College football and New Year’s: The history bowl games falling around the occasion


Ringing in the New Year often comes with college football. The bowl games have a tradition of being held on one of the two days, including the semifinal matchups. 

Many bowl games happen on either New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, with the championship matchup happening about a week later. 

To round out the 2023-24 season, the semifinal games will be held on Jan. 1. Michigan will play Alabama in the Rose Bowl and Washington will play Texas in the Sugar Bowl. 

The Rose Bowl is the oldest bowl game in the United States. (Kirby Lee/Getty Images)

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The winners of each of these games will battle it out for the championship a week later, on Jan. 8.

The six bowl games

The Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl make up the bowl games. These games are held annually, with four teams playing in the semifinal games. The four teams are picked by a 13-member selection committee to play in the College Football Playoff (CFP). 

“The selection committee ranks the teams based on the members’ evaluation of the teams’ performance on the field, using conference championships won, strength of schedule, head-to-head results, and comparison of results against common opponents to decide among teams that are comparable,” the CFP website states. 

“Each committee member will create a list of the 30 teams he or she believes to be the best in the country, in no particular order. Teams listed by three or more members will remain under consideration. At the conclusion of any round, other teams can be added to the group of teams under consideration by a vote of three or more members,” the website continues.

These semifinal bowl games have traditionally been held on a rotating three-year basis. The pairings are Rose and Sugar, Orange and Cotton, and Peach and Fiesta. 

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Alabama and Georgia college football

Alabama has the most bowl game appearances of any college team. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Beginning in the 2024 season, there will be 12 teams picked instead of the traditional four. 

The Rose Bowl 

The Rose Bowl is held in Pasadena, California. Before the game, there is the infamous Rose Parade that thousands gather to see. 

The Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl host the semifinals during the same years.  

The Rose Bowl is the oldest bowl game in the country. 

The Sugar Bowl

The Sugar Bowl is played in New Orleans, Louisiana. The first game was held on Jan. 1, 1935. 

The Sugar Bowl at the Superdome

Thousands head to New Orleans each year to watch the Sugar Bowl. (Chris McDill/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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The Sugar Bowl was first played at Tulane Stadium, but later moved to the Superdome. 

The winner of these game earns the Sugar Bowl Cup. 

Allstate is the sponsor of this long-running bowl game. 

The Orange Bowl

The Orange Bowl was established the same year as the Sugar Bowl. 

The Orange Bowl has had a few different settings before finding its permanent home at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. 

Captial One is the sponsor of the Orange Bowl. 

The Cotton Bowl

The first Cotton Bowl was held on Jan. 1, 1937. 

The annual game is held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. 

Goodyear has been the sponsor of the Cotton Bowl since 2014. 

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Crowd at the Cotton Bowl

The first year of the Cotton Ball was 1937. (Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

The Peach Bowl 

The Peach Bowl is played each year in Atlanta, Georgia, with the first game in 1968.

The game is played at Mercendes-Benz Stadium and has a long history of being sponsored by fast food chain Chick-fil-A. 

The winner of this game earns themselves the George P. Crumbley trophy. 

The Fiesta Bowl

The Fiesta Bowl is played at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. 

The first game took place in 1971. 

Are semifinal games always on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day?

Traditionally, the six annual bowl games are held on or around New Year’s Eve. This isn’t always the case, depending on the day of the week the occasions are held. 

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College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy

The championship game typically happens about a week following the semifinals. (David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

For example, if New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday, the games aren’t held that day, since NFL games are played. 

When are college championship games?

The championship game at the end of the college season is usually about a week after the semifinals are played. 



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