College Football’s 10 Best Bowl Games
It seems like just yesterday when LSU was escaping North Carolina’s obscurely crafted fourth-quarter comeback to cap off college football’s opening Saturday of the season. Yet, here we are, sitting comfortably in December, already looking down the barrel at this year’s bowl season.
It’s been a wild year for sure, one filled with great on the field action mixed with a little taste of scandal. In the end it looks like the nation’s two best teams, Oregon and Auburn, prevailed to give us a truly rousing national title game matchup to look forward to.
Sorry BCS haters, but there’s no controversy this year (unless you're from Fort Worth).
The Tigers and Ducks will meet in the sport’s biggest, most hyped-up affair but we’ve also got 34 other contests to look forward to.
It seems like so many bowls and so little time.
Let’s narrow it down to the 10 bowl games that should provide us with the most entertainment this postseason.
10. Insight Bowl: Missouri vs. Iowa
The stage may not be all that big, but that doesn’t mean the participants aren’t worthy of glamour.
Missouri and Iowa both had their sights set on bigger postseason games than the Insight Bowl, which will be held out in Tempe, Arizona. But the two teams’s late season swoons cost them a chance at a more prestigious bowl.
Still, these are two of the best defenses in college football, and the respective units are each filled with some pretty special talent.
Missouri’s Aldon Smith and Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn are two pass rushers that should cause fits for the opposing offenses.
Quarterbacks Ricky Stanzi and Blaine Gabbert are two seasoned veterans who have a good deal of poise and aren't necessarily easy to rattle.
Iowa will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing end to the regular season while Missouri will have their eyes set on notching their 11th win of the season.
9. Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M vs. LSU
Texas A&M has gone through a resurgence after adding quarterback Ryan Tannehill to the equation at quarterback, winning their last six games of the season after a rough three-game losing streak.
Tannehill has thrown 11 TDs and totaled over 1,400 yards through the air. But the junior is going to face a very formidable defense led by All-World cornerback Patrick Peterson when he takes on the LSU Tigers in the Cotton Bowl.
LSU ranks 10th in the nation in total pass defense so the Aggies might have to look to the ground game and running back Cyrus Gray for help moving the ball.
LSU may be a bit disheartened since they fell short of a BCS game with an end of the season loss to Arkansas, but if they bring their A-game, this one promises to be a slugfest.
8. Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Arizona
Two of the most productive junior quarterbacks in the nation, Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden and Arizona’s Nick Foles, will be looking to get a head start on staking their claim as top senior quarterback prospects for next season.
San Antonio’s Alamodome just so happens to offer them a perfect venue to shoot it out.
Foles and Weeden have totaled nearly 7,000 yards through the air this season and both have the arms to really put on a show down in Texas.
Head Coach Mike Stoops and his Arizona team will be looking for postseason vindication after getting throttled by Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl last year.
Oklahoma State, who hails from the conference Nebraska used to call home, could be the perfect opponent.
7. Chick-fil-A Bowl: South Carolina vs. Florida State
On paper, this one looks like the "Runners Up Special." Both South Carolina and Florida State fell short in their bid for a conference championship and a BCS berth this past weekend. And now they will be awarded with a chance to take out their frustrations in Atlanta on New Year’s Eve.
The losses were downers in otherwise solid seasons.
Florida State, under first-year head coach Jimbo Fisher, finished 9-4, knocking off in-state rivals Miami and Florida in the process.
The Gamecocks, on the other hand, finally had the type of season coach Steve Spurrier envisioned upon arriving in Columbia, also finishing 9-4, and making their first ever appearance in the SEC Championship game.
These are two teams capable of putting together a compelling game worthy of intrigue.
6. MAACO Bowl: Boise State vs. Utah
Oh, Boise State. You were so close.
Maybe if those uprights in Mackay Stadium had been just a little higher, you could be sitting in the Rose Bowl right now.
Oh well, at least the Broncos can share in their misery with Utah, another school that had BCS hopes at one point this season.
These teams have been two of the most consistent non-BCS programs since the turn of millennium and watching them in a rare meeting outside the spotlight should be a treat for even the most average of college football fans.
Both Boise and Utah are loaded with high-quality talent and the two coaches in this one will have their teams ready to compete even though it’s not the most ideal situation for either team.
5. Capital One Bowl: Michigan State vs. Alabama
Alabama’s title defense hasn’t gone quite the way they were hoping for. The Tide ended up losing three games this season, including the day after Thanksgiving debacle to arch-rival Auburn.
That doesn’t mean Nick Saban is ready to throw in the towel on the 2010 season though.
This is a Crimson Tide team that could come out and play with anyone, evidenced by their first half dismantling of Auburn in the Iron Bowl.
The question is: Will Alabama have the focus to get the job done in a complete game fashion?
Michigan State has had a great season, rallying after coach Mark Dantonio experienced a heart attack early on in September. But with the exception of a win over Wisconsin, the Spartans lack any real distinctive victories this year.
A win over an Alabama team that’s still living off the glory of last year’s title run would change that.
4. Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. TCU
All right TCU, so you wanted to come play with the big boys?
Well, here you go. Here’s Wisconsin and their high-powered offensive attack, which has been nearly unstoppable all season long, averaging 43 points per game.
Gary Patterson has built TCU’s defense into something special over these last few years but how well will the Horned Frogs defenders fare against Wisconsin’s massive offensive line as they attempt to plow the way for big bruising running back John Clay?
We’ll find out on New Year’s Day.
3. Orange Bowl: Stanford vs. Virginia Tech
Jim Harbaugh has been moving this Stanford football program up the ladder during his tenure, and a BCS Bowl appearance for the Cardinal is simply the culmination and reward for his hard work over these last few years.
Harbaugh and his future NFL signal caller, Andrew Luck, who has had a Heisman-worthy sophomore season this year, will head across the country to meet up with Virginia Tech, a team that’s reeled off 11 straight wins since starting the season 0-2, down in South Florida.
Harbaugh and Luck will both be hearing their names swirling around for NFL gigs in the month leading up to this game so it should be interesting to see if they can keep their focus.
2. Sugar Bowl: Arkansas vs. Ohio State
Terrelle Pryor vs. Ryan Mallett
The dual threat super-athlete vs. the big-armed prototypical drop back passer
Ohio State vs. Arkansas
The Big Ten brawn vs. the SEC speed
There are a lot of compelling storylines to watch in this one, but yeah, you know the media is going to boil this one down to Pryor vs. Mallett even though there's a good deal of talent spread all across the field for both teams. But to be honest, I’m going to go right along with them.
This quarterback battle should be fun.
1. National Championship: Auburn vs. Oregon
As Michael Jackson so subtly said: This is it.
The big one.
Auburn and Oregon have finalized the plans which have been in the works since Week 9 of the season and now we’ve got over a month to pump up this extraordinary matchup.
Two second-year coaches, Oregon’s Chip Kelly and Auburn’s Gene Chizik, have carried these programs to the type of instant success that you rarely see in college football.
Both of these teams are averaging over 40 points a game and this one has the makings to be an absolutely electrifying event.
Cam Newton is sure to have a big grin on his face for this game.
Get that turf ready Arizona because things are going to be flying fast on January 10th.
Honorable Mention: Miami vs. Notre Dame in The Sun Bowl
The Catholics vs. Convicts game doesn't have nearly the luster it did a decade or two ago. But still, this is Miami-Notre Dame.
Those two names alone are worth a quick tune in whether both teams had mediocre 7-5 campaigns or not.