This article originally appeared in the December 6, 2012 issue of The Arkansas Traveler.
During winter break, students will have certain freedoms they did not have during the semester. Instead of worrying about studying for tests or doing homework, they can relax and enjoy a full month of free time.
How they choose to spend their time will vary from student to student, but there will be many great sporting events over the next month that will definitely keep the sports-loving students busy.
Here’s a look at just some of the great games coming up.
1. Dec. 8, 2012 – Army vs. Navy
Start finals week by watching one of the most storied college football rivalries. Back in the day, this game had National championship implications, but today it is just a matchup between a 2-9 team, Army, and a 7-4 team, Navy. Navy has already clinched a spot in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, while Army’s season will be over after this Saturday. If you like passes thrown all over the field, this game isn’t for you. Army and Navy are last and fourth-to-last in passing yards per game in the country, respectively. However, they are dominant in the running game, ranking first and sixth in the country, respectively. The two military academies square off at 2 p.m. on CBS.
2. Dec. 9-30, 2012 – Late Season NFL Games
Thirteen NFL weeks are in the books, but several playoff spots are still up for grabs. The last four weeks of the regular season will help determine which teams make the playoffs, as well as where they will be seeded. The Texans and Patriots face each other on Dec. 10 for ESPN’s Monday Night Football. The Texans have the best record in the AFC, but Tom Brady and the Patriots have played very well this season. This could be a preview of the AFC Championship game. The Packers at Bears game on Dec. 16 (noon, FOX) and Cowboys at Redskins game on Dec. 30 (noon, FOX) will also be key games in divisional races.
3. Dec. 8-29, 2012 – Top Ranked Nonconference Showdowns
The first part of the college basketball season provides fans with many great nonconference games that they otherwise wouldn’t see until March. These include non-traditional ranked teams playing teams from bigger conferences, such as No. 24 Wichita State at Tennessee (Dec. 13, 6 p.m.) and No. 18 New Mexico at No. 11 Cincinnati (Dec. 27, 8 p.m., ESPN2). It also gives us games between traditional basketball powers, such as No. 9 Kansas at No. 7 Ohio St. (Dec. 22, 3 p.m., CBS), No. 13 Illinois at No 12 Missouri (Dec. 22, 5 p.m., ESPN2), and Kentucky at No. 5 Louisville (Dec. 29, 3 p.m., CBS).
4. Dec. 15, 2012-Jan. 6, 2013 – Non-BCS Bowl Games
The 35-game college football bowl season kicks off with the New Mexico Bowl between Nevada and Arizona at noon on Dec. 15. Just because 30 of them are not BCS games, doesn’t mean they don’t have great matchups. If you like scoring, the Holiday Bowl between Baylor and No. 17 UCLA (Dec. 27, 8:45 p.m., ESPN) appears to be a good choice. For a more local flavor, tune in to the GoDaddy.com Bowl between No. 25 Kent St. and Arkansas St. (Jan. 6, 8 p.m., ESPN).
5. Dec. 25, 2012 – Christmas Day NBA Games
Every year, the NBA comes out with a great slate of games for Christmas Day. There are five games this year, with two on ABC and three on ESPN. ESPN starts things off at 11 a.m. with the Celtics at the Nets, and then ABC’s doubleheader begins at 2 p.m. with the Knicks at the Lakers and continues at 4:30 p.m., before it switches back to ESPN with the Rockets at the Bulls at 7 p.m. and concludes with the Nuggets at the Clippers.
6. Jan. 1-7, 2013 – BCS Bowl Games
The Rose Bowl features the 8-5 Big Ten champions, Wisconsin, and No. 6 Stanford (Jan. 1, 4 p.m.). No. 15 Northern Illinois crashed the BCS by finishing in the Top 16 and winning the MAC and will face No. 12 Florida St. in the Orange Bowl (Jan. 1, 7:30 p.m.). The Southeastern Conference will be represented by No. 3 Florida in the Sugar Bowl, facing No. 21 Louisville (Jan. 2, 7:30 p.m.). The Fiesta Bowl features two one-loss teams, with No. 4 Oregon and No. 5 Kansas St. (Jan. 3, 7:30 p.m.). Finally, the SEC will go for its seventh consecutive National Championship on Jan. 7 at 7:30 p.m. when No. 2 Alabama squares off with undefeated No. 1 Notre Dame. All five games will air on ESPN.
7. Jan. 5-6, 2013 – NFL Wild-card Games
The NFL playoffs begin with two games on Saturday, Jan. 5 and two games on Sunday, Jan. 6. These games will be played between the wildcard teams from each conference, as well as the third and fourth seeds from each conference, while the top two seeds receive byes. The last two seasons, the eventual Super Bowl champion played on this opening round weekend.
8. Jan. 7-13, 2013 – Top Ranked Conference Basketball Games
At the beginning of January, college basketball teams across the country begin conference play. The most interesting early games right now appear to be No. 22 Notre Dame at No. 11 Cincinnati in the Big East (Jan. 7, 6 p.m., ESPN2), a potential bracket-buster game in No. 21 UNLV at No. 18 New Mexico in the Mountain West (Jan. 9, 9 p.m., CBS Sports Network), and No. 3 Michigan at No. 7 Ohio St. in the Big Ten (Jan. 13, TBA, CBS).
9. Jan. 11, 2013 – ESPN NBA Doubleheader
ESPN’s NBA doubleheader features four teams that could make deep playoff runs this season. It starts at 7 p.m., with the Bulls at the Knicks, and continues at 9:30p.m., with the Thunder at the Lakers.
10. Jan. 12-13, 2013 – NFL Divisional Round Games
The NFL playoffs continue this weekend, as the top two seeds in each conference will face the winners of the previous weekend’s wild-card games. Again, two games will be played on Saturday, Jan. 12, and two will be played on Sunday, Jan. 13. After these four games, both of the conference championship games will be set.