For millions of Americans, the holiday season isn’t only a magical time because of the standard stocking stuffers and gingerbread houses, but also because it means college football bowl season is here (!!!!).
Unless you’re a die-hard football fan or your team is playing in one of these games, you probably won’t have the time to tune into some of the smaller bowl games such as the Beef ‘O’ Bradys’ St. Petersburg Bowl (yup, this is an actual name of a bowl game). But for everyone else (and yes, I mean everyone – from the dedicated college football fan to the dedicated Saturday tailgater), the big bowl games are fun and exciting to watch.
Here is a quick guide to the biggest bowl games this season, and the deets you need to know while watching each. So grab a couple friends and a couple beers (optional) and park yourself on the couch. It’s time to go “bowling”!
Be honest, what else do you have to do over winter break?
Rose Bowl (January 1, 5:00 ET on ESPN)
Who: TCU Horned Frogs (3) v. Wisconsin Badgers (5)
What to know: The third-ranked Horned Frogs (intimidating right?) will take on the fifth-ranked Badgers in the Rose Bowl, the historical New Years day game held in Pasadena. TCU offense is led by quarterback Andy Dalton who is coming off a successful senior season, and their much-hyped defense is number one in the nation for holding their opponents to the fewest points. TCU will be playing with a lot of emotion; they finished the season undefeated and feel as though they should be playing for the national championship.
Wisconsin offense is led by quarterback Scott Tolzien and three standout running backs. Badger linemen Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt were just named all-American first team and will provide a note-worthy match up with the TCU defensive line.
Fun Facts: The Rosebowl is known as the ‘Granddaddy of Them All’ because it is the oldest and formerly most prestigious game… Wisconsin has scored over 70 points in three of its wins this season… This is the first ever Rosebowl for TCU.
Fiesta Bowl (January 1, 8:30 ET on EPSN)
Who: Connecticut Huskies v. Oklahoma Sooners (7)
What to know: This will be an emotionally charged game for both teams. Last season, UConn star Jasper Howard was tragically murdered on campus. Oklahoma will also come out fired up; they are 1-3 in their last four bowl appearances. The Huskies are the champions of the Big East, which is arguably one of the weakest conferences in the country. UConn tailback Jordan Todman is second in the nation in rushing and could be a key factor considering Oklahoma has struggled stopping runs this season. Oklahoma is coached by legendary Bob Stoops and their high-powered offense is led by sophomore QB Landry Jones, running back Demarco Murray, and receiver Ryan Broyles.
Fun Facts: Many analysts don’t think UConn’s 8-4 record (with two losses to inferior teams) merits them a spot in this game… Sooners are the heavy favorites.
Orange Bowl (January 3, 8:30 ET on ESPN)
Who: Stanford Cardinal (4) v. Virginia Tech Hokies (13)
What to know: This will be a battle between two hard-nosed football teams. Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh has taken Stanford from one of the worst teams in the Pac 10 to nearly playing for the National Championship. Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck was a Heisman trophy runner-up (award given to the best college football player in the country) and is expected to be the first pick in the NFL draft. In other news, sports journalists have way too much fun coming up with headlines that incorporate “Luck” or “Lucky.” Expect to hear play-on-words with this name inevitably before, during and after the game.
Virginia Tech suffered two tough losses in first two games of the season, but then rallied and have come back to win 11 straight. Keep an eye out for Ryan Williams, David Wilson and Darren Evans, the three dynamic running backs for the Hokies.
Fun Facts: ESPN’s Monday Night Football crew is calling the game… Stanford’s last bowl victory was in 1996 (in more relatable terms, the last time Stanford won a bowl game, Miley Cyrus was 4 years old!)… Ready to feel bad about yourself? Stanford’s Owen Marecic starts on both offense and defense and is a human biology major with a near perfect GPA… It is the Stanford Cardinal, not Cardinals (no ‘s’!)
Sugar Bowl (January 4, 8:30 ET, ESPN)
Who: Ohio State Buckeyes (6) v. Arkansas Razorbacks (8)
What to know: This game features two of college football’s most popular teams, two well respected coaches, two star quarterbacks, and will undoubtedly intensify the bitter rivalry between the Big 10 and the SEC. Look out for Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, the leader of the explosive Ohio State offense, to spend just as much time running the ball as he does passing it. Ohio State’s versatile offense may give them a slight advantage. Arkansas will rely on quarterback Ryan Mallet and running back Knile Davis, and will enjoy huge turnout of loyal fans who will travel to New Orleans for the game.
Fun Facts: Mallet began his college career at Michigan (Ohio State’s biggest rival) before transferring… Ohio State has a 0-9 record against SEC teams in the post season and such struggles have prompted claims of an “SEC curse.”
BCS National Championship Game (January 10, 8:30 ET on ESPN)
Who: Oregon Ducks (2) v. Auburn (1)
What to know: Both teams have high-powered offenses and this game is expected to be a quick-paced and high scoring one. Oregon is averaging 49.3 points per game and stars running back LaMichael James and receiver Jeff Maehl. Oregon defense is solid too and has recorded 20 interceptions this year. Heisman winner Cam Newton is the physical and moral leader for Auburn. Auburn defense has struggled defending against the passing game, and this weakness could be their downfall if it goes uncorrected.
Fun Facts: Neither team has played for the National Championship before… Auburn (then called Alabama Polytechnic Institute) was named national champion in 1957, but was ineligible to play in a bowl game… If the name Casey Matthews (Oregon lineman) sounds familiar, it’s because his grandfather, dad, and uncle have played in the NFL and his brother Clay is currently on the Green Bay Packers.