The Best Non-BCS Bowls
27. The 14th SEC Team Should Be?.
Oct. 4. Overranked and Underranked teams
Oct. 11 Midseason Surprises and Duds
Oct. 26 Who'll finish No. 2 in the BCS?
Nov. 8 What should Penn State do now?
15 The top Heisman candidates are ... ?
22 Should Alabama get a rematch?
29 Predicting Urban Meyer's future
5. Holiday Bowl (Cal vs. Texas) – Forget about the bowl title itself. This game is all about the start of the 2012 campaign. Cal and Texas are both being led by embattled head coaches, Jeff Tedford and Mack Brown, respectively, who desperately need some goodwill to carry into the offseason.
4. Alamo Bowl (Baylor vs. Washington) – The Alamo Bowl will showcase some of the best skill position talent of the postseason, a recipe for plenty of points in San Antonio. And it won’t be limited to Heisman winner Robert Griffin III. The receivers in this game are terrific, and the battle between backs Terrance Ganaway and Chris Polk will be vastly underrated.
3. Capital One Bowl (Nebraska vs. South Carolina) – Fans of defensive struggles, unite. This ought to be the kind of alley fight that conjures up images of bowl games from a different era, when black and white film was employed. The Huskers ground game versus the nasty Gamecocks D will be vintage 1957.
2. TicketCity Bowl (Houston vs. Penn State) – A classic study in contrasts. A properly motivated Nittany Lions squad will be an intriguing foil for Case Keenum and his cadre of whippets. If the Cougars can successfully navigate one of the country’s toughest D’s, it’ll add more validation to the program’s swath of offensive records.
1. Cotton Bowl (Arkansas vs. Kansas State) – This matchup was designed for excitement and swings of momentum. Actually, if the regular season is any indication, any contest involving the Wildcats and QB Collin Klein is likely to be dripping with late-game drama. Toss in QB Tyler Wilson and the rest of the Hogs attack, and you’ve got yourself a nominee for best game of the 2011 postseason … BCS bowl or not.
By: Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee
Outback Bowl - Michigan State vs. Georgia
These two teams are in the perfect position, with the possibility of heading into the offseason in style with a win over a top 20 team. You will hear about both of these teams as potential 2012 conference champions this offseason, and a win in Tampa will set the tone for an offseason full of hype. Georgia's defense has been spectacular this season, even in the blowout loss to LSU at the SEC Championship Game. The one knock against the Bulldogs has been the weak competition, but that will change when the Spartans come to town. With a month to prepare, Kirk Cousins and Crew will have something for the Bulldogs.
Valero Alamo Bowl - Washington vs. Baylor
Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III won the 2011 Heisman Trophy, despite not playing on true national television that often. Now that Griffin has headed back to Waco with some hardware, the eyes of the college football world will be on him in what could (and probably should) be his final college football game.
AT&T Cotton Bowl - Arkansas vs. Kansas State
Aside from the BCS National Championship Game, these are all exhibitions, right? If that's the case, then let's see a shootout. Arkansas and Kansas State will be happy to provide one. With all of the weapons that Arkansas has on offense, quarterback Tyler Wilson pulling the trigger, and Wildcat quarterback Collin Klein on the other side, this game will have more total yards than your average golf course.
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The best non-BCS bowl of the bunch will probably be completely and totally lost in the shuffle. Arkansas State – even without Hugh Freeze – should bring the energy and the fans to make the GoDaddy.com an event, and Chandler Harnish and Northern Illinois should help make the game a war. Conference champions, they’re both winners and they’re both good enough, experienced enough, and talented enough to go back and forth in an offensive show. The problem, though, is that it’ll be played on January 8th. Bowl fatigue will kick in and the BCS Championship will be all anyone cares about.
The opening bowl – the Gildan New Mexico – will be a strong fight between a fired up Wyoming team looking to make the turnaround under head coach Dave Christensen complete, while Temple will look to win its biggest game in decades. The Owls haven’t actually won anything big in its great turnaround, and for its purposes, this would qualify. It’ll be this simple: can Wyoming give up 300 rushing yards and still win? It’ll be worth the watch.
The Little Caesars between Western Michigan and Purdue will be fascinating if only because the MAC team might really be better than the Big Ten squad. Do the Boilermakers have the firepower to keep up the pace with the Bronco attack? WMU WR Jordan White is a special playmaker who could be one of the bowl season’s biggest stars, but the Boilermakers have been waiting for a chance to get back to the post-season and are apparently taking a minor bowl very seriously.
By Matt Zemek
COTTON: This should become a BCS bowl, but that’s a different discussion for another day. Kansas State is a team that should be playing in a BCS game, but the Wildcats’ resume doesn’t mean they have better tools than the Arkansas Razorbacks. Tyler Wilson, after taking five full weeks to heal from the beating he took during the regular season, should be ready to play his best inside a domed stadium where he has already won one game against a Big 12 team (against Texas A&M in October). Collin Klein, however, has been underestimated throughout 2011; he should have been a Heisman finalist (Andrew Luck, courtesy of star-struck Heisman voters, stole his seat in New York), and Arkansas’s defense does not pose a particularly overwhelming challenge. This game should be an extremely fun one; if it’s half as fun as the 2011 Cotton Bowl between LSU and A&M, FOX viewers are in for a treat.
OUTBACK: Mark Dantonio in a bowl game. Aaron Murray against a defense other than LSU or Alabama. Points, points, points, points, points. Tell me how this game won’t light up the scoreboard and be riotously entertaining.
ALAMO: Robert Griffin III and Kendall Wright in a climate-controlled environment. Keith Price with a month to rest his aching body, especially those frail knees. Chris Polk, ready to rock and roll. Oh, yeah. This is the game the Holiday Bowl is supposed to be. Instead, it’s been moved to San Antonio. Cal and Texas will fumble around in a game that will be painfully hard to watch.
NOTES: The Military Bowl would have made the cut had Toledo coach Tim Beckman not taken the Illinois job. Beckman’s departure changed the atmosphere surrounding a game with Air Force that was going to be a delight for football connoisseurs who love the chess match found in personnel groupings and formations. The TicketCity Bowl would have made the cut for its contrast in styles, but Penn State shouldn’t be playing in a bowl game this season.
By Terry Johnson
Please follow me on Twitter @TPJCollFootball
Bowl season always presents a wide range of matchups. With such an assortment of interesting games, which non-BCS bowls stand out the most?
The Cotton Bowl is clearly the best non-BCS game of the 2011-12 Bowl Season. With Arkansas (10-2) and Kansas State (10-2) finishing sixth and eighth in final BCS Standings, the Cotton Bowl features higher ranked teams than two of the BCS bowls. This contest offers a sharp contrast in styles as K-State QB Collin Klein leads his team in rushing, while Razorback QB Tyler Wilson does almost all of his damage through the air. With both offenses clicking, the team that makes the most plays on defense will win the game. Which will it be – the team with the better defense (Arkansas), or the team that ranks seventh in turnover margin (K-State)?
For fans that like to see plenty of offense, keep an eye on the GoDaddy.com Bowl, which pits Arkansas State (10-2) against Northern Illinois (10-3). Both teams have outstanding dual threat QB’s with ASU’s Ryan Aplin (10th) and NIU’s Chandler Harnish (8th) ranking in the top ten in total offense. Even though the matchup may have lost some of its luster with Hugh Freeze moving on to Ole Miss, this game should be the highest scoring bowl game of the season.
On the other hand, the Outback Bowl will feature a battle between two of the nation’s top defenses. Georgia (10-3) and Michigan State (10-3) rank third and fifth respectively in total defense, and allow less than 20 points per game. Since both teams suffered disappointing losses in their conference championship games, expect a very low-scoring, physical contest that will be decided (ironically) by who wins the QB dual between UGA’s Aaron Murray and MSU’s Kirk Cousins.
The most intriguing contest of this bowl season will be when Houston (12-1) takes on Penn State (9-3) in the TicketCity Bowl. Unlike a lot of the other bowl games, this game features strength against strength. The Cougars led the nation in total offense, averaging 599 yards per contest, while the Nittany Lions had one of the country’s stingiest defenses, allowing just over 300 yards per game. This should be a very tight game with Houston trying to prove that it belongs with the big boys, while Tom Bradley has one final chance to make his case to become Penn State’s next head coach.
By Russ Mitchell
Follow me on Twitter @russmitchellcfb
If you like defense, this one is easy - The Belk Bowl between North Carolina State and Louisville.
This one has a bit of everything… Both programs were heading toward the scrapheap of the 2011 season. Louisville and head coach Charlie Strong had lost one heartbreaker after another, and at the midpoint of the season stood 2-4, coming off a 25-16 loss in Cincinnati, and watching the Big East implode around them. It would have been very easy to have shut down the factory at that point and called it a night.
But Strong and crew rallied to win five of their next six, all against conference foes, including wins against Rutgers and West Virginia to earn a share of the Big East title. Yes, at 7-5 (5-2 in conference), but a share’s a share. And Louisville IS your 2011 Big East champion (one of them, anyway).
The Cardinals did it with defense, some defense, and when all else failed, a little more defense. U of L was ranked tenth in the nation in rushing defense, 14th in scoring defense, and 23rd in total defense. If there’s a weakness it’s in passing efficiency defense where they rank 56th, which has remained relatively consistent since the mid-point of the season. (IF there’s a strength for NCSU’s offense, it’s the passing game, currently ranked 52nd in the nation.)
Then there’s Tom O’Brien, who just might have saved his Wolfpack coaching job with his second half. After virtually kicking legendary NCSU QB Russell Wilson to Wisconsin, O’Brien sat 2-3 after the first Saturday in October, with an offense that was floundering under Wilson’s replacement Mike Glennon. Truthfully, the offense has actually gotten worse since then in every category – rushing, passing, scoring and total offense.
Still, the Wolfpack defense came alive, and while the offense was still struggling, it became resilient and opportunistic. State’s defense is a bit more balanced than the Cards, ranking ~40th in the nation in rush defense, pass efficiency defense, and total defense.
Lest anyone think otherwise, these two teams have weathered this rebound on the backs of their defenses, and we can expect as much when they butt heads on December 27th in Charlotte. If you love a tight, physical, bloody defensive fight, this game is for you. If you prefer Playstation, you can always hit that instead. We for one will be glued to the set.
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN
There are always some juicy match ups in the big money bowls, but the lay of the land always falls just right for some of the non-BCS Bowls to have their share of intrigue as well. Here’s a look at the top three non-BCS Bowl games every fan can get excited about:
No. 3- The Champs Sports Bowl; Florida State vs. Notre Dame- Ahh yes. Two traditional powers that were over-hyped to start the year. Both came in with expectations of being a top fifteen type caliber team only to fall on hard times. For Notre Dame, it has been an avalanche of turnovers, while FSU just simply didn’t have the horses all around everyone thought it did coming into the season. Still, both of these teams have a boatload of talent at the skill positions, and it should be a very competitive and entertaining game to take in between two of college football's blue bloods. There’s just something about the these two uniforms on the field at the same time that gets the juices flowing. The tomahawk chop will be going on one side, and the best fight song in college football will be playing on the other side. It’s not the early to mid-90's, but look for the winner to take some much needed momentum into next year.
No. 2- The Outback Bowl; Michigan State vs. Georgia- The Outback Bowl always seems to put together a teaser of a game between the SEC and Big Ten, and this year is no different. This game will be a good measuring stick for both teams--and conferences. If Wisconsin is No. 1 in the Big Ten, then MSU is No. 1A. Sparty has been very solid on defense and actually believes it has the athletes to play with a Georgia team that began to find itself as the season wore on (ahem, except for the bow down to LSU). Just how good is Georgia really, and has Michigan State bridged the talent gap to the more athletic teams? How far is the best of the Big Ten from the best of the rest contenders in the SEC outside of LSU and Alabama? It’ll be physical and fast with plenty of bragging rights on the line between north and south of the Mason-Dixon line.
No. 1- The Gator Bowl; Florida vs. Ohio State- Sure it's two .500 teams, but this game has all kinds of zesty ingredients. The last time these two tangled OSU was seen burying its head in the desert sand after the Gators chomped down on its proud scarlet and gray complex. Things haven’t been the same since for the Big Ten. Both teams are a shadow of their 2007 selves, but both still have the pedigree and potential to get back to the elite. To make things even more interesting, one un-assuming chap by the name of Urban Meyer will have his stamp all over this one. It’ll be his old team--with the majority of his players vs. his new team and his soon to be players. The deflated team walks away knowing it had a losing season, while the victorious team can feel good about an overall winning season that could catapult confidence in the off-season. Perhaps no other bowl has as much of a story-line than this one, and it again will allow either the SEC or Big Ten to thump its chest--albeit in the middle of the pile.