Bowl Projections 2013: Breaking Down Best Non-BCS Matchups

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIDecember 8, 2013

COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 30:  Quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies leaves the field after the Missouri Tigers defeated the Texas A&M Aggies 28-21 to win the game on November 30, 2013 in Columbia, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

There are plenty of potential bowl matchups outside of the controversial BCS to look forward to as 2013's college football season winds to a conclusion approximately one month from now.

Among the myriad bowl games that swarm the schedule before the biggest clashes featuring the nation's best teams are contested, there are several standout features that should tide fans over.

Here is a look at some of the most enticing projected bowl game possibilities, along with predictions as to how they would each play out.

Note: Projected matchups are courtesy of expert Jerry Palm. Team statistics were obtained via

Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. LSU

Dec 7, 2013; Stillwater, OK, USA;  Oklahoma State Cowboys quarterback Clint Chelf (10) looks to pass the ball during the first quarter against the Oklahoma Sooners at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Rowe-USA TODAY Sports
Richard Rowe-USA TODAY Sports

Both teams are coming off of huge losses. The Cowboys are No. 6 in the BCS at the moment, but that will change after losing 33-24 to in-state archrival Oklahoma on Saturday. That ended Oklahoma State's shot at a Big 12 title, too.

LSU didn't lose its last game, true, but the Tigers will be without their leader in senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger for the bowl game, as he tore his ACL in the fourth quarter of his final game in Baton Rouge.

Pressed into action in a tight game, freshman Anthony Jennings launched the game-winning, 49-yard touchdown strike to Travin Dural in the final two minutes to secure a 31-27 win.

Jennings is a far better athlete, so it will be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Cam Cameron utilizes his athleticism. The good news is he will have about a month to figure out an adjusted game plan and install packages for Jennings to flourish.

The deep LSU backfield headlined by Jeremy Hill and the running ability of Jennings would be enough to push the Tigers over the Cowboys in this possible faceoff.

Plus, the talented John Chavis-coached defense would wreak havoc on an inconsistent passer in Oklahoma State's Clint Chelf and limit his running ability with the speed across its front seven, much as it did to Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel on Nov. 23 in a 34-10 win.

Prediction: LSU 27, Oklahoma State 24 

Chick-fil-A Bowl: Duke vs. Texas A&M

COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 30:  Quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies scrambles as defensive lineman Markus Golden #33 of the Missouri Tigers persues during the game on November 30, 2013 in Columbia, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Im
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Blue Devils should be feeling a little blue after the mighty Florida State Seminoles in the ACC title game but will be eager to prove themselves against the Aggies.

And Duke may have a great chance to do so. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel struggled in the final two games of the regular season, and it's unclear whether it was a health issue, superior opposing defenses or a little bit of both.

This could also be the last game of Manziel's college career, which by default makes this potential showdown must-see TV.

Jeremy Cash would find himself in a chess match with Manziel as the Blue Devils' linebacker-safety hybrid in their 4-2-5 defensive alignment.

Aggies wide receiver Mike Evans has also endured struggles, and his 6'5" size and big-play ability would give Duke trouble if he performs as he did before the most recent two games of the season.

Texas A&M's defense is bad, though, and would have a hard time containing Blue Devils receiver Jamison Crowder, along with Brandon Connette. The junior isn't the starting quarterback, Anthony Boone is, but he's run for 13 touchdowns and also tossed 13 through the air.

It would be closer than many might expect, but this would be the game that Johnny Football bounces back in with a big performance that may be the last time he's seen at the collegiate level.

Prediction: Texas A&M 42, Duke 34

Russell Athletic Bowl: Louisville vs. Miami (FL)

LOUISVILLE, KY - NOVEMBER 23:  Teddy Bridgewater #5 of the Louisville Cardinals throws the ball during the game against the Memphis Tigers at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on November 23, 2013 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It could be the last college game, too, for another marquee signal-caller in Louisville junior Teddy Bridgewater.

Many will overlook how amazing the Louisville defense has played this season (No. 2 in total defense, tied for first entering Saturday with 39 sacks) in favor of evaluating Bridgewater's greatness. Based on last week, it's hard to blame those people for doing so.

Bridgewater was sensational in an Ohio River rivalry overtime victory over Cincinnati on Friday, which was highlighted by this scramble and TD toss:

That is something even the Hurricanes' athletic defense would have trouble handling. However, the test Miami would present to Louisville's defense would be among the most difficult it has faced all year.

Cannon-armed QB Stephen Morris averages over nine yards per attempt and has a legitimate No. 1 target in classmate Allen Hurns, who is on a tear with four straight 100-yard games.

Freshman wideout Stacy Coley is also dangerous and scored three touchdowns on four touches in the Hurricanes' 41-31 win over Pittsburgh in Week 14.

But with the game on the line, Bridgewater would be the one to trust over the error-prone, inaccurate Morris.

Prediction: Louisville 31, Miami (FL) 28


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