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A guide to college football's 35 bowls

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A guide to college football's 35 bowls

The BCS has been criticized plenty for not getting it right over the years, from all those teams that believed they should have been playing for a national title to last year's all-SEC championship game.

But for all its faults, the system seemed to work this season, producing a matchup for the ages: Notre Dame vs. Alabama.

The Fighting Irish and Crimson Tide, programs tied for the most Associated Press national titles, in Miami, playing for a national championship - yeah, this could be pretty good.

Alabama and Notre Dame also happen to be two of the most polarizing teams in the country, so if you love one, chances are you hate the other.

Of course, if you hate both, it might be a tough night of yelling at the TV, hoping that somehow neither team wins.

Either way, the good news is there's plenty of other great games and players to watch over the next three weeks.

Here's a bit of what to look for in this year's 35 bowl games:

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TOP GAMES

Fiesta Bowl, Oregon vs. Kansas State, Jan. 3, Glendale, Ariz. For the second straight year, the Fiesta Bowl has a matchup that could be 1A to the national title game. The Ducks and Wildcats were national title contenders just a few weeks ago and have two of the nation's most dynamic players in running back Kenjon Barner and K-State QB Collin Klein.

Rose Bowl, Stanford vs. Wisconsin, Jan. 1, Pasadena, Calif. There might be a collision or two between these two power programs.

Cotton Bowl, Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma, Jan. 4, Arlington, Texas. Johnny Heisman and Landry Jones could combine for 1,000 yards and 10 TDs on their own.

Orange Bowl, Northern Illinois vs. Florida State, Jan. 1, Miami. Just to see if the BCS-busting Huskies do actually belong.

New Mexico Bowl, Nevada vs. Arizona, Dec. 15, Albuquerque. Two of the nation's best scoring offenses against two of the nation's worst scoring defenses. The bowl season will kick off with fireworks.

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PLAYERS TO WATCH

Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M. Johnny Football broke the freshman barrier in the Heisman Trophy vote. `Nuff said. Faces Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.

Manti Te'o, Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish linebacker came up just short in becoming the first true defensive player to win the Heisman. About the only thing he's missed all season.

Collin Klein, Kansas State. Another Heisman finalist, he has a just-get-it-done quality in the vein of Tim Tebow.

Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona. Led the FBS in rushing, might get a few more yards against Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl.

Tavon Austin, West Virginia. All-American lines up all over the field, and is a threat to score from anywhere. Gets Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Montee Ball, Wisconsin. He's only scored more touchdowns than anyone in FBS history.

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BOWL SPONSORS

Food is again king when it comes to sponsoring bowls. The dot-coms? About done.

Food-related companies were tops in sponsors bowls last season with seven and there's one more this season with Insight Bowl becoming the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. It joins Tostitos, Chick-fil-a, Outback, Kraft, Beef `O' Brady's, Little Caesars and the Idaho Potato Commission in bowl sponsorship.

Tying for second most are auto-related companies and financial companies with five each.

This year's lineup also includes an aerospace and defense contractor, a helicopter company, a department store, a hotel chain and a consumer electronics company.

What's missing are the dot-coms.

Once the dominant force of bowl sponsorships, online companies are down to two: the GoDaddy.com Bowl and TaxSlayer.com sponsoring the Gator Bowl.

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ODDS

A year ago, oddsmakers were predicting a tight BCS championship game, opening with a spread of one point between LSU and Alabama.

They're looking for a little more lopsided game this year, with the Crimson Tide opening as a 7 1-2-point favorite over Notre Dame on the Glantz-Culver Line.

The closest game was one point between UCLA and Baylor in the Holiday Bowl and the highest opening spread was the Heart of Dallas Bowl, where Oklahoma State was giving up 18 points to Purdue.

Despite predictions of a close game, the Holiday Bowl has the highest over/under of 79 1-2 points between UCLA and Baylor. Could be fun to watch if they live up to the prediction.

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DISTANCES

The farthest distance to travel to a bowl this season will be SMU's halfway-across-the-Pacific journey to the Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu, a trip of about 3,800 miles.

For anyone wanting to take a long road trip in a car - good luck with that - the longest non-water distance is about 2,800 miles. That's roughly how far San Jose State will go to play Bowling Green in the Military Bowl in Washington D.C. and Navy's trip to San Francisco for the Fight Hunger Bowl against Arizona State.

Vanderbilt and San Diego State have the shortest trip: nowhere.

The Commodores get to face North Carolina State in the Music City Bowl in Nashville and the Aztecs will play against BYU in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego.

Other short trips include Central Florida in the Beef `O' Brady Bowl (about 100 miles), Duke at the Belk Bowl (140), Louisiana-Lafayette at the New Orleans Bowl and Central Michigan at the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (both around 150).

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NUMBERS

0.0404-Points by which Northern Illinois got into the coveted top 16 of the BCS standings.

1-Bowl game for Louisiana-Monroe in its history after being selected to face Ohio in the Independence Bowl.

9-Wins by Louisiana Tech, which was left out of the bowl season after failing to meet a deadline with the Independence Bowl and wasn't pick for another bowl.

10.33-Points per game allowed by Notre Dame, best in the country. Alabama is No. 2 at 10.69.

18-Years since Duke's last bowl appearance. The Blue Devils will face Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 27 in Charlotte.

173.08-Passing efficiency by Alabama's A.J. McCarron, best in the country.

383.33-Yards of total offense by Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, second nationally.

578.75-Yards per game by Baylor's offense, tops in FBS.

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GAMES NOT TO WATCH

OK, we know we're going to take a little heat on this one, but truth is, with 35 bowl games, there's going to be some clunkers in there.

So, with apologies to the bowls, the teams and their fans, here's a few game you might want to skip for something more entertaining like, say, watching icicles melt from the eaves:

Sun Bowl, Georgia Tech vs. Southern California, Dec. 31, El Paso, Texas. Georgia Tech (6-7) has a losing record and had to get a waiver from the NCAA just to get in. The Trojans may be the most underachieving team in the country, losing five games after opening the season as the preseason No. 1.

Armed Forces Bowl, Rice vs. Air Force. Dec. 29, Fort Worth, Texas. We hate saying anything negative about the men and women at the service academies, but a matchup of 6-6 teams isn't particularly exciting no matter who it is.

BBVA Compass Bowl, Pittsburgh vs. Ole Miss, Jan. 5, Birmingham. See 6-6 line above.

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Michigan State vs. TCU, Dec. 29, Tempe, Ariz. Not only is it a matchup of a 6-6 team (MSU) against one that's 7-5, the calling card for these two teams are their defenses. First one to six points doesn't exactly get us jazzed up.

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Follow John Marshall at www.Twitter.com/johnmarshallap

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Trotz's future in Washington remains unsettled on eve Stanley Cup Final

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USA TODAY Sports

Trotz's future in Washington remains unsettled on eve Stanley Cup Final

Caps Coach Barry Trotz doesn’t have a contract beyond the Stanley Cup Final, and any potential talks about an extension will wait until the trophy is awarded, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday.

“No,” MacLellan said, asked if a decision on Trotz’s future had been made. “We’re going to address everything after the playoffs are over.”

Trotz’s four-year contract expires at season’s end.

It’s rare for a head coach to enter a season while in the final year of his deal. But that’s how the Caps decided to handle Trotz’s situation last offseason after another strong regular season performance ended with yet another second round playoff exit at the hands of the Penguins.

It was a suboptimal situation for Trotz, a 55-year-old who ranks fifth all-time in regular season victories but, until this year, had never led any team beyond the conference semifinals.

Despite his lame duck status, all Trotz did was produce his best coaching performance to date. 

Consider:

  • While visiting his son in Russia last summer, Trotz visited Alex Ovechkin in Moscow to discuss the changes he’d like to see the Caps’ captain make to his training and his game.
  • When the Caps reconvened for training camp in September, it was clear there were still some hurt feelings in the locker room. So Trotz and his assistants backed off, allowing some necessary healing to occur.
  • When the team suffered back-to-back blowout losses in Nashville and Colorado back in November, Trotz initiated a tell-it-like-it-is team meeting that many players have pointed to as the turning point of the regular season, which ended with the team’s third straight Metropolitan title.
  • Trotz also got his highly-skilled lineup to buy into a more structured, detailed style of play late in the campaign, a transformation that prompted MacLellan to call this playoff run the most defensively responsible of Trotz’s tenure.
  • In each of the two previous conference semifinals, Washington was defeated by Pittsburgh and, as a result, the Penguins had become a physical and a mental hurdle for the Caps. Earlier this month, Trotz helped direct Ovechkin and Co. past the two-time Cup champions.

Although MacLellan wouldn’t say much about Trotz’s contract, he did say that he’s noticed a big change in Trotz’s day-to-day approach to his job, a change possibly prompted by the coach’s free agent status.

“I think his demeanor has changed a little bit,” MacLellan said. “He seems a little lighter, a little looser, a little less pressure. Maybe a little more freedom about how he goes about things. He’s more relaxed, I guess would be the way to describe him.”

MacLellan also acknowledged the job Trotz’s has done this season, beginning with his delicate handling of the dressing room to start the year.

“I think he’s done a good job managing it,” MacLellan said. “To come in this year with so many questions—from my point of view, the lineup questions weren’t that big of a deal—but just the emotional state of our coming into to start the year [and] how to handle that. I think he’s done an outstanding job.”

Indeed, Trotz’s situation remains unclear on the eve of the Final. But we do know this much: He’s having one of the best contract years in NHL coaching history.

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Small Virginia town changes name to Capitalsville ahead of Stanley Cup Final

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FB/The Town of Lovettsville

Small Virginia town changes name to Capitalsville ahead of Stanley Cup Final

Welcome to Capitalsville, Va., population: #ALLCAPS

Hoping to become the Washington Capitals' Stanley Cup headquarters, the small Northern Virginia town of Lovettsville has renamed itself to Capitalsville, Va.

Caps superfan and Mayor of Lovettsville, Bob Zoldos, had a lightbulb moment while watching Game 7 in a local bar and restaurant, Velocity Wings. Overcome with emotion from the win, he decided to take his idea to the town council meeting Thursday and Capitalsville was born after a unanimous vote to "unleash the fury."

This is not the first time name changes have occurred ahead of a big game. Ahead of the Caps' first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Blue Jacket Brewery located in downtown D.C. changed its Twitter handle to "Grujacket Brewery" in support of goaltender Philipp Grubauer.

The name change from Lovettsville to Capitalsville is temporary, with the plan to keep the new name through the end of the Stanley Cup Final. However, Zoldos hopes the sign brings in other Caps superfans from across the DMV to take in a piece of history 20 years in the making. 

Here's to hoping Capitalsville brings the city some luck heading into Game 1 on Memorial Day.

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