The Cure Bowl is coming to a college football season near you.
The NCAA has certified the Cure Bowl for the 2015 season, giving Orlando three post-season games and major-college football 40. But that counts the Big Bowl, which will match bowl winners. So it’s 39 games before the Big Bowl, 78 teams.
And I don’t mind. What do I care if 78 teams make bowls? We don’t have to watch them all, although there are worst ways to spend a December Saturday night than seeing San Diego State play Louisiana-Lafayette.
But it’s clearly a new era of bowling in college football, with the new four-team playoff and the new bowl contracts for the revamped conferences of the last few years.
For the 2014 season, here is the Big 12 bowl lineup:
1. Sugar Bowl (New Orleans)
2. Alamo Bowl (San Antonio)
3. Russell Athletic Bowl (Orlando)
4. Texas Bowl (Houston)
5. Liberty Bowl (Memphis)
6. Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (Tempe, Ariz.)
7. Armed Forces Bowl – as a backup to Army, if the Cadets don’t qualify (Fort Worth, Texas)
Of course, the Big 12 could qualify another team for one of the major bowls – there are six now, so two teams in the top 12 would raise the Big 12 bowl slots from seven to eight.
So, how does the new Big 12 lineup compare to the old Big 12 lineup?
In terms of geography, the Big 12 is in Florida and Louisiana, with only one game total in Arizona or California, as opposed to three in recent years. Florida was needed, but OU in particular has begun recruiting more in California, so that’s probably not an upgrade.
In terms of opposition, the Big 12 has added a game against the ACC and has lost all games against the Big Ten. Is that good? Probably, although the best lineup is at least one game against all four other major conferences. The Big 12 is lined up with the SEC (Sugar, Liberty, Texas Bowl), the Pac-12 (Alamo and Wild Wings), the ACC (Russell Athletic) and the American (Armed Forces).
In terms of prestige, let’s analyze:
1. Sugar 2014 vs. Fiesta 2013: Probably an upgrade. The geography is a wash, but the opposition goes from at-large to SEC. And OU’s Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama last season shows what that kind of victory can do for a program’s and a league’s reputation.
2. Alamo 2014 vs. Cotton 2013: Probably a downgrade. The Alamo is a great bowl, but the Cotton is, too, with even more tradition. The Cotton has moved up to major-bowl status.
3. Russell Athletic 2014 vs. Alamo 2013: Downgrade. The Russell Athletic isn’t even the top bowl in Orlando, so that’s not nearly as prestigious as the Alamo.
4. Texas 2014 vs. Wild Wings 2013: No discernible difference. The Wild Wings takes a backseat to the Fiesta Bowl but is very well run. The Texas Bowl is not well run but plays at a gorgeous venue (Reliant Stadium).
5. Liberty 2014 vs. Holiday 2013: Downgrade. I like Memphis, but it’s not San Diego. The Liberty Bowl is an aging stadium and the weather is mostly awful. I have no idea if the Liberty is well run, but I can tell you that the Holiday is not.
6. Buffalo Wild Wings 2014 vs. Texas Bowl 2013: Just a swap, really. These bowls were 4-6 in 2013, now they’re 6-4.
7. Armed Forces Bowl 2014 vs. Heart of Dallas Bowl 2013: Upgrade, I suppose. The Heart of Dallas is the biggest Mickey Mouse bowl of them all.