A Future For Bowl Games in an Expanded Playoff Era


David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire

ORLANDO, FL – JANUARY 02: LSU Tigers wide receiver Chris Hilton Jr. (17), LSU Tigers quarterback Garrett Nussmeier (13), LSU Tigers wide receiver Malik Nabers (8), and LSU Tigers wide receiver Kyren Lacy (2) pose with the trophy after the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl between the LSU Tigers and the Purdue Boilermakers on January 2, 2023 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fl. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire)

Oliver Thomas, Editor-in-Chief

Bowl games have been a staple in college football since the beginning of the sport. Bowl games have given college football fans some of the best moments that the sport has to offer. However, there has been much criticism about the future of these bowl games. They’ve been deemed “meaningless” and no longer hold the same meaning that they used to. As the playoff expands to 12 teams, this gives the system a chance to completely restructure their system. Here’s where it starts:


  • Focus on the best head-to-head matchups (get rid of conference tie-ins).

Bowl game tie-ins have been a staple for bowl games ever since they began. However, they may not be what’s best for the sport. Bowl games prevent the highest quality or most interesting matchups from happening. Many of the top bowl games have conference tie-ins and often result in no real excitement behind the game. However, getting rid of the tie-ins could save the future of bowl games. For example, the 2021 Gasparilla Bowl was played between UCF and Florida, at Raymond James Stadium, in Tampa Bay. In a game that typically would be viewed as boring and meaningless, it gave fans something to look forward to, in what now was referred to as “the Florida State Championship”. For the first time in the Gasparilla Bowl history, the game was a sellout and made for an electric environment. These kinds of storylines behind the games are exactly what the bowl games need. These storylines could make these bowl games much more exciting for all college football fans. 

For example, say a big-name coach at a school took a job at a different school, leaving the fans of the program outraged. If both of these teams didn’t make the playoff but could qualify for a bowl game, it would create a large amount of build-up around this bowl game. Doing things as simple as having a bowl game with 2 schools that are near each other but in different conferences, played in a location close to these 2 schools, would give bragging rights and make these games interesting to all college football fans. 

Another way to keep bowl season interesting would be to move around the locations of certain bowl games. If two schools are close in proximity both qualify for a bowl game, they should play each other in a location near these schools. 

By no means does this mean that all tie-ins need to be removed. Specifically, games like the Rose Bowl, with the traditional Big 10 vs. Pac 12 matchup one that has a deep tradition that always will be interesting to college football fans. This is extremely realistic, being that it would create more money for the NCAA, and give the fans a more entertaining game.


  • Make bowl games more selective.

Part of the issue with bowl games being deemed meaningless is related to the fact that there are 42 bowl games, meaning 82 of the 131 FBS teams qualify for a bowl game. Having over half of the FBS teams qualify is an issue. If everyone makes a bowl game, how much does it really mean? The current criteria for a bowl game are just that a school has to win 6 of their 12 games, which can come very easy, especially considering that almost all FBS teams have at least 1 game against an FCS (a lower level division 1 school, typically much less competitive than FBS schools). Decreasing the number of bowl games and increasing the criteria to make a bowl game and making a bowl game more prestigious could be a way to make these games more meaningful. Though this would be good for the sport, I have a hard time seeing it being implemented because fewer games mean less money.

  • Bowl Games and The Playoff should be separate.

Outside of the championship, no playoff games should be a neutral site. Giving the top seeds home-field advantage not only makes for a better environment but also gives more incentive to the 1-4 seeds. Removing the New Year 6 games from the playoff will allow the bowl games to focus on being the best they can possibly be.