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2017 Illuminati Bowlstravaganza



(Editor’s note: typical Illuminati Picks rules dictate you must submit your picks no later than noon on Saturday. Because of the nature of bowl season, picks will continue to be accepted on a rolling basis. Picks submitted after kickoff of a given game will be invalidated, but all picks for games yet to kick off are still valid.)



Saturday, December 16

New Orleans Bowl: Troy Trojans vs. North Texas Mean Green

This year’s bowl slate kicks off in New Orleans, which gives us the perfects excuse to be drunk already. Troy is here as a Sun Belt champion, while North Texas arrives as the C-USA runner-up for their first New Orleans Bowl since it made four straight as Sun Belt champs in 2001-04. You didn’t misread that: the Mean Green were killing it in the Fun Belt for a spell there under Darrell Dickey. UNT hopes to notch win number 10 on the season here, which would make this one of their best seasons ever. Troy.... well, they beat LSU earlier in the season in Baton Rouge. On homecoming. Y’all do remember that, right?

Illuminati pick: Troy

Cure Bowl: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers vs. Georgia State Panthers

The Cure Bowl is back for year three, and thus for the third consecutive year I’m forced to wonder exactly what cure is being offered here. This game overlaps the New Orleans Bowl at the beginning and the Las Vegas Bowl at the end, so you don’t need a cure for boredom. And while the New Orleans bowl pits a Sun Belt Champ and the C-USA runner up, and the Las Vegas Bowl has, you know, Boise and Oregon, the Cure pits two mid-pack G5 teams. So it’s not like you need a cure for bad football, as if this would provide one. But it is Georgia State’s second ever bowl, so that’s cool.

Illuminati pick: WKU

Las Vegas Bowl: #25 Boise State Broncos vs. Oregon Ducks

Oregon’s coming to Sin City, and the thought of that terrifies me from a uniforms perspective. Nike’s flagship institution and the neon lights capital of America? I can’t wait to see the Ducks modernizing neon by busting out their all-new LCD panel uniforms. Boise’s here too, after winning their Mountain West championship game rematch over Fresno State, and do we all remember the last time Boise and Oregon played? LeGarrette Blount ended his college career by punching a dude! Save your fists for the slot machines, okay, guys?

Illuminati pick: Boise State

New Mexico Bowl: Marshall Thundering Herd vs. Colorado State Rams

This a fantastic matchup when you consider the mascots. Rams vs. a thundering herd of...... I don’t know, what is Marshall a herd of? I’m pretty sure it’s bison. A bunch of those two animals facing off sounds fascinating and I want a Planet Earth episode about it next week.

Illuminati pick: Colorado State

Camellia Bowl: Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves

The Camellia Bowl is a relatively new bowl, having just started in 2014, but it’s title sponsor is Raycom Media, and thus it fittingly has a logo at least 20 years out of date. The last time Middle Tennessee and Arkansas State met, the Blue Raiders still called the Red Wolves conference mates, but they left the Sun Belt for C-USA in 2012 for..... well, I’m not exactly sure what, because they haven’t done much while Arkansas State added a few more conference titles to their trophy case. In this battle of Red vs. Blue, we will finally know which side is superior. Maybe.

Illuminati pick: Arkansas State

Tuesday, December 19

Boca Raton Bowl: Akron Zips vs. Florida Atlantic Owls

THE LANE TRAIN JUST KEEPS ROLLING ALONG, BABY! After winning their second conference championship in their program’s short history, FAU has been rewarded with not a bowl vacation, but a bowl staycation, because, dude, it’s Boca, and Joey Freshwater isn’t looking to score with any babes in the clubs of downtown Shreveport. Hey, um, Akron? You’re in the path of the Lane Train. That’s not good.

Illuminati pick: FAU

Wednesday, December 20

Frisco Bowl: Louisiana Tech Bulldogs vs. SMU Mustangs

The Miami Beach Bowl is dead. Long live the Miami Beach Bowl! In its place we now have the Frisco Bowl, so named because it is in.... Frisco, Texas. Because nothing screams college football like a game 30 minutes outside of Dallas, in a small soccer stadium, surrounded by a soccer complex. Do you even know where Frisco is? No, you don’t; I grew up in Dallas and I had to look it up. But it’s Wednesday, and Christmas is in five days, so it’s either this or wrapping presents. Plus, between the logo and the two participating teams, there’s a lot of red, white and blue here, so if you’re feeling patriotic, this might be the bowl for you.

Illuminati pick: SMU

Thursday, December 21

Gasparilla Bowl: Temple Owls vs. Florida International Panthers

We’ve done it, society. We finally have the true successor to the Poulan Weed-Eater Bowl: the Gasparilla Bowl, sponsored by Bad Boy freakin’ Mowers! How a regional brand of lawn mowers with dealers located as far away from major cities as possible managed to scrounge up enough money to sponsor a bowl game we may never know. Never give up on your dreams, kids. Oh, and I’m guessing you all have questions about “Gasparilla”, right? Well, according to the internet, it comes from the Gasparilla Pirate Festival, which has been running in Tampa for over a century, and whose name in turn was inspired by Spanish pirate Jose Gaspar. That sounds incredibly Tampa, so props to you, Gasparilla Bowl, for being possibly the most on-brand bowl of 2017.

Illuminati pick: Temple

Friday, December 22

Bahamas Bowl: UAB Blazers vs. Ohio Bobcats

UAB football has risen from the ashes. They have returned from death itself with a resounding triumph, having notched their highest win total since 1992, the year they entered Division I. And now they get to play a bowl game in the Bahamas vs. a MAC team. If you’re not familiar with the Bahamas Bowl, it’s usually pretty awesome, and I used to complain about it being sponsored by Popeye’s despite there being no Popeye’s on the Bahamas. Well, now there are two! What a time to be alive.

Illuminati pick: UAB

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Central Michigan Chippewas vs. Wyoming Cowboys

You know, the name here is intended to imply the potatoes are the famous part of this bowl. But really, isn’t it the bowl itself? It’s held on the frozen blue tundra of Boise State’s stadium, and someone with an ironic sense of humor called it “Humanitarian”. And even more famous than that might be Wyoming coach Craig Bohl, formerly of North Dakota State, the dynasty he built with his own hand. He doesn’t have the Cowboys in championship position yet, but, you know, it’s a bit harder to win there, and consecutive bowl berths is a nice step forward for them. Central Michigan.... well, they once had Dan LeFevour.

Illuminati pick: Central Michigan

Saturday, December 23

Birmingham Bowl: Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. South Florida Bulls

Last year, USF won ten games, just missed out on the AAC championship game, and ended up in Birmingham. This year..... they’ve won nine games, just missed out on the AAC championship game, and are in Birmingham again. Birmingham is their new postseason home; they’re basically Pitt now. This is also the game where two years ago a relative of Reggie Ball stole a game ball from the opposing team after the game. Still not sure what that was about.

Illuminati pick: USF

Armed Forces Bowl: San Diego State Aztecs vs. Army Black Knights

The Armed Forces Bowl is sponsored by Lockheed-Martin, because the only thing more American than football is military imperialism. Future Georgia Tech head coach Jeff Monken’s star is bright: he broke the long losing streak against Navy last year, made it two in a row this year, and has already coached the Black Knights to their best season in over two decades. San Diego State? They beat Stanford early in the season and they’ve got Rashaad Penny. It’s gonna be a fun one, y’all.

Illuminati pick: San Diego State

Dollar General Bowl: Appalachian State vs. Toledo Rockets

Dollar General is where you go to get budget versions of things; fittingly, this is a budget version of the Rose Bowl, pitting a Sun Belt Champion App State against the MAC champs Toledo. So we’re getting the highest quality #MACtion, the highest quality #FunBelt, all for budget prices. I mean, I’m assuming, since this is the Dollar General Bowl.

Oh. Ticket prices are pretty standard. Okay.

Illuminati pick: App State

Sunday, December 24

Hawai'i Bowl: Fresno State Bulldogs vs. Houston Cougars

Just about everyone has a Christmas Eve tradition, be it opening the presents early or ending the night with an eggnog. Me, my tradition is watching the Hawai’i Bowl. It’s not my family’s tradition, just mine. They wish I’d spend more time with them, but how can I when there are so many bowls on? And what better Christmas present could there be than Fresno State vs. Houston? Okay wait I can actually think of a few things like maybe a b-

Illuminati pick: Fresno State

Tuesday, December 26

Heart of Dallas Bowl: Utah Utes vs. West Virginia Mountaineers

Oh, this is going to be fun. I mean, the game should be good, but the fan interactions! Mormons from Utah and the couch-burners of WVU. A fanbase who probably distilled the moonshine they’re drinking themselves, illegally, and one where the status of caffeinated Coke is....... questionable. The Cotton Bowl should just host a Utah-WVU game every year.

Illuminati pick: WVU

Quick Lane Bowl: Duke Blue Devils vs. Northern Illinois Huskies

Y’all remember Duke, right? They’re the team that made Ted Roof’s defense look dumb (no, the other one.... no, not that one.... okay, so that’s not exactly exclusive company), and also who celebrated going bowling by...... well, going bowling. This is their thirteenth bowl ever, and coach David Cutcliffe has taken the Blue Devils to five of them. Cutcliffe also recently turned down Tennessee in their coaching search - he’s going to coach there until he dies, standing up, and once he does the statue they dedicate to him will just be his body they gilded and stood outside Wallace Wade Stadium. NIU, I’m sorry, I cannot point to a single thing you’ve done this season and say with confidence I remember it. That’s on me.

Illuminati pick: NIU

Cactus Bowl: Kansas State Wildcats vs. UCLA Bruins

Some controversy is a-brewin’ over in Manhattan, Kansas: coach Bill Snyder plans on coaching the Wildcats next year, when he turns 79. It’s pretty much an objective fact Snyder has done things for KSU no one else in modern history has; it’s also true he’s going to be, uh 79 next year, and things have been trending downward for the ‘Cats the past few years. UCLA? The exact opposite. They just hired Chip Kelly! They’re going to be partying in the stands regardless of how the game is going.

Illuminati pick: Kansas State

Wednesday, December 27

Independence Bowl: Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles vs. Florida State Seminoles

Congratulations, Florida State! Thanks to some quick thinking, you got that cancelled game against Louisiana-Monroe rescheduled, giving you that last win you needed to reach bowl eligibility and keep your record bowl streak(*) alive! Sure, you’re without your nation championship winning coach, but I heard what he said on the way out, and, between you and me, I’m actually on your side here. You’re better off with a coach that doesn’t actively hate you, and that probably takes some of the sting out of playing a C-USA team in the Independence Bowl.

Illuminati pick: FSU

Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Boston College Eagles

This one is tough for me, personally. Not because I have any strong feelings toward either team, but because of the families it’s pitting against each other. Damn you, college football, why are you trying to sow dissent within the New Day? Is nothing sacred?

Outside of the civil wars this bowl game is stoking, I’m sure New Yorkers are delighted to know thousands of Bostonians will be visiting their city shortly after Christmas.

Illuminati pick: Iowa

Foster Farms Bowl: Arizona Wildcats vs. Purdue Boilermakers

Hiring Jeff Brohm away from WKU seems to have paid off for Bill Connelly’s favorite football team, as he has the Boilermakers back in a bowl game for the first time in five years. The problem? Arizona is the opponent, and ohhhh you best believe they’re bringing Khalil Tate with them. That gives everyone a reason to want to tune to this one.

Illuminati pick: Arizona

Texas Bowl: Texas Longhorns vs. Missouri Tigers

I’ll be honest with y’all: when Mizzou lost to Purdue 35-3 at home early in the season, I kind of figured the Tigers were done already. Imagine my surprise at seeing their name called on Bowl Selection Sunday! And their reward is a Texas team that’s limping into the post season! On the other hand, we all know how rare bowl berths are for the Longhorns, so maybe they’ll be extra motivated. Plus, it’s the Texas Bowl. It’s basically their bowl. Hey, wait, I see what’s going on here.

Illuminati pick: Mizzou

Thursday, December 28

Military Bowl: Virginia Cavaliers vs. Navy Midshipmen

The Imperialism series continues with the Military Bowl, sponsored by your friendly neighborhood Northrop Grumman. Bronco Mendenhall has done a pretty impressive job of turning Virginia around, going from 2-10 last year to getting the Cavaliers to their first bowl game in six years. On the other side, Ken Niumatalolo(whose name I can still spell perfectly without having to look up) and his Midshipmen have had a rough go this year, dropping six of their last seven to finish 6-6. But they’re back home for a bowl game, and Virginia’s probably feeling pretty good, having easily defeated Georgia Tech earlier this season. But here’s the thing: Navy actually has a defense.

Illuminati pick: Navy

Camping World Bowl: #22 Virginia Tech Hokies vs. #19 Oklahoma State Cowboys

Russell Athletic has dropped their sponsorship of this bowl, which combined with Georgia Tech’s early exit this season means college football is finally cleansed of its presence. The Bowl Formerly Known as Russell tends to be one of the best non-major bowls - who can forget Clemson mauling Oklahoma in 2014, or Baylor running all over UNC in 2015 with zero quarterbacks? - and VT vs. OSU promises to be even more fun. And it’s fresh, too - the two have met only twice before, splitting a home-and-home in 1971-72. That’s so long ago, the Hokies were being coached by the guy before the guy before the guy before Frank Beamer, and Mike Gundy’s Mullet was still in mullet kindergarten.

Illuminati pick: Virginia Tech

Alamo Bowl: #13 Stanford Cardinal vs. #15 TCU Horned Frogs

Along with the Athletic Gear Provider Bowl, the Alamo Bowl is the other game to have morphed into almost-but-not-quite major status following the advent of the New Year’s Six. TCU is back, two years after engineering the biggest comeback in the history of our sport. No, seriously, the Oregon Ducks did the Falcons thing way before the Falcons did it, and did it worse. They’re facing Stanford, which is generally not good news, because the Cardinal are toting Bryce Love. If you haven’t already made yourself comfortable for the preceding Camping World Bowl, you’re going to want to for this one.

Illuminati Pick: Stanford

Holiday Bowl: #18 Washington State Cougars vs. #16 Michigan State Spartans

How do you constantly manage to disappoint me, Wazzu? 9-3 sounds great on paper, but those three losses are some of the dumbest in history. 37-3 to Cal? Wetting the bed in the Apple Cup when a win would have put you in the Pac-12 championship? You disgust me. Michigan State, you’ve rebounded quite nicely after going 3-9 last season, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to forget you got dumped by Ohio State 48-3. This is the mega-undercard game to the Rose Cotton Bowl’s USC-Ohio State matchup, and.... wait, how many B1G-Pac 12 bowl matchups were there this year? Five? What’s going on?

Illuminati pick: Michigan State

Friday, December 29

Belk Bowl: Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs. Texas A&M Aggies

It’s the most Belkingest time of the yeeeeeeeeeeeear!

We’ve got Wake Forest bowling

The Aggies Jimbo-ing

And no Longhorns here!

It’s the most Belkingest time of the yeeeeeeeeeeeear!

Illuminati pick: Texas A&M

Sun Bowl: #24 NC State Wolfpack vs. Arizona State Sun Devils

Putting the Sun Devils in the Sun bowl seems like a bit of an unfair advantage for Arizona State. Then again, they just hired Herm Edwards - who hasn’t coached in a decade, and has never coached college ball - and he has..... issues with the “Devils” part, so, uh, good luck with that in the future, ASU. NC State.... boy, y’all. This season had so much promise, and then Notre Dame happened, and then Clemson happened, and then y’all lost to Wake Forest for some reason. That’s how you end up as the ACC team in El Paso. Learn your lessons next year, let you be cursed to repeat them.

Illuminati pick: NC State

Music City Bowl: Kentucky Wildcats vs. #21 Northwestern Wildcats

These two Wildcat teams walked very different paths on the way to Nashville: Northwestern started the season 2-3 and ended up 9-3; Kentucky started 5-1, they’re now 7-5. Fortunately for Kentucky, they’re used to seeing a lot of wins in Nashville. In basketball, but still. I mean, Northwestern didn’t even make the NCAA tournament until last year, so Kentucky fans have that whole thing going for them.

Illuminati pick: Northwestern

Arizona Bowl: New Mexico State Aggies vs. Utah State Aggies

Nope, you’re not misreading: that’s New Mexico State in a bowl game! It’s the fourth ever for the boys from Las Cruces, and the first in 57 years. It’s been a good year for the Aggies, what with the bowl stuff and having notched wins over their two biggest rivals New Mexico and UTEP - who were also terrible! A bowl win over those northern Aggies would be the cherry on top. It’s a good story, and might be a fun game to keep an eye on while you wait for the Cotton Bowl to start.

Illuminati pick: New Mexico State

Cotton Bowl: #8 USC Trojans vs. #5 Ohio State Buckeyes

Man, the Cotton Bowl used to stand for something. It was always kickoff at high noon on New Year’s Day, or maaaaaybe January 2 if the almighty NFL needed that day. This year it kicks off at 8pm on the 29th! College football is ripping everything you hold dear out of your hand, throwing it on the ground, and stomping it into the dirt. The good news is this year’s Cotton Bowl features two superpowers of football, the bowl having lucked into the matchup since the Rose Bowl is, you know, busy. And if you have the $500 dollars you’ll need on hand to watch it live in Jerry Jones’ personal football stadium instead of in the Cotton Bowl where it should be, you can call it whatever you want.

Illuminati pick: USC

Saturday, December 30

TaxSlayer Bowl: Louisville Cardinals vs. #23 Mississippi State Bulldogs

I don’t know if any school wasted a talent this year as bad as Louisville wasted Lamar Jackson. Dude has a better year statistically than he did last year, when he won the Heisman, but those four division losses are just sitting there. And hey, at least didn’t lose to Houston again, or to Kentucky. Meanwhile Mississippi State is.... here, for a given definition of “here”: with Nick Fitzgerald lost to injury and Dan Mullen having followed the money to Gainesville, the Bulldogs are out a pretty large portion of what made them great. Just shout “DUVAAAAAAAL” at the top of your lungs and everything will be alright, Mississippi State. That’s what Jacksonville Jaguars fans have been doing for years, and after a decade of that it looks like it’s finally starting to pay off!

Illuminati pick: Louisville

Liberty Bowl: Iowa State Cyclones vs. #20 Memphis Tigers

Iowa State kind of fell off a bit there at the end of the season, but they still made a bowl game, so that qualifies this season as a rousing success for the Cyclones. Plus, they notched two victories over top five opponents - those being both of the Big 12 championship participants. No one else can say that, and this team should be forever remembered as the one that caused the most Big 12 chaos in 2017. Now they get Memphis, which was a conference championship game loss away from stealing the Peach Bowl slot from UCF. Should be a cinch, right?

Illuminati pick: Memphis

Fiesta Bowl: #11 Washington Huskies vs. #9 Penn State Nittany Lions

Saquon Barkley is (almost definitely) running off into the NFL-tinged sunset next spring, but before that, he has some business to take care of trying to win Penn State their first major bowl since 2005. In the Lions’ way stand Jake Browning and his Washington Huskies, looking for their first major bowl win since 2001. This matchup intrigues me not only because it’s a B1G-Pac 12 matchup in a major bowl, effectively making it the Intercontinental Championship of bowls, but it also feature’s last year’s B1G champ against last year’s Pac-12 champ. It’s like a glitch in time.

Illuminati pick: Penn State

Orange Bowl: #6 Wisconsin Badgers vs. #10 Miami Hurricanes

The U is back! Back home, that is, as notching their first major bowl berth in over a decade has them playing in the Orange Bowl, which is at Brand Name Stadium in Miami.... the home of the Hurricanes. But enough about them, let’s talk about their exact opposite: Wisconsin, who made it through the regular season undefeated, came agonizingly close to making the playoff, and.... it feels like no one cared? Are we all still mad at the Badgers for snuffing out Western Michigan in last year’s Cotton Bowl? Well, the good news for you, Wisconsin, is your role has been reversed now. Keep Miami’s touchdown drought intact and everyone will love you forever.

Illuminati pick: Wisconsin

Monday, January 1

Outback Bowl: Michigan Wolverines vs. South Carolina Gamecocks

Michigan vs. South Carolina in the Outback Bowl? Oh yes, my friends; it’s the rematch of that game. You know the one - it’s the one where Jadeveon Clowney destroyed a man’s soul live on basic cable. Sadly, the architects of that game are no longer with us - Steve Spurrier has retired to a permanent vacation on a golf course somewhere, and Brady Hoke was last seen unsuccessfully coaching the Tennessee Volunteers. Instead, this year’s edition pits Big Dumb Will Muschamp Football against the Master of Khakis. Tune in for all of that, and for SB Nation editor Ryan Nanni living his dream as the Outback Bowl Bloomin’ Onion.

Illuminati pick: Michigan

Peach Bowl: #12 Central Florida Knights vs. #7 Auburn Tigers

Well, here you are, UCF. You didn’t get into the playoff, but at #12 and undefeated, you are in Atlanta for a New Year’s Six bowl game. And, as a bonus, you get to face the only team that’s beaten Alabama so far this year! If you win, you’ll finally get that respect you so nakedly desire. If you lose, it all goes away. Either way, you face a scary new future without Scott Frost as he moves on to Nebraska. Nothing you’ve done matters. Auburn has given their existential gloom to you. They’ve already won!

Illuminati pick: Auburn

Citrus Bowl: #14 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. #17 LSU Tigers

The Citrus Bowl is going back to its roots for its iconography, which is both a good thing and a not good (and not intentional) pun. Notre Dame and LSU only seem to meet in the postseason these days, as this is the fourth time they’ve met in a bowl game in the past two decades. The other three games were an Independence Bowl in 1997, an embarrassing Sugar Bowl loss for the Irish in 2004, and an Irish upset in the 2014 Music City Bowl that was so good was happy to claim them for half a minute. Before they went 4-8, that is. So yeah, look for them to get crushed horribly, then crater back to 3-5 wins next year; repeat. That’s the new Irish Curse.

Illuminati pick: LSU

Rose Bowl: #3 Georgia Bulldogs vs. #2 Oklahoma Sooners

It’s been a decade, but the Georgia Bulldogs are finally back in a major bowl. And when their fans aren’t celebrating their first conference championship in a decade like they’re the second coming of Jesus Christ himself, they’re busy tracking down the opposing team’s quarterback’s phone number to harrass him:

We know he’s joking, because when have Georgia fans ever been creative?

This game is one of the biggest “unstoppable force meets immovable object” battles in recent memory. OU has one of the most powerful offenses in college football, thanks to Mayfield, but they haven’t had to deal with any defense like Georgia’s. It’ll be..... interesting.

Illuminati Pick: OU

Sugar Bowl: #4 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. #1 Clemson Tigers

The odds were against it for a minute there, and it’s earlier than we expected, but we’re getting Clemson-Bama III come New Year’s Day as the last two champions meet in the Sugar Bowl for the mother of all rubber matches. DeShaun Watson has departed Clemson for richer pastures, but Kelly Bryant has stepped into his shoes pretty nicely, and last year’s hero Hunter Renfrow is still around, too. Bama is Bama. We know what’s going on there. Whatever happens, it’s going to blow the roof off.

Illuminati pick: Clemson

Monday, January 8

CFP National Championship game: Rose Bowl winner vs. Sugar Bowl winner

The College Football Playoff championship is finally here, and there’s no better place to hold it than the capital of college football. Either Clemson or Alabama will be back, looking to make it either two in a row or two out of three. On the other side, Oklahoma will be looking to continue their streak against Alabama, or finally get over the postseason hump against Clemson; or we’ll have Georgia facing a familiar foe to try to end a very, very, very long championship drought. Whatever happens, enjoy it for what it is. The offseason is very long indeed.

Illuminati pick: Clemson

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