It’s bowl season, which means we will once again be inundated by a series of entirely unnecessary college football games designed to showcase corporate sponsors and inspire indifference, disdain and general malaise.
That’s not entirely true, of course: There are a number of potentially intriguing games in the mix, including, of course, the two playoff contests, but we’ll get to those when the time comes. For now, here are the nine least interesting bowl games of the holiday season, a collection of underachieving teams and curiously named contests guaranteed to ruin the most wonderful time of the year. Why nine? Because a list like this deserves an odd number.
Cure Bowl, December 19, 7 p.m.
San Jose State (5-7) vs. Georgia State (6-6)
This is the year that bowls finally hatched enough offspring that they agreed to take on teams with losing records. And the fruit fly known as the Cure Bowl, which unfortunately is not being sponsored by Robert Smith, didn’t just choose any 5-7 team; they chose a 5-7 team that finished third in its division in the Mountain West Conference, and lost 30-7 to San Diego State. I try to laugh about it, but hell, I just can’t.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, December 22, 3:30 p.m.
Akron (7-5) vs. Utah State (6-6)
Seriously, the University of Akron is playing a bowl game in Boise, which feels like a punch line from the home office of David Letterman’s top-ten lists. It should also be noted that Utah State is not Utah, but a team that lost by 34 points to San Diego State, which I guess is now the qualifying factor for any second-tier bowl game, especially those involving tubers.
St. Petersburg Bowl, December 26, 11 a.m.
Connecticut (6-6) vs. Marshall (9-3)
Really, shouldn’t Connecticut, the most boring football program in America, go 6-6 every year as some sort of poetic justice for their coach’s fabled attempts to generate interest in manufactured trophy games? They’ll face a Marshall team that was neither as good nor as interesting as it was last year, but gets rewarded with an early kickoff the day after Christmas in a game still reeling from its harsh breakup with Beef O’Brady’s.
Pinstripe Bowl, December 26, 3:30 p.m.
Indiana (6-6) vs. Duke (7-5)
This should be a basketball game, played outdoors in Yankee Stadium in the middle of winter. And there should be a pregame cage match between J.J. Redick and Dane Fife.
Foster Farms Bowl, December 26, 9:15 p.m.
UCLA (8-4) vs. Nebraska (5-7)
The game itself could theoretically not be terrible, especially since it involves UCLA freshman Josh Rosen, who is already the hippest Jewish quarterback since Jay Fiedler. But the problem is, Nebraska is a 5-7 Big Ten team that doesn’t really deserve to be here; and the other problem is that this game is being played in the traffic nexus known as Levi’s Stadium, which will no doubt reinforce its sterility when the Super Bowl comes to town in February.
Arizona Bowl, December 29, 7:30 p.m.
Nevada (6-6) vs. Colorado State (7-5)
You think the bowl system is corrupt and stupid? You’re completely correct. But if you really want to embrace the Yossarian nature of it all, this is the game for you, because Nevada and Colorado State actually play in the same conference, which means this is a neutral-site game between two mediocre teams who could have easily met in October instead. The commissioner of that conference, the Mountain West, called the situation “a travesty,” but let’s face it: If it weren’t for travesties, there would be no meaningless bowl game in Tucson in the first place.
TaxSlayer Bowl, Jan. 2, noon
Penn State (7-5) vs. Georgia (9-3)
Nothing says post New Year’s sloth quite like a game in Jacksonville sponsored by an accounting software company that features a pair of teams that couldn’t figure out how to play any sort of consistent offense all season. One team, Georgia, has already fired its head coach; the other team, Penn State, has canned its offensive coordinator. If your New Year’s resolution involves underachievement, this is the game for you.
Cactus Bowl, Jan. 2, 10:15 p.m.
Arizona State (6-6) vs. West Virginia (7-5)
This is the last bowl before the championship game, again featuring a pair of teams with high preseason expectations who managed to nosedive straight into mediocrity. It also kicks off late at night on the East Coast, which means the only people watching this game will be completist freaks who are gathering chills about the prospect of only seeing one more college football game in the next eight months. So, you know, count me in.
Michael Weinreb is the author of Season of Saturdays: A History of College Football in 14 Games, now out in paperback. You can find him on Twitter @michaelweinreb