Well, we've gone and done it. After 14 weeks and hundreds of games, we've made it to the end of the college football regular season, with only Army-Navy, 40 bowl games, and the CFP title game standing between us and bleak, dark winter.
Hi, everyone: Holly the Blogging Corgi here yet again for all your dog-focused football analysis needs.
Personally, I plan to spend the next few months huddled in front of the space heater, grumbling at the darkness. Y'know, like I do every winter. We have to appreciate what we have left, though, and December's got quite a lot to offer before the lights go out and the bands go home.
Of course, there's the playoff itself. Clemson-Oklahoma and Alabama-Michigan State look to be terrific games, and the pairing of the powerful offenses in the Orange Bowl and the physical defensive teams in the Cotton go to ensure we'll have a compelling stylistic contrast in the final, no matter the result.
We're not really here to talk about the playoff, though, because as terrific as it is, in the end, it's just three games. We need to get through the holidays alive, and I want to talk about the games that excite me the most in the bowl schedule that took shape Sunday. There's a lot of great options, you just have to know where to look.
Let's start at the beginning and work from there.
Saturday, December 19th: The Las Vegas Bowl (BYU vs. Utah)
Right out of the gate on the first day of bowl action, we've got old-fashioned hate in the mix, as the traditional bitter rivals find a surprise meeting in the midst of their two-year realignment-spurred hiatus. Both teams had high hopes early this year, with Utah rising as high as #3 in the polls before losing three of their last six - and BYU beating Nebraska on a dramatic season-opening Hail Mary only to lose starting QB Taysom Hill for the season.
Both teams now have a second chance to salvage what they'd consider a successful season, though, with a shot at a familiar yet hated foe, as similar to them as anyone else in the country, yet disconnected enough to inspire fury.
It's like how I feel about Cardigan Welsh Corgis.
Look at this smug asshole. YOUR EARS ARE DISPORPORTIONATE AND YOUR TAIL OSTENTATIOUS.
I hate him so much. Moving on.
Monday, December 21st: The Miami Beach Bowl (South Florida vs. Western Kentucky)
Brother, if you can't get down for a 2:30pm bowl on a Monday when many people will still be working, I can't help you. You want more? It's in a baseball stadium that no one goes to for baseball. More? It ended in a brawl last year. More? USF head coach Willie Taggart facing his old team after leading the Bulls to a surprising late-season surge this year. MORE? WKU head coach Jeff Brohm's C-USA champion Hilltoppers have one of the highest-flying offenses in the country, averaging over 44 points a game. MORE?!?
Tuesday, December 22nd: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Akron vs. Utah State)
Another afternoon workweek special. Maybe you'll be on vacation already and that doesn't matter to you. Or maybe you had a kid in July and used up all your time off and you're really grateful you'll have a game to watch when you're the only one left in the office. (So I'm told. Uh, I'm a dog. Stay in character, Holly. "Bark.")
So wait, why this game, though? Well, it's Terry Bowden coaching the Zips to only their second bowl game ever, and their first in a decade. It's happening in Boise in December. Something incredibly stupid is going to happen in this game, and you're going to want to be there. I know I will.
Wednesday, December 23rd: GoDaddy Bowl (Bowling Green vs. Georgia Southern)
It's Georgia Southern, the recently-FBS'd giant-troubler, vs. Bowling Green, showing off the Baylor-inspired offense that launched head coach Dino Babers to the Syracuse job this week. It's pure indulgence and you should treat it as nothing less.
Thursday, December 24th: Two roads diverge in a yellow wood.
Okay, there's two Christmas Eve bowls, and let's discuss the route we're going to take here.
OPTION 1: The Hawaii Bowl (San Diego State vs. Cincinnati)
We, well-known University of Cincinnati partisans as we are, could watch the frustratingly erratic 7-5 Bearcats travel 5000 miles to take on the surging Mountain West champion Aztecs, winners of nine straight gam-HELLO DARKNESS MY OLD FRIEND
OR, WE COULD WATCH:
OPTION 2: The Popeyes Bahamas Bowl (Western Michigan vs. Middle Tennessee State)
Fried chicken and frenetic energy. Row the boat.
Tuesday, December 29th: Russell Athletic Bowl (Baylor vs. North Carolina)
Two of the nation's top offenses playing in a classic consolation bowl after falling just short of playoff / New Year's Six aspirations. Oh, dig in. Dig riiiiiiiight in.
Oh, and on that note, if I may jump ahead in the schedule for a moment:
Saturday, January 2nd: Alamo Bowl (Oregon vs. TCU)
Everything I just said about UNC-Baylor? Same here. It's good to have leftovers after the holidays. Hide some under the bed upstairs.
ANOTHER DELIGHTFUL PAIRING:
Tuesday, December 29th: Texas Bowl (LSU vs. Texas Tech)
Wednesday, December 30th: Birmingham Bowl (Memphis vs. Auburn)
Why do these bowls go together, and why should they intrigue you? Well, in each, we've got one of the country's top offensive performers, who'll likely have fallen just short of Alabama's Derrick Henry in the Heisman race (for LSU, running back Leonard Fournette; for Memphis, QB Paxton Lynch). In each, they'll be opposite defenses that rate as questionable (Auburn) or [raucous laughter] (Texas Tech).
The biggest risk for either player might be not having enough time to catch his breath.
Whew, okay. That'll get us to New Year's Eve, and there's no question about what'll be going on then. Put on the playoff games, beg under the table for some Vienna sausages, lick spilled champagne out of the carpet, and fall asleep on top of a heat register at 10:30pm. I'm not even in character as Holly right now saying that. This is Scott speaking right now.
[HOLLY VOICE] get out of my column, Dad
Sorry sorry [feigned dog voice] squirrels! ham! butts!
*sigh* It's so hard to train humans. Anyways, let's do one more.
Friday, January 1st: The Rose Bowl Game (Iowa vs. Stanford)
It's no secret that the games I've highlighted so far have a strong tendency toward high-flying offenses, because I'm a simple dog and I enjoy vigorous games of fetch. Baylor offers me that and I'm comfortable with who I am.
After an indulgent December, though - one full of sweets, treats and rich beverages - January 1st is often a time for reckoning. The festivities end, the decorations come down, and we face the harsh light of a new year, in which we must get our lives in order, shed the sins of December, and probably get a flea bath.
Nothing encapsulates this feeling, the icy fist of New Year's Truth, than watching Iowa and Stanford manball it out like two cement trucks fighting for a compact parking space. Also, it'll be in a stadium full of 90,000 hungover Hawkeyes, and maybe some of them will drop hot dogs.
There'll be five more games after this one, and even then there's a decent chance one of them is Alabama winning another joyless championship. And after that?
Let's enjoy December while we can. Come March you'd kill a man for a Belk Bowl.