RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

College Bowl season is upon us. Actually, it's all around us - 35 games in 24 days culminating in the national championship game on January 10th. Before we get there, though, we are allowed to glory in the wonder that is the Meineke Bowl, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, and of course the Beef O'Brady's Bowl. NPR's Mike Pesca is here to discuss what he's seen so far and what's coming up.

Good morning, Mike.

MIKE PESCA: Mm, Beef O'Brady's. Hello.

MONTAGNE: Sounds really good, huh? Mm, I'm rubbing my hands.

PESCA: A delectable bowl game.

MONTAGNE: Where do these bowls come from? I mean, why so many bowls?

PESCA: They come from the need to generate profits. Now, most of the bowls are - I think all of the bowls, actually - are incorporated as non-profit corporations. But the people who run the bowls make quite a bit of money and they generate quite a bit of income.

The people who are paying this are the people who are going to the bowls - the fans and spectators. But schools really have to pay a pretty hefty bill at times to go to these bowl games.

For instance, University of Connecticut was invited to a bowl this year because they won the Big East. And they were tasked with buying up 17,500 tickets. Well, they can only sell about 4,000. So they're on the hook for what could be millions of dollars. They charge the band to sit in the stadium and perform at halftime. They sometimes charge the mascot.

The defenders of the bowls will say, well, it's like Mardi Gras and there's a party every week and it culminates in Fat Tuesday. I find it's a little like the political season - after the nomination's been sewn up, when we know who the candidate's going to be and you have to play out the string of primaries. You know, let's get to the main contest already.

MONTAGNE: Well, there are some really good bowls. Tell us about some of the best.

PESCA: Well, you know, the Beef O'Brady's Bowl was actually a pretty great game. And the Little Caesar's Bowl this year featured an exciting finish. And it was between two teams - Toledo and Florida International - that if they had been playing on just a regular Saturday in October, that game would not have been televised outside of northwest Ohio. It wouldn't even probably have been televised in Miami, where Florida International is.

So every once in a while a good exciting game comes through and focuses the light on teams you wouldn't otherwise watch or a matchup you wouldn't get - two team that have never played. That sort of thing.

MONTAGNE: And what about the low points?

PESCA: Going into this season, one of the most disappointing things to college football fans, was that Boise State lost its final game and that meant they wouldn't be having an undefeated season. And there was a chance that tiny Boise was going to be able to play a big huge school. But because they lost that game they were shuttled out and they were forced to play Utah. The final score was 26-3. It was a very boring bowl game.

And the other not such a great game but really weird thing happened when Georgia Tech played Air Force. Air Force has this falcon who flies into the stadium to start a game. But something went awry and he flew out of the stadium and just wound up wandering the streets and the ledges of Shreveport.

They did find him later. And they explained that he's supposed to be hungry enough to fly to the bait, but maybe he was munching on too many mice the day before. Boring bowl game, lost falcon, adds up to an unexciting event.

MONTAGNE: And what game, Mike, should we be paying attention to in these coming days?

PESCA: Well, the national championship game, for sure. That's January 10. Oregon versus Auburn. But there are some other games. And one really interesting one, I think, might be on New Year's Day, the Rose Bowl, what they call the granddaddy of them all.

That'll pit Wisconsin against Texas Christian University. One of those smaller schools - Texas Christian - against a big boy - Wisconsin. If they beat Wisconsin, I think people could give all the small schools a little bit more credit.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Mike Pesca. Thanks very much.

PESCA: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: And here's one more note from the world of college sports. The longest winning streak in Division 1 college basketball history is over. The Connecticut women's team, which had won 90 in a row, lost last night to Stanford, 71-59.

This is NPR News.

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