Don’t let those bad people on the television lie to you, every bowl game matters. If you love football and you dive deep enough into every game there will be something interesting about all of them. To save you the trouble of going through all of that, I’m going to give you THREE reasons to watch every bowl game involving the Group of Five.
(FCS playoff games, DII and DIII title games included this week)
Friday- December 14th
South Dakota State at North Dakota State
FCS Playoff semi-final
8:00pm(ET) on ESPN2
1. Rivals: These two have become the most hated of rivals over the years. As the North Dakota State dynasty began to rise it wasn’t in-state North Dakota that modeled their program after the Bison it was the Jack Rabbits in the next state over. South Dakota State has made this game special each outing by rising and having an elite program of their own.
2. Over the hump: This isn’t to imply that South Dakota State has never beaten the Bison but in these playoff situations they always fall short. The Jack Rabbits would’ve won a few titles over the decade had it not been for the team in Fargo. The South Dakota State offense may have the slight edge against a stout Bison defense this time around though.
3. Loss of a coach: North Dakota State Head Coach Chris Klieman is on his way to take over at Kansas State. This is his last ride at the Fargo Dome. Will the Bison step up and finish it off the right way?
Mount Union vs Mary Hardin-Baylor
NCAA Division III National Championship.
7pm(ET) on ESPNU
1. Battle of unbeatens: Yes that’s right both of these teams are undefeated. I would be lying if I told you I knew a lot about either one (I am secret Mount Union fan though) but both being undefeated is worth a watch a lone. Someone has to lose.
2. A true dynasty: Mount Union is basically for lack of a better description the Alabama or North Dakota State of their level, always in and always around. It’s a high level of play from a Division III program. But MHB won the title two years ago so this is a heavyweight fight.
3. Easily accessible: This one is simple, you don’t need a special connection or streaming device. If you have the ESPN family of networks flip it on over. It should be a good one.
Saturday- December 15th
North Carolina A&T vs Alcorn State
Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl
12:00pm(ET) on ABC
1. A spotlight for HBCU’s: If you need no other reason to tune into this one this is it. This is the yearly celebration (pun fully intended) of historically black colleges and their impact on the game of football. This SWAC Champion vs MEAC Champion game is usually entertaining and the halftime show is great! Also it’s in an NFL stadium that they fill out nicely.
2. Cut the check: This phrase was said earlier in the year by NC A&T coach Sam Washington after they defeated in state foe and FBS program East Carolina. Which means this team is really good and capable of beating a team of that level. Although you could argue Alcorn State may be a tougher out.
3. Strength vs strength: Let’s get a little football nerdy for this one and tell you the Alcorn State rushing offense is 8th in the FCS and the NC A&T rushing defense is ranked 2nd and is first in third down total defense. That’s the matchup to look for in this game.
Tulane vs Louisiana
AutoNation Cure Bowl
1:30pm(ET) on CBS Sports Network
1. Rivalry: While not a “true” rivalry game. There is certainly no love lost between these two Louisiana schools and their fan bases.
2. Both coaches deserve a round of applause: The two teams played a little above their heads this season. Thanks in large part to the coaching jobs done by Billy Napier and Willie Fritz. Napier has brought a dynamic offense to Louisiana and Fritz has brought a toughness to his Tulane team. Styles make fights and these two clash.
3. A good cause: The Cure Bowl was started back in 2008 as a way to raise money and awareness for breast cancer. Which is why you’ll see the color pink a lot and patches on the teams jersey’s. Bonus reason is these two teams have a beautiful uniform clash!
It's a Bayou Battle for a Cure!— AutoNation Cure Bowl (@CureBowl) December 2, 2018
We looking forward to welcoming @RaginCajunsFB and @GreenWaveFB to the @citybeautiful!
Kickoff on Dec. 15 at @CWStadium is set for 1:30 p.m. on @CBSSportsNet
Together, #WeCanTackleThis pic.twitter.com/CDXbQPx4KW
North Texas vs Utah State
New Mexico Bowl
2:00pm(ET) on ESPN
1. Mason Fine: If you don’t watch this game for any other reason then watch it for how fun the Mean Green offense is. That offense is lead by quarterback Mason Fine and he’s been outstanding this season. You’re in for a treat if you haven’t seen it yet.
2. Top 25 level: Utah State has been a top 25 football team at multiple times this season. Outside of a close loss to Michigan State and close loss to Boise State this team has put together one heck of a season. If you haven’t watched this team, this would be a good time to tune in.
3. History: These two teams have a very brief history with one another. The two played semi-reguarly in the nineties and they were also both Sun Belt conference members together for a very brief two years. It’s been fourteen years since they’ve met on the field though.
Maine at Eastern Washington
FCS Playoff semi-final
2:00pm(ET) on ESPN2
1. A real underdog story: This isn’t saying that Maine has never been good before but they weren’t supposed to be here this season. They entered the playoffs as a 7 seed. So if you’re behind the underdog then the Black Bears are your team in this one.
2. Fun offense: Eastern Washington are their normal selves in here. Their offense is electric and it’s been that way for a long time. If you’ve never watched them before I guarantee you there will be at least three plays that make you say “wow.”
3. Inferno time: Why yes, the Eastern Washington Eagles play on red turf. It’s the evil step sister to Boise State’s blue turf. If you’re into that kind of thing.
Fresno State vs Arizona State
Mitisbushi Las Vegas Bowl
3:30pm(ET) on ABC
1. These Bulldogs are GOOD: Not just a little cute story good either. They are top 25 and conference champion good. They play an exciting brand of offense and have one of the best defenses in the group of five. Quarterback Marcus McMaryion is also a real treat to watch.
2. Herm freaking Edwards: Not group of five related but Herm has exceeded what we all thought he would this season and it’s going to be fun to see him on the sidelines in a bowl game.
3. Power Five vs Group of Five: This is a dying breed in the bowl season but we finally get a P5 vs G5 game and it should be a pretty good one. These are the stages that Mountain west teams have to shine on.
Ferris State vs Valdosta State
NCAA Division II National Championship
4:00pm(ET) on ESPNU
1. Two unbeatens(part two): Just like it’s Division III counterpart this game will feature two undefeated teams. So again... SOMEONE HAS TO LOSE. Actually the whole final four were unbeaten so both teams already beat a previously undefeated team to get here.
2. Big plays: Ferris State’s offense produces big plays regularly which leads to a compelling brand of football. Valdosta State is the more known of the two nationally but Ferris is the one creating an offense made for television.
3. Easily accessible(part 2): So again like its Division III counterpart this one is easy to find on your cable or satellite boxes. Which means you should definite flip it over and give it a try. It’s a championship game! You won’t be let down.
What we learned from the #D2FB Championship semifinals, which featured four undefeated teams for the first time ever: https://t.co/HSEqYKYeJs.— NCAA Division II (@NCAADII) December 9, 2018
Can't make it to McKinney ISD Stadium to watch Saturday's championship game live? See it at 4 p.m. ET on ESPNU.#MakeItYours pic.twitter.com/8tN5hhZNwi
Georgia Southern vs Eastern Michigan
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
5:30pm(ET) on ESPN
1. Sun Belt vs MAC isn’t that common: Here are two conferences we just don’t see play each other a ton. Due to geography and other reasons, regular season match ups are limited. That’s what makes the bowl season special.
2. EMU’s defense vs the triple option: The triple option offense is a thing of beauty when it’s humming but Georgia Southern may have a little trouble with that in this one. The Eastern Michigan defense is one of the best in the MAC and was good enough to hold the potent Purdue offense down to win the game.
3. Both coaching jobs: Just like the Cure Bowl both of these coaches deserve a round of applause. Chris Creighton and Chad Lunsford have done some incredible work getting these two teams into a bowl. Last year they were both at home at this time.
Middle Tennessee vs Appalachian State
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
9:00pm(ET) on ESPN
1. Brent Stockstill’s last game: It’s been a long college career for the coach’s son/star quarterback. This season has been his best in many ways and with his NFL future in doubt this may be the last chance you get to watch Stockstill spin it.
2. Potent offense vs Stout defense: Another styles clash in this one. The Middle Tennessee offense loves to throw it around and will go fast when necessary but the Appalachian State defense is one of best units in the group of five. There is your key match up in this one.
3. No coach for App: The Mountaineers are kind of in limbo as they’ll take the field with an interim head coach. Their former coach Scott Sadderfield is onto Louisville so this makes me wonder which version of App State we’ll be getting. Hopefully a motivated one.
Tuesday- December 18th
UAB vs Northern Illinois
Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl
7:00pm(ET) on ESPN
1. Battle of conference champs: UAB and NIU both won their conference championships which makes this game one of only three bowls that have that going for them.
2. Capping off a great story: UAB has the chance to finish off what’s been a miracle season up to this point. To win ten games and a conference championship makes going out with a bowl win the cherry on top.
3. NIU’s defense vs Spencer Brown: The Huskies defense is no joke and did a great job all year and that includes games against the power five. Spencer Brown is without a doubt UAB’s most important player and when he’s in at running back everything changes. This is the match up to look for.
Wednesday- December 19th
Ohio vs San Diego State
DXL Frisco Bowl
7:00pm(ET) on ESPN
1. The Bobcats are better than their record: Ohio has seven wins this year but when you look at the statistics and look at S&P+ this team is much better. They’ve been very inconsistent but when they’re good they are REALLY good.
2. Smash mouth fight: If two teams slugging it out is your cup of tea then this is the game for you. These two are physical and are ready for a heavyweight style fight.
3. It’s football: That’s simple enough, right? The game is on and easily accessible. Plus what else are you doing on a Wednesday?!
That’s all for part one! I’ll be back next week for part two that begins with the Gasparilla Bowl on Thursday the 19th.