Important instructions here, college football fans: Don’t forget to use this long holiday weekend to get your eyes, ears and couch-surfing muscles in tiptop shape. There are seven games between Saturday and Monday — none of them particularly enticing — so let’s call this ongoing stretch of ho-hum matchups the Preseason For Bowl Season. By the time Tuesday rolls around, you need to be in prime bowl binge-watching shape. Our guy Chip Scoggins, a well-known master of watching more college football than healthy, went through the long list of bowl games and decided there a dozen must-watch games. Here are your 12 bowls of post-Christmas:
A common complaint of college football is that there are too many bowls, a criticism we find ludicrous. I mean, who wasn’t psyched for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl or Dollar General Bowl?
No problem if you’re feeling bloated on bowl game smorgasbord, though. I’ve composed a list of the 12 best post-Christmas bowl games.
The Holiday Bowl matchup between the Gophers and Washington State made the cut because, well, I’m covering the game and San Diego in late December (or any time of the year) is always a desirable attraction.
Drum roll, please …
12. HOLIDAY BOWL
San Diego, Dec. 27
Gophers (8-4) vs. Washington State (8-4), 6 p.m., ESPN
The game that almost needed a replacement for Minnesota because of a boycott threat will go on as scheduled. Suspensions in the Gophers’ defensive secondary will be hard to overcome.
The pick: Washington State 35, Gophers 27
11. RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL
Orlando, Dec. 28
West Virginia (10-2) vs. Miami (8-4), 4:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup of coaches (West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen and Miami’s Mark Richt) that deserve kudos for their job performance this season.
The pick: West Virginia 27, Miami 20
10. MUSIC CITY BOWL
Nashville, Dec. 30
Tennessee (8-4) vs. Nebraska (9-3), 2:30 p.m., ESPN
Vols season has been disappointment. Huskers ended on sour note with loss to Iowa. Their fans can commiserate over a few beers at Tootsie’s.
The pick: Tennessee 28, Nebraska 20
9. SUN BOWL
El Paso, Texas, Dec. 30
Stanford (9-3) vs. North Carolina (8-4), 1 p.m., Ch. 4
Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey will skip the game to focus on NFL Draft prep (i.e. stay healthy), which makes this game less attractive.
The pick: Stanford 27, UNC 21
8. ALAMO BOWL
San Antonio, Dec. 29
Colorado (10-3) vs. Oklahoma State (9-3), 8 p.m., ESPN
Colorado emerged as one of the biggest surprises in college football. This one could be a wild shootout.
The pick: Oklahoma State 38, Colorado 34
7. COTTON BOWL
Arlington, Texas, Jan. 2
Wisconsin (10-3) vs. Western Michigan (13-0), noon, ESPN
Western Michigan would love to cap an undefeated season by knocking off a power program. The Badgers can’t afford a hangover from their collapse in the Big Ten title game.
The pick: Wisconsin 34, Western Michigan 24
6. CITRUS BOWL
Orlando, Dec. 31
Louisville (9-3) vs. LSU (7-4), 10 a.m., Ch. 5
This should be a fun matchup: Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson facing LSU’s sixth-ranked scoring defense. LSU’s Leonard Fournette is skipping game.
The pick: Louisville 27, LSU 24
5. SUGAR BOWL
New Orleans, Jan. 2
Oklahoma (10-2) vs. Auburn (8-4), 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Auburn’s defense is stout, but Sooners have too much firepower with Heisman finalists Baker Mayfield and Dede Westbrook.
The pick: Oklahoma 41, Auburn 27
4. ORANGE BOWL
Miami, Dec. 30
Michigan (10-2) vs. Florida State (9-3), 7 p.m., ESPN
Jim Harbaugh presumably will have calmed down over the officiating in the Ohio State game. Only Alabama has better defense than Wolverines nationally. Advantage Michigan.
The pick: Michigan 24, Florida State 17
3. ROSE BOWL
Pasadena, Calif., Jan. 2
Penn State (11-2) vs. USC (9-3), 4 p.m., ESPN
Nittany Lions proved us wrong all season and again in the Big Ten title game. USC closed season with eight consecutive wins.
The pick: USC 30, Penn State 27
2. PEACH BOWL
Atlanta, Dec. 31
Alabama (13-0) vs. Washington (12-1), 2 p.m., ESPN
This has become broken record. Alabama rolls. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The pick: Alabama 34, Washington 17
1. FIESTA BOWL
Glendale, Ariz., Dec. 31
Clemson (12-1) vs. Ohio State (11-1), 6 p.m., ESPN
Easily the best matchup of bowl season, until the championship game (Jan. 9 in Tampa). One of the best offenses in college football, Clemson, going against one of the best defenses, Ohio State.
The pick: Clemson 34, Ohio St. 31.