There was a time not so long ago when an invitation to a postseason bowl game was the reward for a season of accomplishment, confirmation that in between all those classes in chemistry and calculus, the football team had done well.

In those days, mediocre seasons were scorned, not celebrated, and teams that finished with barely more wins than losses drifted off to retool for the next season.

But bowlflation _ college football's belief that more games are better _ has changed all that. Now an invitation to a bowl game is confirmation that, if nothing else, a team has survived the season and that it belongs to a conference.

An excess of promoters in plaids and pastels run around the country, selling games to networks who must figure that a college football game is slightly better programming than rock climbing or tractor pulls, even if the teams involved interest only the most dedicated alumni.

And the conferences cheer them on, content to deliver teams for bowls and then share in the revenue those bowls generate.

So there is a glut of games crowding the end of the season like the Humanitarian Bowl, played on fake blue grass that leaves viewers frantically twisting the color controls on their televisions. This year's classic will be played Dec. 30 in Boise, Idaho, with Boise State (9-3) facing Louisville (7-4).

Now some unkind observers might wonder what a 7-4 team is doing playing in a bowl game in the first place. In fact, though, 11 of them have been invited to participate and such biggies as the Micronpc.com Bowl, the Independence Bowl and the Outback Bowl all match 7-4 teams against each other, which, at least, seems fair.

The Micronpc.com Bowl is the direct descendant of the beloved Carquest Bowl, which had been the Blockbuster Bowl before that. And, in the interest of the technological revolution, it should not be confused with the Insight.com Bowl.

The Insight.com has Colorado, one of a half-dozen 6-5 teams playing in bowl games. The others are Kentucky and Syracuse, paired in the Music City Bowl; Arizona State and Wake Forest, who will play in the Aloha Bowl; and Clemson, which faces Mississippi State in the Peach Bowl.

Some of the credentials of the 6-5 teams are shaky at best. Syracuse, for example, has lost four of its last five games, blanked 62-0 by Virginia Tech and beat up 45-13 by Miami. One of those setbacks was to Rutgers.

Rutgers, for goodness sake! Rutgers, which won one game all season. Lose to Rutgers and you ought to pack up the footballs, not go to a bowl game.

``This is a chance for us to overcome the adversity we've faced this season,'' defensive back Ian McIntosh said. ``Hopefully, we can go out winners and erase some of the negatives this season has held.''

Linebacker Keith Bulluck said he felt no shame in accepting a bowl bid.

``We've played well enough at times to get where we are now,'' Bulluck said. ``There are a lot of 6-5 teams that aren't going to a bowl.''

And justifiably so. Maybe Syracuse should be one of them. That was not an option, though. Attendance is mandatory, required by the Big East Conference's contract with the bowl. Finish fourth in the Big East and it's off to a bowl, even if the fourth-place finish includes a loss to Rutgers.

The appropriate musical selection for the Orangemen at the Music City Bowl after this season would be something solemn.

Now, about some of those other 6-5 teams heading for bowls.

Kentucky's resume includes a 56-28 setback to that 7-4 Louisville powerhouse as well as a 49-34 loss to Georgia and 56-21 defeat against Tennessee.

Arizona State found a way to lose 48-17 to Notre Dame, one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal season for the Fighting Irish. A-State also scored 30 points against Rose Bowl-bound Stanford. The only problem was Stanford scored 50 that day.

Wake Forest lost to Duke 48-35. This is the Duke football team, not the basketball team. This Duke football team finished 3-8. Losing in football to Duke is almost like losing to Rutgers.