Rose Bowl Highlights College Football Game Day

A lot of sports fans will be glued to their televisions this New Year's Day. There are a number of big college football bowl games on Wednesday, including the 100th Rose Bowl.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

January 1st is the day college football fans dream about - or at least they used to. Not too long ago it featured the big event - the last and biggest of the bowl games. We'll have to wait until next Monday for the BCS championship. But no worry, there are still some good games on tap for today. And here with a preview is NPR's Mike Pesca. Good morning.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Hello.

MONTAGNE: Six games today, Mike. Which are the big ones?

PESCA: Well, I know you want me to say the taxslayer.com Gator Bowl, Renee. I know you're a huge fan of that.

(LAUGHTER)

PESCA: Nebraska and Georgia. Those are two good teams. But yeah, the huge matchup is the Rose Bowl that pits Stanford against Michigan State. There's another interesting one - the Tostito's Fiesta Bowl. I always feel weird about the corporate plug, but they paid for it so we'll call it the Tostito's Fiesta Bowl, and that is University of Central Florida against Baylor.

Baylor has this amazing offense. They score 50 points a game. I would've like to have seen them against maybe a better opponent. Not that Central Florida - also like Baylor, only a one loss team, but Las Vegas has decreed Baylor 16 point favorites, so let's see how many points they can put up.

MONTAGNE: OK. Well, you mentioned the Rose Bowl, which...

PESCA: Yeah.

MONTAGNE: ...in fact it's the 100th Rose Bowl game. And it's the oldest, of course. Outside the championship, I would say it is the most prestigious. Would you not agree?

PESCA: I don't know how to answer that since you phrased it in the negative. I think the answer is no. But...

(LAUGHTER)

PESCA: I would say that it depends on the matchup. Historically, it's the Pack 10. Now it's the Pack 12 playing the Big 10. But sometimes the teams aren't great. This year the teams are great. This year it's Stanford and Michigan State. Other than the national championship game, this is the only pairing of top five teams. Not only are they qualified teams but it's this power on power, great defenses, you know, strong running games.

So, yes, I'm very excited to see how these teams do in the Rose Bowl.

MONTAGNE: OK. Well, aside from all the action today, there are a handful of other games before the championship next Monday. What are the other marquee matchups?

PESCA: Well, the Sugar Bowl, which is going to be tomorrow, Alabama against Oklahoma, that's going to be a huge one. And then Clemson against Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. That'll be a big one. The Cotton Bowl should be good too. That's Friday, January 3, Oklahoma State against Missouri.

So yes, there are good games. I think that because there's no playoff, there's not as much at stake as every other sport's post-season, but that's just the way college football is. Or at least has been and will be until next year.

MONTAGNE: Until next year because, at least this last one time, the BCS still applies that system that puts these games together and sets the championship matchup that so many people dislike so much.

PESCA: Mm-hmm.

MONTAGNE: So next year, what, college football will start holding playoffs. So how do you think the BCS will go down in sports history?

PESCA: OK. I was on the BCS site and I was reading an article there called "BCS: A Golden Era," and they were pointing to the fact that they normally would arrange for the top two teams as they defined it to play each other. And that's true. I mean, I guess BCS defenders would say that the BCS did the best they could do, given the limitations of the system. I'm probably not that charitable.

You know, it's sort of like they were the administrators of an inherently broken system. I don't want to give them too much credit. And even along the way they didn't do everything right. I'm glad the BCS is done. It's not all the fault of the administrators of the BCS, but a playoff is exactly what we need.

MONTAGNE: And tell us about bowl games in the era of a playoff. What happens?

PESCA: Well, the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl and the Bell Helicopter Bowl, don't worry, they're staying. But the big ones, they're going to be used in a rotation and sometimes the official semi-finals will be, say, the Rose Bowl and the Orange Bowl. And then the other ones will also play out like they have been, as exhibitions.

And then the next year, two big bowl games, those will be the semi-finals, and then the national championship game, that's going to be auctioned off to different cities like the Super Bowl plays in different neutral sites.

MONTAGNE: Happy New Year, Mike.

PESCA: Hey, you too. And please don't bet all your money on Baylor just because of my endorsement, Renee.

(LAUGHTER)

MONTAGNE: I'll hold off, Mike.

PESCA: Deny yourself.

MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Mike Pesca. This is NPR News.

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