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Beyond the Fort: Making sense of ESPN’s intriguing, revamped bowl schedule

On the off chance you enjoy lower-tier bowl games after the the playoff semifinals, boy do I have some good news for you.

Cheez-It Bowl - California v TCU Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

If you’ve been craving a greater dose of bowl games immediately before and after New Year’s, the 2019 college football season — as it turns out — might just be for you.

On the other hand, if you hate the notion of lower-tier bowl games being played after the most meaningful contests of all have passed, you won’t be smiling at the end of this article.

While we’ll give credit to ESPN for ditching the ill-advised idea of placing the College Football Playoff Semifinals on New Year’s Eve after the 2016 season, the reality is that the mess that college football bowl season has become — at least from a scheduling standpoint — is far from being entirely cleaned up.

Look no further than the 2019 bowl schedule which ESPN released on Thursday, one that features notable date changes for at least a few contests. Thanks to the 2019 season lasting 15 weeks (the reason TCU has not one but two byes this fall), bowl games won’t begin until Dec. 20.

And the result of that? Fifteen bowl games (yes, fifteen) won’t be played until after the College Football Playoff semifinals on Dec. 28., including five from Jan. 2-5. Three non-New Year’s Six bowl games in Texas — the Valero Alamo Bowl, the Armed Forces Bowl, and the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl — are among those affected.

This year’s Alamo Bowl will be among the New Year’s Eve lineup of bowl games, while the Armed Forces Bowl — hosted by TCU and traditionally played two or three days before Christmas — has been pushed all the way back to Jan. 4 in one of the most drastic schedule changes of any game. As for the SERVPRO Responder Bowl, the game has only been bumped from Dec. 26 to Dec. 30, but gone are the days of a bowl game in the Cotton Bowl Stadium as the contest will now be played at SMU’s Gerald J. Ford Stadium. Now, could the preparations for the 2020 NHL Winter Classic between the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators at the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1 have something to do with that venue change? The obvious answer is yes.

If you want to see the full bowl schedule for the 2019 season, the entire list can be found right here.

So, what’s to make of all this? Practically speaking, it makes sense with the season ending a week later than normal — give bowl-bound teams adequate time to prepare for their contest rather than cutting it a week shorter than usual.

Nonetheless, placing 15 of the 35 bowl games after the College Football Playoff semifinals — the pinnacle of bowl season beyond the national title game — isn’t exactly a brilliant strategy when it comes to boosting the hype for lower-tier bowl games, and that’s not exactly rocket science. Are you and the rest of the national media going to be pumped for the SERVPRO First Responder bowl between Kansas State and North Texas (insert Big 12 and C-USA teams your choosing here) when the inevitable national title game between Alabama and Clemson is already set? If you answered yes, you’re probably lying, unless you’re an alum of either of those institutions.

At the end day, not everyone is going to come to a consensus on the format. Some may love it, others may hate it. But what is clear is that every bowl game after the playoff semis — save the remaining New Years Six games — is going to face a bit of an uphill battle when it comes to generating public excitement about the matchups.

Contract extension arrives for Tom Herman

After leading Texas football to its best finish in nine years last fall, Longhorns head coach Tom Herman is reaping the rewards.

It was announced Thursday that Herman, pending the approval of the Texas regents, will receive a two-year contract extension that will keep him in place on the Forty Acres through the 2023 season. According to the contract’s terms, Herman will receive $6.5 million for the 2022 season and $6.75 million in 2023.

Texas finished the 2018 season as the Big 12 runner-up before defeating Georgia in the All-State Sugar Bowl to finish the season an overall 10-4. It was the first time since 2009 — the Longhorns’ most recent trip to the national title game — the team reached the 10-win mark.

TCU and Texas are set to square off for their annual Big 12 meeting this fall on Saturday, Oct. 26 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth. The Horned Frogs won four straight meetings with Texas from 2014-2017 before dropping a 31-16 affair against the Longhorns last September in Austin.