LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Bowl games can be fascinating — and not just the national playoff or New Year’s Day games.
Kentucky vs. Penn State in the Citrus Bowl cracked the fascinating list. So did … well, maybe Wisconsin vs. Miami … or South Carolina vs. Virginia.
I know the TV ratings reflect there is an audience for college football every dark and cold December evening, but there are a string of games that have to be stressful for the ticket sales staff.
Like Northwestern vs. Utah in last season’s Holiday Bowl.
Or Texas A&M vs. North Carolina State in the 2018 Gator Bowl.
Or Iowa vs. Mississippi State in the Outback Bowl.
That’s the starter set.
I’m here to help. Here are several matchups I guarantee will ignite more conversation than the Aggies vs. the Wolfpack.
Indiana vs. Louisville.
Don’t like that one?
Don’t tell John Calipari, but how about Kentucky vs. Indiana?
Still not hooked?
Louisville vs. Kentucky generally works.
Indiana (6-2) became bowl eligible last weekend at Nebraska, where sources say the Huskers got what they had been groveling for -- more games against the Hoosiers.
Louisville (5-3) has four cracks to win the one game necessary to become bowl eligible, beginning with the Cardinals’ trip to Miami to play the Hurricanes on Nov. 9.
When that happens, U of L will become more than a regional story. Before the season you could have fit all the people projecting a bowl game for the Cards in a phone booth.
Kentucky (4-4) also has four cracks to win the two games necessary to become bowl eligible, starting with a visit by formerly hopeless Tennessee at Kroger Field Nov. 9. Most projections still have Mark Stoops’ team still getting to at least six wins.
If everybody locally becomes bowl eligible, some savvy bowl marketing staff should make one of those three matchups work.
Where to begin?
I’ll begin with this: I don’t expect Kentucky and Louisville to play in the Music City Bowl in Nashville Dec. 30, even though that was the forecast that Kyle Bonagura made at ESPN.com this week.
That might have been a possibility in the days when UK and U of L played in their season opener, but both schools figure to resist a rematch precisely a month after they are booked to play at Kroger Field.
The winner Nov. 30 would gain nothing from a rematch. The rematch thing only works in the national playoff or a conference championship game, where something more than trash talk is on the line.
Mark Schlabach, ESPN’s veteran college football writer, understood that. He did not project a Louisville-Kentucky rematch.
Schlabach put the Cards in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium against Michigan State with Kentucky getting Virginia Tech at the Belk Bowl in Charlotte.
If Cards vs. Wildcats, Part II is not a reasonable or likely option, what about either U of L or UK against the Hoosiers?
There are several possibilities, more featuring IU/UK than IU/U of L.
The Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit tries to match a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference against a Big Ten opponent. Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com has the Hoosiers and Cardinals booked for that game.
No offense to Motown — in June or July. But the night after Christmas? Pass, right?
The Pinstripe Bowl, Dec. 27 at Yankee Stadium, is the higher octane ACC-Big Ten game.
It also has a provision that it would prefer eight different Big Ten programs every eight years. IU played Duke in the Bronx four seasons ago. That could help Indiana get to a sunscreen location but make it difficult to create matchup between U of L and IU.
Bonagura has Indiana booked against Tennessee in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., on Jan. 2. Sub the Wildcats for the Vols and you’d have the first IU-UK football game since 2005.
The Outback and Citrus bowls feature that Big Ten/SEC dynamic, too. The Hoosiers and Wildcats would have to play their way into those warmer weather environments down the stretch.
There is a tiny option for an ACC vs. Big Ten game in the Citrus Bowl. Tiny. But the Hoosiers and Cardinals would have to finish with gusto to make the ratings work out and exclude a team from the Southeastern Conference.
So, it’s back to Ford Field in Detroit. That appears to be the most likely spot for Hoosiers-Cardinals.
Not excited by that? I don’t blame you. One bowl trip to Detroit for Motor City Bowl showdown between Louisville and Marshall at the Silverdome satisfied my craving for a Motown bowl game.
The bowl folks need to break out their thinking (and marketing) caps and get creative. Surely they can do better than Texas A&M vs. North Carolina State or Utah vs. Northwestern.
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