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Lucky Lower Tier Bowls Could Have Huge Crowds

With 35 bowl games, it's hard for some to make a buck. Sure, you shove tickets down the throats of the participants, but some games are hardly financially viable.

Football stadium seats
VEER Scott Barrow | Getty Images
Football stadium seats

The problem is that when teams don't have great seasons, fans find it harder to cough up the dough. And making last minute travel plans three weeks before the holidays is cost prohibitive.

But some smaller tier bowls are odds on favorites to do well this year due to the fact that they have the chance to get the local team.

The New York Yankees look to have lucked out by having Syracuse get bowl eligible and fall into their laps. It's one of the only schools within an easy drive of the stadium that has a legitimate fan base. Not only that, the school hasn't played in a bowl game since 2004. Syracuse alone virtually guarantees that the Pinstripe Bowl will have a strong first year.

Sure a bad season had the Florida Gators finish 7-5, but they own the state of Florida. That has to be exciting to the folks in Jacksonville at the Gator Bowl, who are coming off a huge bowl last year that drew 84,129 to see Florida State and West Virginia play.

Tennessee also finishes the season at 6-6 and the drive to their bowl game might be short. Bowl prognosticators have the Vols going to Nashville to play the Music City Bowl. The Vols haven't played in a bowl game in the state of Tennessee in almost a quarter of a century.

Sure, playing so close to home doesn't seem like the greatest bowl trip and isn't the greatest for the locla economy. But lower-tier bowl games where fans can roll out of bed and go to the game are the ones that have the best chance to fill seats. It's why the Beef O'Brady's Bowl is praying that it can pit Southern Miss, which has already accepted a bid, against home town South Florida.

It's why the bowl game in Hawaii is happy to have the University of Hawaii back in the fold this year. When the school plays in the game, attendance is up, on average, 10,000 fans per game.

Local flavor can also help the Poinsettia Bowl recover from a three-year attendance slump. That's if the bowl can get Navy, which has a huge fan base in San Diego, coupled with San Diego State.

Add all this to the fact that Notre Dame will provide huge numbers to their lower-team bowl, like the Champs, and odds are that bowl attendance will easily beat last year's 49,957 fans per game average.

While so much focus is geared towards the BCS business, the overall economic health of the bowl season is often based on the lower-tier bowls. A greater percentage of local matchups will likely make crowds bigger. The tradeoff is probably that the local chambers of commerce aren't as happy with the out of towners they were counting on.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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