Friday, December 19, 2008

God's* Guide to College Bowl Games

Jesus fumbles?For the past few years I've done "God's Bracket," breaking down the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments by the participating schools' religious affiliation. This year I'm doing the same for college football's bowl season (which begins this Saturday).

As an aside, if you're into this sort of thing, I should mention that I recently completed a manuscript for a book titled Kneeling in the End Zone: Spiritual Lessons From the World of Sports. It's slated to publish in the fall of 2009; I'll keep you posted.

There aren't nearly as many religiously affiliated schools in college football's Bowl Subdivision as there are in Division I basketball, but they are nonetheless well represented in this year's bowl field. As usual, the Roman Catholics have the most entries, but the best team may belong to the Disciples of Christ. Here you go:

Roman Catholic
All three Roman Catholic schools in the Bowl Subdivision received bowl bids, although two of the three had very mediocre seasons by their standards.

  • Boston College (9–4): Music City Bowl vs. Vanderbilt (Dec. 31). BC has won eight consecutive bowl games, and I fear that they'll make it nine after thrashing my Commodores in Nashville.

  • Miami (FL) (7–5): Emerald Bowl vs. California (Dec. 27). On paper, this looks like an easy win for Cal, but ACC teams have faired well against strong non-conference opponents.

  • Notre Dame (6–6): Sheraton Hawaii vs. Hawaii (Dec. 24). Notre Dame has more talent than the Rainbow Warriors, but I don't like their chances against Hawaii in Honolulu.

Disciples of Christ
The Christian Church has only one representative, but TCU may be the best religiously affiliated team in this year's field.

  • Texas Christian (10–2): Poinsettia Bowl vs. Boise State (Dec. 23). Look for the Horned Frogs, whose only losses were to #1 Oklahoma and #6 Utah, to spoil Boise's perfect season.

Latter-Day Saints
As usual the Mormons send a strong BYU Cougars team to a bowl game.

  • Brigham Young (10–2): Las Vegas Bowl vs. Arizona (Dec. 20). More than any other religiously affiliated school in major college sports, BYU expects its athletes to adhere to the (strict) moral standards of its affiliate church. Additionally, several Cougars players interrupt their playing careers to go on two-year Mormon missions. Still, BYU's football team is competitive every year, and I expect them to win big in Vegas on Saturday.

The Calvinist faithful can rally behind the continued success of the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.

  • Tulsa (10–3): GMAC Bowl vs. Ball State (Jan. 6). Take a break from the BCS showdowns to watch what should be a very interesting game between the Golden Hurricane and Ball State.

Though Wake Forest no longer has any official connection to a Baptist Convention, the school still claims its Baptist heritage. If Baylor played in any conference or division other than the Big 12 South, the Baptists would probably have an official team to pull for. But as is, the Demon Deacons are the Baptists' only hope.

  • Wake Forest (7–5): EagleBank Bowl vs. Navy (Dec. 20). Despite an otherwise disppointing season, the Deacons were 2–0 against bowl bound SEC teams. They face a good Navy team that upset them during the regular season.

United Methodist
Once again UM schools were shut out of bowl games as Duke, Syracuse, and SMU all failed to earn bids. Still, United Methodists have two former affiliate schools to root for.

  • Northwestern (9–3): Alamo Bowl vs. Missouri (Dec. 29). Northwestern was founded by Methodists in the middle of the nineteenth century and maintains a partnership with Garrett-Evangelical, a United Methodist Seminary in Evanston. The game against Missouri should be a good one, and United Methodists would be well served to cheer for the formerly Methodist Wildcats.

  • Vanderbilt (6–6): Music City Bowl vs. Boston College (Dec. 31). Vandy was founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, one of the mother denominations of The United Methodist Church. Vanderbilt officially split from the Methodists in 1914. Though I (like many United Methodists working for the church) am a graduate of Vanderbilt's Divinity School, I don't like the Commodores' chances against BC.

* I titled this post "God's Guide to College Bowl Games" because I thought it sounded catchy. God has not formally endorsed this guide.


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