Ranking & Predicting All The Bowl Games
Troy LB Boris Lee
Troy LB Boris Lee
Posted Dec 10, 2008

Before the bowl season begins, which ones should you watch and which should you skip? While there are the obvious games to watch, like the national championship, others, like the New Orleans Bowl with Boris Lee and Troy facing a hot Southern Miss, are good ones you need to see. Check out the rankings and quick, early predictions for all the bowls.

2008/2009 Bowl Rankings

Before the bowl season, which ones are best?

By Pete Fiutak
Which bowls are the ones to see and which ones can be missed? With so many to watch, here are all the bowls ranked from the must-see to the ones you might be able to skip if you need to do some holiday shopping. These rankings are based on potential fun as well as importance. 

Serious Dog Potential ... hang with the family, but keep the TV on
You'll watch, but you won't go out of your way. These matchups just aren't compelling and/or could be blowouts. Worse yet, they could be boring.

34. magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl
Dec. 20 / 9 p.m. ET  St. Petersburg, Fl.
South Florida vs. Memphis

It's history! It's the inaugural magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl! If South Florida is even remotely interested, which is hardly a given for the flaky team, it should win this home game in an ugly blowout. Memphis occasionally cranks out a little bit of offense, but it's probably the worst of the bowl teams with Northern Illinois a close second. The Tigers have to force a slew of turnovers and hope USF sputters offensively from the start. If USF gets up by 10 early, it'll be over.
Stars of the show: 1) Matt Grothe, QB South Florida, 2)
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: South Florida 35 ... Memphis 10

33. Independence Bowl

Dec. 28 / 8 p.m. ET  Shreveport, La. ESPN
Louisiana Tech vs. Northern Illinois

Don't expect anything interesting. Louisiana Tech is playing a home game against a Northern Illinois team that died down the stretch and got shut out by Navy to close things out. The Bulldogs have had a few problems with health, but they'll get time to rest and they should be fired up to get the spotlight, while Northern Illinois will be looking to heal up on the defensive front seven. NIU head coach Jerry Kill has had a great first season, but this isn't a good matchup and it's a rough away game. However, it's a bowl for a 6-6 MAC team. NIU will take it. The Tech offense will be lousy, but the defense will come through.
Stars of the show: 1) Larry English, DE Northern Illinois, 2) Phillip Livas, PR/KR Louisiana Tech, 3) Antonio Baker, S Louisiana Tech
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: Louisiana Tech 23 ... Northern Illinois 13

32. New Mexico Bowl

Dec. 20/12:30 p.m. Albuquerque, N.M. ESPN
Colorado State vs. Fresno State

This isn't exactly where Fresno State saw its season ending up after coming into the season as one of the favorites to be a BCS buster, but it's a bowl game and it's a chance for Pat Hill's club, and the WAC, to make a statement against the Mountain West. Colorado State was hardly a player in the Mountain West race, and the best win this year was against Houston, but the program is fired up to be in the bowl picture again with first-year head coach Steve Fairchild leading the way. The two teams will try hard, so this will hopefully be a bit more entertaining than the first two New Mexico Bowls. New Mexico shut out Nevada last year and San Jose State stuffed New Mexico two years ago.
Stars of the show: 1) Gartrell Johnson, RB Colorado State, 2) A.J. Jefferson, KR Fresno State, 3) Anthony Hartz, P Colorado State
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: Colorado State 26 ... Fresno State 24

31. Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl

Dec. 31 / 3:30 p.m. ET Nashville, Tenn. ESPN
Boston College vs. Vanderbilt

This game, on the surface, appears to be powerfully boring. Boston College doesn't have an offense, Vanderbilt has less of one, so this should come down to which team commits the fewest turnovers. The Commodores can't win unless they're +2, at least, in turnover margin, while BC needs to score early so the offense doesn't have to rely on the passing game. The best bowl team in college football over the last decade, BC should win in a walk because of its defense.
Stars of the show: 1) D.J. Moore, S Vanderbilt, 2) Mark Herzlich, LB Boston College, 3) B.J. Raji, DT Boston College
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: Boston College 20 ... Vanderbilt 10

30. Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl

Dec. 30/4:30 p.m.  Boise, Idaho ESPN
Maryland vs. Nevada

Nothing against Boise, but in this economy, and with Maryland mediocre, at best, this could be one of the least attended games of the bowl bunch. Nevada will bring some fans, along with its fantastic rushing offense, but that's what everyone thought would happen last year in the New Mexico Bowl when the Wolf Pack did next to nothing in a shut out loss to New Mexico. Maryland has been a hit-or-miss team all season long with three losses in the final four games banishing the team to Idaho, but it has just enough of a defense to keep the Pack under wraps ... somewhat. There's always the fun of watching a bowl game in cold weather and snow ... and on the blue field!
Stars of the show: 1) Colin Kaepernick, QB Nevada 2) DaRel Scott, RB Maryland, 3) Vai Taua, RB Nevada
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: Maryland 30 ... Nevada 20

29. International Bowl

Jan. 3 / 12 p.m. ET Toronto, Canada ESPN2
Connecticut vs. Buffalo

Buffalo doesn't play much defense, but it was able to force several key fumbles against Ball State to go on to win the MAC title. Going across the border for as much of a home game as the Bulls could possibly get at this time of year, it'll have to play at another level to stay with Connecticut. The Huskies don't have much of an offense, but RB Donald Brown should be rested and ready to crank out a final big game before he leaves early for the NFL. The Husky defense is tenth in the nation, allowing just 281 yards per game, so it's not like there's going to be an offensive explosion from the Bulls. This was a disaster of a game last year with Ball State getting ripped up by Rutgers, and this has the potential to be a dog this year if the Bulls struggle early.
Stars of the show: 1) Donald Brown, RB Connecticut, 2) Naaman Roosevelt, WR Buffalo, 3) James Starks, RB Buffalo
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction:
Connecticut 34 ... Buffalo 13

28. Alamo Bowl

Dec. 29 / 8 p.m. ET  San Antonio, Texas ESPN
Northwestern vs. Missouri

Northwestern had been awful in bowl games since the program got on the radar just over a decade ago. If Missouri decides to try, this Wildcat bowl game might not be any better. The Tigers have problems with good passing teams, and while C.J. Bacher should be healthier than he has been over the last few months, and Tyrell Sutton will be back, Northwestern doesn't a top-shelf passing attack. Missouri does. The Wildcat have a great pass rush that has to get to Chase Daniel early or else this will be over by halftime.
Stars of the show: 1) Chase Daniel, QB Missouri, 2) Jeremy Maclin, WR Missouri, 3) Tyrell Sutton, RB Northwestern
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: Missouri 38 ... Northwestern 17

27. AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Jan. 2 / 5:00 p.m. ET Memphis, Tenn. ESPN
East Carolina vs. Kentucky

After starting out the season as America's darling, with wins over Virginia Tech and West Virginia, East Carolina came back down to earth with three straight losses before going on a run of six wins in the final seven games, complete with a 27-24 win over Tulsa in the Conference USA title game. Can the defense for a Kentucky meltdown? Possibly. The Wildcat offense has struggled all year long, but the defense, when healthy, has been fantastic. However, coming in on a three-game losing streak, and with losses in four of the last five games and in six of the last eight, this isn't exactly a roaring hot UK team. The best win this year was over ... Mississippi State? 14-13?! ECU plays a little defense, too, with the best in Conference USA. It'll shut down the UK offense.
Stars of the show: 1) Trevard Lindley, CB Kentucky, 2) Myron Pryor, DT Kentucky, 3) C.J. Wilson, DE East Carolina
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: East Carolina 23 .... Kentucky 17

26. PapaJohn’s.com Bowl

Dec. 29 / 3 p.m. ET Birmingham, Ala. ESPN2
Rutgers vs. NC State

These might be the two hottest under the radar teams in the bowl season. Rutgers has won six in a row as Mike Teel and the passing game ripped through the Big East to rebound after a disastrous start. NC State head coach Tom O'Brien has gotten his young team over a hump and to a bowl game with timely, aggressive defense and the emergence of QB Russell Wilson as an efficient, effective passer. This is easily one of the toughest bowl games to to figure out; it could go either way.
Stars of the show: 1) Mike Teel, QB Rutgers, 2) Russell Wilson, QB NC State, 3) Kenny Britt, WR Rutgers
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: Rutgers 27 ... NC State 20

Bowl Games. Nothing more, nothing less.
You're a college football fan. You'll watch, you'll eat, you'll move on.

25. Emerald Bowl
Dec. 27 / 8:30 p.m. ET  San Francisco, Calif. ESPN
Miami vs. California

Can Miami handle the road game? The Emerald Bowl's dream has come true by getting Cal in a home game, and if the crowd is fired up at all, it'll be all for the Bears with a sprinkling of Hurricane fans. Bowl games are often about making a statement for a young team going forward, and a big win for Miami could be a major moment for the Randy Shannon era. For Cal, this is a chance to showcase RB Jahvid Best and officially launch his 2008 Heisman campaign.
Stars of the show: 1) Jahvid Best, RB California, 2) Alex Mack, C California, 3) Aldarius Johnson, WR Miami
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: California 26 ... Miami 17

24. Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl

Dec. 20 / 8 p.m. ET Las Vegas, Nev. ESPN
BYU vs. Arizona

The Mountain West always plays well in Las Vegas, but this time, the Pac 10 team will be fired up, too. Arizona is back in the bowl swing as Mike Stoops has finally accomplished something during his tenure. The supposedly high-powered Arizona offense never really blew up, even though it averaged over 400 yards per game and cranked out 37 points per outing. If Willie Tuitama and the passing game can get going early, and if BYU and Max Hall get over the hangover from the meltdown against Utah, this could be a fun shootout. 
Stars of the show: 1) Max Hall, QB BYU, 2) Willie Tuitama, QB Arizona, 3) Austin Collie, WR BYU
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: BYU 34 ... Arizona 24

23. Motor City Bowl

Dec. 26 / 7:30 p.m. ET  Detroit, Mich. ESPN
Florida Atlantic vs. Central Michigan

Last year Central Michigan almost pulled off a comeback for the ages in the Motor City Bowl loss to Purdue. This year, QB Dan LeFevour and Florida Atlantic's Rusty Smith should put on a show in a key battle for the respect of the MAC and the Sun Belt. Fine, so there isn't exactly a national debate over which of the two conferences is better, but this really would be a great win for the Owls. Head coach Howard Schnellenberger doesn't lose bowl games, but this isn't the same FAU team as last year.
Stars of the show: 1) Dan LeFevour, QB Central Michigan, 2) Rusty Smith, QB Florida Atlantic, 3)
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: Central Michigan 45 ... Florida Atlantic 38

22. EagleBank Bowl

Dec. 20 / 11 a.m.. ET Washington, D.C.
Wake Forest vs. Navy

Yeah, we already did this on September 27th with Navy beating Wake Forest 24-17, but it was a good game and a lot of fun. Navy has always been good in bowl games, while Wake Forest is always happy to go to a bowl game even now that it's become a strong ACC program. A home game for the Midshipmen, it should be a great atmosphere and an entertaining game to kick off the bowl season. The Navy offense is always worth the price of admission.
Stars of the show: 1) Aaron Curry, LB Wake Forest, 2) Shun White, RB Navy, 3) Alphonso Smith, CB Wake Forest
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: Wake Forest 23 ... Navy 20

21. Outback Bowl

Jan. 1 / 11 a.m. ET Tampa, Fla. ESPN
Iowa vs. South Carolina

Really? This is the best the Big Ten and SEC could do for what was supposed to be one of the marquee games of the bowl season? Iowa got in ahead of a more deserving Northwestern team, while South Carolina was completely mediocre to close out the year with three losses in the final five games including a clunker to close things out against Clemson. The run defense is fantastic, and Iowa is a run-first, run often team with Shonn Greene carrying the load, but it could have problems getting consistently moving. So even though these might be the two most scintillating teams, they're just even enough to make this a competitive battle that'll be better than it looks on paper.
Stars of the show: 1) Shonn Greene, RB Iowa, 2) Emmanuel Cook, S South Carolina, 3) Mitch King, DT Iowa
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: Iowa 20 ... South Carolina 13

 Champs Sports Bowl
Dec. 27 / 4:30 p.m. ET  Orlando, Fla. ESPN
Florida State vs. Wisconsin

Wisconsin has traditionally been a tough out in the bowls with its physical style impossible to properly simulate. Florida State has always been money in the post-season. Can the athleticism of the Florida State run defense match up with the Badger runners? Will the Wisconsin defense show up against a living, breathing offense? The Badgers have something to prove, but if Florida State and the ACC are the real deal, the Noles have to win this game in a walk. It won't happen; it'll be a battle.
Stars of the show: 1) Everette Brown, DE Florida State, 2) P.J. Hill, RB Wisconsin, 3) Garrett Graham, TE Wisconsin
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: Florida State 20 ... Wisconsin 17

19. Insight Bowl
Dec. 31 / 5:30 ET Tempe, Ariz. NFL Network
Minnesota vs. Kansas

If Minnesota shows up, this will be interesting. If Minnesota plays like it did in the 55-0 loss to Iowa, and over a four game losing streak to close out the season, there won't be any reason to not get your New Years' partying rolling. The Gophers have lived and died on being great at forcing turnovers and by taking advantage of every mistake. Now, the defense has reverted back to last year's problems while the offense has gone into the tank. There's no rushing offense, not nearly enough from the passing game, and the secondary has been a nightmare. Basically, the Gophers have to be 180-degree better. Kansas has been mediocre over the second half of the season, but Todd Reesing and the passing game have been terrific. However, the defense is just mediocre enough to let Minnesota stay in the game.
Stars of the show: 1) Todd Reesing, QB Kansas, 2) Eric Decker, WR Minnesota, 3) Adam Weber, QB Minnesota
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: Kansas 40 ... Minnesota 24

18. Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl

Dec. 31 / 12 p.m. ET  Fort Worth, Texas ESPN
Air Force vs. Houston

Didn't we already do this? Air Force beat Houston 31-28 on September 13th, but while this might be a rematch, it's a good rematch. The Falcon running game ripped up the Cougars, while Case Keenum threw at will on the Falcon secondary. No, this game won't be argued about on message boards, but it'll be a good indicator for how good each conference was. Houston, because of its offense, is one of the most exciting teams in college football. Air Force, because of its offense, is one the most exciting teams in college football. There will be plenty of offensive production and lots of fun. It'll be worth the watch.
Stars of the show: 1) Case Keenum, QB Houston, 2) Ryan Harrison, P/PK Air Force, 3) Phillip Hunt, DE Houston
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: Houston 34 ... Air Force 31

17. Capital One Bowl
Jan. 1 / 1 p.m. Orlando, Fla. ABC
Michigan State vs. Georgia

Through all the problems and all the injuries, Georgia's defense hasn't been all that bad against run allowing 130 yards per game. The offense has tremendous weapons and has been bombing away all year with the SEC's leading passing attack. Michigan State actually throws better than it runs, even with Javon Ringer, but the offense doesn't have the weapons to keep up if Georgia gets rolling. Michigan State had better prove early on that its run defense can handle Knowshon Moreno, or this will get ugly.
Stars of the show: 1) Javon Ringer, RB Michigan State, 2) Knowshon Moreno, RB Georgia, 3) Matthew Stafford, QB Georgia
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: Georgia 34 ... Michigan State 10

Great matchups. Don't miss ... you'll be a better person for watching.
These aren't guaranteed to be classics, but they should be worth your four hours.

16. Sun Bowl
Dec. 31 / 2 p.m. ET. El Paso, Texas CBS
Pitt vs. Oregon State

LeSean McCoy and Jacquizz Rodgers are two of the nation's most electrifying backs, and will be worth the price of admission. Oregon State might wish it was off to the Rose Bowl against a different team from Pennsylvania, but this will be a tough enough battle. Pitt is finally good under head coach Dave Wannstedt, but a loss to the Beavers would get the fan base grumbling again. A win is a must to keep the program on the right track, while Oregon State has to come up with a big performance to put the Oregon debacle in the past. The Sun Bowl stunk last year, but it's almost always good.
Stars of the show: 1) LeSean McCoy, RB Pitt, 2) Jacquizz Rodgers, RB Oregon State, 3) Scott McKillop, LB PItt
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: Pitt 26 ... Oregon State 21

15. Meineke Car Care Bowl

Dec. 27 / 1 p.m. ET Charlotte, N.C. ESPN
North Carolina vs. West Virginia

The Bill Stewart era took flight with the Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma, and while the Meineke Car Care Bowl isn't exactly what West Virginia was hoping for, it has a great test. North Carolina is a young, emerging team that could be a killer next year if maturity matches up to the athleticism. A win here would get the buzz rolling for next year and make the Tar Heels the hot ACC team going into 2008 (if Georgia Tech doesn't take on the role). It's Pat White's final game. He deserves plenty of attention after one of the greatest careers in Big East history.
Stars of the show: 1) Pat White, QB West Virginia, 2) Noel Devine, RB West Virginia, 3) Hakeem Nicks, WR North Carolina
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: West Virginia 16 ... North Carolina 13

14. Konica Minolta Gator Bowl
Jan. 1 / 1 p.m. ET  Jacksonville, Fla. CBS
Clemson vs. Nebraska

Clemson has lost its last two bowl games, but it was able to rally to get Dabo Swinney the full-time gig and it still has the weapons that got everyone excited to start the season. Nebraska is back in the post-season after missing a bowl last year, and with a win the Bill Callahan era can be all but wiped clean. The Huskers have a tremendous offense, but it got lost in the shuffle. Despite being 12th in the nation, averaging 458 yards per game, that was only good enough to be sixth in the Big 12. This has the potential to be a fun shootout and a game worth getting out of bed for on New Year's Day. If nothing else, one of these teams will see its new era kick in full force to provide a ton to get excited about this off-season.
Stars of the show: 1) C.J. Spiller, RB Clemson, 2) Joe Ganz, QB Nebraska, 3) Aaron Kelly, WR Clemson
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: Nebraska 34 ... Clemson 30

13. AT&T Cotton Bowl

Jan. 2 / 2 p.m. ET Dallas, Texas FOX
Texas Tech vs. Ole Miss

Ole Miss has a defense, but has it seen an offense remotely close to this one? No. Has Texas Tech played a real, live defense this year? In the on-going arguments between the two power leagues, the answer could be settled, partly, about if the SEC defenses were really that good, or the offenses were really that bad. Were the Big 12 defenses lousy, or were the offenses simply that great? Texas Tech has put on a few great shows in its last two bowl games, while Ole Miss is coming in blazing hot having won five straight games after the loss to Alabama. All four of the Rebel losses came by a touchdown or less, and of course there was the win over Florida. Can the Rebel offense keep up the pace if Texas Tech gets rolling early? Nope.
Stars of the show: 1) Graham Harrell, QB Texas Tech, 2) Michael Crabtree, WR Texas Tech, 3) Peria Jerry, DT Ole Miss
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: Texas Tech 31 ... Ole Miss 17

12. Chick-fil-A Bowl

Dec. 31 / 7:30 p.m. ET  Atlanta, Ga. ESPN
Georgia Tech vs. LSU

Will the Paul Johnson offense continue to work? After dominating Miami and Georgia, Georgia Tech has the hot offense that everyone will be keeping an eye on. If the Yellow Jackets can roll over LSU, then there might be a new wave of option attacks coming into next year. However, LSU will have several weeks to prepare, scout, and teach its fast defenders on how to handle the running game. Will it matter, or will Tech be too precise? On the other side, the LSU offense has to show it can be more consistent and can handle the NFL caliber Tech defensive front. This is worth the watch ... have it on at your party.
Stars of the show: 1) Jonathan Dwyer, RB Georgia Tech, 2) Charles Scott, RB LSU, 3) Michael Johnson, DE Georgia Tech
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: LSU 20 ... Georgia Tech 17

11. Sheraton Hawaii Bowl

Dec. 24 / 8 p.m. ET  Honolulu, Hawaii ESPN
Notre Dame vs. Hawaii

It's game one post-threat as Notre Dame will be BCS bound next year, or at least close, or Charlie Weis is gone. The Hawaii Bowl got a miracle in getting its home school and the Irish, making this not just a bowl game everyone will watch, but making it a bowl game that might not be that bad. The Warrior defense plays tough, hard-hitting style that can get nasty at times. Notre Dame's offense can bog down and do a whole bunch of nothing, but this is a huge test. With so much time to prepare, Weis and his staff need to come up with something to get the needle moving. A disastrous offensive effort will make for a long, long, lonnnnng off-season.
Stars of the show: 1) Jimmy Clausen, QB Notre Dame, 2) David Bruton, S Notre Dame, 3) Greg Alexander, QB Hawaii
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: Notre Dame 26 ... Hawaii 13

10. FedEx Orange Bowl

Jan. 1 / 8 p.m. Miami Gardens, Fla. FOX
Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati

It's a far better game and a far better matchup than it'll get credit for. With all the big BCS games, don't blow off a battle between the two "lesser" BCS leagues as Cincinnati is going for a 12-win season and Virginia Tech is trying to finally get over the BCS bowl hump. The Hokies haven't won a BCS-level bowl since shocking Texas in the 1995 Sugar Bowl, but they have the defense and the toughness to finally help out the ACC's BCS woes. Cincinnati will try to keep the music rolling for a Big East that's been great over the last few years with two big BCS wins from West Virginia and a 2007 Orange Bowl win from Louisville over Wake Forest. It's not going to be a shootout, but it'll be competitive throughout.
Stars of the show: 1) Tyrod Taylor, QB Virginia Tech, 2) Terrill Byrd, DE Cincinnati, 3) Darren Evans, RB Virginia Tech
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: Cincinnati 23 ... Virginia Tech 20

9. R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Dec. 21 / 8 p.m. ET New Orleans, La. ESPN
Projection: Troy vs. Southern Miss

Normally one of the worst bowl matchups of the season, the New Orleans Bowl really might be one of the most entertaining early bowl games. Really. This is the best New Orleans Bowl matchup by a huge margin with Southern Miss coming in red hot, and probably deserving of a far better game, and Troy coming in as one of the Sun Belt's best teams ever. Southern Miss is 2-0 in this game, having won two in a row in 2004 and 2005, while Troy blew away Rice in 2006. USM overcame a lousy start to win the final four games of the season in head coach Larry Fedora's first season, highlighted by a 21-3 win over eventual Conference USA champion, East Carolina. The Golden Eagles are 2-0 against the Sun Belt this season, having beaten UL Lafayette and Arkansas State in the first three games. Troy pushed LSU to the wall before dying late, but the Trojans are still on a nice run having beaten UL Lafayette and Arkansas State by a combined score of 83 to 12 to close out the year.
Stars of the show: 1) Southern Miss RB Damion Fletcher, 2) Troy LBs Bear Woods & Boris Lee, 3) Southern Miss QB Austin Davis
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: Troy 27 ... Southern Miss 17

Can't miss no matter what. Cancel all other plans and send the family off to the mall.
These games promise to be fun

8. Pacific Life Holiday Bowl
Dec. 30 / 8 p.m. ET San Diego, Calif. ESPN

Oklahoma State vs. Oregon

Running game, running game, running game. Oregon's ground attack has rushed for 200 yards or more in six straight games, and over 300 yards four of those. On the year, the Ducks have scored a whopping 42 touchdowns on the ground, but Oklahoma State has been decent against the run. The Cowboys have been averaging 256 rushing yards per game with just three losses on the year coming against Texas, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma. A win by Oregon would be a huge, huge feather in the Pac 10's cap. Oklahoma State was the fourth best team in the Big 12 and can't afford to slip up here going into what should be a big 2009 season.
Stars of the show: 1) Dez Bryant, WR Oklahoma State, 2) Jeremiah Johnson, RB Oregon, 3) Zac Robinson, QB Oklahoma State
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction:
Oklahoma State 38 ... Oregon 30

7. Texas Bowl

Dec. 30 / 8 p.m. NFL Network
Tie-Ins: Houston, Texas
Western Michigan vs. Rice

Oh this will be fun. Chase Clement, Jarett Dillard are the stars of the best offense you haven't seen play, while Tim Hiller leads a Western Michigan attack that found a way to ruin Illinois' bowl hopes and did a great job all year of putting up yards and points in bunches. Expect 1,000 yards of total offense, a lot of scoring, and enough big plays to take a look-see now and then while you're watching Oklahoma State and Oregon in the Holiday Bowl.
Stars of the show: 1) Chase Clement, QB Rice, 2) Tim Hiller, QB Western Michigan, 3) Jarett Dillard, WR Rice
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: Rice 48 ... Western Michigan 41

6. Allstate Sugar Bowl

Jan. 2 / 8:30 p.m. ET  New Orleans, La. FOX
Alabama vs. Utah

No, Utah isn't 2007 Hawaii, and don't let anyone try to tell you different. This isn't going to be the debacle of last year's Georgia blasting of the Warriors as the Utes will look to show the world that they belonged in the national championship discussion. This is a tough, physical Utah team that runs the spread, although not as well as Florida, while Alabama will be looking to cap off a phenomenal season by giving the SEC another feather in its cap. If you have told Tide fans before the season that they'd be in the Sugar Bowl, they'd have been ecstatic, but the game might seem a bit empty after the tough battle against Florida in the SEC Championship. Ooooooh, Utah. It might not sound like a sexy win for the Tide if it pulls it off, but a loss would devastating for a team that was fully focused and tough as nails all season long. There will be lots of power running, efficient passing, and if nothing else, Utah will be really, really motivated.
Stars of the show: 1) Alabama OT Andre Smith, 2) Utah QB Brian Johnson, 3) Alabama WR Julio Jones
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: Alabama 23 ... Utah 10

5. GMAC Bowl

Jan. 6 / 8 p.m. ET  Mobile, Ala.  ESPN
Tulsa vs. Ball State

Lost in the glut of the BCS and general bowl hangover will be the best and most entertaining game of the non-BCS bowl season. It'll be a stunner if the two high-powered offenses don't put on an up-an-down the field show with lots of offense, lots of big plays, and wild momentum swings. Ball State was hoping for a bigger, better matchup, but it was also hoping to be 13-0 with a MAC championship under its belt. Outside of several fumbles to blow the title game against Buffalo, everything else had gone perfectly. Tulsa blew its chance for a Conference USA championship and a Liberty Bowl appearance by turning the ball over seven times in the loss to East Carolina, and now it has a challenge on its hands needing to come up with a mistake-free, big-time offensive effort to save the season.
Stars of the show: 1) Nate Davis, QB Ball State, 2) David Johnson, QB Tulsa, 3) MiQuale Lewis, RB Ball State
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: Ball State 45 ... Tulsa 38

4. San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

Dec. 23 / 8 p.m. ET San Diego, Calif. ESPN
TCU vs. Boise State

It could be argued that this is the best of the non-BCS bowl matchups. Don't look for lots of scoring with the two defenses certain to dominate throughout, but there's just enough offensive pop on each side to make this a good, competitive battle. This game means everything to the WAC. If its bright shining, unbeaten star can't get by TCU, it'll be hard to sell the league as a legitimate BCS threat going forward. If TCU wins this, the Mountain West would further establish itself as the king of the non-BCS leagues, and it would be close.
Stars of the show: 1) Jerry Hughes, DE TCU, 2) Kellen Moore, QB Boise State, 3) Ian Johnson & Jeremy Avery, RBs Boise State
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction:
TCU 17 ... Boise State 13

3. Rose Bowl presented by Citi

Jan. 1 / 5:10 p.m. ET  Pasadena, Calif. ABC
Projection:  USC vs. Penn State
This is a heavyweight matchup that could've just as easily have been the national championship game if defense was as sexy as offense. USC owns the Rose Bowl against the Big Ten winning 11 of the last 12 times the two have met with 1974 the last time the Trojans have lost in the series. Penn State might be the team to break the string with a nasty defense, one of the best offensive lines in America, and a veteran offense that doesn't make mistakes and can be both hard-nosed and high-octane depending on the situation. Of course, all the talk will be about a USC defense that's not allowing a thing, giving up more than seven points in just four games this year. However, the Pac 10 stunk and the Big Ten will be looking to prove that it's not as bad as everyone keeps assuming it is. Penn State has won five of its last six bowl games and has won it's last five BCS-level bowl games, while USC is going to its seventh straight BCS game having won five of its last six.
Stars of the show: 1) USC LB Rey Maualuga, 2) Penn State WR/KR Derrick Williams, 3) USC S Taylor Mays
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: USC 17 ... Penn State 14

2. Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

Jan. 5 / 8 p.m. Phoenix, Ariz. FOX
Texas vs. Ohio State

Can Ohio State finally shake off the last two BCS Championship games and erase memories of the USC loss earlier this year? This is a different team with a different look thanks to the emergence of QB Terrelle Pryor and the health of RB Beanie Wells, but they're going to have to deal with a team with a major attitude and a Texas-sized chip on its shoulder. Yeah, we'll all have to hear a slew of whining and a long of anger as Texas fans believe they should be in Miami facing Florida, and rightly so, but the team should be fully focused on the task at hand and looking to make a point. If Ohio State wins, then Texas won't have any after-the-fact claims to being part of the national title mix, while if the Longhorns win, the Buckeyes and the Big Ten will have to endure another off-season of getting hammered on.
Stars of the show: 1) Texas QB Colt McCoy, 2) Ohio State RB Beanie Wells, 3) Ohio State LB James Laurinaitis
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: Texas 23 ... Ohio State 17

1. FedEx BCS National Championship

Jan. 8 / 8 p.m. Miami Gardens, Fla. FOX
Oklahoma vs. Florida

Call it the Ocean's Eleven of national title games. The outcome might not be satisfying, but there will be plenty of star power and it'll be awfully pretty to look at. Can Florida's defense slow down the high-powered Sooners? Can the Sooners be physical enough to handle Tim Tebow's power game and will the suspect Sooner D really be able to hold down the Gator spread? Actually, OU's defense isn't nearly as bad as it's made out to be, and Florida's defense is fast enough and athletic enough to stay with the Sooner attack and shut it down for stretches. The month-long hype will be off-the-charts with two Heisman finalists, two coaches going for a second national title, conference pride on the line, and, if we're lucky, two teams trading haymaker after haymaker in what should be a tremendous battle. Can Oklahoma break its recent string of ineptitude? Can Tebow throw his name in the ring in the Greatest College QB of All-Time discussion? There will be plenty to breakdown and discuss in a game that everyone will want to watch, unlike the last two national championships that generated little buzz.
Stars of the show: 1) Florida QB Tim Tebow, 2) Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford, 3) Florida WR Percy Harvin
The knee jerk, off-the-cuff, initial prediction: Florida 34 ... Oklahoma 31