An open letter to anyone who thinks there are too many bowl games

The following is an open letter I decided to write while making the mistake of reading my some of the comments on our College Football Bowl Projections story last week.

Dear “There Are Too Many Bowls” Guy:

We need to have a talk.

I heard you scanned this year’s schedule of 41 bowl gamessaw that Georgia Southern is playing Buffalo in something called the Camellia Bowl, or that 5-7 Rice is going to the LendingTree Bowl and yelled: “THERE ARE TOO MANY BOWLS.”

Sir, I have one question: Why do you hate fun?

On Dec 31, Georgia will play Ohio State other Michigan want to play TCU in the only two bowls with actual bearing on who will win this season’s national championship. Until then, why not sit back, relax and enjoy some wholesome family entertainment?

You do realize college football is a form of entertainment, right?

Bowl Season may not be as high-stakes as March Madness or as exclusive as the NFL playoffs, but it’s weird and quirky in a spirt befitting this weird and quirky sport. In theory, we could create a mammoth 64-team bracket and watch Georgia beat Maryland 49-7 in the round of 32.

Or, we could let Maryland play North Carolina State in Charlotte at noon on a Friday to see whether Terps coach Mike Locksley or Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren gets a giant vat of Duke‘s mayo dumped on his head afterwards.

Sure, the stakes are modest when it comes to the Texas-Washington Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29, but I’m going to absolutely enjoy the heck out of that matchup. If Oklahoma what playing Florida State in one of those season-opening kickoff classics, it would probably be the ABC primetime game. So why scoff at the Sooners and Seminoles meeting in the Cheez-It Bowl instead?

And you know that Florida other Oregon State have never, ever played each other in football? On Dec 17, they’re going to tee it up in the Las Vegas Bowl, and I know you’ll be watching that one, too.

Bowls have unquestionably lost much of their prestige over the past two decades as the sport shifted its emphasis first to the BCS, and now the CFP. That trend will only be further exacerbated once the playoff moves to 12 teams.

But that’s still only 12 teams out of 131. What’s the harm in allowing coaches and players to enjoy an end-of-season reward for 12 months of hard work? Most 18-to-22 years olds enjoy traveling somewhere warm for the holidays to play with their teammates one more time. The ones going to Boston, Detroit and the Bronx can just pack a winter coat.

And as long as they’re going to be playing these football games, ESPN might as well televise them. No one but the most degenerate gamblers are going to watch all 41 of them. But if you happen to be spending Christmas Eve somewhere cold, I highly recommend turning on the San Diego State-Middle Tennessee EasyPost Hawai’i Bowl, if for no other reason than the scenery shots.

You’ll notice I’ve mentioned a lot of Group of 5 teams so far. Most fans never see these teams play all season because they’re busy choosing among 30-plus Power 5 games on a typical Saturday. Bowl season is when the UTSAs and Troys of the world get their moment in the sun. And it just so happens this year that UTSA is playing troy in the Duluth Trading Cure Bowl on Dec. 16

I often hear people like yourself refer to the bowls as “meaningless,” which seems odd. Why would such a large number of people watch a meaningless sporting event? Nearly 5.6 million tuned into last year’s Purdue-Tennessee overtime thriller in the Music City Bowl. That’s more people on average than watched Major League Baseball‘s ALCS (5.2 million) and NLCS (4.6 million) games this season.

Even the full-on Sickos bowls rate relatively well. Last year, ESPN created a second bowl in Frisco, Texas, out of thin air just days before the end of the regular season so that no eligible teams got left home. north texas and Miami of Ohio kicked off in the middle of the afternoon on Thursday Dec. 23. Some 1.5 million people tuned into ESPN to watch it – slightly more than that network averaged for its NBA package last season (1.4 million).

Now, I know what you’re saying. It’s hard to take these games seriously when they have a never-ending churn of obscure title sponsors. To which I’d respond: Then don’t. Embrace the absurdity of something called the Boca Raton Bowl or the TaxAct Texas Bowl. Chuckle at the ridiculousness of Bad Boy Mowers sponsoring the Pinstripe Bowl, a game played in the Bronx of all places.

The field is still 100 yards long whoever’s cutting the check.

But if there’s no other lesson I can impart here, let it be this: After bowl season, there will be no college football to watch for nearly eight months. Don’t waste these precious remaining opportunities.

Oregon other North Carolinaled by star quarterbacks Bo Nix other Drake Maye, respectively, have been two of the most entertaining teams in the country season. They meet Dec. 28 in the Holiday Bowl.

South Carolinawhich ended the regular season with back-to-back top 10 wins, is having itself a moment, one that will culminate with a Gator Bowl date against fabled Notre-Dame. It’s the Gamecocks’ Super Bowl.

Kansas is going bowling for the first time since 2008, and it’s doing so against Arkansas in the Liberty Bowl. You better believe Jayhawks and Razorbacks fans will be taking over Beale Street.

Finally, let’s talk New Year’s Six bowls.

Clemson vs. Tennessee is a particularly orange orange Bowl, but it’s also a chance for the upstart Vols to prove themselves against one of the sport’s preeminent programs, or for Dabo Swinney’s Tigers to reassert themselves against a Top-10 SEC foe.

Alabama vs. Kansas State in the Sugar Bowl sets up almost perfectly for Tide fans regardless of the result. Win, and they’ll remind us why they should have been in the playoff. Lose, and they’ll remind us that they didn’t even want to be there.

USC-Tulane is admittedly not the sexiest Cotton Bowl, but it’s always cool to see the little guy get his moment on a big stage. And soon-to-be Heisman winner Caleb Williams has already said he intends to play. It makes for a nice lead in to …

The Granddaddy of The All.

Extensive medical research shows that “There’s Too Many Bowls” Guy often gets diagnosed with a case of “The Rose Bowl is Overrated” as well. The Rose Bowl is not overrated. It’s a spectacular event played in the sport’s most iconic venue that rarely fails to deliver. And this year’s Penn StateUtah installation may mark the end of an era: The last traditional Big Ten-Pac-12 matchup before the bowl hosts a semifinal next season, then gets absorbed into the 12-team playoff.

I don’t have to tell you to watch this one, because literally every college football fan in America watches the Rose Bowl – 16.6 million of you last season – even if they still love to complain that the Rose Bowl is somehow responsible for all of society’s ills.

But the Rose Bowl is also one of the last remaining vestiges from a bygone era when the loftiest preseason goal of every team in the country was to make it a New Year’s Day bowl. That romanticized era is behind us, but the bowls themselves are still with us.

And they’re still a heck of a lot of fun.

Stewart Mandel

(Photo: Brian Losness / USA Today)

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