The first weekend of bowl games may not feature marquee matchups or rosters filled with future NFL players, but it is the first time in nearly half a month that fans will get to watch multiple FBS division games on the same day.
That alone makes the first few games worth watching to those other than alumni and fans of the schools playing.
Here is a preview of the first three games of the bowl season, all of which take place on Saturday, December 17th.
Gildan New Mexico Bowl (Albuquerque, New Mexico, 2 p.m. EST)
Temple vs. Wyoming
The bowl season opens up with a particularly interesting game featuring two teams that have flown under the radar most of the season.
Both teams have had successful seasons, with Temple’s only losses coming to teams also playing in bowl games. Wyoming has been one of the more surprising teams in the nation, winning eight games just a season after losing nine and losing its former starting quarterback.
This game should feature a healthy dose of running from both squads. Temple leads the MAC in both rush offense and rush defense, and has a back in Bernard Pierce who is one of the best in the nation. Wyoming also relies on the running game quite a bit, but has had issues stopping the run as well.
Stopping Pierce will be key for the Cowboys in this one.
Statistically, this matchup does not stack up well for Wyoming. However, counting the Cowboys out in this one would be a mistake. Last time Wyoming played in a bowl game, the 2009 New Mexico Bowl, it went up against a powerful Fresno State offense featuring future San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Matthews. While Matthews got his yards, Wyoming came away the winner in a thrilling double-overtime victory.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Boise, Idaho, 5:30 p.m. EST)
Ohio vs. Utah State
Idaho may be famous for potatoes, but in the football world, Idaho is also famous for the blue turf that is normally home to the Boise State Broncos. While the Broncos won’t be playing in this game, a former conference foe of theirs will, as well as yet another MAC team that is accustomed to playing in cold weather.
Utah State entered the spotlight early this season, almost knocking off the defending national champion Auburn Tigers. Although the Tigers weren’t as good as their ranking suggested at the time, it was clear that the Aggies were going to be a force in the WAC. The Aggies have been solid on both sides of the ball this season, leading the WAC in points scored per game (34.5) as well as yards per game given up (368.0) on defense.
The Bobcats are in good position as long as the defense keeps them in the game thanks to sophomore quarterback Tyler Tettleton. The son of former Major League Baseball player Mickey Tettleton, Tyler has led the Bobcats to fourth-quarter wins twice this season, and has been instrumental in Ohio’s success on offense.
Tettleton is a dual-threat quarterback who can make linebackers miss with his legs and defensive backs pay with his arm.
This game will not be without NFL talent, either.
For Utah State, running back Robert Turbin will be looking to impress pro scouts one last time before he likely enters the NFL draft. For Ohio, wide receiver LaVon Brazill will try to add a few more highlight-reel plays to an already spectacular college career in which he has broken several Bobcat school records.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (New Orleans, Louisiana, 9 p.m. EST)
San Diego State vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
San Diego State gets to travel almost the length of the country to play its bowl game, while Louisiana-Lafayette will essentially be playing in its own backyard.
It has been 41 years since the Cajuns have played in a bowl game, so it would be an understatement to say that the team and its fans are excited to go bowling once again after such an extended dry spell.
The Cajuns are led offensively by junior quarterback Blaine Gautier, who has thrown 20 touchdowns to just five interceptions. Gautier is a dual-threat quarterback who is also the team’s second-leading rusher, so expect him to have a large impact Louisiana-Lafayette’s offensive success.
San Diego State will rely on a steady ground game on offense thanks to sophomore running back Ronnie Hillman, who is third in the nation in rushing yards this season.
However, the Aztecs also have the ability to air it out if they want to. Senior quarterback Ryan Lindley has not had as successful a season as he would’ve liked, but is still a viable threat and could have a big game in the New Orleans Bowl.
One area where Louisiana-Lafayette has struggled this year is defending the pass, as it ranks near the bottom of the Sun Belt in pass defense.
This game has the potential to be one of those games where the outcome shocks the majority of fans. Louisiana-Lafayette will be extremely excited to play in this game, while the Aztecs may have been expected a little more this bowl season.
However, if Lindley is able to get into a groove, the Cajuns may have a problem collecting the hardware for the de facto home team.