College football's postseason is set, and although the BCS bowls will get top billing, there are plenty of other contests worth watching as we head into the new year. Whether you're into a little nostalgia, seeing seniors off, a battle between elite running backs, great storylines or seeing punch-outs, this bowl season has plenty to offer.
It is not 2005, but seeing Fresno State and USC get together in the Royal Purple Las Vegas will bring back plenty of old memories. After all, the last time the two played was back when Reggie Bush was piling up yards to help keep his team undefeated against a great effort by the Bulldogs.
This season, this game will be about its own star power as Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr leads the way for a Bulldogs team that fell just short of its goal. USC heads into the postseason looking to tack on another win and produce some good game tape for new head coach Steve Sarkisian.
The offenses will try to get clicking, but it will be interesting to see USC's defense attack Carr.
In terms of putting some positive things on film, the Fight Hunger Bowl is a place where both BYU and Washington will be looking to show what they can do. For BYU, guys like Cody Hoffman and Kyle Van Noy will be looking to prove they are ready for the NFL in their last true collegiate game.
On the Washington side, this is quarterback Keith Price's last game for the Huskies, and fellow offensive stars, juniors Bishop Sankey and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, are possible early-entry players. With players hoping for bright NFL futures, there should be some fireworks on display as both teams look to go out with a bang.
Another player many expect to take off following the bowl game is Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel. Manziel, wide receiver Mike Evans and tackle Jake Matthews are big names in NFL draft circles, and they are traveling to Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Bowl to take on the Duke Blue Devils.
A&M limped to the finish in the regular season. Meanwhile, Duke, even with a big loss to Florida State, stormed into that game, going 8-1 to wrap the year. The CFA Bowl will be highlighting big names on one side and a big story on the other.
David Cutcliffe is back in Durham looking for ways to exploit the Aggies' vulnerable defense, something the Blue Devils have done to plenty of teams this season. While the talent edge goes to the Aggies, Duke is going to force Kevin Sumlin's squad to do the little things to win, and that will make for interesting football.
As far as interesting matchups go, the Arizona versus Boston College AdvoCare V100 Bowl should draw the interest of plenty of people. Two of the nation's Top Five rushers, Andre Williams of BC and Ka'Deem Carey of Arizona, will each get time in the spotlight to show what they can do on the field.
The Wildcats will look to play fast, forcing the Eagles to defend in space against Carey and quarterback B.J. Denker in the zone-read game. On the other hand, BC will try to overpower the Arizona front with heavy doses of Williams inside. Two different styles, but two high-quality rushing attacks on the field.
Meanwhile, in the Capital One Bowl, similarities will be the story and reason to watch. Mike Davis, South Carolina's running back, will be looking to show he's healthy against the Wisconsin Badgers. Melvin Gordon and James White will look to get the Badgers run game started in the same way against the Gamecocks.
Both South Carolina and Wisconsin are physical teams that want to pound opponents with a grinding rushing attack. There will be running between the tackles, balls thrown downfield off of play-action passes and defenders who are forced to make big stops at the line of scrimmage.
For fans of the teams, seeing seniors suit up for the last time and getting a glimpse of the future is reason enough to watch. However, there are also plenty of elements for the casual viewer to enjoy when bowl season kicks off. Each bowl has its own narrative, and more importantly, each game has unique matchups and talent to check out.