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Orlando bowls set dates, TV, times for 2024 season

The new 12-team College Football Playoff has forced some reshuffling of some of the bowl games, including the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl which moves to New Year’s Eve this season.

It’s only the second time since 1986 that the game, which features the top teams from the SEC and Big Ten conferences next featured in the playoff, has been played before New Year’s Day. The last time was in 2016.

“For some time now, the whole industry knew that New Year’s Day was not going to be an available bowl game date but for the quarterfinals. That’s always been the plan for the new expanded playoffs,” said Steve Hogan, CEO of Florida Citrus Sports. “We wanted to have a new spot for it in and around the playoff, one that was reflective of the history of almost 80 years of the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl’s history.”

The game will also kick off at 3 p.m. and air on ABC before the quarterfinal matchup at the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl (ESPN, 7:30 p.m.).

Pictures: Prepping for Pop-Tarts and Cheez-It Citrus bowl games

“We’re excited about New Year’s Eve and essentially being the entree to the playoff quarters. That was the idea. That was the goal,” Hogan said. “In a [time] window where all over the country you’re going to turn on [the TV] and see the sunshine, something you’re accustomed to seeing with the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl, and it’s cool.”

Last year’s Cheez-It Bowl featured No. 25 Tennessee and No. 20 Iowa, with the Volunteers winning 35-0 at Camping World Stadium. The game averaged 6.8 million viewers, making it the most-watched bowl game outside the New Year’s Six playoff games.

The Pop-Tarts Bowl, which features teams from the ACC and Big 12, will again be held Dec. 28. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. and will air on ABC.

The game will be featured on a Saturday, which Hogan sees as an opportunity to connect with viewers.

“Anytime you can grab a Saturday, that’s obviously a big day for bowl game ratings and this window fits perfectly,” he said.

Last year’s game, the first with Pop-Tarts as the title sponsor, pitted Kansas State against No. 19 N.C. State. The Wildcats came out on top, 28-19. The game, which was on a Thursday, drew 4.3 million viewers on ESPN.

The Pop-Tarts Bowl earned the Brand Activation of the Year Award at last month’s Sports Business Journal Awards. It was a big payoff for the game.

“We’re super proud of Pop-Tarts and their agency and our internal staff,” said Hogan. “No has not been an answer when creative ideas come up, and for a lot of organizations, that can be scary.”

The StaffDNA Cure Bowl will kick off at noon Dec. 20 and will air on ESPN.

The Cure Bowl features teams from the American Athletic Conference, Sun Belt, Mid-American Conference and Conference USA. Appalachian State defeated Miami (Ohio) 13-9 in last year’s game, which took place at UCF’s FBC Mortgage Stadium.

This is the first season of the 12-team College Football Playoff, which features automatic spots for the five highest-ranked conference champions and seven at-large bids. The top four teams earn byes and the remaining eight play in first-round matchups at the home sites of the highest-ranked teams.

Those games will be played Dec. 20-21. The quarterfinals are set for Dec. 31- Jan. 1. The semifinals will take place Jan. 9-10, with the National Championship Game set for Jan. 20.

Matt Murschel can be reached at mmurschel@orlandosentinel.com.