There is nothing like New Year's Day.
While it is certainly true that the powers-that-be in college football have robbed January 1 of some of its drama--by dragging the BCS bowls out over the first week of the year, they've gone a long way to both diluting the overall product and making it a lot tougher for those bowls to sell tickets--enough quality games remain on the New Year's Day schedule to ensure that, at least for now, this day remains a great day for college football fans.
This year's New Year's schedule includes six games, ranging from the bland (how excited do you think Oklahoma State is about that huge matchup with Purdue?) to the intriguing (say what you will about Northern Illinois earning a BCS bid, but you can't deny that you're curious to see how they'll do against Florida State).
We'll take a look at all six games here, in Part III of our 2012 college football bowl preview.
Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl: Mississippi State vs. No. 20 Northwestern (Noon, ESPN): How he does it, given the enormous restrains that are inherent to the job, I have no idea. But the fact is that Pat Fitzgerald manages to turn out a winning product at Northwestern almost every year. And though we may now take this consistent success for granted, anybody who knows anything about Big Ten football history understands the enormity of Fitzgerald's achievement up there; he is, without question, one of the finest coaches in the nation. If you can't tell, I think highly of the guy. Hence ... Northwestern 28, Mississippi State 21
Heart of Dallas Bowl: Purdue vs. Oklahoma State (Noon, ESPNU): Simply put, Purdue doesn't belong anywhere near a bowl game. There really isn't anything more that needs to be said. But hey, good luck Boilers. Oklahoma State 31, Purdue 10
Capital One Bowl: No. 7 Georgia vs. No. 16 Nebraska (1 p.m., ABC): Look, I understand that Georgia fans are disappointed with this. I understand that, given their heroic efforts in the SEC Championship Game and the fact that, you know, they actually won the SEC East (over Florida, who is playing in a BCS bowl), they feel that they deserve better than a trip to Orlando to take on a Nebraska team that barely bothered to show up against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game. I understand this must just all fell like one huge letdown. But my advice for you Dawgs fans is to look on the bright side. You're playing on New Year's Day. You're playing against a historic powerhouse opponent. And, most importantly, you're almost guaranteed to win. Could be worse. Georgia 38, Nebraska 17
Outback Bowl: No. 10 South Carolina vs. No. 18 Michigan (1 p.m., ESPN): Let me say this right off the bat: The Outback Bowl should go back to its original kick time of 11 a.m. That was glorious, folks. It really was. You woke on New Year's Day, perhaps a tad worse for wear due to the previous evening's festivities, dragged yourself downstairs, plopped yourself in front of the television and there it was: The Outback Bowl. An always-entertaining match-up that kicked off a great day in style. The 11 a.m. kick gave this game an identity: It was The Early New Year's Day Game. Now it's played at 1 p.m., directly across from the Capital One Bowl, and has no identity whatsoever. As for this year's matchup, it's SEC vs. Big Ten, and we know how that ends. South Carolina 27, Michigan 24
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio: No. 6 Stanford vs. Wisconsin (5 p.m., ESPN): The greatest bowl game of the year, every year, even in years when one of the participants only got there because the two teams that would have gone instead were ineligible for postseason play. Seriously, has there ever been a more undeserving Rose Bowl participant than this Wisconsin team? Stanford 34, Wisconsin 10
Discover Orange Bowl: No. 15 Northern Illinois vs. No. 12 Florida State (8:30 p.m., ESPN): According to Kirk Herbstreit, Northern Illinois doesn't deserve to be in this game. Which, of course, is utterly ridiculous. First of all, they most certainly do "deserve" to be there, because they earned their bid via the established rules. Second, when does "deserve" have anything to do with college football bowls? "Deserve" went out the window a long, long time ago. We just need to accept that decisions are made principally for money, not for competitive fairness, and enjoy the games as presented. Which is what I intend to do here. Northern Illinois 34, Florida State 17