Step One to Fixing College Football Bowl Games

Baylor coach Dave Aranda, left, and Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin pose with the Sugar Bowl trophy, at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, La. on Friday, December 31, 2021. (©Bruce Newman)

People say bowl games are meaningless, well let’s make them meaningful by starting with better matchups.

For example – Baylor beat Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship Game. Baylor’s reward was 9th ranked Ole Miss, the SEC’s third best team, while the B12 runner ups faced #5 Notre Dame. How did the losers of the game, get the better opponent?

How I would fix this? Champions vs champions. Give me Baylor vs Pittsburgh. Bowl affiliations with conferences are long outdated. Big 12 vs ACC champions has significance and meaning, and would be more exciting than facing Ole Miss or even Notre Dame. Conference bragging rights at stake, to prove which one of these P5 conferences is better.

How about matching up Championship Game runner ups, who in theory, would be the conference’s second best teams (except divisions kind of screw that up). Iowa vs Wake Forest? Oregon vs Oklahoma State? All 4 of these teams spent time ranked in the top 10 and after losing their championship games, may have chips on their shoulders.

At the Group of Five level, I HATE how these teams are treated.

Louisiana started the year ranked in the top 25, and went 12-1 (winning 12 straight). Their reward was a 7-5 Marshall team, who did not play in the Conference USA Championship Game. Why?

How about Louisiana vs UTSA? UTSA won Conference USA and, like Louisiana, spent time in the top 25 throughout the year. 12-1 Louisiana vs 12-1 UTSA. How is that not more exciting then Louisiana vs Marshall and UTSA vs San Diego State?

Would G5 champions prefer to face each other? Or is it more meaningful for Louisiana to play a 6-6 ACC team? UTSA against a 6-6 Big 12 team? Either way, there’s way to make these games more appealing than they currently are.

Western Kentucky faced Appalachian State in a great game and it’s a matchup that made sense – Sun Belt runner up vs C-USA runner up. More of this and less of first place vs third place.

The AAC is widely considered the best Group of Five conference. Houston went 11-2, losing to 4th ranked Cincinnati in the AAC Championship Game and their reward is a trip to Birmingham, Alabama to face a 6-6 Auburn team, which was far from full strength. BYU, who was ranked 13th and finished 10-2 got to go to Shreveport, Louisiana to face an 8-4 UAB team that didn’t play in their conference championship game.

Some fans and media may never care about bowl games, and that’s okay. I love them. Football is football and we can never have too much football. But I do agree with the premise that a lot of these games are largely meaningless. Step one to making them mean something, is to produce matchups that actually mean something.

Mike is an alum of the University of Cincinnati and the ultimate sports nerd.


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