MIKE LOPRESTI: From Cheez-Its to cherry juice, bowl games come in variety of flavors

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lopresti-mike-sports-2018.jpgYou’re shopping for a car, you’re hungry, or you could use a loan. You’re not sure where to go for help. Do we have an idea for you.

Sit down, relax and start watching bowl games!

They won’t be hard to find. There are 40 of them, starting this weekend, or 41 if you count the national championship game. It’s like dinner at Fogo de Chao; the servings of meat—or, in this case football, and the plugs for consumer products and services—just keep coming to your table.

Fifty years ago, all of major-college football had 10 bowl games. This season, there are eight in the state of Florida alone. There are games in 16 states and the Bahamas, and nearly every last one carries a sponsor attached to its name.

Looking for a dining suggestion? There’s the Outback Bowl, the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, or the Walk-On’s Independence Bowl. Walk-On’s is a chain of sports bars, in case you’re wondering. Nothing wrong with that name, but it’ll never replace the Poulan Weed-Eater Independence Bowl, will it?

If it’s a snack you want, there’s the Cheribundi—that’s a cherry juice—Boca Raton Bowl, which you can use to wash down the Cheez-It Bowl. This while you’re thinking of what movie to watch after the Redbox Bowl. Or maybe play a game of NBA 2K19 following the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl.

Check out the 2019 models at the Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl, or the Hyundai Sun Bowl. Or even the AutoNation Cure Bowl. You can pay for that new ride at the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl and insure it at the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

No problem if the vehicle needs work, or tires. Not when there’s the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, the Goodyear Cotton Bowl and the Quick Lane Bowl.

Shop for fine jewelry for that special someone at the Jared Birmingham Bowl. Or if money is tight, there is always the Dollar General Bowl.

Serve your country at the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl, get ready for spring lawn work at the Bad Boys Mower Gasparilla Bowl, get equipped for a weekend outing at Brown County at the Camping World Bowl. In the market for a stealth fighter? Come watch the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.

Get your kid a student loan at the SoFi Hawaii Bowl, then file for the deduction at the Taxslayer Gator Bowl. Buy a house at the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl. Go on the New Era website to look for a cap to wear to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

And then there’s the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl in Nassau. Ever been to Elk Grove Village, Illinois? It has a business park with the advertising slogan of Makers Wanted. To get the word out to potential tenants, the town decided it’d be a fine idea to sponsor a bowl game 1,300 miles away. So, if you tune into Florida International and Toledo playing under the sunshine of the Caribbean, you’re supporting new industry in Illinois.

Incidentally, Toledo and Western Michigan are playing in bowl games the same day. They finished with identical records in the MAC, but Toledo beat Western Michigan head-to-head. The tiebreaker, so to speak. Maybe that’s why Toledo is spending the first day of winter in the Bahamas, while Western Michigan will be in Boise at the famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Don’t we yearn for the good old days, when it took two syllables—three max—to mention these games? Rose Bowl. Orange Bowl. Sugar Bowl. Now we have the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. You almost need to pause for a breath. By the way, that’s where Purdue will play Auburn, and there’s one way to tell the difference between the two programs:

Purdue fans are giddy Jeff Brohm is staying, and he went 6-6.

Auburn fans want Gus Malzahn sacked, and he went 7-5. An apparently discontented Tiger booster got into Malzahn’s Wikipedia online bio and changed it to read that he was the “head clown of the Auburn Tigers … known for choking away a 21-3 lead in the national championship game … ”

There is room in all these bowl games for teams from every direction. Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Georgia Southern, West Virginia, Central Florida, Middle Tennessee and Northwestern.

There is room for all manner of reclamation projects. In two years, Notre Dame went from 4-8—losing to Duke and Navy—to a spot in the playoffs against Clemson. In two years, Fresno State went from 1-11 to the Las Vegas Bowl. In 2015, Eastern Michigan had gone 7-41 over four seasons. The Eagles are now in their second bowl in three years. In 2016, the UAB program wasn’t even active, being terminated by school administrators. They changed their minds, and now the Blazers are swigging Cheribundi tart cherry juice in the Boca Raton Bowl.

There is room for the first- and second-place vote-getters in the Heisman race … in the same game. That’d be Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray against Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa in the Capital One Orange Bowl.

There is room for three quarterbacks who have started games for Alabama—Tagovailoa; his backup, Jalen Hurts; and Blake Barnett, who is now at South Florida.

There’s room for old guys. They call it the DXL Frisco Bowl, where Ohio plays San Diego State, but it might as well be the AARP Bowl. Ohio Coach Frank Solich is 74 years old; San Diego State Coach Rocky Long is 68.

There is room for Urban Meyer’s last bowl game, if he sticks to retirement after Ohio State. And Herm Edwards’ first bowl game, with Arizona State, after all those years hanging around the NFL. Funny thing is, Edwards is 10 years older than Meyer.

There’s room for Temple vs. Duke, which is the Walk-On’s Independence Bowl, but sounds more like the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

There’s room for four unbeaten teams, but also 10 with 6-6 records.

In the three-year span of 1972-1974, Michigan went 30-2-1 but never played in a bowl game, because the Big Ten allowed only one bowl team, and that was always Ohio State. There is room this year for nine Big Ten schools—Purdue, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State and Minnesota. Of those, only three have never come to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game: Purdue, Minnesota and, of all teams, Michigan.

With only 31 percent of FBS teams not bowl-bound, there is room for nearly everyone. Well, except IU and Ball State.•

__________

Lopresti is a lifelong resident of Richmond and a graduate of Ball State University. He was a columnist for USA Today and Gannett newspapers for 31 years; he covered 34 Final Fours, 30 Super Bowls, 32 World Series and 16 Olympics. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at mjl5853@aol.com.

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