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2016 Illuminati Bowlstravaganza






Saturday, December 17

New Mexico Bowl: New Mexico Lobos vs. UTSA Roadrunners

Once again, the postseason excitement kicks off with the New Mexico Bowl, now in its eleventh year. UTSA and rookie head coach Frank Wilson are in their first bowl ever, playing Bob Davie and his New Mexico Lobos in their home stadium. Which would seem unfair, but the Lobos are 1-2 in this game, so, eh. The trophy is a bona fide piece of Pueblo pottery with Pueblo symbols and the New Mexico Bowl logo, which is both kind of cool and a reminder there is nothing branding can’t seep its way into.

Illuminati pick: New Mexico

Las Vegas Bowl: Houston Cougars vs. San Diego State Aztecs

This year the Showdown in Sin City brings us a matchup between a powerful G5 conference champion and the Houston Cougars. Now-former Houston coach Tom Herman has left for greener pastures in Austin, but that’s okay, because it gives us a head coaching matchup of Rocky Long vs. Todd Orlando, and I can’t think of a better place for two coaches with porn star names to meet than in Las Vegas.

Illuminati pick: San Diego State

Camellia Bowl: Appalachian State Mountaineers vs. Toledo Rockets

App State captured their first Sun Belt title this year in just their third year in the conference, and their reward for that was..... a trip to the exact same bowl they went to last year. (Meanwhile, co-champ Arkansas State, who finished two games behind the Mountaineers, kicks off at the same time in Orlando. How’s that fair?) The bright side for App State is this game vs. Toledo should be much more watchable..... but it’s still sponsored by Raycom, so in terms of production, it’ll probably be less watchable.

Illuminati pick: App State

Cure Bowl: UCF Knights vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves

You see a 6-6 AAC team and a 7-5 Sun Belt team in this game, and you really start to wonder just what kind of “cure” is being offered here. Though, it must be pointed out UCF’s first year head coach Scott Frost has done something pretty remarkable in getting the Knights bowl eligible a year after they went 0-12. So, I wouldn’t say they’re completely cured yet, but they are a good ways into the recovery process. Any day you’re not bed-ridden is a good day.

Illuminati pick: UCF

New Orleans Bowl: Southern Miss Golden Eagles vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

Louisiana is bowl-eligible once again after a one year setback, which means they have reclaimed their rightful spot in the New Orleans Bowl. The good news for the Cajuns is they’re 4-0 in this game. The bad news is officially they’re 2-0, after having to vacate their first and third appearances. This being their fifth, it’s also in danger of being vacated sometime in the near future.... but those other two were also on odd years, so they might be safe. Care to take a gamble on it?

Illuminati pick: Louisiana

Monday, December 19

Miami Beach Bowl: Central Michigan Chippewas vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Man, nothing says “early bowl season” quite like a football game being played in a money pit of an MLB stadium. The first two Miami Beach Bowls have provided more excitement than all of the last two seasons of Miami Marlins baseball, so make sure to keep this game open in a very small window while you pretend to get work done six days before Christmas.

Illuminati pick: Tulsa

Tuesday, December 20

Boca Raton Bowl: Memphis Tigers vs. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

Conference USA champ WKU just lost head coach Jeff Brohm, who decided he wanted to go work for Mike Bobinski in Indiana. Meanwhile, Memphis coach Mike Norvell has done a pretty decent job in his first year replacing Fightin’ Justin Fuente, with the Tigers coming in hot after a post-Thanksgiving victory over Houston. Just make sure your team doesn’t get into any fights like y’all did the last time you were in a Florida bowl game, okay, Tigers?

Illuminati pick: Memphis

Wednesday, December 21

Poinsettia Bowl: BYU Cougars vs. Wyoming Cowboys

These former Mountain West conference mates are meeting in sunny San Diego for the first time since 2010. BYU holds a seven game winning streak over the Cowboys, but the only streak Wyoming coach Craig Bohl cares about is the streak of four straight FCS he won at North Dakota State before deciding that wasn’t enough of a challenge and taking the reigns in Laramie. He’s beaten bigger, badder teams with less when he was in Fargo. He ain’t scared.

Illuminati pick: Wyoming

Thursday, December 22

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Idaho Vandals vs. Colorado State Rams

A late December trip to Boise seems more like a punishment than a reward, no matter how many potatoes you throw in the deal. But for Idaho, the weather ain’t no thing, and with their impending drop to FCS they’ll take any trip that’s offered, especially one that gives them a chance to win on their rival’s home blue turf. Colorado State shouldn’t be phased either, so if you’re not expecting Mike Bobo to run the dang ball, that’s on you. (He does it a lot, and for a lot of points.)

Illuminati pick: Colorado State

Friday, December 23

Bahamas Bowl: Eastern Michigan Eagles vs. Old Dominion Monarchs

We’re in year three of the Bahamas Bowl, sponsored by Popeyes, and there still ain’t a single Popeyes in the Bahamas! They have locations in Trinidad and the Cayman Island, but you can go kick rocks, Bahamas. ODU is making their bowl debut, and it’s been nearly 30 years since Eastern Michigan last went bowling, so you’d think the least these people could do is get them some fresh Popeyes. The trip to the Bahamas is nice too, I guess.

Illuminati pick: ODU

Armed Forces Bowl: Louisiana Tech Bulldogs vs. #25 Navy Midshipmen

In case a bowl game sponsored by Lockheed Martin and with the tagline “Bowl for the Brave” wasn’t enough ‘Murica for you, Navy is here too. The Midshipmen were gunning for a Cotton Bowl spot before Temple shot down their conference championship hopes, and they were sunk by Army in their annual rivalry game. I’m uncomfortable with these combat metaphors already. Louisiana Tech also lost their championship game, but with less riding on it they may not be as shell-shocked. Dang it, I did it again.

Illuminati pick: Navy

Dollar General Bowl: Ohio Bobcats vs. Troy Trojans

Bowl title sponsorships are so cheap you can buy them for a dollar these days, although that apparently was still too much for GoDaddy. Ohio continues to be punished for its regular season success by getting thrown into Alabama bowl games against really good Sun Belt teams. And despite dropping their last game to Georgia Southern, Troy is still really good. But the Bobcats have already played Really Good Western Michigan, which is more than adequate preparation.

Illuminati pick: Ohio

Thursday, December 24

Hawai'i Bowl: Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors vs. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

After a five year absence, Hawai’i is bowling again, in a bowl game in their very own stadium, again. Which, uh, seems kind of unfair, doesn’t it? The Rainbow Warriors have a deal in place where they’ll always go to the Hawai’i Bowl, unless they qualify for a New Year’s Six bowl. So every time they go bowling, another team is robbed of a holiday trip to Hawai’i. And hey, wouldn’t they like to travel for their bowl game every once in a while? Boise ain’t the nicest place in December, but at least it’s different.

Illuminati pick: Middle Tennessee

Monday, December 26

St. Petersburg Bowl: Miami (OH) Redhawks vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs

Your post-Christmas hangover day starts off bright and early at 11am with the Mississippi State Bulldogs and the Miami Hurricanes. Wait, no, sorry - it’s the other Miami. The Redhawks were one of football’s worst teams in the first half of the season, starting out 0-6, but flipped a switch and crawled their way to bowl eligibility form there. Mississippi State is here, of course, because It Just Means More, and by “it”, I do mean their APR, which was good enough to get them into a bowl at 5-7. Yes, I’m shocked a Mississippi school was capable of that, too.

On second thought, it’s the day after Christmas. You can sleep in.

Illuminati pick: Miami

Quick Lane Bowl: Maryland Terrapins vs. Boston College Eagles

Well, this certainly is a football game. You’ve got Boston College, who remembered how to score points and win again this year! And you have Maryland, who... *shuffles through papers* has played football this year. If you’re starved for football, this is here, and ACC fans who enjoy watching Maryland suffer may have some interest. Otherwise, hey, those Christmas leftovers aren’t doing any good just sitting in the fridge.

Illuminati pick: Boston College

Independence Bowl: NC State Wolfpack vs. Vanderbilt Commodores

A day filled with such wonderful college football games gets the main event it deserves with the Independence Bowl. Seriously - these three games feature six teams whose combined records fall short of .500. A surprisingly better than expected Vanderbilt is here, as is a maybe-not-surprisingly worse than expected NC State, and you just know they’re so excited to play each other in a bowl game in Shreveport. This post-Christmas, declare your independence from crappy bowl games. Go play with your new Christmas gifts instead.

Illuminati pick: NC State

Tuesday, December 27

Heart of Dallas Bowl: Army Black Knights vs. North Texas Mean Green

This year’s Heart of Dallas Bowl was very nearly a double-asterisk game: UNT is in at 5-7 thanks to their APR score, and Army was 6-5 with two of those coming over FCS schools..... buuuut Army’s surprising, streak-snapping win over Navy got them qualified proper. What’s fun about this game? It already happened. The Mean Green defeated the Black Knights in West Point back in week 8. It’s only fitting the rematch takes place in the old Cotton Bowl, one of the most hallowed cathedrals in college football.

Illuminati pick: Army

Military Bowl: #24 Temple Owls vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

After deep-sixing Navy’s conference championship hopes in Annapolis a couple weeks ago, Temple is returning to the scene of the crime to see if they can pick up one last win on the season and set a school record. Standing in their way is.... Wake Forest? Yes! They’re bowl eligible again! This seems like a far easier task for the Owls, but with now-former head coach Matt Rhule having been plucked by Baylor, it’s up to interim coach Ed Foley to handle it. He hasn’t been a head coach in over a decade, and that was a 7-15 stint at FCS Fordham, so things could get weird in Annapolis, especially now that the Deacons have sniffed out a mole who’d been hiding amongst their ranks for years.

Illuminati pick: Temple

Holiday Bowl: Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Washington State Cougars

Wazzu has had one of the strangest seasons in recent memory - bookend the season with two losses on each end, and all to Definitely Good teams. (Yes, Eastern Washington counts, kind of.) That loss to Washington in the Apple Cup knocked the Cougars out of the Pac-12 title race, but they’re gonna be just fine in the long run. Minnesota made the arguably uninspired decision to take the interim tag off Tracy Claeys after Jerry Kill’s medical retirement last year, but so far that seems to have worked out alright for the Gophers. Not a lot of interesting storylines here, but it’ll be fun.

Illuminati pick: Wazzu

Cactus Bowl: Boise State Broncos vs. Baylor Bears

Baylor’s year of football purgatory is not quite done. No, they must suffer just a bit more. Their final author of pain will be the Broncos of Boise State, who were likely just one close loss away (of two) from grabbing the access slot in the Cotton Bowl. Some games look like complete mismatches on paper but end up being competitive on the field, and this is definitely not one of them. Boise is a complete team, and Baylor is going to have its shambles blasted to smithereens.

Illuminati pick: Boise State

Wednesday, December 28

Pinstripe Bowl: #23 Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Northwestern Wildcats

Ah, the Pinstripe Bowl, also known as “the one where Duke finally got a dang bowl win”. Northwestern is located just outside of Chicago, a town famed for its baseball history, so it should feel right at home playing in a baseball stadium. Thankfully, they won’t have to play with any dumb pickup rules like they did the last time they played in a baseball stadium. Pitt emerged from the season a quiet giant-killer, finishing 8-4 but holding victories over teams that finished in the top 5. They’ve already slain deadly Lions and Tigers - think some pesky wildcats are gonna bother them?

Illuminati pick: Pitt

Russell Athletic Bowl: #16 West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Miami Hurricanes

The Russell Athletic Bowl has become the bowl where you go when you almost win your conference - so what Miami is doing here is anyone’s guess. West Virginia’s losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were all that kept the Mountaineers from a Big 12 title and a playoff spot, so they’ll have to settle for seeing how a couch bonfire holds up in a hurricane. While we’re here, let’s hope for some Mark Richt-WVU fan interactions. I’d like to see Reverend Richt’s reaction when offered some West Virginia corn moonshine.

Illuminati pick: West Virginia

Foster Farms Bowl: Indiana Hoosiers vs. #19 Utah Utes

One of the funnest parts of bowl season is seeing all the title sponsors that you never hear from outside of bowl season. What is Foster Farms? I don’t know, but I’m sure they’re going to have some kind of weird commercials that stick in my head for at least a week after the game. Kevin Wilson had Indiana trending upwards, leading the Hoosiers to consecutive bowl games for the first time in 25 years, but it turns out there was some nasty business going on in Bloomington, so he’s gone now. Kyle Whittingham has been with the Utes for twelve years now, is probably never leaving, and is definitely annoyed at just barely finishing third in the Pac-12 South behind USC and Colorado and getting stuck with this matchup. He’s beaten Bama, you know!

Illuminati pick: Utah

Texas Bowl: Texas A&M Aggies vs. Kansas State Wildcats

The Texas Bowl almost found itself in a pickle with no Texas team in the Big 12 being good enough to make the game. Fortunately, they remembered the SEC has a Texas team, thus ensuring the Texas Bowl continues to have a team from, you know, Texas. The Aggies’ opponent is old Big 12 foe Kansas State, who perhaps surprisingly only trails in the series by a single game. The Wildcats already went 4-0 against the aforementioned Big 12 Texas teams, so a win against the Aggies would not only even the series, but earn them the right to once again call themselves the state champions of Texas.

Illuminati pick: Kansas State

Thursday, December 29

Birmingham Bowl: South Florida Bulls vs. South Carolina Gamecocks

South Carolina meets South Florida in a battle to decide supremacy of..... I’m not really sure what these two would even be fighting over, honestly. South Carolina coach Will Muschamp has an odd history with decaying Legion Field: this is the third straight year he has coached (or coordinated) a team into this bowl, but it’s only the first time he’ll actually be coaching in it. After this experience, he’ll probably hope it’s the last time as well.

Illuminati pick: South Florida

Belk Bowl: Arkansas Razorbacks vs. #22 Virginia Tech Hokies

The Belk Bowl was unable to select a team from North Carolina this year, but they did the best they could in selecting Virginia Tech from the ACC. After all, everyone knows the state of Virginia’s nickname is “North North Carolina”. The Hokies’ opponent is none other than THE BERT SHOW, in what is actually the first ever meeting between the two schools. It certainly won’t be the last, however; once the SEC finally expands to 16 and adds VT they’ll be slotted as cross-division rivals and get to play every year!

Illuminati pick: Virginia Tech

Alamo Bowl: #12 Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. #10 Colorado Buffaloes

There will always be bowls that, while not having attained “major” status, are as close as you can get. Those used to be the Cotton and Peach Bowls, but now that they’re major again, the Alamo is one which has stepped up to fill the void. Last year TCU famously overcame a 31-0 halftime deficit to Oregon to beat the Ducks in triple overtime. I’m not sure if Oklahoma State and Colorado - two teams who just missed out on conference championships - can raise the bar, but it’s gonna be fun regardless.

Illuminati pick: Oklahoma State

Friday, December 30

Liberty Bowl: Georgia Bulldogs vs. TCU Horned Frogs

It’s the last Friday of the year; why wouldn’t you treat yourself to some Georgia Bulldogs football at high noon? (Don’t answer that. I know there’s, like, 37 reasons.) I’m sure bowling in Memphis was Georgia’s plan when they fired Mark Richt to get the Saban acolyte they’d always really wanted. TCU is also here, having nearly toppled Big 12 champion Oklahoma before turning around and almost losing to Big 12 doormat Kansas. Look, I’ll be honest: you don’t have to watch this game, and you already know how this is ends - a bunch of dumb stuff happens and Georgia wins. There, I’ve saved you the two hours you were going to spend before flipping to the Sun Bowl.

Illuminati pick: Georgia

Sun Bowl: #18 Stanford Cardinal vs. UNC Tar Heels

Last year UNC played a quarterback-less Baylor in the Russell Athletic Bowl, and, uh, that didn’t end up working out real well for them. But hey, it’s okay, it’s not like Stanford has a terrifying run game or a Christian McCaffrey who finally remembered he’s one of the most explosive players in college football or anything. I’m sure the Tar Heels are prepared after last year’s embarrassment and are going to be just fine.

Illuminati pick: Stanford

Music City Bowl: #21 Tennessee Volunteers vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Tennessee is staying in its home state for its bowl game this year, a fact Music City Bowl organizers are evidently very excited about! They’re also planning on wearing their “smokey grey” uniforms to honor victims of the recent fires in the state, which.... sure, okay. Nebraska arrives in Nashville having returned to their nine-winning ways. Winning number ten would require beating Tennessee, but if the scuttlebutt about the Vols existing in a state of disarray is true, that may not be too difficult an ask.

Illuminati pick: Nebraska

Arizona Bowl: South Alabama Jaguars vs. Air Force Fighting Falcons

The Arizona Bowl has cleared up that nasty intra-conference business that plagued the bowl last year, which is good. Less good is the fact it’s still not nationally televised. Fortunately, it is available on something called Campus Insiders, which - no lie - holds the streaming rights to the game. I’m not at all familiar with Campus Insiders, so you’re going to have to convince me streaming live sports games from there is safer than doing it from [REDACTED] or [REDACTED].

Illuminati pick: Air Force

Orange Bowl: #6 Michigan Wolverines vs. #11 Florida State Seminoles

Despite getting dragged to the tune of 63 points by Louisville back in week 3, FSU’s strong finish combined with the Cardinals’ nosedive allowed the Noles to snatch the ACC’s Orange Bowl spot. Their reward is a Michigan team, mighty unhappy about just missing out on the playoff and coached by a crazy person who likes his steak with a tall glass of milk. FSU is 2 for 2 in the playoff era in getting stomped in major bowl games, and there’s more than a decent chance the Noles make it 3 for 3. They’ll only have the Fiesta, Cotton, and Sugar remaining after this!

Illuminati pick: Michigan

Saturday, December 31

Citrus Bowl: #20 LSU Tigers vs. #13 Louisville Cardinals

The college football gods buried a sneaky-good football game right before the semifinals. Louisville’s season ending tailspin caused them a lot of embarrassment and cost them a spot in the Orange Bowl, but they still have newly crowned Heisman winner Lamar Jackson, a dazzler who can score almost at will. Meanwhile, a reinvigorated LSU has no-longer-interim Coach O at the helm and a very dangerous runner in Derrius Guice. Another fun wrinkle: these two have never played each other, ever. Get up early and watch this game. There are going to be lots of points, and it’s going to be awesome.

Illuminati pick: Louisville

TaxSlayer Bowl: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs. Kentucky Wildcats

Man, New Year’s Eve is packed to the gills with some solid college football! Three of the season’s best bowl games.... um, and then we’ve got the ol’ Gator Bowl, too. I mean, Georgia Tech and Kentucky finished the regular season on a high note with thrilling upsets over in-state rivals, but let’s face the facts: the Gator Bowl has fallen so far its title sponsor is some e-tax service headquartered outside of Augusta, Georgia. Kicking it off opposite the Citrus Bowl isn’t even fair. Is anyone even going to watch this? Is this thing on at all? Hello?

Illuminati pick: Georgia Tech

Peach Bowl: #4 Washington Huskies vs. #1 Alabama Crimson Tide

Eight years ago, Washington trudged through a winless season. Now Chris Petersen has the Huskies on the brink of immortality in just his third year, and just 25 years after their last national title. Unfortunately, their semifinal draw is against the unfeeling Crimson Tide, who exist only to win championships and destroy all who stand in their way of winning said championships. The Huskies are winless against the Tide in four previous meetings, and winning here is going to be an exceptionally tall order.... but if they can do it, sky’s the limit.

Illuminati pick: Alabama

Fiesta Bowl: #3 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. #2 Clemson Tigers

The other semifinal this year is a rematch of the last pre-playoff Orange Bowl. Which was a classic; you should watch it if you get the spare time. Clemson is looking to win the championship they couldn’t quite attain last year, and do to so they’ll likely have to come away with a victory in the championship. The Buckeyes are the next toughest thing, so expect a barn burner in Phoenix. Which means that, unlike last year, you’ll probably have to keep from getting too drunk at your New Year’s Eve party for this semifinal.

Illuminati pick: Clemson

Monday, January 2

Outback Bowl: #17 Florida Gators vs. Iowa Hawkeyes

The Ghost of Outback Bowls Past has returned to haunt us all again! The Gators and Hawkeyes have faced off in the Outback Bowl on two previous occasions, both being nigh-unwatchable (the 2006 edition even has its own mixtape). Can we expect redemption in 2017? Probably not. As always with this game, a free appetizer hangs in the balance, the identity of which depending on the winner, but...... I mean, you don’t have to watch this game to qualify. You can just go on the internet and find out later.

Illuminati pick: Iowa

Cotton Bowl: #15 Western Michigan Broncos vs. #8 Wisconsin Badgers

P.J. Fleck was once just a crazy man with a crazy dream. He showed up in Kalamazoo - a city with no natural bodies of water - in 2013 screaming “ROW THE BOAT” and he hasn’t stopped since. So he’s still a crazy man with a crazy dream, but sometimes, being crazy pays off and puts you in the Cotton Bowl. A win against Wisconsin would be the biggest in Western Michgan’s history, and you best believe Fleck will row that boat down the Trinity River all the way out to the Gulf of Mexico if it happens.

Illuminati pick: WMU

Rose Bowl: #9 USC Trojans vs. #5 Penn State Nittany Lions

It’s been eight years since USC - who has appeared in the Rose Bowl more than any other team - last made the game, and as fate would have it, they’re facing the same school they did last time. A lot of things have changed in college football since the 2008 season, but the Rose Bowl is still around, pitting the champions and thus the best teams from the Big Ten and the Pac-12 against each other. Wait, only one team is a champion this year? And the one that is isn’t the best team in its conference?? THE ROSE BOWL IS RUINED FOREVER.

Illuminati pick: Penn State

Sugar Bowl: #14 Auburn Tigers vs. #7 Oklahoma Sooners

Congratulations to Auburn, who join 2010 UConn and 2012 Wisconsin as the only 4+ loss teams to make a major bowl game! At least those other teams won their conferences; the Tigers are in ‘cause Alabama’s in the playoff and the Sugar Bowl has to take someone. So that falls to Auburn, who are ranked #14 at 8-4 because It Just Means More. Their reward for all this is facing Big 12 champ Oklahoma, who suffered early losses to Houston and Ohio State before ripping everyone’s arms off in conference play. They’re not Alabama, though, so maybe Auburn will have more success finding the endzone here than they did in the Iron Bowl.

Illuminati pick: OU

Monday, January 9

CFP National Championship game: Peach Bowl Winner vs. Fiesta Bowl Winner

This year’s College Football Playoff final is being played in temperate Tampa at Raymond James Stadium, because is it really a championship game if there’s not a pirate ship involved? Will Alabama get a playoff rematch with Clemson or Ohio State, or can Washington spring the upset, setting up a fresh matchup and placing a pause on the Tide’s dynasty? Whatever happens, be sure to take the day off to prepare yourself. And Tuesday, so you can properly mourn the season.

Illuminati pick: Alabama