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Illuminati Picks: The Final Phase Begins

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WE ARE APPROACHING THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA

WE KNOW ALL. WE HAVE ALWAYS KNOWN.
WE KNOW ALL. WE HAVE ALWAYS KNOWN.

CITIZENS OF EARTH,

THIS IS THE COUNCIL OF THE ILLUMINATI, REACHING OUT ONE FINAL TIME. THE TIME HAS COME TO ENACT THE FINAL PHASE OF OUR PLAN. OUR DISCIPLES IN THE BOWL COMMITTEES HAVE SUBMITTED THEIR RECOMMENDATIONS TO US, AND WE HAVE CHOSEN THE BOWL PARTICIPANTS AND CHAMPIONS ACCORDINGLY. THE COUNCIL HAS INFLUENCED THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF COMMITTEE TO PLACE OUR CHOSEN TEAMS IN THE PLAYOFF. SOON THE NEW YEAR SHALL ARRIVE, AND WITH IT A NEW AGE OF HUMANITY. YOU HAVE THIS FINAL CHANCE TO JOIN US AND BE A PART OF THE NEW FUTURE.

THUS, YOU ARE ONCE AGAIN CHALLENGED TO SEE HOW WELL YOU HAVE PREDICTED OUR PLANS. WE HAVE RECLAIMED OUR INTERMEDIARY FROM THE VOID TO PREVIEW EACH BOWL GAME FOR YOU AND ONCE AGAIN TO SUBMIT HIS OWN PREDICTIONS, MOSTLY FOR OUR AMUSEMENT.

THIS SHALL BE OUR FINAL COMMUNICATION TO YOU IN THIS WORLD. WHEN YOU HEAR FROM US AGAIN, EVERYTHING SHALL HAVE BEEN MADE ANEW. ALTHOUGH YOUR INDIVIDUAL WELL BEINGS ARE UTTERLY INSIGNIFICANT TO US, WE SHALL WISH YOU LUCK, FOR THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE IS UNCERTAIN TO YOU. WHEN THE TRUTH IS REVEALED, YOU WILL UNDERSTAND WHAT THIS ALL HAS BEEN FOR.

Saturday, December 19

New Mexico Bowl: Arizona Wildcats vs. New Mexico Lobos

The excitement kicks off with the New Mexico Bowl, now in its tenth year! Yes, I'm surprised it's been around that long, too. This probably seems like a huge mismatch on paper, but even though they've lost the last two games in the series (a home and home in 2007-08) and haven't won since 1997, don't count out those scrappy upstarts from Arizona, even though this is all but a true home game for New Mexico.

Illuminati Pick: Arizona

Las Vegas Bowl: BYU Cougars vs. #22 Utah Utes

It's a rivalry game bowl matchup! That's exciting for everyone! Except, apparently, for Utah fans, who would rather be anywhere else playing anybody else. BYU fans, on the other hand, have bought up tickets in droves, even though everything Las Vegas is famous for is prohibited by the Mormon faith.

Illuminati Pick: Utah

Camellia Bowl: Ohio Bobcats vs. Appalachian State Mountaineers

Appalachian State is already in their first bowl after a year of FBS transition induced ineligibility, but don't think they're happy to just be here. At 10-2, with one of those losses being to Clemson, they'll be happy to leave with a bobcat pelt and a neat trophy. This game is sponsored by Raycom, so expect glaring production errors and replays to be in SD despite the game being produced and aired by ESPN.

Illuminati Pick: Appalachian State

Cure Bowl: San José State Spartans vs. Georgia State Panthers

A bowl game in Orlando featuring Georgia State and a 5-7 San José State? Yeah, I'm extremely suspicious of the "cure" that's being promoted here. You want a licensed physician prescribing you drugs that have been rigorously tested, but this game is Doctor Oz hawking a miracle pain reliever made from fingernails and grass clippings.

Illuminati Pick: San José State

New Orleans Bowl: Arkansas State Red Wolves vs. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

The New Orleans Bowl appears to have settled into a nice permanent host agreement with Louisiana-Lafayette, as they've won the past four editions of the bowl, but the Cajuns aren't bowl eligible this year, so the Bowl picked the next closest thing in Louisiana Tech. Ruston, Louisiana is just like Lafayette, except no one's ever heard of it, and it's in northern Louisiana, so it lacks Lafayette's Cajun charms. It's really not like Lafayette at all.

Illuminati Pick: Louisiana Tech

Monday, December 21

Miami Beach Bowl: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers vs. South Florida Bulls

The second edition of the Miami Beach Bowl will likely feature no brawling, as BYU is absent, but if your holiday vacation hasn't started yet, it's either this on Monday afternoon or pretend to get work done, so you might as well open a window for ESPN3 and pretend you're in warm sunny Miami instead of whatever frozen wasteland the winter season has turned your hometown into*.

*Frozen wasteland may not apply if your hometown is Atlanta.

Illuminati Pick: USF

Tuesday, December 22

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Akron Zips vs. Utah State Aggies

A few years ago the committee behind this bowl finally realized dragging two teams out to a December football game in Boise, Idaho wasn't exactly "Humanitarian". So they made their logo a nice, warm, fully loaded baked potato. It's still Boise. It's still cold. But at least Utah State and Akron can probably deal with that better than, say, Miami could have.

Illuminati Pick: Utah State

Boca Raton Bowl: Temple Owls vs. Toledo Rockets

Temple and Toledo were two of the hottest G5 teams in the country at one point during the season. Both lost out on a conference championship and potential New Years Six bowl bid at season's end (Temple dropped the AAC championship game to Houston, Toledo was not the winner of a 4-team tie in the MAC West), but it's hard to complain too much about falling to a bowl in Boca Raton.

Illuminati Pick: Temple

Wednesday, December 23

Poinsettia Bowl: Boise State Broncos vs. Northern Illinois Huskies

A year ago, Boise State and NIU were conference champions, and the Broncos rang in the new year by knocking off Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl. They hold eight wins each and are stuck in a pre-Christmas bowl this year, but at least they'll have plenty of stories about all those BCS/NY6 bowls they've been to.

Illuminati Pick: Boise State

GoDaddy Bowl: Georgia Southern Eagles vs. Bowling Green Falcons

Last year, Georgia Southern won 9 games but were ineligible for a bowl thanks to an NCAA technicality. This year they ended the season by losing to Georgia State and are being punished with a bowl game in Mobile. (Remember: State is in Orlando.) A fall like that can crush your will to live, and a date with this year's kings of MACtion could crush the Eagles' even further.

Illuminati Pick: Georgia Southern

Thursday, December 24

Bahamas Bowl: Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders vs. Western Michigan Broncos

This is the second edition of the Bahamas Bowl, sponsored by Popeye's, and there is still not a single dang Popeye's in the Bahamas. This is an outrage! This year's game couldn't possibly have an ending to top last year's, but if it does, and Western Michigan finishes on top, you can expect P.J. Fleck to row the boat across Atlantis Lagoon all damn night.

Illuminati Pick: Western Michigan

Hawai'i Bowl: San Diego State Aztecs vs. Cincinnati Bearcats

Look, I know you have some boring Christmas Eve party to go to to keep up appearances, and it's going to be full of friends of the family or friends of friends and their kids you don't really care about. But there will be at least one TV on, and you can slowly and subtly nudge it towards ESPN for the Hawaii bowl to watch Mountain West champion San Diego State and a very decent Cincinnati team. If you're Catholic and going to midnight Mass, think of it as a pre-reward for yourself. A preward.

Illuminati Pick: Cincy

Saturday, December 26

St. Petersburg Bowl: Connecticut Huskies vs. Marshall Thundering Herd

This bowl was sponsored by BitCoin last year, but that deal didn't last past the one game. Who'd have guessed an unstable, unregulated currency may not make for the best bowl sponsor? UConn is only here thanks to a freak victory over Houston that almost destabilized the Cougars' Peach Bowl berth. Let's be honest: you're probably tired from staying up all night two nights in a row, and this game is the only one this whole season that kicks off before noon eastern time. Go ahead and hit that snooze button. No one has to know.

Illuminati Pick: Marshall

Sun Bowl: Miami Hurricanes vs. Washington State Cougars

This year marks the 81st edition of the Sun Bowl. Yes, you read that correctly - the Sun Bowl started January 1, 1935, along with the Sugar and Orange Bowls, meaning small market bowl games are nearly as old as college football itself. Miami was last here in 2010 for a rehash of Catholics vs. Convicts. This year they face the dread pirate Leach and his scurvy Cougar crew. Which is really the same as before, when you think about it - a pirate is a convict who just hasn't been caught yet.

Illuminati Pick: Wazzu

Heart of Dallas Bowl: Washington Huskies vs. Southern Miss Golden Eagles

Friendly reminder that though this game is played in the Cotton Bowl, it's not THE Cotton Bowl, which moved across town to Jerryworld, while the bowl bowl is still at Fair Park. Yes, the Bowl itself is on the Texas State Fair grounds, but the Fair only runs through parts of September and October, so if you see someone selling some bizarre new food concoction.... you should probably pass.

Illuminati Pick: Washington

Pinstripe Bowl: Indiana Hoosiers vs. Duke Blue Devils

Two basketball schools are playing a football game in a baseball stadium. Indiana hasn't won a bowl since 1991, and Duke hasn't won one since 1961, so some schools long nightmare will finally end, unless both schools say 'screw it' and agree to host a basketball game anyway - Duke is still Duke, and Hoosier fans really want another reason to fire Tom Crean.

Illuminati Pick: Duke

Independence Bowl: Tulsa Golden Hurricane vs. Virginia Tech Hokies

It's Frank Beamer's last game before retiring as the Hokies' coach, and the ACC gave him the highest honor they could bestow upon him: a trip to Shreveport to face a 6-6 C-USA team. This is the college football equivalent of Shawn Michaels retiring Ric Flair at Wrestlemania, if instead of Shawn Michaels it was Val Venis and instead of WrestleMania it was a random WCW Thursday Night Thunder.

Illuminati Pick: Virginia Tech

Foster Farms Bowl: UCLA Bruins vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Oh, hey... it's Nebraska.... here in the Foster Farms Bowl at 5-7. Mike Riley wasn't able to continue his predecessor's legacy of winning exactly nine games every season, but the way things are going with the bowls, he could leave his own: that of a consistent five-win bowl eligible team!

Illuminati Pick: UCLA

Monday, December 28

Military Bowl: Pittsburgh Panthers vs. #21 Navy Midshipmen

It's one final hurrah for record setting Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds before he saves the world in ways we'll likely never hear about. Pitt has surpassed expectations in Pat Narduzzi's first year at the helm, but his defense is going to have fits going up against Navy's offense. After all, Pitt barely beat Georgia Tech this year, and 2015 Navy is superior to 2015 Georgia Tech in every way.

Illuminati Pick: Navy

Quick Lane Bowl: Central Michigan Chippewas vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Minnesota is in a bowl at 5-7 thanks to making good grades. What better reward for that than a trip to Detroit? Meanwhile, you may remember Central Michigan from earlier as the team responsible for the crazy play to end last year's Bahamas Bowl. This year's Quick Lane Bowl trip is a way of balancing that out. Ain't no such thing as a free trip to the Bahamas, Chippewas.

Illuminati Pick: Central Michigan

Tuesday, December 29

Armed Forces Bowl: California Golden Bears vs. Air Force Falcons

It's a bit confusing, I know. The Military Bowl was on Monday. This is the Armed Forces Bowl. Totally different. This one's not even hosted at a military academy! It's in Fort Worth. Instead of crabs, it's steak. These two are like bowl game surf and turf. Anyone else hungry?

Illuminati Pick: Air Force

Russell Athletic Bowl: #10 North Carolina Tar Heels vs. #17 Baylor Bears

More like the Consolation Bowl. Baylor and UNC were this close to winning their conference championships and likely the college football playoff, but everything went wrong for both of them after a crucial loss. Hopefully Baylor actually has some of its quarterbacks for this game, otherwise.... well, they already lost to Texas, and Texas sucked this year. UNC didn't.

Illuminati Pick: Baylor

Arizona Bowl: Nevada Wolf Pack vs. Colorado State Rams

Does this matchup feel familiar? It should, because this is a Mountain West Conference matchup in a bowl game. The conference is unsurprisingly less than thrilled over the whole situation and the fact that, like many other MWC games, this game won't be nationally televised. Not even on ESPN3. In fact, it probably won't even be available anywhere in Arizona. In a landscape where bowl games are licenses to print money, someone has still managed to screw it up. It's almost impressive.

Illuminati Pick: Nevada

Texas Bowl: #20 LSU Tigers vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders

You'd think having one of the teams in the Texas Bowl be from Texas would be a bit unfair, but a quick review of last year's game should remind you that's utter nonsense. LSU is closer to Houston, is much more talented, has a better record despite a tougher schedule, and has a better looking coach than Texas Tech. Okay, that last one is not true, but it also has nothing to do with football. Please call me back, Kliff.

Illuminati Pick: LSU

Wednesday, December 30

Birmingham Bowl: Auburn Tigers vs. Memphis Tigers

Always love it when we get a good old-fashioned Tiger fight. Memphis was gunning for a New Years Six bowl bid before losing three straight games in November, but those were to Navy, Houston, and Temple, all of whom are objectively very good. Auburn paid their coach $3.85 million to finish last in the SEC West, and, with an earlier win over Ole Miss, Memphis already has as many victories over SEC West teams this season as Auburn does.

Illuminati Pick: Memphis

Belk Bowl: North Carolina State Wolfpack vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs

The Belk Bowl: the most hallowed of North Carolina football traditions. Dak Prescott looks to finish a record breaking career at Mississippi State by seeing how close he can get to the 10,000 yard passing mark. He's 1,004 yards short, so he won't get there, but he did throw for 453 in last year's Orange Bowl. NC State has not beaten anybody worth a damn this year, and playing a bowl game in their home state is just another example of their soft scheduling. PLAY SOMEBODY SOMEWHERE, PACK.

Illuminati Pick: Mississippi State

Music City Bowl: Texas A&M Aggies vs. Louisville Cardinals

Texas A&M will arrive in Nashville with their starting quarterback having already transferred out, and maybe his backup too. As of this writing, Kyler Murray is still an Aggie, but apparently he had a secret meeting with coach Kevin Sumlin earlier. What about? Who knows. It might be nothing. Or we might be about to find out what it's like losing 96% of your quarterback production right before your bowl game.

Illuminati Pick: Louisville

Holiday Bowl: #25 USC Trojans vs. Wisconsin Badgers

A California bowl pitting the Pac-12 against the Big Ten? Think of it as a junior Rose Bowl, if only to needle Trojan fans about how long it's been since they last made one. (Seven years, by the way.) It's actually the second bowl for coach-for-real-this-time Clay Helton, who led USC to a victory in the 2013 Las Vegas Bowl against who cares, it was the 2013 Las Vegas Bowl. Barry Alvarez is in the interregnum period between his biennial bowl coaching ventures, but if Paul Chryst looks like he's being controlled by strings on the sideline, he is - that's Alvarez.

Illuminati Pick: Wisconsin

Thursday, December 31

Peach Bowl: #18 Houston Cougars vs. #9 Florida State Seminoles

This is the nightmare scenario for #FSUtwitter realized. They're in a New Years Six bowl AS THEY SHOULD BE, but 1) it's the clear undercard to the only other games being played today, which are the two semifinals, and 2) it's against Houston, the group of five qualifier to the New Years Six. All of this means people won't be #talkinbouttheNoles enough, by which I mean even less than enough than usual. We're never talkin' 'bout the Noles enough, y'all.

Illuminati Pick: FSU

Orange Bowl: #4 Oklahoma Sooners vs. #1 Clemson Tigers

Can we all make a promise to each other? That, no matter what happens in this first semifinal, we don't use the term "Clemsoning"? I know we've had fun with it in years past, mostly because Clemson sucked a lot of those years, but.... it's the dang semifinal, y'all. It's going to be the #1 and #4 teams in the country beating the snot out of each other. One of these teams will play for a national championship, and if it's not Clemson, well, they lost to a national finalist. It's time to let it go.

Until next year.

Illuminati Pick: Clemson

Cotton Bowl: #3 Michigan State Spartans vs. #2 Alabama Crimson Tide

The second semifinal will ring in the new year, which may pose a big of a problem for people who, you now, want to enjoy a New Years Eve party. But honestly, you're likely going to be living the Bama fan experience at your own New Years party anyway. Just make sure cheap bourbon is your liquor of choice and yell "ROLL TIDE" a lot. You can be festive and get your semifinal watching on. Everyone wins.

Illuminati Pick: Michigan State

Friday, January 1

Outback Bowl: #13 Northwestern Wildcats vs. #23 Tennessee Volunteers

It's the first game of the new year! Unless you're actually in Australia, in which case it's like, the third. Northwestern is undefeated outside of falling into a two game hole at midseason where they were outscored 78-10, while Tennessee ran off five straight wins at season's end to overcome a shaky first half. All of this to play in a game that's going to be overshadowed by the Fiesta Bowl that starts an hour later. Still, a New Years Day bowl game in Orlando is hard to beat, and everyone will be checking back in periodically to see whether they're headed to Outback for a free Bloomin' Onion or order of coconut shrimp.

Illuminati Pick: Tennessee

Citrus Bowl: #14 Michigan Wolverines vs. #19 Florida Gators

A bowl that once was played with national championship implications is now sponsored by a bro sports bar. These are the times we live in. If the sight of Notre Dame and Ohio State battling in one of the most prestigious games in college football offends you - and, honestly, this is a pretty decent number of people - you can flip over to this game instead. But be forewarned: Florida's has been searching for touchdowns since Will Grier was ruled ineligible, and they've been coming up empty as of late. You know what, suddenly Outback is sounding pretty good....

Illuminati Pick: Michigan

Fiesta Bowl: #8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. #7 Ohio State Buckeyes

This one is for all the obstacle courses. That's what BattleFrog does. Obstacle courses. I am among the group who considers sponsored bowl game names to be sacrilege, but the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl just seemed right, you know? Fiesta Bowl, corn chips, salsa.... sure, why not? I don't see a two hour, grueling, mud filled obstacle course fitting into those plans. Plus, the top bowls tend to be anchored by household names: AT&T, Nokia, FedEx, etc. You probably only know what BattleFrog is because I just told you, and I had to look it up. They probably walked in looking to grab one of Arizona's lower tier bowls, but the Fiesta Bowl contract was missing a zero so they just signed it before anyone realized the mistake.

Illuminati Pick: Notre Dame

Rose Bowl: #6 Stanford Cardinal vs. #5 Iowa Hawkeyes

It's the grand-daddy of them all, which explains why it's stubborn and unwilling to change. We could have, you know, had the playoff semifinal games be the last two New Years Six games, but nooooo. You lazy millennials, thinking you can have sense in your football just because you want it. Back in my day, the Rose Bowl was played January 1st, and we had split national championships, and we liked it that way, damn it. Now sit down and enjoy this bowl that thinks it's more important than every other one because it's tradition.

Illuminati Pick: Stanford

Sugar Bowl: #16 Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. #12 Ole Miss Rebels

For the second straight year, SEC West runner up Ole Miss is in a New Years Six bowl, by virtue of.... I don't know, I guess for beating Alabama? Also for the second straight year: they're facing a Big 12 foe, this time in the form of Oklahoma State. This scenario didn't really work out for the Rebels last year, but hey, maybe second time's the charm.

Illuminati Pick: Oklahoma State

Saturday, January 2

TaxSlayer Bowl: Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Georgia Bulldogs

Georgia fans who have been yelling "FIRE SCHOTTY" all season will technically get their wish following this game, but they'll have to endure Schottenheimer as their interim head coach before that happens. Wait, no, he won't be coaching, so expect UGA's offense to be eleven sandcastles. Penn State's offensive coordinator has already been fired, so look forward to Christian Hackenberg just making stuff up before most likely bolting for the NFL.

Don't watch this game. Unless you absolutely loathe offense and everything it stands for.

Illuminati Pick: Penn State

Liberty Bowl: Kansas State Wildcats vs. Arkansas Razorbacks

It's a good thing Kansas State beat West Virginia in the season's final weekend, otherwise they'd have missed out on a bowl date with the Pig King himself. I'm just kidding - the Wildcats were slotted into the Liberty Bowl when they were still 5-6 thanks to their APR, so the likelihood of us getting another Bert sound bite we wish we could unhear is high. Wonderful. This is a friendly reminder the ACC has zero tie-ins to January bowls.

Illuminati Pick: Arkansas

Alamo Bowl: #15 Oregon Ducks vs. #11 TCU Horned Frogs

This could maybe be seen as another Consolation Bowl (along with the Russell Athletic Bowl above), but neither team went from maybe-playoff to out of the New Years Six at season's end like UNC and Baylor did. Their hopes were sunk much earlier. (Yes, Oregon getting bombed at home by Utah is still a thing that happened. Very real. Very official.) TCU is used to high flying offense in the Big 12, so they'll feel right at home playing Oregon, who is basically a Big 12 team with a craft beer and lots of hipster cred.

This game is going to be fun, and a nice coda before the nation champ- aw crud there's one more game isn't there

Illuminati Pick: Oregon

Cactus Bowl: West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Arizona State Sun Devils

You know, with a 10:15 PM ET kickoff, this is the last #Pac12AfterDark game of the season, so I can't complain too much. #Pac12AfterDark would scare most east coast teams, but West Virginia is arriving with truck beds full of moonshine and an exciting opportunity to shoot some desert varmints. Just keep an eye on Dana Holgorsen, because there's a nonzero chance he drinks half a bowl of peyote before coaching the game.

Illuminati Pick: Arizona State

Monday, January 11

CFP National Championship game: Cotton Bowl winner (Michigan State or Alabama) vs. Orange Bowl Winner (Oklahoma or Clemson)

We return to the scene of Fiestas forgotten for the second ever College Football Playoff championship. Will Clemson finally put "Clemsoning" to bed forever until next August? Will Michigan State give the Big Ten a second consecutive championship? Will Alabama finally end their interminable championship drought and claim number 16*? Or will Oklahoma show the Big 12 what "One. True. Champion." finally means? Whichever happens, have fun trying to explain away your Tuesday morning hangover to your boss.

Illuminati Pick: Clemson