The Most Exciting Bowl Games, According to Big Data

Welcome to bowl season! The culmination of another year of college football is upon us. There are 39 bowl games in total this year, and an average college football game runs three hours and 24 minutes. If you were to watch the entire lineup of games, you’d spend 132 hours and 36 minutes doing so. That’s longer than outdoorsman Aron Ralston was trapped under a boulder, as portrayed by James Franco in 127 Hours. Simply put, there are better ways to spend your time.

However, you don’t want to miss out entirely on the bowl game lineup. There are some great matchups in here. Fortunately, we’ve got big data on our side to determine just which games are worth watching. To give some other games their due, we’re going to skip the college football playoff. Clemson vs. Alabama and Oklahoma vs. Georgia should both be priority viewing, and they’re conveniently both on New Year’s Day.

Here are our recommendations:

Bahamas Bowl: UAB vs. Ohio – Friday, Dec. 22, 12:30 p.m. ET

Before this year, UAB’s football program didn’t even exist the past two seasons. The resurrection story is a great one, but our real interest in this game is due to the history of previous Bahamas Bowl matchups. While this is only the fourth year of the bowl, the past three have all been entertaining. Last season saw Old Dominion’s first-ever bowl victory. 2015 had six touchdowns of 44 yards or longer as Western Michigan defeated Middle Tennessee 45-31. And we’ll just let the final play of the very first Bahamas Bowl speak for itself:

There’s something about playing in the Bahamas that leads to thrills on the field. While this will be one of the least-attended bowl games – the average attendance has been only 13,404 – based on looking at past data, we can anticipate it will be one of the most exciting.

Quick Lane Bowl, Duke vs. Northern Illinois – Tuesday, Dec. 26, 5:15 p.m. ET

We’re throwing this one in simply because of the variety of the gifts each player will receive for playing in the game. Each bowl offers its own “swag bag” for participating players, but Quick Lane outdoes the other bowls. Take a look:

  • $175 Best Buy gift card
  • JBL Bluetooth headphones
  • Ogio backpack and tag
  • A Quick Lane merchandise pack including a mini-helmet, hoodie, workout shorts, and a winter pom hat
  • Vintage football with Quick Lane logo

Getting more than $500 worth of goodies is inspirational, but the real cream of the crop is the Fathead life-size likeness of himself that each player receives. Can you imagine having one of these in your home, only the player on the wall is you? It’s certainly a great conversation starter during dinner parties if nothing else.

Foster Farms Bowl: Arizona vs. Purdue – Wednesday, Dec. 27, 8:30 p.m. ET

While some might consider a 6-6 season a disappointment, Purdue sees it as a rousing success. After all, they finished 3-9 the season before and had to win three of their final four games merely to qualify for a bowl. On the other side of the field, Arizona started off 2-2 and seemed destined for another subpar season. Then they turned to sophomore quarterback Khalil Tate, who threw for nearly 1,300 yards and ran for almost 1,500 more. The Wildcats won five out of their next six games and didn’t score less than 35 points in any game during that stretch. Tate alone is reason enough to tune in – couple that with a Boilermakers team that’s thrilled to be playing in the postseason and you have an exciting matchup.

Orange Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Miami – Saturday, Dec. 30, 8 p.m. ET

Perhaps no two teams are more inspired than the Badgers and the Hurricanes. Wisconsin was undefeated going into the Big 10 championship game before losing to Ohio State, and Miami was ranked No. 2 in the country just three weeks ago. They then lost to a below-average Pitt team and got beaten by 35 points in the ACC title game. This matchup is a chance for both sides to prove they belonged in the national championship conversation. You’ll see a lot of rushing plays – the Hurricanes and Badgers combined for just under 4,900 yards and 46 touchdowns on the ground this season – but you’ll also likely witness one of the best parts of this entire college football season: the turnover chain.

The giddiness of the ‘Canes as they eagerly await the chain after a turnover is a wonderful sight. This game should turn into more of a defensive battle, but for those of you who enjoy big plays on offense, we’ve got you covered a little later on.

Outback Bowl: Michigan vs. South Carolina – Monday, Jan. 1, 12:00 p.m. ET

A rematch of the 2013 Outback Bowl that South Carolina won 33-28, the highlight from that game certainly has to be what is now known as “The Hit” which earned a “Best Play” ESPY Award for South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney:

While this year’s matchup may not have Clowney, it does have plenty of intrigue. Michigan brings its third-ranked defense, allowing only 268.6 yards per game. South Carolina’s potent offense, led by QB Jake Bentley, will provide a tough test in this great SEC versus Big Ten matchup. A confession on this one: our family recently attended a game at Williams-Brice Stadium, so we’re pulling for the Gamecocks.

Peach Bowl: Auburn vs. UCF – Monday, Jan. 1, 12:30 p.m. ET

UCF led the league in scoring this year, averaging 48 points per game. Auburn isn’t too far behind, coming in 18th while playing in a tougher conference. The two teams averaged just under 1,000 yards of offense per contest. Adding to the intrigue, UCF’s coach Scott Frost has already accepted a job at Nebraska for next season – but he’s coming back to coach for the bowl game. In this situation, an interim coach will usually step in, so it’ll be fascinating to see how the players respond to Frost’s presence. On top of everything else, UCF is the only undefeated team remaining in FBS. The school has a shot at becoming one of the greatest underdog stories in college football lore.

Of course, with Auburn coming off an impressive SEC season they will present a unique challenge for UCF. Auburn’s victory over Alabama in the Iron Bowl ranks as the highest-rated college football game to date on any channel of the 2017 season and it was CBS’s highest-rated regular season college football game since 2013. However, it doesn’t take a big data analysis to determine who I will be rooting for – my daughter is a freshman at Auburn!

We’re using big data to determine the top bowl games, but teams are getting data delivered through the cloud, too. The cloud provides these big data solutions via a rapidly available platform that can scale with demand and make compute and storage changes over time as the project continues to grow.

Even off the gridiron, big data plays a critical role in the enterprise. Having an MSP to help analyze and interpret all of the data available can take an organization from underdog to champion.

Datapipe has joined forces with Rackspace to create the world’s leader in multi-cloud managed services. Learn more about the acquisition here.

David Lucky is a Product Marketing leader at Rackspace for the Managed Public Cloud services group, a global business unit focused on delivering end-to-end digital transformation services on AWS, Azure, GCP and Alibaba. David came to Rackspace from Datapipe where as Director of Product Management for six years he led product development in building services to help enterprise clients leverage managed IT services to solve complex business challenges. David has unique insight into the latest product developments for private, public and hybrid cloud platforms and a keen understanding of industry trends and their impact on business development. He holds an engineering degree from Lehigh University and is based out of Jersey City, NJ. You can follow David on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/davidlucky and Twitter @Luckys_Blog.