December 28, 2016
This is the final guide to the bowl games that aren’t in the College Football Playoff or New Year’s Six games. These bowl games will mainly feature teams from Power Five conferences, but a few Group of Five teams are sprinkled in the mix.
This guide will take you from Thursday, Dec. 29, to Monday, Jan. 2. You can plan your New Year’s celebrations around the games you most want to see.
The Birmingham Bowl kicks off the games on Dec. 29 with the University of South Florida against the University of South Carolina. This game is a matchup between a Group of Five team and a Power Five team at 1 p.m. on ESPN.
South Carolina is rebuilding under first-year coach Will Muschamp, but the team still managed to reach a bowl game. South Florida won a school-record 10 games, but head coach Willie Taggart jumped ship to take over at the University of Oregon.
Both schools could be even better next season, and this game could set the tone for 2017. It would be a slight upset for a 6-6 SEC team to win against a 10-2 team from the AAC.
If you’re out getting after-Christmas sales and miss the Birmingham Bowl, make sure to be home in time to catch the Belk Bowl at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 29 on ESPN. This game will feature the University of Arkansas from the SEC against Virginia Tech out of the ACC.
The Razorbacks started the season 5-2 before stumbling to a 7-5 finish. Virginia Tech comes in this game at 9-4 after the Hokies gave Clemson University a scare in the ACC title game. Arkansas features the most sacked quarterback in the SEC, Austin Allen, who was put down 28 times. The Hokies hired Justin Fuente away from the University of Memphis, and he has done a fine job replacing coaching legend Frank Beamer.
The Dec. 29 games end with an 8 p.m. kickoff on ESPN for the Alamo Bowl in a top-15 matchup between No. 12 Oklahoma State University and No. 10 University of Colorado.
Colorado should be motivated coming into this game. The Buffaloes haven’t been to a bowl game since 2007, and the team hasn’t won a bowl game since 2004.
Oklahoma State enters this game with a chance to get to 10 wins. Colorado already has 10 on the season and played in the Pac-12 championship game.
This game will probably have a ton of points. Defense will be optional, and both teams have solid quarterbacks. Plan to stay up late, as with all the potential scoring, the game could run long.
If you are going to watch all the Dec. 30 college football games, be sure to have plenty of snacks and drinks on hand. The day starts with an 11 a.m. kickoff of the Liberty Bowl between the University of Georgia and Texas Christian University on ESPN.
In the preseason this game would have been highly anticipated, as both teams were ranked in the top 20. Instead, the Bulldogs struggled to a 7-5 finish, and the Horned Frogs stumbled to a 6-6 record. Georgia faced nine bowl-bound teams during the season and went 5-4 against them. TCU faced six bowl teams and went just 1-5 against those.
If the Liberty Bowl loses your attention, at 1 p.m. the Sun Bowl kicks off on CBS. It is one of the few bowl games that ESPN hasn’t swallowed up. At one time you didn’t need cable to watch a majority of bowl games, just the four major networks.
The Sun Bowl might be known more for who isn’t playing in this game between Stanford University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey isn’t playing so he can focus on the upcoming NFL Draft.
At 8-4, the Tar Heels were expected to do more this season and possibly challenge Clemson University for the top spot in the ACC. The Cardinals are 9-3, but a playoff berth was supposed to be the goal for this team.
North Carolina might have more motivation here since the Cardinals’ best player bailed on the team. Stanford does have a chance to show the Tar Heels and the rest of the nation they are more than just McCaffrey, as a football team.
Another solid bowl pairing comes in the Music City Bowl at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN. The game features 8-4 University of Tennessee against 9-3 University of Nebraska.
Both teams ended the regular season on a sour note. Vanderbilt University beat Tennessee, and the University of Iowa beat Nebraska.
The Volunteers have several players who could put end their college careers for the NFL. That could cloud some of the focus for this game.
Both teams feature senior quarterbacks, with the Cornhuskers relying on Tommy Armstrong Jr. and Tennessee going with Joshua Dobbs. That gives these teams a chance to send out their single caller on a high note.
Tennessee was supposed to win the SEC East this season, but once again, it found a way to give the title to the University of Florida. The Cornhuskers were a nice surprise in the Big Ten after going 5-7 in the previous season.
The Arizona Bowl is set to begin at 4:30 p.m. on Campus Insiders. That means the game will be streamed online, and most of the nation won’t tune in to see the University of South Alabama against the United State Air Force Academy.
The Jaguars upset Mississippi State University at the start of the season but didn’t do much with the momentum, finishing with a 6-6 record. The Falcons are 9-3 with a surprising loss to the University of Hawaii.
This is just the second bowl game in program history for South Alabama but the ninth bowl game in the last 10 years for Air Force. The Jaguars lost their only other bowl game 33-28 to Bowling Green University in the 2014 Camellia Bowl.
One thing to note, South Alabama is 98th in the nation in rush defense, and the Air Force enters the game with the third-best rushing attack. Expect the Falcons to run to a victory over the Jaguars.
New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31, will begin with some channel switching. Two games kickoff at 11 a.m. with the Citrus Bowl on ABC and the Taxslayer Bowl on ESPN.
The Citrus Bowl looks to be the more entertaining of the two games with Louisiana State University facing the University of Louisville. This game loses some luster with LSU running back Leonard Fournette not playing so he can focus on the NFL Draft.
Fournette might not be in this game, but the Tigers defensive line goes against against Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. Any LSU defensive players thinking about the NFL Draft can help their stock with a big game against Jackson. He is one of the most dynamic players in college football. If for some reason you haven’t seen him play, take time to watch him in his final game of the season.
The Tigers will turn to Derrius Guice to run the ball, and newly hired head coach Ed Orgeron could use a win to get the fan base excited about his hiring. If Jackson runs and passes all over LSU, things could turn quickly against Coach O next season. In the Taxslayer Bowl, 7-5 University of Kentucky faces 8-4 Georgia Institute of Technology in a SEC versus ACC battle. Both teams enter this game after beating in-state rivals with Georgia Tech knocking off the University of Georgia and Kentucky beating Louisville.
Kentucky lost to the University of Southern Mississippi at the start of the season but rebounded nicely and made a bowl game. Georgia Tech nearly reversed its 3-9 record from last season and became bowl eligible this year.
The Wildcats and Yellow Jackets enter this game hot with Georgia Tech on a three-game winning streak and Kentucky on a two-game winning streak. The best news for Kentucky the time its has had to prepare for the triple option of the Yellow Jackets.
All good things must come to an end, as the last regular bowl takes place on Jan. 2 at noon on ABC in the Outback Bowl, which pits the University of Florida against the University of Iowa.
Both teams enter the game at 8-4 but have traveled different ways to get to this game. Florida is a defensive juggernaut but struggles and flounders on offense. North Dakota State University out of the FCS beat Iowa, but Iowa beat the University of Michigan, which helped knock the Wolverines out of the playoffs.
This is one of the few Big Ten versus SEC matchups this bowl season. Both conferences love to beat the other, and will run to social media to rub it in on the loser.
Enjoy the final bowl games and look for the College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six blog post.