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New Year’s Day bowl games open thread: Rose and crimson

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A day chock-full of big bowls features SEC powers Alabama and Georgia, among other top teams.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Rose Bowl - CFP Semifinal - Oklahoma v Georgia Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Happy New Year! Today brings one of the only bowl games whose existence I will never complain about, Alabama having to slum it against Michigan, and Georgia playing a school whose football program was regarded as beyond loathsome just years ago but is now the scrappy underdog against the Dawgs.

What a day!

Here’s the schedule, and one thought for each game.

  • Citrus Bowl: Alabama vs. Michigan, 1 p.m., ABC

Tempting though it is to think that Alabama is set for a letdown after losing to Auburn and not making the College Football Playoff, isn’t it more likely that the Crimson Tide are mad about that, and happy to take out that being mad on Michigan? Michigan’s motivations should be clear and potent, too, but I also think Alabama’s significantly better.

  • Outback Bowl: Auburn vs. Minnesota, 1 p.m., ESPN

ESPN televises literally dozens of bowls in staggered windows to maximize ratings, the Outback had a long-standing tradition of kicking off at 11 a.m. Eastern, and yet this undercard to the Citrus in every way — come at me, Tampa — is on at the exact same time, and on a day when not many people are working. Brilliant.

  • Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. Wisconsin, 5 p.m., ABC

The Rose Bowl is the aforementioned bowl I’ll never mind existing, and that’s true even if I think the Rose Bowl’s haughtiness about itself is probably the single greatest impediment to tearing down the bowl system and reshaping college football’s postseason. It’s a history-soaked game played in a beautiful locale and a great stadium. If Florida ever plays in it, I’m going — no matter what. And I bet you’d want to spend an arm and a leg on it, too.

The Rose insisting on its own exclusive television window is surely why there’s a football game starting at 8:45 p.m. Eastern on the night after everyone stays up until midnight. But it might be fun for Florida fans to keep up with the Sugar this year, as Georgia’s playing without about a sixth of its roster, which should leave about 20 underdeveloped five-star players on the field against Matt Rhule’s crew. And yes, while everything that happened at Baylor prior to Rhule’s arrival was heinous at best, Rhule has seemingly built the Bears back up with dignity, while one of Kirby Smart’s first acts as Georgia’s head coach was to help lobby for spoke to sympathetic lawmakers prior to the passage of a dumb law that helps Georgia keep its recruiting efforts as clandestine as possible.

You didn’t need another reason to root against Georgia, though.