Bowl Season Counterparts in Film Awards

There are two things I love watching during this time of year: college football bowl games and award ceremonies.

Both are exciting in their own right. Bowl games, big and small, often provide some thrilling postseason moments making for great entertainment even if your team isn’t playing.

Award season, meanwhile, are celebrations of great films and offers a bit of competition to the world of movies, making for really good drama.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that the two seasons have something in common, which is that they’re not created equal. As the award season goes on, the prestige of the ceremonies increases. It’s the same way with bowl season.

With college football, there are six games, called the New Year’s Six, that are considered the best bowls, and include the two semi-finals to qualify for the national title game. In award season, meanwhile, the major awards often include the guild ceremonies and the Oscars, which happen late in the season.

With that in mind, I decided to match which game equates best to an award ceremony in the season.

The Rose Bowl: The Academy Awards

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Vince Young running for a touchdown in the Rose Bowl to win a national title for Texas.

In the college football postseason, there’s one bowl game more prestigious than any other. That’s the Rose Bowl game, the Granddaddy of them all. The Rose Bowl has been around for well over 100 years and has been the site of some of college football’s greatest moments while crowning many national champions.

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The fantasy romance film “Shape of Water” wins Best Picture in 2018.

Similarly, the ultimate prize at the end of award season is the Academy Awards. Beginning nearly 100 years ago, the Oscars are prestigious, and winning one is a sign of all time greatness, the same way hoisting the Rose Bowl trophy is. History, tradition and excellence go hand-in-hand with both.

The Sugar Bowl: The Producers Guild of America Awards

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“CODA” was the big winner at 2022’s PGAs and went on to win Best Picture.

There have been many, many times where the PGA awards have gone on to be a precursor to which movie wins Best Picture at the Oscars, including in 2022 with “CODA.” It’s not always a sure lock, but it is 100 percent a great sign for a film and signifies a movie’s status as one of the year’s best.

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Ohio State defeated Alabama in the Sugar Bowl on the way to winning the 2014 national championship.

The Sugar Bowl, first played in 1935, has a similar status. Often, some of the best teams in the country play in this bowl and several times those squads have won national titles, this includes Alabama in 1992 and 2017, as well as Florida State in 1999, Louisiana State in 2003 and Ohio State in 2014.

The Orange Bowl: The Directors Guild of America Awards

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Georgia defeated Michigan in the 2021 playoffs held at the Orange Bowl on the way to a national championship.

Like the Sugar Bowl, the Orange Bowl began in 1935, and often hosts top tier teams from across the country. Additionally, the Orange Bowl has been won by the eventual national champions, like Colorado in 1990, Oklahoma in 2000 and USC in 2004. 

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Jane Campion earned the DGA award for “The Power of the Dog” and went on to win Best Director at the Oscars.

Similarly, the annual DGA awards honor the top tier filmmakers in contention, and those winners usually go on to have Oscar glory in the Best Director category. The DGA award is one of award season’s biggest prizes.

The Fiesta Bowl: The Writers Guild of America Awards

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Jordan Peele won the WGA award in 2018 for his 2017 film “Get Out.”

The Writer’s Guild of America gives away two major prizes, one for original screenplay and the other for adapted. The awards are not as major as the DGA or PGA honors, but they’re still important to a film’s success. It is also where some upsets can happen, such as “Don’t Look Up” earning the win in the original category in 2022.

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A few miracle plays helped Boise State take down Big 12 power Oklahoma in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl.

Upsets are certainly no stranger to the Fiesta Bowl, either. The biggest example came in 2006, when Boise State University shocked the University of Oklahoma with a thrilling overtime win. Another example was Ohio State taking down the juggernaut University of Miami team in overtime in 2002. The Fiesta Bowl doesn’t have as much tradition as those listed above, being a bit newer, so its prestige is a bit like the WGA’s.

The Peach Bowl: The Screen Actors Guild Awards

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No. 15 Clemson upset No. 9 LSU in the 2012 Peach Bowl.

The Peach Bowl has been one of the bigger bowls in the postseason but doesn’t have the same level of championship history as others listed above. It’s a bowl with plenty of big moments, but doesn’t hasn’t had the same level of importance until recently. Today, though, it’s in the New Year’s Six and earning a win here is a good sign for a team.

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Gary Oldman won the SAG award for his work in “Darkest Hour.” He would win the Oscar that year, too.

Like the Peach Bowl, the SAG awards is a big deal, but its place in award season is just a bit lower. The SAGs are certainly key to the acting categories at the Oscars. However, there have been a fair amount of times when a SAG winner hasn’t gone on to prevail with the Academy.

More notable, though, is that the SAGs limit their prestige to the acting sector, and don’t play as big of a role when it comes to the Best Picture or Best Director categories.

The Cotton Bowl: The British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards

Known as the Cotton Bowl Classic, this game has a great deal of history. It was first played back in 1937 and has been a staple of college football in Texas since. Many great teams have gone to the Cotton Bowl and have basked in victory in the Lone Star State. One example was the 2012 Texas A&M team, led by quarterback Johnny Manziel who had a blockbuster season.

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Quarterback Johnny Manziel led Texas A&M to a Cotton Bowl victory/

Likewise, the BAFTAs are often awarded to really fantastic movies. Many movie makers have basked in victory over in London. However, also like the Cotton Bowl, the BAFTAs have been a tier below the Oscars.

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While it didn’t win the Academy Award, “La La Land” from 2016 won Best Film from the BAFTA.

It’s often been the case that the winner of the Cotton Bowl hasn’t won the national championship, and it’s also been the case that the BAFTA Best Film victor hasn’t earned the Oscar. But it’s still considered a major victory regardless.

The Citrus Bowl: American Society of Cinematographer Awards

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Emmanuel Lubezki won an ASC award for “The Revenant.”

The ASC awards can sometimes go overlooked, even though cinematography is essential to movie-making. The visual identity of a movie is heavily tied to the director of photography, and this award ceremony revolves around that role. Even though it doesn’t capture the same attention as others listed here, it’s a big part of the season.

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The Michigan Wolverines won the Citrus Bowl for the 2015 season over the Florida Gators.

The Citrus Bowl is the same way. It’s a bowl game played on New Year’s Day, the same day that the Rose Bowl and others have historically been played. It’s a game that often pits two very good teams against each other.

The match-up is often between two ranked teams and on several occasions features division champions. It’s an integral part of bowl season and one of the best postseason games outside of the New Year’s Six matches.

The ReliaQuest Bowl: American Cinema Editors Awards

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Jinmo Yang earned a win from the ACE for his work editing the film “Parasite.”

The ACE Awards mirror the ASC honors mentioned above. Editing is essential to making a good movie and those who work in the field absolutely deserve to earn a trophy during award season.

Like the ASC Awards, the ACE ceremony doesn’t get the same level of press as those in the upper echelon, but because of what it’s honoring, it deserves attention and remains a big staple of the season.

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Minnesota took down the Auburn University in the ReliaQuest, then Outback Bowl, to conclude the 2019 season.

The ReliaQuest Bowl, formerly the Outback Bowl, is another New Year’s Day staple of the college football postseason. It ranks behind the Citrus Bowl ever so slightly, but remains one of the more important matches of the season.

Like the ACE awards, the winner of the ReliaQuest Bowl is often a team that has had a great season and deserves some recognition, such as the 2019 Minnesota squad that won the game to finish 11-2 and ranked No. 10.

The Sun Bowl: The National Board of Review Awards

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Brad Pitt at the National Board of Review ceremony.

The National Board of Review has given awards to movies since 1929. It’s one of the oldest award ceremonies when it comes to film. It’s also one of the earliest in the season and can get sort of lost in the sauce  as other ceremonies get more press or have more influence on the Oscars.

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Central Michigan University defeated Washington State in the 2021 Sun Bowl.

The Sun Bowl began in 1935. It’s one of the oldest bowl games to date and has been played every year since. It definitely has its place during award season as a traditional post season game. However, it’s nowhere near the importance of the New Years Six or other New Year’s Day games.

The Alamo Bowl: The Golden Globe Awards

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Ricky Gervais hosted the Golden Globe awards several times. Drinkwater/NBC)

The Golden Globe Awards really don’t that mean much during the season. It’s fine to get recognition, but it’s also easy to keep in mind that the Hollywood Foreign Press isn’t the most influential organization in film. However, the Globes are a hell of a party and often entertain. In some cases, they shock, too.

It is like the Alamo Bowl in that way. The Alamo Bowl isn’t the most prestigious bowl during the season and doesn’t always have the top 10 teams, yet it is often a blast to watch. Some of the best moments of bowl season have been in the Alamo.

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TCU defeated Oregon in the 2015 season at the Alamo Bowl.

One example came in 2011, when Baylor defeated Washington in a  67-56 shootout, which remains the highest scoring bowl game during regulation in history. Another is when Texas Christian University defeated Oregon, coming back from a 31-0 deficit at halftime to win in overtime, 47-41.

The Music City Bowl: The Spirit Independent Film Awards

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Northwestern University edged Kentucky 24-23 in the 2017 Music City Bowl.

The Music City Bowl has often been an appetizer in college football before the main entrée on New Year’s Day. If not held on New Year’s Eve, it’s held the day before. The games have often featured teams from the Big Ten and the SEC, arguably the two best conferences in the country.

Even though the teams are often not ranked, the Music City Bowl is usually entertaining thanks to many of them being close contests between competitive opponents. It’s a good primer for the big show coming next.

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Barry Jenkins’ film “If Beale Street Could Talk” won Best Feature at the Spirit Awards the day before the Oscars.

Another event acting as a primer to the next big thing has often been the Independent Spirit Awards. In the majority of the years it’s been held, the Spirit Awards have taken place the day before the Academy Awards ceremony.

The same way the Music City Bowl gives teams outside of the Top 25 a time to shine, the Spirit Award honors some excellent films that may not be rewarded at the Oscars.

The Bahamas Bowl: The Gotham Film Awards

Image: Barry Jenkins, Janelle Monáe
The Oscar campaign “Moonlight” winning Best Picture began at the 2016 Gotham Awards.

There’s always that excited feeling when something is getting kicked off. You know it’s going to be a while before the big moments, but it still feels great to get the ball rolling.

That’s usually the case with the Gotham Awards. It’s the first major ceremony of award season, the gates are finally open and they’re off.

The Gotham Awards often don’t have as many bright lights or as much star power as other ceremonies, but it’s often one to tune in for because of how it starts things off and highlights lesser known films.

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Florida International University defeated Toledo in the 2018 Bahamas Bowl.

The Bahamas Bowl is also usually the first postseason college game, as is the case this year. It isn’t in a huge stadium and doesn’t feature the best teams in the country, but for fans, it’s the first bite of a big, great meal.

Also similar to the Gotham Awards, it puts a spotlight on something that has gone under the radar, in this case, some teams fans may have missed during the regular season.

For example, MAC West Division Champion Western Michigan won the Bahamas Bowl in 2015 to finish 8-5, marking the first time the Broncos won a bowl game.

The Independence Bowl: The Critics Choice Awards

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South Carolina defeated Miami 24-21 in the 2014 Independence Bowl.

The Independence Bowl has a great deal of history, it’s been part of the college football post season since the mid 1970s. It’s a game that certainly has a place in the bowl season, even though it’s not always the most consequential bowl game.

Most of the teams at these games aren’t ranked and it’s far away from the upper tier bowls, but it’s still a traditional part of the season.

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Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” won Best Picture at the Critics’ Choice Awards in 2019.

It has some similarity to the Critics Choice Awards. Annually, the Critics’ Choice ceremony is a staple of the season. It crowns winners and provides some entertainment for those who follow the big race.

At the same time, the Critics Choice Awards, and other ceremonies held by film critics, don’t play into the final outcome at the Oscars the same way others do. It’s a key part of award season, despite not being on the same level as others.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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