SPORTS FOCUS: Let’s go bowl-ing

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It’s true that the college football bowl season has taken on a different meaning since the Big Bad Wolf called the College Football Playoff blew down the house seven years ago.

But, as in life, it’s a matter of perspective and tuning out the talking heads who believe that the only games that matter are the CFP semifinals and the still “mythical” national championship game.

Talk on, talking heads. I ain’t listening.

So, with a mind to enjoy the remains of the day in college football, here’s a look at some of the bowl games to watch. And, try to ignore the names of some of them. When it comes to bowl games, pleasing the sponsor is a necessary evil.

The bowl season kicks off today with a pair of games and continues well past New Year’s Day.

Here’s a matchup that us down-home folks will enjoy: Western Kentucky vs. Appalachian State in the Boca Raton Bowl. If it could only have been played a little closer to where these teams call home. The Hilltoppers vs. the Mountaineers. It all starts at 11 a.m. Saturday.

On Thursday, Dec. 23, two Florida teams that never play one another are playing each other in the Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa, Florida. UCF takes on the University of Florida in what should be an entertaining matchup only because it will be a showcase for recruiting and national exposure – not to mention state bragging rights. Can a directional school beat Big Brother?

Mississippi State makes the short trip to Memphis, Tennessee to play Texas Tech in the Liberty Bowl on Tuesday, Dec. 28. What makes the game somewhat compelling is Bulldogs head coach Mike Leach will coach against one of his former teams.

Two regional teams play a day apart as West Virginia faces Minnesota on Dec. 28 in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl and Maryland squares off against Virginia Tech in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29.

In a matchup of “name” teams who both had aspirations of being in the CFP go head-to-head in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas on Dec. 29. Oregon, which was in the original top four of the CFP back in late October but since lost three games, takes on Oklahoma, another playoff hopeful.

One can’t help but wonder if either team can get properly motivated. But, then again, it’s a bowl game and, let’s face it, it’s in front of the cameras and bowl games can help bolster a team’s morale and kickstart the offseason in good ways with a win. After all, no one likes to lose their last game.

On Jan. 1, Penn State and Arkansas face one another for the first time ever on the gridiron in the Outback Bowl. It’s the Big Ten vs. the Southeastern Conference, which carries a pretty good ring to it. Not many people thought a 7-5 Penn State team would get an invite to play in a New Year’s Day bowl game. But, here they are, a team that started 5-0 but floundered to a 2-5 finish.