Bowl Games 2012: Underrated Holiday Matchups Sure to Surprise Fans

Patrick Clarke@@_Pat_ClarkeCorrespondent IDecember 17, 2012

WACO, TX - NOVEMBER 17:  Nick Florence #11 of the Baylor Bears celebrates a touchdown against the Kansas State Wildcats at Floyd Casey Stadium on November 17, 2012 in Waco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The most explosive offense in college football will be on display in San Diego this bowl season. No, not Johnny Football and Texas A&M, but the Baylor Bears, who will take on the UCLA Bruins in the Holiday Bowl.

Baylor has racked up more total yards on offense than any other football team in the country, and will aim to surpass 600 total yards against UCLA in the two teams' 2012 finale this winter. But that's just one under-the-radar holiday matchup fans are sure to enjoy this December.

Let's take a deeper look at some underrated bowl games that will surprise fans.


R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: ECU vs. UL-Lafayette - Saturday, Dec. 22 at 12 p.m. ET

A pair of surprising 8-4 teams will square off inside the Superdome on Saturday, Dec. 22 in the New Orleans Bowl. The Ragin' Cajuns are actually headed back to this bowl for the second straight year, and will look to defend their title against the Pirates, who went 7-1 in Conference USA this season.

Florida fans will remember Louisiana-Lafayette as the team that nearly upended the Gators in the Swamp last month, losing 27-20 after Florida scored late to win.

Both Louisiana-Lafayette and East Carolina boast quality running games. For the Pirates, Vintavious Cooper leads the way with 1,030 yards on the ground this season. On the other side, fans should be watching for the running back duo of Alonzo Harris and Terrance Broadway for the Ragin' Cajuns. The two backs have combined for over 1,400 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground in 2012.

Both of these programs are evenly matched, and feature dynamic playmakers in the back field. 


Military Bowl: San Jose State vs. Bowling Green - Thursday, Dec. 27 at 3 p.m. ET

It's hard to believe that either of these two programs will be playing in a bowl game this December after they combined to win just three total games last season. 

But here they are.

College football fans may not be expecting much from the Military Bowl, but they should. San Jose State boasts one of the most prolific passing attacks in the nation this season, ranking 11th, accounting for more than 327 yards per game and 33 touchdowns in 12 games so far this year.

The Spartans explosive attack is led by junior quarterback David Fales, who has thrown for nearly 3,800 yards and 31 scores this season.

Meanwhile, Bowling Green will rely on its stellar scoring defense, which ranks in the Top 10 nationally this season, allowing just 15.8 points per game. With the Falcons' strength resting on the defensive side of the ball, and the Spartans' on the offensive side, this winter's Military Bowl matchup is sure to thrill.


Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl: Baylor vs. UCLA - Thursday, Dec. 27 at 9:45 p.m. ET

Two power conference schools will face off two days after Christmas in what's sure to be a thrilling Holiday Bowl matchup between Baylor and UCLA.

The Bears have won three in a row to become bowl eligible, and along the way have racked up tons of yards. Baylor boasts the No. 1-ranked offense in the entire nation, picking up nearly 579 total yards per game this season. The Bears also rank fifth in the country in scoring offense, posting over 44 points per game.

A pair of talented seniors will take center stage in this matchup in San Diego though. Baylor's Nick Florence and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin are two marquee college football players. Florence has actually accounted for more yards per game than Johnny Football this season, while Franklin has rushed for 1,700 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Bruins in 2012.

This underrated postseason showdown is sure to feature plenty of offense and tons of points. 


Bowl Schedule

Note: All times are ET and p.m. unless noted otherwise. All games (except for the Sun Bowl and Cotton Bowl) can be streamed live at WatchESPN

Bowl Team 1 Team 2 Stadium: Location Date: Time TV
New Mexico Nevada Arizona University Stadium: Albuquerque, NM 12/15: 1:00  ESPN
Famous Idaho Potato Toledo Utah State Bronco Stadium: Boise, ID 12/15: 4:30 ESPN
Poinsettia BYU San Diego State Qualcomm Stadium: San Diego, CA 12/20: 8:00 ESPN
Beef 'O' Brady's Ball State UCF Tropicana Field: St. Petersburg, FL 12/21: 7:30 ESPN
New Orleans East Carolina Louisiana-Lafayette Superdome: New Orleans, LA 12/22: Noon ESPN
Las Vegas Boise State Washington Sam Boyd Stadium: Las Vegas, NV 12/22: 3:30 ESPN
Hawaii SMU Fresno State Aloha Stadium: Honolulu, HI 12/24: 8:00 ESPN
Little Caesars Central Michigan Western Kentucky Ford Field: Detroit, MI 12/26: 7:30     ESPN
Military Bowling Green San Jose State RFK Stadium: Washington, DC 12/27: 3:00 ESPN
Belk Duke Cincinnati Bank of America Stadium: Charlotte, NC 12/27: 6:30 ESPN
Holiday Baylor UCLA Qualcomm Stadium: San Diego, CA 12/27: 9:45 ESPN
Independence Lousiana-Monroe Ohio Independence Stadium: Shreveport, LA 12/28: 2:00 ESPN
Russell Athletic Virginia Tech Rutgers Florida Citrus Bowl: Orlando, FL 12/28: 5:30 ESPN
Meineke Car Care Minnesota Texas Tech Reliant Stadium: Houston, TX 12/28: 9:00 ESPN
Armed Forces Rice Air Force Amon G. Carter Stadium: Fort Worth, TX 12/29: 11:45 a.m. ESPN
Pinstripe Syracuse West Virginia Yankee Stadium: Bronx, NY 12/29: 3:15 ESPN
Kraft Navy Arizona State AT&T Park: San Francisco, CA 12/29: 4:00 ESPN2
Alamo Texas  Oregon State Alamodome: San Antonio, TX 12/29: 6:45 ESPN
Buffalo Wild Wings TCU Michigan State Sun Devil Stadium: Tempe, AZ 12/29: 10:15 ESPN
Music City NC State Vanderbilt LP Field: Nashville, TN 12/31: Noon ESPN
Sun Georgia Tech USC Sun Bowl: El Paso, TX 12/31: 2:00 CBS
Liberty Tulsa Iowa State Liberty Bowl: Memphis, TN 12/31: 3:30 ESPN
Chick-fil-A Clemson LSU Georgia Dome: Atlanta, GA 12/31: 7:30 ESPN
Gator Northwestern Mississippi State Everbank Field: Jacksonville, FL 1/1: Noon ESPN2
Heart of Dallas Oklahoma State Purdue Cotton Bowl: Dallas, TX 1/1: Noon ESPNU
Outback Michigan South Carolina Raymond James Stadium: Tampa, FL 1/1: 1:00 ESPN

Capital One

Nebraska Georgia Florida Citrus Bowl: Orlando, FL 1/1: 1:00 ABC
Rose Stanford Wisconsin Rose Bowl: Pasadena, CA 1/1: 5:00 ESPN
Orange Northern Illinois Florida State Sun Life Stadium: Miami, FL 1/1: 8:30 ESPN
Sugar Florida Louisville Superdome: New Orleans, LA 1/2: 8:30 ESPN
Fiesta Oregon Kansas State U. of Phoenix Stadium: Glendale, AZ 1/3: 8:30 ESPN
Cotton Oklahoma Texas A&M Cowboys Stadium: Arlington, TX 1/4: 8:00 FOX
Compass Pittsburgh Ole Miss Legion Field: Birmingham, AL 1/5: 1:00 ESPN Kent State Arkansas State Ladd-Peebles Stadium: Mobile, AL 1/6: 9:00 ESPN
BCS National Championship Notre Dame Alabama Sun Life Stadium: Miami, FL 1/7: 8:30 ESPN


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