A sweet title game, and the best of the rest

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

So many bowls, so little soup.

The first of 23 college football bowl games begins tomorrow with the Las Vegas Bowl pitting Fresno State against Utah. Below are a few of the best matchups, ending with the sweetest game of all, the Nokia Sugar Bowl, Jan. 4.

Sun Bowl: Minnesota (8-3) vs. Oregon (8-3), Dec. 31, CBS, 2:15 p.m (all times Eastern). Both teams built reputations this season for wide-open games with wild endings.

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Outback Bowl: Purdue (7-4) vs. Georgia (7-4), Jan. 1, ESPN, 11 a.m. A battle of the QBs: Purdue's Drew Brees vs. Georgia's Quincy Carter. Purdue showed promise in losses to Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Penn State by less than a touchdown in each.

Cotton Bowl: Texas (9-4) vs. Arkansas (7-4), Jan. 1, Fox, 11 a.m. These nearby rivals have met 73 times over the years but never in a bowl game. Both are looking for redemption after their seasons ended with disappointing losses.

Rose Bowl: Wisconsin (9-2) vs. Stanford (8-3), Jan. 1, ABC, 4:30 p.m. All eyes will be on the "Dayne Train." This year's Heisman Trophy winner, Wisconsin's Ron Dayne, rumbled for 246 yards in last year's Rose Bowl against UCLA. While Stanford defense ranks 110th nationally, they do have Little Big Man Troy Walters, one of the best-kept secrets in college football.

Orange Bowl: Alabama (10-2) vs. Michigan (9-2), Jan. 1, ABC, 8:30 p.m. Alabama played the nation's toughest schedule, and Michigan the second toughest. These two winning programs run into each other often in bowl games. Both have excellent backs this year: Alabama's Shaun Alexander and Michigan's Anthony Thomas, one of the best running-back showdowns in any bowl.

Fiesta Bowl: Nebraska (11-1) vs. Tennessee (9-2), Jan. 2, ABC, 8 p.m. Nebraska had some big wins this season - Kansas State, Texas, Texas A&M. The Cornhuskers were close to passing up Virginia Tech for a national championship game slot. Now the No. 3 Cornhuskers will play last year's national champion, No. 6, Tennessee. They may be out of Sugar, but these two powerhouses can make this game a real fiesta.

Sugar Bowl: Florida State (11-0) vs. Virginia Tech (11-0), Jan. 4, ABC, 8 p.m. The two unbeaten teams will go into the national championship game with unusually long rests between games: 45 days for FSU, 39 for Tech. FSU's impressive offense is expected to write a disappointing epilogue to the Hokies fairy-tale story. Their challenge is to win handsomely; the Hokies's is to prove they belong in the championship game. Virginia Tech will be counting on amazing freshman quarterback Michael Vick, a Heisman finalist.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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