A College Football Fan’s Guide to Bowl Season

A College Football Fan’s Guide to Bowl Season

It started in late summer, amid the sweltering heat and the sea of possibilities.

More than 130 teams compete in the top level of college football. Every one of those teams began with dreams of making it here.

Bowl season.

The best of those squads had visions of securing a spot among the final four selected to compete in the College Football Playoffs. Others simply set their sights on a bowl game — any bowl game — because it meant the season was a success.

Three months of college football culminates with the three-week spectacle of bowl season. For die-hard fans, it’s a massive buffet table of football, filled with matchups of varying intrigue and magnitude. It kicks off Saturday with a seven-game slate that starts at 11 a.m. EST when Georgia Southern and Ohio University square off in Myrtle Beach.

It carries on with games nearly every day until New Year’s when the winners of the Rose Bowl (Michigan vs. Alabama) and the Sugar Bowl (Texas vs. Washington) will earn the right to compete in the College Football Playoffs National Championship Presented by AT&T on January 8.

In all, we’ll have 43 bowl games to carry us through the holiday season. To get you ready, here is a breakdown of some of the more compelling games to circle on your calendar.

Explore the New Year’s Six Bowl Game Guide to kick off the new year right!

Cricket Celebration Bowl (Howard vs. Florida A&M)

Saturday, December 16 at 12 p.m. EST

This matchup pits the champions of two conferences of historically black colleges and universities, and it’s the Super Bowl of HBCU football. The game lives up to its name because it is a raucous celebration.

Howard University, champion of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, takes on Florida A&M, champion of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. This season, Howard won its first outright conference championship since 1993. Florida A&M won its first since 2000.

Their fans will be ready. They’ll travel in droves to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The marching band performances will be epic, and the game will be one you won’t want to miss.

Duke’s Mayo Bowl (North Carolina vs. West Virginia)

Wednesday, December 27 at 5:30 p.m. EST

The Tar Heels and the Mountaineers each finished with 8-4 records, but only one will finish the season by watching a giant bucket of mayonnaise get dumped on their coach’s head.

One of the newer and most unusual traditions in college football, it’s also one of the most fun. Will the mayo bath go to UNC’s 72-year-old coach, Mack Brown, or WVU’s 43-year-old coach, Neal Brown (no relation)?

You can almost taste the anticipation.

The game, however, has lost a bit of flavor because Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye announced that he’ll skip the bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft.

Capital One Orange Bowl (Georgia vs. Florida State)

Saturday, December 30 at 4 p.m. EST

Both teams entered the final weekend of the season with hopes of competing for the national championship. Each had those hopes crushed in unique and painful ways. 

The Bulldogs, the reigning national champs, fell to underdog Alabama in the SEC championship game. Meanwhile, the Seminoles won the ACC title and felt great about their 13-0 record until they became the first undefeated Power 5 conference team left out of the College Football Playoffs.

A late-season injury to FSU quarterback Jordan Travis, robbing the team of its leader, weighed heavily into that decision. It could weigh heavily into the outcome of the Orange Bowl, too.

Between injured players and others opting out of the bowl game, neither team will be at full strength. Yet, both will have something to prove, which should make for a compelling and competitive game.

Reliaquest Bowl (LSU vs. Wisconsin)

Monday, January 1 at 12 p.m. EST

Kick off your New Year’s Day football binge with this Big Ten-SEC showdown that may feature the 2023 Heisman Trophy winner, Jayden Daniels. 

The senior quarterback led the Tigers to a 9-3 record while amassing 50 total touchdowns — 40 passing and 10 rushing. In the days following his Heisman victory, he had not confirmed whether he’ll play in the bowl game or skip it to avoid risking injury prior to the NFL Draft.

Either way, the Tigers will be favorites against a 7-5 Wisconsin team whose two quarterbacks managed just 11 passing touchdowns the entire season. 

So here’s hoping Daniels takes the field to display his electric athleticism one last time for college football fans.

Rose Bowl Presented by Prudential (Michigan vs. Alabama)

Monday, January 1 at 5 p.m. EST

Two iconic programs. Two of the game’s elite coaches. This is going to be a fun one.

The 13-0 Wolverines, the nation’s top-ranked team, tore through their Big Ten schedule, culminating with a 30-24 victory over Ohio State followed by a 26-0 rout of Iowa in the conference title game. They did it all amid a sign-stealing scandal that included coach Jim Harbaugh being suspended for three games late in the year.

Alabama forced its way into the title picture by overcoming an early-season loss to Texas and upsetting Georgia to claim the SEC championship. This is far from coach Nick Saban’s most highly touted team, but quarterback Jalen Milroe has ignited the late charge and kept hopes alive for Saban’s seventh national championship since arriving at Alabama in 2007.

Allstate Sugar Bowl (Texas vs. Washington)

Monday, January 1 at 8:30 EST

While Michigan and Alabama have been regulars in the College Football Playoffs, Texas and Washington are crashing the party. The two schools have just one combined appearance since the playoffs began in 2014. 

Now one of them is guaranteed a spot in the national championship game. 

Big 12 champion Texas finished 12-1, its lone loss coming to Oklahoma in October. Led by quarterback Quinn Ewers and running back Jonathon Brooks, the Longhorns are looking for their first national title since 2005.

The undefeated Huskies represent the Pac 12’s last championship team, since realignment will essentially shutter the conference after this season. Washington edged out Oregon 34-31 in the Pac 12 championship game, and quarterback Michael Penix Jr. will look to keep the momentum and carry his team one step closer to its first national title since 1991.

These are just six of the 43 games that will make up the marathon that is college football bowl season. So whether you’re hitting the road to cheer on your favorite team inside a packed stadium or you’re settling in to enjoy the games from the comfort of your couch, it’s going to be a fun three weeks as we wind toward the dramatic finish of another exciting college football season.