and am relying solely on the trickle of information I have picked up through the season, so my opinions carry about as much merit as a Harris Poll voter. So feel free to leave your opinions - informed or otherwise - below.
EagleBank Bowl Wake Forest v. Navy
I think this one's interesting. Both are perennial feel-good kinda stories: teams that shouldn't do well but tend to outperform expectations. Both are well-coached and well-quarterbacked. Both are reasonable on defense. All in all, it's enough to be compelling. Having the game in D.C. means that neither team really travels much, which should help avoid a disappointing performance.
New Mexico Bowl Colorado State v. Fresno State
As a MWC guy, I should find this interesting. I don't. There's not much to say, really; CSU is still a long way away from their idea of "good"; Fresno is no longer a novelty with that perennial David v. Goliath attitude they carry. This one probably won't interrupt my day.
MagicJack St. Petersburg Bowl Memphis v. South Florida
See New Mexico Bowl. Replace FSU with USF. Replace CSU with MSU. Really, that's how it feels to me.
Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl BYU v. Arizona
Love it! BYU is a MWC team that plays it old school. As in, when the MWC teams were the WAC and were known for 52-51 type games every weekend. All offense, no defense. Arizona is much better than you're used to thinking, and have had some impressive showings. They should be excited about playing a team that once had brief NC game mentions this year. I don't know if conference pride will be a factor, but that whole 1-6 thing vs. the MWC has to sting the PAC-10. Here's their chance.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Southern Miss v. Troy
Meh. Sorry, Doc Saturday. I can't even muster up any John Madden "Brett Favre played at Southern Miss" excitement over this.
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl Boise State v. TCU
How did THIS game land before Christmas?!? Seriously, this is a fantastic matchup, and easily outstrips all but perhaps 4 or 5 matchups involving BCS teams this year. Here's all you need to know, and it applies to both teams: well-coached, great talent for mid-majors, confident, well-schemed for the talent, unafraid of a spotlight. If bowl games were rated by the quality of the matchup per dollar of payout, this game would be tops, easy.
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl Hawaii v. Notre Dame
Do you know what you'll be doing Christmas Eve? I do: I'll be doing whatever it takes to not watch this one, and I suggest you do the same. Unless you want to sit through 3 hours of listening about how Clausen needs another year and how Weis is on the hot seat. Seriously, the bowl schedule just gave you the perfect reason to spend quality time with family on the 24th.
Motor City Bowl Florida Atlantic v. Central Michigan
Honestly, this is a better matchup than it sounds. The problem is that it sounds absolutely horrendous. If you're not too busy putting away the Christmas tree on the 26th, this is here for you. But it's not worth losing any well-deserved tryptophan-induced snooze either.
Meineke Car Care Bowl West Virginia v. North Carolina
It kinda sounds even on the surface, but remember this: West Virginia is a program with very recent success that is possibly staring down a very deep chasm of disappointment in the future, while North Carolina has all the earmarks of a program on the way up - no fear, great coach, improved recruiting, winnable conference, soft in-state competition. It'll be entertaining to watch, but I have a feeling one team is going to look a whole lot better prepared and more engaged than the other.
Champs Sports Bowl Wisconsin v. Florida State
It'll be a decent game because nether team is capable of running away with one, but it won't be a thriller. If it's on and you have time, you'll enjoy it. If not, don't lose sleep over it.
Emerald Bowl Miami (FL) v. California
Two once-proud programs desperate to make their conference appear less hollow than they actually are. California is practically playing a home game, while Miami has one of the longer treks of the season. However, that may mean that Cali is not very interested; their per diem will be scant and they've all been to San Fran before. I would expect Miami to be more excited than Cali, but who know? They're both flaky.
Well, those are my takes. I may be totally out to lunch on a few of them since I didn't look into them, but that feels about right to me. I see about three early games I'm genuinely interested in (EagleBank Bowl, Las Vegas Bowl, Poinsettia Bowl), about four I'm ambivalent toward (New Mexico Bowl, St. Petersburg Bowl, New Orleans Bowl, Motor City Bowl), and one that I will avoid at all costs (Hawaii Bowl). That's actually pretty good for the early bowls.