Nov 15, 2013

Whitley Writes: The Future Looks Bright For Orlando’s Bowl Games, This Year And Beyond

It’s never too early to look ahead. Check out any cable news show, where talking heads are already busily handicapping the 2016 presidential election. In that spirit, Steve Hogan got up at the FCS breakfast Monday and made his weekly prediction:

Sarah Palin vs. Alan Grayson.

I’m kidding. It’s just that giving Hogan good-natured grief is a main order of business at the weekly scout meeting.

The week before the CEO of Florida Citrus Sports all but guaranteed Oregon would play Alabama in the BCS title game. Then the Ducks met Stanford. So much for that.

Give Hogan credit for climbing right back on the predicting horse. This week he didn’t just update his matchups for this year’s bowls (No, he doesn’t have Fresno State in the title game quite yet), he dared to say what will happen when things get really confusing in 2014.

That’s when, after centuries of waiting, college football will finally have a playoff. The anticipation is such that the 13-member selection committee held its first meeting Monday in Washington D.C.

Since nothing of consequence happens for another 10 months, perhaps members just wanted to vote on the catering menu for next year’s meetings. Back in Orlando, Hogan wanted to give FCSports members a sense of what’s coming to the Capital One and Russell Athletic bowls.

“If we had a playoff this year and the season ended today,” Mr. Prediction said.

How does Texas A&M vs. Michigan State and Oklahoma vs. Miami sound?

It sounds a lot like what we might end up with in this year’s Capital One Bowl. That’s just what Hogan had in mind when college football’s power brokers were hashing out the new postseason setup.

There will be two semi-final games in existing bowls. The entire playoff rotation will have six bowls, known appropriately enough as the “New Years Six.”

The Capital One contemplated going after a spot but backed out of the bidding. The big reason was that playoff bowls will not be allowed to stage another postseason game in their stadiums within seven days. That would have meant the end of the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Of course, the Capital One could also have ended up with something a bit more sexy, like South Carolina vs. Oklahoma State. Hogan predicted that’s what the Chick-fil-A Bowl would get if the playoffs started this year.

Our Eat-Mor-Chikin’ friends in Atlanta will also get one of the two marquee semi-final games on a rotating basis. As nice as that is, Hogan figured by dropping out of the playoff bidding the FCSports could save the Russell Athletic Bowl and still get as strong a matchup as it always has for the Capital One Bowl.

After the New Years Six fills its cards, the Capital One gets to choose from the crème de la creme of the Big Ten and SEC (with an occasional appearance by ACC when certain factors align). The Russell Athletic gets a brand-name school from the Big 12, ACC, or even the biggest brand name of all, Notre Dame.

All those agreements were hammered out this summer. They looked attractive in theory, but now there’s been enough football played to see what they look like in practice for next year’s Orlando bowls.

If Michigan State is not the Big Ten representative, it would probably be Wisconsin. If Texas A&M qualified for an at-large selection in the New Years Six, the Capital One would likely get LSU or Georgia.

Hogan said the Russell Athletic Bowl would be wide open. He honed it down to Miami, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech or Notre Dame against Texas or Oklahoma.

If all this upheaval has left you confused, you’re probably not alone. But just look at all the names mentioned above.

In any combination they’d make decent games and bring the usual load of fans to Orlando. What’s more, FCSports can still bid on the national championship game. And it will have a fighting chance of getting it once the Citrus Bowl renovation is completed.

All of which indicates Hogan is better at positioning bowls for success than actually predicting who will play in them. So don’t sweat the details. If next season or any season after ended today, Orlando’s bowls appear to be in better shape than ever. Looking far ahead, you can even envision a dream scenario.

It’s the night of January 8, 2018. The ESPN broadcast opens with a blimp shot of a glistening Citrus Bowl. With the cushioned seats still warm from the Russell Athletic and Capital One bowls, the stadium is about to play host to the national championship game.

Hogan can’t say if Ohio State or FSU or Stanford will be there. Or maybe Alabama will be going for its seventh straight crown.

But you can believe it when Hogan guarantees it will be a historic event for Orlando. Just try not to laugh when he predicts the winning coach will get a kiss from president-elect Palin.

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