Your Viewing Guide for the First Set of Bowl Games

By Vico on December 18, 2014 at 1:30 pm

The college football season is almost over but this week provides a deceptive amount of viewing options. The first slate of bowl games all come on Saturday. Meanwhile, the FCS has two semifinal games this weekend and the Division II and Division III championship games are this weekend as well.

Let's talk about what's on TV this week.


Wisconsin-Whitewater vs. Mount Union (ESPNU, 7 p.m.). This is the NCAA Division III Championship Game, known colloquially as the "Stagg Bowl", and is played every year in Salem, Virginia. 

If these two teams look familiar, they should. Both teams have met in nine of the past 10 Stagg Bowls. The lone exception was 2012, when St. Thomas met Mount Union. Mount Union won 28-10 to secure its 11th national championship.

Wisconsin-Whitewater has won the last four meetings in the Stagg Bowl (and, thus, four of the last five national championships). Mount Union won three of the first four matches when it first became a yearly encounter in 2005.

Mount Union is in Alliance, Ohio and is thus your rooting interest for this game.

Sam Houston State at North Dakota State (ESPN2, 8 p.m.). North Dakota State, winner of the past three FCS national championships, can book its spot in the championship game with a win over Sam Houston State.

Sam Houston State is 11-4 this season. Three of those losses were road games (one at LSU). One was a loss to Division II Colorado St.-Pueblo, which, as chance would have it, plays Minnesota State on Saturday for the Division II Championship. Still, a loss to a team in a lower division is embarrassing no matter the quality of the lower-division team.

North Dakota State actually beat Sam Houston State in the 2011 and 2012 Division I Football Championship Games. Sam Houston State has yet to win the tournament.


Nevada vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (ESPN, 11 a.m.). This is the New Orleans Bowl, which has solidified its position as the first bowl game on the schedule.

 Louisiana-Lafayette is not necessarily a bad team. The Ragin' Cajuns are 8-4 this year, but three of those losses were to Conference-USA West champion Louisiana Tech, Ole Miss, and Mountain West champion Boise State. It returns to the New Orleans Bowl for the fourth-straight year looking for its fourth-straight win.

Nevada limps into this game with a 7-5 record, having lost two of its previous three games.

Illinois State at New Hampshire (ESPNU, 2 p.m.). The is the other FCS semifinal game. Winner of this game plays the winner of North Dakota State and Sam Houston State.

This would be a big breakthrough for New Hampshire. The Wildcats have been in the playoffs every year since 2004, when Chip Kelly was the offensive coordinator there. However, they've only recently sniffed at the FCS Championship with a semifinals appearance last year.

Meanwhile, Illinois State is coached by Brock Spack, former defensive coordinator at Purdue for Joe Tiller. Remember David Perkins, the former Ohio State linebacker who speared Brutus Buckeye during a practice? He plays there. Illinois State's quarterback is Tre Roberson, a transfer from Indiana.

Utah State vs. UTEP (ESPN, 2:20 p.m.). This is the New Mexico Bowl, which is another staple of the first slate of bowl games. The last two New Mexico Bowls have been wild shootouts. Fans will hope this one is too.

Utah State is hoping to bounce back from a 50-19 loss to Boise State that prevented the Aggies from competing in the Mountain West Conference Championship Game. UTEP, meanwhile, is looking for its first bowl win since the 1967 Sun Bowl.

Utah vs. Colorado State (ABC, 3:30 p.m.). This is the Las Vegas Bowl. Colorado State is 10-2 and might be the trendy pick this game over 8-4 (but somehow AP no. 23) Utah. However, Colorado State's coach is now Florida's coach. Utah, favored by a field goal, might be able to flex its muscle in this game.

Colorado State-Pueblo vs. Minnesota State (ESPN2, 4 p.m.). This is the Division II Football Championship Game. Customarily held at the University of North Alabama every year from 1986 to 2013, it will now be held at Sporting Park in Kansas City.

This is the first appearance for either program in the 41-year history of the tournament.

Western Michigan vs. Air Force (ESPN, 5:45 p.m.). This is the Potato Bowl, played on site at Boise State University. 

Air Force is a solid 9-3 this season and upset Colorado State on senior day to end its regular season. The line favors the Falcons -1.5.

Western Michigan is 8-4 this season but is experiencing quite the turnaround. Previously a one-win team last year, the seven-win improvement ties Texas Christian for the country's best turnaround from last year.

P.J. Fleck, who coaches Western Michigan, was a former graduate assistant for Jim Tressel at Ohio State. He could be moving up the coaching ranks before too long.

South Alabama vs. Bowling Green (ESPN, 9:15 p.m.). This is the inaugural Camellia Bowl, which will be played in Montgomery, Alabama. Having been there, I'm not sure Montgomery is a destination or a banishment.

South Alabama is 6-6 and Bowling Green, which recently lost the MAC Championship Game, is 7-6.

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