Preview: The Sickest Bowl Games Outside of the New Years Six

Stoney Keeley takes a look at his favorite bowl games this season outside of the College Football Playoff and New Years Six.

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It’s hard to believe that another regular season of college football is in the books. Time flies when you’re having fun, I suppose. Anyway, it’s a time-honored tradition here on SoBros Network for me to take a look beyond the New Years Six and the College Football Playoff to search for the games I’m most excited to watch as a completely depraved lunatic fan.

To me, there’s a clear level of separation between the playoff games and the bowls from all the Group of Five conferences. That “middle class” of bowl games feels like purgatory and you never know what you’re going to get. Sure, maybe North Carolina and West Virginia decide to give a shit about that game and put on a banger. But, when you put two teams together that had playoff aspirations at one point, such as Oregon State and Notre Dame, it’s easy to see how they could look at a bowl game as a simple exhibition game. Guys with NFL Draft aspirations skip the games, and who knows what iteration of the teams you’ll see? But, man oh man….you get a team like UNLV into a bowl game, a team that hasn’t been bowling in quite some time, and you know those kids are going to play hard. So, don’t ignore bowl season altogether. While last year’s insane bowl season is going to be hard to top, there are some quite good gems in this year’s batch as well.

12/16 – New Mexico Bowl: New Mexico State vs. Fresno State – December 16th is the official kickoff to bowl season, and there are a few games on that day that if the teams show up motivated, could be pretty good. But, this New Mexico Bowl looks like quite the tasty match-up on the surface. New Mexico State was one of the biggest surprises of the season at 10-4, and while they came up short against Liberty in the C-USA Championship, they ought to be up for capping their big season off with a bowl win against an 8-4 Fresno State squad that was in the discussion for the Fiesta Bowl earlier in the season. The Aggies are currently favored by 2.5, but ESPN’s match-up predictor gives the Bulldogs a 54.2% chance to win the game.

12/22 – Gasparilla Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. UCF – I really like the style match-up here between these two squads, and I think we should be in for a doozy as both of these teams had to scratch and claw to get to 6-6 and a bowl game. After what the Georgia Tech program has endured in recent years, it’s good to see them back in a bowl game, and they should be motivated to win this one. Meanwhile, it was UCF’s first season in the Big 12. To cap that off with a bowl victory would be overachieving. There should be some points scored in this one!

12/23 – Potato Bowl: Georgia State vs. Utah State – Who doesn’t love a trophy that’s just a big bowl of potatoes? That alone is reason enough to watch this game. The Panthers lost five straight games to finish the season after starting the year 6-1 and looking like a dark horse contender in the Sun Belt. The Aggies had to beat New Mexico in double overtime to get here. I don’t think either of these teams will take this opportunity for granted and that’s what makes it a potential gutsy bowl to me.

12/23 – Armed Forces Bowl: James Madison vs. Air Force – I mean, hell…if you’ve kept up with our work on the College Football Roundup so far this season, you already know that these two teams were among the Fiesta Bowl contenders that McCash and I talked about all season long. I really wanted the Falcons to get that spot just to see what would happen, but those back-to-back losses to Army and Hawaii were devastating. They’d end up losing their final four games to fall to 8-4, missing the Mountain West Championship altogether. Meanwhile, 11-1 James Madison should’ve been granted a waiver to compete in the Sun Belt Championship. At least they were cleared to play in this bowl game. The Dukes have to worry about losing their head coach, but otherwise, both of these teams should be motivated to see their good seasons end on a positive note.

12/23 – Las Vegas Bowl: Utah vs. Northwestern – I don’t know that this game is going to be riveting because it’s good or anything. It’s just a weird and fascinating match-up to me. Who would have thought that Northwestern would be here? And, the way these two teams play football, with Utah likely having a bunch of guys out for this game, it could just be chaos. This is my roadkill game of the season – I can’t help but look.

12/23 – Hawaii Bowl: Coastal Carolina vs. San Jose State – Yeah, 12/23 is going to rule. Outside of the New Years games, I’m looking forward to this day more than any other one. There’s something about the tradition of watching the Hawaii Bowl late at night up close to Christmas that just feels warm and fuzzy. Not to mention, they hand out one of the coolest trophies of the season. But, this game gives us the chance to watch one of the most slept-on teams in the Group of Five the back half of the season. San Jose State is good, folks. Pretty damn good. And, while Coastal will be without their stud quarterback, it’s not like they’re a shabby team from a bad conference. This has the potential to be a heavyweight fight that the current spread of Spartans -9.5 wouldn’t necessarily indicate.

12/28 – Alamo Bowl: Arizona vs. Oklahoma – I know that this game is in the territory of the “middle class” of bowl games that I mentioned above. Maybe it’s naivety on my part, but I am just deeply, deeply hoping that both of these teams show up for this game because if they do, it could be a real fireworks show. The Wildcats have been one of the most fun teams to watch all season long.

12/29 – Liberty Bowl: Memphis vs. Iowa State – Okay, so I’m only mentioning this one because our Utility Man, Steven McCash, is going to be covering the game live from Memphis, and you guys should definitely go follow him so you can get live updates.

12/30 – Music City Bowl: Auburn vs. Maryland – I think this could be a sneaky good game between two high-powered offenses. I don’t remember seeing these two teams in Nashville all that often either, so there’s something about it that just feels fresh. I would say that both programs overachieved in 2023, and should be looking to close out the season with a win. Regardless, the way these offenses are constructed, we should see a fireworks show in the Music City.

1/1 – Citrus Bowl: Iowa vs. Tennessee – I get it. It’s going to be weird because of all the sit-outs, but this one’s worth watching for Iowa’s punter breaking a record that has stood since 1930 alone. What’s the over/under for this game? 24.5? (it’s actually currently 35.5)

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Stoney Keeley is the Editor in Chief of The SoBros Network, and a Dogs Playing Poker on velvet connoisseur. He is a strong supporter of Team GSD, #BeBetter, and ‘Minds right, asses tight.’ “Big Natural” covers the Tennessee Titans, Nashville, Yankee Candle, and a whole wealth of nonsense. Follow on Twitter @StoneyKeeley.

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