We know nothing. COVID-19 is said to be wreaking havoc with bowl teams and games, but from what we can tell that’s entirely about positive-test “cases” rather than players actually falling ill. To date we are happy to report that no Inner Circle teams have been affected, but we did lose the much-anticipated Wasabi Fenway Bowl – and that in spite of the 16-person Executive Committee “comprised [sic] of regional business, education, and non-profit community leaders,” which just goes to show you.
To date, the following bowls have been canceled: EasyPost Hawai’i Bowl, Military Bowl Presented by Peraton, San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl (!), Wasabi Fenway Bowl, and Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl. C’mon man.
It being a weird year, with bowl games falling right and left, plus players hiding out in back alleys in anticipation of the NFL draft, not to mention transferring with big thuds and bangs like it’s high tourist season on the Washington Metro, it’s hard to make anything in particular of the conference bowl records up to now. Consider that only one ACC team was even able to play by the end of Tuesday 28 December. Boston College and NC State (motto: “They have a football team?”) both lost their bowls to cancellation, and only Louisville had actually taken the field, against Air Force in the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl. (Which Air Force won. Bravo Zulu!)
But the tote as of Thursday 30 December, just before the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl starts, is as follows:
Sun Belt: 3-1
So it’s interesting, although it’s hard to say what it tells us, exactly. The SEC’s 6-6 teams all lost, and only one lost to a Power-5 team, which in a more normal year might be informative. But this isn’t a normal year.
Anyway, this guy’s got a ‘tude about it.
We, personally, are not expecting the track record of non-Big-12 winners over the SEC’s struggling bottom-feeders in the 2021 Booger Bowls to carry implications for the accession of Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC in 2023. But that’s us.
For the record, we note that our Inner Circle is 5-3, with Oklahoma State and LSU left to play.
So let us proceed to the big bowl bust-out, when things go elite and consequential.
Friday, Dec. 31
First up on the year’s biggest bowl day is the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl featuring #17 Wake Forest, the ACC Champion, and (oops) Rutgers (5-7). Texas A&M was originally scheduled for the Gator Bowl, but had to bow out due to a combination of COVID-19 positives and injuries. The Gator Bowl is held at TIAA Bank Stadium in Jacksonville, home of the NFL Jaguars. Tickets start at $12 at this writing, which we take as a reflection on the utter lack of interest in the Scarlet Commies.
We regret to report that the Game Week Events webpage gives us a 404 Error, although the error verbiage is attended by this promising addendum: “We’re sorry, but the page you are looking for cannot be found. If you are still having a problem, please feel free to contact us.”
That seems to leave the door wide open on what the problem you’re still having may be, so we are giving that some thought, and will report back if we find other problems to notify the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl about. It would be interesting to discover how they might help.
The Game Day Events page is more forthcoming, but other than the game has only a pre-game show listed. The website does helpfully mention the local beaches, apparently feeling that it’s done its job with that level of exertion. The Twitter tracks are covered too.
Gone are the days, it appears, when the TaxSlayer-sponsored bowl ponied up with tax-advice events. That, at least, was worth notice. We’re putting the general lameness down to COVID and injuries and moving on.
The Gator Bowl is one of the last of our Better Boogers, although its sponsorship history is too limited for a high Booger Cred score. It’s a venerable bowl, though, having been held continuously since 1946. In 1978, it was the scene of Woody Hayes’s famous last stand, when he lost his temper with a Clemson player and punched him on the sideline. Hayes was fired the next day, ending the famous run of the Hayes-Schembechler overlap in the chronicles of Big 10 iconic coaching. What a way to go.
The game starts at 11 AM Eastern, with Wake Forest favored by 14.5.
Next up on Friday is the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl, in which Washington State (7-5) will compete with (oops) Central Michigan (8-4), after Miami (Da U) pulled out earlier this week due to COVID positives.
Sadly, it doesn’t appear that there’s a Sun Bowl Parade through El Paso this year. Naturally there wasn’t one in 2020, and we’ll have to wait and see if the parade gets back on track.
However, as Booger Bowls tend to do, the Sun Bowl came up with a unique entertainment for the Washington State Cougars when they had a tour of Fort Bliss and dinner with the troops on 29 December.
The meet-and-greet was attended by a hypnotist, of whose ministrations the Cougars apparently took advantage.
We have to admit, that’s a new one on us. It’s not clear if the hypnotist was the Army’s idea, or El Paso’s, or Tony the Tiger’s. (If I were Washington State’s muckety-mucks, I probably would have checked that out first. The game may present clues as to whether the hypnotist’s appearance had an ulterior purpose.)
Central Michigan is arriving too late to do much in the way of pre-game festivities. But – and we are truly saddened to inform you that the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl has been canceled – CMU was prepping for a bowl anyway, and had only to be diverted to the Sun Bowl, rather than coming in cold after a hiatus from conditioning and practice. It appears that Boise State being sick, lame, and lazy is the reason for the Arizona Bowl’s cancelation.
As we understand it, Tony the Tiger is still available for appearances in the El Paso metro. Don’t know if that includes a hypnotist or not. Meanwhile, we regret to report that there won’t be much sun for the Sun Bowl; the forecast is for rain and mid-50s at the otherwise-delightful Sun Bowl Stadium. The good news is that both Washington State and Central Michigan, and their fans, can take that in stride, even if it’s not what they were hoping for in usually sunny El Paso. Kickoff is at 1 PM Central (11 AM Pacific); Cougars give 7.
See the notice above about the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl. Adieu, mon Booger Bowl.
We tend to let the Bigger Bowls speak for themselves, as they get all the hype, coverage, and attention anyway. But we’d never think of not giving you a complete schedule to keep your viewing decent and in order. So of course, we take note of the CF-WhateverDude games on New Year’s Eve; i.e., the This That It All Comes Down To.
The first CFP Semifinal is the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, in which #4 Cincinnati will take on #1 Alabama. As befits the once, current, and future ever-present presence, Alabama (12-1, and the SEC Champion) gives 13.5. The Bearcats, undefeated champions of the American Conference, will be giving it everything they’ve got, and it’s conceivable they could beat the Tide. But we’re not counting on it. The game kicks off in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas at 2:30 PM Central.
The nighttime CFP Semifinal sees the Capital One Orange Bowl hosting #3 Georgia and #2 Michigan, the latter of which is believed in mainly by diehard Blue fans. Georgia is 12-1 with the one loss to Alabama in the conference title game; Michigan beat Iowa to become the Big-10 Champion after an 11-1 season, with the single loss to Storied Rival Michigan State. But the Wolverines’ big game was defeating Ohio State to knock the Storied Rival Buckeyes decisively out of CF&PB* contention at the end of the season.
Game start is 7:30 PM Eastern (6:30 PM Central) at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, home of the NFL Dolphins and Miami (Da U) Hurricanes. The Bulldogs give 7.
As for the final football bowl shindig on 10 January: after these two games, we’ll know. More on all that when we do, next week.
Saturday, Jan. 1
Saturday breaks out 2022 for us with the Outback Bowl at Ray Jay in Tampa, and a clash of Penn State (7-5) and #21 Arkansas (8-4).
The Outback Bowl was the Hall of Fame Bowl for years, until it got a new sponsor in Outback Steakhouse in 1995. The HOF Bowl was the first major NCAA bowl game to be held in Tampa. But what you may not know is that before there was a Hall of Fame Bowl, Tampa had hosted the Cigar Bowl from 1947 to 1954 (the cigar factories of Ybor City explain this historical phenomenon), which featured games between such luminaries as the University of Tampa, Lenoir-Rhyne, Wofford, and Wisconsin-La Crosse. In one halcyon year, they apparently couldn’t rustle up college teams, so in 1951, Brooke Army Medical Center defeated Camp Lejeune 20-0.
That’s our kind of bowl history. For the teaser to a paranormal investigation of Ybor City’s last operating original cigar factory:
The full-length investigation (over an hour) is here.
The teams were at Busch Gardens on Wednesday 29 December (who needs Disney and Universal, after all), and proceeded to the St. Pete-Clearwater beaches on Thursday for more R&R, ahead of the RxBenefits sponsored Gridiron Gala at the downtown Marriott Thursday night (invitation only). There is, of course, a New Year’s Eve Parade through Ybor City Friday night (it’s Florida, hello), and you can barely find the game for all the attendant bowl events on Saturday 1 January.
But find it you will, we trust. Kickoff is at noon in Ray Jay, with the Hogs giving 1.
Oh, and the Outback Bowl has contributed $1.1 billion over the years to the Tampa metro economy, in case you were wondering.
Before getting to the massive Big Boy Bowls of New Year’s Day, we have the little matter of the Vrbo Citrus Bowl, featuring #15 Iowa vs. #22 Kentucky. We’re no longer in “made it to 6 Ws” territory at this point: Iowa is 10-3, having lost to Michigan for the Big 10 title, and Kentucky is 9-3 and 2nd in the SEC East behind #2 Georgia.
The Citrus Bowl is Booger-ish, having had eight identities before its current run sponsored by Vrbo (the vacation rental marketing company). Our favorite is probably the year 2000, spent as the OurHouse.com Bowl (a short-lived online retailer of home appointments), an identity obviated by Amazon’s acquisition of OurHouse.com in 2001.
But this is the bowl old-timers will remember as being the Florida Citrus Bowl, and before that the Tangerine Bowl, for years before the era of commercial title sponsors. The website offers this charming detail: “The initial game sponsors, members of Elks Lodge #1079 of Orlando, each put up $100 to fund initial expenses.”
That was in 1947. The bowl is played in Camping World Stadium, which as we know from previous study was originally built as the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
The usual pep rally, Fanfest, and hospitality pavilion are on offer, and all the Orlando-related entertainment advice for previous bowls naturally applies to the Citrus Bowl.
The UK team went to Sea World on Monday:
And speaking of Twitter updates, look whose 1969 Citrus Bowl victory the Vrbo Citrus Bowl highlighted on 24 December:
Our Inner Circle’s past exploits are numerous and legendary.
Other than the kickoff at 1 PM Eastern (noon Central), the main game note is probably that Iowa has been notable for a weirdly weak offense throughout the 2021 season, which helps explain why the Wildcats are giving 3.
Making the leap from Booger-ish to totally Big, we graduate in the same time-slot from the Citrus bowl to the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, held in Glendale, Arizona: that attention-hogging bowl that blankets the Grand Canyon State, and this year will see #5 Notre Dame of the Independents duke it out with #9 Oklahoma State, the Big-12 conference runner-up.
First of all, we know you didn’t miss the Desert Financial Fiesta Bowl Parade through Phoenix on 18 December. We know you didn’t, because this is a parade that has not only a title sponsor (Desert Financial) but a presenting sponsor, injury attorneys Lerner & Rowe. The grand marshal was Alice Cooper (yes, that Alice Cooper), which is another reason we know you didn’t miss it.
But if you did miss it, you can see it here.
For those seeking additional thrills, the final pre-game events include the Caesars Sportsbook PlayStation Fiesta Bowl Fan Fest Pregame Party, which is free, and the Caesars Sportsbook Fiesta Bowl Stadium Club Pregame Party, for which you pay $125 a head, get to wander around on the field, and receive seven complimentary drink tickets.
We are extremely sorry to inform you, however, that we’ve now missed the 15-16 December convening of Phoenix’s 2021 Phoestivus market gathering, whose attractions we really must leave to this description from the website:
Phoestivus traditions like Phreddie the Yeti, Hipster Santa, the Phoestivus Pole, phEATS of Strength, and the Airing of Grievances are also making their triumphant return. The pet-friendly evenings will feature a chance to stroll down Dogtopia Lane, transform grievances into gratitude (courtesy of the Arizona Storytellers Project), and enjoy music curated by Coronado Porch Concerts and Recordbar Radio.
There are shorter, faster, perhaps even funnier local news videos, but to convey local flavor we always like to go with the ones that start out in the Applebee’s parking lot and include shots of someone’s dog (probably for Dogtopia; we didn’t have time to track that one down all the way).
OK-State’s Cowboys at least spent Tuesday night with their priorities straight.
The football on Saturday should be pretty peppy, what with both teams being top 10 and Oklahoma State, at least, having a firecracker offense. Notre Dame is, as always, overranked. But there’s no getting complacent about the Cowboys; full stop. The game eventuates at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, home of the NFL Arizona Cardinals, with a kickoff at 11 AM Mountain (noon Central; 1 PM Eastern) and the Arsh favored by 2.5.
The New Year’s Day Iconery reaches its peak with the Granddaddy of them All, the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Capital One Venture X, which we assume is intelligible to someone. We understand the Capital One part.
#6 Ohio State (10-2; 1st in Big-10 East by conference record, tied with Michigan) will meet PAC-12 Champion #11 Utah (10-3) for a grand old time, preceded as usual by the Rose Parade Presented by Honda. The COVID-19 regulations for the game and parade are here.
For the record, this is the 108th Rose Bowl Game and the 133rd Rose Parade. It’s also Utah’s first time as the PAC-12 Champion, for which we congratulate UU.
Game start is 2 PM Pacific (4 PM Central/5 Eastern). Buckeyes are donating 4.5. We never say never about the Youths, of course.
The late Bigger Bowl on the 1st is the Allstate Sugar Bowl, featuring #8 Ole Miss and #7 Baylor. Ole Miss comes in 10-2 and 2nd in the SEC West behind Alabama (or, for a ceremonial regional flourish, “a-heinst Alabama,” as it’s colloquially put in rural pockets throughout the South Central region). Baylor is 11-2 and this year’s Big-12 Champion, having defeated both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
It seems almost indecent for the Sugar Bowl’s name to be so simple and classic, but so it has been since 2007, while other bowls have added and subtracted (yea, even multiplied and divided) obscurely encoded commercial references right and left. Sugar isn’t “the granddaddy,” but since his first meeting in 1935, he has surely earned the status, at least, of a great uncle. As ever in this era, he convenes his chosen in the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.
Speaking of his chosen, we’re expecting a good game. We’re at least expecting Ole Miss to have to work overtime to score on the Baylor D, now operating under the guidance of Dave Aranda’s defensive staff headed by longtime associate Ron Roberts. The Rebels scored pretty moderately across the board throughout the season (same for offensive stats); they’re not high-octane flash-and-dash O-side, and even if they were, Roberts and Aranda would be ready for them.
Ahead of the 7:45 PM Central (8:45 Eastern) kickoff, Ole Miss is giving 1.5.
Tuesday, Jan. 4
Our ultimate Booger-ish/Better Booger Bowl convenes in Houston on 4 January as the TaxAct Texas Bowl, showcasing the Inner Circle’s LSU, from over I-10, and Kansas State from up I-35 (via feeder highways at each end; just go with it, people. I-35, as we know, is a Globalist Conspiracy and perennial touchstone of the End of Civilization).
These two hard-working teams may be 6-6 and 7-5 respectively, but when you count who they had to play to get to .500 or above, as Power-5 schools, you can see how they landed the year’s final Better Booger.
TaxAct, as we discovered earlier, is all over the 2021 bowl scene like the Chamorra over southern Italy. We suspect this has something to do with the remarkable list of Disappearing Players this year, melting away behind closed doors into transfer portals and draft dodger status. Things have gotten just a bit creepy in that regard.
One of our favorite aspects of the Texas Bowl is the “Rodeo Bowl” in which players compete in rodeo-themed events like “calf roping, goat dressing, hay bale stacking and calf penning.” This is not because anyone other than the teams and some media types – there to record the action – has ever been allowed to attend the Rodeo Bowl. It’s because it seems like a downright good idea.
This year, according to the website, the public was to be admitted to the Rodeo Bowl (Presented by Kroger) for the first time. That seems to have lasted for only a few days. A last-minute tweet now informs fans that the Rodeo Bowl will no longer be a public event.
So, to summarize, you can’t get in, but the Rodeo Bowl is on Saturday 1 January. The game follows on the 4th.
LSU, after not having its best season and parting ways with Head Coach Ed Orgeron, comes off of a bad quarterback month heading into the Texas Bowl. QB Max Johnson has entered the transfer portal and already agreed to transfer to Texas A&M; Myles Brennan is on the injured list and won’t make the bowl game. Freshman Garrett Nussmeier, with comparatively little time on the field, still needs a waiver to play in the Texas Bowl and retain his redshirt status. LSU has only a couple of freshmen with no on-field experience this season to fall back on.
Meanwhile, fleet-up Brad Davis (LSU offensive line coach) will be coaching the game for the Bengal Tigers. With much of LSU’s top defensive talent, including all-American LB Damone Clark, skipping the bowl for draft entry, it may not be LSU’s, er, strongest appearance of the season.
That said, we’ll be roaring for the Zouave next Tuesday. The game starts at 8 PM Central (9 Eastern), with K-State donating 3.5.
We mention once more, as the final attraction in the coming week, the FCS championship game between Montana State and North Dakota State on 8 January at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
As we call once again for cultural contributions from any and all who are able to visit Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum in The Colony, TX, which we urge you to understand is practically on top of downtown Frisco.
Right now, the long-term forecast shows a cloudy day in the 50s on 8 January, but no precipitation.
Feature image: Oklahoma WR #12 Drake Stoops gladdens old Dad’s (Coach Bob Stoops) heart making a mid-air catch for OU’s second TD in the Sooners’ 47-32 win over Oregon in the 2021 Valero Alamo Bowl. Big 12 media/ESPN video.