Bowl season started Saturday. Did you care? Did you notice or did you yawn and go back to your frantic Christmas shopping?
Be honest. How many of the mid-December bowl games do you really care about? For the vast majority of casual college football fans, it is about the same interest as receiving a fruitcake for Christmas.
Unless your school is playing, the interest is “Meh, I might watch if I’m channel surfing while downing a rum and eggnog.’’
Of the five bowl games that played Saturday, Oregon was the only team from a Power-5 conference. The Ducks (7-6) lost 38-28 to Boise State. There are 14 bowl games before Dec. 26th. Texas Tech is the only other Power-5 conference team in those games, and the Red Raiders are 6-6.
I’m not knocking the other conferences. Heck, my alum-mater (Houston) falls in that group and plays Fresno State in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve. And I’ll be watching. At least it’s two teams with winning records _ Fresno State at 9-4 and my Cougars at 7-4.
There are 40 bowl games, plus the championship game. That’s at least 10 too many. That’s 80 teams, 12 more teams than play in the NCAA basketball tournament. All those games matter, even for a No. 16 seed and the teams in a play-in game.
I'm all for giving smaller schools a day on the national stage, but earn it. The Celebration Bowl Saturday was a game between 11-0 North Carolina A&T and 11-1 Grambling. Those teams earned it.
The bowls this year include 16 teams without a winning record. All of those teams are 6-6. At least no 5-7 teams are playing in a bowl game this year.
Two games have matchups against 6-6 teams _ Navy vs. Virginia in the Camping World Bowl and Utah State vs. New Mexico State in the Arizona Bowl. Nothing against any of those schools, but two of them are going to end the year with a losing record.
Some of these bowl games basically are made-for-TV events, a way for cable networks to add live programming at games with nearly empty grandstands. And as long as TV networks are willing to foot the bill and pay the NCAA huge sums of money, these rag-tag bowl games will continue.
USA Today reported this week that Disney, who owns ESPN and ABC, pays to televise 35 of the 40 bowl games. It also owns 13 major-college bowl games, mostly lower-tier games.
Every conference makes money off the bowl system. The conferences divide the earnings among all its schools. USA Today reported that $622 million was paid out last year, $441 million of which involved the playoff.
Everybody is making money off a lot of games that have little national interest; heck, little interest anywhere. The playoff has the three games with the most interest, of course, but there are other great matchups besides the four teams that made the playoff.
A few examples: USC vs. Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl, Penn State vs. Washington in the Fiesta Bowl, Wisconsin vs. Miami in the Orange Bowl, unbeaten Central Florida vs. Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
All deserving and all interesting matchups worthy of being labeled 2017 bowl teams. The problem is over saturation and games with too many undeserving participants.
But what the heck. It beats watching the Cleveland Browns or the New York Giants.