Most oddsmakers envision the BCS National Championship Game between Alabama and Notre Dame being a fairly easy victory for the Crimson Tide. But even with such pigskin prognosticating, seats start at $1,300 on popular ticket re-seller StubHub — and that’s for the upper level. Thankfully, we know of five other bowls that will provide a competitive game in a festive atmosphere without breaking the bank. Want to ball? Read on to see who’s playing, get ticket prices and find out where to stay.
MAACO Bowl, Las Vegas, Dec. 22
Boise State vs. Washington
Pasadena’s Rose Bowl may get all the attention out West, but it’s this game that presents annual intrigue. It’s not just the David vs. Goliath undertones of this bowl (this year’s contest pits Mountain West giant-killers and bowl defending champs Boise State Broncos against Pac-12’s Washington Huskies) that are so gravitating, it’s also that the Mountain West division underdogs have actually won five of the last six bowls. While the Tournament of Roses Parade marches on, party people will be celebrating at the Fremont Street Experience Pep Rally and at a Blue Man Group show (bowl game ticket holders get 25 percent off admission) in Vegas. Lower level tickets on StubHub as of Dec. 20: $48
Check in here: Since much of your trip will center on the action on the field, check in to the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Bellagio to admire man’s more artistic exploits—from the impressive Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art to the magnificent one-bedroom Bellagio Tower suite.
Belk Bowl, Charlotte, Dec. 27
Duke vs. Cincinnati
This bowl in Charlotte has had a variety of different sponsors through the years, but whatever the official name may be this year, chances are it’s going to be great show. Over the last four years, this exciting event has been decided by seven points or less every time. Duke and Cincinnati—two upstart football programs trying to prove they’re more than just basketball schools—are poised to play hard. Bowl organizers ensure the universities’ fan bases will party even harder with a schedule packed with everything from a battle of the bands to a Lady Antebellum concert at the Belk Bowl FanFest. Lower level tickets on StubHub as of Dec. 20: $48
Check in here: The Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge is 20 minutes from Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium. There are hotels closer to the game, but this Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star resort has one of the state’s finest golf courses and the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Gallery Restaurant, making it worthy of the short drive.
Chick-fil-A Bowl, Atlanta, Dec. 31
Clemson vs. LSU
Atlanta sits at the geographic crossroads of the SEC and ACC, so it should go without saying these battling conferences meet in the city’s Georgia Dome. The 2012 match-up features two 10-win teams with chips on their shoulder pads—both had early-season BCS bowl expectations. We anticipate this game to end in pushing, shoving and a really close score. On top of all that, the Chick-fil-A Bowl FanFest is a yearly pregame treat featuring football skills challenges, autograph sessions with former players and massive pep rallies.Lower level tickets on StubHub as of Dec. 20: $54
Check in here: The Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta is a little more than a mile from the Dome, and with smartly appointed rooms, thorough service and Atlanta Grill’s unmatched rib-eyes, it’s a win-win for fans.
Outback Bowl, Tampa, Jan. 1
Michigan vs. South Carolina
Arguably the most competitive bowl in the land—the five previous games were decided by an average of just 8.8 points—this year’s contest has all the makings of another nail-biter: The Michigan Wolverines and their do-everything quarterback Denard Robinson versus the South Carolina Gamecocks and their tightfisted defense ranked 12th in the country. Cool extracurricular activities include Clearwater Beach Day and the Battle of the Bands at Busch Gardens. Lower level tickets on StubHub as of Dec. 20: $100
Check in here: Renaissance Tampa International Plaza is a quick jaunt from Raymond James Stadium, but it feels like a distant retreat with its Mediterranean design nods (custom ironworks, hand-glazed tiles) and Italian cuisine (the open-air Pelagia Trattoria).
Capital One Bowl, Orlando, Jan. 1
Nebraska vs. Georgia
On one side of the coin, this year’s affair could be deemed the dumping ground for conference title game losers, with the SEC Georgia Bulldogs and the Big Ten Nebraska Cornhuskers both falling short in their last games. But on the other side, this meeting of powerhouse programs just may continue the tradition of oh-so-close Capital One clashes. Fans expecting a tight, hard-fought game should also look forward to a jam-packed itinerary of fun, including the Orlando Citrus Parade and a free show with country sensation Dierks Bentley for ticket holders the morning of the game. Lower level tickets on StubHub as of Dec. 20: $43
Check in here: The Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Peabody Orlando completed its $450-million expansion in 2010. It now boasts an elegant combination of old-school charm (original art, iconic marching ducks) and 21st-century convenience (in-mirror TVs, top-of-the-line gym) football fans of all ages can appreciate.
Photos Courtesy of Aldrin Capulong/FCSports, R Marsh Starks, MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, Jeff Williams and Belk Bowl