Bowl Games 2013: Most Exciting Matchups of First Week

R. Cory SmithSenior Writer IDecember 19, 2013

LOUISVILLE, KY - NOVEMBER 16:  Teddy Bridgewater #5 of the Louisville Cardinals throws a pass during the game against the Houston Cougars at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

With the first week of bowl games almost here, it's finally that time where football can be watched nearly every night of the week. That's the dream, right?

But with so many games going on, trying to watch every single bowl can be difficult. So, picking and choosing the ones that are the most interesting for different reasons usually seems like the best approach.

With a full slate of bowls starting on Dec. 21, here is a list of the games and the most exciting matchups in the first week of action.

Oct 19, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Bulls linebacker Khalil Mack (46) before a game against the Massachusetts Minutemen at University of Buffalo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Spor


Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Buffalo vs. San Diego State

Dec. 21, 5:30 p.m. ET

In the program's 15-year history, Buffalo had made just one bowl game, which makes this year's bowl extra special. For San Diego State, an 0-3 start to the season left it thinking that just finishing with a winning season was impossible after dropping its season opener against FCS Eastern Illinois, 40-19.

Clearly, the biggest reason to watch this game is to catch Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack in a college game one last time before he's taken in the 2014 NFL draft. The projected first-round talent finished the regular season with 94 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks.

As Mid-Amercian Conference assistant commissioner Ken Mather reported, Mack was named a first-team All-American by CBS Sports:

As for offensive weapons on both sides, Buffalo's Branden Oliver has rushed for 1,421 yards and 15 touchdowns while San Diego State quarterback Quinn Kaehler has completed 60.1 percent of his passes for 2,796 yards with 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Buffalo is seeking its first-ever bowl win. SDSU has lost its last two bowls and is looking to get back on track in December. A game between two teams desperate to close their seasons on a high note could be decided by how well Mack can get to Kaehler behind the line of scrimmage.

DEKALB, IL - NOVEMBER 26: Quarterback Jordan Lynch #6 of the Northern Illinois Huskies carries the ball during the second quarter against the Western Michigan Broncos at Huskie Stadium on November 26, 2013 in DeKalb, Illinois. Northern Illinois defeated W
Brian Kersey/Getty Images


Poinsettia Bowl

Northern Illinois vs. Utah State

Dec. 26, 9:30 p.m. ET

This game might be running a little late on the East Coast, but the chance to watch Northern Illinois' offense is worth the loss of sleep. One player behind center in particular could have one more spectacular game to close out his college career.

Senior Jordan Lynch was a Heisman Trophy finalist this year for a reason. The senior signal-caller finished the season with 2,676 passing yards and 23 touchdowns with seven interceptions, as some analysts like Bucky Brooks of view him as a potential NFL player.

On the ground, Lynch totaled 1,881 yards and 22 touchdowns, including eight games with more than 100 yards rushing and two games with more than 300 yards rushing to close out the regular season. But after being shut down offensively by Bowling Green, NIU will have to face another stingy defense.

Utah State doesn't score in bunches, being held to 20 points or less in four games this season, but its defense is one of the best in the country, holding opponents to just 17.3 points per game to rank seventh in the country.

In order for Utah State to pull off the huge upset, it will need another great defensive showing against one of the best players in the country. Lynch will be looking to finish his senior season in memorable fashion, but Utah State has some memories of its own to make.

Dec 5, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Louisville Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) celebrates with fans after defeating the Cincinnati Bearcats 31-24 at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports


Russell Athletic Bowl

Louisville vs. Miami (Fla.)

Dec. 28, 6:45 p.m. ET

Speaking of potential NFL prospects, this game features a player who could ultimately be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL draft—if he decides to forgo his senior season. Brett McMurphy of reported that this game will be a little more special because Louisville's quarterback will not announce his decision until after the bowl:

Teddy Bridgewater has been one of the best quarterbacks in the country over the last two years and didn't drop off at all this season. While he was overshadowed by others at the end of the season, Bridgewater finished among the top five in the NCAA in completion percentage and passing efficiency.

The junior signal-caller also amassed over 3,500 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Over the last two seasons, he has 45 touchdowns to 12 interceptions.

On the other side will be Miami's Stephen Morris, who appears to have found a good connection with receiver Stacy Coley. The two hooked up for 154 yards and three touchdowns to close out the season after injuries decimated a Hurricanes team that had aspirations of an ACC title.

Both teams were ranked among the Top 10 earlier in the season and will be in the same conference next season. With Miami essentially playing a home game in Orlando, Fla., the Hurricanes could potentially pull off the upset. But with Duke Johnson out with an injured ankle and Miami owning a pass defense that ranked 12th in the ACC, expect Bridgewater to pick apart this defense.