The days of putting the college football season away as you clean up the mess from a New Year's Eve party are long gone.

For better or worse, the Bowl Championship Series put an end to that.

Now, bowls linger in the new year for days. Some are marquee matchups: No. 6 Ohio State plays No. 8 Arkansas on Jan. 4 in the Sugar Bowl. Some mere filler for a television schedule: Pittsburgh vs. Kentucky on Jan. 8 in BBVA Compass Bowl.

The way the calendar broke this season means nine days between Jan. 1 and the BCS national championship game between No. 1 Auburn and No. 2 Oregon in Glendale, Ariz., and six days between the last BCS game — the Sugar Bowl — and Tigers-Ducks on Jan. 10.

With all that time to kill, ESPN and Fox decided to fill some of those potentially football-less nights.

"We just don't want to go dark," ESPN vice president of programming Dave Brown said. "We want to televise the games and keep college football at the top of fans' minds."

ESPN, in its first year as the TV home for the BCS, owns broadcast rights to 33 of 35 bowl games. So it wasn't all that tough to find three minor bowls to agree to be the only college football game on television during three nights from Jan. 6-9.

The Bowl on Thursday, Jan. 6 at Mobile, Ala., will feature Miami (Ohio) against Middle Tennessee. A couple days later in Birmingham, Ala., Pitt plays Kentucky at noon ET, before the NFL playoff games start.

The day before the national championship game, The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco matches Boston College and Nevada and kicks off at 9 p.m. ET

Wedging in a college game on a Sunday night after a day of NFL playoffs might seem like stranding it on an island, until you start thinking of that game as a part of the BCS championship game preview.

"There are a lot of fans looking for college football the night before the championship game," Brown said. "It's just a natural place for us to do a game."

Last season, ESPN placed the game in Mobile on the night before the national title game between Alabama and Texas. Central Michigan's 44-41 double-overtime win against Troy in what was then called the GMAC Bowl drew a respectable 2.8 rating, Brown said.

The Cotton Bowl also decided to wait it out this season. Now in its second season at the Dallas Cowboys' lavish stadium in Arlington, Texas, the 75th edition of the Cotton Bowl will match No. 11 LSU and No. 18 Texas A&M on Friday, Jan. 7.

Why leave Jan. 1?

"Simple answer in our case," Cotton Bowl spokesman Michael Konradi said. "Fox wanted to put us on in primetime. We had a few choices of dates and the others were in the middle of the week. Friday we thought would be best to allow our fans to come to the game."

The time slot also allows Cotton Bowl organizers, who would love to have their game as part of the BCS some day, to put their tradition-rich event on equal footing with the other marquee games.

"If it's good enough for the BCS it should be good enough for us," Konradi said.

The picks:


TicketCity Bowl

At Dallas

Northwestern (plus 9½) vs. Texas Tech

Total defense rankings: Wildcats, 93rd. Red Raiders, 116th ... TEXAS TECH 42-24.

Capital One Bowl

At Orlando, Fla.

Michigan State (plus 10) vs. Alabama

Big Ten has won five of last six Cap One Bowls vs. SEC ... ALABAMA 28-20.


Outback Bowl

At Tampa, Fla.

Florida (minus 7) vs. Penn State

Total offense rankings: Gators, 80th, Nittany Lions, 63rd ... PENN STATE 20-17.

Gator Bowl

At Jacksonville, Fla.

Michigan (plus 5) vs. Mississippi State

Is this really a must-win game for Wolverines coach Rich Rodriguez? ... MICHIGAN 35-31.

Rose Bowl

At Pasadena, Calif.

TCU (minus 2½) vs. Wisconsin

Badgers' power vs. Horned Frogs' speed ... WISCONSIN 31-23.


Fiesta Bowl

At Glendale, Ariz.

Connecticut (plus 17) vs. Oklahoma

If Sooners let BCS losing streak hit six, this will be worse loss yet ... OKLAHOMA 45-14.

Monday, Jan. 3

Orange Bowl

At Miami

Stanford (minus 3½) vs. Virginia Tech

If this is Andrew Luck's last college game, he'll go out a winner ... STANFORD 35-24.

Tuesday, Jan. 4

Sugar Bowl

At New Orleans

Ohio State (minus 3½) vs. Arkansas

Buckeyes are 0-9 vs. SEC teams in bowl games ... ARKANSAS 28-21.

Thursday, Jan. 6 Bowl

At Mobile, Ala.

Miami, Ohio (minus 1) vs. Middle Tennessee

Sun Belt already has beaten MAC twice this bowl season ... MIAMI 31-21.

Friday, Jan. 7

Cotton Bowl

At Arlington, Texas

Texas A&M (plus 1) vs. LSU

Meeting No. 50 between Tigers and Aggies, but only second time in bowl game ... LSU 21-16.

Saturday, Jan. 8

BBVA Compass Bowl

At Birmingham, Ala.

Pittsburgh (minus 3) vs. Kentucky

Win one for Wanny? Sure, now that it's too late ... PITTSBURGH 27-17.

Sunday, Jan. 9

Fight Hunger Bowl

At San Francisco

Boston College (plus 7½) vs. Nevada

Over/under on tackles for BC All-American LB Luke Kuechly vs. the Pistol: 15 ... NEVADA 35-23.

Monday, Jan. 10

BCS National Championship

At Glendale, Ariz.

Auburn (minus 3) vs. Oregon

SEC! SEC! SEC! ... AUBURN 38-24.