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The top college football bowl games before New Years Day

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The college football bowl schedule technically starts on Dec. 21. Yet thanks to the BCS, few pay attention to many college football bowls anymore until New Years Day, or even the night of the BCS championship. But while only one bowl game decides a champion on Jan. 6, there are still dozens to get through starting today.

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Four bowls kick off on Dec. 21, including the New Mexico, Las Vegas, Famous Idaho Potato and New Orleans bowls. Nevertheless, only one of them has two or even one top 25 teams, and that is the Las Vegas Bowl with the Fresno State Bulldogs and USC Trojans.

This is the Trojans’ first and last game with interim coach Clay Helton replacing fired interim coach Ed Orgeron, before Steve Sarkisian takes over at USC next season. As for the Bulldogs, the WAC champions were one loss away from a potential BCS berth, yet have to prove themselves against a major college football program here instead.

Otherwise, this day is for smaller college football teams like Tulane, Louisiana-Lafayette, Buffalo, San Diego State, Colorado State and Washington State. The bigger names of the sport will slowly but surely show themselves on the final days of 2013, before all the powerhouses return on the first days of 2014 -- especially Florida State and Auburn on the sixth day.

First, this accompanying slideshow lists the best and most intriguing bowl games before New Years Day, starting with today’s showdown in Las Vegas. By the time the ball drops in Times Square, Mack Brown, Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel will have said their farewells, all before the Rose, Orange, Sugar, Fiesta and BCS title games are ready to close out the season.

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