Why to Genuinely Care About Every Bowl Game (Part Three)

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Why to Genuinely Care About Every Bowl Game (Part Three)
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I’m not the quickest person, but after writing two parts of an ongoing “Why to Genuinely Care About Every Bowl Game” series through the Sun Bowl, I’m positive I should continue and make sure there are reasons to care about the rest of the games, even it’s just to make jokes with your buddies about what the hell BBVA Compass is.

Also, since it’s slightly easier to care about the BCS games, I’ll preview them separately from the rest of the exciting upcoming exhibitions.

Let’s roll on to part three.

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (Illinois vs. UCLA)

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Two schools with interim coaches square off in a baseball stadium on New Year’s Eve—are you not already entertained? Fine, Illinois may have both the best WR (AJ Jenkins) and defensive end (Whitney Mercilus) in the B1G and still couldn’t eek out a win on the back end of their schedule—sort of impressive in its own Baxter-eating-an-entire-wheel-of-cheese kind of way.

On the other side, UCLA has WR Nelson Rosario, who’s good for a casual one-handed catch or five, depending on how much he decides to care on any given play. So…yeah.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Vanderbilt vs. Cincinnati)

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Outside of the conference’s big two, Vanderbilt turning things around and playing 10 competitive games was probably the best story of the 2011 SEC season.

The Commodores trotted Jordan Rodgers (Aaron’s brother!!!) out at QB and managed to be better against the run than everyone in the SEC outside of LSU, Alabama and Georgia is—at the very least something, which is an enormous success in the context of Vanderbilt.

Oh, and Cincinnati has a QB named Munchie and is an otherwise unremarkable, but above-average Big East team.

Chick-fil-A Bowl (Virginia vs. Auburn)

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Beyond the game having the most delicious sponsor (and also fighting hunger), we at least get a happy to/not so happy to be there storyline—Virginia won seven combined games in 2009 and 2010, while Auburn’s down both coordinators, took an enormous step back defensively and struggled to get any sort of consistent QB play in their first post-Cam year.

Outside of Virginia scoring, well, nothing against Virginia Tech in a division-deciding rivalry game, it’s generally more fun than not to root for the guys awestruck by the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Also, Auburn’s most exciting player, RB Michael Dyer, is suspended and will in no way be awestruck by the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

TicketCity Bowl (Houston vs. Penn State)

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On a football level, this could potentially be one of the more interesting matchups (Houston O vs. Penn St D), but on a big-picture level, it’s one of the bigger bummers.

It’ll be interesting enough to see if Penn State’s defensive front can get to Houston QB Case Keenum before he’s able to pick apart the Nittany Lion secondary, but the hovering bummer that has PSU fans ready for football to be over and Houston free-falling from BCS contention paints the game as a tedious exercise in patience.

Hope for the best, expect empty seats.

Outback Bowl (Michigan State vs. Georgia)

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In his final game as a Spartan, QB Kirk Cousins gets a second chance to make a good impression against a particularly stingy SEC defensive line. Also, Georgia OLB Jarvis Jones may accidentally murder Cousins, though the use of the word “accidentally” is used as loosely as humanly possible here.

No matter what happens, at least this game matches up two relatively even teams—two top-20 squads playing in their respective championship games with legitimate conference bragging rights on the line.

Let’s just hope for minimal homicide.

Capital One Bowl (Nebraska vs. South Carolina)

Another murder-y bowl possibility!

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Again, let us not hope for serious injury, but rather acknowledge that it’s intriguing to know that it’s on the table, this time with South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney setting their sights on Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez.

Each team is certainly good enough to beat the other, but I just can’t seem to shake the feeling that, at some point, one of the two aforementioned Gamecock defensive ends will end up in a phrase that includes, “…Martinez didn’t even see him coming.”

Gator Bowl (Ohio State vs. Florida)

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I don’t know who’s calling this game, but just preemptively mute the broadcast unless you want three-plus hours of Urban Meyer Bowl (!) talk.

Ohio State QB Braxton Miller will be fun enough to watch when he’s not overthrowing wide open receivers, and Florida’s defensive line is fun enough to watch when they care—but seriously, listen to some music or podcasts as the soundtrack here. You’ll thank me later.

AT&T Cotton Bowl (Kansas State vs. Arkansas)

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With the Outback Bowl, this is another rare, interesting matchup that should provide a little bit of insight as it relates to conference strength.

Kansas State is equally maddening and interesting with their ability to efficiently take advantage of the few yards they’re able to produce behind the strong running and adequate passing of QB Collin Klein.

Arkansas is fairly interesting because it’s late December and I’m still not positive how good Arkansas actually is—they’re significantly worse than LSU and Alabama, while being unreliably better than a down SEC. Nobody should know exactly what this means.

Also, as the game is sponsored by AT&T, expect any and all media reports from the stadium to be dropped at any time by shoddy service.

BBVA Compass Bowl (SMU vs. Pitt)

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In trying to figure out who’s excited for the BBVA Compass Bowl, I’ve compiled a simple list:

  1. Friends and family members of BBVA Compass Bank who will sit in decent seats, most likely for free.

Really, we’re talking about two teams missing their best offensive weapons due to injury (SMU RB Zach Line and Pitt RB Ray Graham) and two head coaches who attempted, with various degrees of success, to leave their current jobs for an opening in Tempe, AZ.

So yeah—the BBVA Compass Bowl!

GoDaddy.com Bowl  (Northern Illinois vs. Arkansas State) 

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In some sort of weird bizarro LSU/Alabama twist, a team that runs for about 250 yards per game (NIU) takes on a team (Arkansas State) that throws for about 300 yards per game. Seriously, this is the last offensive stop before the BCS National FourthDownageddon.

Do note that NIU QB Chandler Harnish has, between passes and runs, hogged about 330 of Northern Illinois’s 480 yards per game for himself this year.

On the other side, get a good long look at the team that Gus Malzahn will take over as head coach next year, because come 2012, your level of Arkansas State interest will probably be limited to asking, “Hey, how’s Malzahn doing as a head coach?” in late October.

Dan Rubenstein co-hosts The Solid Verbal college football podcast and can be followed on Twitter here. 

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