The College Football Bowl season is a few days away with a ton of great games slated. With a minimum requirement of six wins to make a bowl game that means 82 teams reached bowl eligibility for 41 games. With 41 different venues needed spread mainly across the southern U.S., there are a variety of unique locations hosting games. Of all the possible venues there are four games this season that will take place in an MLB stadium.
Wasabi Fenway Bowl – Fenway Park, Boston
Bowl games begin this Friday and it does not take long for the first game in an MLB stadium to occur. The third Bowl game of the season takes place Saturday, December 17 at 10:00 a.m. CST between the Cincinnati Bearcats (9-3) and Louisville Cardinals (7-5).
Although the Fenway Bowl has been around for a few years it is yet to actually see a game played. It was slated to have its inaugural game in the 2020-21 season, but due to COVID-19 issues, it was postponed.
With College Football back in full swing for the 2021-22 season, it appeared the Fenway Bowl would finally get its chance to shine. The matchup, which features a team from the American Athletic Conference (AAC) and Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), was set with SMU taking on Virginia. On December 26, 2021, three days prior to game day, it was canceled for the second straight season due to COVID-19 issues within the Virginia program.
As of right now, it looks like the Wasabi Fenway Bowl will finally see its first game. Cincinnati and Lousiville are both coming off solid seasons. Neither team is a stranger to the spotlight in bowl season.
For Cincinnati, this is their fifth straight season making a bowl game. They are looking to bounce back after losing their last two. Last season they went 13-0 and became the first school outside of the Power-5 to make the College Football Playoffs. They lost to Alabama 27-6 in the historic Cotton Bowl classic. This will be their first bowl game in a while without head coach Luke Fickell who is now with Wisconsin.
Although Louisville has not been as dominant as Cincinnati they have been pretty consistent in reaching bowl games. This marks their 11th bowl game in the last 12 seasons and they are 5-5 over the last 10. They aim to bounce back after losing to Air Force 31-28 last season in the First Responder Bowl.
Guaranteed Rate Bowl – Chase Field, Pheonix
The second game to be played at an MLB ballpark takes place on Tuesday, December 27 at 9:15 p.m. CST between the Wisconsin Badgers (6-6) and Oklahoma State Cowboys (7-5).
Unlike the Fenway Bowl, there have been many bowl games played at the Arizona Diamondbacks’ home in Phoenix, Arizona. The first game to be played at this stadium was on December 28, 2000. At that time the stadium was called the Bank One Ballpark and the sponsor was Insight.com. That first matchup saw Iowa State defeat Pittsburgh 37-21. That was the first of six games played at Bank One Ballpark.
In 2006 it moved to Sun Devil Stadium home of the Arizona State Sun Devils in Tempe, Arizona. It stayed the home of this bowl game for nine seasons. It then moved to Chase Field for the 2015-16 season where it has been ever since. After three seasons of the Cactus Bowl, it became the Cheez-It Bowl and then in 2020, it changed to the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.
The first official Guaranteed Rate Bowl was slated for December 26, 2020, but it did not take place because of an insufficient amount of teams making a bowl game. The new sponsored game at Chase Field got its first chance in 2021 as Minnesota defeated West Virginia 18-6.
This season’s game features two historic teams from the Big Ten and Big 12, both of whom have extraordinary bowl appearance streaks.
Wisconsin is coming off its worst season since the 2001 season when they only won five games. Despite their serious struggles, they managed to pick up the six wins needed. With this appearance, they extended their bowl game streak to 21 straight seasons which is the third longest behind Oklahoma (24) and Georgia (26). They won their last two bowl games and seven of their last eight. Uniquely, this is their second time playing in an MLB stadium in recent history as they took part in the 2018 Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.
Oklahoma State looked like one of the best teams in the country through the first half. Then a major second-half meltdown kept them from reaching the Big 12 Championship for the second straight season. Much like the Badgers, the Cowboys have one of the longest bowl game streaks at 17 which is the sixth longest. They too won their last two bowl games and are 9-3 over their previous 12.
San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl – Petco Park, San Diego
The third of the four games takes place on Wednesday, December 28 at 7:00 p.m. CST between the No. 15 Oregon Ducks (9-3) and North Carolina Tarheels (9-4).
The Holiday Bowl has been played in San Diego since 1978, but for the majority of its existence, it was played in the home of the formerly known San Diego Chargers. With that stadium being demolished in 2020 the Holiday Bowl needed a new home so they landed on Petco Park, home of the Padres.
The lineage of the Holiday Bowl in Petco Park is eerily similar to that of the Fenway Bowl.
The inaugural game was slated for the 2020 bowl season, but it was canceled due to COVID-19 issues. It appeared 2021 would finally see Petco Park host its first bowl game. The matchup was set between No. 18 NC State and UCLA. The field was completely set up and ready to go, but then COVID-19 issues with UCLA caused them to drop out the night prior. Unable to find a replacement team the game was officially canceled the morning of.
After the Holiday Bowl failed to make an appearance in the last two seasons it looks like 2022 will finally get it back on track. Oregon, one of the best Pac-12 teams, is set to battle against North Carolina, the ACC runner-up.
The Oregon Ducks had another stellar season as they won nine-plus games for the fourth straight full season and 15 out of the last 17 full seasons. This will be their ninth straight season with a bowl appearance. They are 3-5 in their last eight and are coming off back-to-back losses. This will be their fourth appearance in the Holiday Bowl where they are 2-1. They were victorious their last time when they beat Oklahoma State 42-31 on December 30, 2008.
The UNC Tarheels had a solid season where they made a push for the playoffs but lost several crucial games late in the season. They made it to the ACC title game but did not stand a chance against Clemson. This is their third straight season with a bowl appearance. It is going to be a redemption game after they lost 41-27 to Texas A&M in the Orange Bowl last season.
Bad Boy Mowers Pinstripe Bowl – Yankee Stadium, New York
The final bowl game in an MLB stadium takes place on Thursday, December 29 at 1:00 p.m. CST between the Syracuse Orange (7-5) and Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-4).
Their bowl is neither in its infancy nor has it switched locations over its history. Yankee stadium has been the host of the Pinstripe Bowl since the 2010-11 season which has seen some incredibly intense battles. Since the 2014 season, the matchup has featured a team from the ACC and Big Ten. Despite mostly close games, the Big Ten team has won six of the seven games including the previous five.
What this bowl game does have in common with the other three is that it was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19. It did not have any issues getting back to it in 2021 as it saw Maryland defeat Virginia Tech 54-10 for the largest point differential in the history of this bowl. It was 12 points larger than the previous high when Wisconsin defeated Miami (FL) 35-3 in 2018.
This season’s matchup features two teams that started the season spectacularly well but really struggled to put it together in the second half.
Syracuse had it the roughest of the two. They began the season 6-0 and put the entire nation on notice. After blowing a big lead over Clemson for their first loss they waited to get their seventh win in the final week. Syracuse is no stranger to the Pinstripe bowl as they won the first-ever edition of this game in 2010 when they beat Kansas State 36-34. Two years later they got another invite and beat West Virginia 38-14. It has been tough reaching six wins as this is their first bowl appearance since 2018 and second since 2013. Despite struggling to make bowl games, they are riding a four-game win streak and are 13-3 over their last 16.
Minnesota looked like they were well on their way to a Big Ten West title until several poorly timed losses. They have had much better luck than Syracuse in making it to a bowl game. Over the eight years where Syracuse only made one, Minnesota has made six. They too are riding a bowl-winning streak which right now is at five including last season’s victory in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Chase Field.
Even with all the football stadiums around the U.S., there are several bowl games taking place at MLB stadiums. It is unconventional but a unique experience nonetheless. Four of these teams are playing in well-recognized venues for bowl games while the other four are going to be the first to play in their respective ballparks. Bowl season is one of the most exciting times of the year across all sports and these four games will certainly be ones to watch.
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