Top 10 bowls: Alabama-Ohio State, Oregon-FSU are bowl season's best

BY Bruce Feldman • December 8, 2014

All 38 bowl matchups for 2014-15 are out (the national title will make 39).

Here are the 10 most intriguing ones of the winter.

10. BELK: No. 21 LOUISVILLE vs. No. 13 GEORGIA

Call this the Todd Grantham Bowl. The Cards DC came to Louisville after coaching some very underwhelming defenses in Athens. You know he'd love to stick it in some Dawgs fans' faces by clamping down on UGA here. Grantham's U of L D is ranked No. 6 in the nation, led by ballhawk Gerod Holliman, who has a jaw-dropping 14 INTs this season. The Dawgs are ranked No. 20 in total defense and 25th in scoring D -- 53 spots better than they were last season under Grantham.

9. TEXAS: ARKANSAS vs. TEXAS

Both programs seem to be on the upswing under some new leadership. Charlie Strong, an Arkansas native, has turned UT into a much tougher team, but that'll get tested by Bret Bielema's bruising bunch.

8. RUSSELL ATHLETIC: No. 17 CLEMSON vs. OKLAHOMA

The Sooners had an ugly finish to a regular season that saw them go from being in the top five to ending up unranked after losing to a struggling Oklahoma State squad. The Tigers embark on life without Chad Morris, although the real star of their staff this season has been DC Brent Venables, who is leading the nation's No. 7 defense. Venables, of course, is a Bob Stoops protege.

7. LIBERTY: TEXAS A&M vs. WEST VIRGINIA

Dana Holgorsen faces his old boss, Kevin Sumlin, as an old Big 12 team takes on a new one. Aggie OC Jake Spavital worked under Holgorsen at a couple of places, including in Morgantown, and is a big reason why the Mountaineers have star WR Kevin White, who will be a big challenge for the shaky A&M D.

6. OUTBACK: No. 19 AUBURN vs. No. 18 WISCONSIN

Gus Malzahn's dynamic running game against Melvin Gordon and the Badgers’ physical attack. Should be fun to see if the Badgers’ D can respond after getting shredded by Ohio State.

5. FIESTA: No. 10 ARIZONA vs. No. 20 BOISE STATE

Scooby. He wanted to play for Boise at one time. Actually Scooby vs. BSU star RB Jay Ajayi is one of the best games within a game in any bowl this winter. Ajayi has run for 25 TDs this season, including 20 in the past eight games. 

4. PEACH: No. 9 OLE MISS vs. No. 6 TCU

Gary Patterson's team has reason to be ticked off, and now they can make a statement against the SEC's best defense and the team that beat Alabama. Should be a very good test for Trevone Boykin.

3. COTTON: No. 8 MICHIGAN STATE vs. No. 5 BAYLOR

Start with this: Arguably the most explosive offense in the country under Art Briles -- with a big chip on his shoulder right now -- faces the top defensive coordinator in the country, Pat Narduzzi. I'm in. Oh, and there are also two terrific QBs here in Bryce Petty and Connor Cook, two guys who spent a bunch of time training side-by-side on the West Coast this offseason as George Whitfield proteges and through the Elite 11, where both worked as counselors.

2. SUGAR: No. 1 ALABAMA vs. No. 4 OHIO STATE

Nick Saban and Urban Meyer have combined to win six national titles. They are considered by most as the top two coaches in college football. The Buckeyes can shut up a lot of folks who have been ripping the Big Ten and OSU, which is coming off of the 59-0 rout of Wisconsin, by beating Bama. Former third-stringer Cardale Jones looked terrific in the Big Ten title game, displaying his huge arm, good feet and surprising poise.

What will Saban come up with over the next month to rattle the big guy? How much better can Meyer and his brilliant OC/QB coach Tom Herman make Jones over that time? This will be good stuff. Herman/Meyer have now had four different starting quarterbacks not only win games, but each has led the Buckeyes in a game where they've scored at least 59 points.

1. ROSE: No. 2 OREGON vs. No. 3 FLORIDA STATE

Last year's Heisman Trophy winner (Jameis Winston) vs. this year's certain winner (Marcus Mariota). No doubt the NFL scouts will be riveted as will the rest of the football world. The Noles come back to Pasadena sporting a 29-game winning streak. Mariota, the dynamic running threat, has an amazing 38-2 TD-INT ratio. Winston, who has been very reckless with the ball at times this season, has had more picks than that in halves. But he's never lost and has an excellent Plan B in Dalvin Cook, a budding star RB who figures to give the Ducks’ D all it can handle.

Bruce Feldman is a senior college football reporter and columnist for FOXSports.com and FOX Sports 1. He is also a New York Times best-selling author. His new book, The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks, came out in October, 2014. Follow him on Twitter @BruceFeldmanCFB.


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