SPORTS & MORE: IF YOU LIKE FOOTBALL, BOWL SEASON IS FOR YOU

The annual Rose Bowl college football game takes place on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, California, this year between Ohio State and Utah. CONTRIBUTED

I remember, and perhaps you do, too, when there were only a dozen or so football bowl games. There may be only that many that still matter, but there are 44 bowl games, the most ever, in the month from mid-December to mid-January. 

There was a time when I would watch, oh, 20-some games. They were good games between good teams with winning records. This bowl season, teams with a minimum of six victories are eligible to play in a bowl game. There is only one team with seven losses. On Dec. 24, Hawaii, which has those seven losses along with six victories, opposes Memphis, which is even at 6-6, as are 19 teams among the bowl-bound, according to my count. 

Unless I have a rooting interest, I am against 6-6 teams being honored with bowl games. 

Even more unfortunately, several NFL draft-eligible players are forgoing their teams’ bowl games because they fear injuries that could affect their draft stock. 

With NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) available to earn players an unseemly amount of money, there are fewer dropping out of the bowls this year than previously. 

(Speaking of which, I have been drawn to the story of Quinn Ewers, who as a Texas high school quarterback finished his prep requirements a year early and signed on to play at Ohio State. That allowed him to sign an NIL deal with GT Sports Marketing for $1.4 million. As a raw freshman, he was in one game, handing off to runners. Then, when the regular season ended, he announced he was transferring. He chose to go home, to the University of Texas. Good luck, young man.)

But back to the bowls. 

Of course, the best games will be the national championship semis on Dec. 31 and the title game at 8 p.m. on Jan. 10 at Indianapolis. At 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 31, at the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas, it’ll be Alabama (12-1) favored by 13½ points against Cincinnati (13-0). At 8 p.m. at Miami’s Orange Bowl, Michigan (12-1) and Georgia (12-1), favored by 8, will meet. The semifinals and championship games will be televised by ESPN. Yes, I intend to watch them all.

I think one of the best games is tonight, Dec. 23 at 7 p.m. The Gasparilla Bowl at Tampa matches Florida (6-6) and University of Central Florida (8-4). Fans in the other 49 states couldn’t care less about the game, but you and I can watch it on ESPN. The teams met in 1999 and 2006. UCF has refused further meetings, but this past summer, they agreed to play two at Florida and one at UCF. 

Florida’s other bowl team, Miami (7-5), takes on Washington State (also 7-5) at 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 31 in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl at El Paso, Texas. We who won’t already be attacking New Year’s Eve will be watching on CBS.

Florida State, which won but five games, losing to Florida in its last, won’t be bowling. Neither will any of the other Florida teams. 

The best games are on Dec. 30 and Jan. 1, wrapped around the College Football semis on New Year’s Eve. On Thursday, Dec. 30, Atlanta’s Peach Bowl features Michigan State (10-2) against Pittsburgh (10-2) at  7 p.m. on ESPN. 

New Year’s Day is still the busiest day of the bowl season. 

The day’s games start at noon with Penn State (7-5) facing Arkansas (8-4) in the Outback Bowl at Tampa, ESPN2. Other games that day are Iowa (10-3) vs. Kentucky (9-3) at 1 p.m. in the Citrus Bowl at Orlando, airing on ABC. Notre Dame (11-1) plays Oklahoma State (11-2) at 1 p.m. in the Fiesta Bowl at Glendale, Arizona, airing on ESPN. Ohio State (10-2) faces Utah (10-3) at 5 p.m. in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, airing on ESPN. And finally, Ole Miss (10-2) takes on Baylor (11-2) at 8:45 p.m. in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on ESPN. 

So, how many have you already watched and how many future games do you intend to watch? If any of you watch at least parts of all 44, please let me know before you report for mental cleansing. Feel free to email me at [email protected] to compare notes.

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Veteran sports columnist Ralph Morrow says the only sport he doesn’t follow is cricket. That leaves plenty of others to fill his time.