WHEN/WHERE: Dec. 21 in Mobile, Ala.

TICKETS: $15 and $45

MATCHUP: Not a ratings goliath, the contest -- between either the top Mid-American Conference team or a team from the Western Athletic Conference vs. a Conference USA team -- at Ladd Peebles Stadium warms up fans for the bigger games coming in the following weeks.

FESTIVITIES: NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw speaks at a Dec. 20 luncheon ($30). A concert and pep rallies at Riverside Park, fireworks over the Mobile River and a Mardi Gras parade pack the day before the game.

EXTRA POINTS: One of the world's largest collections of sports art is at the American Sport Art Museum and Archives . . . The science museum Exploreum has a disgusting exhibit -- on purpose; "Animal Grossology" explores slimy critters and stinky habits. More info: Mobile Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-566-2453,

BOWL INFO: 251-635-0011,

Poinsettia Bowl

WHEN/WHERE: Dec. 22 in San Diego

TICKETS: $28, $40 and $50

MATCHUP: This bowl at Qualcomm Stadium, in its inaugural year, pits Colorado State against the local boys at the U.S. Naval Academy.

FESTIVITIES: Tour SeaWorld with Colorado State or visit the famed San Diego Zoo with Navy players on Dec. 20. While players have lunch on the USS Midway, tour the aircraft carrier on your own. To kick off the game, children from the Make-a-Wish Foundation will sing the national anthem, and marching bands and fireworks will fill halftime.

EXTRA POINTS: Buy the $30 Passport to Balboa Park and access 13 museums, including the Hall of Champions Sports Museum and the Museum of Man . . . Spot gray whales from the observatory at Point Loma. More info: San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau, 619-236-1212,

BOWL INFO: 619-285-5039,

Fort Worth Bowl

WHEN/WHERE: Dec. 23 in Fort Worth


MATCHUP: Teams from the Big 12 Conference and Conference USA will play at Amon G. Carter Stadium.

FESTIVITIES: Former Dallas Cowboys coach Barry Switzer is the keynote speaker at the Team Kickoff Luncheon ($25). There's a three-hour pep rally in Sundance Square on Dec. 22, with speeches by coaches and marching band music. A playground of interactive games -- called Fan Fest -- begins at 5 p.m. on game day outside the stadium.

EXTRA POINTS: Catch a performance of the musical "Guys on Ice," in which two dudes sing about fish and beer, before it closes Dec. 17 . . . If the game is less than exciting, catch thrills instead at nearby Six Flags Over Texas. More info: Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-433-5747,

BOWL INFO: 817-810-0012,

Motor City Bowl

WHEN/WHERE: Dec. 26 in Detroit

TICKETS: $25, $45 and $55

MATCHUP: A top team from the Mid-American Conference faces a Big Ten Conference opponent at blessedly domed Ford Field.

FESTIVITIES: Detroit is saving its big-gun activities for the Super Bowl, which it's hosting in February. The best the city can muster for the Motor City Bowl is "Downtown Football Monday," during which fans can get discounts at bars and restaurants starting at noon on game day.

EXTRA POINTS: The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is home to the exhibit "Gridiron to Greatness: African Americans in Professional Football" . . . Several ski resorts are within an hour's drive of Detroit, including Alpine Valley Ski Area and Mount Holly. Info: Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-338-7648,

BOWL INFO: 313-262-2010,