The Early Lead: What, when and where is that?
By BRANDON HURLEY
My favorite time of year has arrived yet again - attempting to decipher the unusual sponsors of the annual college football bowl games.
It’s become more enjoyable than the actual games themselves, if I’m being honest.
Gone are the days when we could just call it the Rose Bowl or the Gator Bowl, no, the sponsor’s name has to come first, creating mass hysteria and confusion along the way. Personally, I think there are way, way too many bowl games, ones that mean absolutely nothing, so why not have some fun with it?
Look, I’m all for snagging sponsors, heck, I wouldn’t have a job right now if we didn’t have strong backing from advertisers, but the NCAA and college football, so called non-profits, have taken it to the extreme.
But I digress, this isn’t a column deconstructing the hypocrisy of the NCAA, no, it’s a light-hearted look at the most wonderful time of the year.
So without further adieu, here is my top 10 list of favorite and most confusing bowl sponsors.
I hope you enjoy.
- Dollar General Bowl (Yep, this gets my engine running. The dollar store.)
- Goodyear Cotton Bowl (Nothing says football like a new set of tires)
- Walk On’s Independence Bowl (A bar, really?)
10. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl - Western Michigan vs. BYU
This bowl game tickles my fancy just because Idaho isn’t afraid to embrace their stereotypes. Sure, we make a bunch of potatoes, why not name our bowl game after it?
This is just like Des Moines hosting the Ethanol Corn Bowl. Let’s get the movement started, shall we? I’m sure you could cram some type of football field inside Wells Fargo Arena or force people to sit outside at Valley Stadium.
9. VRBO Citrus Bowl - Kentucky vs. Penn State
I find it amusing a college bowl game is sponsored by a vacation rental site. Do you think these poor athletes can afford, let alone have time, to go on elaborate vacations? Why tease them with that type of crap. I’d be interested to find out what they are giving players for their gift baskets, do you think it’s a one night’s stay at some exotic location? Good luck paying for a flight there.
8. Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl - Florida vs. Michigan
This one has been around for a few years and I certainly don’t mind the sponsor. Who wouldn’t want to walk into an endless supply of delicious chicken sandwiches? If we are guessing what the bowl gift packages are, I’m putting this one near the top of the list. You’re bound to come up with something delicious. Plus, you’re playing football in the ridiculously nice Mercedes-Benz Dome in Atlanta. Can’t beat that.
7. Taxslayer Gator Bowl - NC State vs. Texas A&M
The Gator Bowl used to be such a cool name for a bowl game. Not anymore. The vaunted company of Taxslayer had to step in and ruin it. Thank you very much, bozos.
6. (Tie) Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl and Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Ahhh, when I think of college football and the holiday season, I instantly think of buying a home and how I’ll finance it. Nothing says college athletics like purchasing a home, am I right?
Get out of here with that crap, those college kids don’t need more debt in their life, unless you want to hand them free houses.
5. R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl - Middle Tennessee vs. Appalachian State
Now, a bowl game near Bourbon Street would be pretty dope in itself, but I’ve wondered for years what R + L Carriers actually does, and now I know. It’s a freaking freight shipping company. Nothing against freight companies, we absolutely need truckers to deliver our goods, it’s just not exactly what I was expecting. Really though, I didn’t know what to expect.
4. Redbox Bowl - Michigan State vs. Oregon
Good job getting creative with this one, folks. Nothing against Redbox and its surplus of quality movies, but can’t we get a little bit spicy with this one? I have no idea where this game is located (Looked it up, it’s in San Francisco) and don’t even know if it was a bowl game before hand or it is in its infancy. The only way they can save their selves is to give each player a year’s worth of free rentals. I’d get on board with that.
Or, instead of playing the game on the big screen, show movie clips throughout the contest. That could really jazz things up.
3. Raycom Media Camellia Bowl - Georgia Southern vs. Eastern Michigan
Didn’t know Montgomery, Alabama was a hot bowl destination, but here we are.
I first had to Google what a camellia is, and from my intense research, it turns out it’s just a fancy word for a rose. Go figure.
And apparently, Raycom Media is a broadcasting company that is headquartered in Montgomery, so there you have it. Basically the Mediacom of the south.
2. Cheez-It Bowl - Cal vs. TCU
This one cracks me up. It’s a bowl in Phoenix, Arizona sponsored by a snack. I hope each player gets a lifetime supply of Cheez-Its as their bowl gift, that would be pretty dope. Does the winner get to dump varying flavors of Cheez-Its on their coach? If so, sign me up and find me a big bucket of Tabasco flavored snacks.
1. Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl - UAB vs. Northern Illinois
This one takes the cake, or should I say whipped cream topped ice cream sundae?
I’d love to be in Boca Raton, Florida right now, but maybe not so much if they are slinging juice around. I had absolutely no idea what Cheribundi was before I hit the search button, and boy, was I not missing out. It’s a cherry juice beverage company, super exciting stuff. This is one of the most confusing sponsors of the entire lot… a cherry juice company? We can only hope the action on the field tastes as good as their cherry drink.
To localize this a little bit, I’ll make a couple of bowl predictions.
First, I’ll analyze and pick the Alamo Bowl winner, between 24th-ranked Iowa State and 13th-ranked Washington State.
Initially, I wanted to take ISU with no hesitation. They are the ones extremely fired up to be playing in San Antonio, tickets are selling like hot cakes and Busch Light will be in abundance while Wazzu was hoping to be in the playoff until their loss to Washington in a blizzard.
But then I took a closer look at the stats. Cougar quarterback Gardner Minshew can sling it, he’s thrown for the second most passing yards in the nation (4,477) while compiling a 36-to-9 touchdown to interception ratio. Washington State averages 38.3 points per game, and they’ll be playing in a dome.
Because of this, I think it’ll be a pretty hard fought battle.
I believe Iowa State’s strong defense (22.5 ppg allowed) and their potentially explosive offense will lead them to victory. The fuel of Busch Light will be the deciding factor, as the Cyclones win, 35-31.
Now on to the Outback Bowl, which Iowa will be appearing in for the sixth time in the Kirk Ferentz era. Whoopie.. not.
This will be a defensive blood bath between the Iowa Hawkeyes and Mississippi State. Or so we hope. The Bulldogs are third in the nation in yards allowed per game (268) and first in points allowed per game, a nice round 12.
Iowa is 7th in yards allowed per game and 11th in points allowed (17.4). On paper, this tilts toward a low-scoring affair. But if you consult Iowa’s recent track record against SEC teams, it doesn’t look good.
The last three times Iowa has played a team from the SEC, they lost by a combined score of 96-45. The worst coming against Florida the last time the Hawks were in Tampa in 2017, a 30-3 shellacking.
Where has Iowa’s magic against the vaunted SEC gone? They used to own them in the early and mid 2000s. The Hawks certainly have the defense to stick with MSU this year, but can the offense put them over the top?
I don’t think so. That’s why I’m taking the Bulldogs in a slugfest, 14-13.