"It's the most wonderful tiiiiiiime of the year..."
That's right, it's college football's bowl season. The only major American sport to have a postseason that includes teams with no chance at winning a championship (in this case, only two out of 70 bowl participants have a shot), bowls are nonetheless a hallmark of the holiday season and a chance for millions of alumni to reach into the past and dredge up some school spirit. Here's what to watch for in the 2010-11 bowl lineup (all times Eastern).
P.S. The full names of the bowls, with sponsors, are included purely for amusement.
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Must-Watch Game (non-BCS edition): MAACO Las Vegas Bowl, No. 19 Utah vs. No. 10 Boise State, 8PM Dec. 23, ESPN
Boise State lost out on a second straight BCS game and a $10 million payday after its shocking overtime loss to Nevada last month. But the Broncos can lock down yet another top 10 finish with a win over Utah, which has won a remarkable nine straight bowl games. The clash of the two best non-automatic qualifier programs not named TCU should favor Heisman Trophy finalist Kellen Moore and Boise State, provided they can shake off their late-season disappointment and come to play.
Player to Watch: Justin Blackmon, wide receiver, Oklahoma State
The best wideout in the country takes his talents to San Antonio in a Dec. 29 Alamo Bowl clash with Arizona. How good is Blackmon? The sophomore appeared in 11 of the Cowboys' 12 games this season (missing the other because of a one-game suspension due to a misdemeanor DUI charge). Blackmon had a minimum of 105 yards receiving, one touchdown and a catch of at least 29 yards—in every game. And he's going up against an Arizona team that lost its last four games. Look for Keyshawn Johnson-like stats from the future top-10 draft pick.
Most Evenly Matched Game: AT&T Cotton Bowl, No. 17 Texas A&M vs. No. 11 LSU, 8PM Jan. 7, FOX
At first blush, this game looks like a mismatch. LSU was a top-five team for most of the season, while A&M wasn't even the second-best team in the Big 12's South Division. But the Aggies are on a tear of late, riding into the Cotton Bowl on a six-game wining streak that includes victories over Oklahoma and Nebraska. The Tigers, meanwhile, were denied a BCS bowl appearance by Arkansas, which exposed major holes in the LSU defense in a 31-23 win. A&M will keep it close and could easily score just enough points to pull out a nail-biter.
Most Likely Blowout: Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl, Washington vs. No. 18 Nebraska, 10PM Dec. 30, ESPN
Nebraska was a national championship contender into November and fell one or two plays short of winning the Big 12 title game. Washington was 3-6 at one point and squeaked by 2-9 Washington State in their final regular-season game just to become bowl eligible. Oh, and Nebraska beat Washington 56-21 in September, hounding highly touted quarterback Jake Locker into a truly horrific performance (4-20, 71 yards, two INTs). Even if the Cornhuskers sleepwalk through this game, they're winning by three touchdowns. If they come angry about their missed BCS opportunity and determined to inflict punishment, it could get really ugly.