Playing football on New Year's Day is nothing new to Alabama and Michigan. Playing each other in Miami is.
The fifth-ranked Crimson Tide and eighth-ranked Wolverines wrap up the traditional New Year's Day schedule when they play in the Orange Bowl game tonight at Pro Player Stadium (8:30, Ch. 7). It will be Alabama's first Orange Bowl appearance in 25 years, while Michigan is playing in the game for the first time since 1976.
Six bowl games are scheduled today. The first two are No. 14 Texas against No. 24 Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas (11 a.m., Ch. 29), and No. 19 Purdue meeting No. 23 Georgia in the Outback Bowl in Tampa (11 a.m., ESPN).
Later, No. 15 Georgia Tech faces No. 23 Miami at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville (12:30 p.m., Ch. 2); No. 9 Michigan State meets No. 10 Florida at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando (1 p.m., Ch. 7) and No. 4 Wisconsin, with Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne, faces No. 22 Stanford in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif (4:30 p.m., Ch. 7).
The day concludes with the Orange Bowl. Alabama is in the game for the eighth time, while Michigan's appearance is its second.
"We're excited about the opportunity the Orange Bowl presents our team -- not only the tradition of the bowl, but against a team in Alabama that has a great tradition," said Michigan coach Lloyd Carr.
Southeastern Conference champion Alabama (10-2) is the bowl-game standard. The Crimson Tide will be playing in its NCAA-record 50th bowl and holds the record for victories with a 28-18-3 record.
The Wolverines (9-2) will be playing in their 31st bowl, tied for ninth all-time. They'll also be in their 25th straight, second only to Nebraska's streak of 26 consecutive bowls.
This will be the second bowl meeting in three years for Michigan and Alabama. The Crimson Tide beat the Wolverines in the 1997 Outback Bowl, 17-14.
The Rose Bowl will be the final college game for Dayne, the NCAA's Division I-A all-time leading rusher. If history is an indication, expect a big game from the Heisman winner.
In last year's Rose Bowl, Dayne rambled for 246 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Badgers to a 38-31 upset of UCLA.
Dayne returned to school this year for his senior season and broke Ricky Williams's NCAA career record with 6,397 rushing yards. He ranked second nationally with 1,834 yards.
While Wisconsin (9-2) will have its star, Stanford will be without All-American Troy Walters, who broke his wrist in practice on Tuesday. The Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation's top receiver, Walters caught 74 passes for 1,456 yards and 10 TDs in leading the Cardinal to its first Rose Bowl berth since 1972.
"I'm just going to go out there and be the best cheerleader I can," Walters said.
The Cotton Bowl will bring together longtime rivals when Texas (9-4) faces Arkansas (7-4). The two teams were members of the old Southwest Conference and will be meeting for the 74th time.
"The bowl for Texas is and has been for years the Cotton Bowl, which is a standard of excellence" said Longhorns coach Mack Brown. "It is also exciting to me, being a young coach who believes in tradition, to go back and remember the great battles."
The Longhorns will be without starting wide receiver Kwame Cavil, starting defensive lineman Aaron Humphrey, backup linebacker Jamal Joyner and defensive end J.J. Kelly. The four were suspended for breaking unspecified team rules.
The Outback Bowl will feature two of the nation's top quarterbacks in Purdue's Drew Brees and Georgia's Quincy Carter. Both teams are 7-4.
Brees threw for 3,531 yards and 21 touchdowns and ranks first or second in almost every Purdue career passing category. Carter threw for 2,713 yards with 17 touchdowns and ran for another 255 yards and five scores.
The Citrus Bowl will feature one surprising team and one whose season can be considered a disappointment when measured against recent history. Michigan State won its first six games before finishing 9-2, its best season in 12 years. The Spartans could post their first 10-win campaign since claiming the national championship in 1965.
"That would mean a lot to our football program," said Bobby Williams, who will be coaching his first game since being named to replace Nick Saban, who left in November to become coach at LSU.
Florida is 9-3, the most losses for the Gators since they were 9-4 in 1992.
The Gator Bowl between Georgia Tech and Miami has the makings of an offensive show. The Yellow Jackets (8-3) average 509 yards and 41 points a game, while the Hurricanes (8-4) average 404 yards and 34 points.
Georgia Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton threw for 3,060 yards and 29 touchdowns, while rushing for 734 yards and six more scores.
Miami counters with running backs Clinton Portis and James Jackson, who ran for a combined 1,620 yards and 17 touchdowns.