SPORTS

New Year’s Six bowl games kicked off with a barely watchable product

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The Cotton Bowl felt like a watershed moment for anyone watching — or casually following along on gamecast. The latter would’ve been the preferred method for a slap fight that featured 16 punts. Missouri mercifully gave fans a touchdown to start the fourth quarter, and would add another score for a 14-3 win over Ohio State.

And that’s it. That’s all the recap needed. Mizzou outlasted a team on its third quarterback, and without its Heisman finalist.

The Buckeyes, who came into Friday planning to see what backup QB Devin Brown could do, lost him in the first quarter to an ankle sprain, and the next man up was freshman Lincoln Kienholz. Before kickoff, Marvin Harrison Jr. announced he would sit out, presumably to preserve his draft stock though he hasn’t officially declared.

Whether it was apathy for not making the College Football Playoff, or the zombie roster their team fielded for a New Year’s six game, Buckeye faithful only bought less than two-thirds of their 12,000-seat allotment. Jerry’s World in Arlington, the site of the Cotton Bowl, holds 80,000, with standing room for as many as 105,000.

While it’s irrefutable that the departure of Kyle McCord to Syracuse via the transfer portal, and another disappointing loss to Michigan, factored into the lack of enthusiasm, this will become the norm for non-playoff programs going forward. Oh, sure, the CFP contests will be heavily watched and attended by the dozen schools to make it.

The revenue, ratings, merch sales, etc. will be bananas for those nine games, yet will it be enough to offset the drop-off for the other 74 universities playing in various condiment-sponsored contests? The sole purpose of bowl season is money. That’s why the mid- and low-tier bowl games fight each other for the most popular teams. Tulane and SMU each won 11 games during the regular season, and were rewarded with trips to the Military and Wasabi Fenway bowls, respectively.

Yes, both of them lost to bad ACC schools, but that’s not the point. There are only so many fanbases loony enough to travel to certifiably crap destinations for meaningless exhibitions, and even then, better hope departures and holdouts don’t further deter travel and viewership. Perhaps success-starved Tiger fans saved the sponsors’ nuts. That’s not a reliable business model for superfluous bowls. Their only hope is that the accompanying postgame celebration is gross, or morbid enough to motivate fans to watch the on-field action.

Anyone who follows the sport could’ve read the tea leaves surrounding Harrison; first-round receivers don’t risk injuries, or return for their senior seasons. Was the cloudy nature of his participation intentional to lure Buckeye fans to Dallas? That’s not for me to say (but yes).

I’ve avoided going full Mr. Blonde on bowl season because the majority of players aren’t going to the next level, and should be able to enjoy the experience. Adding another rant to the echo chamber is piling on, but my god, 12 punts in a half is triggering. There were seven total three-and-outs. This was two-year-olds playing Patty Cake.

The Tigers and Buckeyes combined for 533 yards of total offense. Mizzou surpassed the 500-yard mark five times this year by itself; OSU did it twice. However, the Cotton Bowl was always going to be unwatchable. Those in Columbia chose to ignore it, but people in Columbus knew it, and were smart enough to save their money. 

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