Let’s face it. Bowl season isn’t as big as it used to be.
Sure, it gives us more football to watch and some semi-interesting matchups around the New Year’s holiday, but by and large, most SEC fans didn’t exactly approach the season back in August saying, “Man, I hope we can get to and win a bowl game this year!”
The reality is that all but one of the bowl games are exhibition games. There’s a real lacking of urgency for most SEC teams except on the sidelines of Alabama and Notre Dame during the big game on January 7th. Sure, a team like Northwestern which hasn’t won a bowl game in something like 60 years will maybe have a little more urgency than their opponent, Mississippi State. And, South Carolina will be pumped to get another win during this stretch of double digit win seasons. But, overall, for the power SEC programs and their fan bases – even some of the mid-tier programs – winning the bowl game isn’t all that important.
That’s not to say fans don’t want to win. Of course, they want to win. We all prefer winning. I want the Orlando Magic to win on a regular basis. It’s the feeling that accompanies the loss that differentiates mere preference to obsessive rooting for your team. There’s quite a difference between the Orlando Magic losing on a random Tuesday night to the Atlanta Hawks and LSU fans losing to Alabama on November 3rd this year. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you might want to just stop reading Saturday Down South altogether.
LSU fans will travel to Atlanta to play Clemson. Hopefully, they get a win. If not, they’ll probably still go party in the Buckhead bars and do their normal thing. But, LSU fans aren’t going to be overly upset if they lose. Same with Florida fans at the Sugar Bowl. And even Georgia fans at the Capital One. The fans of Florida, Georgia and LSU want to play for championships. Exhibition bowl games are in a different category.
LSU and Georgia had title aspirations in 2012. A Capital One or Peach Bowl victory is hardly a suitable replacement for what could have been.
Bowl season is more about entertainment. We love seeing our teams take the field and playing football. Getting to watch games on New Year’s Day is enjoyable. Winning the game is icing on the cake. Losing is frustrating, but hey, it’s the New Year… and there’s always hope to win it all next season, right?
Exceptions? I’ll give you two.
Vanderbilt hasn’t been a regular participant in bowl season, so the appearance in itself is meaningful. Moreover, a victory is another notch on the belt of coach James Franklin and his resurgent program. As Franklin continues to build the Vandy brand, each win is beneficial in building a perception that Vanderbilt can compete on the big stage. Vanderbilt takes on NC State in the Music City Bowl on Dec 31st and 12:00 noon on ESPN.
The other exception is Texas A&M. The Aggies get a chance to build off their huge first season in the SEC by taking it to an elite program from their former conference. Not only is this one of the more interesting matchups, but add in the electric, recent Heisman winner and the public will be watching. The Aggies have the chance to not only show up the Big 12, but also get the opportunity to show the masses that this is a top tier program nationally. Texas A&M takes on Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl on January 4th.
Enjoy the bowl games.