HOW TO WATCH THIS WEEK’S BOWL GAMES
I’d like to be able to preface this little article by saying that Christmas Week is the time when college football’s bowl game season really starts to feature some big-time programs battling one another in highly anticipated, widely watched action. I’d like to do that very much. However, lying to people – especially at Christmas – is not cool, so there’s really no way I can do that. I will say, however, that there are interesting games to be played on and around ‘the big day’ and I think they’ll be worth watching, even if you couldn’t tell me what the team names of either school was without Googling. Here is a compendium of what’s happening and a little preview of what’s at stake. I have deliberately left out each game’s corporate sponsors because I hate that part of this whole thing and so does everyone else on earth. Merry Christmas, everyone!
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 22
ARMED FORCES BOWL – Carter Stadium, Ft. Worth, TX 8 pm, ESPN
Missouri (6-6) vs. Army (8-4) (-6.5 on FanDuel)
Army comes into this game with their (in)famous triple option offense rolling right along, averaging more than 300 rushing yards per game. Missouri had one of the worst run-stopping defenses in FBS in 2021, so the odds of them slowing down perhaps the nation’s most potent run attacks seems slim. The Tigers’ best chance at a victory would appear to be for them to win the time of possession contest, giving plenty of carries to SEC rushing leader Tyler Badie and keeping the ball out of Army’s hands as much as possible.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 23
FRISCO FOOTBALL CLASSIC – Toyota Stadium, Frisco,TX 3:30 pm, ESPN
North Texas (6-6) vs. Miami (OH) (6-6) (-2.5 on DraftKings)
After handing the previously undefeated UT-San Antonio Roadrunners their only loss of the 2021 season last week, North Texas will travel a short distance to Frisco to face a Miami passing offense that is among the nation’s elite. The Red Hawks just lost a heartbreaking conference game to Kent State in overtime, missing their chance to appear in the MAC finale. Maybe having to travel a lot further than their opponents will give Miami time to clear their heads and take that loss out on a porous Mean Green defense.
GASPARILLA BOWL – Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL 7 pm, ESPN
Central Florida (8-4) vs. Florida (6-6) (-7 on BetMGM)
This game has so much Florida in it, you can almost feel a swarm of palmetto bugs flying around, waiting to steal your Cubano sandwich right from under your bejeweled Ed Hardy baseball cap. Both teams have quarterbacks who have entered the transfer portal already for next season and at least one of them (UF’s Emory Jones) is likely going to start this game, so it will be interesting to see what happens as these young men attempt to showcase themselves for schools that may want their services. Maybe we should rename it the Leaving Florida Mercenary Bowl. That’s catchy. I have no idea what a Gasparilla is.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 24
HAWAI’I BOWL – Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex, Honolulu 8 pm, ESPN
Memphis (6-6) vs. Hawai’i (6-7) (+8.5 on BetMGM)
Well I suppose if you finish your regular season with a losing record, the only way to guarantee you get to appear in a bowl game is to host one of your own, right? After this decidedly mediocre season, several Hawai’i players have already announced they’re leaving the school for other programs among the continental 48 states. Man, that program must really suck right now if athletes would rather play in Minnesota or Wyoming than in Hawai’i- so it might be a last chance for beleaguered Rainbow Warriors Head Coach Todd Graham to prove he knows what he’s doing. Hey – desperation! That’s worth tuning in to!
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 25
CAMELLIA BOWL – Cramton Bowl, Montgomery AL 2:30 pm, ESPN
Georgia State (7-5) vs. Ball State (6-6) (+6.5 on FanDuel)
Head Coach Shawn Elliot has his Georgia State team playing their best football in school history, with bowl appearances in four of the last five years, including two wins. His Panthers will try to get themselves a winning postseason bowl game record under his leadership when they battle Ball State, who squeaked into bowl game eligibility by beating Buffalo in their final regular season game. Neither offense is particularly prolific, so perhaps there will be prop bets available on the kickers for both teams. That seems to me to be where the smart money lies in this one.