NCAA FB

Top 10 storylines of bowl season

Bobby Bowden (Getty Images)
Bobby Bowden of the Florida State Seminoles looks up to the scoreboard late in the game against...
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Lisa Horne

Lisa Horne is entering her fifth year as a correspondent for FOXSports.com. She is a member of the Football Writers of America Association (FWAA) and a frequent guest on sports radio shows. Follow her on Twitter.

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We’ve got your back here. Ten bowls that have drama, intrigue and yes, even Cinderella-like qualities demanding your attention. Ten bowls that are a must-watch simply for the fact that they could dictate which direction your team will be heading into next season. Ten great bowls that shouldn’t be missed because they prove you all — college football nation — understand and appreciate what this sport is all about. We give you the 10 bowls with the best storylines of the 2009 season.

Holiday Bowl: Arizona vs. Nebraska


The 2009 Holiday Bowl has all the markings of a great defensive battle — a football purist’s delight. Arizona came oh-so-close to going to the Rose Bowl, and Nebraska left one too many seconds on the clock to ultimately lose the Big 12 championship. Both teams are in a transition with Arizona trying to take the next step in being a force in the Pac-10 while Nebraska is trying recapture its mojo after taking a sabbatical in football. This is all about two great defensive minds going against each other in a bowl that should showcase the direction each team is going in 2010.

EagleBank Bowl: Temple vs. UCLA


It has been 30 years since the Temple Owls have gone bowling, in the now-defunct Garden State Bowl in ’79. Before that bowl, it was in the first Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 1935, that the Owls made a bowl appearance, losing to Tulane, 20-14. This marks only the third time in 74 years that Temple’s football team has been in a bowl, and for that reason alone, this is compelling. Add a UCLA team that had to depend on Navy beating Army to get a bowl berth and you have two teams just aching for either a great season or pride. Which do you root for?

Chick-fil-A Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee


The weirdness factor at Knoxville increases 10-fold every day — apparently, head coach Lane Kiffin considers it a compliment to be investigated for possible recruiting violations. With all these distractions going on (will we see the Orange Pride in the stands with “Come to Tennessee” signs?), one wonders whether Kiffin will keep his players focused on a bowl that hasn’t treated Tennessee very well. The Vols are 1-3 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl (nee Peach Bowl) and looking for respect from anyone outside Knoxville. Is this the start of change in Tennessee?

Capital One Bowl: LSU vs. Penn State


Besides this being one of the best match-ups of the major bowls, there’s the intriguingJoe Paterno vs. Les Miles comparisons. You’ve got corny jokes vs. biting comments. Good clock management vs. crappy clock management. Spread HD vs. nasty D. And the SEC vs. the Big Ten — another bowl in which one conference will get bragging rights and the other will be the butt of jokes for the next year. This bowl represents all that is good in smack-talking. We simply can’t get enough of it.

Sun Bowl: Stanford vs. Oklahoma


The Sooners have dropped five straight BCS bowls and save for a 2005 Holiday Bowl win, haven’t enjoyed a lot of bowl success recently. Although numerous injuries have taken a huge toll on the team, Bob Stoops is still feeling some pressure from Sooners fans for a bowl win. Any win. Losing against a surging Stanford team that is thrilled to be in a December bowl is not going to restore any fans’ confidence in Stoops’ now-growing reputation of not finishing a season. Git R done, Bobby.

Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. Ohio State


The Buckeyes are in a BCS bowl for the fifth consecutive season. They are also facing: a. the usual six-week layoff after their last regular-season game and b. a team riddled with speed. Will we hear the travel and rust excuses if they lose? The bigger question is whether the Buckeyes will completely open the playbook when facing speed, or will Jim Tressel talk up again the most important part of the game — punting? Tressel is a class act, but a loss here might cause the Senator to be impeached by the scarlet and gray faithful.

Gator Bowl: Florida State vs. West Virginia


Forget that other ACC teams should have been playing here instead of the Seminoles, this bowl is Bobby Bowden’s retirement party. How many reporters will interview Bill Stewart first after the game? (Answer: none.) Bowden is the Tim Tebow of football coaches right now; tears will be flowing after the game. With almost every fan rooting for a winning Bowden send-off, you have to feel sorry for the Mountaineers playing a beloved legend. If they win, they’ve killed Bambi. If they lose, they’ve lost to Bambi. Don’t mess with Bambi.

Fiesta Bowl: TCU vs. Boise State


Some fans are angered that two undefeated non-BCS conference teams are playing each other instead of other BCS conference teams, but ask yourselves this: When Boise State beat Oklahoma and Utah beat both Pitt and Alabama in BCS bowls, did they get any respect or were they dismissed with excuses from the losing teams’ fans? Playing and beating the big boys has not defused any backlash against the WAC and MWC, so why not enjoy one of, if not the, best games of the BCS bowls? The Fiesta Bowl got this match-up right. Enjoy, football nation, you’re in for a treat.

BCS Title Game: Alabama vs. Texas


Mark Ingram won the Heisman, and thus, the Heisman Curse now takes precedence over all other storylines of this bowl. Jason White, Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, Troy Smith and Sam Bradford are all the recent victims of winning a Heisman, yet losing in a BCS Natty. While 'Bama looks to be the better team on the field and is the oddsmakers' favorite, Texas is used to being the underdog in a title game. Just ask USC fans. So will the Heisman claim another victim or crown a current Heisman-less team?

Sugar Bowl: Florida vs. Cincinnati


You can just feel the love for Brian Kelly right now — he’s as popular as Rich Rodriguez flashing a Black Amex card in a Morgantown, W.Va., mall. Yes, Kelly’s house got egged; yes, Mardy Gilyard called Kelly out; and yes, the Bearcats don’t have Kelly coaching them in the Sugar Bowl. Oh, the excuses in this game. If Florida wins, it’s because Kelly wasn’t coaching the team, and if Cincy wins, well, that’s because the Gators were still reeling from their SEC championship loss. Just see Alabama losing to Utah in the ’09 Sugar Bowl for further explanation. Did I miss anything?

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