College football’s bowl season will begin on a Friday this season and several minor bowls have been pushed back on the calendar to fill 15 days between the playoff semifinals and national championship.
ESPN released Thursday a schedule for 35 bowl games to appear on its networks in December and January.
In recent years, the bowl season has begun on a Saturday before Christmas with several games. This season, bowls begin Friday, Dec. 20 with the Bahamas Bowl at 2 p.m. ET. The Frisco Bowl is later that day. The next day six games, including the Celebration Bowl, which matches teams from historically black colleges in the Southwestern Athletic Conference and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, will air on either ESPN or ABC.
The College Football Playoff semifinals are scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 28. The championship game is set for Jan. 13. The time between the two games is the longest by far since the College Football Playoff started in the 2014 season. The semifinals had originally been scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 31, but were moved off New Year’s Eve after TV ratings for the first semifinals played on a that day in 2015 took a sharp drop from the first CFP.
At least fifteen games will be played in between this year’s semifinals and title game, including the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Jan. 3. Mobile Alabama Bowl on Jan. 6, ESPN’s final bowl before the national championship in New Orleans.
The Hawaii Bowl has moved back to Christmas Eve night. The game in Honolulu has been played on Dec. 24 13 times in its 17-year history.
The First Responders Bowl in Dallas, which was cancelled last season after severe storms swept through the area not long after kickoff between Boston College and Boise State, is moving from the Cotton Bowl to SMU’s Ford Stadium. The Dallas Morning News reported a conflict with the NFL’s Winter Classic at the Cotton Bowl led to the change of venue.
The dates for five bowl games that ESPN does not own the rights are expected to be announced later this month. The Cure Bowl and Arizona Bowl will be aired by CBS Network. The Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, will be on CBS, as had been a long tradition. Fox Sports holds the rights to the Redbox Bowl in San Francisco and the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, which will be on FS1.
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