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It's popular to rip some of the less prestigious bowls. Or even all of them if you support a playoff system. But the bowls we have today are better than some that are now defunct. Take a look.
The Bluebonnet Bowl (1959-87): The Bluebonnet Bowl could have been the designated national championship game and it still would have been kind of embarrassing to play in it. Something about a bowl named for a flower -- a flower with the word "bonnet" in it -- doesn't exude smashmouth football.
Yet the bowl used to attract fairly good programs. Maybe they couldn't resist the allure of Houston in late December. Or getting to play on the Astrodome carpet. Whatever it was, the bowl folded after the '87 game because it couldn't find a title sponsor. If only it could have lasted into the dotcom era, I'm sure there was some sort of revolutionary online bonnet retailer flush with startup cash that could have been a sponsor.
Garden State Bowl (1978-81): Giants Stadium hosted this bowl game for four years. It's amazing it lasted that long. Whoever conceived of putting a bowl game in North Jersey in mid-December should have been buried under Giants Stadium the moment the idea left their lips.
Gotham Bowl (1961-62): Another reason the Garden State Bowl inventor should have been Hoffa'd: It's not like the idea for a bowl in the area hadn't been tried before. The Gotham Bowl was supposed to start in 1960 with a game between Oregon State and and and they couldn't find anyone willing to come to New York to play Oregon State. Really. (By the way, the history of New York metro region bowls is not really a positive sign for the new Pinstripe Bowl.)
Raisin Bowl (1946-49), Salad Bowl (1948-52): Ha! I get it. You have a terrible bowl that you're trying to cover with a clever name. Good one.
The Haka Bowl (never): The Haka Bowl was scheduled for New Zealand in 1996. It was to be between the third-place teams from the Pac-10 and the WAC. However, the bowl never happened. Financial guarantees fell through and everyone kind of realized college football in New Zealand might be a terrible idea. If only college football would realize New Jersey is like a colder New Zealand. With more strip malls and fewer sheep.
New Mexico Bowl: BYU vs. UTEP, 2 p.m. ET on ESPN
Why this bowl game is not worth watching: Both teams are 6-6.
Why this bowl game is worth watching: BYU isn't bad. The Cougars won four of five games to close the season. Plus, it's college football you can watch for free. What's your problem? You're the kind of person who probably complains that the weather is "too temperate."
Bowl sponsor fun fact: On July 16, 1945, the world's first atomic bomb was detonated in New Mexico. Similarly, each year's first bowl game feels just as destructive to the dreams of those who despise the current bowl system.
Player to watch: JJ Di Luigi, RB, BYU. He leads the Cougars in rushing and receiving yards. He's like a one-man offense. At the same time, BYU better remember that Luigi can't do it all by himself. He needs help.
uDrove Humanitarian Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State, 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Why this bowl is not worth watching: Jerry Kill has left Northern Illinois to take the head-coaching job at Minnesota. That means the Huskies will be led by an interim coach, and unless his name is something like Max Death, they might have trouble getting up for the game.
Why this bowl is worth watching: Fresno State is sixth in the nation in sacks this year and, unlike the NFL, college football still allows defensive players to make contact with the opposing quarterback. Enjoy it.
Bowl sponsor fun fact: As uDrove's official Humanitarian Bowl sponsorship webpage states, the Humanitarian Bowl is "the first bowl game in the United States to have humanity in its brand." Take THAT, other bowls! Especially you, Non-Opposable Thumbs Bowl. And you, too, Lacking Ability For Complex Thought Bowl.
Player to watch: Huskies RB Chad Spann is the winner of the Vern Smith Award. That's given to the MAC player of the year and is the world's most prestigious award with "Vern" in the name.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Ohio vs. Troy, 9 p.m. ET on ESPN
Why this bowl is not worth watching: It's a prime-time bowl matchup between teams from the Sun Belt and MAC conferences. The school names are not the only four-letter words that may come to mind.
Why this bowl is worth watching: Troy played in one of the most entertaining games of last year's bowl season, a 44-41 double-overtime loss to Central Michigan in the GMAC Bowl. I don't really recall the pregame buzz for that game being super-high, either.
Bowl sponsor fun fact: If you follow R+L Carriers on Twitter, like I do, you'd know they are currently offering discounts on shipments of 4,000 pounds or greater. This is great if you got your daughter a pony for Christmas. And an elephant.
Player to watch: Boo Jackson, QB, Ohio. Boo Jackson owns the Ohio record for most career touchdown passes. If he doesn't play professionally, he has a bright future signing sports memorabilia for elderly Auburn fans.
Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl: Southern Miss vs. Louisville, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
Why this bowl is not worth watching: There's a potential fear that tuning into something with the name "Beef 'O' Brady" in it might be more all-male revue than college football game.
Why this bowl is worth watching: There's just as good a chance that there will be gratuitous shots of actual beef. Mmmmmm. Beef.
Bowl sponsor fun fact: Beef 'O' Brady's is best known for its award-winning wings. Mmmmmm. Beef wings.
Player to watch: Adam Froman, QB, Louisville. Froman started the season for Louisville before injuring his leg. He's back and will likely see some action in this game. It goes without saying that someone who may be an heir of Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago, would never miss something called the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl.
MAACO Bowl Las Vegas: No. 19 Utah vs. No. 11 Boise State, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
Why this bowl is not worth watching: You might be a Boise State fan and you haven't even gotten out of bed since the Nevada game, let alone gotten to the point that you're ready to watch football again.
Why this bowl is worth watching: It's the first bowl of the season between ranked teams! Deck the halls, et cetera!Bowl sponsor fun fact: MAACO's slogan is "Uh-oh, better get MAACO." Unfortunately, most accidents that occur in Las Vegas require an attorney or penicillin shots, not collision repair.
Player to watch: Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State. A good game could really help his Heisman chances (if Cam Newton is ever stripped of the award).
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: Navy vs. San Diego State, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
Why this bowl is not worth watching: The Poinsettia Bowl has all the tough-guy feel of the Bluebonnet Bowl.
Why this bowl is worth watching: You have a problem with the Navy, commie? Also, this is San Diego State's first bowl since 1998, so the Aztecs will be pretty excited to play in a bowl and get to see the city of San Diego.
Bowl sponsor fun fact: The SDCCU is only open to residents of San Diego, Riverside and Orange counties. So if you really enjoy their work with this bowl, you'll have to move to Southern California to open a checking or savings account.
Player to watch: Ricky Dobbs, QB, Navy. He runs Navy's triple option. If San Diego State would like a defensive tip: All three options are almost always some form of running. You're welcome!
Be sure to check back next Thursday for Part 2 of Varsity Tailgate's bowl preview.
DJ Gallo is the founder of SportsPickle.com. His first book, "The View from the Upper Deck," is available from only the finest bargain book retailers. His next book project will be released soon. You can follow him on Twitter at @DJGalloESPN.
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