The New Year’s Six Bowl Games are here and it is time for fans of college football to sit in front of their TVs and figure out ways to care about teams they do not watch normally. This means it is time for Michigan State fans to pick their alliances in games they will have no direct stake in.
What are the New Year’s Six Bowls?
The New Year’s Six Bowls are a long standing tradition. Historically, these matchups in the Rose Bowl; Sugar Bowl; Cotton Bowl; Peach Bowl; Orange Bowl; and Fiesta Bowl featured top teams from across the many college football conferences in once-in-a-generation type matchups that transcended traditional rivalries.
Nowadays, they are nothing like that.
First of all, College Football is no longer “many” conferences. The landscape is basically a few big conferences with more teams than anyone could have imagined in each. And even that is breaking down as this will be the last year with a real “Pac-12” team. Next year, most of the Pac-12 will be in the Big Ten. Specifically, this will render the Rose Bowl format that used to feature the best Big Ten team against the Best Pac-12 team a thing of the past.
The bowl system used to allow big programs to be paired off against other top programs for must-see matchups.
Since the advent of the four team college football playoff (CFP) and the transfer portal, the bowl system games have mostly been relegated to the CFP games and everyone else. The one last vestige of the broader system of the bowl games is the six new year’s day bowl games that considered themselves a cut above.
These six games have rotated featuring one of the two college football playoffs, and the other four Bowls per year just hope everyone still cares (spoiler: most people do not - including the players).
The coming 12 team college football playoff will render these six bowl games even less relevant as stand alone games. So let’s enjoy this last gasp of interest in a system well past its expiration.
Who’s playing in the bowl games:
Friday, December 29th
Cotton Bowl: Ohio State vs. Missouri at 8:00pm (US East Coast Time)
Saturday, December 30th
Peach Bowl: Penn State vs. Ole Miss at 12 noon (US East Coast Time)
Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. Georgia at 4:00pm (US East Coast Time)
Monday, January 1st (That’s in 2024 in case you’re keeping track)
Fiesta Bowl: Oregon vs. Liberty at 1:00pm (US East Coast Time)
Rose Bowl: College Football Playoff semi-final featuring Michigan vs. Alabama at 5:00pm (US East Coast Time)
Sugar Bowl: College Football Playoff semi-final featuring Washington vs. Texas at 8:45pm (US East Coast Time)
Clearly, Michigan State is not on that list. This was….well not exactly the season any Spartan fan had hoped for, but we fans can still be involved. Here’s an overview on how Spartan fans can enjoy and cheer during these games.
BBD’s Theory of Postseason Support
My postseason support for teams that I am not actually a fan of has a clear hierarchy. I am team loyal first. Second, I am loyal to my team’s conference. The theory is if my team is going to be considered good - and their strength of schedule matters for that perception - then it generally helps my team if the conference does well in a postseason.
Keeping this transitive property in mind, the third tier of my support is reserved for teams my team played against. Strength of schedule matters, a team succeeding after they faced my preferred team makes my team look better.
Finally, my support goes to the team who’s victory somehow creates chaos and/or accomplishes an ancillary goal that (most likely indirectly) helps make my team look or feel better about life.
The one major exception to the above theory of postseason support is the rival factor.
Rival sports programs should lose. I’m an otherwise reasonable, friendly, and generally optimistic human being. Unless you’re talking about Michigan (and to some lesser extent Ohio State). Then those teams can lose, please. Regardless of conference impact.
If a game features none of the above stakes then I either simply do not watch it, or find some random narrative reason to pick a team. But that’s an “each to their own” approach.
BBD’s Suggested Cheering Guide Game Per Game:
Cotton Bowl: Ohio State vs. Missouri at 8:00pm on Friday, December 29th (US East Coast Time)
Your traction during this game may come down to how much you really dislike Ohio State. I realize many in the Spartan fan base see the Buckeyes as one (small) step removed from being Michigan. So if you’re in that segment of the fan base it’s time to get your Mizzou pride on. If not, think of the quality of the conference and take pleasure in a Big Ten program playing a backup QB beating up on the SEC.
For me, this is a game to get behind the Buckeyes. The outcome legit means nothing, and my dislike for the SEC is higher than my dislike for the Buckeyes at the moment. So might as well demonstrate some Big Ten pride.
Peach Bowl: Penn State vs. Ole Miss at 12 noon on Saturday, December 30th (US East Coast Time)
You may need something to watch while waiting for the Michigan State vs. Indiana State basketball game to come on. This is essentially a mirror of the Cotton Bowl conundrum. If you’re in the “I hate Penn State” camp, then feel free to cheer for Ole Miss. If not, consider getting on the Big Ten bandwagon.
If nothing else, watching Penn State fans spin out after yet another year of not making the college football playoff but having a “big” end of year appearance and win (that no one cares about) could be fun. If nothing else, it should keep Penn State’s head coach in place for yet another year of “can’t win the games that matter” football. For that enjoyment alone, I say we get behind the Nittany Lions.
Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. Georgia at 4:00pm on Saturday, December 30th (US East Coast Time)
There is no obvious Big Ten connection in this game but there is a fun outcome that could serve the Spartans. If Florida State manages to win this game and remain unbeaten, they could conceivably finish the year as the nation’s only unbeaten power five program - and they were not even invited to the college football playoff.
A win for Florida State would immediately guarantee FSU fans declare themselves the national champion.
If the unthinkable happens and the University of Michigan does actually win out, having Florida State fans spend the next thousand years complaining that FSU was the actual national champion would be helpful fodder to keep our friends and family who unwisely support Michigan grounded.
So as a fire break against Michigan Fans, I say: Go Florida State!
Fiesta Bowl: Oregon vs. Liberty at 1:00pm on Monday, January 1st (US East Coast Time)
I’m trying…but I literally cannot find a way to care about this game… ok…so….digging…Oregon will be part of the Big Ten. Great. That will make the Big Ten look better next year if they win this game. Good stuff. So.. go Ducks?
Rose Bowl: College Football Playoff semi-final featuring Michigan vs. Alabama at 5:00pm on Monday, January 1st (US East Coast Time)
Alabama. That’s who you should be supporting. Forget any state solidarity. Forget any Big Ten Pride. Maybe in other years you could support Michigan, but not this year. The cheating scandal alone should make you want this team to lose. There are talented players on this team for sure, and they shouldn’t all be disliked for the problems within their program. But that’s the breaks when you play for Jim Harbaugh.
Go Bama. Roll Tide. Yay deep south football and bless your heart. Or whatever these people say in that part of the country. Essentially it’s just: Michigan Sucks.
Sugar Bowl: College Football Playoff semi-final featuring Washington vs. Texas on Monday, January 1st at 8:45pm (US East Coast Time)
This game fits perfectly within my tiers of postseason support. Washington has played extremely well. They wiped the floor with Michigan State two years in a row. Last year, that looked bad after the Huskies stumbled down the stretch. This year, it could be a much better reflection on the Spartans. Back when the season was young and hope was still high MSU got rocked by Michael Penix, Jr. and the Huskies. It’d be nice to say that the team that rolled through East Lansing rolled onto the national championship.
So for this game, go Huskies!