While BCS bowl games garner much of the national media attention in December and January, there are many intriguing matchups sure to offer every football fan a must-watch experience.
Beginning in just a few days, football fans will be served a hearty helping of football until the season concludes on Jan. 7. Everyone wants to see Alabama and Notre Dame duke it out for the national title, but there will be plenty of good football to watch in the meantime.
You may not know it yet, but these are five games you’ll want to watch.
Baylor and UCLA will square off on Dec. 27 in what will likely be the highest-scoring affair of the year. Baylor, led by senior quarterback Nick Florence, has one of the most potent offenses in the country. The Bears average 578.8 yards and 44.1 points per game, and will face a UCLA squad ranked just outside the top ten in offense.
The Bruins are No. 11 in the country in offense, but it’s UCLA’s ground game that drives their attack. Senior Johnathan Franklin rushed for 1,700 yards and 13 touchdowns this season, and Baylor has allowed 38.2 points per game in 2012.
This game will be a fun one to watch, even for those who prefer defensive football.
Prediction: Baylor 45, UCLA 42 (OT)
Georgia narrowly missed a chance to play in the BCS National Championship when it fell to Alabama 32-28 in the SEC Championship Game. The consolation prize is a shot at a Nebraska team that surrendered 70 points to the 8-5 Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten Championship.
Georgia opened as an 8.5-point favorite, but it’s hard to imagine the Cornhuskers keeping it that close. Ohio State pinned 63 points on Nebraska earlier in the season, and Georgia averaged 37.2 points per game in 2012—the exact total the Buckeyes averaged.
Georgia is hungry for a win, but so are the Huskers. Both teams lost their conference championship games and have a lot to prove on the national stage on New Year's Day.
Prediction: Georgia 49, Nebraska 31
This isn’t a game for which too many people will be excited, but there will be plenty of action between the Golden Flashes of Kent State and the Arkansas State Red Wolves.
Kent State made a run at the Mid-American Conference title this year, only to fall short to the Northern Illinois Huskies, who earned a berth in the Orange Bowl against Florida State. Northern Illinois and Kent State played one of the most exciting games of the season in the MAC Championship that yielded 81 total points and two overtime frames.
The Golden Flashes have plenty of flash on offense. Junior all-purpose back Dri Archer put together a phenomenal season, rushing for 1,352 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns on nine yards per carry. Archer has explosive speed and will be a massive part of Kent State’s game plan.
Arkansas State will counter with its own dynamic running back. Junior running back David Oku rushed for 1,024 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2012.
As with many bowl games this year, there probably won’t be much defense in this one, but it sure will be fun to watch.
Prediction: Kent State 35, Arkansas State 27
Had things gone a little differently at the end of the season, Oregon and Kansas State could be playing in an even bigger bowl game. Many hoped the Ducks and Wildcats would play for the national title, but each lost a game late in the year and will battle it out instead for bragging rights on Jan. 3.
The backstory is its own advertisement, but let’s not forget how fun it will be to watch two high-powered offenses run up and down the field. Heisman finalist Collin Klein passed for nearly 2,500 yards this season, rushed for 890 more and tallied 37 total touchdowns for K-State.
Oregon did plenty of damage on the ground in 2012 as well. The Ducks averaged 323.3 rushing yards per game, and were led by senior running back Kenjon Barner, who ran for 1,624 yards and 21 touchdowns. Barner rushed for 321 yards against USC on Nov. 3, and could come close to matching that performance against the Wildcats.
Once again, don’t expect much defense from either team.
Prediction: Oregon 42, Kansas State 31
With all the talk of offensive onslaughts, I had to mix in a game for the defensive-minded fan.
Most of us will be watching this game for one reason or another. Nick Saban is building a dynasty in Alabama, and despite mixed feelings about the SEC, you can’t argue with the talent on the Crimson Tide’s roster.
It’s been a long time since Notre Dame was relevant enough to garner as much attention as it has this season. The Fighting Irish have put together an incredible season thanks to one of the top defenses in all of college football led by Heisman runner-up Manti Te’o.
Alabama has the edge on offense, but Notre Dame has made a season of shutting down quality offenses en route to the national title game.
This one may be a lower-scoring affair than most, but it’s sure to be one of the most exciting games of the bowl season.
Prediction: Alabama 24, Notre Dame 20