The regular season is just about complete (Army and Navy have to play on December 14 before it is considered over) and the bowl schedule is out. The bowl season will start on Saturday, December 21 and end on Monday, January 6, 2014. I will rank all 35 bowl games from 1 to 35 in descending order. Here are the rankings:
35. St. Petersburg Bowl: East Carolina Pirates (9-3) vs. Ohio Bobcats (7-5) – This game will showcase East Carolina’s high flying passing attack. This game also has the potential for a shootout.
34. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Buffalo Bulls (8-4) vs. San Diego State Aztecs (7-5) – It was a tumultuous start to the season for the Aztecs as they started 0-3. They finished the season 7-2 and 4 games went into overtime (3-1 in those games). If you watch this game, keep an eye out for Buffalo Bulls linebacker Khalil Mack. He is rocketing up the NFL Draft boards and will be a menace all game.
33. Heart of Dallas Bowl: UNLV Rebels (7-5) vs. North Texas Mean Green (8-4) – UNLV has not played in a bowl game since 2000 and North Texas hasn’t played in a bowl game since 2004. North Texas sports a stingy defense giving up 18.1 points a game, 9th best in the nation.
32. Armed Forces Bowl: Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (8-4) vs. Navy Midshipmen (7-4) – This is just the 6th bowl game in the history of Middle Tennessee football, but 4th since 2006 under coach Rick Stockstill. This will be the 10 bowl game in the last 11 seasons for Navy (3-6 in the previous 9 games). Expect a balanced offense from Middle Tennessee and a whole lot of rushing from Navy.
31. Liberty Bowl: Rice Owls (10-3) vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs (6-6) – We have the C-USA Champs in Rice and Mississippi State who needed a win over arch-rival Ole Miss to get here. I am expecting a defensive battle in this one.
30. Texas Bowl: Syracuse Orange (6-6) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-4) – For most, this game probably isn’t their cup of tea. I like this matchup as I see this being a defensive game and hopefully Minnesota Coach Jerry Kill can be back in time to finish this season with this bowl game.
29. Belk Bowl: Cincinnati Bearcats (9-3) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (6-6) – This game could probably be higher. This game will come down to whether or not North Carolina can move the ball against Cincinnati’s defense.
28. GoDaddy Bowl: Arkansas State Red Wolves (7-5) vs. Ball State Cardinals (10-2) – This game could easily be higher because I think this game has the ability to provide a lot of points. Ball State averages over 40 points a game while Arkansas State is averaging just under 30 points per game (29.7).
27. Little Caesars Bowl: Pittsburgh Panthers (6-6) vs. Bowling Green Falcons (10-3) – Bowling Green will return to the site of their big upset victory over Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship game. Pittsburgh will look to avoid a 2nd straight 6-7 season under Paul Chryst. I would expect the defenses to be prominent in this game.
26. Hawaii Bowl: Boise State Broncos (8-4) vs. Oregon State Beavers (6-6) – Boise State will be without Chris Petersen for this game as he has moved on to the University of Washington. Oregon State underachieved this year and if they can contain Jay Ajayi and the Boise State rushing attack, they will have a chance to win.
25. Pinstripe Bowl: Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-6) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-4) – The real appeal to this game is Notre Dame playing in the New York area. I would expect a defensive battle, but this game appears to favor Notre Dame.
24. New Mexico Bowl: Washington State Cougars (6-6) vs. Colorado State Rams (7-6) – These two teams will kickoff the bowl season and features two programs on the rise. I think this game should be a high scoring one.
23. Military Bowl: Marshall Thundering Herd (9-4) vs. Maryland Terrapins (7-5) – This isn’t the most attractive matchup, but there are some things to like. Marshall has an explosive offense, but Maryland can also score points. I think this will a high scoring affair in Annapolis.
22. Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Michigan Wolverines (7-5) vs. Kansas State Wildcats (7-5) – This game shows the tale of two halves of the season for both teams. Kansas State started 2-4 before winning 5 of their last 6. Michigan started 6-1 before losing 4 of their last 5. My gut feeling for this game is that this will be a defensive game, but a shootout is not out of the question.
21. New Orleans Bowl: Tulane Green Wave (7-5) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (8-4) – I considered putting this game higher because both teams are close to New Orleans and that will make for a festive atmosphere. This is Tulane’s first bowl game since the 2002 Hawaii Bowl (a game they won 36-28 over Hawaii). UL-Lafayette is playing in this game for the 3rd straight season and they won the previous two.
20. Music City Bowl: Ole Miss Rebels (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7-5) – This game features the SEC vs the ACC. Both teams are coming into this game off losses to their in-state rivals. I will be watching this game to see how Ole Miss does against the triple option offense of Georgia Tech. If Ole Miss can contain it, they will have a big chance to win.
19. Holiday Bowl: Arizona State Sun Devils (10-3) vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders (7-5) – I personally think this will be a high scoring game. Arizona State has averaged 41 points a game and Texas Tech has scored just over 31 points a game. Arizona State comes into this game off the crushing loss at home in the Pac-12 title game. Texas Tech hopes to reverse a 5 game losing streak. Expect fireworks in this bowl game.
18. Alamo Bowl: Oregon Ducks (10-2) vs. Texas Longhorns (8-4) – Oregon players got their wish to not end up in another Rose Bowl, so they will spend their bowl stay in San Antonio, Texas. They will face Texas and Mack Brown, who may or may not be coaching his last game as the head coach of the Longhorns. It will be interesting to see how each team comes out and plays.
17. Sun Bowl: Virginia Tech Hokies (8-4) vs. UCLA Bruins (9-3) – It has been a very quiet season for Virginia Tech, but their defense has played well this season. UCLA will bring Brett Hundley and their spread offense. That is the matchup I will be watching.
16. Gator Bowl: Nebraska Cornhuskers (8-4) vs. Georgia Bulldogs (8-4) – The reason I have this game listed at #16 is because we saw this game last year and the starting quarterbacks issue. Georgia’s Aaron Murray will not play due to a torn ACL and Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez is in doubt of playing in the game. Ultimately, this should be a good game.
15. Poinsettia Bowl: Utah State Aggies (8-5) vs. Northern Illinois Huskies (12-1) – This is a game of contrasting styles. The Huskies high powered spread offense led by Jordan Lynch will go head-to-head against the tough Utah State defense. It will be fun to watch this game from a matchup standpoint.
14. Fight Hunger Bowl: BYU Cougars (8-4) vs. Washington Huskies (8-4) – Washington is going for the most wins in a season since 2000 when they won 11 games. BYU is going for their 5th straight bowl victory and 7 of their last 8. What will have the biggest impact is that Steve Sarkisian will not be coaching the Huskies in this bowl game. Marques Tuiasosopo will coach Washington in the Fight Hunger Bowl. With 3 weeks for both teams to prepare, I see a game in the 20’s for each team.
13. Compass Bowl: Vanderbilt Commodores (8-4) vs. Houston Cougars (8-4) – This is a sneaky good matchup. Both teams have improved on defense as the season went on and this is should not be a high scoring game. I look forward to seeing how the SEC vs AAC matchup plays out.
12. Outback Bowl: Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4) vs. LSU Tigers (9-3) – This game lost some of its luster when Zach Mettenberger tore his ACL in LSU’s season finale against Arkansas. This is still a good matchup between run based Iowa and LSU’s defense which has had issues throughout the season. This will also matchup Iowa’s stingy defense against LSU’s vertical passing philosophy.
11. Russell Athletic Bowl: Miami (FL) Hurricanes (9-3) vs. Louisville Cardinals (11-1) – This should be a good game between two former Big East rivals. Louisville had BCS aspirations, but fell short in their quest. The Hurricanes are playing in their first bowl game since the 2010 Sun Bowl after 2 years of a self-imposed bowl ban. I think this will be a defensive battle between these two teams.
10. Las Vegas Bowl: Fresno State Bulldogs (11-1) vs. USC Trojans (9-4) – This should be a good matchup between Fresno State and USC. How will Derek Carr face against the Trojans’ defense? USC will not have Ed Orgeron on the sideline as he resigned immediately after they hired Steve Sarkisian. Clay Helton will be the Trojans’ head coach for the bowl game and we will see how that affects them.
9. Chick-Fil-A Bowl: Duke Blue Devils (10-3) vs. Texas A&M Aggies (8-4) – The job that David Cutcliffe has done been nothing short of magnificent. This season was Duke’s 1st 10 win season ever in football. Texas A&M took a slight step back this season, but the real matchup will be between John Manziel and the Aggie offense against Duke’s defense.
8. AdvoCare V100 Bowl: Arizona Wildcats (7-5) vs. Boston College (7-5) – A matchup of two 7-5 teams at #8?! Yes this game is at #8 because of the two running backs. Arizona will feature Ka’Deem Carey who has rushed for 1,755 yards this year. Boston College’s Andre Williams has 2,102 yards this season. I look forward to seeing these two running backs in action.
7. Fiesta Bowl: Central Florida Knights (11-1) vs. Baylor Bears (11-1) – This game probably does not have appeal to many people, but I like this matchup. Neither of these teams has played in a BCS game. This will be a good matchup of Baylor’s offense against Central Florida’s defense.
6. Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma Sooners (10-2) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1) – I have this game placed at 6 mainly because I don’t trust Bob Stoops to show up in a big game. Stoops has won just 1 BCS game since 2003 out of 6 appearances. There is the possibility that Alabama reverts back to their 2009 Sugar Bowl performance. After losing the 2008 SEC Championship to Florida, Alabama got blitzed in the 2009 Sugar Bowl by undefeated Utah, 31-17. Interesting possibilities here.
5. Orange Bowl: Clemson Tigers (10-2) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (12-1) – Last time Clemson played in this game in 2011 they were blown out of the building by West Virginia, 70-33. Of course, Ohio State is coming into this game off the loss to Michigan State. Will they come out and play or will they play flat? How will Tajh Boyd fare against the Ohio State defense? A lot of intrigue surrounds this game.
4. AT&T Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-2) vs. Missouri Tigers (11-2) – There are some good story lines here. Former Big 12 teams face off and both teams are coming off loses in games that could have clinched their respective conference titles. How will those teams respond?
3. Capital One Bowl: Wisconsin Badgers (9-3) vs. South Carolina Gamecocks (10-2) – Arguably the best non-BCS bowl this year, we have the SEC matched up against a Big 10 team. South Carolina is playing their 3rd straight bowl game in the state of Florida (2 wins), while Wisconsin is playing their first non-BCS bowl since 2009. The played in three straight Rose Bowl games prior to this year and lost all three. Will the Big 10 get the better of the SEC in this game?
2. Rose Bowl: Stanford Cardinal (11-2) vs. Michigan State Spartans (12-1) – What a matchup we have here. If you like a lot of rushes and stringent defenses, this game is for you. Stanford makes their 2nd straight Rose Bowl appearance (won in 2013 vs. Wisconsin, 20-14). Meanwhile, Michigan State plays in the first Rose Bowl since 1988.
1. BCS National Championship Game: Florida State Seminoles (13-0) vs. Auburn Tigers (12-1) – Was there any doubt about this? The dominant Seminoles will take on the high powered rushing attack of Auburn and the 7 straight National Championships by the SEC. There are other story lines such as Florida State playing in the first BCS National Championship game (1998 Fiesta Bowl, a game they lost 23-16 to Tennessee) and now play in the last BCS Title game before the move to the 4 team playoff.
I have always enjoyed the bowl games, especially as more and more bowl games have been added. I will be honest though, when I first saw the bowl schedule I felt it was underwhelming. After I dug a little deeper, this slate of games looks a lot better. There are some good matchups outside of the BCS games and quite a few should provide good entertainment in the form of shootouts.