I can't really say it's by popular demand, but it's back nonetheless.
It's the 5th Annual Fictional Bowl Games for College Football's Also-rans.
This project started in 2009 as a way to get a bad Arizona State team into the postseason. So I created the Late Night Talk Show Host Alma Mater Bowl between ASU, where Jimmy Kimmel went to school (for a while anyway) and Ball State, David Letterman's alma mater. Hey, Danny Sullivan was the Devils' quarterback that year -- I was desperate.
This year, 70 teams are going to real bowls, 55 are not.
I'm a staunch believer that these teams shouldn't be left out in the cold. Why should teams with winning records be the only ones to benefit from a few extra weeks of practice? Why should only the 'good teams' in the country get gift bags from sponsors that somehow aren't considered improper benefits by the NCAA?
So once again, I've created 27 fictional bowl games for those schools that didn't get an invite to a real bowl game, because by God, no team should be left behind.
Enjoy, and Happy Bowl season to all!
The 'If Ron Zook Was Here, None of This Would Have Happened' Bowl - Illinois Fighting Illini (4-8) vs. Florida Gators (4-8) - Just when you thought you'd never see the day when programs were pining for the Gary Cole look-alike to roam the sidelines again. Zook took Illinois to a Rose Bowl and Florida to back-to-back Outback Bowls, so you know he'd be welcomed back to Champaign or Gainesville this year.
The Opposite of Supremacy in Michigan Cutthroat Bowl - Eastern Michigan Eagles (2-10) vs. Central Michigan Chippewas (6-6) vs. Western Michigan Broncos (1-11) - It's a Menage a Michigan! We know Michigan State is the top team in The Great Lakes State, and we know Michigan, is well, still around. And since there's an uneven number of teams left out of real bowl games, this three-way crapfest is perfect!
The Alan Garner Bowl - North Carolina State Wolfpack (3-9) vs. Nevada Wolfpack (4-8) - Zach Galifianakis' character in The Hangover was a one-man wolfpack. Well, you don't have to be alone anymore, Alan. There's two highly mediocre football teams who want to join. Warning: Watching this game would have the same effect on you as roofies would.
The Bobby Petrino Bowl - Arkansas Razorbacks (3-9) vs. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (8-4) - Petrino's former team against his current team (at least at the time I wrote this). Winner gets a ride on the back of his motorcycle.
The Someting's Gotta Give Bowl - Miami RedHawks (0-12) vs. Georgia State Panthers (0-12) - The only two winless teams in FBS meet up at O.co Coliseum -- get it? Loser gets a ride on the back of Bobby Petrino's motorcycle.
The 5th Annual Hooters Bowl - Temple Owls (2-10) vs. Florida Atlantic Owls (6-6) - This game is becoming the "Granddaddy of 'Em All" -- at least in terms of my fictional bowl games. FAU is making its unprecedented fifth appearance in this classic, while Temple is in its second.
The 'All That's Golden Does Not Glitter' Bowl - California Golden Bears (1-11) vs. Southern Miss Golden Eagles (1-11) - Cal endured its worst season since 2001 while Southern Miss needed a season-capping win over UAB to avoid a second winless campaign.
The Ford Models of Past and Present Bowl - Air Force Falcons (2-10) vs. SMU Mustangs (5-7) - The Mustang has been part of the Ford family since 1964 while the Falcon has been defunct since 1970, or roughly about the same time Air Force's offense was considered en vogue.
The 4th Annual Discontinued Chevrolet Models Bowl - UAB Blazers (2-10) vs. Virginia Cavaliers (2-10) - I pray one of these schools will soon make a real bowl game, so I can stop pitting them against each other in a fake bowl game. But considering that UAB has been to only one in their history, and Virginia has one appearance since 2008, it's not likely.
The 'The 'All That's Golden Still Does Not Glitter' Bowl - Tulsa Golden Hurricane (3-9) vs. Kent State Golden Flashes (4-8) - Seriously, there are five FBS teams with 'Golden' in their names, and four of them flat out suck. Congrats, Minnesota Golden Gophers, on escaping the curse.
The 'Forget This, Let's Get Sloshed' Bowl - Purdue Boilermakers (1-11) vs. UTSA Roadrunners (7-5) - Sure, you probably knew that a Boilermaker is a shot of whiskey dropped into a mug of beer. But did you know a Roadrunner is a blended drink with vodka, amaretto almond liqueur and coconut cream poured into a champagne flute with a nutmeg garnish. I felt feminine just typing that. Hey barkeep, give me another Boilermaker!
The 'Our Brothers Are Way More Accomplished Than Us' Bowl - Kentucky Wildcats (2-10) vs. Idaho Vandals (1-11) - Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops has long been overshadowed by big brothers Bob and Mike, while Paul Petrino is following in the footsteps of big brother, Bobby. Stay off that motorcycle, Paul. That's three Petrino motorcycle jokes -- a new record!!
The 'Our Fathers Are Way More Accomplished Than Us' Bowl - Akron Zips (5-7) vs. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (4-8) - Akron's head coach is Terry Bowden, son of Bobby Bowden, who won 485 games and two national championships in 40 years. Louisiana Tech's head coach is Skip Holtz, son of Lou Holtz, who won 249 games and a national championship in his career. Bowden is 6-18 at Akron while Holtz has a 92-79 record in stops at Connecticut, East Carolina, South Florida and now Louisiana Tech.
The Punters Better Be Warmed Up Bowl - FIU Panthers (1-11) vs. South Florida Bulls (2-10) - Wanna know how you combine to go 3-21? Don't convert your third down opportunities. FIU converted on 22.5 percent of their third downs -- worst in the nation -- and the Bulls weren't much better, as they made the chain gang move only 28 percent of the time.
The 'At Least We Beat Army Bowl' - Hawaii Warriors (1-11) vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-8) - Poor Army. Not only are they in one of these ridiculous made-up games, but now they're the subject of one, too. Wake Forest didn't win much, but the handed the Black Knights a 25-11 loss in September. Army traveled to Honolulu Thanksgiving Weekend and lost 49-42 -- the Warriors' only win of the season. Hopefully the boys from West Point at least got to wear linen pants and go to a luau while they were there.
The 'How Did We Get Here?' Bowl - West Virginia Mountaineers (4-8) vs. TCU Horned Frogs (4-8) - The Mountaineers had gone to an actual bowl game 11 years in a row while Gary Patterson's Frogs had been to eight straight. But if you really want to know how these teams got here, look at the column marked 'turnovers'. Both teams are in the bottom eight in FBS in turnovers lost -- they've combined for 62 giveaways on the year. Generosity is heart-warming at this time of the year, but this is ridiculous!
The 'We Don't Care If We're Getting Killed, We're Gonna Run It' Bowl - Army Black Knights (3-9) vs. New Mexico Lobos (3-9) - Army lost their nine games by an average of 16.2 points per game. The Lobos' nine defeats came by an average margin of 20.7 points -- but both teams still ranked in the the top ten in the nation in rushing offense. So they've got going for them, which is nice.
The Go Ahead and Score At Will Bowl - New Mexico State Aggies (2-10) vs. UTEP Miners (2-10) - These two schools offered very little resistance to opposing offenses in 2013. NMSU gave up an average of 44 points per game, while UTEP's opponents scored 39.3 points per contest. Get your end zone dances ready, guys. You'll have plenty of opportunity to show them off in this game.
The 'Things Started Out So Well, What Happened?' Bowl - Colorado Buffaloes (4-8) vs. Northwestern Wildcats (5-7) - Colorado actually started the season with two straight wins over Colorado State and Central Arkansas, giving the Buffs their first 2-0 start since 2008. Then Mike MacIntyre's team went 2-8 the rest of the way and won only one conference game. Northwestern actually started the season 4-0, was ranked as high as 16th and led Ohio State entering the fourth quarter of their game in Evanston in early October. The Buckeyes came back and won, sending the Wildcats on a seven-game tailspin that ended with a victory over Illinois in the final week of the season.
The Vice President Bowl - Wyoming Cowboys (5-7) vs. Iowa State Cyclones (3-9) - Before he became America's favorite Vice President (excuse me while I wipe off this excess sarcasm), Dick Cheney was a student at Wyoming -- after flunking out of Yale. Meanwhile, Henry Agard Wallace, who served under FDR from 1941 to 1945, studied at Iowa State. See, these stupid games can be educational too.
The 'Watch Out in 2014' Bowl - Connecticut Huskies (3-9) vs. South Alabama Jaguars (6-6) - The highlight of UConn's first nine games was nearly beating Michigan. Bleak, right? The Huskies saw their head coach Paul Pasqualoni get fired in September and started the season 0-9. But they got hot down the stretch, winning their last three games to go into the offseason on a high note. South Alabama was 3-6 after getting routed by Navy in November, but also closed the season with three straight wins over UL Monroe, Georgia State and Louisiana-Lafayette. OK, maybe that's not so impressive after all.
The 'At Least Our Losses Are Entertaining' Bowl - Indiana Hoosiers (5-7) vs. Troy Trojans (6-6) - The Hoosiers and the Trojans were the only two non-bowl teams to rank in the top 35 in the country in points per game. IU was 19th, averaging 38.4 points while Troy was tied for 33rd at 34.1. My advice? Take the over in this one. Indiana games averaged a total of 77 points per game; Troy's contests averaged 70.
The 'Be Careful What You Wish For' Bowl - Kansas Jayhawks (3-9) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (5-7) - Once upon a time, Mark Mangino coached KU football. In 2007, he guided a Jayhawks team that went 12-1 and beat Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. After a 5-7 season in 2009, he was fired. KU is 6-39 post-Mangino under the guidance of Turner Gill and Charlie Weis. In Knoxville, Phil Fulmer led the Vols to 14 bowl games in 16 years and won the first-ever BCS National Championship following the 1998 season. Since Fulmer was shown the door, Tennessee is 28-34 under Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley and Butch Jones.
The 'We Have a Country Music Superstar as Alumni' Bowl - Texas State Bobcats (6-6) vs. Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (6-6) - Before George Strait took the country music world by storm, he strolled the campus of Texas State, or Southwest Texas State, as it was called when he went there. And before Tim McGraw was selling out arenas all over the world, he attended the University of Louisiana-Monroe. This matchup might be bad, but the honorary captains are first rate.
The 'Hey, We Each Beat Three Real Bowl Teams' Bowl - Penn State Nittany Lions (7-4) vs. Toledo Rockets (7-5) - Two teams with winning records meeting in a fictional bowl? Penn State was unable to go to a bowl because, well, you know. We don't want to relive that horror. And Toledo was just overlooked by bowl committees. The Rockets beat bowl-eligible Buffalo, Bowling Green and Navy while Penn State knocked off Syracuse, Michigan and Wisconsin.
The 'We Beat a Highly-Ranked Team' Bowl - Utah Utes (5-7) vs. San Jose State Spartans (6-6) - I still don't know how they did it, but Utah beat 5th-ranked Stanford in October -- a game that kept the Cardinal out of the BCS title picture. Meanwhile, the Spartans poured cold water all over Fresno State's BCS bowl chances by outgunning the 16th-ranked Bulldogs 62-52 on Thanksgiving weekend and ruining their perfect regular season.
The 'Nobody Cares, It's Basketball Season' Bowl - Memphis Tigers (3-9) vs. UMass Minutemen (1-11) - It'll be a far-less-than-capacity crowd on hand to watch these two teams play. That's because all their fans are paying attention to their nationally-ranked hoops squads. Memphis is ranked 15th in the country, and UMass is in the top 25 for the first time since 1998-99.