Who should I cheer for in the new year’s six games? Spartan handbook

The New Year’s Six bowl games are here, and it’s time for college football fans to sit down in front of their TVs and figure out ways to care about the teams they don’t usually watch. That means it’s time for Michigan State fans to pick their affiliations in games they won’t have a direct stake in.

What are the New Year’s Six Cups?

The New Year’s Six Cups is a long-standing tradition. Historically, these Rose Bowl games; Sugar bowl; Cotton bowl; Peach Cup; Orange Bowl; and the Fiesta Bowl featured top teams from around the world a lot college football conferences in once-in-a-generation matchups that transcend traditional rivalries.

These days they are nothing like that.

First, college football is no longer “many” conferences. The landscape is basically several major conferences with more teams than anyone could imagine in each. And even that is falling apart, as this will be the last year with a true Pac-12 team. Next year, most of the Pac-12 will be in the Big Ten. Specifically, it would make the Rose Bowl format, which featured the Best Big Ten Team vs. the Best Pac-12 Team, a thing of the past.

The bowl system used to allow major programs to be paired with other top programs for must-win games.

Since the advent of the four-team College Football Playoff (CFP) and the transfer portal, the bowl games have mostly been relegated to the CFP games and all. The last vestige of the wider bowl game system is the six New Year’s bowl games considered just above.

Those six games alternate, featuring one of the two College Football Playoffs, and the other four Bowls per year just hope everyone still cares (spoiler: most people don’t — including the players).

The upcoming 12-team College Football Playoff will make these six bowl games even less relevant as stand-alone games. So let’s enjoy this last gasp of interest in a system that has expired.

Who plays in the cup games:

Friday, December 29

Cotton Bowl: Ohio State vs. Missouri 8:00 p.m. ET

Saturday, December 30

Peach Bowl: Penn State vs. Ole Miss at 12:00 PM ET

Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. Georgia at 4:00 p.m. ET

Monday, January 1st (that’s in 2024, in case you’re keeping track)

Fiesta Cup: Oregon vs. Liberty at 1:00 p.m. ET

Pink Bowl: College Football Playoff Semifinal featuring Michigan vs. Alabama at 5:00 p.m. ET

Sugar Bowl: College Football Playoff semifinal featuring Washington vs. Texas at 8:45 p.m. ET

Clearly, Michigan State is not on that list. It was… not exactly the season every Spartan fan was hoping for, but we fans still get to participate. Here’s an overview of how Spartan fans can have fun and cheer during these games.

The BBD Theory of Post-Season Maintenance

There is a clear hierarchy to my postseason support for teams I’m not actually a fan of. I am loyal to the team first. Second, I am loyal to my team’s conference. The theory is that if my team is going to be considered good — and their strength of schedule matters in that perception — then it usually helps my team if the conference does well in the postseason.

With this transitory property in mind, the third tier of my support is reserved for teams my team has played against. Strength of schedule matters, a team that finds success after facing my preferred team makes my team look better.

Finally, my support goes to the team whose victory somehow creates chaos and/or achieves an ancillary goal that (most likely indirectly) helps my team look or feel better in life.

One big exception to the above postseason support theory is the rivalry factor.

Rival sports programs must lose. I am otherwise a reasonable, friendly and generally optimistic human being. Unless you’re talking about Michigan (and to a lesser extent Ohio State). Then these teams can lose, please. Regardless of the impact of the conference.

If a game doesn’t involve any of the above bets, then I either just don’t watch it, or I find some random narrative reason to pick a team. But it’s an every-man-for-himself approach.

BBD Suggested Cheer Guide Play by Play:

Cotton Bowl: Ohio State vs. Missouri 8:00 p.m. Friday, December 29 (East Coast Time)

Your grip during this game may come down to how much you really dislike Ohio State. I realize that many Spartan fans see the Buckeyes as one (small) step away from being Michigan. So if you’re in that segment of the fan base, it’s time to be proud of Mizzou. If not, consider the quality of the conference and enjoy a Big Ten program playing a backup QB that beats the SEC.

For me, it’s a game to get behind the Buckeyes. The legal score means nothing, and my dislike of the SEC is greater than my dislike of the Buckeyes right now. So he might as well show some Big Ten pride.

Peach Bowl: Penn State vs. Ole Miss at 12 noon Saturday, December 30 (East Coast US Time)

You might need something to watch while you wait for the Michigan State vs. Indiana State basketball game. It’s essentially a mirror of the Cotton Bowl conundrum. If you’re in the “I hate Penn State” camp, then feel free to cheer for Ole Miss. If not, consider not joining the Big Ten.

If nothing else, watching Penn State fans reel after another year where they didn’t make the College Football Playoff but had a “big” run at the end of the year and a win (that no one cares about) might to be fun. If nothing else, it should keep Penn State’s head coach in place for another year of “can’t win the games that matter” football. Just for the pleasure of it, I say we’ll be rooting for the Nittany Lions.

Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. Georgia at 4:00 p.m. Saturday, December 30 (US EST)

There is no obvious Big Ten connection in this game, but there is a fun outcome that could serve the Spartans well. If Florida State can win this game and go undefeated, they could possibly end the year as the nation’s only undefeated power-five program — and they weren’t even invited to the College Football Playoff.

A win for Florida State would instantly guarantee that FSU fans would declare themselves a national champion.

If the unthinkable happens and the University of Michigan does win, Florida State fans will spend the next thousand years lamenting that FSU was actual a national champion would be useful fodder to keep our friends and family who mindlessly support Michigan grounded.

So as a fire break against Michigan fans, I say: Go Florida State!

Fiesta Bowl: Oregon vs. Liberty at 1 p.m. Monday, January 1 (East Coast USA Time)

I’m trying… but I literally can’t find a way to take care of this game… ok… so….digging… Oregon will be part of the Big Ten. Great. It will make the Big Ten look better next year if they win this game. Good things. So.. go Ducks?

Rose Bowl: College Football Playoff semifinal featuring Michigan vs. Alabama at 5:00 p.m. Monday, January 1 (East Coast USA time)

Alabama. Here’s who you should be rooting for. Forget any state solidarity. Forget Big Ten pride. Maybe in other years you could root for Michigan, but not this year. The cheating scandal alone should make you want this team to lose. There are certainly talented players on this team, and they shouldn’t all be disliked because of their program’s problems. But those are the breaks when you play for Jim Harbaugh.

Go Bama. Roll Tide. Hooray for deep south football and bless your heart. Or what these people say in this part of the country. Basically, it’s simple: Michigan sucks.

Sugar Bowl: College Football Playoff semifinal featuring Washington vs. Texas Monday, January 1 at 8:45 p.m. ET

This game fits my postseason support levels perfectly. Washington played extremely well. They wiped the floor with Michigan State two years in a row. Last year, that looked bad after the Huskies stumbled down the stretch. This year, it could be a much better reflection on the Spartans. When the season was young and hopes were still high, MSU was rocked by Michael Penix Jr. and the Huskies. It would be nice to say that the team that went through East Lansing rolled into the national championship.

So for this game, go Husky!

Who are you rooting for in these games?

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