Bowl Games 2015-16: Complete Schedule of Matchups

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 6, 2015

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney celebrates after their 23-17 win over Florida State in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015,  in Clemson,  S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
Richard Shiro/Associated Press

College football nirvana is nearly upon us.

As expected after Saturday's conference championship games, Clemson, Alabama, Michigan State and Oklahoma comprise the top four seeds for this year's College Football Playoff.

The Tigers will face the Sooners in the Orange Bowl, while Nick Saban will coach against his old team as the Crimson Tide and Spartans are set for a Cotton Bowl clash in the other national semifinal.

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee discussed this year's playoff in addition to the playoff structure in general:

With 40 games in a little under a month, you could argue bowl season has swelled to an unhealthy degree. Look no further than the fact that the NCAA had trouble finding 80 bowl-eligible teams as evidence of the problem.

Still, fans aren't complaining about getting to watch more college football. This time of year is a great showcase for not only the best teams in the country, but also those not afforded a national spotlight on a weekly basis.

Here's a full look at this year's bowl schedule.

Bowl Schedule

2015-16 College Football Bowl Schedule
BowlMatchupDateTime (ET)Watch
Air Force Reserve Celebration BowlAlcorn State vs. North Carolina A&TDec. 19NoonABC
Cure BowlSan Jose State vs. Georgia StateDec. 197 p.m.CBSSN
Gildan New Mexico BowlArizona vs. New MexicoDec. 192 p.m.ESPN
Royal Purple Las Vegas BowlBYU vs. UtahDec. 193:30 p.m.ABC
Raycom Media Camellia BowlOhio vs. Appalachian StateDec. 195:30 p.m.ESPN
R+L Carriers New Orleans BowlArkansas State vs. Louisiana TechDec. 199 p.m.ESPN
Miami Beach BowlSouth Florida vs. Western KentuckyDec. 212:30 p.m.ESPN
Famous Idaho Potato BowlAkron vs. Utah StateDec. 223:30 p.m.ESPN
Marmot Boca Raton BowlTemple vs. ToledoDec. 227 p.m.ESPN
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia BowlBoise State vs. Northern IllinoisDec. 234:30 p.m.ESPN
GoDaddy BowlBowling Green vs. Georgia SouthernDec. 238 p.m.ESPN
Popeyes Bahamas BowlMiddle Tennessee vs. Western MichiganDec. 24NoonESPN
Hawai'i BowlCincinnati vs. San Diego StateDec. 248 p.m.ESPN
St. Petersburg BowlMarshall vs. ConnecticutDec. 2611 a.m.ESPN
Hyundai Sun BowlMiami vs. Washington StateDec. 262 p.m.CBS
Zaxby's Heart of Dallas BowlWashington vs. Southern MissDec. 262:20 p.m.ESPN
New Era Pinstripe BowlDuke vs. IndianaDec. 263:30 p.m.ABC
Camping World Independence BowlVirginia Tech vs. TulsaDec. 265:45 p.m.ESPN
Foster Farms BowlNebraska vs. UCLADec. 269:15 p.m.ESPN
Military Bowl Presented By Northrop GrummanPittsburgh vs. NavyDec. 282:30 p.m.ESPN
Quick Lane BowlCentral Michigan vs. MinnesotaDec. 285 p.m.ESPN2
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces BowlAir Force vs. CaliforniaDec. 292 p.m.ESPN
Russell Athletic BowlNorth Carolina vs. BaylorDec. 295:30 p.m.ESPN
NOVA Home Loans Arizona BowlColorado State vs. NevadaDec. 297:30 p.m.ASN
AdvoCare V100 Texas BowlTexas Tech vs. LSUDec. 299 p.m.ESPN
Birmingham BowlMemphis vs. AuburnDec. 30NoonESPN
Belk BowlNorth Carolina State vs. Mississippi StateDec. 303:30 p.m.ESPN
Franklin American Mortgage Music City BowlLouisville vs. Texas A&MDec. 307 p.m.ESPN
Holiday BowlWisconsin vs. USCDec. 3010:30 p.m.ESPN
Chick-fil-A Peach BowlHouston vs. Florida StateDec. 31NoonESPN
Capital One Orange BowlNo. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 OklahomaDec. 314 p.m.ESPN
Goodyear Cotton Bowl ClassicNo. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Michigan StateDec. 318 p.m.ESPN
Outback BowlNorthwestern vs. TennesseeJan. 1NoonESPN2
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus BowlMichigan vs. FloridaJan. 11 p.m.ABC
Fiesta BowlNotre Dame vs. Ohio StateJan. 11 p.m.ESPN
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern MutualIowa vs. StanfordJan. 15 p.m.ESPN
Allstate Sugar BowlOklahoma State vs. Ole MissJan. 18:30 p.m.ESPN
TaxSlayer BowlGeorgia vs. Penn StateJan. 2NoonESPN
AutoZone Liberty BowlKansas State vs. ArkansasJan. 23:20 p.m.ESPN
Valero Alamo BowlTCU vs. OregonJan. 26:45 p.m.ESPN
Cactus BowlWest Virginia vs. Arizona StateJan. 210:15 p.m.ESPN
College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&TClemson/Oklahoma vs. Alabama/Michigan StateJan. 118:30 p.m.ESPN
Source: ESPN.com

Players to Watch

Jared Goff, QB, California

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

This will, in all likelihood, be Jared Goff's last game in college. Not only is he considered one of the best quarterbacks in the 2016 draft class, but his current head coach, Sonny Dykes, might be on another sideline in 2016. Dykes interviewed for the opening at Missouri last week, per Yahoo Sports (via ESPN.com's Kyle Bonagura).

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller provided an in-depth scouting report of the California Golden Bears star quarterback in September and drew parallels between Goff and a two-time Super Bowl winner:

Goff is close to perfect as a quarterback prospect, and his flaws are all fixable ones. Like Eli Manning, he has picturesque footwork in the pocket, aggressive downfield vision and the arm to make every throw in the playbook. Goff doesn't turn the ball over at Cal as much as Manning has in the NFL, but from a skills and athleticism perspective, they're very similar.

Since Goff plays the majority of his games on the West Coast, his work over the last three years might have gone unnoticed by a large segment of the college football fanbase. Bowl season could offer him one last chance to impress not only fans but also NFL scouts.

Matt Johnson, QB, Bowling Green

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Matt Johnson, on the other hand, is unlikely to make a significant impact at the next level. That still won't erase the work the Bowling Green quarterback did over his sophomore and senior seasons.

A hip injury wiped out most of Johnson's junior campaign, but he recovered to lead the country in passing yards (4,700) while finishing second in passing touchdowns (43).

Scott Swegan, Bowling Green's assistant director of athletic communications, believes Johnson has left quite an impression on the Falcons' football program:

Scott Swegan @ScottSwegan

Matt Johnson '15: 4,431 yds, 41 TD/6 INT Omar Jacobs '04 4,002 yds, 41 TD/4 INT Two of the best QBs to ever wear a @BG_Football uniform.

Part of the beauty of bowl season is getting exposed to players you have otherwise never heard of. Whether or not Bowling Green delivers a victory, Johnson and the Eagles offense should put on a great show for the fans.

Carl Nassib, DE, Penn State

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

The fall of quarterback Christian Hackenberg has been the dominant storyline around Penn State in 2015. But the Nittany Lions wouldn't be bowling without their strong defense, which ranks 16th in Football Outsiders' S&P+ rating.

Few players on that defense have contributed more than Carl Nassib. He's first in the nation with 15.5 sacks and tied for second in the nation with 19.5 tackles for loss. Nassib joined a list of Penn State legends after winning the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year award, per BTN Live:

BTN Live @BTNLive

Our @BTNRickPizzo talks with @B1Gfootball Defensive Player of the Year, @PennStateFball's Carl Nassib. https://t.co/zL0l6IL38u

It's quite a rise for a player who walked on at Penn State and only earned a scholarship ahead of the 2013 season.

Given the Nittany Lions' issues on offense this year, Nassib and the rest of the front seven will likely need to harass quarterback Greyson Lambert to get a win in the TaxSlayer Bowl against Georgia.

Nassib has already earned an invite to the Senior Bowl, and bowl season will be one more opportunity for him to bolster his NFL draft stock.

Jeremy Cash, S, Duke

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

Like Nassib, Jeremy Cash is now the owner of his conference's Defensive Player of the Year award after edging Clemson's Shaq Lawson.

"I don't think you can say anything better about an athlete than they were a great teammate," Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said, per Steve Phillips for TheACC.com. "Jeremy became a great teammate when he came here and had to sit out for a year after transferring. That experience taught me a lot about him and how much he cared about his team and his teammates."

Cash is one of the best safeties in the 2016 draft class and is a lock to hear his name in the first few rounds. He did a little bit of everything for the Blue Devils in 2015, as evidenced by his 101 total tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and four pass breakups.

It's highly probable Cash's strong all-around game will lead to him making at least one or two big plays in his final college appearance.

Playoff Preview

David Goldman/Associated Press

North Carolina and Florida had a chance to create a little upheaval atop the College Football Playoff rankings, but they fell short, and the top four spots remained unchanged with the exception of Michigan State swapping spots with Iowa.

Here's a look at how Clemson, Alabama, Michigan State and Oklahoma stack up against one another:

CFP Teams By the Numbers
No. 1 ClemsonNo. 2 AlabamaNo. 3 Michigan StateNo. 4 Oklahoma
Strength of Schedule42nd4th44th19th
Total Offense (YPG)510.6 (12th)422.5 (49th)396.8 (68th)542.9 (7th)
Total Defense (YPG)295.7 (7th)258.2 (2nd)342.9 (26th)350.7 (31st)
S&P+ Offense41.3 (10th)36.3 (27th)36.5 (26th)43.4 (3rd)
S&P+ Defense15.0 (6th)7.6 (1st)18.8 (13th)18.7 (12th)
F/+ Combined Rating59.0% (2nd)64.5% (1st)44.8% (6th)55.7% (3rd)
Sources: NCAA.com, Football Outsiders, Jeff Sagarin

The Tigers and Tide made strong cases for being the most complete team in the country, and they each boast a dynamic playmaker who can carry the load. Running back Derrick Henry is the presumptive Heisman Trophy winner, while Deshaun Watson is among the top quarterbacks in the FBS.

Oklahoma, on the other hand, enters the playoff on a hot streak, having beaten Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State in succession to close out the regular season. Ohio State showed last year how valuable momentum can be in the playoff.

Most fans will likely discount Michigan State's chances. On paper, the Spartans are the weakest team of the four, but their tendency to win ugly could prove valuable in the playoff.

Some fans were a bit surprised Michigan State climbed from fifth to third following its victory over Iowa.

"Ultimately, Michigan State's two wins against Top 10 teams gave them the edge," CFP selection committee chairman Jeff Long said, per Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman.

The selection committee didn't do Michigan State any favors, however. The Spartans may be a higher seed than Oklahoma, but they arguably have the tougher matchup. Although Alabama may not be quite as good as some of Saban's other national-championship-winning teams, the Crimson Tide boast a dominant defense and an above-average-to-great offense depending on how Henry is running the ball.

Clemson vs. Oklahoma could be a national championship game by itself. The Sooners defense will be tested in a big way. Their offense was strong enough to navigate the Big 12, but that might not be enough to get past the Tigers, who are dangerous in their own right.