Top bowl games outside of the BCS

Published Dec. 17, 2010 6:27 p.m. ET

What a great regular season—it was full of drama, historic wins, monumental losses and a finish that has the entire nation wondering how many total points will be scored in the National Championship game between Oregon and Auburn.

But before the BCS games there is an entire bowl season – 30 bowl games outside of the Bowl Championship series games to be exact and they are full of rockstar players, surprising teams and programs that have been resurrected.

It starts with BYU and stud freshman QB Jake Heaps against UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl and ends in Glendale for the BCS title and in-between I cannot wait to watch Blaine Gabbert and Missouri take on Iowa’s hard nosed team led by Ricky Stanzi in the Insight Bowl, Utah and Boise State in the Vegas Bowl. Furthermore, you should be on the edge of your seat as LSU faces one of the hottest teams in the nation in Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl on January 7th.

Yet with all of the match-ups and all of the games analyzed over the past few weeks, I eventually came up with my top 5 bowl games outside of the BCS.

4) Washington vs Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. This is a re-match of week 3 when Nebraska walked into Husky Stadium and rolled over U-Dub 56-21. Taylor Martinez accounted for 4 TDs. Jake Locker went 4-20 and his 20% completion percentage was the 3rd worst since 2004 by a FBS QB, but this is a different Husky team that has won 3 straight. For Nebraska, they are coming off a Big 12 title loss to Oklahoma and a chance to play in a BCS bowl game. They will have to be prepared as Steve Sarkisian will have his squad “Expecting to Win,” as they have not been to a bowl game since 2002 and in was only two years ago when they did not win a single game! My pick – UW in the 1st big upset of the bowl season.


3) Florida vs Penn State in the Outback Bowl in Tampa. Two legendary coaches face off in Urban Meyer and Joe Paterno. For Meyer, this is his final game as the head coach of the Gators, as he recently retired and for JoePa, he just keeps rolling and proving that he will go down as the best coach in the history of college football.
If there are two teams that need the practice time these do, as they will have big expectations in 2011. For Penn State; Scranton, Pennsylvania native Matt McGloin has played well since taking over as the full-time starter at the end of October against Michigan, but is coming off a three game stretch where he struggled against Ohio State and Michigan State completing only 50% of his passes, but lit up Indiana in between by completing 71% of his attempts. For the Gators, it has been a miserable final season for Urban Meyer. They have not had any consistency on offense and have lacked leadership in every phase of the game. My pick: I can’t pick against a QB from my hometown – Penn State in a tight game as they will run the ball to slow down the much more athletic Gators.


2) Notre Dame vs Miami in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. Two iconic programs have had dramatic seasons but appear to be heading in different directions. Miami fired Randy Shannon after losing to Virginia Tech and South Florida in consecutive weeks and have just hired Al Golden from Temple. Notre Dame beat USC for the first time in 9 years and have won their last three games. The Irish are finishing their first season with new coach Brian Kelly and Canes QB Jacory Harris will attempt to kick-start the Canes off-season. My pick in this great match-up is Miami by 10, as Harris should have his most complete game of the season.

1) And the best bowl game that is not a BCS game is Alabama vs Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando. It’s the defending National Champ vs the co-Big-10 Champ. Both teams are tough, physical and could compete with every team in a BCS game. Look for Spartan junior QB Kirk Cousins to burst onto the national scene and the trio of Julio Jones, Mark Ingram and Greg McElroy to remind everyone that they are the defending champs.

My pick – Bama in the most physical game of the bowl season.