SAPAKOFF COLUMN: Bowls, polls and 235 days until kickoff
Passion, as measured in the college football time/space continuum, varies depending on the bowl site.
It is planetary fascination for a cartoonish Jadeveon Clowney hit that launched Michigan running back Vincent Smith's helmet from Tampa to Amelia Island.
And it's an Auburn student named Katherine Webb parlaying her month-long romance with Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron into legendary BCS championship game superstar status.
Otherwise, here is what we learned from the just completed bowl season and what to look for in 2013:
Best team: Nick Saban, Inc.
How Nick Saban spent Tuesday: Ignoring NFL overtures and breaking down Texas A&M video for the Sept. 14 clash in College Station.
Most exciting bowl game: Clemson's 25-24 victory over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the most-viewed non-BCS bowl game telecast in ESPN history. The rally included Tajh Boyd's 26-yard pass to Nuk Hopkins on fourth-and-16 during the winning drive.
Top bowl play: Violence aside, the most impressive part of The Clowney Show was the one-handed fumble recovery. Hey, Connor — or Dylan — throw him the darn ball!
Free four all: Cowboy Stadium looks like the favorite to host the 2014 BCS championship game, the first involving a four-team playoff. There could be one minor snag — as a trade-off, Jerry Jones wants the Dallas Cowboys eligible for Gator Bowl consideration.
Buzzwords for 2013: Strength of schedule.
Best-decorated House Divided: No. 8 Gamecocks plus No. 11 Tigers adds up to their top combined final AP poll rank. Previous best was 1987 (No. 12 Clemson, No. 15 South Carolina).
Extreme makeover mode: Former Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs invented an entirely new H-back offense just to deal with feared New York Giants blitzer Lawrence Taylor. Look for South Carolina's upcoming foes to work overtime thinking up Clowney counter-moves for 2013 (possibly including chats with Joe Gibbs).
ACC rising: The ACC went 4-2 in bowl games, and signees Syracuse and Louisville also won bowl games. Current or future ACC teams count LSU and Florida among recent bowl victims. Yeah, but it was the first ACC winning bowl record since 2005 and there's always that …
SEC shadow: Clemson opens the 2013 season at home against Georgia. Virginia Tech opens at the Georgia Dome against the Fightin' Sabans. Florida State's soft schedule ends in Gainesville.
Hug of the Year: Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney lifting ESPN's Jeannine Edwards toward the roof of the Georgia Dome after the Chick-fil-A Bowl. No truth to the rumor the pair will star in a TLC reality show.
Two-headed Quarterback: Entering the 2011 season, the list of quarterbacks leading the Gamecocks to victories over Clemson and in a bowl game during the same season was three names long — Steve Taneyhill, Phil Petty, Blake Mitchell. Entering next season, they have two on the same roster.
SEC Media Days circus: In a mere 27 weeks, a few thousand journalists will gather in Hoover, Ala. Player appearances should include Clowney, McCarron, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny “Football” Manziel.
ACC QBs are OK
Top Tweet response: After Murray suggested via Twitter that Katherine Webb “become a Dawg fan,” McCarron shot back with “u don't win enough bud!!”
Underrated: The ACC's NFL impact. Former ACC quarterbacks Matt Schaub, Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson are busy in the playoffs.
Overrated: SEC schedules. As leagues grow, matchups wither. In the SEC, Alabama in 2013 will miss the three best teams in the SEC East for the second straight regular season. The 2013 SEC schedule also has no Clowney vs. Johnny Football smackdown, unless the Gamecocks and Texas A&M meet in the the SEC championship game.
Underrated: Gamecock assistant coaches. South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward and co-offensive coordinator Shawn Elliott fared pretty well this season against coordinators more prominently mentioned for head coaching jobs. Both will make solid head coaches some season soon.
Overrated: Preseason poll credibility.
Southern Cal, No. 1.
Ah, but can't wait for the 2013 preseason poll, which means kickoffs are just around the corner.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff