New Years bowl games used to end a college football season. Now, New Years bowl games are just another part of the bowl schedule. This used to be the biggest day in college football, until the BCS showed up and took away the drama. Since the national championship game is still a week away, today’s games are mainly warmups for the only one that mattes anymore. Yet the 2019 New Years bowl games have a lot of drama around them – mainly due to icons saying goodbye.
There are only five New Years bowl games today – exactly the same amount there was on New Years Eve. But the games today are more prestigious, with bigger teams facing off. It starts at the Outback Bowl this morning, as Auburn takes on Northwestern.
The Wildcats aren’t used to playing on New Years Day, so this is rarified air for them. The Tigers are back in the postseason, after they bottomed out last year. Despite being 7-5, Auburn’s first year under Gene Chizik has been a success – though they fell just short of capping it with a win over Alabama.
While the Outback Bowl takes place in Tampa, the state of Florida hosts two more games in Jacksonville and Orlando at 1 pm. The New Years bowl game of the day may be in Jacksonville, where the Gator Bowl says goodbye to a legend.
Thanks to Bobby Bowden getting kicked out by Florida State, today is his final day as coach. And thanks to some creative tinkering, the 6-6 Seminoles get to play on New Years Day because of it, against West Virginia. Since Florida State was lucky to get to 6-6, and West Virginia is 9-3, this match would seem to look lopsided for the Mountaineers. But almost no one is coming to see them play.
While Bowden says goodbye with one more New Years Day game, the only other coach to win more games will take the field in Orlando. The Capital One Bowl has one of the more prestigious pairings today, as Penn State battles LSU. Both teams had national championship hopes, but they got derailed by conference rivals. Although they both won a lot of games, they weren’t ready to contend this year, so they hope to make up for it today.
Afterwards, the BCS finally gets underway, with the Granddaddy Of Them All. For the first time in years, the Rose Bowl doesn’t feature USC against an inferior Big 10 opponent. This time, Ohio State faces Oregon, as the Ducks make their second trip to Pasadena in about 50 years. It is also the first Rose Bowl for the Buckeyes in years, after losing almost every other BCS bowl recently.
But the New Years bowl games conclude with the most hyped, and overshadowed, bowl of all. The Sugar Bowl had been built up as Tim Tebow’s last game. Now, it may also be Urban Meyer’s last game for a while. Yet for all the attention on Tebow and Meyer, almost no one is focusing on the actual Sugar Bowl between Florida and Cincinnati. In fact, since Brian Kelly abandoned the Bearcats, almost no one remembers that they’re here with the Gators.
But can the Bearcats spoil the party, and follow in Utah’s footsteps by upsetting an SEC runner up in the Sugar Bowl – and finishing an unbeaten season to boot? Few believe they can, but a lot of people will watch the Sugar Bowl to see them try – or just to see Tebow and Meyer together for the last time.
The New Years bowl games are missing the likes of the Fiesta, Orange and Cotton bowls, which helped make this day great to begin with. However, the Cotton will be saved for tomorrow, while the Fiesta and Orange take place on Monday and Tuesday. But of course, everyone’s eyes are still on the BCS title game on Thursday, relegating New Years Day to a lesser event in college football.
Still, 2019 begins with Bobby Bowden, Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer saying goodbye, Ohio State trying not to tank again, Joe Paterno facing the Bayou Bengals, and Cincinnati trying to remind fans that they exist. Any one of those elements would provide a great day for college football. But combine them together, and the New Years bowl games may give fans the day of the year after all.