Diehard and causal fans alike will tune in on January 7 at approximately 8:30 p.m. ET to watch the BCS National Championship Game when Notre Dame takes on Alabama.
But many of those fans won’t start thinking about college football again until New Year’s Day or perhaps even later. This is disappointing, and the fans are only cheating themselves, as there are several great non-BCS matchups this year.
In an effort to help those fans save some time, here are five bowl games that you may not have thought about watching, but should.
Gildan New Mexico Bowl (December 15, 1 PM ET)
Nevada vs. Arizona
This game will kick off the bowl season, and it’s bound to be worth your time. Both Arizona and Nevada average around 37 points per game offensively and give up over 400 yards on defense, so it wouldn’t be surprising at all if this game ends up being a shootout.
Additionally, fans who tune in will get a glimpse of two of the most talented running backs in the nation, both of whom are extremely underrated. For Arizona it’s Ka’Deem Carey, who is second in the nation in rushing yards and is quick enough to make an impact in the passing game as well. For Nevada, it’s Stefphon Jefferson, who isn’t far behind Carey at fourth in the nation in rushing.
Chances are both of these men will get a lot of carries against run defenses that are just plain bad. This game eclipsing the century mark in total points scored is not out of the question.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (December 22, 12 PM ET)
East Carolina vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
How will the 2012 New Orleans Bowl follow up the thriller from last season? For starters, the Ragin’ Cajuns are back for the second straight year. This time they’ll take on East Carolina, which has been completely off the national radar despite nearly winning the Conference USA East Division.
Both teams can score, so this game should be dominated by the offenses. Like last season, Louisiana-Lafayette has one of the worst pass defenses in the nation, which is good news for East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden.
There isn’t a whole lot to separate either team, so it isn’t a stretch to say this game might come down to the final minutes. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll see another game-winning field goal.
Military Bowl presented by Northrup Grumman (December 27, 3 PM ET)
San Jose State vs. Bowling Green
It’s a safe bet that not many fans know about either one of these teams despite the fact that both have played on national television at least once this season. Here’s the rundown: San Jose State’s powerful offense will take on a surprisingly stingy Bowling Green defense in Washington, D.C.
When people think WAC football, they normally associate the conference with an undersized but crafty offense that has a few underrated weapons. That thinking is right in line with San Diego State’s style.
Quarterback David Fales has had a tremendous season, leading the Spartans to their best record since 1987 while throwing for over 3,700 yards and being the nation’s third-most efficient passer. Fales has had help thanks to wide receivers Noel Grigsby and Chandler Jones, who have combined to reel in 19 touchdown passes this season.
Bowling Green is defensively oriented, which makes this an interesting contest. San Jose State allowed 25 sacks on Fales this season, while the Falcons are 10th in the nation in sacks with 37. Although Bowling Green only beat one team with a winning record (Ohio), its tight defensive play should keep this game close and fun to watch.
Belk Bowl (December 27, 6:30 PM ET)
Cincinnati vs. Duke
Not many people are giving Duke a chance in this game, as the Blue Devils are currently a touchdown underdog but opened up as much as an 11-point underdog (via Rivals.com). But be wary of thinking that a team with such excitement heading into this game has no chance to win.
Duke is riding a four-game losing streak and has only beaten one team with a winning record this season. But the Blue Devils managed to score at least 20 points in four of their losses, and have a very capable quarterback in senior Sean Renfree. He will make the Cincinnati defense work hard to make stops.
Cincinnati has shown a tendency this season to sputter offensively. If that happens, expect Duke to hang around for most of the game. It would not be surprising if the Blue Devils go down to the wire in their first bowl game since 1994.
David Cutcliffe’s team is absolutely thrilled to be in the postseason, and oftentimes that makes all the difference.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl (December 29, 3:15 PM ET)
West Virginia vs. Syracuse
This is another game in which the scoreboard operators will be working hard all afternoon. Both West Virginia and Syracuse have shown the ability to score at will, but the Mountaineers really took that phrase to a new level this season when it needed to score 70 points to beat Baylor by seven.
Dana Holgorsen’s team may not be all that happy to end up in New York, seeing as how it was ranked No. 5 in the country at one point this season. But if West Virginia comes out flat, it will pay early and often.
Making his last start in a Syracuse uniform will be senior quarterback Ryan Nassib. Nassib has a strong arm and is not afraid to throw downfield, which means he will be salivating at the chance to dissect West Virginia’s soft coverage in the secondary. The country saw what can happen when his team wants it more (against Louisville on Nov. 10) and there is no doubt the Orange want this one as well.
Syracuse can surprise the Mountaineers in what is essentially a home game for the Orange, but chances are both teams will score often.