Earlier this year, ESPN conducted a survey to find out just how popular college football was. According to the poll over 158 million Americans over the age of 12 consider themselves to be fans of the game. Of those, 24% (61 million) consider themselves to be avid fans of the sport.
ESPN is putting that number to the test over the next couple of weeks as the airwaves will be inundated with bowl games, some of them with match ups that only a mother could love. The Big 12 has 9 teams in the mix, and here is a snapshot of their games.
Big 12 Bowl Schedule
Thursday, Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl:
Baylor (7-5) vs. UCLA (9-4) 8:45 PM ESPN
Favorite: UCLA -1
Baylor's offense can once again put up Xbox numbers, but their defense can give them up just as quickly. UCLA has a dynamic RB in Johnathan Franklin who rushed for over 1,700 yards and also caught 32 passes. UCLA's defense gets pressure on the QB - but then again they had better, because their defensive backfield is a sieve. Nick Florence is completing 64% of his passes, and Lache Seastrunk rushed for almost 700 yards in the Bears last five games.
The over/under for this one is 80.5 points. In 1980 BYU edged SMU's Pony Express 46-45 for the largest point total in the game. It has a real chance of going down on Thursday.
Announcers: Dave Pasch, Brian Griese & Jenn Brown (Not the greatest crew, but solid enough that you aren't forced to turn the sound down).
Friday, Dec. 28: Meineke Car Care Bowl:
Texas Tech (7-5) vs. Minnesota (6-6) 8:00 PM ESPN
Favorite: Texas Tech -13
In the 2006 Insight Bowl, Minnesota built a 38-7 lead against Mike Leach and Tech - and then lost in overtime. Don't expect anything like that this time around. New Tech Coach Kliff Kingsbury is a bystander for this one, but Tech has enough firepower with senior Seth Doege to hit their season average of 38 points a game.
Announcers: Mark Jones, Brock Huard & Jessica Mendoza (meh)
Saturday, Dec. 29: Pinstripe Bowl
West Virginia (7-5) vs. Syracuse (7-5) 2:15 PM ESPN
Favorite: West Virginia - 3.5
Through the Texas contest West Virginia was averaging 53 points a game - the reality set in. The Big 12 schedule finally caught up with the lousy Mountaineer defense and they lost 5 of their last 7 games. Still Geno Smith has a great touchdown to interception ratio 40-6 and Syracuse's QB Ryan Nassib set school records for passing yards in a season and career. The over/under is set at 73.5 points and is in jeopardy of being passed
Announcers: Chris Fowler, Jesse Palmer & Tom Rinaldi (I guess Chris figured this would be close enough to home to get a little work in before his BCS /Gameday duties).
Saturday, Dec. 29: Valero Alamo Bowl
Texas (8-4) vs. Oregon State (9-3) 5:45 PM ESPN
Favorite: Oregon State -2.5
Others will go into great detail about the matchups, suffice it to say this one will make the off-season either easier of tougher to deal with for Texas fans. Pflugerville ex Storm Woods is the Beavers top rusher. The redshirt freshman is averaging almost 5 yards a pop, and if the Horns continue their lousy tackling form from the regular season it could really open up the stronger part of the Oregon State offense, where they have two receivers with over 1,000 yards in catches. Texas is deeper and it will be interesting to see what - if any - changes come from Major Applewhite's ascension to the Offensive Coordinator postion.
Announcers: Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman & Quint Kessenich (I like Spielman - a lot - and listening to his dissection of the Texas D against Baylor earlier this year was very instructive.)
Saturday Dec. 29: Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
TCU (7-5) vs. Michigan State (6-6) 9:15 PM ESPN
Favorite: TCU -1
This should be one of the quickest played bowl games of the year. Michgan State wants to control the football on the ground and TCU's Gary Patterson has a freshman QB (Trevone Boykin) who is prone to making big plays - for both teams - so the Horned Frogs will probably be conservative as well. Patterson is 7-4 in bowl games and is 6-1 over the last seven.
Announcers: Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge & Holly Rowe (Nessler and Blackledge are excellent in the booth, keep the idle chatter to a minimum and work well together)
Monday, Dec. 31: Liberty Bowl
Iowa State (6-6) vs. Tulsa (10-3) 2:30 PM ESPN
Favorite: Iowa State -1
What a weird matchup. The two met earlier in the season with Iowa State winning 38-23. Iowa state is near the bottom of D-1 teams in total defense, but they outgained the Hurricane by almost 100 yards in their first meeting. Tulsa rallied but then lost to SMU late in the season (which doesn't look that bad after the Mustangs win over Fresno State). Tulsa opened as a 3 point favorite, and now is a 1-point dog.
Announcers: Mark Jones, Brock Huard & Jessica Mendoza (How did the Big 12 get so lucky as to draw this crew twice? Double meh).
Tuesday, Jan. 1: Heart of Dallas Bowl
Oklahoma State (7-5) vs. Purdue (6-6) 11:00 AM ESPNU
Favorite: Oklahoma State -16.5
Dog matchup of the entire bowl season. The network thought so much of this one that they put it on ESPNU, which does backflips if they get 1 million viewers. Purdue was so excited over becoming bowl eligible that they fired their coach, Danny Hope. Oklahoma State scored 30 or more points 11 times this season, despite getting down to it's 3rd string Quarterback. The Cowboys did lose their last two regular season games, so they should be motivated enough to put away Purdue.
Announcers: Clay Matvick, Matt Stinchcomb & Kaylee Hartung (I have been involved in broadcasting for almost 40 years. I follow it closely. Any one of these three could walk up and punch me in the face and I wouldn't have a clue as to who they are).
Thursday, Jan. 3 Fiesta Bowl
Kansas State (11-1) vs. Oregon (11-1) 7:30 PM ESPN
Favorite: Oregon -9
Kansas State faced 5 of the Top Ten offenses in the nation this fall, played well and still they don't get much respect in this one. Oregon's "blur" spread offense is spectacular, but Kansas State has some speed and plenty of discipline on defense to make it a game. You have to wonder if all the speculation about Oregon coach Chip Kelly moving on to the NFL will have any effect as well. Announcers: Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge & Holly Rowe
Friday, Jan. 4 Cotton Bowl
Oklahoma (10-2) vs. Texas A&M (10-2) 7:10 PM FOX
Favorite: Texas A&M -4.5
The Bi-Polar Bowl for Texas fans. A&M and OU playing in Jerry Jones' home. Every play has the potential to generate feelings of jubilation and despair at the same time. Who do you root for? There is ample past evidence that past Heisman winners have left something on the banquet circuit going into to a bowl game. Johnny Manziel has certainly been enjoying himself, and you wonder how a freshman will react to all the glamour.
Announcers: Gus Johnson, Charles Davis, Julie Alexendria (Never been as big a fan of Gus Johnson as most others. I just get tired over every 3rd or 4th play being AMONG THE BEST EVER!! A little Gus goes a long way for me.)
As I said, some of these match up are dreary at best -- but then again, it is all we have until next September, so enjoy.