German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wasn’t talking about college football bowl season when he wrote “And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”
Or was he?
Two-plus weeks of the bowl season arrive on Saturday with the New Mexico Bowl, prompting the question: Why do these games exist?
▪ For coaching bonuses. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney stands to earn more than $1 million for the Tigers’ appearance in the Fiesta Bowl as part of the College Football Playoff.
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Assistant coaches cash in to a lesser extent, but there’s usually enough for a nice family vacation to someplace like a bowl destination.
▪ For ESPN. Literally in some cases. The top sports network will televise 38 of the 41 bowl games and owns and operates 13 of them. ESPN needs programming during the holiday season. Bowl games fill that need.
▪ For players’ swag. Under NCAA rules, players can receive up to $550 in gifts from the bowl games, and most involved sun glasses, backpacks, watches, apparel, gift cards and headphones.
The most original idea of the bowl gift-giving season goes to the TaxSlayer Bowl. Players from Georgia Tech and Kentucky will receive in their gift bags a bobblehead of themselves with their likeness, name and uniform number.
▪ For charity. Children’s hospital visits are staples at bowl games, which is one of the cooler things that happen during a bowl week. Perhaps the most charitable of the bowl games is the Peach Bowl, which gave $1.28 million in donations to several charities and scholarships in 2015.
▪ For school pride, goofy sponsor names, sometimes good matchups, and now for the third year, to find a national champion through the College Football Playoff.
Starting Saturday and over the next two weeks they’ll be part of the daily sports scene. Here’s a guide to help you navigate the calendar, and to paraphrase another philosopher, “I watched the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, therefore I am.”
New Mexico Bowl: UTSA (6-6) vs. New Mexico (8-4)
Las Vegas Bowl: Houston (9-3) vs. San Diego State (10-3)
Camellia Bowl: Appalachian State (9-3) vs. Toledo (9-3)
Cure Bowl: Central Florida (6-6) vs Arkansas State (7-5)
New Orleans Bowl: Southern Mississippi (6-6) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (6-6)
Don’t miss: Houston-San Diego State. The Cougars defeated Oklahoma and Louisville — and had a disappointing season. Freshman defensive tackle Ed Oliver is a force, and he’ll try to help prevent Aztecs running back Donnel Pumphrey from becoming the NCAA’s career rushing leader. Pumphrey needs 108 yards to pass Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne (6,397 yards) for the record.
Miami Beach Bowl: Central Michigan (6-6) vs. Tulsa (9-3)
Boca Raton Bowl: Western Kentucky (10-3) vs. Memphis (8-4)
Poinsettia Bowl: Brigham Young (8-4) vs. Wyoming (8-5)
Potato Bowl: Idaho (8-4) vs. Colorado State (7-5)
Don’t miss: BYU-Wyoming. Tanner Magnum gets the start at quarterback over injured Taysom Hill for the Cougars. BYU wins the defense. The Cowboys like to grind it out on the ground with Brian Hill, the nation’s fourth-leading rusher with 1,767 yards.
Bahamas Bowl: Eastern Michigan (7-5) vs. Old Dominion (9-3)
Armed Forces Bowl: Navy (9-3) vs. Louisiana Tech (8-4)
Dollar General Bowl: Troy (9-3) vs. Ohio (8-5)
Hawaii Bowl: Hawaii (6-7) vs. Middle Tennessee State (8-4)
Don’t miss: Navy-Louisiana Tech. The Midshipmen are the nation’s No. 4 rushing team at 310.9 yards per game. The Bulldogs are the No. 3 passing team at 359.8 yards per game.
St. Petersburg Bowl: Mississippi State (5-7) vs. Miami, Ohio (6-6)
Quick Lane Bowl: Maryland (6-6) vs. Boston College (6-6)
Independence Bowl: North Carolina State (6-6) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6)
Don’t miss: N.C. State-Vandy. Not much to choose from on this day, so go with the best player. That’s linebacker Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt’s first consensus All-America in 30 years and projected first-round NFL Draft selection.
Heart of Dallas Bowl: Army (7-5) vs. North Texas (5-7)
Military Bowl: Temple (10-3) vs. Wake Forest (6-6)
Holiday Bowl: Minnesota (8-4) vs. Washington State (8-4)
Cactus Bowl: Baylor (6-6) vs. Boise State (10-2)
Don’t miss: Minnesota-Washington State. The Gophers have suspended 10 players for off-field troubles and the secondary was hit hard. Washington State’s Luke Falk, the nation’s fourth-most productive passer could run up some numbers here.
Pinstripe Bowl: Pittsburgh (8-4) vs. Northwestern (6-6)
Russell Athletic Bowl: Miami, Fla., (8-4) vs. West Virginia (10-2)
Foster Farms Bowl: Indiana (6-6) vs. Utah (8-4)
Texas Bowl: Texas A&M (8-4) vs. Kansas State (8-4)
Don’t miss: Texas A&M-Kansas State. Aggies defensive end Myles Garrett will get a close look by all the NFL with lousy records. The pass rushing specialist with 31 career sacks has been likened to Von Miller.
Birmingham Bowl: South Carolina (6-6) vs. South Florida (10-2)
Belk Bowl: Arkansas (7-5) vs. Virginia Tech (9-4)
Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma State (9-3) vs. Colorado (10-3)
Don’t miss: Oklahoma State-Colorado, an old Big Eight Pokes-Buffs game. This is the first postseason game between two ranked teams. Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre has won several national coach of the year awards. Now he’ll have to get the Buffaloes up when they figured to be headed to the Rose Bowl.
Liberty Bowl: Georgia (7-5) vs. TCU (6-6)
Sun Bowl: Stanford (9-3) vs. North Carolina (8-4)
Music City Bowl: Nebraska (9-3) vs. Tennessee (8-4)
Arizona Bowl: Air Force (9-3) vs. South Alabama (6-6)
Orange Bowl: Florida State (9-3) vs. Michigan (10-2)
Don’t miss: Nebraska-Tennessee. They’ve played in bigger bowls for bigger stakes, but that was several coaches ago. The programs appeared to be headed to something better in October when they reached the top 10. Now they look to finish the season strong. The Huskers hope quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., can recover from a hamstring injury. Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs has had a terrific senior season.
Dec. 31-Jan. 2
Citrus Bowl: Louisville (9-3) vs. LSU (7-4)
TaxSlayer Bowl: Georgia Tech (8-4) vs. Kentucky (7-5)
Outback Bowl: Florida (8-4) vs. Iowa (8-4)
Don’t miss: Louisville-LSU. Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson vs. preseason Heisman favorite Leonard Fournette. Tigers coach Ed Orgeron has the interim tag removed, and this one should come down to who draws up a better scheme between Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino and LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.
College football playoff
Peach Bowl: Alabama (13-0) vs. Washington (12-1)
Crimson Tide defense is epic, but Chris Petersen has won many big games.
Fiesta Bowl: Clemson (12-1) vs. Ohio State (11-1)
Quarterback battle between Deshaun Watson and J.T. Barrett could make this most competitive bowl game.
Cotton Bowl: Western Michigan (13-0) vs. Wisconsin (10-3)
The Broncos look to become the sixth FBS team to finish 14-0
Rose Bowl: Penn State (11-2) vs. Southern California (9-3)
USC quarterback Sam Darnold might have been top player in season’s second half
Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma (10-2) vs. Auburn (8-4)
Last time Sooners reached the Sugar Bowl they beat Alabama
CFP National Championship Game
Prediction: Alabama vs. Ohio State