2016’s most even bowl matchup will happen in El Paso, Texas, while the most lopsided game will take place in Boise, Idaho.
Those on-paper analyses are based on the end-of-the-season F/+ rankings, which are explained here on Football Outsiders. Personally, they’re a go-to for getting a rough idea of how good a certain team is, so why not use them to preview the best and worst bowl matchups?
Here are the 10 best games based on how close the two participants’ F/+ rankings are:
Sun Bowl (+1): No. 25 Stanford vs. No. 26 UNC
Fiesta Bowl (+2): No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Clemson
Rose Bowl (+2): No. 7 USC vs. No. 9 Penn State
Sugar Bowl (+2): No. 8 Auburn vs. No. 10 Oklahoma
Armed Forces Bowl (+2): No. 51 Louisiana Tech vs. No. 53 Navy
Peach Bowl (+4): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 5 Washington
Quick Lane Bowl (+4): No. 93 Boston College vs. No. 97 Maryland
New Mexico Bowl (+5): No. 81 New Mexico vs. No. 86 UT-San Antonio
Citrus Bowl (+6): No. 5 LSU vs. No. 11 Louisville
Cotton Bowl (+10): No. 12 Wisconsin vs. No. 22 Western Michigan
Obviously, the two College Football Playoff games (Ohio State-Clemson, Alabama-Washington) are among the closest, but it’s good to see three of the four other New Year’s Six bowls in here as well. The Orange Bowl (No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 13 Florida State) just barely missed the cut.
As for the 10 biggest mismatches:
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (+71): No. 29 Colorado State vs. No. 100 Idaho
Birmingham Bowl (+61): No. 33 South Florida vs. No. 94 South Carolina
Military Bowl (+54): No. 18 Temple vs. No. 72 Wake Forest
Cactus Bowl (+52): No. 14 Boise State vs. No. 66 Baylor
Miami Beach Bowl (+45): No. 44 Tulsa vs. No. 89 Central Michigan
Arizona Bowl (+38): No. 49 Air Force vs. No. 87 South Alabama
Las Vegas Bowl (+30): No. 20 Houston vs. No. 50 San Diego State
Poinsettia Bowl (+27): No. 30 BYU vs. No. 57 Wyoming
Heart of Dallas Bowl (+26): No. 85 Army vs. No. 111 North Texas
Russell Athletic Bowl (+25): No. 15 Miami vs. No. 40 West Virginia
It’s not surprising three of these games involve top-level Group of Five teams (South Florida, Temple, Boise State) playing 6-6 Power Five teams (South Carolina, Wake Forest, Baylor), given that’s where a lot of bowl mismatches can take place. It was a little surprising to see the gulf between Houston and San Diego State be so significant, though.
But while these matchups may either be close or lopsided, always remember the ironclad rule of bowl season: Weird stuff is gonna happen. One team may not care while the other does, one team may not deal with the elements (especially in the northern bowls) as well as the other, or one team may come in with something to prove while the other team doesn’t. The best-case scenario for us college football fans is that every game is interesting and worth watching, no matter what the on-paper numbers may say.
Brohm engineered an exciting, explosive spread offense with the Hilltoppers, leading Western Kentucky to back-to-back Conference USA titles in 2015 and 2016 and the program’s only two double digit-win seasons. Western Kentucky went 12-2 in 2015 and finished No. 24 in the AP poll, the program’s only top-25 ranking in its 10-year FBS history.
Under Brohm, Western Kentucky’s offense ranked 9th in S&P+ in 2014, 4th in 2015 and 9th in 2016. The high-flying Hilltoppers averaged 44.4, 44.3 and 41.9 points per game in Brohm’s three years.
Making Brohm’s accomplishments in Bowling Green, Ky. more impressive is that he maintained a high level of offensive success from 2015 to 2016 after losing star quarterback Brad Doughty, who threw for over 5,000 yards and 48 touchdowns in the Hilltoppers’ 12-2 2015 campaign. Mike White stepped in this year and threw for 4,027 yards with 34 touchdowns, signaling that Brohm’s system wasn’t successful just because of one good quarterback.
Obviously, Big Ten defenses will be a step up from those Brohm’s teams faced in C-USA. But Purdue does have the advantage of being in the fairly wide-open Big Ten West, in which a team can have a far easier time breaking through than in the brawling Big Ten East. While Wisconsin is a rock-solid program, in any given year getting past Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern and Illinois is feasible.
This won’t be an immediate turnaround in West Lafayette for Brohm, of course. But this is a program with plenty of offensive success in the last two decades (see: Brees, Drew) that looks like a very, very interesting fit for Brohm.
It was not a good first season for Georgia Southern head coach Tyson Summers. Hired away from the Colorado State defensive coordinator job, Summers moved into his first head coaching job at a successful program with a very specific expectation for how offensive football should work.
After enjoying a 17-7 mark in two seasons under Willie Fritz — including a 14-2 mark in Sun Belt pay — Georgia Southern slipped to 5-7 in Summers’s first season. Beyond that, though, the Eagles couldn’t move the football.
Georgia Southern dropped from 24th to 79th in scoring offense, 24th to 104th in yards per play and from first to 29th in rushing, as their 363 yards per game average wilted to 224. It got so bad that Georgia Southern AD Tom Kleinlein felt the need to issue a release Saturday stating Summers would indeed return for a second season in 2017, but his offensive coordinators were not so fortunate. Georgia Southern announced Sunday that co-offensive coordinators David Dean and Rance Gillespie will not return.
“Decisions like these are never easy,” Summers said in a statement. “I have the utmost respect for both David and Rance as people and football coaches, but we did not have the production nor the scoring numbers we had hoped for.
“We need to get back to our roots of having one of the most explosive rushing attacks in the country. That begins with me and the hiring of a coordinator who will fit that culture.”
Gillespie coached quarterbacks and initially called plays before having that duty revoked and handed to Dean midway through the season. Dean also coached wide receivers.
The 2016 College Football Playoff pairings are out, and it didn’t take long for No. 1 Alabama to be established as a heavy favorite in Vegas.
Alabama opened as a 14-point favorite over Washington in the Peach Bowl, while Ohio State was a 3-point favorite over Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.
For his credit, Washington head coach Chris Petersen had a light perspective on facing ‘Bama.
This marks the 243rd consecutive game Alabama opens as a favorite (approximately), while, according to Charleston Post & Courier beat writer Aaron Brenner, Clemson has opened as the underdog for the sixth consecutive post-season game.
While not related to the betting line, Nike also emerged as a big winner on Sunday. For the third consecutive year the Swoosh will outfit all four Playoff teams. As per (recent) tradition, Nike will make slight alterations to each team’s kits ahead of the Playoff.