While most casual fans don't start paying attention to the bowl season until we hit New Year's Day, those hardcore college football fanatics know just how scintillating some of these December contests can be.
That especially rings true as we get closer to Jan. 1. Where the early December games are filled mostly with also-ran teams that trudged their way to mid-tier contention, the last week of the year is always filled to the brim with game-of-the-year-type contests.
And considering we've already seen nail-biters in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, torrid scoring in the New Mexico Bowl and individual ascension in the Poinsettia Bowl, you won't want to miss a minute of these upcoming contests.
With that in mind, here is a complete breakdown of the best remaining bowl games of 2012.
No. 17 UCLA Bruins vs. Baylor Bears (Holiday Bowl)
When: Thursday, Dec. 27 at 9:45 p.m. ET
Where: Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif.
The oddsmakers have this game's over/under set at 81.5 (per Vegas Insider), and they may be underselling it. UCLA and Baylor both have dynamic and varied offenses that can give even top-notch defenses headaches and are contrasted with equally paltry defenses.
In other words, the points will be coming in droves on Thursday night.
If you want a position to watch in this matchup, look no further than running back. Bruins star Johnathan Franklin scampered for 1,700 yards and 13 touchdowns, making a name for himself in the Pac-12 while securing that his name will be called in April's draft. In fact, there were many west coasters who thought Franklin should have been invited to the Heisman ceremony.
Speaking of Heismans, Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk seems to think he'll be hoisting the bronze statue come December 2013. The sophomore, who was a late-season marvel for the Bears, said as much on Dec. 20 to the Sporting News. And considering he rushed for 693 yards over Baylor's final five games, it's hard to argue against his merits.
With Franklin and Seastrunk essentially canceling each other out, this game may be decided by the quarterbacks. UCLA freshman Brett Hundley has mostly been eclipsed by Baylor's Nick Florence statistically, but his steadiness pushes the Bruins over the edge for me.
Final Score Prediction: UCLA 49, Baylor 45
No. 23 Texas Longhorns vs. No. 13 Oregon State Beavers (Alamo Bowl)
When: Saturday, Dec. 29 at 6:45 p.m. ET
Where: Alamodome in San Antonio, TX
Stream: Watch ESPN
Though both ranked, Texas and Oregon State both head into the Alamo Bowl with more questions than answers, particularly at the quarterback position.
Beavers signal-caller Cody Vaz has unquestionably been the team's most efficient man under center. The junior threw for 1,286 yards and 11 touchdowns against just one interception in parts of six games and led Oregon within four points of beating Stanford.
Vaz will get the start on Saturday, but it was Sean Mannion who started the team's last game, a 77-3 win over Nichols State, and will be looming on the sideline. A sophomore, Mannion has been the starter for the better part of the last two seasons, but he has just 31 touchdowns against an equal amount of interceptions for the year. He's largely seen as a player with a ton of upside, but it has been mostly unrequited thus far.
Texas head coach Mack Brown knows the feeling. He has his own struggling but talented quarterback in sophomore David Ash, who has been outperformed every step of the way by Case McCoy. However, unlike Oregon State head coach Mike Reilly, Brown is starting Ash once again on Saturday.
In a one-game sample, that's the wrong move. Oregon State wins, as McCoy comes in for the Longhorns, but too late.
Final Score Prediction: Oregon State 27, Texas 21
No. 8 LSU Tigers vs. No. 14 Clemson Tigers
When: Monday, Dec. 31 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA
Stream: Watch ESPN
Talk about contrasting styles. While the first two matchups we broke down were between two teams that were nearly mirror images of each other, LSU and Clemson play starkly different brands of football.
As it tends to be every season, Les Miles' squad is led by its stalwart defense. Heading into the bowl season, LSU was giving up only 16.9 points per game, which ranks 11th in the nation, and have allowed over 30 points only once in 2012.
The defensive ends are particularly strong, with Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery both projected as first-round picks.
Mingo and Montgomery will certainly have their hands full with Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd. The scintillating dual-threat threw for 3,550 yards and 43 touchdowns against 13 interceptions while adding another 492 yards and nine scores on the ground. He was the unquestioned leader of a Clemson offense that scored 42.3 points per game and ranked seventh overall in Football Outsiders' adjusted S&P Ratings
With DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins manning the outside at receiver, there are few defenses that can stop Dabo Swinney's squad—even LSU's. Look for Clemson to jump out early with a few big plays down the field and for LSU's offensive struggles to rear its ugly head once again.