A guide to this year's bowl games



Estimated read time: 12-13 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — Bowl season is here and to get fans ready for what to watch among the 35 bowls here is a guide to all the games played over the next two-plus weeks.

There are seven categories for the bowl games. The most interesting games are at the top of the category and work down.

Local games that will get a ton of coverage coming up:

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: No. 23 Northern Illinois vs. Utah State — Dec. 26 7:30 p.m. MT

The Huskies were one game away from playing in a BCS game and the Aggies, in their firs year in the Mountain West Conference, lost in the championship game. This isn't a consolation game for the Aggies, but might be for Northern Illinois. Jordan Lynch was the Heisman runner-up and can play great ball.

Fight Hunger Bowl: BYU vs. Washington — Dec. 27, 7:30 p.m. MT

BYU has been locked into this bowl all year long while Washington is without head coach Steve Sarkisian who took the head job at USC. Washington is a team loaded with talent, especially tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. If nothing else, it is BYU's Kyle Van Noy's last shot to go big in a bowl game.

The cream of the crop:

Vizio BCS National Championship: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Auburn — Jan. 6, 6 :30 p.m. MT

In this Nov. 30, 2013 file photo, Auburn 
cornerback Chris Davis (11) returns a field 
goal attempt 109-yards to score the winning 
touchdown over Alabama during the second half 
of an NCAA college football game in Auburn, 
Ala. Davis's 109-yard return of a missed 
field goal to beat Alabama was one of the 
Iron Bowl's and the season's most memorable 
plays. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)
In this Nov. 30, 2013 file photo, Auburn cornerback Chris Davis (11) returns a field goal attempt 109-yards to score the winning touchdown over Alabama during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Auburn, Ala. Davis's 109-yard return of a missed field goal to beat Alabama was one of the Iron Bowl's and the season's most memorable plays. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)

Does Auburn have another miracle in it? The Tigers needed one against Georgia and another against Alabama to get to the title game. Florida State has been the most consistent team in the nation and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. FSU has won all but one game by at least 27. The other win was by 14 points. Auburn wins close games, while FSU blows teams out. If the game stays close it could be high drama in Pasadena, Calif.

Discover Orange Bowl: No. 7 Ohio State vs. No. 12 Clemson; Jan. 3 6:30 p.m. MT

This could be billed as Braxton Miller vs. Tajh Boyd. Both teams score more than 40 points per game in different ways. Carlos Hyde, who rushed for 140.8 yards per game, could be the first running back taken in the NFL Draft for OSU, which rushed for 317 a game. Clemson's Sammy Watkins might be the first receiver picked for Clemson, which passed for 329 per game. The Orange Bowl is about offense.

Rose Bowl: No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 3 Stanford — Jan. 1 3 p.m. MT

This game is not for everyone. This will be a low-scoring game between two of the top defenses in the NCAA. Michigan State hasn't lost since September, while Stanford has lost to Utah and USC in letdown games.

Allstate Sugar Bowl: No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 11 Oklahoma — Jan. 2 6:30 p.m. MT

Alabama won't play in the national title game for the first time in three years and haven't lost a bowl games since the Sugar Bowl against the University of Utah. OU has struggled in bowl games winning four in its last 10 years. Alabama was a 109-yard field goal return away from making another BCS title run. Oklahoma, which upset Oklahoma State in the final game of the regular season, is more physical this year and could battle the Crimson Tide in the trenches.

AT&T Cotton Bowl: No. 8 Missouri vs. No. 13 Oklahoma State — Jan. 3 5:30 p.m. MT

This is a game for the lover of the modern offense with two teams that run the spread in different ways. Missouri runs the ball better, while OSU throws the ball more. Both teams have good defenses too, but this game is about offense.

The Next Tier:

Capital One Bow: No. 9 South Carolina vs. No. 19 Wisconsin — Jan. 1, 11 a.m. MT

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney 
(7) celebrates with fans after defeating 
Clemson 31-17 in an NCAA college football game 
on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, in Columbia, S.C. 
(AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (7) celebrates with fans after defeating Clemson 31-17 in an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

This is South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney's last chance to show off. This game might not have a lot of offense, but both teams score about 35 points and are top-20 in the country in defense. Two good teams that had high hopes for the season. This game means something to both of them and they will play hard.

Valero Alamo Bowl: No. 10 Oregon vs. Texas — Dec. 30 4:45 p.m. MT

Oregon has tailed off over the last few weeks in going 2-2 in its last four games, including a 36-35 win over Oregon State. The bane of the Oregon offense is a physical front-seven on defense. BYU gashed Texas' defense early on, but the Longhorns have seem to stabilize a bit. If this is head coach Mack Brown's last game, it could be an all-time classic or letdown.

TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl: No. 22 Georgia vs. Nebraska — Jan. 1, 10 a.m. MT

This is a game with two big-time programs that are a bit down. These teams played last year in a bowl game. Georgia has had huge wins and devastating losses, such as the first “Prayer at Jordan-Hare” with the amazing tipped Hail Mary. They will be without Aaron Murray though. Nebraska is a tough running team. This game could quietly be one of the best of the bowl season.

Outback Bowl: No. 16 LSU vs. Iowa — Jan. 1, 11 a.m. MT

LSU has lost some interesting games – a 27-24 loss to Ole Miss – but Les Miles has a great team. Iowa plays tough and won't let LSU just walk over it. Flipping between this and the Georgia vs. Nebraska game will make for a good New Year's Day of football.

The future NFL quarterback division:

Fiesta Bowl: No. 5 Baylor vs. No. 15 Central Florida — Jan. 1, 6:30 p.m. MT

Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles (5) 
is pressured by South Florida defensive lineman 
Aaron Lynch (19) during the first half of an 
NCAA college football game on Friday, Nov. 29, 
2013, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Reinhold 
Matay)
Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles (5) is pressured by South Florida defensive lineman Aaron Lynch (19) during the first half of an NCAA college football game on Friday, Nov. 29, 2013, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)

The name is Blake Bortles and he could end up being a top-5 pick in the NFL. Getting a jump-start on scouting him isn't the only reason to watch this game, Baylor is also very fun to watch. The Bears are scoring 53.3 points per game.

Chick-fil-A Bowl: No. 21 Texas A&M vs. No. 24 Duke — Dec. 31, 6 p.m. MT

Johnny “Football” Manziel plays a very good Duke team in what might be his last college game. Manziel will probably be a top-5 pick. The 2012 Heisman winner is trying to go out on top, while Duke is looking to cap a magical season.

Russell Athletic Bowl: No. 18 Louisville vs. Miami — Dec. 28, 4:45 p.m. MT

Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater has been pegged as the top pick in the draft for a while now, especially with Oregon's Marcus Mariota returning to school. Bridgewater could still return to school, but one good game in the bowl could cement his status as the top pick.

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: No. 20 Fresno State vs. No. 25 USC — Dec. 21, 1:30 p.m. MT

Fresno State's Derek Carr is chased by Utah 
State's Kyler Fackrell in the first half of an 
NCAA college football game in Fresno, Calif., 
Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Gary 
Kazanjian)
Fresno State's Derek Carr is chased by Utah State's Kyler Fackrell in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Fresno, Calif., Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian)

The USC Trojans have a long list of NFL quarterbacks, but this year it is Fresno State that will put the quarterback into the NFL. Derek Carr is first-round quarterback and could be a top-15 pick. Also Marqise Lee gets one last shot to show off in college for USC. This should be the best game early in the bowl season.

Hyundai Sun Bowl: No. 17 UCLA vs. Virginia Tec**h — Dec. 31, noon MT**

Brett Hundley vs. Logan Thomas in a potential vs. potential game at quarterback. UCLA's Hundley is now a top-5 quarterback in next year's draft, while Thomas was once considered a top-10 pick overall, now he's a top-10 quarterback. Also one last chance to see Anthony Barr a top-10 pick in the draft.

Enjoy a few special players who will play on Sunday:

AdvoCare V100 Bowl: Arizona vs. Boston College — Dec. 31, 10:30 a.m.MT

Utah fans know Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey, who is second in the country in rushing yards. The top rusher is Heisman finalist in Boston College's Andre Williams, who has rushed for 2,102 yards. Neither player will be a first-round pick, but both will have their names called in the first half of the draft.

BBVA Compass Bowl: Vanderbilt vs. Houston — Jan. 4, 11 a.m. MT

Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews is the player to watch in this game. Vanderbilt is an up-and-coming team in the SEC going from perennial worst to an 8-4 team with a future. These two teams could put on a show.

In this Nov. 16, 2013, photo, North Carolina 
tight end Eric Ebron runs during an NCAA 
football game against Pittsburgh in 
Pittsburgh. Ebron said Monday, Nov. 25, he'll 
enter the NFL draft after the season. Ebron 
has 50 catches for 774 yards and three 
touchdowns for the Tar Heels (6-5, 4-3 
Atlantic Coast Conference) heading into 
Saturday's home finale against No. 24 Duke. 
Ebron said Monday the move would benefit his 
family and he didn't want to linger on 
deciding after the regular season. (AP 
Photo/Keith Srakocic)
In this Nov. 16, 2013, photo, North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron runs during an NCAA football game against Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh. Ebron said Monday, Nov. 25, he'll enter the NFL draft after the season. Ebron has 50 catches for 774 yards and three touchdowns for the Tar Heels (6-5, 4-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) heading into Saturday's home finale against No. 24 Duke. Ebron said Monday the move would benefit his family and he didn't want to linger on deciding after the regular season. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Belk Bowl: Cincinnati vs. North Carolina — Dec. 28, 1:20 p.m. MTNorth Carolina will produce a few NFL players at it always seems to do despite horrible records. Eric Ebron will be the first tight end taken and Kareem Martin is a second-round talent. Ebron isn't an elite athlete, but has phenomenal ball skills and will make plays in the new NFL with receiving tight ends.

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: Boise State vs. Oregon State — Dec. 24 6 p.m. MT

Two schools that have struggled through the season will have an old-fashioned shootout. OSU has lost five straight games, including a heart-breaker to Oregon. Boise will be without head coach Chris Petersen, who took the head job at the University of Washington. Oregon State's Sean Mannion is a quality quarterback, while Scott Crichton could be a first-round pick.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Buffalo vs. San Diego State — Dec. 21, 3:30 MT

There is one name to watch in this game: Buffalo's Khalil Mack. The rush-linebacker will be a top-15 pick in the NFL Draft, probably higher than that. Mack made his name against Ohio State, but has been solid all year. He has 10.5 sacks, ninth in the nation. This game won't really be attractive even with Mack, but it's a small bright spot.

Lesser known teams that should produce a good game:

National University Holiday Bowl: No. 14 Arizona State vs. Texas Tech — Dec. 30, 8:15 p.m.MT

This should be a high-scoring affair, or at least a lot of ball movement. Arizona State is 17th in the nation and Tech is 12th in total offense. ASU has a better defense and scores better, but both offenses average more than 35 points.

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Michigan vs. Kansas State — Dec. 28, 8:15 p.m. MT

Michigan came within a point of beating Ohio State. Kansas State has come on strong late. The two are very evenly matched at 37th and 38th in the country in scoring, respectively. If both are playing to their potential this will be close and exciting.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Rice vs. Mississippi State — Dec. 31, 2 p.m. MT

Mississippi State lost six games this season to teams that were ranked in the top 15 at the time except for Auburn, which is now No. 2 in the nation. Rice is 10-3 and has a balanced team. This could be a really good game between two teams few know much about.

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl: Bowling Green vs. Pittsburgh — Dec. 26, 4 p.m. MT

The Bowling Green team celebrate their win in 
an NCAA college football game against Northern 
Illinois at the Mid-American Conference 
championship in Detroit, Friday, Dec. 6, 2013. 
Bowling Green defeated Northern Illinois 47-27. 
(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
The Bowling Green team celebrate their win in an NCAA college football game against Northern Illinois at the Mid-American Conference championship in Detroit, Friday, Dec. 6, 2013. Bowling Green defeated Northern Illinois 47-27. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

This game will be good if Pitt plays to its potential and Bowling Green plays like it did against No. Illinois. Bowling Green's Matt Johnson threw for 393 yards and five touchdowns in the MAC Championship Game to make it to this game.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Washington State vs. Colorado State — Dec. 21, noon MT

The Cougars have been competitive in the Pac-12 and the Rams are an improving team in the Mountain West Conference. Both teams have explosive offenses and this should light up the scoreboard in the first bowl game of the 2013 season.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Rutgers vs. Notre Dame — Dec. 28, 10 a.m. MT

Notre Dame has been up and down this season and Rutgers hasn't been great, but this will be a competitive game. If Rutgers comes out flat and the Irish use their potential then this game might be over quick.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Georgia Tech — Dec. 30, 1:15 p.m. MT

The Ramblin' Wreck of Georgia Tech will run and run. Ole Miss has Donte Moncrief, a receiver who will play next year on Sundays. It will be the triple-option vs. a balanced attack from Ole Miss. It will be low scoring, but should produce drama.

At least it's football:

GoDaddy Bowl: Arkansas State vs. Ball State — Jan. 5, 7 p.m. MT

This game might turn out OK, but when they play in January it is held to a higher standard. This is a game played on a Sunday night the night before the BCS National Championship. Watch Keith Wenning go over 4,000 passing yards in a season for Ball State, if you're into that sort of thing.

Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds (19) gestures 
after scoring a touchdown during the second 
half of an NCAA college football game against 
Army, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, in Philadelphia. 
Navy won 34-7. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds (19) gestures after scoring a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Army, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, in Philadelphia. Navy won 34-7. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Navy — Dec. 30, 9:45 a.m. MTMiddle Tennessee scored at least 42 points in four of its last five games. Navy runs the old-school triple-option which could slow down the tempo. This game could be interesting at the very least.

Military Bowl: Marshall vs. Maryland — Dec. 27, 12:30 p.m. MT

Marshall scores a lot of points — 43 per game — and Maryland wears interesting uniforms, including helmets designed after the Maryland flag. If that's not a good reason to watch then, this game probably doesn't hold much for you.

New Orleans Bowl: Tulane vs. Louisiana-Lafayette — Dec. 21, 7 p.m. MT

This will be the one game on Saturday night, so for that reason it could be a game to watch. Sun Belt vs. Conference USA in a winner-take-all battle in the Big Easy. Tulane isn't the high-scoring team it once was and UL-Lafayette is an eight-win team in the Sun Belt. Could be interesting, but don't cancel other plans to watch it.

Texas Bowl: Syracuse vs. Minnesota — Dec. 27, 4 p.m. MT

The Golden Gophers are a good defensive team and the Orange are a very bad offensive team. This won't be the prettiest game, but two schools from big conferences will run the ball a lot.

Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl: East Carolina vs. Ohio — Dec. 23, noon MT

Well, if you wake up around noon on Dec. 23 and think about football, you are in for a treat. If not there are few reasons to watch this game. East Carolina scores a lot of points and Ohio is a decent team. There will be a lot of points scored at least.

Heart of Dallas Bowl: UNLV vs. North Texas — Jan. 1, 10 a.m. MT

This is widely considered the worst game of the bowl season and for good reason. Neither team has a very good offense, but it is played on New Year's Day on ESPNU. Not only will most not want to see it, most won't be able to as well. North Texas hasn't played in a bowl game since 2004, and the Rebels haven't played in a bowl since 2000.

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