The good, the bad, the ugly of bowl season
With 35 games on tap, there's plenty going on before 'Bama, ND play for BCS title
Wisconsin's Konrad Zagzebski, left, and Beau Allen celebrate after the Badgers defeated Nebraska on Dec. 1 to win the Big Ten championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl against Stanford.
Tis the season.
It used to be fairly easy to navigate — some announcers in tuxedos on New Year’s Eve, then a glut of games on New Year’s Day — but no more.
Now there are 35 bowls. Yes, 70 of the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams — even 6-7 Georgia Tech! — are in the postseason. It’s absurd, when you really think about it.
Oh, but for those of us who are college football nerds, we will watch. And we will keep watching, right up until Jan. 7, when No. 1 Notre Dame faces No. 2 Alabama for the national title.
No. 2 Alabama 42, No. 1 Notre Dame 14
Pregame color, key plays and other moments from the blowout.
In the meantime — a college football playoff doesn't start until 2014 — here’s a guide for what’s ahead:
Best BCS storylines
Things to watch in the games that really count
- Alabama vs. Notre Dame (BCS championship game) — Gold-standard matchup will generate boffo television ratings. Can Notre Dame prevent the SEC from winning its sixth straight national title?
- Oregon vs. Kansas State (Fiesta Bowl) — Would have been a worthy national-title game, had both teams not stumbled on Nov. 17.
- Wisconsin vs. Stanford (Rose Bowl) — Montee Ball vs. Stanford’s rugged run defense.
- Florida vs. Louisville (Sugar Bowl) — Louisville coach Charlie Strong was defensive coordinator on two national-title teams at Florida.
- Florida State vs. Northern Illinois (Orange Bowl) — Huskies can win this game. We’re not kidding.
Best Non-BCS storylines
This best of the rest isn’t bad at all
- Georgia vs. Nebraska (Capital One Bowl) — Will Georgia show up after getting ripped off from a BCS bid? Will Nebraska show up after losing 70-31 in the Big Ten title game?
- Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma (Cotton Bowl) — Johnny Football vs. the Sooners in a Big 12 reprise.
- South Carolina vs. Michigan (Outback Bowl) — We’d pay to watch South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney try to chase down Michigan QB/RB Denard Robinson.
- LSU vs. Clemson (Chick-fil-A Bowl) — SEC vs. ACC. The ACC and Clemson needs to save some face after losing 70-33 to West Virginia in last season’s Orange Bowl.
- Arizona vs. Nevada (New Mexico Bowl) — Expect fireworks when Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez (averaging 37.3 points on offense, 34.3 points on defense) meets Nevada’s Chris Ault (averaging 37 points on offense, 32.5 points on defense), a College Football Hall of Famer who invented the Pistol offense.
The All-Appetite bowls
What’s football without food?
- Outback Bowl — It’s true, folks. Bloomin’ Onions served in the press box.
- Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl — The wings are great.
- Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl — Ditto.
- Little Caesars Bowl — Pizza, pizza.
- Chick-fil-A Bowl — Closed on Sundays.
Most bizarre bowl names
The gifts that keep on giving
- GoDaddy.com Bowl — Danica Patrick’s favorite bowl.
- Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl — Most bowls want to move products. Anybody want to buy a helicopter?
- San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl — Try fitting that one on the marquee.
- R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl — Nothing says college football like freight shipping.
- AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl — It’s a multivitamin.
Most bizarre bowl names (that no longer exist)
Our secret Hall of Fame
- Poulan Weed-Eater Independence Bowl — The Grandaddy of Them All.
- Papajohns.com Bowl — Virtual pizza?
- Galleryfurniture.com Bowl — Virtual furniture?
- Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl — Named for a truck stop (try the roast beef).
- magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl — We’re not making it up.
Bowl games, former World Series site division
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Fair or foul?
- New Era Pinstripe Bowl (Yankee Stadium)
- Bridgeport Education Holiday Bowl (Qualcomm Stadium)
- Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (AT&T Park)
- Discover Orange Bowl (Sun Life Stadium)
- Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl (Tropicana Field)
Interim coaches corner
Can’t tell your coaches without a scorecard this season
- Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin — Didn’t think we’d see this again, but here’s Alvarez, back in the Rose Bowl. Bret Bielema, Alvarez’s hand-picked replacement, left the Badgers for Arkansas. So Alvarez, the AD, is back on the sidelines (for now).
- Lance Guidry, Western Kentucky — It’s Mr. Interim himself. In 2011, Guidry was the replacement, leading Miami of Ohio to victory in the GoDaddy.com Bowl. With Willie Taggart off to South Florida, Guidry, WKU’s defensive coordinator, will guide the Hilltoppers in the Little Caesars Bowl.
- Steve Stripling, Cincinnati — The Bearcats’ defensive line coach will lead Cincinnati into its Belk Bowl meeting with Duke after Butch Jones fled for Tennessee. Interim bowl coaches are nothing new for the Bearcats, whose previous two coaches departed for Michigan State and Notre Dame.
- Patrick Higgins, Purdue — Give it up for Higgins, the receivers coach who is not making things boring after the firing of Danny Hope. During preparations for the Heart of Dallas Bowl, Higgins asked his players a series of open-ended questions. What things do you want to do before you die? What’s the most important thing in your life? What’s your favorite animal? Suddenly, we want to know more about the 6-6 Boilermakers, don’t we?
- Dana Bible, N.C. State — The Wolfpack went 7-5 under Tom O’Brien, who was fired. So Bible, O’Brien’s long-time assistant coach, will lead N.C. State into its Music City Bowl matchup against Vanderbilt, while new Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren, formerly of Northern Illinois, concentrates on recruiting. Doeren, by the way, will not coach Northern Illinois in its landmark Orange Bowl appearance against Florida State. Confused yet?
Best unknown stars
Want to look smart? Talk about these guys
- RB Antonio Andrews, Western Kentucky (vs. Central Michigan in Little Caesars Bowl) — He’s sixth in the FBS at 134 yards rushing per game, but even more impressively, he has 2,977 all-purpose yards, just 273 behind the all-time record of Barry Sanders, set during his 1988 Heisman Trophy-winning season at Oklahoma State.
- QB Derek Carr, Fresno State (vs. SMU in Hawaii Bowl) — The younger brother of David Carr, once the NFL’s No. 1 overall draft pick, has 3,742 passing yards, 36 touchdowns and only five interceptions.
- RB Jahwan Edwards, Ball State (vs. Central Florida in Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl) — Edwards galloped for 1,321 yards and 14 touchdowns, gaining 100 yards or more in five of his last six games (and 98 in the other one).
- QB David Fales, San Jose State (vs. Bowling Green in Military Bowl) — Fales is No. 3 nationally in passing efficiency, completing 72.1 percent of his passes for 3,798 yards, 31 touchdowns and just nine interceptions.
- QB Chuckie Keeton, Utah State (vs. Toledo in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl) — Keeton, a sophomore, completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,144 yards, 27 touchdowns and just nine interceptions.
Nobody expected them to be here
- Notre Dame (BCS championship game) — Nobody saw 12-0 and a potential national title from Fighting Irish.
- Texas A&M (Cotton Bowl) — Aggies were supposed to be taught a lesson in their SEC debut. Instead, they are 10-2.
- Western Kentucky (Little Caesars Bowl) — Hilltoppers, who ended their 20-game losing streak in 2010, are making their first bowl-game trip.
- Florida (Sugar Bowl) — From 7-6 to BCS bowl, Will Muschamp’s Gators are well ahead of schedule.
- Duke (Belk Bowl) — Blue Devils, making first bowl appearance since 1994 season, belong on this list.
Everybody expected a lot more
- USC (Sun Bowl) — From preseason No. 1 to El Paso. Is that you down there, Trojans?
- Virginia Tech (Russell Athletic Bowl) — Hokies were expected to contend for a BCS bowl, but barely made the postseason.
- West Virginia (Pinstripe Bowl) — Mountaineers were tearing it up in first half, but sputtered to the finish.
- Michigan State (Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl) — Banished to late-night TV after failing to contend in the Big Ten.
- Texas (Alamo Bowl) — After playing for the 2009 national championship, Longhorns have gone just 21-16, including 8-4 this season, when they surrendered an average of 43.3 points in the defeats.
Joey Johnston writes regularly for NBCSports.com and is a columnist for the Tampa (Fla.) Tribune.
CFT: Senior receiver Wilson Van Hooser is transferring from Tulane to help care for his ailing mother.
DPS: Alabama head coach Nick Saban was recently trash-talked by colleagues, and he tells Dan Patrick he wishes he was spoken to in private prior to the insults.