Bowl Games Schedule 2016-17: Dates, Times and Best Potential CFP Matchups

Bowl Games Schedule 2016-17: Dates, Times and Best Potential CFP Matchups

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After one of the more unpredictable seasons in recent college football history, conference championship week is approaching fast and ready to give us a Top Four. 

Alabama and Ohio State look like mortal locks to compete for the national championship; the remaining two slots feel completely up in the air heading into Saturday. There are also 74 other teams that will fill the remaining 37 bowl game slots. There is such a proliferation of bowl games at this point that 6-6 is no longer the barometer with which teams are chosen. We are once again faced with 5-7 likely receiving a bowl bid. 

The playoff has also taken away some of the meaning from the minor bowl games. There are six that matter every year. The rest are just a reward for teams’ hard work, a chance for coaches in some cases to save their jobs and a way for everyone who isn’t actually playing to make a boat load of money.

Thems the breaks in college sports. But luckily for the football fan desperate for a random Tuesday night fix, the bowl calendar offers some potentially fun matchups and a playoff that could be great. Let’s take a look at the entire bowl schedule and the best potential CFP outlook.


Bowl Schedule

Bowl Game Schedule
Bowl Game Date Time (ET) Site
New Mexico Dec. 17 2 p.m. Albuquerque, N.M.
Las Vegas Dec. 17 3:30 p.m. Las Vegas, Nev.
Camellia Dec. 17 5:30 p.m. Montgomery, Ala.
New Orleans Dec. 17 9 p.m. New Orleans, La.
Miami Beach Dec. 19 2:30 p.m. Miami, Fla.
Boca Raton Dec. 20 7 p.m. Boca Raton, Fla.
Poinsettia Dec. 21 9 p.m. San Diego, Calif.
Potato Dec. 22 7 p.m. Boise, Idaho
Bahamas Dec. 23 1 p.m. Nassau, Bahamas
Armed Forces Dec. 23 4:30 p.m. Fort Worth, Tex.
Go Daddy Dec. 23 8 p.m. Mobile, Ala.
Hawaii Dec. 24 8 p.m. Honolulu, Hawaii
St. Petersburg Dec. 26 11 a.m. St. Petersburg, Fla.
Quick Lane Dec. 26 2:30 p.m. Detroit, Mich.
Independence Dec. 26 5 p.m. Shreveport, Louisiana
Heart of Dallas Dec. 27 Noon Dallas, Texas
Military Dec. 27 3:30 p.m. Annapolis, Maryland
Holiday Dec. 27 7 p.m. San Diego, Calif.
Cactus Dec. 27 10:15 p.m. Phoenix, Ariz.
Pinstripe Dec. 28 2 p.m. New York, NY
Russell Athletic Dec. 28 5:30 p.m. Orlando, Fla.
Foster Farms Dec. 28 8:30 p.m. Santa Clara, Calif.
Texas Dec. 28 9 p.m. Houston, Texas
Birmingham Dec. 29 2 p.m. Birmingham, Ala.
Belk Dec. 29 5:30 p.m. Charlotte, N.C.
Alamo Dec. 29 9 p.m. San Antonio, Texas
Arizona Dec. 30 TBD Tucson, Ariz.
Liberty Dec. 30 Noon Memphis, Tenn.
Sun Dec. 30 2 p.m. El Paso, Texas
Music City Dec. 30 3:30 p.m. Nashville, Tenn.
Orange Dec. 30 8 p.m. Miami Gardens, Fla.
Peach Dec. 31 TBD Atlanta, Ga.
Fiesta Dec. 31 TBD Glendale, Ariz.
Taxslayer Dec. 31 11 a.m. Jacksonville, Fla.
Citrus Dec. 31 11 a.m. Orlando, Fla.
Outback Jan. 2 1 p.m. Tampa, Fla.
Cotton Jan. 2 1 p.m. Arlington, Texas
Rose Jan. 2 5 p.m. Pasadena, Calif.
Sugar Jan. 2 8:30 p.m. New Orleans, La.
CFP National Championship Jan. 9 TBD Tampa, Fla.


Best Potential CFP Outcome

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Penn State

With apologies to Oklahoma, the Sooners aren’t getting into the playoffs without a complete implosion from multiple teams over the weekend. Penn State has a real shot at landing this No. 4 spot, and the Nittany Lions’ resume would only be boosted Saturday if they can take down Wisconsin.

The Lions’ loss to Pittsburgh suddenly looks just as good as Oklahoma’s to Houston, and we saw Saturday that Ohio State and Michigan are essentially an even fit. What makes the difference here between the two is conference strength (Big Ten in a landslide) and common opponent (Ohio State, which drubbed the Sooners but lost to Penn State).

If you asked me which team wins on a neutral field, it’s Oklahoma. But we’re trying to stick in the realm of realism here, and it would be borderline impossible for the committee to justify taking a Big 12 champion over a Big Ten champion.

This all begs the question: Why are we discussing these two-loss teams rather than a one-loss ACC or Pac-12 champion. Well, that’s because I said “best” at the beginning of this puppy—not most likely. Odds are the committee would take the safe route if things go as expected here. Either Clemson or Washington will probably be the No. 4 seed, and a Tigers-Crimson Tide rematch from last year’s title game would draw plenty of intrigue.

That said, it’s hard to argue with the inevitable ratings bonanza as a result of the NCAA pitting two of the 12 greatest programs in college football history against each other. Both Oklahoma and Penn State have explosive offenses that can challenge Alabama’s world-beating defense, and their alumni travel well enough that the Tide wouldn’t be walking into a near home game.

Nick Saban and Co. would still be heavy favorites. Possibly by two touchdowns. But that’s basically going to be the case against anyone. If we’re going to see the Tide scamper their way through to the final, why not against the Lions’ shocking redemption story filled with nobody-believed-in-us hoopla?


No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson

This means we say goodbye to Washington, which had a fun run but is also the beneficiary of a weakened Pac-12. A few weeks ago, we saw USC go on the road and dominate every facet of the game against the Huskies. If the Trojans had managed to sneak into the conference title game, they could have (fairly) been favorites Saturday.

No other team in consideration has a recent loss like that. The Nittany Lions are winners of eight straight and will need to make it nine for a chance; Oklahoma’s the only Power Five team aside from Alabama to roll through its conference undefeated; Clemson and Ohio State lost their only conference games by a combined four points and under unfortunate circumstances.

If we’re throwing these teams on a neutral field, is Washington a favorite over any?

That leaves us with Ohio State and Clemson, a matchup of two extremely flawed but talented teams that have spent most of the season avoiding the bullets from their own chambers.

The Buckeyes’ passing attack is in its second straight year of barely keeping its head above water. J.T. Barrett has thrown for a combined 210 yards the last two weeks. He completed less than 50 percent of his passes in both games and posted QB ratings below 40.

Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer spoke to reporters about the offensive struggles against Michigan:

J.T. didn’t start out very good. We had some misfires. We weren’t playing very well. The first drive was great. I think we hit a field goal or something. We had some protection issues. And the pass game is a constant. It’s either protection issues or a misfiring, and I thought the receivers played decent. I know Parris had a drop. They just keep swinging. It’s a very, very good defense we faced.

Clemson has spent most of its season resembling 2014 Florida State, a team a year removed from a dream year that never quite got over the hangover. The Tigers are essentially the same team as 2015 but slightly worse in every category. DeShaun Watson’s on pace for half of his rushing yards from a year ago, Wayne Gallman hasn’t broken nearly as many big plays and the defense has been prone to lapses against good opponents.

With Louisville floundering to end its season, even the Tigers’ biggest win of their season looks shakier by the moment. They’re going to need to win impressively over Virginia Tech on Saturday to justify getting this spot over Washington. 

Given the way both of these teams have fired at B-plus levels, anything short of a one-score game would be a surprise.