30 – HEART OF DALLAS BOWL: SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI VS. WASHINGTON – December 26th, 2:20 PM, ESPN
The optics aren’t likely to be very good, since it will be hard to get a big crowd in a large and historic Cotton Bowl stadium for a game between a Conference USA team and an opponent based in Seattle. Viewers in the Pacific Northwest must be shaking their heads — they’ll have Washington on in the same game window as Washington State. The Cougars join the Huskies in this time slot; they’re playing in the Sun Bowl on CBS at 2 Eastern on Dec. 26.
29 – BIRMINGHAM BOWL: MEMPHIS VS. AUBURN – December 30th, NOON, ESPN
This is not an easy game to watch, given the time slot on a Wednesday one day before the New Year’s Eve semifinals. At least this game offers a Group of Five (Memphis) team against a traditional SEC power to spice things up. That’s why this game rates higher than Mississippi State-North Carolina State.
28 – HAWAII BOWL: CINCINNATI VS. SAN DIEGO STATE – December 24th, 8 PM, ESPN
If you don’t have religious obligations (or if you’re going to worship on Christmas morning, or are in the mood to relax before Midnight Mass), you can catch this game. For many Americans, that will work, but for many others, it won’t.
27 – MIAMI BEACH BOWL: SOUTH FLORIDA VS. WESTERN KENTUCKY – December 21st, 2:30 PM, ESPN
The matchup is very interesting, as USF head coach Willie Taggart goes up against the team he previously coached. Western Kentucky is led by Jeff Brohm, considered a rising star in the coaching profession. However, 2:30 on a Monday afternoon is a brutal time slot for a bowl, especially when it’s before Christmas. It’s a little easier for many to take off the week after Christmas.
26 – BOCA RATON BOWL: TOLEDO VS. TEMPLE – December 22nd, 7 PM, ESPN
The game itself is worth a look. Toledo nearly won the MAC West and flirted with the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six bowl bid before losing steam in November. Temple won the AAC East with a defense that was outstanding this season. Yet, a slot a few nights before Christmas prevents this game from rising on the watchability scale.
25 – CACTUS BOWL: WEST VIRGINIA VS. ARIZONA STATE – January 2nd, 10:15 PM, ESPN
This is a late start for a game between two very disappointing teams. There is a chance for fireworks, given the ability of both head coaches — Dana Holgorsen of West Virginia and Todd Graham of Arizona State — to develop high-powered offenses. However, those offenses have sputtered this season. This is the very end of the bowl season — will WVU-ASU retain the interest of viewers?
24 – TAXSLAYER BOWL: PENN STATE VS. GEORGIA – January 2nd, NOON, ESPN
The brand-name presence of these schools is considerable, but Penn State and Georgia were aesthetic disasters this season. It’s not easy to find two other Power 5 teams which were so unenjoyable to watch in 2015. Maybe playing in 2016 will help the Nittany Lions and the Bulldogs. Maybe playing at noon will not help these offenses to wake up.
23 – ARMED FORCES BOWL: AIR FORCE VS. CALIFORNIA – December 29th, 2 PM, ESPN
Troy Calhoun (Air Force) and Sonny Dykes (Cal) are very creative offensive coaches. This game could be fun, but the time slot is not a viewer-friendly one, plunked in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon.
22 – HOLIDAY BOWL: USC VS. WISCONSIN – December 30th, 10:30 PM, ESPN
This is a pairing of highly visible programs, but both have fallen well short of expectations this season. The 10:30 Eastern start on a Wednesday is not particularly helpful. A year ago, the Holiday Bowl was played on a Saturday night, a much better arrangement. Moreover, as said earlier, New Year’s Eve is a huge day for college football this bowl season. Staying up until 2:30 or 3 Eastern the night before? Yeah, that’s not going to be the “in” thing to do.
21 – MUSIC CITY BOWL: TEXAS A&M VS. LOUISVILLE – December 30th, 7 PM, ESPN
This game should have been Arkansas and Louisville — you know, the Bobby Petrino Motorcycle Bowl. Alas, it’s A&M playing Petrino instead. Both teams failed to find a spark on offense this season. The time slot sure is great, however, which is why this game isn’t lower on the list.