Here we are at year's end, in that beautiful overlap of seasons.
College football is poised to go out with a bang. That's a signal it's time for college basketball to get serious. Me, I love both seasons.
What makes football so terrific isn't necessarily what happens between the white lines when the clock is running.
Football is tailgating, traditions like the "Vol Walk," the marching band forming a Power T or dotting the "i" in Ohio, the live mascots like Ralphie the buffalo and Bevo the longhorn.
It's all too grand a spectacle to fit under a roof.
But I'll be under a roof Saturday night — the one at Thompson-Boling Arena — and happy to be there.
Tennessee plays host to Xavier, game No. 11 of the season. The good news is there are at least 18 more to come after the calendar flips to 2013.
After several decades of observing college football and basketball, let me expound on the advantages of watching basketball.
No Helmets: The players — and their emotions — are more accessible. There's no helmet, facemask, visor or shoulder pads shrouding the protagonists.
It's all there to see, 10 guys in a tank top and shorts. And the faces, the agony of a missed free throw or the ecstasy of a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
No Binoculars: TV makes any sport more intimate, but what about the live experience? Even in the upper deck of an arena, you're closer to the action than in a 100,000-seat stadium. And in the good seats, you're really close to the action. A sweaty player might land in your lap.
Want to tell the ref what you think? Chances are he'll hear you.
No Stretchers: Occasionally, you'll see a serious injury in basketball. But serious in basketball is an ankle or knee, not a head or spine.
Twice the Fun: A football season guarantees 12 games. A college basketball season offers more than twice that many. If you lose on Saturday you don't have to wait until the next Saturday for redemption.
SEC Rivalries: Is Texas A&M really in the SEC? Are Ole Miss and Auburn still members? You'd never know it by Tennessee's football schedule. In basketball, everybody still plays everybody at least once.
More Variety: As for non-conference foes, you'll probably never see Tennessee play Ohio State or Michigan or Texas, except maybe in a bowl game once in a lifetime. The Vols have hooped it up with all of the above in the past few years.
Throw in, say, Georgetown, Wichita State, Xavier. They're irrelevant in the world of big-time football. But the options for a good 40 minutes of basketball are nearly endless. And watch out for College of Charleston.
Overtime: Overtime in basketball makes sense. It's a logical extension of the game. The format doesn't change. In football, overtime is exciting but it's a departure from how the game was played in the 60 minutes of regulation.
March Madness: Finally, the crown jewel. College basketball climaxes with a true tournament to determine a national champion.
You can make a case that every regular-season game is more meaningful in football. You can make a case that the best basketball team, based on season-long body of work, doesn't always win the tournament.
But you can't argue with the drama that explodes annually during those three delicious weeks until only one team is left to cut down the nets.