Wednesday, December 28, 2011

football begins its (long) wind down.

After Thanksgiving, football of all kinds starts to wrap up.

College football is finished in most places – especially Albuquerque, especially these days – long before Christmas. The bowl season extends further than it has in the past, sure, but that's mainly due to the proliferation of the so-called bowl games. We start with the New Mexico Bowl, which Temple took, over Wyoming on December 17, and continue all the way to the BCS.

The title game occurs on Monday the 9th, when number 2 Alabama will face first-ranked LSU. Between now and then, plenty of pretenders to the bowl-throne have arisen in the last decade-plus, but few of them are worth the time it'll take to play, much less to watch. Of course, no disrespect is intended, as I'm sure Michigan State and Georgia, at numbers 17 and 16, respectively, are great football teams and their fans care very much who wins the game, but outside that constituency, its hard to muster feelings for the Outback Bowl, amongst others.

(The day before the title game, in fact, is somehow, improbably, perhaps even unbelievably, occupied by Arkansas State versus Northern Illinois, on January 8, in the Bowl. Just for fun, although I'm sure it's been done before, let's look at some of these corporate sponsorships: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl, Little Caesar's Bowl, Gator Bowl! All of these games have been or will be televised nationally. Advertising really has changed the world.)

The end of the college football season dovetails nicely into the end of the National Football League, where things are already getting fired up by this point. The titanic Green Bay Packers are obviously still a favorite, but the Philadelphia Eagles (preseason favorites who have already been covered) have now been officially dismissed from the playoffs. Perhaps another year to gel will help them live up to the lofty expectations, but with the height of competition amongst elite teams in the NFL right now, it's hard to see another competitor rising to that level.

While Green Bay has wrecked the regular season (save a blip two weeks ago), the New England Patriots have gone under the radar to resume their traditional position atop the AFC. Plenty of spoilers await a slip from either side, including the surprising stories of the San Francisco 49ers and the Houston Texans.

With only one more week in the regular season, plenty of teams are still itching to play spoiler. The biggest match-up, however, seems guaranteed to be the Dallas Cowboys playing in New York against the Giants. The teams will play for the NFC East Championship in the last game of the regular season, on New Year's Day.

Football's finale is always the best, save the drama regarding the need for a true playoff system in college football. This year should be no different, whether you'll be watching the boys play in the BCS title game, or following the pros as they make the final cuts for the playoffs.

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