And now, at last, things get serious.
New Year’s Day has arrived, which means college football fans get to find out which two teams will play for the national championship next week in Atlanta.
But before No. 2 Oklahoma faces No. 3 Georgia in the Rose Bowl at 5 p.m. and No. 1 Clemson tangles with No. 4 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl around 9ish, there are three other bowl games to start your day.
Michigan and South Carolina kick things off in the Outback Bowl at noon; Auburn and Central Florida play 30 minutes later in the Peach Bowl; and the last game of the College Football Playoff undercard is Notre Dame vs. LSU in the Citrus Bowl at 1 p.m.
So, do I plan to park my carcass on the futon and watch football for 13 consecutive hours today?
I’m a New York Rangers fan, and they play Buffalo in the NHL Winter Classic today at 1 p.m. I’ll be cheering on the Blueshirts for three hours before joining the ESPN crew in Pasadena because hockey is glorious and outdoor hockey is gloriouser.*
* Not a real word but I’m using it anyway.
Yet if you think – after that admission – that I’m here to bash the bowls, the number of bowls, or the bowl system itself, I’m really not.
Counting the College Football Playoff National Championship, which is set for Jan. 8 at Mercedez-Benz Stadium, there are a staggering 40 bowls involving Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
And every year, there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth from traditionalists who think there are too many of them.
A bunch of my friends have spent the last few days debating how bowl games have evolved, and it’s been interesting to hear the wildly varying viewpoints.
As for me, I get the nostalgia for years of NCAA football past. I grew up when college football was still a game – at least as far as we knew.
It was fun back in the day to watch Woody Hayes make an ass of himself when Ohio State played a John McKay-coached Southern Cal squad in the Rose Bowl. Seeing Paul Bryant lead Alabama into action in the Sugar Bowl and Bob Devaney (and then Tom Osborne) guide the fortunes of Nebraska in the Orange Bowl was also cool, and once in a while you might even accidentally get a game that would determine the mythical national championship.
There weren’t nearly as many bowls, so most of them seemed “special” – even though bowls such as the Gator and Liberty never were.
But those days are over and they ain’t coming back.
That being the case, these days I watch a few, miss a bunch, and sometimes I merely stumble upon a game that piques my interest.
Up until last Friday’s Belk Bowl (a wild 55-52 Wake Forest win over Texas A&M that was loads of fun), the only bowl game I had seen was the Bahamas Bowl – and I only watched three quarters of that.
Had my alma mater, UAB, not been playing I wouldn’t even have known or cared it was taking place.
But I’m sure Ohio fans enjoyed their team’s 41-6 beatdown of the Blazers, and regardless of the outcome the teams (and those who traveled to the game) got a trip to the Bahamas.
That doesn’t suck.
But much less exotic locales (I’m looking at you, Shreveport) still hold games involving schools that have fans, and fans of those schools shouldn’t be shamed for watching their team play an extra game during the holidays.
Look, I’ve already made pretty clear I’m more interested in expanded playoffs than bowls.
There are 10 FBS conferences so it seems that a 16-team playoff with 10 conference champions and six wildcard teams would be damn near perfect.
I’d even put an existing bowl in play as the site of the title tilt, joining the pair of semifinal bowls used in the current 4-team format.
Still, even with playoffs there will likely always still be bowls, and that’s absolutely fine.
Is it ridiculous for 6-6 teams (and sometimes 5-7 teams) to earn bowl bids?
Not if the team you pull for is 6-6 or 5-7. And if your favorite sons get invited to the Carl’s Catheters Yellow Snow Bowl in Anchorage, Alaska, you should watch with no apologies.
Hell, I wouldn’t even mind a postseason matchup featuring two 0-12 teams. You could call it the Redemption Bowl and the winner would end the season on a positive note.
Of course that means the losers would be subject to great ridicule, which would not be a positive part of the college experience.
It might be hard to get that particular bowl certified.
At any rate, I spent my last 10 years in the newspaper business covering Georgia and Clemson, so I have a particular interest in their games tonight. But even if I hadn’t, these are still the CFP semifinals, and I want to see what happens in both of them.
And next Monday, I’ll be glued to screen as the last two teams standing go toe-to-toe in Atlanta.
The bottom line is there are those who are going to watch as many bowls as possible, some who will ignore them all and some – like me – who pick and choose.
So, just enjoy the games.