Between last Saturday and January 9, there will be 35 college football contests, meaning that some 58 percent of all Division I FBS schools will engage in these holiday-season rituals. For some of the players, it's a dream come true. For others, this means that an otherwise perfect Christmas vacation has been ruined. But for fans, these season-ending contests are a necessity.
My research has left me without a solid explanation as to the etymology of the word "bowl" as it pertains to things other than the eating of soup, the rationing of marijuana and the rolling of heavy things by drunken Midwesterners. This will have to remain a mystery for the moment, but calling these games "bowls" is helpful for the weary holiday travelers who find themselves cordoned off for a week in a Christmas-tree-lit living room with people they see once a year, but are told are family. It's a "bowl" game. You have to watch it.
Booze helps with these situations, of course, but a little liquid lubrication isn't a cure-all, especially when your uncle starts espousing his opinions on "the gays" and "those A-rabs on that TV show." Football, though, is a great equalizer, and it doesn't matter that your only bowl option for Christmas Eve features Nevada vs. ( surprisingly good) Southern Mississippi playing in an empty stadium in Hawaii. Again, it's a bowl game and when your mother or wife or husband or whoever else is trying to get you off the couch objects, just say "But it's the _______ Bowl! They only play this once a year!" If your family gathering consists of more than six other American men, it's statistically proven that at least one of them will chime in with, "Yeah, it's the ________ Bowl!"
You'll get to watch some football over the Christmas weekend and into the following pre-New Year's lull, but you're going to need some talking points because you'll be the ass of the family (which you very well may be - I don't know your siblings or relatives... or you, for that matter) if you sit there in silence. Here are a few talking points:
MAACO Las Vegas Bowl: Thursday, December 22. Boise St. vs. Arizona St.:
OK, this one should be easy. Just take an ardent position either for or against Boise St. Even if you don't give a shit about Kellen Moore and his guardians of the blue turf, just pretend you either love them or hate them. Someone will almost certainly have an opposing opinion. Enjoy the friendly debate.
AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl: Monday, December 26. Missouri vs. North Carolina:
This game will likely swing heavily Missouri's way, but in order to make sure this contest kills a sizable chunk of your hangover-addled day-after-Christmas afternoon, simply ask this question: "Do you guys know why it's called the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl?" They'll venture guesses pertaining to tooth brushes and health insurance and rocket fuel, but they'll never realize that Advocare V100 is the name of a multivitamin.
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Saturday, December 31. UCLA vs. Illinois:
If you're watching this game on New Year's Eve, you have found an exceptionally boring way to close out the year, given that you're watching this abysmal matchup of teams that have no place in bowl games. UCLA actually has a losing record (6-7) and has already canned their head coach, so they were rewarded with a bowl game, naturally. But hey, it's the Fight Hunger Bowl, so you're doing something good by watching this. Or just keep telling this to everyone around you.
New Year's Day:
This is an abomination. There are no bowl games on New Year's Day, so we hope you enjoy the final week of the NFL season. The Rose Bowl isn't until the following afternoon, so you'll have to fend for yourself to kick off 2012.
Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl: Monday, January 2. Ohio State vs. Florida:
This one should be easy, but there's a good chance you'll be totally spent by the time Monday rolls around. Just bring up Urban Meyer and how he once coached one of these teams and will soon take the helm of the other. Also, it's worth pointing out that two once powerful squads are playing in the most ridiculously named bowl of the year. What's a Tax Slayer exactly? Shouldn't one of the GOP candidates try to co-op that title? Go ahead, you can use that joke if conversation really dries up.