With the Iowa caucuses scheduled for January 3rd, there’s been a lot of talk about the "Orange Bowl Effect"—the idea that a nationally-televised college football game on the same night will dent turnout.
Don’t listen to it.
The Orange Bowl has a storied history and sounds prestigious, but under college football’s maddening and ludicrous system for determining a "national champion," it is flatly irrelevant. There are four Bowl Champion Series bowls—the Orange, Rose, Sugar and Fiesta—that hold games in the first few days of January, featuring various conference champions and runners-up that have been excluded from the national championship game (which is held a week later in one of the B.C.S. bowl venues).
This year’s Orange Bowl will likely pit Virginia Tech (or Boston College, should the Eagles upset the Hokies again in this Saturday’s A.C.C. championship game) against Tennessee. The winner will end up ranked somewhere between 4th and 10th in the country. The game—just like the Rose, Sugar and Fiesta—will have no bearing on the national championship.
The television audience for the non-championship B.C.S. games is limited. Last year’s Orange Bowl matched Wake Forest and Louisville, a meaningless consolation game that excited no one outside of Winston-Salem and Kentucky (and the sports books in Vegas). This year’s contest will be no different.
There are lots of reasons why Iowans might opt to stay home on January 3. The weather figures to be frigid. And caucusing itself is not like voting in a primary, because it requires the participant to give up his or her entire night. But you can bet on one thing: no one in Iowa will say, "Gee, I’d really like to help pick the next President, but how can I miss the game that will determine 7th place in college football?"