April 20, 2011
First of all, note that it's less likely by the day that anything related to the 2011 NFL season has any meaning at all, because no one is sure there's even going to be a 2011 NFL season. But the impending labor collapse didn't stop the league from releasing its full fall schedule Tuesday, or some college fans from freaking out about one particular detail: Week 17 in the pros includes a full slate of Sunday games for Jan. 1, 2012. Are they really going to ask football fans to choose between the Rose Bowl and Chiefs-Broncos?
Uh, no. Contrary to some reports, New Year's Day NFL won't compete with a single traditional New Year's Day bowl, because — as usual when Jan. 1 falls on a Sunday — all the major games have opted for later dates. The Rose, Sugar, Outback and even Ticket City bowls have all moved to Monday, Jan. 2. (As have the Capital One and Gator bowls, whose respective websites, despite existing almost exclusively to promote a once-a-year event, have yet to update with information on the 2012 games; representatives from both bowls confirmed via phone that they're moving to Jan. 2.) The Orange Bowl is taking Jan. 3; the Fiesta Bowl claims Jan. 4, assuming it's still in business by then. The Cotton Bowl, in its ongoing effort to position itself as the equivalent of a BCS game, kicks off on Jan. 6, and the BCS title game wraps it up on Jan. 9.
So in fact — barring a second or third-tier interloper who decides between now and then the move's worth the risk if the NFL calls off the season — Jan. 1, 2012, will feature exactly zero college football games. It's just as well, considering the depreciation of the traditional New Year's Day smorgasbord over the last decade, prompted by the BCS' emphasis on spreading out the big-money games for television purposes. The exodus to work-a-day primetime has pared an overstuffed menu of nine Jan. 1 games in 1993 — eight of them showdowns between two ranked teams — to just six last year, only two of which (the Rose and Capital One bowls) featured two ranked teams head-to-head. We can wait 24 hours for that.
Dusk in Pasadena is just as majestic on Jan. 2, anyway. And some of us might actually get to kick back in the new year, for a change.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.