Too many bowls, not enough quality teams

By Staff
Mike Self, FCT Sports Editor
If early returns are any indication, this college football bowl season seems destined to be plagued by the nemesis of all non-partisan fans hoping to enjoy a little pigskin entertainment over the holidays-The Blowout.
Nothing is more boring than watching one team you care about very little beat the Christmas stuffing out of another team you care about even less. When the margin reaches three touchdowns, it's time to change the channel and watch little Ralphie shoot his eye out for the 17th time.
The combined score of the first two bowl games was 75-15, with TCU pummeling Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl and BYU hammering Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl.
In both cases, a quality 10-2 team dragged a rag-tag 7-5 bunch behind the woodshed for a good old-fashioned whipping. More beatings are inevitable, thanks to the ever-growing number of mediocre teams participating in bowl games.
Seven teams, including established bowl regulars such as Alabama, Miami and Florida State, received a bid after stumbling to disappointing 6-6 records this season. A whopping 14 more teams with barely-above-water 7-5 records also "earned" bowl invitations.
That type of mediocrity can only lead to lopsided scores, especially when one of the weak sisters gets matched up with a quality opponent who actually belongs in a bowl game.
Take the matchup between Iowa (6-6) and Texas (9-3) in the Alamo Bowl, for example. The Hawkeyes have won exactly two football games since the end of September. They staggered to the finish line with three straight losses and six defeats in their last eight.
Their reward for stinking up the joint for two months will be a thorough shellacking at the hands of the Longhorns, who were considered a contender for the BCS national title game until dropping their last two.
Other games appear evenly matched but are even less appealing. Central Michigan and Middle Tennessee State in the Motor City Bowl the day after Christmas? Yikes. Viewers are advised to wait at least one hour after a meal before watching this game. Otherwise, your Christmas leftovers might end up all over the living room.
The bowls aren't even worth paying attention to until Thursday, December 28. Alabama (6-6) and Oklahoma State (6-6) square off in the Mediocrity Bowl (officially the Independence) at 3:30 p.m., but the best game of the day will be that night at 7 p.m. when Texas A&M (9-3) and California (9-3) meet in the Holiday Bowl.
I'm sure there will be other close games and thrilling finishes before the curtain falls on 2006, but none jump out at me. Here's some sad news: Your only option for watching a bowl game at your New Year's Eve party will be Miami (6-6) and Nevada (8-4) in the MPC Computers Bowl.
Given the Hurricanes' penchant for brawling, this game should be available on pay-per-view for $49.95.
Thankfully, the new year will bring some much-needed relief. 2007 kicks off with six intriguing matchups, half of which involve SEC teams. Auburn fans can enjoy a late breakfast (or early lunch) while watching their team kick off against Nebraksa at 10:30 a.m. (Judging by the Tigers' recent performance in games starting before noon, AU fans might not enjoy it for very long.)
Arkansas (10-3) against Wisconsin, the least-publicized one loss team in the country at 11-1, make for a nice game in the Capital One Bowl, but the game of the day promises to be a traditional Rose Bowl battle between USC (10-2) and Michigan (11-1).
Also, Boise State (12-0) will try to finish undefeated with a win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl and become the second team in the past three seasons to finish 13-0 and not earn at least a share of the national championship. (Sorry Auburn fans.)
If Alabama doesn't have a new head coach by January 2, Tide fans should tune in to watch Wake Forest (11-2) play Louisville (11-1) in the Orange Bowl at 7 p.m. Wake coach Jim Grobe has been mentioned as a candidate for the job.
Media darlings Notre Dame and LSU square off in the Sugar Bowl on January 3, and then Ohio State (12-0) and Florida (12-1) will wrap things up in the title game on January 8.
The last time the Buckeyes faced a team from the state of Florida in the national championship game, they were major underdogs (Ohio State upset Miami in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl). This time, the Buckeyes are the overwhelming favorites to win it all, despite the fact that by the time they take the field in Glendale they won't have played an actual football game in 50 days.
Hopefully it will be worth the wait, for them and for the fans.

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