Don’t get all wrapped up in how good both teams are and how motivated they might be to play one more football game when you can just let the corporate sponsors tell you which ones you need to watch.
Even though it’s easy to agree with ESPN when it once co-opted a famous Christmas song and declared college football bowl season the most wonderful week(s) of the year, the fact remains that there are about to be more than three dozen games coming up soon. That is, as the kids might say, a lot.
The logical response to that is to watch some college football since tuning in for every game is a fool’s errand that would likely put your job and relationships in jeopardy, even (especially?) over the holidays. And sure, you could sift through every bowl game looking for a reason to watch, but that requires time, effort, and football knowledge. If you’ve got all three to spare, you’re probably already working for the network formerly known as the Worldwide Leader in Sports.
Happily, college football bowl games offer you a convenient alternative: Their corporate sponsors. Why bother digging into the matchups when the companies involved already provide a clear guide to which games are can’t-miss and which are eminently skippable?
If that sounds overly cynical, hey, welcome to sports on the precipice of the 2020s. Here’s a guide to all the bowl games broken down into tiers by the majesty (or lack thereof, in many cases) of their sponsors. Important note: Bowls with no sponsors aren’t included, so you’re on your own when trying to figure out if they’re worth your time.
Nothing against Belk itself, which is a department store chain based in the south, but it announced ahead of time it is pulling its sponsorship after this year, making this the rare bowl where even the sponsor’s heart isn’t in it. Hard pass.
SoFi Hawai’i Bowl
A recurring theme in this column is going to be “If you have to look it up, it’s probably not a great corporate sponsor for a bowl game.” SoFi is an “online personal finance company” according to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy… er, Wikipedia.
San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl
In one of the worst mismatches between generally exciting game and boring sponsor, here’s the Holiday Bowl. It could be worse, though, as back in the day it was sponsored by SeaWorld, which no one likes anymore.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Lots of potentially cool companies could be attached to a bowl game in Nashville, but this isn’t one of them.
No love for Redbox after it announced it wasn’t going to rent video games anymore. Boo.
Capital One Orange Bowl
If you hate junk mail, then you probably already dislike Capital One.
TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl
There are a lot of ticket companies out there, and this one sounds like it might be made up. No disrespect to the probable billionaire CEO who came up with it, though.
FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl
Can’t show any favoritism here, so mortgage companies are pretty far down the list unless there are extenuating circumstances, which isn’t the case for FBC Mortgage. Sorry.
Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl
This one could easily be in the D tier, but the sheer audacity of the town of Elk Grove, Illinois attaching itself to a football game played in Nassau is just so peak 2019 that it gets bumped up one rank.
Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl
Car brands as sponsors? Cool! But Mitsubishi just seems like there could be more exciting options in this space. Someone ask Elon Musk if he wants to drive the Cybertruck to a Tesla Bowl next year.
Quick Lane Bowl
We all need oil changes, even if they aren’t the most thrilling parts of our lives. C tier just feels right.
Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl
This is actually a pretty good sporting goods chain, but its name suggests school, and bowl season is all about being on a break from academics for a bit.
Camping World Bowl
Yours truly isn’t a huge fan of roughing it without things like wi-fi and, you know, an actual bed, but it’s come to my attention that some people actually enjoy camping. Camping World is also an enthusiastic sponsor of NASCAR and the CEO seems like a good dude.
NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl
Okay, here we go: If you’re going to be pushing home loans, make them feel a bit more action-packed. NOVA, all caps, you’re the best in a pretty drab field.
Valero Alamo Bowl
Gas up the car at Valero and let’s hit the road! And maybe grab some Mountain Dew and snacks when you go inside to use the bathroom, cool?
Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual
Ideally, the Rose Bowl would not have a corporate sponsor at all, because it’s, you know, the freaking Rose Bowl. But if it has to have one, a sexier company would be appropriate for “The Granddaddy of Them All.”
Elevated above the others in its industry because of the surreal commercial spots LendingTree has used in the past that make it look like one of the Ents from Lord of the Rings is growing the money and just hands it to you as a loan. Better be sure to pay it back on time.
Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl
Cheribundi makes delicious juice drinks that are allegedly also high in antioxidants, though now maybe those aren’t good for us anymore, because of course.
Walk-On’s Independence Bowl
Walk-On’s is a sports bar chain that boasts Drew Brees as a co-owner, so much respect due. If it had used its entire name, Walk-On’s Bistreaux and Bar, it would have ranked even higher.
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman
Credit due for one of the more appropriate marriages of bowl game and sponsor, with the Military Bowl getting its money from a company that makes stealth bombers. Well done.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
Having the blimp people in your bowl game’s name is a good look. Rumor has it they also make tires.
SERVPRO First Responder Bowl
SERVPRO helps people clean up after fires and floods, so while it doesn’t have the flashiest or most intuitive name, it gets enough props to be in this tier.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
“Get to the zone, AutoZone!” Don’t say you aren’t fired up to go buy some air filters and windshield wipers after hearing that in your head.
Allstate Sugar Bowl
You’re in good hands and all that.
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Please see the blurb above for the Military Bowl, because it applies here as well.
Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl
Makes great smoothies, plus earns extra points for being in the “I didn’t know they were big enough to sponsor a bowl game” category.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Hats are good, and New Era makes dope hats, plus it is headquartered in New York state so is keeping its money close to home by sponsoring this game.
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
Despite having to fend off the new cool kid in the chicken sandwich game, Popeyes, Chick-fil-A remains delicious and is now slightly less objectionable to people who might boycott it for political reasons. Or that was the case a few weeks ago, it might have changed again by now.
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
Yours truly has always been a PlayStation guy, though if Xbox sponsored a bowl it would belong in this tier as well.
Even though Outback probably won’t send gift cards for free Bloomin’ Onions for ranking it this high (unless you’re gonna do it, as Nellie once said), steaks and apps and maybe a few adult beverages to wash them down are always welcome in the bowl game mix.
TaxSlayer Gator Bowl
Note to all the other financial/mortgage/money-related sponsors: This is how you do it. Slay them taxes. Easy to get behind.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Being against Idaho potatoes is probably un-American.
Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl
Ah yeah, not just lawnmowers, which are boring, but Bad Boy Mowers. Damn the pollen allergies, let’s go cut some grass.
Even with just one game under its belt — one which quickly became legendary as the “Cheez-Int Bowl” — this has the feel of a bowl/sponsor match that is going to go down in the annals of college football history. Or at least social media history, and that’s probably almost as good as we head further into the 21st century.
Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl
If this had been the Frosted Flakes Bowl, it likely would have made the A tier. But nope; in a bit of marketing genius, the mascot is the headliner here. Strap yourself in for tons of “It’s Grrrrrrreat!” memes and thank us later.