In this photo provided by NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl, a worker from the Arizona Bowl shows off one of the inflatable "Big Lazy" couches that is part of bowl gifts being given to players for the Dec. 29 game. The couch is one of the unique items as the 4
AP Photo
December 22, 2016

If coming up with the perfect present during the holidays for one person is stressful, try doing it for 250.

That is the annual task that faces those trying to select the ideal gift package for college bowl participants.

Most games try to avoid giving away the same thing. Most have watches, backpacks and hats but when it comes to the big gifts this is where the real competition begins.

TOP GIFTS (NON-GIFT SUITE)

For the 16 games that choose not to have gift suites, there are some interesting choices this year. Here are the top five:

Apple Watch Nike + (Alamo Bowl): This is the only game that has announced it has the popular smartwatch as one of its gifts. Rick Hill, the game's vice president of marketing, said they went up to the last-minute to make its decision and was in constant contact with Nike to make sure they could get them.

While most companies offer a discount on bulk items, that is not the case with Apple watches, which have a retail value between $349-399.

Finrod's Festive Wear (Armed Forces Bowl): Brant Ringler, the bowl's executive director, said he got the idea two years ago when he saw Illinois arrive in Texas for bowl preparations wearing ugly holiday sweaters.

This year there are two colors, red and blue. Both feature the game's sponsor's logo, an F-35 jet, footballs and a goal post.

''I didn't know if it was still popular but last week I was out and saw seven college kids wearing ugly sweaters and another in ugly suit. It is nice to see the trend continuing,'' Ringler said.

Red, inflatable ''big-lazy'' (Arizona Bowl): The Tucson-based game is only two years old but is developing a reputation for unique gifts. Last year it was a pair of Cowtown custom cowboy boots where each team had its own fitting sessions.

The boots aren't one of the gifts this year but the inflatable couch might get more use in a player's dorm room or apartment.

Whatever the Cotton Bowl gives: This is the only game that does not reveal what their gifts are before the players arrive. However, the gifts are usually the best of all the bowls.

Last year Alabama and Michigan State received an Apple Watch and Amazon Fire TV. Two years ago it was Beats wireless headphones and three years ago it was an Apple TV and iPad Mini.

Bobblehead (Taxslayer Bowl): These are not your standard mass produced bobbleheads. Each player will get one with their face, name and uniform number.

TOP GIFT SUITE ITEMS

This year 25 games are doing gift suites. In the case of the Fiesta Bowl, athletes from Clemson and Ohio State have the option of the gift suite or a PlayStation bundle that includes the game system and accessories.

Jon Cooperstein, director of the sports marketing division for PAC, said the big-ticket items remain the most popular.

Recliners: The leather chair, which includes two USB ports and a drink holder, remain the most popular item, no matter what position someone plays because it allows them to create their own home theatre system.

Michael Kors watches: Most games supply watches as gifts but some prefer having something more stylish or get one to give to a family member or girlfriend.

Mountain bikes: These have gained in popularity among the past year or two as athletes use them to commute around campus.

Amazon echo: The internet-connected wireless speaker with the digital assistant named Alexa has gained in popularity the past two bowl seasons.

Wireless headphones: Beats came out with a couple new versions before the holidays, which will make them more popular than some of the outdated ones. Over the ear headphones instead of earbuds remain the more favored option.

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More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

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Follow Joe Reedy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/joereedy

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