The Military Bowl
Sponsor: Northrop Grumman (NOC)
Location: Annapolis, Md.
Matchup: Marshall vs. Maryland
Payout: $1 million
So there are two military-themed bowls sponsored by military contractors. One is in Fort Worth, Texas, pays out a scant $600,000 and was known as the Fort Worth Bowl and Wireless Bowl. The other is the Military Bowl, played right in Naval Academy country in Annapolis, right near the nation's capital.
With the Armed Forces Bowl dating back to 2003, why should you care equally about a bowl established five years later? After all, wasn't the Military Bowl the EagleBank Bowl and Congressional Bowl until just recently?
Well, not scoring either Army or Navy, especially when Navy was bowl-eligible, doesn't do much for this bowl's argument. It's also been kicked down the venue chain a few times: Never making the cut for Washington's FedEx field, but getting the boot from its RFK Stadium to Annapolis just this year. The D.C. area hasn't been kind, which is kind of a shame when you consider what this bowl is supposed to be about.
Getting Maryland involved was a coup, but until the so-called Military Bowl actually gets a military school involved -- like perhaps the one in its hometown -- it's just another low-tier also-ran giving out Sony (SNE)
The Heart of Dallas Bowl
Sponsor: PlainsCapital Bank
Matchup: UNLV vs. North Texas
Payout: $1.1 million
Listen, we understand the economics of this. The Cotton Bowl needs to fill dates, the civic groups like the tourism, seniors on college football teams dig bowl games and ESPN doesn't mind having another bowl to schedule.
Great. For everybody else, the Heart of Dallas Bowl is to Dallas what the New Orleans Bowl is to New Orleans, what the Russell Athletic Bowl is to Orlando, Fla., and what the Poinsettia Bowl is to San Diego -- second best. The Sugar Bowl, CapitalOne Bowl and Holiday Bowl really weren't looking for company, but they got undercards anyway.
That's just what Heart of Dallas is -- the undercard to the Cotton Bowl. It's the runty little sibling that isn't old enough to host the big matchups, but its just the right size to play in the hand-me-down Cotton Bowl building after the actual Cotton Bowl vacated in favor of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' dream stadium in 2009.
The Heart of Dallas bowl is still valuable for all of the reasons listed above -- plus it's New Year's Day date -- but with the Cotton Bowl only taking on bigger responsibilities thanks to college football's switch to a playoff system, the Heart of Dallas bowl only feels like more of an also-ran. If this year's matchup makes some noise, it could have a ripple effect for second-tier bowls across the country. Dallas will be watching, even if few others do.