On the first play in the second quarter of the Cheez-It Bowl – yes, there is such a thing – TCU quarterback Grayson Muehlstein began one of the worst trick plays in the history of football. Muehlstein threw a backwards pass to wide receiver Jalen Reagor who immediately threw the ball back to Muehlstein.
Muehlstein then proceeded to run for his life and throw another pass, albeit illegal, that was intercepted by California. The interception didn’t count, but that’s okay, the two teams combined to throw for nine others. Yes, this is what bowl season has become.
End the Madness There are 39 bowl games (the national championship game is considered the 40th bowl game) which mean 78 of the 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams play a postseason football game. The Cheez-It Bowl (once known as the Copper Bowl) was one of many that featured a pair of 6-6 juggernauts eager to slug it out against one another.
How about the newly renamed First Responder Bowl? It became the first bowl game to ever be canceled when storms swept into Dallas. The 7-5 Boston College Eagles were beating 10-3 Boise State of the Mountain West Conference when the game was called in the first quarter. Oh well, the teams get to split a whopping $1,667,000 payout.
Seriously, when is there going to be an end to this madness? New Era Pinstripe Bowl? Yeah, awesome. 6-6 Baylor against 6-6 Vanderbilt. I think I just threw up in my mouth. Hey, I love football, but a mid-December Tulane (6-6) versus 7-6 Louisiana? Come on!
Fix It Look, we know that there can be improvements made to college football and even the College Football Playoff system. Fixing the whole bowl ridiculousness is easy. First, get rid of the cakewalk FCS games. The Big Ten no longer permits its teams to schedule FCS teams. The SEC, which the media just drools over, still schedules the late season ‘gimme’ with schools like Mercer and The Citadel. No disrespect to those programs, but these are automatic wins (unless you’re 2007 Michigan!).
After getting rid of the FCS opponents, make all Power 5 FBS schools win seven games … period. If you don’t win seven games, you aren’t going to a bowl. For those who whine about the strength of schedule, all Group of 5 schools must win eight games. Applying this criteria to the 2018 season, 63 teams would be bowl eligible. Well, not exactly. A number of teams like South Florida got to seven wins by beating an FCS team. Take out the dozen or so teams that achieved their seventh or eighth win by beating an FCS team and you have yourselves a bowl pool.
Wait … What? Yeah, that’s the big fix. No more Cheez Nips Bowl or Frisco Bowl or bowls that get canceled. Cut it down to 25. That means 50 teams. That means going to a bowl is more prestigious than the current ‘everybody-gets-a-trophy’ situation. Fifty well-deserving football teams get to play a postseason football game. Fans get treated to better quality games. Did anyone really watch as California and TCU tossed interception after interception and then went to overtime (TCU won 10-7)?
Reducing the number of bowl games does a couple of things. As said, it makes going to a bowl more prestigious. It also places more emphasis on the regular season. Winning seven games is no easy task especially when you are not playing Southeast Missouri State and Tennessee-Martin (no disrespect there either).
Reducing the number of bowl games also will never happen. There is too much money wrapped up in them. Conferences have a stake in each one and aren’t going to be willing to let their payouts simply go away (even if it is half of the $412,920 that goes out to Arizona Bowl participants!).
Note: Grayson Muehlstein was starting his first game for TCU in the Cheez-It Bowl. He ended up completing 7-of-20 passes for … wait for it … 27 yards. Muehlstein threw four interceptions. His leading receiver was actually Cal junior safety Jaylinn Hawkins. He ‘caught’ three of Muehlstein’s passes.