Let’s Go Bowl-ing
We’re nine days away from the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. Whilst fans of the Nevada Wolf Pack and Arizona Wildcats will no doubt have that game circled already, all College Football fans should too for one reason: that game represents Bowl Season kickoff.
The New Mexico Bowl is the first of 34 Bowl games which lead up to the Discover BCS National Championship Game. That’s right: 34!
Undoubtedly you’re getting tired having information regarding the BCS Bowls rammed down your throat, but if you take a step away from your Roses, Sugars, Oranges and Fiestas, you’ll find a bunch of really intriguing matchups. Here’s our pick of the top five non-BCS games to keep your eye on.
1. Capital One Bowl No. 7 Georgia vs. No. 16 Nebraska (Jan. 1)
Let’s face it this game is more appealing than Stanford-Wisconsin, Northern Illinois-Florida State, and Louisville-Florida. In fact, this might even be more appealing than Kansas State-Oregon. Might!
Runners up in their respective conferences, both sides are more than capable of not only scoring but playing good, solid football. That’s a recipe for a very good game. They’ve only met once before (the 1969 Sun Bowl) so this has a real feel of occasion about it. For the record, Nebraska took that game 45-6.
2. AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic No. 9 Texas A&M vs. No. 11 Oklahoma (Jan. 4)
A year after jumping the Big 12 ship, Texas A&M meets former conference rivals Oklahoma at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Texas A&M have been College Football darlings since knocking off Alabama in Week 11 and Johnny Manziel could well enter this game as a Heisman award winner.
Aside from dropping games to Kansas State and Notre Dame, Oklahoma had a solid season, finishing second in the Big 12. The Sooners won five straight to close out the regular season and will be looking for one more win to finish the season proper. They’ll look to jump on a 11-2 recent record against the Aggies.
Favorite: Texas A&M
3. Chick-fil-A Bowl No. 14 Clemson vs. No. 8 LSU (Dec. 31)
Clemson’s dynamic offense will square-off against LSU’s stingy defense in Atlanta on New Year’s Eve. The two sides had a pair of losses each, including one that kept them out of their respective conference championship games (Clemson lost to Florida State whilst LSU lost to Alabama).
This will be the third meeting between the sides, each of which has been in a Bowl game setting. LSU is 2-0 in those games (Sugar Bowl 1959, Peach Bowl 1996).
4. Outback Bowl No. 10 South Carolina vs. No. 18 Michigan (Jan. 1)
Until a pair of losses against Florida and LSU, South Carolina looked like the pick of the SEC East. Those two losses may have curbed the Gamecocks’ chances of a BCS game but their 10-2 record was a very good marker come the end of the season.
Michigan started off on the wrong foot with a humiliating opening day defeat to Alabama, but the Wolverines turned their season around to some extent. Four losses may seem a lot but consider this, Michigan fell to Notre Dame and Alabama, the top two teams in the country; an undefeated Ohio State, who would arguably have been in the top two were it not for NCAA sanctions; and Nebraska. That Nebraska loss was the toughest as it effectively gave the Cornhuskers the Legends Division in the Big Ten.
The two sides have met just twice before (1981, 1985) when each was an Independent. Each school won on the other’s home field.
Favorite: South Carolina
5. Valero Alamo Bowl No. 23 Texas vs. No. 13 Oregon State (Dec. 29)
Undefeated through the opening six games, Oregon State’s season was somewhat ruined by three losses in the final six games, but the Beavers proved to be one of the more interesting sides this season.
Texas, by its own standards, had another down year, finishing third in the Big 12, three games behind Kansas State and two behind Oklahoma. Still, these two sides are offensive minded enough to make this an enjoyable game to watch.
Texas and Oregon State have met just twice before (1980, 1987) with the Longhorns coming out on top in both games.
Favorite: Oregon State
Finally, Bowl Season isn’t just about the big teams pulling in the ratings. There are 34 Bowl games in total before we reach the Discover BCS National Championship Game, and most of them feature teams that haven’t been writing their own headlines this year. Here’s our pick of five potential sleeper games that could be well worth your viewing time:
Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl No. 17 UCLA vs. Baylor (Dec. 27)
Maaco Bowl Las Vegas No. 19 Boise State vs. Washington (Dec. 22)
New Era Pinstripe Bowl Syracuse vs. West Virginia (Dec. 29)
Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl Mississippi State vs. No. 20 Northwestern (Jan. 1)
Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman No. 24 San Jose State vs. Bowling Green (Dec. 27)