College football bowls: A reason to watch them all

Bowl season is upon us, which is a good and sad thing all at once.

It’s good because we get football on a lot of days that we normally wouldn’t get football. And it’s unpredictable football, at that, where games that look like complete mismatches could be close just because one team decided not to show up.

It’s sad because it means college football is about to be over, and we have a very large, nine-month void in our lives that’s about to start. You could create and have a child in the span between the national title game and the next year’s season opener (coincidentally, most non-human mammals can create and have babies in the span between the final regular-season games and the title game. You’re just going to have to trust me on that one).

I know that you’re looking at some of these games and thinking they’re completely pointless, and you‘re right. You’re probably also thinking that there is no reason to watch some of these games. Well on that one, you’re wrong. There’s at least one reason to watch every one of the 30 non-BCS Bowl games (the BCS games speak for themselves. Yes, even Oklahoma vs. Uconn. Well, maybe not. But we’ll talk about those later.) and I’m here to give you those reasons.

Dec. 18

New Mexico Bowl: BYU vs. UTEP, 2 p.m., ESPN

BYU might be kind of OK. Might be. The Cougars won five of their last seven games, including a win over San Diego State. The two losses were to TCU and Utah (17-16 in the final week of the season).

uDrove Humanitarian Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State, 5:30 p.m., ESPN

Pat. Hill’s. Mustache. But really, this is the MAC’s most consistent team this season against a good WAC team. It’s a chance for the MAC to make a statement.

R&L Carriers Bowl: Ohio vs. Troy, 9 p.m., ESPN

Neither of these teams are all that adept at stopping the opposition (especially Troy), and both do alright for themselves when it comes to scoring. Ohio averages 28 points a game while allowing 21.8 (which is actually not bad, but it is coming against MAC competition). Troy, meanwhile, scores 32.9 and allows 31. Expect fireworks.

Dec. 21

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg: Southern Mississippi vs. Louisville, 8 p.m., ESPN

For one, you should tune in to see what the hell is going on with the name of this game. Why is St. Petersburg where it is? Has anyone ever been to a Beef ‘O’ Brady’s? Is it as delicious as it sounds? Then stick around to watch Louisville’s defense, which under first-year coach Charlie Strong is not your typical Big East defense. The Cardinals are 15th in the country in scoring defense, allowing 18.7 points a game.

Dec. 22

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas: Utah vs. Boise State, 8 p.m., ESPN

This could be the final game of the Boise dynasty as we know it. Not only are a lot of key players graduating, but Chris Peterson’s name remains heavily in the discussion for openings around the country. This one probably won’t be close, but watching the Broncos dominate one more time is reason enough to tune in.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 23: Ricky Dobbs  of the Navy Midshipmen celebrates the win with teammate Greg Jones  against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at New Meadowlands Stadium on October 23, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Dec. 23

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: Navy vs. San Diego State, 8 p.m., ESPN

There are a lot of reasons to watch this, actually. It’s Ricky Dobbs’ last game leading the Navy triple-option attack, which is fun to watch in and of itself. The Aztecs, meanwhile, are a great turnaround story under coach Brady Hoke, and are the team that gave TCU the most trouble this season.

Dec. 24

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: Hawaii vs. Tulsa, 8 p.m., ESPN

If you like offense, you’ll love this one. The Warriors average nearly 40 points a game (39.9) behind outstanding quarterback Bryan Moniz. Tulsa isn’t far behind (39.7) with an attack that features quarterback G.J. Kinne and receiver Damaris Johnson, who also doubles as the team’s most dangerous rusher and kick returner.

Dec. 26

Little Caesars Bowl: Toledo vs. Florida International, 8:30 p.m.

Um … Ford Field is a really nice place. I’m sorry, I’ve got nothing for this one. And I’m going to it.

Dec. 27

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl: Air Force vs. Georgia Tech, 5 p.m. ESPN2

One of the big advantages the service academies have when they play bigger schools is that those schools aren’t prepared for the triple option. Not this time, as Georgia Tech runs the same offense. This will be a good barometer of how much that offense relies on execution as opposed to talent.

Dec. 28

Champs Sports Bowl: West Virginia vs. North Carolina State, 6:30 p.m., ESPN

N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson is an incredible athlete who’s prone to making big plays, whether good or bad. West Virginia, meanwhile, has the second best scoring defense in the country, and hasn’t lost a game by more than six points this season.

Insight Bowl: Iowa vs. Missouri, 10 p.m., ESPN

You have one of the nation’s most over-achieving teams (Missouri) playing against one of its most under-achieving teams (Iowa). If they meet in the middle, we could have one heck of a football game.

Dec. 29

Military Bowl: East Carolina vs. Maryland, 2:30 p.m., ESPN

East Carolina has scored 35 points twice, and 38 two other times this season. In losses. The Pirates have the third worst defense in the land, and a top-20 offense. I’d expect quite a few points to be scored in this one.

Texas Bowl: Illinois vs. Baylor, 6 p.m., ESPN

Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin is well worth the price of admission, and the Bears aren’t scared to get into a shootout. Also, Ron Zook is coaching in this game.

Valero Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Arizona, 9:15 p.m.

At one point this season, Arizona was 7-1 and had a very respectable defense. Since, the Wildcats have lost four straight, and look ripe to let Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon and Kendall Hunter shine. Blackmon and Hunter are probably the nation’s No. 1 receiver/running back duo, and this is your last chance to see them together.

Dec. 30

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl: Army vs. SMU, noon, ESPN

SMU has a very balanced offense, with running back Zach Line, quarterback Kyle Padron and two 1,000-yard receivers in Aldrick Robinson and Cole Beasley. Army, meanwhile, is going to have to try and pound away at the nation’s No. 27 rush defense.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Kansas State vs. Syracuse, 3:20 p.m., ESPN

A game played at Yankee Stadium is worthy of at least a click over. Add in a Syracuse team playing what is essentially a home game to finish off a turnaround season, and you have some pretty legitimate interest.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: North Carolina vs. Tennessee, 6:40 p.m.

These are two teams who have disappointing records when you consider their pasts. But at the same time, you could argue they over-achieved considering the circumstances they were in. Both should be motivated to finish the season strong.

Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl: Nebraska vs. Washington, 10 p.m., ESPN

This is Jake Locker’s chance at redemption, as Nebraska was the team that may have permanently derailed his draft status. Sure, it was a blowout the first time, but chances for redemption are always fun, right?

Dec. 31

Meineke Car Care Bowl: South Florida vs. Clemson, noon, ESPN

Clemson features one of the nation’s best defensive players in Da’Quan Bowers. South Florida, meanwhile, has a tendency to play really close games. Seven of the Bulls last eight games were decided by eight points or less.

Hyundai Sun Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Miami, 2 p.m., CBS

Catholics vs. Convicts, anyone? Sure, these teams aren’t near what they were in the late 80s, and Miami really isn’t full of convicts anymore, but it’s still an intriguing game because of the past rivalry, and the fact it will pick back up again in 2012.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Georgia vs. Central Florida, 3:30 p.m., ESPN

This could be your last chance to see A.J. Green play for the Bulldogs (I’d bank on that, actually). Central Florida, meanwhile, is a team every bit as good as its 10-3 record and No. 25 ranking would suggest. A win against an SEC opponent would be huge for Conference USA.

Chick-Fil-A Bowl: South Carolina vs. Florida State, 7:30 p.m., ESPN

Forget the fact that Marcus Lattimore, Alshon Jeffery and (probably) Christian Ponder will all be playing in this game. We get to see the Old Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier, coach against his old nemesis in Florida State.

Jan. 1

Ticketcity Bowl: Northwestern vs. Texas Tech, noon, ESPNU

These are two teams that are best known for their spread offenses, but now feature coaches that are defensive-minded. Can they properly use this month to come up with defensive schemes to slow down those offenses? Does Tommy Tuberville even care anymore? Will he even be coaching at Tech at this point?

Capital One Bowl: Alabama vs. Michigan State, 1 p.m., ESPN

If you utter Nick Saban in East Lansing, it’s treated as a curse word. So it will be interesting to see how the Spartans — who have no connection to Saban, as he left while they were in elementary school — react to that. Also, this is a good measure of how the Big Ten and SEC match up.

Outback Bowl: Florida vs. Penn State, 1 p.m., ABC

This game was interesting enough with Joe Paterno “coaching” against Urban Meyer. Add in the fact that it’s Meyer’s last game, and we now have must-see TV, despite the fact that both teams are 7-5.

Gator Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Michigan, 1:30 p.m., ESPN2

You have a coach on the hottest seat in America (Rich Rodriguez) going up against a coach that has become one of the hottest names in America (Dan Mullen). This could actually be the last game that both coach at their respective schools.

Jan. 6 Bowl: Middle Tennessee State vs. Miami (OH), 8 p.m., ESPN

MTSU’s Dwight Dasher is a very entertaining quarterback, but he’s not quite as intriguing as the biggest turnaround story in college football. Miami went from 1-11 to 9-4 and MAC champions under Mike Haywood.

Jan. 7

AT&T Cotton Bowl: LSU vs. Texas A&M, 8 p.m., FOX

The Aggies might be the nation’s hottest team not named Virginia Tech, Auburn, Oregon or TCU. They’ve won six straight, including wins over Oklahoma and Nebraska. This game will also test Les Miles’ restraint, as it will be played on non-edible artificial turf.

Jan. 8

BBVA Compass Bowl: Pittsburgh vs. Kentucky, noon, ESPN

Pitt is now coachless, but still features two of the more dynamic offensive skill players in the country in running back Dion Lewis and receiver Jon Baldwin. Kentucky will bring one of the more versatile and dynamic players in the country, however, in Randall Cobb.

Jan. 9

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Nevada vs. Boston College, 9 p.m., ESPN

It’s the nation’s No. 3 rushing offense against its No. 1 rushing defense. Both teams are also playing their best ball heading into the game, which should turn out to be far more than the throwaway bowl I’m sure it figured to be when it was initially scheduled.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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