Sifting through the 28 days of bowls
Couch potato's guide from clunckers to must-see games
The Associated Press
The college football bowl season kicks off Saturday afternoon with a showdown between 6-6 teams in the New Mexico Bowl.
Forgot about that one already? That's OK, with 35 bowls in 28 days, it's hard to keep track of them all.
This guide to the bowl-a-rama, filled with the clunkers, the handful of must-watchers and a few tidbits sprinkled in, should (hopefully) make it a little easier.
HEISMAN, NATIONAL CHAMP
Auburn's Cam Newton has one big trophy in his hand and is now trying to join an elite list.
This year's Heisman Trophy winner gets a shot at becoming the 14th player to win college football's most prestigious individual award and a national championship in the same season against Oregon on Jan. 10.
It's happened five times since 1993, including Alabama's Mark Ingram last season, but just once -- Pitt's Tony Dorsett in 1976 -- in the previous 54 years.
San Diego State earned a berth in the Poinsettia Bowl and Hawaii is in the Hawaii Bowl, giving those teams a nice home-field advantage.
SMU got an unexpected one; the Mustangs will face Army in the Armed Forces Bowl in their own stadium because TCU's is being renovated.
For long distances, Tulsa gets the nod for playing in Hawaii, close to 4,000 miles away.
The longest road trip actually on the road? Boston College in the San Francisco Bowl and Stanford in the Orange Bowl in Miami, both close to 3,100 miles. That's about 46 hours in the car for anyone who's up for it.
In the ever-changing tilt-a-whirl of bowl sponsorships, four bowls have switched names this season: GoDaddy.com (formerly GMAC), uDrove (Roady's) Humanitarian, Kraft Fight Hunger (Emerald) and Bridgepoint (Pacific Life) Holiday.
The Holiday Bowl is making its sixth title sponsor change, but is still short of the name-switching champ, the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando. Since 1990, it's been the Blockbuster Bowl, Carquest Bowl, MicronPC Bowl, MicronPC.com Bowl, Visit Florida Tangerine Bowl, Mazda Tangerine Bowl and became the Champs Sports Bowl in 2004.
The Meineke Bowl will switch names in 2011, becoming the Belk Bowl after the department store chain, and the Gator Bowl has hooked up with Progressive insurance for next year.
The New Year's Day Outback Bowl will feature a 46-year-old head coach on his way out, an 84-year-old who's coming back for another season.
Florida's Urban Meyer will be coaching his last game, walking away from the Gators to spend more time with his family and because of health concerns.
Across the field will be Penn State's Joe Paterno, who's decided to come back after making a record 37th postseason appearance in his 45th season of coaching, another major-college record.
$18 million -- Payout for BCS bowls, highest among the 35 bowls.
$500,000 -- Payout for New Orleans Bowl, believed to be (not all the bowls are so forthcoming with money info) lowest among the bowls.
645 -- Combined yards rushing per game between Georgia Tech and Air Force, the nation's top two running teams. They meet in the Dec. 27 Independence Bowl.
100 -- Years since Missouri and Iowa, teams that are 250 miles apart, have played each other. The rematch comes in the Insight Bowl on Dec. 28.
24 -- Bowl wins by Penn State's Joe Paterno, a record.
16 -- Years since Baylor, which faces Illinois in the Texas Bowl, last played in a bowl.
14 -- Years since Army's last bowl appearance. The Knights face SMU in the Dec. 30 Armed Forces Bowl.
5 -- Consecutive BCS bowls Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops has lost.
3 -- Number of teams from the Sun Belt Conference to reach a bowl, a first: Troy (New Orleans), Florida International (Little Caesars Pizza), and Middle Tennessee (GoDaddy.com).
2 -- Consecutive years TCU has finished the regular season unbeaten and not been invited to the national championship game. The Horned Frogs get Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl instead.
When it comes to bowl sponsors, food-related companies rule this season with six as title sponsors: Tostitos, Chick-fil-A, Outback Steakhouse, Little Caesars, Kraft Fight Hunger and Beef O'Brady's.
Financial companies and the automotive industry aren't far behind with five each.
There's also sponsors from weight loss, cap manufacturing, educational services, even helicopters and aerospace and defense technology.
Teams that will have key players or head coaches who will be out for their bowl games:
Iowa, Insight Bowl vs. Missouri. WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and leading rusher Adam Robinson (both suspended) and RB Jewel Hampton (transfer).
Kentucky, BBVA Compass Bowl vs. Pittsburgh. QB Mike Hartline (suspension).
Utah, MAACO Bowl vs. Boise State. QB Jordan Wynn (shoulder surgery).
Northern Illinois, Humanitarian Bowl vs. Fresno State. Coach Jerry Kill (hired at Minnesota). Linebackers coach Tom Matukewicz fills in as interim.
North Carolina, Music City vs. Tennessee. LB Bruce Carter (knee) and OL Alan Pelc (shoulder).
Washington, Holiday Bowl vs. Nebraska. DT Semisi Tokolahi (broken ankle) and WR/KR Cody Bruns (collarbone).
Miami, Sun Bowl vs. Notre Dame. Coach Randy Shannon (fired). Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland is the interim.
New Mexico Bowl, Dec. 18 -- UTEP vs. BYU. two 6-6 teams in the first game of the first day of bowls doesn't exactly inspire gatherings around the TV, at least outside of West Texas and Utah.
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Dec. 26 -- Toledo vs. Florida International. Two middling mid-majors in Detroit in the middle of winter? What's not to like?
Military Bowl, Dec. 29 -- East Carolina vs. Maryland. A bowl sponsored by the military without a military academy featuring a 6-6 team (East Carolina) and one (Maryland) that's having a hard time persuading fans to drive to a game just down the road.
Sun Bowl, Dec. 31 -- Notre Dame vs. Miami. Normally, two 7-5 teams don't garner a whole lot of excitement. When it's two storied programs fighting their way back to respectability -- with one that fired its head coach -- it definitely adds to the intrigue.
Cotton Bowl, Jan. 7 -- Texas A&M vs. LSU. Only game of the day pits up-and-coming Aggies against the former national champion Tigers. Going to be hard to get off the couch.
Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1 -- Michigan State vs. Alabama. OK, so maybe both teams had their national-title hopes go up in smoke. They're still good, physical teams and it'll be fun to watch them beat up on each other.
BCS National Championship, Jan. 10 -- Auburn vs. Oregon. Uh, duh.
Rose Bowl, Jan. 1 -- TCU vs. Wisconsin. The Horned Frogs are undefeated (again) and would like to make an argument they should have been national champs against the overpowering Badgers, who could be the nation's best one-loss team.
Orange Bowl, Jan. 3 -- Stanford vs. Virginia Tech. The Cardinal only lost to Oregon and has Heisman Trophy runner-up Andrew Luck. The Hokies have won 11 consecutive games and have dynamic Tyrod Taylor. There could be plenty of fireworks on the field.