CHRISTMAS IS THE best time of year ... because college football's bowl season kicks off and keeps on going a week into the New Year.
To those who say there are too many bowl games, bah-humbug. There really are not enough. Heck, three bowl-eligible teams (Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe and Notre Dame) will stay home this holiday season. Now that's a blue, blue Christmas.
True bowl fans will watch all 34 games, beginning with the Dec. 19 New Mexico Bowl and concluding with the Jan. 7 BCS title game. For those unable to watch every game, here is a bowl primer on which games are worth viewing.
Five stars go to those games you must arrange your Christmas parties around. One star to those games where attending a "Nutcracker" presentation is a better option.
BCS championship, Jan. 7 - The BCS worked again. The nation's best two teams - Alabama and Texas - determine a national champion.
Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 4 - The consolation prize goes to the winner of non-BCS unbeatens TCU and Boise State.
Sugar Bowl, Jan. 1 - Florida shows why Cincinnati never was a serious national title contender.
Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1 - A less-than-stellar LSU team shows why the SEC is so powerful with a victory against mighty Penn State of the Big Ten.
Gator Bowl, Jan. 1 - You just have to watch Bobby Bowden's final game as coach, if for no other reason than to see his Florida State team get waxed by West Virginia.
Rose Bowl, Jan. 1 - Forget the game. Tune in just to see what uniforms Oregon will wear.
Orange Bowl, Jan. 5 - All the potential for a great game. This is what bowl games are supposed to be about. Georgia Tech vs. Iowa.
Las Vegas Bowl, Dec. 22 - Any Pac-10 (Oregon State) vs. Mountain West (Brigham Young) game is worth a look.
Poinsettia Bowl, Dec. 23 - Any Pac-10 (California) vs. Mountain West (Utah) game is worth a look.
Meineke Car Care, Dec. 26 - Your chance to see who South Carolina almost played in a bowl game ... North Carolina or Pittsburgh.
Emerald Bowl, Dec. 26 - Who doesn't want to see Southern California lose a fifth game this season? At the hands of an ACC team (Boston College), no less.
Champ Sports Bowl, Dec. 29 - Talk about contrasting styles. Exciting and bold Miami vs. stodgy old Wisconsin.
Sun Bowl, Dec. 31 - One program on the rise (Stanford) against one on the decline (Oklahoma).
Chick-fil-A Bowl, Dec. 31 - No doubt, the SEC is the better league, but not in this showdown of Tennessee against the ACC's Virginia Tech.
Cotton Bowl, Jan. 2 - Remember when the Cotton Bowl was among the biggest and best. No more, even with a dandy matchup of Oklahoma State against Mississippi.
Liberty Bowl, Jan. 2 - Might be the best Liberty Bowl matchup in years, Arkansas against East Carolina.
Music City Bowl, Dec. 27 - One last chance to see C.J. Spiller as an amateur.
Independence Bowl, Dec. 28 - These are bowl teams? Georgia lost at Tennessee, 45-19; Texas A&M lost at Kansas State, 62-14.
Holiday Bowl, Dec. 30 - Your chance to see Nebraska sensation Ndamukong Suh and maybe learn how to pronounce his name at the same time.
Armed Forces Bowl, Dec. 31 - The discipline of Air Force against the wide-open passing attack of Houston. It's the beauty of college football.
Texas Bowl, Dec. 31 - After watching Air Force, it's more of the same from Navy against Missouri.
Outback Bowl, Jan. 1 - Auburn vs. Northwestern has some intrigue, but why is this bowl game played on New Year's Day? That date once was reserved for the best bowls.
Alamo Bowl, Jan. 2 - Just for fun, let's hope Texas Tech does not let up on Michigan State. Could the Red Raiders score 100?
New Mexico Bowl, Dec. 19 - Any bowl game involving Wyoming deserves at least one star.
St. Petersburg Bowl, Dec. 19 - Congratulations! You're going to a bowl game in Florida ... and it's played indoors. Go figure.
New Orleans Bowl, Dec. 20 - Middle Tennessee vs. Southern Mississippi. Enough said.
Hawaii Bowl, Dec. 24 - SMU beats the death penalty . . . 25 years later.
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Dec. 26 - Like Little Caesars pizza, you can see right through this matchup of Marshall vs. Ohio.
EagleBank Bowl, Dec. 29 - Temple grad Bill Cosby to provide halftime entertainment.
Humanitarian Bowl, Dec. 30 - We learn that the University of Idaho does field a football team. Who knew?
Insight Bowl, Dec. 31 - It finally happened! Both Iowa State and Minnesota enter with 6-6 records. Can we change the name of this? How about the Mediocre Bowl?
International Bowl, Jan. 2 - South Florida goes to Toronto to play in a bowl game. Something doesn't make sense here.
Papajohns.com Bowl, Jan. 2 - To make USC-Connecticut more appealing, you'd have to move this bowl game to the Bahamas.
GMAC Bowl, Jan. 6 - If you have not seen Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour, watch this game.