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Everything they’ve done all season has led to this game: The [insert sponsor] Bowl. These teams have worked all season to give them six wins and a chance to play in the postseason. At least that’s how bowl games should be: The crowning glory of the season. But if anything, they’re just a preview of what’s to come.
Their importance has been declining for some time. When there was only the BCS title game, there was still plenty of prestige to play in a bowl game. Only two teams make it, so there was no shame in not being one of those two. With the addition of the College Football Playoffs, they’ve diminished in importance. There are four full playoff spots. What do you mean you didn’t make it? The New Year’s Six Bowl games have increasingly felt like consolation prizes for teams that were close to making the playoffs but just missed it.
Now that the CFP is expanding to 12 teams, they could be on their way out. Starting in the 2024 season, how is anyone supposed to muster enough energy to take care of the Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl when there are 11 playoff games?
Everything works against bowl mania. Players who know they will be drafted fold to avoid risking injury. Most managerial change decisions are made before the “postseason” for some odd reason. Players can enter the transfer portal before their bowl games for even stranger reasons. Heck, Notre Dame’s starting QB was one of the players to do that.
I am not opposed to deregistering or transferring players. They should do what they want, but it’s crazy that players are allowed to enter the transfer portal before what is supposedly the biggest game of their season. The fact that it opens before bowl games take place only speaks to its irrelevance.
A team participating in a bowl game may be unrecognizable from the one that played in its last game of the regular season a few weeks earlier. Bowl games are less of a postseason game and more of a “let’s see what we have for next year” game.
Take Florida for example. Anthony Richardson has been the starting quarterback for the Gators in every game this season but has pulled out in anticipation of the NFL draft. Jack Miller III, a freshman (although he was at Ohio State for two seasons) who has not yet played a game for the Gators, will start in his place. Again, for Miller, this is likely less of a postseason game and more of an audition for the seeding spot next season. Florida will also field a team where 17 players have already entered the transfer portal.
Wisconsin fired its head coach Paul Chryst midseason and hired Luke Fickell, but interim coach Jim Leonhard is still in charge of their bowl game. It feels quite bizarre that Leonhard will be coaching this game with his already chosen replacement lurking over his shoulder like the Grim Reaper. Big motivation. If you’re allowed to hire a new head coach between the regular season and the postseason, why can’t they coach?
Some have speculated that this could be the worst bowl season ever with the record number of transfers. You might be right, but even then I’m not trying to argue that it’s not worth watching. Bad college football is still a lot cheaper than sitting around waiting for the sun to set at 4:45.
There are actually some great matchups out there. UTSA and Troy will be rewarded for winning their conferences, winning 11 games and standing in the national rankings by going head-to-head today, the first day of the Games. I’m being a bit sarcastic, but it’s really a reward to play asap and go home for Christmas. USC, which has the Heisman-winner who is a year away from draft eligibility and one win away from the playoffs, gets Tulane. For Tulane, who won two games last year, this must be like her Super Bowl. Will USC be able to step up for a Group of Five opponent after narrowly missing out on the national semifinals?
Despite the more promising matchups, it’s hard to see bowl games as legitimate postseason when a bunch of quarterbacks who haven’t made a start all season are throwing to substitute receivers because starters change while receiving play calls from a coach, that already has been replaced.