Bowl Games 2012: Maaco Bowl Las Vegas and Early Can't-Miss Bowl Games

Marques Eversoll@MJEversollAnalyst IDecember 18, 2012

AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 10: Johnathan Gray #32 of the Texas Longhorns celebrates a touchdown run with David Ash #14 during the Big 12 Conference game against the Iowa State Cyclones on November 10, 2012 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
Cooper Neill/Getty Images

As is always the case, New Year's Day games will headline an attractive slate of bowl games this year.

But there are several must-see games coming up before the BCS Bowls get underway. Two bowl games are already in the books.

The Nevada Wolfpack was stunned by the Arizona Wildcats in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, while Utah St. dominated Toledo in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. And now, we look ahead at some of the best early bowl matchups on the schedule.


Maaco Bowl Las Vegas - Friday, Dec. 21, 3:30 p.m. ET

Boise State (-5) vs. Washington

Boise State will play in its third consecutive MAACO Bowl this Friday against the Washington Huskies. The Broncos defeated Utah and Arizona State the past two years in Las Vegas.

Although they're not the same explosive offense that they've been in recent years, the Broncos averaged 30.4 points per game in the regular season. But Boise's strong defense makes up for its offensive deficiencies.

The Broncos rank in the top 10 in the FBS in points allowed with just 14.9 and yards allowed with just 304.7.

Washington enters this game following a tough loss to Washington St. on Nov. 23, in which the Huskies blew an 18-point fourth-quarter lead. Dynamic quarterback Keith Price will be tested by Boise's 12th-ranked pass defense, which allows just 163.4 yards per game.

The Broncos are on a three-game winning streak in bowl games, while the Huskies look to start a new winning streak after losing to Baylor 67-56 in last year's Alamo Bowl.


Valero Alamo Bowl - Saturday, Dec. 29, 6:45 p.m. ET

Texas vs. Oregon State (-2)

Oregon State is one of the most improved teams in the country, winning six more games than last year. Texas enters the game eager to end an otherwise disappointing season on a high note.

The Alamo Bowl will be the Beavers' first bowl appearance since 2009, when they lost to BYU in the Maaco Bowl Las Vegas. Oregon State head coach Mike Riley is 5-1 in bowl games.

The teams are relatively evenly matched on offense. Texas ranks 37th nationally in total yards, while OSU ranks 34th.

The Beavers have the edge in the passing game, racking up an average of 316.5 yards per game, compared to 265 for Texas. However, the Longhorns hold a significant advantage on the ground, averaging 176 yards per game, while the Beavers have the nation's 101st-ranked ground game, averaging 126.2 per contest.

After using both David Ash and Case McCoy at quarterback this season, Texas has David Ash its starter for the Alamo Bowl. Oregon State has yet to name a starting quarterback, as sophomore Sean Mannion and junior Cody Vaz have both played well.


Franklin American Mortgage Music City - Monday, Dec. 31, 12:00 p.m. ET

North Carolina State vs. Vanderbilt (-7)

North Carolina State fired head coach Tom O'Brien after a 7-5 season and hired Dave Doeren from Northern Illinois. Vanderbilt continues its ascension as a viable football program under James Franklin.

The Commodores are playing in back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history.

This game features two evenly matched offensive attacks. NC State scores 28.4 points per game, while Vanderbilt is slightly better, averaging 29.3 points.

The Wolfpack's offense relies heavily on its passing game, led by future NFL quarterback Mike Glennon. But on the other side of the ball, the strength of the Vanderbilt defense is the secondary, allowing just 175.8 yards per game through the air. Something's gotta give when NC State has the ball.

Vanderbilt's offense is led by running back Zac Stacy, who eclipsed 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season and will leave as the school's all-time leading rusher. Quarterback Jordan Rodgers, brother of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, leads the Vanderbilt offense.