The Fenway Bowl is set to kickoff on December 29, 2021, at 11:00 AM EST. Besides being an incredibly early game, this should be one of the most exciting of bowl season, as it matches two of the country’s top offenses against one another. They’ll just have to deal with the elements of a Northern winter because this is going to be held at Fenway Park in Boston.
DraftKings has set the line at Virginia -2, with the over/under at 71. If that turns out to be true, this is a can’t miss game - presumably, close with a ton of scoring. Who wouldn’t want to see that as a preview to the Playoff?
*Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
Both Teams Are Going Through Head Coaching Changes
It’s pretty rare for a Power 5 team to make a bowl game and lose its head coach. After all, there is less poaching involved between mutual P5s. Not none, of course, but less. That also isn’t what happened to Virginia, though, as their head coach Bronco Mendenhall is stepping down of his own accord, to spend more time with family. SMU, as a Group of 5, is much more susceptible to poaching, and that’s just what happened, as Sonny Dykes took the TCU job.
This means that this will be Mendenhall’s last game at Virginia. They’ve hired Tony Elliott away from Clemson to replace him. Meanwhile, SMU will be coached by Jim Leavitt in the interim, with Rhett Lashlee taking over next season.
Ultimately, winning the Fenway Bowl is going to come down to which of these two teams can focus on the task at hand. It isn’t easy in these circumstances, and you can bet it will impact this game’s final score.
This is the First Fenway Bowl
2020 was supposed to represent the first Fenway Bowl. However, due to concerns over COVID-19, the game never happened. That makes the 2021 edition of the game the inaugural edition. Boston has been a city with some of the stricter COVID-19 protocols, but the city also has a high vaccine rate, so hopefully no outbreaks threaten the game again.
Fenway Park, itself, is no stranger to hosting football games. Notre Dame has played Boston College there, as part of their Shamrock Series. Harvard and Yale also met there for a rendition of “The Game.” Fenway Park is one of the great historic stadiums in all of the United States too. Opening in 1912, it’s the oldest active MLB stadium and it’s a decade older than the Rose Bowl itself. Everything about it is iconic, from the Green Monster to the Triangle, Pesky’s Pole, the Coca-Cola and Citgo signs, Ted Williams’ red seat, and Lansdowne Street. It’s hosted, NHL games, the Boston Patriots, Premier League soccer, and even sports like hurling. For fans of the Red Sox, stepping into Fenway is like stepping into a time machine.
Beautiful and iconic, but the age definitely shows. Seats were made for people born over 100 years ago, and there is a decent chance a pole blocks your view. It’s part of the charm.
Both Teams Finished Poorly
To end the season, Virginia lost four straight. On SMU’s end, the Mustangs lost four out of five games. Their only win was a home game over UCF, which in hindsight is a surprise that they managed to dominate that game the way that they did. Each team had their own issues to deal with in this game, including SMU losing their head coach and both teams playing the toughest stretches of their schedules.
It also hasn’t helped that both teams built their seasons on the backs of having two great offenses. The defenses were, to an extent, easy for them to overlook. So, when they found teams that could either slow down their offenses or score with them, in Virginia’s case Notre Dame or BYU, for SMU a team like Cincinnati or Houston, they struggled.
Now, in what will be a freezing cold Boston morning, these two are going to see who can get their offense going. Find a few stops, and you can break that skid you’ve been in, though.