Commentary | Winners and losers in college football's bowling-for-dollars season

adell@bradenton.comDecember 12, 2012 

It's the time of year when bowling for dollars looks like our national pastime.

Some bowl CEOs pocket a nice bit of change while players get to spend a week in exotic winter vacation spots such as Boise, Detroit and Shreveport.

For many players, it's an awakening that not all is fair in the maddening world of college football.

The 35-game bowl schedule kicks off Saturday, and somehow the NCAA managed to include only one team with a losing record (Georgia Tech), though 13 of the invitees (19 percent) do not have winning records.

Never has mediocrity looked so good.

We would be remiss if we did not look at some of those bowls that are making teams wonder what all the fuss is about.

If you are betting the mortgage on the outcomes, keep in mind motivation plays a big role in bowl games, and it's going to be hard for some teams to generate enthusiasm.

Orange Bowl

n Reason to cry foul: FSU

The Seminoles rejoiced when they won the ACC title to get a BCS bowl bid for the first since 2005. But rule changes put in a few years ago make Northern Illinois their opponent. This is a no-win situation for FSU. The Noles are expected to dominate the MAC champion, and if they don't they will hear the overrated chants.

n Reason to smile: NIU

If you look at the Huskies' 12-1 record, you have to believe they are laughing all the way to the bank. They lost 18-17 to a bad Iowa team and barely beat hapless Army 41-40 and one-win Kansas 30-23. There were 11 FBS teams on their schedule and only three had a winning record. Among the teams they beat, three were 1-11 and two were 2-10. There will be empty seats aplenty in this one.

Sugar Bowl

n Reason to cry foul: Florida, bowl officials

The Gators were hoping to play Oklahoma (11th-ranked BCS) in what would've been a marquee bowl. Instead they get Big East champ Louisville (18th BCS) and find themselves in a situation similar to FSU with nothing to gain. They have nobody to blame but themselves, unless you want to throw it on quarterback Jeff Driskel, whose four turnovers were key in a loss to Georgia that prevented Florida from having a chance to play for the national title.

n Reason to smile: Louisville

This is a double deal for Cards. Coach Charlie Strong turned down the Tennessee job to stay, and they are in a no-lose

situation as long as they keep the game close. Nice gift for receiver Damian Copeland out of Palmetto, who always wanted to play against Florida. Strong is a former Florida assistant, who has eased worry among bowl officials, but expect a lot of unoccupied seats.

Cotton Bowl

n Reason to smile: Jerry Jones, FOX-TV and everyone connected.

Outside of the Notre Dame-Alabama BCS title game, this is the best matchup, and it's not even a BCS bowl. It's Johnny Touchdown-Heisman Manziel and Texas A&M vs. neighborhood rival Oklahoma. The Sooners' only losses were to Notre Dame and Kansas State, and Oklahoma is a plum choice. Mr. Jones picks up some nice cash to help him pay the mortgage on Cowboys Stadium.

Outback Bowl

n Reason to smile: Outback CEO, Denard Robinson and Ace Sanders.

This game at Raymond James Stadium is always one of the most lucrative bowls, and this year is no exception. It's also a homecoming for Gamecocks receiver Sanders out of Manatee High and for Deerfield Beach's Robinson, who looked like Johnny Touchdown as a sophomore in 2010 when he set the FBS single season rushing record for a quarterback.

n Right to cry: The bands for both schools.

Most of the bowls, including this one, force the bands from each school to buy tickets. Give us a break. They provide free entertainment. Let's keep the greed to a minimum.

Little Caesars Bowl

n Reason to smile: Manatee County players on WKU roster; Central Michigan, City of Detroit.

Those seven Manatee County players on the WKU roster were feeling a little blue last week when head coach Willie Taggart announced he was leaving. But hiring Bobby Petrino (despite all his baggage) had to lift their spirits at least in the short term. Petrino is not a role model for ethics, but he knows how to win. His stint there probably will be short, but he may stay long enough for those sophomores and juniors to finish their careers. At 6-6, Central Michigan has to be happy to go to any bowl, and Detroit must be thankful that anyone wants to visit the Motor City a day after Christmas.

Belk Bowl

n Reason to smile: Duke/bowl officials.

Does anyone know where this is? Try Charlotte, N.C., and with Duke playing despite a 6-6 record, bowl organizers are glowing while the rest of country is confused by all the glee.

Hawaii Bowl

n Reason to smile: SMU.

If you can't play for a national title what a better place to spend Christmas vacation. SMU (6-6) was invited because its coach, June Jones, lit up the skies when he guided University of Hawaii to prominence.

Beef O' Brady Bowl

n Reason to smile: UCF.

The Knights are going to a bowl game right in USF's backyard, and the Bulls are sitting home. But this joy might be short-lived with Taggart taking over the program at Fowler Avenue.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7048, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.

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