The bowl schedule starts with a bang this Saturday. With six FBS bowls and an FCS celebration, it’s the most games of any single day this bowl season.
Things kick off at noon EST on ABC with the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl – an FCS bowl game dating back to last season. After that, it’s a steady flow of games all the way until 9:00pm EST when Southern Miss and UL Lafayette square off in the New Orleans Bowl.
Arguably the best game of the day is Houston and San Diego in the Las Vegas Bowl at 3:30pm EST on ABC.
After a pause for the NFL on Sunday, things crank back up on Monday afternoon (Miami Beach), Tuesday night (Boca Raton) and Wednesday night (Poinsettia). Tuesday also marks the beginning of a glorious run of 12 straight nights (minus Sundays) with at least one televised college bowl game.
What follows is the 411 on each of the first nine games. Stay tuned moving forward as we break down the remainder of the schedule in eight game increments.
Saturday, Dec. 17
NC Central (9-2, MEAC Champions) vs. Grambling State (11-1, SWAC Champions) – Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga. – Noon EST – ABC
First year: 2015
Most appearances: North Carolina AT&T and Alcorn State (1 each)
Last year’s result: North Carolina AT&T 41, Alcorn State 34
Stadium capacity: 74,228
Last year’s attendance: 35,528
NC Central all-time bowl record: 1-5-0
Last bowl appearance: 1980 Gold Bowl – lost to North Carolina AT&T 37-0
Grambling State all-time bowl record: 18-8
Last bowl appearance: 1994 Heritage Bowl – lost to South Carolina State 31-27
All-time series record: Grambling 3-0
The Celebration Bowl – like its predecessors the Heritage Bowl and the Pelican Bowl – is a clash between the champions of the MEAC (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) and the SWAC (Southwestern Athletic Conference).
NC Central and Grambling State haven’t played since a pair of regular season meetings in 1985-86 in New York City. It’s also a rematch of the 1972 Pelican Bowl, a game Grambling won 56-6. NC Central’s only-ever bowl win came in 1954 when it beat Tennessee State 19-6 in the National Classic. For Grambling State, it last beat Florida A&M in the 1993 Heritage Bowl.
NEW MEXICO BOWL
New Mexico (8-4) vs. UTSA (6-6) – MWC vs. CUSA – University Stadium, Albuquerque, NM – 2:00PM EST – ESPN
First year: 2006
Most appearances: New Mexico (4)
Last year’s result: Arizona 45 – New Mexico 37
Stadium capacity: 39,224
Last year’s attendance: 24,610
New Mexico all-time bowl record: 3-6-1
Last bowl appearance: 2015 New Mexico – lost to Arizona 45-37
UTSA all-time bowl record: 0-0
Last bowl appearance: Never
All-time series record: Tied at 1-1.
Line: New Mexico -7
New Mexico and UTSA split a home-and-home series in 2013-14. The Roadrunners started playing football in 2011, this is the program’s first-ever bowl game. It’s a home game for the New Mexico, which posted a 5-1 record in University Stadium this season. The Lobos’ last bowl win came in the 2007 New Mexico Bowl when they beat Nevada 23-0.
LAS VEGAS BOWL
Houston (9-3) vs. San Diego State (10-3, MWC Champions) – AAC vs. MWC – Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, NV – 3:30PM EST – ABC
First year: 1992
Most appearances: BYU (6)
Last year’s result: Utah 35, BYU 28
Stadium capacity: 40,000
Last year’s attendance: 42,213
Houston all-time bowl record: 11-12-1
Last bowl appearance: 2015 Peach – beat (9) Florida State 35-34
San Diego State all-time bowl record: 4-7
Last bowl appearance: 2015 Hawaii – beat Cincinnati 42-7
All-time series record: Houston leads 2-0
Line: Houston -4
Houston and San Diego State haven’t played since a home-and-home series in 1972-73. The game will be the first-ever as a head coach for Houston’s Major Applewhite, recently promoted from offensive coordinator to replace Tom Herman who left for Texas.
The Aztecs lost to North Carolina in the 1998 Las Vegas Bowl, it’s the Cougars first trip.
Appalachian State (9-3) vs. Toledo (9-2) – Sun Belt vs. MAC – Crampton Bowl, Montgomery, Ala. – 5:30PM EST – ESPN
First year: 2014
Previous editions: In 1948 the Camellia Bowl was a one-time only game between Wichita State and Hardin-Simmons in Lafayette, La. From 1961-80 it was a season-ending quarterfinal game in Sacramento, Calif. for what is now called Division II.
Most appearances: Appalachian State (2)
Last year’s result: Appalachian State 31, Ohio 29
Stadium capacity: 25,000
Last year’s attendance: 22,000
Appalachian State all-time bowl record: 1-0
Last bowl appearance: 2015 Camellia – beat Ohio 31-29
Toledo all-time bowl record: 10-5
Last bowl appearance: 2015 Boca Raton – beat (24) Temple 32-17
All-time series record: First-ever meeting
Line: Toledo -1.5
The Mountaineers’ second-ever FBS bowl game after moving up to the FBS ranks in 2014. App State is 2-2 all-time vs. the current MAC membership; 0-2 vs. Ball State and 1-0 vs. Ohio. This is only the second current Sun Belt member Toledo has ever faced, the Rockets are 4-0 vs. Arkansas State.
UCF (6-6) vs. Arkansas State (7-5) – AAC vs. Sun Belt – Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Fla. – 5:30PM EST – CBSSN
First year: 2015
Most appearances: San Jose State and Georgia State (1)
Last year’s result: San Jose State 27, Georgia State 16
Stadium capacity: 65,000
Last year’s attendance: 18,536
UCF all-time bowl record: 3-4
Last bowl appearance: 2014 St. Petersburg – lost to NC State 34-17
Arkansas State all-time bowl record: 2-4
Last bowl appearance: 2015 New Orleans – lost to Louisiana Tech 47-28
All-time series record: UCF 1-0
Line: UCF -6
The only time these two have met was 25 years ago, in 1991 when both schools were Division I-AA (FCS) independents. Arkansas State hasn’t won a bowl game since 2013 when it beat Ball State 23-20 in the GoDaddy Bowl. For UCF, it was the 2013 Fiesta, when it upset 16-point favorite (6) Baylor to cap off a 12-1 campaign.
NEW ORLEANS BOWL
Southern Miss (6-6) vs. UL Lafayette (6-6) – CUSA vs. Sun Belt – Superdome, New Orleans, La. – 9:00PM EST – ESPN
First year: 2001
Most appearances: Southern Miss and UL Lafayette (5 each)
Last year’s result: Louisiana Tech 47, Arkansas State 28
Stadium capacity: 73,208
Last year’s attendance: 32,847
Southern Miss all-time bowl record: 10-11
Last bowl appearance: 2015 Heart of Dallas – lost to Washington 44-31
Louisiana Lafayette all-time bowl record: 4-0
Last bowl appearance: 2014 New Orleans – beat Nevada 16-3
All-time series record: Southern Miss 38-11-1
Line: Southern Miss -4.5
Southern Miss and UL Lafyette have clashed 50 times previously – more than any other combo this bowl season with the exception of BYU-Wyoming with 77. The two shared conference membership from 1928-41 (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association) and 1948-51 (Gulf States) and were regular fixtures until they last played in 2008. The Golden Eagles have won eight straight over the Ragin’ Cajuns.
UL Lafayette’s entire bowl record consists of four straight New Orleans Bowls from 2011-14. Southern Miss hasn’t won a bowl game since 2011 when it knocked off Nevada 24-17 in the Hawaii Bowl. That was also the last season the Golden Eagles were ranked, earning a mention at No. 22 after upsetting (7) Houston in the C-USA title game.
Monday, Dec. 19
MIAMI BEACH BOWL
Central Michigan (6-6) vs. Tulsa (9-3) – MAC vs. AAC – Marlins Park, Miami, Fla. – 2:30PM EST – ESPN
First year: 2014
Last year’s result: Western Kentucky 45, USF 35
Stadium capacity: 34,000
Last year’s attendance: 21,712
Central Michigan all-time bowl record: 3-6
Last bowl appearance: 2015 Quick Lane – lost to Minnesota 21-14
Tulsa all-time bowl record: 9-11
Last bowl appearance: 2015 Independence – lost to Virginia Tech 55-52
All-time series record: Tied 1-1
Line: Tulsa -12.5
The extent of Central Michigan and Tulsa’s history is a home-and-home series they split in 1986-87. The winning team hung 40-plus points on the loser on each occasion. The Chippewa haven’t won a bowl game since edging Western Kentucky 24-21 in the 2012 Little Caesar’s Bowl. For Tulsa, it was the 2012 Liberty Bowl, a 31-17 win over Iowa State.
Tuesday, Dec. 20
BOCA RATON BOWL
Memphis (8-4) vs. Western Kentucky (10-3, C-USA Champions) – AAC vs. CUSA – FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Fla. – 7:00PM EST – ESPN
First year: 2014
Last year’s result: Toledo 32, Temple 17
Stadium capacity: 29,495
Last year’s attendance: 25,908
Memphis all-time bowl record: 4-4
Last bowl appearance: 2015 Birmingham – lost to Auburn 31-10
Western Kentucky all-time bowl record: 2-1
Last bowl appearance: 2015 Miami Beach – beat USF 45-35
All-time series record: Tied 2-2-1
Line: Western Kentucky -5
Memphis and Western Kentucky go way back, playing five regular season games between 1933 and 1956. The 1939 game was played when both schools were members of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association. The Tigers haven’t won a bowl game since 2014 when they beat BYU in double overtime in the Miami Beach Bowl.
Wednesday, Dec. 21
BYU (8-4) vs. Wyoming (8-5) – Independent vs. MWC – Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Calif. – 9:00PM EST – ESPN
First year: 2005
Previous editions: From 1952-55 the Poinsettia Bowl was a title game between the West and East Military Service champions, each representing a fort or base. Fort Ord, a former Army base near Monterey, Calif., won two of the four games.
Most appearances: Navy (4)
Last year’s result: Boise State 55 – Northern Illinois 7
Stadium capacity: 54,000
Last year’s attendance: 21,501
BYU all-time bowl record: 13-20-1
Last bowl appearance: 2015 Las Vegas – lost 35-28 to (20) Utah
Wyoming all-time bowl record: 6-7
Last bowl appearance: 2011 New Mexico – lost to Temple 37-15
All-time series record: BYU 44-30-3
Line: BYU -8.5
With 77 previous meetings, BYU and Wyoming have more history than any other matchup this bowl season. The two schools shared conference affiliation from 1922-37 (Rocky Mountain Athletic), 1938-61 (the Mountain States Athletic), 1962-98 (the WAC), and 1999-2010 (the Mountain West). They also met in the 1996 WAC title game, BYU won 28-25. The Cougars have won seven straight over the Cowboys. This is the FIRST ever non-conference game between the two.
BYU has dropped three straight bowl appearances, last beating San Diego State in the 2012 Poinsettia Bowl. For Wyoming, it was the 2009 New Mexico Bowl, a 35-28 win over Fresno State in double overtime.