Bowl games normally provide a stirring finish to the college season, with top teams engaged in significant matchups.But the sense of anticipation that normally accompanies the approach of these contests just isn't there this time.
Some jim-dandy games are almost inevitable, given the large number of bowls, 18 starting with the California and Independence on Dec. 15 and ending with the Orange, Sugar, Cotton, Rose and Fiesta on New Year's Day. On paper, though, the overall slate lacks the fizziness fans expect in their bowl watching.
The problem begins right at the top, too. The major bowls just haven't shaped up as well as expected.
None of them boasts the nation's current No. 1 team, Brigham Young, which will fulfill its commitment to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego on Dec. 21. If the Cougars beat Michigan, the national championship scramble could for all intents and purposes be over. This, of course, would rob the New Year's Day bowls of some of their traditional intrigue.
The Sugar will pit the second place team from the Southeastern Conference (either Auburn or Louisiana State) against Big Eight runnerup Nebraska. Third-ranked Florida, which captured its first SEC crown in 52 years, should go, but the Gators are on conference punishment for a raft of NCAA violations.
The Rose brings on No. 6 Ohio State, which lost Big Ten games to Purdue and Wisconsin, to play a Southern California team that has lost to UCLA and Notre Dame since clinching the Pacific-10 title.
The Cotton is ecstatic about having Boston College and Heisman Trophy shoo-in Doug Flutie, but unranked Houston is likely to be the host team. Either Texas or Southern Methodist would make nice brand-name opponents, but they've squandered their best chances at winning the Southwest Conference championship. Their only hope now is that Houston loses to cellar-dwelling Rice this weekend.
The Orange has the closest thing to a heavyweight title bout, with No. 2 Oklahoma scheduled to meet No. 4 Washington. That's still a bit of a letdown, though, from a national championship battle that might have occurred if Nebraska and South Carolina hadn't been handed late-season defeats.