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23 excuses for losing your bowl game, ranked by desperation

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A guide to talking around an embarrassing postseason L.

UCF vs. Auburn Peach Bowl tackle Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports. Banner Society illustration.

College football’s bowl games are great opportunities for teams to end their seasons on a high note and head into next year with some momentum.

I mean, maybe for teams that win bowl games. If you lose a bowl game, the most important thing you can do as a fan is find an immediate reason to never think about it again.

To that end, I’ve compiled a guide to America’s most useful bowl excuses. They’re on a sliding scale of how bad the situations are in which they’re deployed, so they can help you identify the real meaning if you see one in the wild this winter.

If you lost a close one to a regular opponent

23. “We didn’t even belong in a bowl to begin with.”

Often fair, but be advised this is dangerously close to complaining that there are too many bowl games.

22. “This wasn’t going to change anything about next year anyway.”

A perfectly good stock response. Not incorrect! A win would’ve been a springboard, for sure, but you don’t have to acknowledge that in defeat. Of course a fat L in the Quick Lane Bowl isn’t going to say anything about your chances next year.

21. “We had a lame-duck coach. What’d you expect?”

The head man had one foot already in the Stanford job. How do you expect 100 kids to play for a guy who’s not even going to be there the Monday after the game?

20. “We had an interim coach. What’d you expect?”

Also fine, if applicable. Ignore the fact that your interim coach has probably spent the last year or more learning the same exact system you’d be using if his former boss was still around. It’s still hard to get 100 kids to get fired up to play for a guy who didn’t recruit them.

19. “We’re the fifth-best team in our conference, but because of bowl ties, had to face their conference’s second-best team.”

Conference bowl ties are indeed dumb.

18. “We were without our three best players.”

Doubly effective if you’re able to imply the other team was somehow at 100% in December.

17. “Games in [bowl city] just get weird. Nothing you can do about it.”

Saying this while gazing at the horizon will make people realize you have a deep connection with the chaotic aura unique to your bowl’s history. You’ll also be right, because every bowl’s history is weird.

If you lost ugly and just want people to forget about it

16. “A bowl isn’t really about the game itself. It’s about the experience.”

Think about all the fun the players had at the milkshake eating contest/rodeo/hot chicken eating contest. That bonding’s going to make you dominant next year.

15. “A bowl isn’t really about the game itself. It’s about the extra practices and experimenting on offense.”

You know why your senior quarterback looked so terrible? Because the early-enrollee freshman was taking half the first-team reps all month. You know why that freshman was already on campus? Because he was a good high school student and graduated early. It’s not your team’s fault that the guys on the other team are all less smart than your future QB.

14. “We simply wanted to avoid the dreaded Bowl Bump for next season. We’re sneaking up on our opponents. Don’t wanna have too much too soon.”

Point to Texas. It doesn’t matter which year. Do you want to end up like them? No.

13. “Our staff was out recruiting. The Early Signing Period really screwed us.”

And to think, your opponent’s staff was 100% focused on stopping your offense. Their coaches aren’t even going to bother with recruiting until February.

12. “Our players just had a good time enjoying the [Charlotte/Santa Clara/Boise] nightlife, and who can blame them?”

The other team didn’t even let its players have a night on the town to sample the local barbecue/tacos/french fries. That’s going to hurt them in recruiting.

11. “The game was played in Jacksonville.”

Can you blame the players for not getting up for it?

If you’re Alabama and you’re not playing for a championship

10. “When you’re Alabama, when we’re there, it’s like championship or not. Sugar Bowl, nobody don’t care about playing in the Sugar Bowl.”

That’s Julio Jones, talking about Alabama’s 2008 Sugar Bowl loss to Utah and 2013 Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma. Ignore that 2008 Utah was national title-level good and Oklahoma has the same championship aspirations as Bama pretty much every season.

If you’re Georgia but think you’re Alabama

9. Just say the same as above.

If you’re Pitt

8. “Not having this game in Birmingham really took us out of our comfort zone.”

That could indeed be traumatic, in this case.

Oh, so it was real bad, huh

7. “Our players were repulsed by the corporate behavior of this bowl game’s title sponsor, and they played horribly in protest.”

If your school’s five-touchdown loss in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl is a commentary on anything, it’s about how committed your student-athletes are to finding nonviolent, diplomatic solutions to global problems. Your boring loss in the AdvoCare Texas Bowl shows your players’ high-integrity opposition to multilevel marketing schemes.

6. “These refs aren’t from our conference. They’re not used to this level of physicality.”

And it’s sad that they’d penalize your guys for rampant pass interference against smaller, faster receivers all the hours they spent in the gym.

5. “Look, if you give Frank Solich a month to prepare, anything can happen. I’d like to see him try that at our place.”

When your team beats another MAC team by 28 in Week 2 the following year, you can hold it up as incontrovertible proof they got lucky.

4. ”[Insert opposing team] runs a gimmick offense we never face in our conference. That was fake football.”

Someone might point out that every team in your league uses triple-option plays as part of modern football offense. If someone does that, make your same point, but even louder this time, and yell about how it’s totally different when teams run it out of the shotgun.

3. “Yeah, well, did you see our rival’s bowl loss? Far more embarrassing than ours.”

Triple points if your schools only officially acknowledge each other as rivals when you both need to create diversions.

2. “This was [insert opposing team’s] Super Bowl.”

It was actually that team’s third Fiesta Bowl, but go off.

1. “Our school, unlike our opponent’s, has rigorous academic standards. Our scholar-athletes were simply too engrossed in finals prep to get ready for this game.”

You see, this is why Notre Dame hasn’t won a big bowl game since 1993.