Buffalo (-6.5), Charlotte Kickoff Bowl Season Friday

It’s late December, already, and that means the start of bowl season for college football fans.  The fun begins on Friday, with the Buffalo Bulls (-6.5) taking on the Charlotte 49ers in the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl.  Later that night, the Utah State Aggies (-6.0) meet the Kent State Golden Flashes in the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl.  In all, 78 teams (one fewer than was eligible) will compete in 39 bowl games this year, culminating with the College Football National Championship Game on January 13.

In North America, a bowl game is one of a number of post-season college football games that are primarily played by teams belonging to the NCAA’s Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). For most of its history, the Division I Bowl Subdivision had avoided using a playoff tournament to determine an annual national champion, which was instead traditionally determined by a vote of sports writers and other non-players.

The lines have moved considerably in several matchups since Selection Sunday, December 8.  According to CBS, for instance, those interested in playing for points would be interested to know that Friday’s line in the Bahamas has moved 1.5 points in Buffalo’s direction.  Friday’s New Mexico Bowl has seen punters moving away from the San Diego State Aztecs (-3.5), versus the Central Michigan Chippewas.  The Tiffany Network’s vaunted computer model also loves Wake Forest (+3.5) to keep it close against Michigan State in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl next week.

For those playing in pools against your friends, or just for fun, ESPN has a more traditional method of straight-up selection.  Notable upset picks to watch out for include FAU (+3.0) over SMU in the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl Saturday, Louisiana Tech (+6.0) over Miami in the Walk-On’s Independence Bowl next Thursday, and Oklahoma State (+7.0) over former Big 12 rival Texas A&M in next Saturday’s Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl.  Senior writer Adam Rittenberg went an admitted 23-17 last year, however, so play at your own risk— and adjust your confidence picks accordingly.

The College Football Playoff (CFP) is an annual postseason knockout invitational tournament to determine a national champion for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), the highest level of college football competition in the United States. Four teams play in two semifinal games, and the winner of each semifinal advances to the College Football Playoff National Championship game.

Some people think college football has too many bowl games, and those people are wrong.  Of course, some bowl games are more intriguing and entertaining than others.  As usual, the lions’ share of bowl games are on the ESPN family of networks, so they’re as good an authority as anyone as to which bowl games make for appointment-level viewing and which can be DVRed in favor of general holiday merriment.

The Vrbo Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day, between Alabama (-7.0) and Michigan is, arguably, the most-entertaining non-New Year’s Six bowl game on the schedule.  By contrast, the Capital One Orange Bowl December 30, between Florida (-15.0) and Virginia, is the one NY6 game most likely to make you reach for the remote. On the other end of the spectrum, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl January 3, between Ohio (-7.5) and Nevada “is essentially the poster child for the idea that there are too many bowl games.

The College Football Playoff semifinals— which pit the #1 LSU Tigers (-14.0) against the #4 Oklahoma Sooners in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, and the #2 Ohio State Buckeyes (+2.0) versus the #3 Clemson Tigers in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl— don’t start for another week.  The biggest news so far comes from Oklahoma, where three Sooners players have been suspended for next Saturday’s semifinal.  Starting defensive end Ronnie Perkins, running back Rhamondre Stevenson, and receiver Trejan Bridges all reportedly failed NCAA drug tests.  Other players further down on the Oklahoma depth chart are likely to be suspended as well.

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Brendan Monaghan (CN Staff)

Graduate of The Ohio State University, writer, political consultant, fan of all sports.

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