College bowl tie-ins: What if we made these games interesting?

Chris McGrath

What if bowls were decided less by TV ratings and money and more by how incredible we can make the games? We examine what could happen if bowl games got real.

We might finally have a playoff, but we have not rid ourselves of minor bowl games, the bane of existence for people who hate having more college football to watch.

With conference tie-in contracts coming to an end soon, bowl obligations are up for grabs. The Big Ten is finally taking leave from its triumvirate of Florida-based SEC games for more hospitable climes, the ACC is looking at a wholesale revamping of its bowl slate and the Buffalo Wild Wings is on the market.

Conferences utilize a number of factors in determining bowl partnerships, things like payouts, location attractiveness, television coverage, etc. But how would the bowl picture look if we threw out all of those factors (and a number of others, like the whole bowl-eligibility thing) and just made the best matchups?

New Mexico Bowl: New Mexico vs. The year's Fulmer Cup champions

New Mexico makes a ton of sense here. For one, the game is named for them. They also guarantee that someone is going to show up. Their opponents: The team that broke the baddest during the offseason. Not only does it give new meaning to the Fulmer Cup race, but it immediately becomes the toughest game on the out-of-conference schedule of whichever SEC team is selected.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Idaho Vandals vs. Whatever team is employing Dennis Erickson at the moment

He might be associated with his six seasons at Miami and two failed stints in the NFL, but Dennis Erickson is a Man of the West. He has been coaching since 1969, held 16 jobs in those 44 years (three of those with Idaho), and, aside from Miami, the furthest east he's coached was Wyoming. His teams are bound to be on the verge of mental and emotional collapse. His offense is sure to score in bunches, especially against an overmatched cupcake. His players are certain to do terrifying and violent things to opponents, again especially against an overmatched cupcake. Idaho, you are the cupcake.

Poinsettia Bowl: The highest-ranked team with green jerseys vs. the Highest-ranked team with red jerseys

If you're going to name your bowl after the Christmas flower and play it before Christmas Day, you have to go with a full-on Christmas theme regardless of whether it results in Oregon playing Nebraska every December 20.

Beef O'Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl: Big Ten West No. 3 vs. The lower-ranked of Florida and Georgia

What pairs better with a a bowl named for a liquor-free Irish pub chain played in a liquor-free Tampa suburb than the boozy fans of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota facing one of the Cocktail Party combatants? As a veteran of two Iowa-Florida bowl games played in the greater Tampa area, I can assure you this is a recipe for success.

Las Vegas Bowl: BYU vs. Baylor

Solely for the annual hilarity of two of college football's most conservative fan bases unleashed in America's den of iniquity. There has never been a rush on rooms at the Las Vegas Ramada like there would be for this game.

Belk Bowl: Just make it an American Athletic Conference regular season game

As a Northerner, I'd never heard of Belk before they bought their own bowl game, and I'm certain I never would have heard of Belk were it not for that bowl game. It's the retail equivalent of every team in the newly founded American Athletic Conference. Someone has to buy naming rights for a geographically-challenged Cincinnati-Tulane game in 2016. Why not a retailer that connects the two states?

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Big Ten vs. SEC in a chicken wing-eating contest

Three of the SEC's best teams -- Alabama, Georgia, and Florida -- ran three of the nation's most low-tempo offenses over the last five years. Nine Big Ten teams ranked 86th or worse in forward passing last season. Both leagues are filled with fat guys who like chicken wings. If there was a matchup tailor-made for a chain of chicken wing establishments whose commercials feature absurd events meant to slow games down and make them longer, it's this one.

Military Bowl and Armed Forces Bowl: Service Academy Tournament

The Military Bowl currently features an ACC also-ran against either one of the military academies or a Conference USA opponent. Only twice has an academy made the game: Navy lost in 2008, Air Force lost in 2012. The Armed Forces Bowl is not much better, hosting the service academies five times in 10 seasons. Increased emphasis on in-conference scheduling could limit Air Force (a member of the Mountain West) and Navy (soon to be a member of the AAC) in the near future. Meanwhile, the Coast Guard doesn't get to play any of the three main academies at all. Let's remedy that by allowing Army-Navy to officially move to the postseason -- they have the last Saturday of the season to themselves anyway -- giving Coast Guard a game against Air Force at the Military Bowl, and having the winners face off at the Armed Services Bowl. Tell me you wouldn't watch that.

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas: Two former SWC opponents, anything goes

For those who pine for simpler days, when overmatched private schools in Texas would go toe to toe with UT and A&M, their success determined as much by their boosters as their coaches, I give you the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. Two former Southwest Conference foes -- this has Rice vs. SMU written all over it -- are named to the game in late November. They each have one month to spend as much booster money as possible on Trans Ams and houses for parents and not-so-illicit bribes to build a team for the game. Eric Dickerson wants $1 million to play one more game, only for Baylor? Pay him. It's totally legal. Adrian Peterson or Tom Brady need something to do during a bye week? Let them name their price. Free agency in its purest form, on display in a bowl game named for mufflers.

Compass Bowl: Directional schools!

This one is easy: If you're in the Compass Bowl, at least one word from your school's name has to be found on a compass. The first Compass Bowl did exactly this: South Florida (which, ironically, is not in south Florida) beat East Carolina. Since then, just one directional school -- Southern Miss -- and one other school with a direction in its title -- South Carolina -- have played in the game. There are 15 FBS programs with a direction in their title. Certainly one of them can beat Northwestern every season.

Capital One Bowl: Walk-ons and future graduate students only

In honor of the massive amount of debt that walk-ons and graduate students will incur in obtaining their educations, some of it quite possibly payable to the title sponsor, the Capital One Bowl will feature two teams made up entirely of those two groups. Any player who has paid his way through school or applied to a postgraduate program is eligible. Scores by medical and law students count for double, doctorate programs quadruple. It will give the players a positive memory of their time in college for when they are writing loan repayment checks in 2047.

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: A BCS conference team vs. Hungry people

Let's take this one literally: A mid-level BCS conference team -- let's say Big 12 No. 5, so usually Texas Tech -- faces 85 really hungry people chosen through an essay contest. The essay topic: Just how hungry are you? The hungry people can field up to 25 players at once, and are allowed to commit defensive pass interference and encroachment. To up the ante, the winning team gets all the Kraft Mac & Cheese, Jell-O, and Oscar Meyer hot dogs it wants for the next year. Can a team of well-trained, well-fed college athletes shuttled to chilly San Francisco in December defeat a mob of really hungry people? It's basically The Walking Dead.

Alamo Bowl: Big Ten No. 4 vs. The cast of Friday Night Lights

Matt Saracen, starting quarterback of the Dillon Panthers, was the assistant manager at Alamo Freeze. Smash Williams, who worked with Matt, famously wanted two burgers with Alamo Sauce. This show was all about the Alamo, so why not send the FNL cast and crew out with a game against Michigan State? They are pretty much all available, and Coach Eric Taylor's playcalling -- shuttle passes on 4th and 25, play action in clear passing situations that almost gets his quarterback killed before resulting in game-winning touchdowns -- would completely confound every middle-tier Big Ten coach. And while the Dillon Panthers had no defense, that never stopped Andrew Maxwell from turning the ball over.

Outback Bowl: Australian Rugby Team vs. Pac-12 No. 3

Yes, the travel costs would be outrageous, but watching the Australian Rugby Team's old school offense face one of the newfangled spread attacks in the Pac-12 -- heaven help them if Leach gets this pistol/air raid-hybrid going -- could be the most compelling postgame matchup of all. Even if we get a boring Pac-12 representative -- say, UCLA -- there is still a cultural showdown to watch, as Bruins fans try to reconcile their love of basketball with the fact that Aussie Andrew Bogut was a former NBA No. 1 overall selection.

Pinstripe Bowl: SEC No. 3 vs. Pac-12 No. 2

It's a game in New York in late December. Why shouldn't it be two teams that (a) have never seen snow before, (b) have steadfastly refused to play a game north of Kentucky or anywhere between Colorado and Arkansas after September for 50 years, and (c) are absolutely certain to bring zero fans to the game? Just the thought of Steve Spurrier and Lane Kiffin shivering on the sidelines makes me giddy with excitement.

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