2010-2011 Bowl Matchups & First Reaction

Posted Dec 5, 2010

After months of speculation, all the rumors, and all the excitement, the 2010-2011 Bowl Matchups have been announced. Unlike last year, the games look fantastic with interesting storylines across the board. Check back for all the breakdowns and rankings of the bowls, but for now, here are the first thoughts for the matchups we've all been waiting for.

2010-2011 Bowl Matchups

- CFN 2010 Bowl Projections Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5
- Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12

- Ranking the 2009/2010 Bowl Season - The Classics 
- Ranking the 2009/2010 Bowl Season - The Above-Average 
- Ranking the 2009/2010 Bowl Season - The Good 
- Ranking the 2009/2010 Bowl Season - The Mediocre  
- Ranking the 2009/2010 Bowl Season - The Duds    

December 18, 2010 Albuquerque, NM
New Mexico Bowl
Mountain West No. 5 vs. WAC

- Traditionally a dog of a bowl, the New Mexico Bowl gets a UTEP team that lost five of its last six games, has no offensive consistency, and little defensive line. BYU isn't the BYU of the past, but it managed to rally from an awful start to win four of its last five games to get here.

December 18, 2010 Boise, ID
uDrove Humanitarian Bowl 5:30 pm ESPN
WAC No.1 or No. 2 vs. MAC No. 3
Fresno State vs. Northern Illinois  
- NIU head coach Jerry Kill is off to Minnesota, and after the stunning gag against Miami University in the MAC Championship, this hasn't been a good week for the Huskies. Fresno State would rather be playing a BCS, brand-name team, but beating Illinois in the regular-season finale will have to do. The NIU running game vs. the aggressive Bulldog pass rush should be worth the price of admission.

December 18, 2010 New Orleans, LA
R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl 9:00 pm ESPN
Sun Belt No. 1 vs. C-USA No. 5
Troy vs. Ohio
- Troy and Central Michigan played one of the best games of the 2009-2010 bowl season, but Ohio's offense isn't the CMU attack of last year. The Bobcats play great run defense and have an efficient offense, while Troy doesn't play defense and has good, explosive pop. It'll be a better game than most of the bowls, but it won't get any attention.

December 21, 2010 St. Petersburg, FL
Beef O'Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl 8:00 pm ESPN
Big East No. 5 vs. C-USA No. 2
Louisville vs. Southern Miss 
- Charlie Strong has quickly turned around the Louisville program and took a great first step to get to a bowl game in his first year. UofL is known for its offense, but the defense is the star under Strong. USM is known for its defense, but its explosive offense rocks ranked 15th in the nation in yards and 15th in scoring. The Big East needs this.

December 22, 2010 Las Vegas, NV
MAACO Las Vegas Bowl 8:00 pm ESPN
Mountain West No. 1 vs. Pac 10 No. 4 or 5
Utah vs. Boise State
- Mountain West old star, meet your replacement. Considering Boise State got hosed out of a BCS appearance, this isn't a bad matchup against the future Pac 12 member that could make future appearances here. It would've been great if Utah QB Jordan Wynn was healthy to make this a battle of young guns, but Terrence Cain is a good, veteran passer and the Utes will give the Broncos a game. An argument could be made that this is the best non-New Year's Day matchup.

December 23, 2010 San Diego, CA
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl 8:00 pm ESPN
Mountain West No. 2 vs. Navy (or WAC if Navy not eligible)
San Diego State vs. Navy
- Navy always brings is A game for the bowls, but San Diego State will be jacked up to be here in Brady Hoke's second year at the helm. The Aztecs have one of the nation's most explosive passing games and a strong run defense that finished third in the Mountain West. Can it handle the Navy option? Expect an entertaining game.

December 24, 2010 Honolulu, HI
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl 8:00 pm ESPN
C-USA No. 6 vs. WAC
Tulsa vs. Hawaii
- Defense is boring. Demand 65-61 between two teams that put their feet on the offensive gas pedal and don't let up. Hawaii is first in the nation in passing and has hung up 159 points in its last three games and 45 or more in five of its last six games. Tulsa is fifth in the nation in total offense and beat Southern Miss 56-50 to close out the regular season.

December 26, 2010 Detroit, MI
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl ESPN or ESPN2
MAC No. 1 vs. Big Ten No. 8 (or Sun Belt if no Big Ten)
Toledo vs. Florida International 
- You've got to love, LOVE bowl games to make this appointment television. FIU had a great year under head coach Mario Cristobal, who'll be off to bigger and better things soon, while Toledo overcame a bad offense and a slew of injuries to win five of its last six games. It'll be a defensive battle.

December 27, 2010 Shreveport, LA
Advocare V100 Independence Bowl 4:00 pm ESPN
Mountain West No. 3 vs. ACC No. 7
Air Force vs. Georgia Tech
- If you like passing, the Hawaii Bowl is for you. There's a chance the Falcons and Yellow Jackets combine to throw few than ten passes is everything goes according to plan. Blink, and you might miss a game that'll go by in a flash with the nation's No. 1 (GT) and No. 2 (Air Force) running attacks going at it.

December 28, 2010 Orlando, FL
Champs Sports Bowl 6:30 pm ESPN
ACC No. 3 vs. Big East No. 2 or Notre Dame
NC State vs. West Virginia   
- 21-17. That'll be the final score between the tremendous NC State defense that's 12th in the nation against the run and a West Virginia D that's the only one in the nation to not allow anyone to score more than 21 points. The Mountaineers have quietly had a good year and would've been a far better battle for Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl than Connecticut.

December 28, 2010 Tempe, AZ
Insight Bowl  10 pm ESPN
Big Ten No. 4 or 5 vs. Big 12 No. 4
Iowa vs. Missouri  
- A good matchup in brand name, Mizzou could use a big bowl win after a clunker last year against Navy. Iowa was supposed to be national title-good, but was a major disappointment as it goes from the Orange Bowl last year to the Insight. While the Tigers might have finished the regular season as the best team in the Big 12 North, Iowa finished with a disastrous loss to Minnesota.

December 29, 2010 Washington, DC
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman 2:30 pm ESPN
ACC No. 8 vs. C-USA No. 4
Maryland vs. East Carolina
- If nothing else, the stands should be packed and there should be plenty of excitement for a game with two good geographic tie-ins. Maryland had a phenomenal bounced back year after a disastrous 2009, but can the offense keep up the pace with an East Carolina offense that's one of the most explosive in the nation? Yup ... the Pirates have the worst defense in college football. This will be a sneaky-fun shootout.

December 29, 2010 Houston, TX
Texas Bowl 6:00 pm ESPN
Big Ten No. 6 vs. Big 12 No. 5
Illinois vs. Baylor
- The Dynamic Quarterback Bowl, Baylor's Robert Griffin and Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase are two of the nation's most exciting young quarterbacks and they should put on a show. Illini RB Mikel Leshoure will be looking to make a statement as he's starting to climb up draft boards in a hurry. Ron Zook could desperately use this win, while Baylor is just happy to be in a bowl game for the first time since the Southwest Conference days.

December 29, 2010 San Antonio, TX
Valero Alamo Bowl 8:00 pm ESPN
Big 12 No. 2 or 3 vs. Pac 10 No. 2
Oklahoma State vs. Arizona
- GET ... YOUR ... POPCORN ... READY. It'll be a dogfight between the Hawaii Bowl (Tulsa vs. Hawaii) and this for the honor of being the wildest shootout of the bowl season. Arizona might have hit the skids over the final month of the season, losing four straight, but the offense has been explosive throughout. The defense has been good, but it has to go against the nation's top offense. Expect 750 passing yards.

December 30, 2010 Fort Worth, TX North
Bell Helicopters Armed Forces Bowl 12:00 pm ESPN
C-USA No. 3 vs. Mountain West No. 4 (or Army if eligible before Navy game and there's no C-USA or M-West team)
SMU vs. Army
- SMU came up with a whale of a performance in last year's bowl win over Nevada, and now it has to try to handle the Army offense that's hit-or-miss with its ground game. Dead last in the nation in passing, Army isn't exactly going to be winging it all over the field and it'll have to control the clock to keep Kyle Padron and the Mustang attack on the sidelines.

December 30, 2010 New York, NY
New Era Pinstripe Bowl ESPN
Big East vs. Big 12
Syracuse vs. Kansas State
- How can it not be fun? A bowl game in New York in late December? It'll be kitschy, but it might not be a very entertaining game. Scoring is optional at Syracuse, but it plays tough defense, while Kansas State will try to run the ball in the cold. First to 20 wins?

December 30, 2010 Nashville, TN
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl 6:30 pm ESPN
ACC No. 6 vs. SEC No. 7
North Carolina vs. Tennessee
- This isn't exactly where the two teams hoped to be at the start of the season, but it's a nice reward for Tennessee, who was dead and buried until the schedule started to soften up. The Vols feasted on the weak and the sad of the SEC and closed the year strong, while North Carolina was never able to find a groove with all the suspensions early on. The Tar Heels lost a slew of heartbreaking games, but they can't take the hot Vols lightly.

December 30, 2010 San Diego, CA
Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl 7:00 pm ESPN
Big 12 No. 5 vs. Pac 10 No. 3
Nebraska vs. Washington
- Booooooooo. We did this already, and it sucked. Nebraska embarrassed Washington 56-21 in Seattle and turned Jake Locker from a first overall pick to possibly out of the first round with a 4-of-20, 71-yard, one touchdown, two interception performance. If this isn't another Nebraska blowout, be ecstatic.

December 31, 2010 Charlotte, NC
Meineke Car Care Bowl 12:00 pm ESPN
Big East No. 3 vs. ACC No. 5
South Florida vs. Clemson
- Clemson had a disappointing year, but it managed to come within an eyelash of beating Auburn in a 27-24 overtime thriller. All six losses were to bowl teams, and while expectations were higher for a team that played for the ACC title last year, a win over a mediocre USF team would be a nice finish. A win for Skip Holtz would do wonders in his first year with the Bulls.

December 31, 2010  El Paso, TX
Hyundai Sun Bowl   2 pm CBS
ACC No. 4 vs. Pac 10 No. 4
Miami vs. Notre Dame
- This is to Miami vs. Notre Dame what a Def Leppard/Quiet Riot concert would be to reunion tours, but Miami vs. Notre Dame sounds like it should be cool. While Miami is playing through a holding pattern as it figures out what it's going to do next now that Randy Shannon has been canned, a win for the Irish would be a phenomenal finish to a tumultuous season. If Notre Dame wins, Brian Kelly will go into the offseason with wins over USC and Miami.

December 31, 2010 Memphis, TN
AutoZone Liberty Bowl 3:30 pm ESPN
C-USA No. 1 vs. SEC No. 6 or No. 7 (Big East if no SEC team)
UCF vs. Georgia
- That Georgia is ecstatic to be here shows just how awful the season was for a team with such high hopes. The Dawgs managed to win five of their last seven games with the losses to Florida in an overtime thriller and to Auburn in a battle. UCF can do Conference USA proud with a win over an SEC team. The Knights are efficient, play aggressive defense, and should give a good battle. The matchup between UGA WR A.J. Green and UCF CB Josh Robinson will be worth the price of admission.

December 31, 2010 Atlanta, GA
Chick-fil-A Bowl 7:30 pm ESPN
ACC No. 2 vs. SEC No. 3, 4 or 5
Florida State vs. South Carolina  
- The battle of big game losers, South Carolina is licking its wounds after being erased by Cam Newton and Auburn in the SEC Championship, while Florida State couldn't handle Tyrod Taylor and Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship. However, both teams have had tremendously successful seasons with the Gamecocks showing they can play with the elite of the elite, while the Seminoles rebounded well in the first season under Jimbo Fisher.

January 1, 2011 Dallas, TX
TicketCity Bowl 12 pm ESPNU
Big Ten No. 6 vs. Big 12 No. 7 (C-USA No. 7 if no Big Ten or Big 12, MAC is the second backup)
Northwestern vs. Texas Tech
- If Northwestern can be half as entertaining as it was in last year's Outback Bowl loss to Auburn, this should be worth watching. However, Northwestern is a shadow of its former self with QB Dan Persa out for the year with a torn Achilles, but he didn't play defense. The Wildcats got destroyed by the Illinois ground game in Wrigley, and then they lost 70-23 at Wisconsin. Tommy Tuberville has had a rough first season at Texas Tech, but a bowl win would do wonders for those who still wish Mike Leach was on the sidelines.

January 1, 2011 Tampa, FL
Outback Bowl 1:00 pm ABC
Big Ten No. 3 vs. SEC No. 3, 4 or 5
Penn State vs. Florida  
- This sounds like a great matchup, but Penn State and Florida are bad at playing college football. This will be a phenomenal game ... next year. The Gators are rebuilding and haven't found an identity in an uneven season, while the Nittany Lions were mediocre throughout with the one good win coming against Michigan, and the second best win coming against Northwestern. Neither team has much of an offense, but they're each is playing a team its own size.

January 1, 2011 Orlando, FL
Capital One Bowl 1:00 pm ABC
Big Ten No. 2 vs. SEC No. 2
Michigan State vs. Alabama
- This could be the Sugar Bowl and no one would say boo about it. Michigan State should be in a BCS game, but it got left out because of the silly rule that only two teams from the same conference can be in the BCS. If Alabama hadn't gagged away the Iron Bowl, it would've been in the Sugar Bowl in an epic battle against Ohio State. As is, with Nick Saban coaching against his old team, this is easily the best matchup of the pre-BCS season and it should be a statement game for both programs and their conferences.

January 1, 2011 Jacksonville, FL
Gator Bowl 1:30 pm ESPN2
Big Ten No. 4 or 5 vs. SEC No. 6
Michigan vs. Mississippi State
- With all the craziness and all the controversy surrounding Rich Rodriguez, beating Mississippi State would be a major plus to show that things are headed in the right direction. Mississippi State came up with a tremendous year and can show that its style of spread offense is good enough to keep up against the high-powered Wolverines. Denard Robinson will be healthier than he has been all season long. That alone is reason to watch.

January 6, 2011 Mobile, AL
GoDaddy.com Bowl 8:00 pm ESPN
MAC No. 2 vs. Sun Belt
Miami Univ. vs. Middle Tennessee  
- As the GMAC Bowl, this was, arguably, the best bowl of last season's games when Central Michigan won a thriller over Troy. Middle Tennessee came up with a big win over Sun Belt co-champ FIU to get here, while Miami shocked Northern Illinois to win the MAC title and solidify its spot in the pecking order. With the biggest turnaround in college football this season, this is all gravy for the RedHawks, while a disappointing year can end on a plus for a Blue Raider that was supposed to be good enough to walk away with the Sun Belt title.

January 7, 2011 Arlington, TX
AT&T Cotton Bowl  8:00 pm FOX
Big 12 No. 2 vs. SEC No. 3, 4, or 5 (West)
Texas A&M vs. LSU
- The place should be rocking. Texas A&M was one of the hottest teams in the country after Ryan Tannehill took over and the offense started to shine, while LSU was a win against Arkansas away from being in the Sugar Bowl. Each team has major flaws, but they play wildly entertaining games and they're each going to use this game as a stepping-stone for what should be a great 2011. The two will almost certainly be in everyone's preseason top 15, if not top ten.

January 8, 2011 Birmingham, AL
BBVA Compass Bowl 12:00 pm ESPN
Big East No. 4 vs. SEC (or MAC if no Big East or SEC)
Pitt vs. Kentucky  
- It might not be the sexiest matchup, but it should be competitive. Pitt flexed its muscle a bit in the season finale against Cincinnati, with Dion Lewis and the attack rolling for a dominant 28-10 win. Kentucky closed with a thud, losing three of its last five games with the wins coming against Charleston Southern and Vanderbilt. However, the offense has enough firepower to make this a decent 30-27ish sort of a fight.

January 9, 2011 San Francisco, CA
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl 9:00 pm ESPN
Pac 10 No. 6 vs. WAC
Boston College vs. Nevada
- Nevada has been a complete and utter dud in the bowl games over the last few years, but if the offense is working and Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua are playing up to their capabilities, the 12-1 Boise State slayers could become one of the stories of the bowl season. Boston College doesn't score, ranking 109th in the nation in scoring offense and 105th in yards, but it's No. 1 in the nation against the run. It's strength vs. strength.


January 1, 2011 Pasadena, CA
Rose Bowl 4:30 pm ABC
Big Ten No. 1 vs. Pac 10 No. 1
Wisconsin vs. TCU
- A case could be made that Wisconsin was the best team in America over the second half of the season, or at least No. 2 next to Auburn. With frightening precision, the offense hung 83 on Indiana and 70 on Northwestern without running it up, but now it has to prove it can produce against the nation's No. 1 defense. TCU, if you think you belonged in the BCS Championship, this is your game to show it.

January 1, 2011 Glendale, AZ
Fiesta Bowl 8:00 pm ABC
Big 12 No. 1 vs. BCS
Oklahoma vs. Connecticut
- Oklahoma has had a bad habit of clunking in BCS games in recent years, choking away losses to inferior Boise State and West Virginia teams in Fiesta Bowls, but if the offense can come up with 17 points in the first half, this will be over. Connecticut is a great story and it plays hard, but it doesn't have the firepower to keep up if this gets into any sort of a shootout. If you saw what OU did to the Nebraska running game in the Big 12 Championship, get ready for Part Two.

January 3, 2011 Miami, FL
Discover Orange Bowl 8:00 pm ABC
ACC No. 1 vs. BCS at-large
Virginia Tech vs. Stanford
- A fascinating game, Stanford needs this win to justify the lofty status and all the respect it received throughout the second half of the season. The biggest win was over Notre Dame ... yippee. Beating Virginia Tech would prove that the Cardinal was the real deal, while Tyrod Taylor and the ACC Champions are looking to further cement themselves as the superpower that doesn't get the respect it deserves. Both teams are tough and physical, and this should be a heavyweight fight.

January 4, 2011 New Orleans, LA
Allstate Sugar Bowl 8:00 pm ABC
SEC No. 1 vs. BCS at-large
Arkansas vs. Ohio State
- Ohio State, it's time to finally beat an SEC team in a bowl game. The Buckeyes' only loss came to Wisconsin on the road, but they didn't beat anyone of note. Winning at Iowa doesn't seem like that big a deal now, and beating Miami wasn't anything to get fired up over. However, beating an SEC team in a BCS game would exorcise plenty of demons, while a loss would be devastating; at least it would for the message board types. The Hogs boast one of the nation's most effective offenses, able to play any style. A win over the Buckeyes would make Arkansas the IT team going into 2011, even if Ryan Mallett is off to the NFL.

January 10, 2011 Glendale, AZ
BCS Championship 8:00 pm ABC
BCS No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2
Auburn vs. Oregon
- The world will focus on the offenses, but the two teams got here by also showing up every week against the run. Auburn and the defensive front will finally, FINALLY provide real test for a Duck ground game that struggled with ... Cal? Oregon has a fast, aggressive defense that should be able to keep Cam Newton neutralized, at least somewhat, but this will end up being about each team's running game. The both have similar styles, with Auburn using more power and Oregon more about speed and tempo, and whichever ground game is more effective should walk away with the national title.