Pinstripe Bowl: Syracuse (7-5) vs. West Virginia (7-5), Dec. 29, 3:15 p.m. ET
Let Notre Dame and Alabama slug it out in a fierce, physical defensive battle with gripping drama and lots of nail-biting. When it comes to the pre-January bowls, it’s all about fun and it’s all about wild haymakers thrown by both sides. The two former Big East foes should put on a show – as long as they’re not playing in a driving snowstorm. Syracuse and West Virginia might put up 800 passing yards and blow past 80 points.
New Orleans Bowl: East Carolina (8-4) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4), Dec. 22, 12 p.m. ET
Louisiana-Lafayette should bring the house down in New Orleans. Last season the Ragin’ Cajuns played in the best bowl game of the season, beating San Diego State in a wild shootout while being backed by a raucous home crowd. There might not be the same fire this year, but the fans will still show up in what should be a firefight. East Carolina has been playing well, winning five of its last six games helped by an offense that’s starting to bomb away and put up big points on the board. The passing attack is exploding.
Military Bowl: Bowling Green (8-4) vs. San Jose State (10-2), Dec. 27, 3 p.m. ET
This might not seem sexy, but it should be a fantastic game. Bowling Green has the MAC’s best defense, ranking seventh in the nation in yards allowed and ninth in points allowed. San Jose State’s passing game is loaded, ranking first in the nation in completion percentage. Both teams can bring the house. Led by Travis Johnson, the Spartans have a few elite pass rushers who have the nation’s fifth best defense at getting to the quarterback, while the Falcons are ninth in the country in sacks. San Jose State’s last bowl game was in 2006, its only postseason game since 1990. Bowling Green has dabbled in bowls over the last few years, but it’s just the program’s 10th bowl ever.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Toledo (9-3) vs. Utah State (10-2), Dec. 15, 4:30 p.m. ET
Don’t sleep on this early matchup. It might not seem all that exciting with a MAC also-ran vs. the WAC champion, but these are two very good, very sound teams that came extremely close to doing special things. Toledo’s three losses were all by exactly a touchdown, including an overtime defeat against Arizona and a 31-24 battle at Northern Illinois. Utah State missed a chip shot of a field goal against Wisconsin and lost to BYU 6-3. That’s it.
Alamo Bowl: Oregon State (9-3) vs. Texas (8-4), Dec. 29, 6:45 p.m. ET
Talk about pressure, it’s going to be a really, really ugly offseason for Mack Brown if he loses in a home bowl game to close out with three straight losses. If you want to see a desperate team that might come out roaring, Texas should be it. If it’s not, then that might be a referendum on Brown’s status. Oregon State is good enough to win the game and make a big statement for the Pac-12. The offense has the passing game to light up an underwhelming Longhorn defense, while the defense is one of the best in the conference against the run. The Beavers are for real.
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: TCU (7-5) vs. Michigan State (6-6), Dec. 29, 10:15 p.m. ET
The Spartans have been a disappointment, needing to beat Minnesota in the final game of the regular season just to be bowl eligible. However, this might be the chance at a little bit of redemption. The defense is among the best in America and it’s fantastic against the run. Considering TCU is 10th in the nation against the run, for those wanting to see a defensive slugfest of a bowl, this is it. TCU managed to close out the year with a slew of interesting games. The second half was wild and wacky with a few multiple overtime outings and battles with Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma.
New Mexico Bowl: Arizona (7-5) vs. Nevada (7-5), Dec. 15, 1 p.m. ET
At least in theory, this should be among the most fun offensive shootouts and it should be a whale of a way to open up the bowl season. Nevada has one of the nation’s top rushing offenses, but it can’t play a lick of defense against the run. Arizona has a devastating offense and is great at running the ball, but it doesn’t play a lick of defense, period. At the very least, it should be a fun showdown between two of the nation’s top four rushers – Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey and Nevada’s Stefphon Jefferson.
Chick-fil-A Bowl: Clemson (10-2) vs. LSU (10-2), Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET
A reasonable case could be made that this could be a BCS bowl matchup. At 10-2, Clemson was worthy of at least being in the discussion, while LSU was deserving of one of the big games. The SEC Tigers were one A.J. McCarron drive away from probably playing for the national title, and now it gets a chance to once again prove it belongs among the elite of the elite. No team needs a really, really big bowl performance more than Clemson. The Tigers have put together two nice seasons, but no one seems to care too much because of the awful losses in big moments.
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Sun Bowl: USC (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (6-7), Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ET
USC can’t tackle + Georgia Tech running game should = a whole bunch of fun. The Yellow Jackets don’t run like Oregon – they don’t have the same speed and flash – but they have the ability and the potential to put up big yards and lots of points in chunks. For a minor bowl game like this, the hope is for a shootout like the wild 62-51 Oregon win over USC or the 68-50 Georgia Tech win over North Carolina. Also, it’s Matt Barkley’s final game as a collegian. He has more than paid his dues and is expected to play despite the injury he sustained against UCLA that kept him out of the regular-season finale against Notre Dame. He deserves to go out with a good game.
Holiday Bowl: Baylor (7-5) vs. UCLA (9-4), Dec. 27, 9:45 p.m. ET
Baylor’s attack is every bit as dangerous as it was when Robert Griffin III was under center, and UCLA is 20th in the nation in total offense and can make this a wild shootout. Baylor should do its part after scoring 145 points in its last three games, while UCLA had a fun three-game stretch not all that long ago scoring 145 points, too. BU’s defense still stinks, and it’s going to have to bomb away to make up for it.