The BCS games, led by Notre Dame against Alabama for the national title, will surely hog the college football spotlight over the next month. However, there are also some matchups outside the big five that deserve attention as well.
Furthermore, despite the outrage over Northern Illinois' role as a BCS buster, it's actually setting up to be a solid bowl season. With that in mind, let's break down three of the best non-BCS games on the schedule and make predictions for each.
1. Outback Bowl: South Carolina vs. Michigan
South Carolina did a terrific job overcoming the loss of star running back Marcus Lattimore. The Gamecocks offense could have collapsed without him, but Kenny Miles and Mike Davis picked up the slack as the team won its last three games.
The Gamecocks will take on a Michigan squad that failed to live up to sky-high expectations. The Wolverines had chances to knock off both teams now appearing in the national title game, but came up short. They only had one win over a ranked opponent.
Star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney gives South Carolina the edge. It doesn't matter if Devin Gardner or Denard Robinson is playing quarterback for Michigan, the Gamecocks' sack master is going to wreak havoc. Miles and Davis will handle the rest.
Prediction: South Carolina 27, Michigan 23
2. Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma
The main storyline in this game will be Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who's emerged as the Heisman Trophy favorite. He'll either be playing this game to prove he rightfully won the award or to show he was a massive snub.
Manziel leads a high-powered Aggies offense that ranked third in the nation at just under 45 points per game. More impressively, they were able to rack up 29 points against Alabama's vaunted defense. No team scored more against the Crimson Tide this season.
That's the challenge facing Oklahoma's defense, which gave up nearly 100 points in a two-game span against West Virginia and Oklahoma State. The extra time to prepare should help some, but Texas A&M should still come out on top.
Prediction: Texas A&M 38, Oklahoma 35
3. Chick-fil-A Bowl: LSU vs. Clemson
These types of games are usually the most interesting of the bowl season. It's a battle between LSU's defense and Clemson's offense. Whichever unit is able to gain the edge in that battle will end up pushing its team to a bowl victory.
LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery has been a force all season. A lot will depend on how often he's able to get pressure on Clemson QB Tajh Boyd, who's proven he can tear any defense to shreds if not under constant heat.
Jeremy Hill and Odell Beckham, LSU's top playmakers, should be able to find some holes in Clemson's shaky defense. Paired with a strong effort on defense, LSU will finish a promising season with a victory. Just not the one they wanted when the season began.
Prediction: LSU 24, Clemson 17
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