December 27, 2008

Has New Year's Day lost its football appeal?

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for their opinion about a topic in the sport.

This week's question: Is Jan. 1 still an important day for college football fans?

Terry Bowden's answer:
Not nearly. Although there will be several great games Jan. 1, they don't have the meaning that they once did. Jan. 1 use to be the day that a national champion was determined. Because the bowls were tied to conference affiliations as well as final rankings, on any given New Year's Day we might see No. 1 playing against No. 4 in the Cotton Bowl, No. 2 playing against No. 5 in the Rose Bowl, and No. 3 against No. 6 in the Sugar Bowl. By the end of the day, the national champion could have come from any of those games. You had to watch all the games, not just to see who won but also to see who looked the most impressive. Today, because in early December the BCS selects the teams that will be vying for the national championship, the Jan. 1 games become meaningless in that regard. So, unless you are a fan of the teams playing in a particular Jan. 1 bowl or you just like to watch football no matter who is playing, there isn't nearly as much of a reason to get excited. To be honest, if we are not going to have a playoff, we would be better going back to the way it was before the BCS.

Olin Buchanan's answer:
Important? Not unless you have an emotional tie to one of the teams playing. From a national perspective, BCS games obviously have taken the emphasis off New Year's Day. How can Jan. 1 be considered important when eight of the top 10 teams are playing after that day and no national championship is at stake? That doesn't mean the bowls that day aren't going to be good. This season's Rose Bowl matchup between USC and Penn State is intriguing, and so is the Gator Bowl between Nebraska and Clemson. So, while New Year's Day isn't important, it's still enjoyable for college football fans.

David Fox's answer:
Any day major college games are on TV is an important day for college football fans, but it's far from the most important. I don't even know if it's as important as a really good Saturday during the regular season. The national championship won't be determined until a week later, so that's not a factor in the New Year's madness anymore. I'm sure some fans are cynical about the Rose Bowl. This season, other than the Rose Bowl, New Year's Day will feature two games between unranked teams and the worst of the five BCS games. I expect this season's Rose Bowl to be better than it has been in the past two seasons, but there's no other New Year's matchup that I'm dying to see.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
Important? No. Entertaining? Possibly. In its zest to make the BCS title game the "it" game, the powers-that-be have rendered every other bowl somewhat meaningless on a national scope. This season, the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl is a marquee matchup and has some intrigue. Ultimately, though, a fan can skip it and the four other games that day and focus his or her attention on the big game a week later. It's sad, but New Year's Day doesn't matter that much anymore.

Steve Megargee's answer:
New Year's Day important? Only if you're a Big Ten or Pac-10 fan and still hold on to that romantic notion that the Rose Bowl is "The Granddaddy of Them All" and a must-watch game every season. The rest of the New Year's Day schedule typically is a lackluster collection of games featuring teams that may have entered the season with bigger goals in mind. Aside from the Rose Bowl, the only BCS matchup that takes place on New Year's Day is whichever game is playing second fiddle to the BCS National Championship Game taking place a week later at that same site. Two years ago, Boise State created New Year's Day magic with a Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma that was much more memorable than Florida's wipeout of Ohio State in the same stadium a week later. But the Georgia blowout of Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl last season wasn't an interesting way to ring in the new year. And this year's New Year's night game is an Orange Bowl matchup between Cincinnati and Virginia Tech that is less compelling than the pre-Christmas showdown between TCU and Boise State in the Poinsettia Bowl. As for the other games on New Year's Day, what makes the Gator, Outback or Cotton any more interesting than the Holiday or Chick-fil-A bowls? New Year's Day no longer gets the highest-quality games on the bowl schedule, so the only thing the holiday has going for it is quantity and tradition. And the tradition goes out the window as a generation of fans grows up without remembering Jan. 1 as the biggest day in the college football schedule.

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