The college football bowl season gets underway on Saturday in voluminous fashion with five games on tap for your viewing pleasure. Yes, all the hype is centered around the two College Football Playoff semifinals and the eventual national title game, but for those of us who enjoy the sport’s postseason as a whole, each game has its own unique significance. We preview three of the five games on Saturday here, and if you’d like to take a look at the other two games that kick off the bowl festivities, be sure to check it out here.
LWOS Bowl Preview – Group One, Part One
Gildan New Mexico Bowl, 2:20 pm, ESPN: Utah State vs. UTEP
What a season this could have been for the Utah State Aggies. Phenom quarterback Chuckie Keeton was returning for his senior year after a horrific injury cut his 2013 season short. Unfortunately, Keeton went down in just the third game this year and the Aggies haven’t quite been the same since. Kent Myers eventually settled in as the starter and has been pretty impressive in doing so, but this could have been a whole different season had Keeton stayed healthy.
Still, this is far from a bad year for the Aggies. Retrospectively, 9-4 might be a poor result but when a nine-win season is considered disappointing, you realize that Utah State has come an incredibly long way. This is a team that had not been ranked since 1961 but is now in their fourth consecutive bowl game and ended the 2012 season ranked. Matt Wells has done a great job taking over for Gary Andersen and the Aggies are just a bowl win away from their second ten-win season in three years.
And the Aggies are probably going to get their bowl win. Their opponents, the UTEP Miners, have had a solid season by their standards and are on their way up, reaching just their fifth bowl game since the turn of the century (and their first since 2010). Still, the Aggies are better on both sides of the ball and it will take something special for the Miners to even keep it close. Then again, if you want special, just check out last year’s New Mexico Bowl, conveniently linked above.
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, 3:30 pm, ABC: Utah vs. Colorado State
One of the most underrated bowl games of the year is taking place on opening day in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Utah Utes played one of the toughest schedules in the country and acquitted themselves admirably. They went 8-4 with wins over both USC and UCLA. On the other hand, they lost a shocker of a game against Washington State. Of course, Wazzu followed up their win over Utah with an incredibly competitive game against Oregon, so maybe the Cougars were better earlier in the year.
Colorado State, on the other hand, had one of their best seasons since Sonny Lubick roamed the sidelines in Fort Collins. They won ten games for the first time since 2002 and were ranked for part of the season. In fact, a win in this bowl game could mean their first ranked season since 2000. The Rams were spurred my a miraculous victory over Washington State in the New Mexico Bowl last year (seriously, if you haven’t seen it already you should check out the last two minutes of game time which is the last 20 minutes of this video here; it is the epitome of #cougnit).
Utah is definitely the more talented team here, but the difference is not significant enough that it won’t be a game. The real question, though, is how will Colorado State react to the loss of their coach, Jim McElwain, who took over as head coach at Florida. McElwain was going to be Colorado State’s coach of the future and was already building them into a top mid-major program. If they get the right replacement, though, McElwain built the beginnings of what could be a very solid program for a long time.
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, 9:15 pm, ESPN: Bowling Green vs. South Alabama
First of all, let me just say that the Camellia Bowl is an excellent idea. The MAC and Sun Belt are routinely the most bowl-snubbed conferences in the country. They are also almost always the bottom two of the FBS conferences, which means they are usually relatively evenly-matched. This adds an extra bowl game for both conferences and it will usually bring a good game to boot.
Bowling Green comes into bowl season at 7-6 this year, which has to feel like a bit of a letdown after shocking Jordan Lynch and Northern Illinois to win the MAC last year. Still, getting to a bowl game in a rebuilding year has to feel pretty good for the Falcons. They have reached a bowl game in four out of the last six seasons but haven’t won any of those. The matchup with South Alabama is about even which should give BGSU a great chance at ending that streak.
South Alabama, patriotically referred to as USA on scoreboards and similar media, are in their first-ever bowl game. Their football program began five short years ago and they became a full FBS member last year. They were bowl-eligible at 6-6 but were not selected, much to the chagrin of the program. Still, this program has had shocking success in such a short period of time, for which full credit has to go to coach Joey Jones. I don’t know how long USA can hold onto him before he is snapped up by a major program, but he is doing amazing things with this team right now. In a state with programs like Alabama and Auburn there is probably a ceiling they will hit eventually, but for now they just keep on rising. A bowl win would be an excellent move forward, though Bowling Green should be an even matchup for them and present quite a great game for the fans.
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