Bowl season is truly magical. I mean seriously, in September a Washington State-Colorado State matchup, or a Louisiana-Lafayette-Tulane showdown are merely filer for the Pac-12 Networks or CBS Sports networks, but as bowl games, football diehards are tuning in because it’s literally the only game on.
But bowl games can exaggerate a team’s value or accomplishments. With several months to get up (or down) for a game, a team seen at season’s end often isn’t the one playing in Florida or California. So here now are some principals that I’ve adopted when I watch bowl games.
Don’t go gaga over one team blowing another out, or surpassing their average total offense numbers for the season. With a month’s time to prep for a bowl, a coach can install more new things on offense and catch defenses off-guard. Teams who run quirky offenses like Oregon and Georgia Tech, beware though: when defensive coaches have a month to study your tendencies, they tend to figure stuff out.
If your team plays poorly, do be concerned. There are of course exceptions: if you get slammed by a peaking Alabama, Florida, or other SEC power, that is routine as a Tuesday in cubicleville. But if an equal program blows your team out, it’s a problem if they looked unprepared going into the game. Prime example would be Arizona’s 2009 Holiday Bowl, when the Wildcats were controlled by a 10-4 Nebraska team who didn’t have an offense. After another blowout loss against Oklahoma State, Mike Stoops was hitting the brick in mid-season the next year.
If a bowl stadium is full, the program who fills it gets the big picture and deserves a lot of credit. One of the biggest positives I’ve seen in the bowl season so far is two out of five relatively minor bowls have played to full stadiums, the Las Vegas Bowl & the New Orleans Bowl, and the New Mexico Bowl had its second highest attendance since 2008. Some of this has to do with proximity (USC has a large base in Vegas, the New Orleans Bowl was dual home game for Tulane and Louisiana-Lafayette), and Sam Boyd Stadium is small. But given how many empty bowl stadiums there will be over the next two weeks, two full stadiums already are a victory.
Nate Swift’s touchdown in the 2007 Cotton Bowl. Sorry for the low quality…right before a camera upgrade.