The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Your Guide to the Bowl Season in North Texas

The Cotton Bowl during the annual Texas-OU game, a much bigger deal than the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
The Cotton Bowl during the annual Texas-OU game, a much bigger deal than the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Hannah Ridings
For the vast majority of the 20th century, North Texas had exactly one bowl game. On New Year's Day or somewhere thereabouts, college football fans would brave weather of varying quality and head to otherwise deserted Fair Park to watch their team play in the Cotton Bowl.

In 2003, things changed a little with the debut of the Fort Worth Bowl. In 2009, things changed a lot, when the Cotton Bowl moved out of the Cotton Bowl and into Arlington's palatial AT&T Stadium. Something called the Heart of Dallas Bowl moved into the Cotton Bowl the next year and now, with Frisco getting into the game on two different fronts, DFW — not exactly a garden spot in December or January — somehow has either four or five bowls a year, depending on how many hairs one cares to split.

If you're checking back into college football ahead of the week between Christmas and New Year's, the traditional start of bowl season, there's already some bad news. The Frisco Bowl, which we honestly didn't know existed until this week, has already been played, with Ohio University knocking off San Diego State 27-0 on Wednesday night at Toyota Stadium, the home of FC Dallas.

With that out of the way, let's look at four games left on DFW's schedule the next couple of weeks. (For the record, Ohio-San Diego State would've gone in the bad category, had we been ranking it.)

The Good
The Cotton Bowl: No. 2 Clemson (13-0) vs. No. 3 Notre Dame (12-0), Saturday, Dec. 29, 3 p.m.

Thanks to its spot in the College Football Playoff rotation, the Cotton Bowl hosts a premium matchup four days after Christmas as two undefeated teams fight for the chance to take on the winner of Alabama and Oklahoma in college football's championship game on Jan. 7 in Santa Clara, California.

Despite starting freshman Trevor Lawrence at quarterback, Clemson has a big experience advantage, as it's playing in the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. Notre Dame is playing in the playoff for the first time but has Dexter Williams, a dynamic running back capable of challenging Clemson's dominant front seven.

Lawrence has thrown just four interceptions this season. If he continues to play mistake-free football against Notre Dame's talented secondary, Clemson should be headed to the title game. 
Football Championship Subdivision National Championship Game: No. 1 North Dakota State (14-0) vs. No. 3 Eastern Washington (12-2), Saturday, Jan. 5, 11 a.m.

While it isn't technically a bowl game, the Football Championship Subdivision championship — say that 10 times fast — brings the best of the NCAA's second level to Frisco each year. This year's final gives fans two high-powered offenses that had to win three do-or-die playoff games to make it to Toyota Stadium. While the game won't feature as many future NFL stars as the Cotton Bowl, it's the only other game on this list where the teams legitimately have something for which to play.

The Bad —

The Armed Forces Bowl: Army (9-2) vs. Houston (8-4), Saturday, Dec. 22, 2:30 p.m.

Houston is a classic good offense/horrible defense team. In 2018, they averaged 46 points a game and gave up 34. If they were playing another high-scoring team, the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth could be an entertaining shootout. They aren't. The Cougars are taking on Army, a team that's averaged four pass completions per game for the entire season. The clash in styles could make for an entertaining mess, but this game's guaranteed to be a mess.

The Ugly —

The First Responders Bowl: Boston College (7-5) vs. No. 25 Boise State (10-3), Wednesday, Dec. 26, 12:30 p.m.

Say what you want about the matchup — Boston College lost three in a row to close the season and isn't very good, but Boise State's OK — this game should not be happening. Dallas pays ESPN to come to Dallas and put on the game, formerly known as the Heart of Dallas Bowl, which is never highly attended and means nothing to the college football landscape. The two schools involved have no ties to Dallas — except Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who played football for the Boston College Eagles — and will toil in anonymity, thanks to people either being at work or returning gifts. The First Responders Bowl, whatever its name, is an eyesore.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young