Bowl season is upon us. You probably have many questions. We’re here to help, with the absolute least you need to know about each and every bowl game. College football’s draw is in its anthropology, and what demands examination more than an offshore postseason contest sponsored by a drive-thru fried chicken chain with no restaurants inside the host country’s borders, or the 10th year of a football game named for a poisonous houseplant?
Warning: This fact sheet is processed in a facility that may contain non-facts. All times Eastern.
R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Nevada vs. Louisiana
(Saturday, December 20, 11 a.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: The New Orleans Bowl has latched its jaws onto Earliest Start Time of the 2014-15 postseason honors, edging out the “traditional” leadoff New Mexico Bowl by nearly three and a half hours. There’s a Saints game in the Superdome the next day, and it’s nice that the worker bees who have to flip that setting overnight will have more time, but woooof: For those of you scoring at home, that’s a 10 a.m. local kick. In New Orleans. Between the time change for Nevada fans and players and what we know of Ragin’ Cajuns fans,1 here’s a modest proposal: Everybody stay up Friday night.
Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Utah State vs. UTEP
This is Louisiana’s fourth consecutive appearance in the New Orleans Bowl, and going from a traditional 9 p.m. kick to a morning game is going to throw off some chemistries.
(Saturday, December 20, 2:20 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: Now that it’s no longer in the first slot, what standout characteristics does the New Mexico Bowl have going for it? Bowl organizers would probably say the awards: The winning team’s trophy is handmade pottery and the MVPs are given leather shields, all handcrafted by local artists. We would point out our favorite piece of bowl lore: the first time a postseason game was played in Albuquerque, a snowstorm hit two days prior, and they had to bring in helicopters to dry off the fields and spray-paint the grass green. Also worth noting: This is UTEP’s first postseason appearance since 2010, and a win would be the Miners’ first bowl victory since the 1967 Sun Bowl.
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: no. 22 Utah vs. Colorado State
(Saturday, December 20, 3:30 p.m., ABC)
The absolute least: First, a now annual warning that bears repeating:
Hold up, is a gentlemen’s club sponsoring a bowl game? It’s not that much of a Las Vegas Bowl. Royal Purple manufactures “synthetic oil and lubricants,” for vehicles, not people.
Other than that, the Vegas Bowl is pretty self-recommending. It is your thing, or it is not. It’s also the game where coaches get photographed with showgirls, and the one that forces us to wonder whether Southwest lets those headdresses onboard as carry-on baggage:
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Western Michigan vs. Air Force
(Saturday, December 20, 5:45 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: Enthusiasts of college football’s only chive-bedecked bowl game need to bookmark two vital web destinations. The first is the Idaho Potato Commission’s Dr. Potato Blog, which is always updated when we check it every December, bless their hearts, and which spans the vast breadth of human interest in the noble potato, from how to make Waffle House hash browns at home to how to screw up baking a potato (WOE BETIDE YOU, NONBELIEVERS WHO TREAT ALL RUSSETS THE SAME). The other is the site’s potato recipe page, which faithfully churns out places to put potatoes that you might not have otherwise considered (inside a piece of bacon? In a deviled egg?), and which finally tacked “gluten free” onto the potato-crusted pizza recipe it’s featured for years. Finally, Western Michigan is in this game, so make sure you brush up on all of P.J. Fleck’s dance customs.
AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: South Alabama vs. Bowling Green
(Saturday, December 20, 9:15 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: NEW BOWL, Y’ALL! This one’s high on the acceptability scale, both because it’s regionally specific (the game’s in Montgomery; the camellia is Alabama’s state flower), and because the Raycom attachment leaves us with a tiny shred of flickering hope that this game will someday be called by three guys named Dave. Also, let it not pass without note that this is South Alabama’s first bowl game, a mighty feat for a program that became a full FBS member only last year.
Miami Beach Bowl: BYU vs. Memphis
(Monday, December 22, 2 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: ’NOTHER NEW BOWL! Since this game doesn’t yet exist, there’s not too much to know, unless you want to talk about comparing the relative merits of the art deco logo and Starship Troopers font on the game’s website. Instead, consider spending the time between now and kickoff in rapt contemplation of the thought of BYU and Memphis fans interacting in Miami.
Boca Raton Bowl: Marshall vs. Northern Illinois
(Tuesday, December 23, 6 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: STOP MAKING NEW BOWLS. WE HAVE ENOUGH BOWLS. These squads won their leagues, but have to spend part of Christmas break playing in FAU’s stadium, which we can’t even call Owlcatraz anymore. Happy now?
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: Navy vs. San Diego State
(Tuesday, December 23, 9:30 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: This should be a corker of a crowd, with the Aztecs playing in their own stadium and the town’s military presence. And since we last did this fact sheet a year ago, we have learned a thing! “Poinsettia plants are less toxic than once believed,” says the Mayo Clinic’s blog. Even the ASPCA calls poinsettias “generally overrated in toxicity.” Is the Poinsettia Bowl’s honorary title of “Most Dangerous Bowl Game for Pets” in peril?
Popeyes Bahamas Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky
(Wednesday, December 24, noon, ESPN)
The absolute least: And now, a guest appearance from colleague Matt Hinton, who called this latest unnecessary newcomer the most corrupt game of the postseason, which is really, really, reaaaaally saying something!
The Bahamas Bowl is a brand-new contest that will pit a 7-5 also-ran from the MAC (Central Michigan) against a 7-5 also-ran from Conference USA (Western Kentucky) in Nassau, in a game sponsored by a Southern fried chicken chain (Popeyes) that doesn’t operate a franchise in the Bahamas. How could such a felicitous arrangement be anything but on the up and up?
Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State vs. Rice
(Wednesday, December 24, 8 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: The official bowl of early-onset dadlife, the Hawaii bowl gifts participating players with sunglasses, swim trunks, a towel, and what we have to assume is an aggressively floral shirt.
Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl: Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech
(Friday, December 26, 1 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: Formerly known best as “the bowl game played in the Cotton Bowl (the stadium) that isn’t the Cotton Bowl (the game),” the Z-Hod is now distinguished as one of several bowls advancing the hegemony of Big Fried Chicken while America’s last pizza bowl slips quietly away. And DID YOU KNOW: Both FBS football teams that lost to Purdue this season made the postseason?
Quick Lane Bowl: Rutgers vs. North Carolina
(Friday, December 26, 4:30 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: The aforementioned Last Pizza Bowl, the erstwhile Little Caesars, is now sponsored by a tire service center chain. What a world, what a world. Vindicating factor: The Detroit-based game has partnered with Detroit-based Fathead to give each player a custom Fathead of himself. If there’s a Football Jesus in heaven, there’s an enterprising lineman out there submitting a shot of himself belly-flopping into a pool, at the moment of impact, for his wall decal pose.
Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl: North Carolina State vs. UCF
(Friday, December 26, 8 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: This is the game that replaced the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, hastening the demise of our annual “spot the fake menu item” Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl quiz. As such, we do not recognize its existence, and thank you for understanding.
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech
(Saturday, December 27, 1 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: As near as we can tell, this is the absolute only bowl game to both (a) benefit the USO, and (b) sponsor its own official pub crawl. There’s something to be said for knowing your audience, although we don’t see Rails on any of those lists. Anyway, enjoy crawling to the Military Bowl. That stamp seems pretty serious about making you.
Hyundai Sun Bowl: no. 15 Arizona State vs. Duke
(Saturday, December 27, 2 p.m., CBS)
The absolute least: Helen of Troy no longer holds title sponsorship rights, but please rest assured that the players do still take home hair dryers. (We have one! Somebody sent us one like five years ago, as a joke, but it’s a great hair dryer.)
Duck Commander Independence Bowl: Miami vs. South Carolina
(Saturday, December 27, 3:30 p.m., ABC)
The absolute least: Way back before Duck Dynasty became a cultural phenomenon, we interviewed Phil Robertson for SI.com about his days as a college quarterback. Back then, he was just a guy who was better than teammate Terry Bradshaw, but he gave up the game because it interfered with duck-hunting season. In retrospect, this sponsorship was probably inevitable.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Boston College vs. Penn State
(Saturday, December 27, 4:30 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: Noted college football mecca New York City hosts a bowl game in noted college football palace Yankee Stadium, this year for the first time without either New York’s College Football Team Syracuse or New York’s College Football Team Rutgers. (New York’s College Football Team Buffalo has yet to put in an appearance.)
National University Holiday Bowl: Nebraska vs. no. 24 USC
(Saturday, December 27, 8 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: [DANCE BREAK.]
Pacific Life no longer sponsors the Holiday Bowl. The first year of the Holiday Bowl without the Pacific Life sponsorship, and accompanying excuses to play the Whale Tail Fight Song for four hours, was 2010. The best film that hit theaters in 2010, according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, was The King’s Speech, so it was a great year for tragedies all around.2 Still, you will want to follow the game’s Twitter feed this postseason for adorable photographs of players posing with dangerous/cuddly animals at the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld.3
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Texas A&M vs. West Virginia
Yes, we know that technically The Hurt Locker is the 2010 Best Picture winner, while Speech is the 2011 winner, but think of this like a post–New Year’s bowl game: The 2014 Rose Bowl took place in the 2014 calendar year, but capped the 2013 season.
Nobody’s turned up in a Blackfish T-shirt yet for this photo op?
(Monday, December 29, 2 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: SCARY GOOD MATCHUP FOR THE LIBERTY BOWL SIREN, with two high-octane offenses headed by two former colleagues:
Russell Athletic Bowl: Oklahoma vs. no. 17 Clemson
(Monday, December 29, 5:30 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: This game has a tangled history that we’ll get to in just a few paragraphs; separate it from its peers in the corridors of your mind with the knowledge that (a) this bowl’s organizers are occasionally menaced by bears, and (b) Florida Citrus Sports run the only year-round must-follow Twitter accounts for their games, including:
Advocare V100 Texas Bowl: Arkansas vs. Texas
(Monday, December 29, 9 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: ARKANSAS-TEXAS BACK, in the belt-bucklin’est game this side of the Mississip. Pay careful attention to social media dispatches from this game as well; this is the game with the Rodeo Bowl, and you simply can’t miss out.
Yes, as in, the players do the rodeoing. It’s fantastic television.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Notre Dame vs. no. 23 LSU
(Tuesday, December 30, 3 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: 2007 Sugar Bowl rematch! And it looks to be as good of a football matchup in 2014 as Nashville is a music town in 2014! A modest proposal: Rather than play Everett Golson, Malik Zaire, Anthony Jennings, and Brandon Harris all in one game? JaMarcus Russell, all-time quarterback. Here to help.
Belk Bowl: no. 13 Georgia vs. no. 21 Louisville
(Tuesday, December 30, 6:30 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: Off the field, the Belk Bowl provides players with a shopping spree to (where belking else?) Belk, putting it neck and neck with the Hawaii Bowl in early-onset dadlife enabling. A playoff between the floral shirts of the West and the no-iron khakis of the East would instantly age all participants and onlookers to a permanent chronological state of 47 years old.
On the field, Mark Richt is going to approach former Bulldogs and current Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Grantham at midfield before this game, and they’re going to shake hands, and Grantham is going to put just a little too much aggressive squeeze into his side of things, and Richt is going to serenely ignore it and ask how Grantham’s family is doing, and he’s going to mean it, and that’s going to make Grantham soooooo much madder.
Foster Farms Bowl: Maryland vs. Stanford
(Tuesday, December 30, 10 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: DOES THE HEGEMONY OF THE AMERICAN CHICKEN-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX KNOW NO BOUNDS?? Good news: This game is no longer played on a football field stuffed into a baseball stadium, a concept we’ve never liked. Bad news: It’s being held at the 49ers’ new digs, home of the Pac-12 championship and a building with all the charm of a shelf of irregular jeans:
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: no. 9 Ole Miss vs. no. 6 TCU
(Wednesday, December 31, 12:30 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: A perennial front-runner in the “wacky bowl events” arena, the Peach hosts an annual milkshake-making contest between its two teams.
Vizio Fiesta Bowl: no. 20 Boise State vs. no. 10 Arizona
(Wednesday, December 31, 4 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: We’re happy for the playoff-bound Ducks, but it just won’t be the Fiesta without this guy:
Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Making the Fiesta Bowl still worth it: Boise State returning to the site of so much previous glory; the chance for one more look this year at Nagurski winner Scooby Wright III; and the fact that this bowl comes with its own space race.
Capital One Orange Bowl: no. 7 Mississippi State vs. no. 12 Georgia Tech
(Wednesday, December 31, 8 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: This is the Capital One Orange Bowl, which is no longer played in the now-nonexistent stadium the Orange Bowl, and which is not to be confused with the former Capital One Bowl, which was itself formerly the Citrus Bowl and before that the Tangerine Bowl, which was not the Tangerine Bowl that’s now the Russell Athletic Bowl, both of which are now played in the Citrus Bowl, the stadium, though the Orange Bowl is not. Good-bye forever.
Outback Bowl: no. 19 Auburn vs. no. 18 Wisconsin
(Thursday, January 1, noon, ESPN2)
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: no. 8 Michigan State vs. no. 5 Baylor
(Thursday, January 1, 12:30 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: While we’re talking about games no longer played in their titular stadiums, here’s the Cotton Bowl, which no longer takes place in the Cotton Bowl, and which has nothing “classic” about it. What it does have is an excellent matchup of teams with contrasting styles, and the suffering that stems from their trying to adjust to it:
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: no. 16 Missouri vs. no. 25 Minnesota
(Thursday, January 1, 1 p.m., ABC)
The absolute least: The other Tangerine Bowl, the one that was just the Tangerine Bowl for a couple years? That’s this one. This isn’t associated with the former Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, which is now the Cactus Bowl, which we will get to in a minute, and which itself is not the all-star Cactus Bowl, but its actual own bowl game, and the other half of the Florida Citrus Sports must-follow tandem:
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual — Semifinal: no. 2 Oregon vs. no. 3 Florida State
(Thursday, January 1, 5 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: This is … the Rose Bowl? This is probably the only game we can say this about, always? You have to buy tickets to watch the floats being decorated, for fuck’s sake. Either you already know about the Rose Bowl or you meant to click on a hockey link and wound up here instead, in which case, thank you for reading this far.
Allstate Sugar Bowl — Semifinal: no. 1 Alabama vs. no. 4 Ohio State
(Thursday, January 1, 8:30 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: As a semifinal, this one sells itself. It’s Alabama and it’s Ohio State; it’s a Nick Saban–Urban Meyer rematch; it’s the site of the Crimson Tide’s last postseason humiliation; and it’s a chance for the Big Ten, under a former SEC head coach, to knock the SEC out of the national championship race.
But let’s not kid ourselves about what we’re here to see:
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Houston vs. Pittsburgh
(Friday, January 2, Noon, ESPN)
TaxSlayer Bowl: Iowa vs. Tennessee
Probably not an actual fight; they seem nice.
(Friday, January 2, 3:20, ESPN)
The absolute least: Finally, a discernible Florida-based January bowl game that has never been associated with any sort of citrus fruit. It did, however, used to be sponsored by Outback, but instead of falling back down that rabbit hole (which we’ll do again in a minute anyway), let’s revisit the former Gator Bowl’s most famous moment:
Valero Alamo Bowl: no. 11 Kansas State vs. no. 14 UCLA
(Friday, January 2, 6:45 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: Another SeaWorld-sponsored football game that gives elite athletes the opportunity to interact with such illustrious native San Antonians as the Pacific walrus.
TicketCity Cactus Bowl: Washington vs. Oklahoma State
(Friday, January 2, 10:15 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: We can’t even find the mental RAM to be despondent that this former pizza bowl (Domino’s) has never found another pizza-based title sponsor to call its own, not when TicketCity has decamped from the Heart of Dallas Bowl to add another link in the never-ending sponsorship exasperation hootenanny chain. Sing along if you know the tune: This is the TicketCity Cactus Bowl, which is not the TicketCity Bowl, which is also not the all-star Cactus Bowl, but is in fact the former Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, while of course the current Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl is the Citrus Bowl, and we are not setting one more foot in that winter fruit web of lies. Are we just out of words? Is that what’s happening? In a Too Many Cooks–type scenario, this would be about when the blood started hitting the camera lens.
Birmingham Bowl: East Carolina vs. Florida
(Saturday, January 3, noon, ESPN)
GoDaddy Bowl: Toledo vs. Arkansas State
(Sunday, January 4, 9 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: Chronologically, this is the last college football you can consume before the national championship game. You will eat it and you will like it. Sound titillating? Click here to see what happens next.
College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T: Rose Bowl Winner vs. Sugar Bowl Winner
(Monday, January 12, 8:30 p.m., ESPN)
The absolute least: The teams haven’t even been determined yet, and there’s little to say about the game itself, set as it is within the sterile confines of the Jerry Dome, but one thing is certain: We’ve finally worked up a postseason college football event with a more unwieldy name than “San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.”