COMMENTARY: Parade of bowl games begins

Air Force’s Jalen Robinette catches a touchdown pass in the 2016 Arizona Bowl. (VVN/James Kelley)

Air Force’s Jalen Robinette catches a touchdown pass in the 2016 Arizona Bowl. (VVN/James Kelley)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and not just because there’s Christmas decorations everywhere.

The NCAA football bowl season starts on Saturday and you don’t have to be a football junkie to get excited.

NCAA football Bowl schedule

Dec. 16 - Celebration Bowl: Grambling vs. North Carolina A&T, 10 a.m., ABC. R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Troy vs. North Texas, 11 a.m., ESPN. AutoNation Cure Bowl: Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State, 12:30 p.m., CBSSN. Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State vs. Oregon, 1:30 p.m., ABC. GILDAN New Mexico Bowl: Marshall vs. Colorado State, 2:30 p.m., ESPN. Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State, 6 p.m., ESPN.

Dec. 19 - Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl: Akron vs. Florida Atlantic, 5 p.m., ESPN.

Dec. 20 - DXL Frisco Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs. SMU, 6 p.m., ESPN, Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas

Dec. 21 - Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl: Temple vs. Florida International, 6 p.m., ESPN.

Dec. 22 - Bahamas Bowl: UAB vs. Ohio, 10:30 a.m., ESPN. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Wyoming, 2 p.m., ESPN.

Dec. 23 - Birmingham Bowl: Texas Tech vs. South Florida, 9 a.m., ESPN. Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: San Diego State vs. Army 1:30 p.m., ESPN. Dollar General Bowl: Appalachian State vs. Toledo, 5 p.m., ESPN.

Dec. 24 - Hawai’i Bowl: Fresno State vs. Houston, 6:30 p.m., ESPN

Dec. 26 - Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl: Utah vs. West Virginia, 11:30 a.m., ESPN. Quick Lane Bowl: Duke vs. Northern Illinois, 3:15 p.m., ESPN. Cactus Bowl: Kansas State vs. UCLA, 7 p.m., ESPN

Dec. 27 - Walk-On’s Independence Bowl: Southern Miss vs. Florida State, 11:30 a.m., ESPN. New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa vs. Boston College, 3:15 p.m., ESPN. Foster Farms Bowl: Arizona vs. Purdue, 6:30 p.m., FOX. Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl: Texas vs. Missouri, 7 p.m., ESPN

Dec. 28 - Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman: Virginia vs. Navy, 11:30 a.m. ESPN. Camping World Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State, 3:15 p.m., ESPN. Valero Alamo Bowl: Stanford vs. TCU, 7 p.m., ESPN. San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: Washington State vs. Michigan State, 7 p.m., FOX

Dec. 29 - Belk Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M, 11 a.m. ESPN. Hyundai Sun Bowl: NC State vs. Arizona State, 1 p.m., CBS. Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Kentucky vs. Northwestern, 2:30 p.m., ESPN. NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl: Utah State vs. New Mexico State, 3:30 p.m., CBSSN. Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: USC vs. Ohio State, 6:30 p.m., ESPN.

Dec. 30 - TaxSlayer Bowl: Louisville vs. Mississippi State, 10 a.m., ESPN. AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Iowa State vs. Memphis, 10:30 a.m., ABC. PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: Washington vs. Penn State: 2 p.m., ESPN. Capital One Orange Bowl: Miami vs. Wisconsin, 6 p.m., ESPN.

Jan. 1 - Outback Bowl: Michigan vs. South Carolina: 10 a.m., ESPN2. Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: UCF vs. Auburn 10:30 a.m., ESPN. Citrus Bowl Presented by Overton’s: Notre Dame vs. LSU 11 a.m., ABC. College Football Playoff at the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual: Georgia vs. Oklahoma, 3 p.m., ESPN. College Football Playoff at the Allstate Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Clemson, 6:45 p.m., ESPN.

Jan. 8 - College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T: 6 p.m. ESPN.

There’s 40 bowl games this year, stretching from Hawaii to New York City. Starting Saturday, every day except for NFL Sundays and Monday nights there’s at least one bowl game and there’s so many that you can watch them on weekday afternoons. It’s hard to beat that.

Since adding a playoff, college football has managed to maximize the amount of meaningful games. Other than the fact that a tournament like the basketball one is impossible in the sport of football, it’s unattractive because the bowls would lose their charm.

Having been to the NCAA basketball tournament as a fan supporting a team, a neutral just taking it in and covering a team and been to bowls for those three reasons, I can tell you bowl games are just more fun.

Maybe football is more exciting but save for a few match ups in the first few rounds of the basketball tournament, the atmosphere is pretty dull. NCAA hoops tourney games are played in doubleheaders and in most cases if the fan with the dominant fan base isn’t playing or any upset isn’t brewing, then the arena’s pretty quiet.

Bowl games on the other hand are more like events. For basketball there’s an open practice the day before where fans can come and watch but for bowl games there’s days of festivities like parades, block parties, eating contests, block parties; it’s more than just a game.

Since the games are self-contained, except for the semifinals, they have more meaning. If the Sun Bowl was simply a round of 32 game or the Peach Bowl just a quarterfinal, how many people would go?

Wouldn’t fans of bigger teams just save their money for later games and fans of teams not expected to win just assume they’d lose?

There would not be as much excitement if you won the Cotton Bowl if it was simply just another game rather than capping your season.

The four-team playoff is also ideal. It ensures that only the top teams are in the tournament. Why invite 16 or even eight teams when four is enough?

Does anybody really think No. 16 Michigan State could beat No. 1 Clemson, or No. 8 USC for that matter?

Then why bother, let the Spartans and Trojans play teams more at their level.

Sure some bowls have goofy names, but some of the fun is trying to figure out what Belk or a camellia is or the quirks that the Cotton Bowl isn’t in the Cotton Bowl but the Heart of Dallas Bowl is.

Locally it’s a banner year for bowls in the Grand Canyon State.

Both our FBS teams are going bowling and there’s three bowls in Arizona.

ASU is playing N.C. State in the Sun Bowl, one of the traditional bowls. It dates back to 1935 and is even played in a stadium called the Sun Bowl and during the day.

Arizona is facing Purdue in the Foster Farms Bowl at the San Francisco 49er’s beautiful Levi’s Stadium. It’s a stadium so fancy that they have landfill, recycling and compost bins.

UA has the chance to finish the season on a positive note and display Khalil Tate on a channel, Fox, that has a lot more reach than the Pac-12 Network, where the Wildcats have had to mostly play this year.

The Fiesta Bowl as always features a top match up, No. 9 Penn State and No. 11 Washington.

Further south, the Cactus Bowl features an intriguing match up Kansas State and UCLA. It seems like K-State coach Bill Snyder has led the Wildcats since bowls started being a thing and the Bruins are talented as always, led by expected high NFL pick Josh Rosen.

In Tucson, the state’s newest bowl, the Arizona Bowl, features lots of excitement. Utah State is making its sixth bowl appearance in the last seven seasons and its 12th overall.

Meanwhile New Mexico State is making its first bowl appearance since the 1960 Sun Bowl, where they beat Utah State. The Aggies, NMSU Aggies, earned the trip by scoring against South Alabama on their final drive of the regular season.

It’s a beautiful time for football, whether you’re watching it from Tucson, Glendale, Santa Clara, El Paso, Atlanta or your couch.

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