Huzzah: Bowl season is upon us. As you've no doubt seen, there is no shortage of well-informed analysis to go around (SI's own Stewart Mandel just released his picks for all 35 games). But we nevertheless felt that bowl coverage was less adequate than it could be. With that in mind, here's a more complete breakdown of bowl season, right down to the best mascots, most compelling individual match ups and, crucially, caloric impact of this year's sponsors.
Now, you can relax and enjoy.
Bowl Matchups that a College Football Fan from 2008 Would Never Have Predicted
1. UCF vs. Baylor (The Fiesta Bowl)
In 2008, UCF finished 4-8 and was a low-end member of Conference USA. Baylor also finished 4-8 and hadn't made a bowl game since 1994. If you had told either of these fan bases that in January of 2014 they'd be facing off in a BCS bowl game, they probably would have assumed that you were just poking more fun at their misery.
2. Florida State vs. Auburn (The BCS National Title Game)
This year's national championship game is a good exercise in how quickly the fortunes of a college football program can change. While Auburn has constantly rotated between excellence and mediocrity for the past decade, Florida State remained pretty stagnant as a good but not great program. In 2013, the stars aligned for both teams, with FSU having arguably one of the most dominant seasons in FBS history and Auburn having perhaps the most magical.
3. Stanford vs. Michigan State (The Rose Bowl)
This is a result that both fan bases would have been thrilled with in 2008. Michigan State is playing in its first Rose Bowl in a quarter of a century and Stanford appears to be in the midst of its football program's golden age as it competes in its second straight Tournament of Roses. As it is, both schools seem very happy to playing in The Rose Bowl, which has become one of the hottest college football tickets of the year.
4. Buffalo vs. San Diego State (Famous Idaho Potato Bowl)
In 2008, San Diego State finished dead-last in the Mountain West under head coach Chuck Long. This year the Aztecs are heading to Boise (of all places) to face Buffalo (of all teams) to play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (it's famous!). And while I have you, 2008 San Diego State fans, you're going to hire a new coach who excels before leaving for Michigan. Sorry.
5. Tulane vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (New Orleans Bowl)
Tulane playing in its first bowl game since 2002 makes this match up seem unlikely enough, but that they get to face-off for Louisiana mid-major supremacy against the two-time defending New Orleans bowl champion Ragin' Cajuns of UL-Lafayette is just icing on the cake.
|Weirdest Bowl Gift Item||Oldest Bowls|
|1. Hair Dryer (Sun Bowl)||1. Rose Bowl (est. 1902)|
|2. Lapel pin (Texas Bowl)||2. Orange, Sugar, Sun Bowls (est. 1935)|
|3. RadioShack gift card (Armed Forces Bowl)||3. Cotton Bowl (est. 1937)|
|4. Tori Richard Aloha Shirt (Hawaii Bowl)||4. Gator Bowl (est. 1946)|
|5. ESPN Cap (BBVA Compass Bowl)||5. Capital One Bowl (est. 1947, as the Tangerine Bowl)|
Best Bowl Mascots
Got $5? You Can Attend These Bowls
(Based on Stubhub listings)
(Based on weather forecast)
|1. Texas Bowl: $0.75
|1. New Era Pinstripe Bowl (Bronx, NY: 23° F)|
|2. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: $4
|2. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Boise: 26° F)|
|3. Chick-Fil-A Bowl: $4.69
|3. Military Bowl (Annapolis, MD: 29° F)|
Best Individual Player Bowl Match-ups
1. Ty Montgomery (Stanford) vs. Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State's ): Rose Bowl
Montgomery is one of Stanford's most imposing threats, leading the team in receiving yards and making several All-American teams for his exploits as a return man. Dennard, this year's Thorpe winner, should be up to the challenge but this is a match up to watch in Pasadena.
2. Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) vs. DeVon Edwards (Duke): Chick-fil-A Bowl
Johnny Manziel lives for the spotlight of bowl games -- last season he set a Cotton Bowl record with 516 total yards -- but he won't be the only player in the Georgia Dome on New Years Eve that gets up for big games. Duke's DeVon Edwards was named a freshman All-American as a cornerback this season and came up big for the Blue Devils in the month of November with three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.
3. Ryan Groy (Wisconsin) vs. Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina): Capital One Bowl
It's Jadeveon Clowney in a bowl game. Enough said. Best of luck to All-Big Ten tackle Ryan Groy, who will do his best not to be included in any highlight reels.
4. Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State) vs. Dorial Green-Beckham (Missouri): Cotton Bowl
In this Big XII reunion of sorts we have All-Conference cornerback Justin Gilbert, who will probably spend much of January 3 attempting to contain Missouri's all-world athlete Dorial Green-Beckham. Green-Beckham came on strong to end the season with a 144 yard, 2 touchdown performance in the SEC championship game. A similar showing in Dallas will result in his name being at the top of several 2014 pre-season All-American lists and might just make him a compelling dark-horse candidate for next year's Heisman.
Best Bowl Alternatives
|Sponsors That Sound the Most Made-Up||Fan Bases That Will Be Fish Out Of Water|
|1. Royal Purple (Las Vegas Bowl)||1. Auburn fans in Pasadena, CA|
|2. TaxSlayer.com (Gator Bowl)||2. San Diego State fans in Boise, ID|
|3. Beef 'O' Brady's (Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl)||3. Ball State fans in Mobile, AL|
|4. Belk (Belk Bowl)||4. UCLA fans in El Paso, TX|
|5. National University (Holiday Bowl)||5. TIE: Syracuse and Minnesota fans in Houston, TX|
Bowls That Are Highest in Calories
Based on the total caloric content of the appetizer, entree, and dessert with the most calories on the respective restaurant's menu.
1. Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl
A meal consisting of the Land, Air & Sea appetizer, full rack of St. Louis ribs, and 6 beignets will tack on 7,080 calories and take off a few years of your life. (source)
2. Outback Bowl
It may be an Australian-themed restaurant, but Outback's calorie count appears to be awfully American. A Bloomin' Onion, full order of baby back ribs with mashed potatoes, and Sweet Adventure sampler trio adds up to an impressive 5,108 calories. (source)
3. Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
A sampler platter, ribs entree, and chocolate fudge cake at B-dubs will come out to 4,720 calories, giving it the unique distinction of being a healthier alternative to Beef 'O' Brady's. (source)
4. Little Caesars Bowl
A large (8 slice) deep dish pizza alone is 3,120 calories, but if you also throw in a full order pepperoni cheese bread and some crazy sauce you get a 4,665 calorie meal, arguably the best bang for your buck -- and by "bang," we mean "heart disease." (source)
5. The Chick-Fil-A Bowl
A deluxe chicken sandwich, waffle fries, large milk shake, and (of course) large sweet tea adds up to a light 1,970 calorie lunch. (source)
Best Non-College Football Related Bowls
|Highest Projected Point Totals||Bowls With The Most Syllables|
|1. The Chick-fil-A Bowl: Duke vs. Texas A&M (75 points)||1. San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (15)|
|2. The Holiday Bowl: Arizona State vs. Texas Tech (71 points)||2 (tie). Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman (13)|
|3. The Fiesta Bowl: Baylor vs. UCF (69 points)||2 (tie). Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (13)|
|3. The Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Ohio State (69 points)||3. National University Holiday Bowl (12)|
|5. BCS National Championship Game: Florida State vs. Auburn (68 points)||4. Rose Bowl Game Presented By Vizio (10)|
Best Bowls to Nap During So You're Awake for a Better Game
In a perfect world, we would be able to watch all the bowl games with unwavering attention. But this is the holidays, it's a time to relax, catch up with family and mostly sleep. So in that spirit, we've outlined a nap schedule that will allow you to be at peak alertness during key games.
- December 28: Nap during the Belk Bowl (North Carolina vs. Cincinnati at 3:20 p.m.) so you're awake for the Russell Athletic Bowl (Louisville vs. Miami at 6:45 p.m.)
- December 30: Nap during the Armed Forces Bowl (Middle Tennessee vs. Navy at 11:45 a.m.) so you're awake for the Alamo Bowl (Oregon vs. Texas at 6:45 p.m.)
- December 31: Nap during the Liberty Bowl (Rice vs. Mississippi State at 4 p.m.) so you're awake for the Chick-fil-A Bowl (Texas A&M vs. Duke at 8 p.m.)
- January 1: Nap during the Heart of Dallas Bowl (UNLV vs. North Texas at noon EST) so you're awake for the Rose Bowl (Stanford vs. Michigan State at 5 p.m.)