Five things to know about the college football bowl season

TCU's Patterson on toughening team in bowl practices

TCU football coach Gary Patterson says his team must grow up and get tougher after Saturday's 30-6 loss to Kansas State. And the process starts immediately during bowl workouts. Video by Jimmy Burch
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TCU football coach Gary Patterson says his team must grow up and get tougher after Saturday's 30-6 loss to Kansas State. And the process starts immediately during bowl workouts. Video by Jimmy Burch

College football’s bloated postseason kicks into high gear Saturday with Division I schools headed to 40 bowl games, including a pair of bowls that double as College Football Playoff semifinals.

By the time the national champion is crowned Jan. 9 at the CFP title game in Tampa, college football junkies will have had opportunities to watch matchups between major-college teams with records that range from 5-7 (two) to 13-0 (Alabama, Western Michigan).

As we prepare to wave goodbye to the 2016 season, here is the startling bottom line as it pertains to major-college programs in the Lone Star State:

Only six of this year’s 80 bowl participants are from Texas and none is ranked in the Associated Press’ Top 25 poll. Depending on bowl results, it is possible that only two of the state’s 12 major-college football programs will finish with winning records this season.

Houston (9-3) and Texas A&M (8-4) are the only schools guaranteed to finish above .500. Three others could post winning records with bowl victories: TCU (6-6), Baylor (6-6) and UTSA (6-6).

0 Bowl-bound teams from Texas ranked among the Top 25 in the college football polls heading into Saturday’s start of bowl games for FBS programs. Six schools from the state received bowl bids.

Heading into Saturday’s bowl games for Houston and UTSA, the Lone Star State’s 12 FBS football programs are a combined 64-80 despite operating in a state filled with many of the nation’s top high school prospects.

You’ll find plenty of Texans on bowl rosters, including two of the four starting quarterbacks in the CFP playoff bracket: freshman Jalen Hurts (Channelview) for No. 1 Alabama and junior J.T. Barrett (Wichita Falls Rider) for No. 3 Ohio State. A total of 19 Texans remain in the mix to win a national championship, including 10 players at Alabama.

19 Texans on College Football Playoff rosters from the participating schools (Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Washington), including two of the four starting quarterbacks.

But no Texas team will be taking the field after TCU (6-6) meets Georgia (7-5) in the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 30. The playoffs begin Dec. 31.

Here are five things to follow during the bowl season: 

1. Best non-playoff matchups

With 2016 being an Olympic year, here are our medal winners for most watchable bowls with no playoff overtones this postseason:

Gold: The Rose Bowl matches No. 5 Penn State (11-2), a team with a nine-game winning streak, against No. 9 USC (9-3), a team on an eight-game surge. Penn State, the Big Ten champion, has a victory over playoff-bound Ohio State. USC defeated playoff-bound Washington.

Silver: The Orange Bowl offers a top-10 matchup between non-playoff teams, with No. 6 Michigan (10-2) facing No. 10 Florida State (9-3).

Bronze: An undervalued matchup nationally, Saturday’s Las Vegas Bowl between Houston (9-3) and San Diego State (10-3) pits opponents with a combined 19 victories (same as the Orange Bowl). It also marks the head coaching debut for Houston’s Major Applewhite, the Cougars’ offensive coordinator the past two seasons. Applewhite succeeds Tom Herman, who left Houston to take the Texas job on Nov. 26.

4,356 Miles traveled by Middle Tennessee State to play in the Hawaii Bowl, the most by any bowl participant this postseason.

2. Best names

▪ Edgar Allan Poe, Army, WR (Heart of Dallas)

▪ Rowdy Frederick, Tulsa, OL (Miami Beach Bowl)

▪ Weston Steelhammer, Air Force, DB (Arizona Bowl)

▪ Divine Deablo, Virginia Tech, WR (Belk Bowl)

▪ Jazz Ferguson, LSU, WR (Citrus Bowl)

▪ Jake Butt, Michigan, TE (Orange Bowl)

▪ Bull Barge, South Alabama, LB (Arizona Bowl)

▪ Boobie Hobbs, Utah, DB (Foster Farms Bowl)

▪ Jango Glackin, Northwestern, LB (Pinstripe Bowl)

▪ Prince Tega Wanogho, Auburn, OL (Sugar Bowl)

▪ River Cracraft, Washington State, WR (Holiday Bowl)

3. Best business opportunities

For lots of draft-eligible underclassmen, a strong bowl performance can trigger a rise in NFL Draft stock that leads to an early departure from the college ranks. This year’s crop includes Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, a junior from Arlington Martin and a first-team All-American. Here are 10 underclassmen who may be playing for draft position:

▪ Myles Garrett, A&M (Texas Bowl)

▪ Jabrill Peppers, Michigan, OLB (Orange Bowl)

▪ Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina, QB (Sun Bowl)

▪ Leonard Fournette, LSU, RB (Citrus Bowl)

▪ Cam Robinson, Alabama, OT (Peach Bowl)

▪ Mike Williams, Clemson, WR (Fiesta Bowl)

▪ Dalvin Cook, Florida State, RB (Orange Bowl)

▪ Deshaun Watson, Clemson, QB (Fiesta Bowl)

▪ Jamal Adams, LSU, SS (Citrus Bowl)

▪ John Ross, Washington, WR (Peach Bowl)

The 2016 football season marks only the second time that all three U.S. service academies have earned bowl bids in the same year. Army (7-5), Navy (9-4) and Air Force (9-3) also made the postseason together in 2010.

4. Non-CFP storylines

Western Michigan: The Broncos, champions of the Mid-American Conference, bring a 13-0 record to the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, where they will meet No. 8 Wisconsin (10-3) on Jan. 2. Win or lose, it will be interesting to see how voters place the 12th-ranked Broncos in the Associated Press’ postseason poll. WMU seeks its first top-10 poll finish in school history.

Military might: The three U.S. service academies have earned bowl berths in the same season for the first time since 2010 and only the second time in history. Two of the teams are headed to bowls in Dallas-Fort Worth. Navy (9-4) meets Louisiana Tech (8-5) in the Armed Forces Bowl Dec. 23 in Fort Worth. Army (7-5) faces North Texas (5-7) in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on Dec. 27 in Dallas. Air Force (9-3) plays South Alabama (6-6) in the Arizona Bowl on Dec. 30. During the 2010 season, Army (7-6) and Air Force (9-4) won bowl games while Navy (9-4) lost.

Bowl oversaturation: Because 80 teams were needed to fill bowl slots this postseason, some matchups include 5-7 teams and others pair teams with 6-6 records. Three bowls guarantee the losing team will finish with a losing record: Southern Mississippi (6-6) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (6-6) in the New Orleans Bowl; Boston College (6-6) vs. Maryland (6-6) in the Quick Lane Bowl and North Carolina State (6-6) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6) in the Independence Bowl. If Mississippi State (5-7) defeats Miami, Ohio (6-6) in the St. Petersburg Bowl, both teams will finish with losing records.

5. Bowl numbers

0: Miles traveled by New Mexico to play in New Mexico Bowl, fewest this postseason

3: Bowl teams from California, with seven FBS programs in state

4: Bowl teams from Alabama, with four FBS programs in state

6: Bowl teams from Texas, with 12 FBS programs in state

6: Dollars on secondary market for Cotton Bowl ticket, cheapest bowl option

35: States with at least one bowl participant

235: Dollars on secondary market for Rose Bowl ticket, most expensive bowl option

2,018: Rushing yards by San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey, most by a bowl participant

4,208: Passing yards by Louisiana Tech’s Ryan Higgins, most by a bowl participant

4,356: Miles traveled by Middle Tennessee State to play in Hawaii Bowl, most this postseason   

Jimmy Burch: 817-390-7760, @Jimmy_Burch

Bowl matchups for Texas teams

Saturday: UTSA (6-6) vs. New Mexico (8-4), New Mexico Bowl

Saturday: Houston (9-3) vs. San Diego State (10-3), Las Vegas Bowl

Dec. 27: North Texas (5-7) vs. Army (7-5), Heart of Dallas Bowl

Dec. 27: Baylor (6-6) vs. Boise State (10-2), Cactus Bowl

Dec. 28: Texas A&M (8-4) vs. Kansas State (8-4), Texas Bowl

Dec. 30: TCU (6-6) vs. Georgia (7-5), Liberty Bowl

D-FW Bowl matchups

Dec. 23: Navy (9-4) vs. Louisiana Tech (8-5), Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth

Dec. 27: North Texas (5-7) vs. Army (7-5), Heart of Dallas Bowl in Dallas

Jan. 2: Western Michigan (13-0) vs. Wisconsin (10-3), Cotton Bowl in Arlington

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