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Smith: College football has never been better than it is now

So, for the first time in a year, I actually took a full-blown vacation.

I got to spend the better part of 10 days basically sitting and hanging out with my son, Tyrus. He mostly played video games and I sat and watched him while listening to football on the radio.

Without a doubt, the last week of December and the first week in January is one of the best times of the year to be a sports fan. With all the college bowl games leading up to the national championship and the NFL playoffs, it’s a football fan’s dream.

That is unless you are a fan of Northern Illinois University or the Mid-American Conference in general. It was a horrendous bowl season for any and all of them. Five teams from the MAC made it to an NCAA bowl game and all five of them bit the dust.

Before I went on vacation, Buffalo lost to San Diego State, 49-24, and Ohio lost to East Carolina, 37-20. Then, the day after Christmas, Bowling Green lost to Pitt, 30-27, and NIU lost to Utah State, 21-14. Capping things off was a loss by Ball State to Arkansas State, 23-20, the day before Florida State beat Auburn, 34-31, for the national championship.

I’m not saying I thought the MAC was a power football conference or anything, but because of the success of NIU in recent years, I have started paying more attention than normal.

Not to mention, there are a handful of local high school football players that have gone on to play in the MAC recently.

Sadly, the MAC was the only conference not to win a bowl game this season, with only the Big Ten Conference putting up a 2-5 showing. Nebraska beat Georgia, 24-19, and Michigan State won the Rose Bowl by beating Stanford, 24-20.

The next conference in line in terms of futility was the ACC by going 4-6. Of course, Florida State won the national championship, but that’s not exactly a scintillating showing by that league, either.

The two best conferences, in terms of bowl records this season, was turned in by the Pac-12 and the SEC. Both conferences went 6-3 this bowl season, though everyone is likely to remember Auburn losing in the final seconds to FSU to snap a seven-year national championship streak by SEC teams. You have to go all the way back to 2005 to find the last time a team not from the SEC (Texas under Mack Brown) won a national championship.

I really do like bowl season. Especially when I have time off like that. I literally listened to football almost every day from 11 a.m. until midnight.

There were many good games to be had this season – the Orange Bowl where Clemson beat Ohio State, 40-35, and the Gator Bowl where Nebraska beat Georgia, stand out because they were so close.

I know college football is going to a playoff system next year – which I think is a wonderful thing for the game.

Still, I hope the NCAA can do something to keep the spirit of the bowl season alive in some way, shape or form. From what I understand, they will with the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl and Chick-fil-A Bowls rotating to host semifinal playoff games each year.

The first NCAA championship game next year will be at Cowboys Stadium on Jan. 15, 2015. The Rose and Sugar Bowls will be the first semifinal playoff games in history, and those games will be played on New Year’s Day next year.

I already have my calendar marked.

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