College football’s "second season" gets underway Saturday at noon Eastern with the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl between Alcorn State and North Carolina A&T at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
It’s the first of 40 bowl games between Dec. 19 and Jan. 2. Now, you can debate the worthiness of some teams with losing records (Minnesota, Nebraska, and San Jose State) receiving bowl bids this year and the fact that other teams will have home field advantage (Navy, New Mexico) or practically home field advantage (Auburn, NC State, Florida, USC, Texas Tech, TCU, Arizona State, and Arkansas) when they play this holiday season. Or the one bowl game (Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl on Dec. 29) that will feature teams (Colorado State and Nevada) from the same conference (Mountain West).
But the players, students, and alumni of all 80 schools are looking forward to taking part.
You know all about Clemson, Michigan State, Alabama, and Oklahoma competing for the national championship, starting on New Year's Eve. But for the other 36 teams, the postseason is a chance to further develop younger players and showcase the university for football recruits and potential donors.
Among some of the games coming up Saturday and the rest of this month, the Gildan New Mexico Bowl will pit the University of New Mexico, playing on their home field, against the University of Arizona at 2 p.m. Eastern time on ESPN.
The Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl features neighboring schools from Utah who are fierce football rivals. Brigham Young University and the University of Utah are both 9-3 heading into this bowl game, which will be televised at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time Saturday on ABC. Here's how USA Today describes the match:
It took the postseason to do it, but the "Holy War" series that was interrupted by conference realignment is back after a two-year hiatus. Fittingly, it's an opportunity for BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall to end a four-game losing streak in the series against the Utes before he rides off to Virginia. Utah, of course, won't want to let that happen.
Looking ahead to next week, a pair of directional schools – Western Michigan and Middle Tennessee State – will meet at noon Eastern time on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl. ESPN will broadcast this contest.
The day after Christmas, fans of the two Washington state football-playing universities – the University of Washington and Washington State – will need the remote control to watch their teams play. Washington State will play Miami of Florida in the Hyundai Sun Bowl at 2 p.m. Eastern on CBS. Then, at 2:20 p.m. on ESPN, Washington will take on Southern Mississippi in the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Two traditional basketball powers, Duke and Indiana, meet on a football field laid out on the turf at New York's Yankee Stadium in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. The game will be televised Dec. 26 at 3:30 p.m. on ABC.
Another team which gets home field advantage, Navy, meets Pittsburgh in the Military Bowl at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md. This contest kicks off at 2:30 p.m. Eastern on Dec. 28 and will be televised on ESPN.
A bowl game that should be entertaining from an offensive standpoint is the Russell Athletic Bowl between North Carolina and Baylor on Dec. 29 in Orlando, Fla. Both the Tar Heels and Bears averaged more than 40 points per game, with Baylor leading the nation at 48 points per contest this year. You can watch this game at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN.
On Dec. 30, we find two schools playing close to home. Auburn will play Memphis at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama, in the Birmingham Bowl at noon on ESPN.
Then, at 3:30 p.m., North Carolina State meets Mississippi State in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte. ESPN will also carry this game.
Jan. 1 traditionally is chock-a-block full of games, with the Fiesta, Rose, and Sugar Bowls all taking place that day. In addition, the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl, pitting Michigan against Florida, will kick off from Orlando at 1 p.m. Eastern on ABC. We have to ask: do they sell any citrus products at Buffalo Wild Wings?
Finally, on Jan. 2, there could be another wide-open offensive affair in the Valero Alamo Bowl between Texas Christian and Oregon from San Antonio. TCU and the Ducks also averaged over 40 points per game this season. ESPN will televise this contest, beginning at 6:45 p.m. Eastern.