2009-01-01 / Features

New Year's Day Not What It Used To Be

By Ralph D. Russo AP COLLEGE FOOTBALL WRITER

As many bowl games will be played on New Year's Eve as on New Year's Day. Three bowls are scheduled for Jan. 2 and the Fiesta Bowl will be played Jan. 5.

The days when the college football season usually ended on Jan. 1 with a flurry of about eight mostly, must-see games are long gone.

Whether this is good, bad or simply different is a personal choice, but the BCS and the overcrowded bowl lineup have made it so.

It has also taken much of the luster from what was once a major achievement in college football: playing on New Year's Day.

The BCS is mostly to blame for this. The Bowl Championship Series, wanting to give each major bowl it's own exclusive TV spot, pushed the Sugar, Fiesta and Orange off Jan. 1 - depending on the year - and extended the college football season.

Still, Jan. 1 remained a line of demarcation. The games played on or after Jan. 1 were big. Those played before, not so much.

New Year's Day is still sacred. The five games to be played Jan. 1 all qualify as tradition-rich, quality bowls. But among the other games played in the first few days of 2009 are the GMAC Bowl and the International Bowl, both third-tier games.

Playing after the calendar turns over is no longer only for the college football elite - no offense, East Carolina, Connecticut and Ball State.

At least the last game is the most important: No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Oklahoma on Jan. 8 in Miami for the BCS national title.

The picks:

Wednesday, Dec. 31

Armed Forces Bowl: Houston (minus 31/2) vs. Air Force Freaks of nature: High-flying Cougars vs. ground-bound Falcons - AIR FORCE 37-31.

Sun Bowl: Oregon State (minus 21/2) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers' first bowl since 2005 Fiesta - OREGON STATE 27-23.

Music City Bowl: Vanderbilt (plus 31/2) vs. Boston College. Eagles have won eight straight bowls - BOSTON COLLEGE 24-10.

Insight Bowl: Kansas (minus 91/2) vs. Minnesota Gophers stumble into Arizona with four straight losses - KANSAS 40-27.

Chick-fil-A Bowl: LSU (plus 4) vs. Georgia Tech. How motivated will Tigers be to decipher Tech's option? - GEORGIA TECH 42-28.

Thursday, Jan. 1:

Outback Bowl: Iowa (minus 31/2) vs. South Carolina. With two good D's, one Shonn Greene makes difference - IOWA 20-14.

Capital One Bowl: Georgia (minus 71/2) vs. Michigan State. Nice season for Spartans, but they've been buried by top opponents - GEORGIA 35-14.

Gator Bowl: Nebraska (plus 21/2) vs. Clemson. Only meeting was '82 Orange Bowl; Tigers won game, only national title - NEBRASKA 34-24.

Rose Bowl: Southern California (minus 91/2) vs. Penn State. Trojans have outscored Big Ten teams 147-66 in four BCS victories - USC 27-14.

Orange Bowl: Cincinnati (minus 21/2) vs. Virginia Tech. ACC is 1-9 in BCS games; Big East has won three in a row - VIRGINIA TECH 24-21.

Friday, Jan. 2

Cotton Bowl: Texas Tech (minus 41/2) vs. Mississippi Rising Rebels can hang with Red Raiders for a while - TEXAS TECH 42-30.

Liberty Bowl: Kentucky (plus 3) vs. East Carolina Pirates were September sensations, slumped, but finished C-USA champs - KENTUCKY 17-14.

Sugar Bowl: Utah (plus 10) vs. Alabama. Tide too big, too tough, too close to home for BCS Busters - ALABAMA 31-14.

Saturday, Jan. 3

International Bowl: Connecticut (minus 41/2) vs. Buffalo Huskies' Donald Brown leads nation in rushing - UCONN 24-17.

Monday, Jan. 5

Fiesta Bowl: Texas (minus 81/2) vs. Ohio State. Two teams trying to prove a point - TEXAS 36-21.

Tuesday, Jan. 6

GMAC Bowl: Tulsa (plus 21/2) vs. Ball State Mobile-based bowl is typically high-scoring affair - TULSA 50-48.

Thursday, Jan. 8

BCS National Championship: Florida (minus 3) vs. Oklahoma. Winning coach becomes first with two BCS titles - FLORIDA 45-35.

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