Welcome to our annual survey of the college bowl lineup, otherwise known as the Bowl Watchability Index, separating the postseason games into 10 distinct classifications.
If you're scoring at home, there are 39 bowl games on the upcoming docket, which launches with five Saturday bowls; and if memory serves, three more will be added to the mix next year.
Which brings us to this: No human being could possibly consume every second of every game during this three-week stretch (minus the College Football Playoff title game).
However, thanks to our Watchability Index, it'll be easier to fool others about your passion for this time of year.
Later in the week, we'll present the annual Bowl Confidence Pool picks for every kickoff, ranking the games from a high probability of winning (39, 38, 37, etc.) to a low certainty of being correct (1, 2, 3, etc.).
That eminently helpful piece (for those in office pools) will likely drop on Thursday.
BOWL WATCHABILITY INDEX
DROP EVERYTHING ... AND WATCH
ORANGE: Alabama vs. Oklahoma (Playoff)
COTTON: Clemson vs. Notre Dame (Playoff)
SUGAR: Georgia vs. Texas
PEACH: Michigan vs. Florida
ROSE: Ohio State vs. Washington
FIESTA: LSU vs. UCF
SKINNY: Over the four previous seasons, give the college football powers-that-be credit for building up the hype to the New Year's Six arrangement, essentially shaming the public from missing the major-payout slate of matchups.
Absence shouldn't be a problem this year, with six high-quality games, although it's fair to wonder why Florida and UCF aren't locking horns in the Fiesta Bowl:
**Are the Gators fearful of playing the Knights (zero losses in two years) at the height of their popularity?
**Or were bowl organizers worried that an all-Florida matchup in Arizona wouldn't have mass ticket appeal?
For the other New Year's Six outings:
a) Similar to the 2008 Sugar Bowl (UGA vs. Hawaii), Georgia can use this Superdome showcase as a possible springboard to opening next season, ranked No. 1 nationally.
b) Look for Ohio State and Washington to garner the highest non-Playoff TV ranking. Heck, it might even topple Clemson vs. Notre Dame on Dec. 29.
c) Florida has been consistently whipped by Michigan during the Jim Harbaugh era. Not many elite-level programs can say that. (Zing!)
WRONG TIME, WRONG PLACE
HOLIDAY: Northwestern vs. Utah
TAXSLAYER: Texas A&M vs. NC State
CITRUS: Kentucky vs. Penn State
OUTBACK: Mississippi State vs. Iowa
SKINNY: On paper, there's nothing wrong with the four matchups.
In fact, I could easily envision highly competitive outings, with each result entailing a single-digit point spread.
Why so gloom-and-doom then?
Recent history dictates that prime-time games on New Year's Eve are a tough sell. The vast majority of NYE revelers are either wreaking havoc at hotel/house/bar parties ... or, when sprawled out on the couch, fully consumed with the various entertainment programs ringing in the New Year.
Take my sad social life, for example:
I spent last Christmas/New Year's with my family in Detroit; and immediately after Bengals wideout Tyler Boyd scored that miraculous touchdown against the Ravens for Week 17 (also New Year's Eve)–cementing the Bills' first playoff berth in 18 years (NFL's longest drought at the time)–our TV switched to some Times Square/New Year's Eve program, thus promising an exclusive singing performance from Mariah Carey.
Why was that significant? Apparently, her voice had gone bust during the previous year's NYE celebration; and she had subsequently demanded a second chance to hit that proverbial high note.
As such, from a TV-viewer or Twitter-trending standpoint, random college games on New Year's Eve tend to get lost in the shuffle, when paired against a pop diva's return to prominence.
Regarding the Citrus and Outback bowls ...
From a national standpoint, the Fiesta matchup of LSU and Central Florida takes precedent over Kentucky-Penn State and Mississippi State-Iowa, with all three bowls running concurrently on different channels.
THE PERFECT NEW YEAR'S EVE APPETIZER
SUN: Pittsburgh vs. Stanford
REDBOX: Michigan State vs. Oregon
LIBERTY: Missouri vs. Oklahoma State
SKINNY: On the flip side, New Year's Eve dayyyyyyyy football has a great hook:
Before all the craziness of New Year's Eve begins, including the dress-up time commitment, there's plenty of football during that coveted Couch Time of the mid-afternoon.
Heck, there might even be a slew of holiday leftovers in the refrigerator, enhancing your motivation for lying still for 3-4 hours and enjoying three quality matchups.
For the Sun Bowl ... traditionally, there aren't many blowouts.
Plus, there's a 99.9-percent chance of either immaculate weather in El Paso, Texas ... or tangible amounts of snow.
There's never a gray area with the Sun Bowl weather gods.
(DOWNER NOTE: We've reached the 10-year anniversary of Oregon State's 3-0 win over Pittsburgh ... on the short list of worst bowl outings of all time.)
For the RedBox Bowl ... Michigan State will attempt to become the first team in bowl history to win a game without scoring a single offensive point.
(Yes, that's a joke ... but also not far from reality.)
For the Liberty Bowl ... if the over/under comes in under 78 points, we'll be profoundly disappointed.
(UPDATE: VegasInisder.com has Mizzou favored by eight points ... with a cumulative projection of 74.)
BEST DAY EVER: NON-ELITE BOWL EDITION
MUSIC CITY: Auburn vs. Purdue
CAMPING WORLD: West Virginia vs. Syracuse
ALAMO: Iowa State vs. Washington State
SKINNY: Don't let anyone spoil Friday the 28th on your social calendar.
You already have plans.
Seriously, it’s the perfect day for just relaxing with friends or family and watching three high-scoring games.
Plus, two of the matchups (Auburn-Purdue and Wazzu-Iowa State) are extremely rare, adding to the intrigue.
VEGAS INSIDER OVER/UNDERS
54.5: Purdue vs. Auburn
68.5: Syracuse vs. West Virginia
54.5: Washington State vs. Iowa State
What's more, this day promises to reaffirm your love of college football ... assuming you've banked enough vacation time from earlier in the year.
The only downer? West Virginia QB Will Grier has ended his college eligibility, as a means of preserving his stock for the upcoming draft.
That's an understandable stance to take, since the 23-year-old Grier already has a wife and young child.
On the plus side, Grier's early exodus starts the clock on Jack Allison's prospective (and likely prodigious) two-year reign as the Mountaineers' QB1.
ANYTHING TO AVOID SERIOUS DISCUSSIONS WITH FAMILY
FIRST RESPONDER: Boston College vs. Boise State
BAD BOY GASPARILLA: Marshall vs. South Florida
BOCA RATON: UAB vs. Northern Illinois
SKINNY: This category covers that awkward period between Christmas and New Year's, when entertaining a slew of relatives.
(Think Cousin Eddie and the masses visiting the Griswold family for National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.)
In your heart of hearts, you want to be attentive and helpful around the household, but it's hard to survive on small talk alone.
Or as Morty Seinfeld used to say, "You don’t understand, Jerry. You gotta have a buffer zone."
The only solution: Let the TV be your guide to impromptu and perhaps lively discussions, while attempting to fill sustained gaps between ideal chatter.
At the very least, come the end of Marshall-South Florida, everyone watching on TV will have full comprehension of Bad Boy lawn mowers.
HAWAII: Louisiana Tech vs. Hawaii
BAHAMAS: Toledo vs. Florida International
PINSTRIPE: Miami (Fla.) vs. Wisconsin
IDAHO POTATO: BYU vs. Western Michigan
SKINNY: College football fans consume the Hawaii and Bahamas bowls for two reasons:
a) There's nothing more enjoyable than sampling endless commercials about visiting Maui or Nassau ... while being confined to the house during blustery weather.
b) It's hard to take football coaches too seriously ... when they're donning Hawaiian shirts or the leis that everyone used to receive when visiting TV's Fantasy Island.
Regarding the other bowls ...
**In the eight-year history of the Pinstripe Bowl, we've only had boring matchup (Iowa State-Rutgers); and the majority of games have been competitive and high scoring.
Plus, Yankee Stadium, as a football venue during wintertime, will always hold great appeal for TV audiences and traveling fans.
**Admit it. You love watching games on Boise State's patented Smurf Turf, provided the participating teams aren't wearing shades of blue that seamlessly blend into the field.
LOCAL INTEREST BIAS
CAMELLIA: Georgia Southern vs. Eastern Michigan
QUICKLANE: Georgia Tech vs. Minnesota
SKINNY: As a proud Detroit native, and lover of all things from my home state (Michigan), even I find the QuickLane Bowl to be a useless exercise.
It would be one thing if this event had an old-school name (Cherry Bowl or Motor City Bowl) ... or at least had a title sponsor that was prominently known throughout the country.
Say Ford, Kellogg, Whirlpool, Faygo, Chrysler, Vernor's, Meijer, General Motors, Domino's, Better Made (potato chips) or Little Caesar's.
Instead, we're stuck with a four-hour infomercial, highlighting QuickLane's regional prominence with tires and brake alignments.
SURE, IF THERE'S NOTHING BETTER ON ...
BELK: South Carolina vs. Virginia
MILITARY: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech
INDEPENDENCE: Duke vs. Temple
NEW ORLEANS: Appalachian State vs. Middle Tennessee
LAS VEGAS: Arizona State vs. Fresno State
SKINNY: This grouping doesn't require a grand setup:
a) You either really love college football ...
b) You love to gamble on college football ...
c) Your Netflix and Hulu accounts are on the fritz.
To be fair, all five matchups look decent, on paper; but unless there are school ties at play here, it's a tough sell during the holiday rush.
I'LL BE WASHING MY HAIR THAT DAY ...
CURE BOWL: Tulane vs. Louisiana
NEW MEXICO: Utah State vs. North Texas
FRISCO: Ohio vs. San Diego State
BIRMINGHAM: Memphis vs. Wake Forest
ARMED FORCES: Army vs. Houston
DOLLAR GENERAL: Buffalo vs. Troy
I'LL BE DRYING MY HAIR THAT DAY
CHEEZ-IT: TCU vs. California
TEXAS: Baylor vs. Vanderbilt
ARIZONA: Nevada vs. Arkansas State
SKINNY: The above nine bowls only have meaning to direct alums ... and the gambling community.
For everyone else, this middling slate cannot compete with the NFL, college basketball, holiday-themed movies ... or the wonderful act of baking holiday-theme cookies.