College Football Bowl Schedule: Tis the Season, Power Ranking Every Game

David Fidler Correspondent IDecember 13, 2010

College Football Bowl Schedule: Tis the Season, Power Ranking Every Game

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    CORVALLIS, OR - DECEMBER 4: LaMichael James #21 of the Oregon Ducks celebrates a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the game at Reser Stadium on December 4, 2010 in Corvallis, Oregon. The Ducks beat the Beavers 37-20 to likely go on to the BCS Championshi
    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    Yes, the BCS is racked with flaws.

    Yes, due to league tie-ins, the bowl matchups are often so much less interesting and competitive than they might be.

    Yes, when the fourth-place team in Conference USA is getting a bowl bid, then there might be too many bowls.

    Yes, no matter how any of these games turn out, there will be at least one team that feels it didn't get its fair shot.

    Still, it's bowl season, and it's fraught with drama.

    Urban Meyer's last game. Will Rich Rodriguez hang onto his job? Will Oklahoma choke? Will UConn get utterly embarrassed? Will TCU prove that they belong?

    Will the upstart from Eugene or the twice-burned superpower from the Deep South bring home the national championship?

    Finally, which are the can't-miss bowls, and which are the ones that aren't worth calling out from work?

Go Daddy.com Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Miami (Ohio)

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    Where: Mobile, Alabama

    When: January 6, 8 P.M.

    The Lowdown: Mike Haywood's first season in the cradle of college football coaches was something of a disaster. His Redhawks won only one game on the entire season. However, this season, they have turned around in a big way. They went 9-4 and upset Northern Illinois for the MAC conference championship.

    With an extremely young team that includes a sophomore quarterback, Miami (OH) might become a permanent fixture on the MAC landscape, in a way they haven't been since Ben Roethlisberger was under center.

    Meanwhile, Middle Tennessee's year didn't go quite as planned. With a 10-3 record last season, and the return of senior quarterback Dwight Dasher, the Blue Raiders were one of the favorites to win Sun Belt.

    Nevertheless, a 6-6 overall record, and 5-3 in one of the weakest conferences in the country, is certainly nothing to base one's reputation on.

    Drama Factor: 1

    Quality Game Potential: 2

    National Interest: 1

    Total Points: 4

New Orleans Bowl: Ohio vs. Troy

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    Where: New Orleans, Louisiana

    When: December 18. 9 P.M.

    The Lowdown: Larry Blakeny has been the head coach of the Troy Trojans for 20 years. He has been the coach as they transitioned from a top FCS (formerly Division II) team to a FBS member of the Sun Belt Conference.

    For the past five years, Troy has won a share of the conference title. Of course, when a team with a 7-5 record wins a share of the conference title, one might have to look deeply into the conference. Nevertheless, it says something for Blakeny's squad that despite a 7-5 record, despite being in a decidedly "down" year, they could manage to come out on top.

    Meanwhile, Frank Solich has done some good things at Ohio University. While there, he has won two MAC championships. This season, his Bobcats went 8-4, and came second in the conference.

    Drama Factor: 1

    Quality Game Potential: 4

    National Interest: 1

    Total Points: 6

Military Bowl: East Carolina vs. Maryland

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    Where: Washington D.C.

    When: December 29, 2:30 P.M.

    The Lowdown: Ralph Friedgen started his head coaching career at Maryland with a splash. In his first three years as a Terrapin, he had a 31-8 record. However, it took him another five seasons to equal the amount of wins he got in his first three. He had his worst record yet last season, going 2-10, and finding himself squarely on the hot seat.

    This year, he has rebounded a bit with a solid 8-4 team. As he will have a slew of returning offensive skill players, his Terrapins might be a dark horse to win the ACC next year.

    Meanwhile, Ruffin McNeill is in his first season as a head coach. He took over for Skip Holtz, which is no small job at ECU. McNeill's Pirates went 6-6. Nevertheless, despite the fact that McNeill's background is on the defensive side of the ball, his team had the third-worst scoring defense in the country.

    Drama Factor: 3

    Quality Game Potential: 1

    National Interest: 2

    Total Points: 6

Hawaii Bowl: Hawaii vs. Tulsa

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    Where: Honolulu, Hawaii

    When: December 24, 8 P.M.

    The Lowdown: The Warriors boast one of the best home advantages in the country. That's the way it goes when you are a six-hour flight off the mainland. This season, they went 10-3, and, as usual, boast one of the most prolific passing attacks in the country.

    Moreover, Hawaii has been in the Hawaii Bowl every single year since the inaugural game in 2002, except for three: 2005, 2007 and 2009. In 2005 and 2009, the Warriors didn't receive a bowl bid, and in 2007 they went to the Sugar Bowl. They have won three of the five games.

    Meanwhile, Tulsa head coach Todd Graham has won at least a share of Conference USA three of his four years as the coach. This year, they went 9-3, though the only ranked team they played—Oklahoma State—blew them out of the water by a score of 65-28.

    Drama Factor: 1

    Quality Game Potential: 4

    National Interest: 2

    Total Points: 7

Fight Hunger Bowl: Nevada vs. Boston College

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    Where: San Francisco, California

    When: January 9, 9 P.M.

    The Lowdown: Perhaps the biggest failure of the BCS bowl system are the games like this. In the end, Nevada went 12-1. They won the WAC. They were ranked 15th in the final BCS poll. I'd like to see them face a much more competitive foe than the 7-5, fourth-place team from the ACC.

    I'm not saying they should get a BCS bid, but a competitive bowl would be nice. Of course, maybe that would be different if they had scheduled a Boston College-caliber team in their first week of play, instead of FCS Eastern Washington.

    Nevertheless, this season is one more jewel in the crown of head coach and 24-year veteran Chris Ault. It is, at the very least, his most successful Wolf Pack team as an FBS program.

    As for BC, I certainly don't mean to put them down. This is head coach Paul Spaziani's second season with the team, and he has gotten them to a bowl in both years.

    This year, his Eagles struggled on offense. They had the lowest-scoring offense in the ACC. Of course, they were also starting a true freshman at quarterback, whose top two receivers were also freshmen.

    If Boston College manages to pull this game off, it might have to be considered the biggest win in Spaziani's career thus far.

    Drama Factor: 2

    Quality Game Potential: 2

    National Interest: 3

    Total Points: 7

New Mexico Bowl: BYU vs. UTEP

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    Where: Albuquerque, New Mexico

    When: December 18, 2 P.M.

    The Lowdown: 2010 marked Bronco Mendenhall's worst record since his first season as head coach of Brigham Young in 2005. That season, like this one, saw his Cougars go 6-6. Between 2006 and 2009, BYU won at least 10 games each season.

    It is understandable, given that the Cougars were breaking in a new quarterback, among other positions, and four of their losses were to ranked teams. Nevertheless, with an independent football schedule looming on their horizon, BYU will need to get back to double-digit wins in the future. A bowl win would be a good first step.

    Meanwhile, Texas-El Paso also went 6-6, but unlike the Cougars, all but one of their losses were to unranked teams. In fact, four of their losses were to non-bowl eligible teams. Head coach Mike Price had early success with the Miners, but this will be his team's first trip to a bowl game since 2005.

    Price's UTEP teams lost their only two other bowl appearances in '04 and '05.

    Drama Factor: 1

    Quality Game Potential: 2

    National Interest: 4

    Total Points: 7

Little Caesars Bowl: Florida International vs. Toledo

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    Where: Detroit, Michigan

    When: December 26, 8:30 P.M.

    The Lowdown: Although many may not know it, Toledo has served as a cradle to a number of current college football coaches. Nick Saban was the head coach in 1990, and Gary Pinkel was the head man from 1991-2000. After Pinkel, "Toledo" Tom Arnstutz took over and had an impressive run at the beginning of the decade.

    However, at the end of Arnstutz's career, his Rockets fell off a bit, prompting him to retire. Tim Beckman took over following the 2008 season. After going 5-7 last season, his Rockets took a big step forward this year, going 8-4.

    Meanwhile, this is the first bowl in which the FIU Panthers will have played. They only became a program of any sort in 2002. They started as a FCS team, and in 2005 moved up to FBS. In that time, they have only had two head coaches.

    This season, they went a deceptive 6-6. Their record is deceptive because four of their losses were to out-of-conference AQ teams. Certainly, it means that they haven't really beat any very good teams, but a 6-2 conference record was enough to earn them a share of the Sun Belt title.

    Drama Factor: 2

    Quality Game Potential: 4

    National Interest: 1

    Total Points: 7

TicketCity Bowl: Northwestern vs. Texas Tech

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    Where: Dallas, Texas

    When: January 1, noon

    The Lowdown: Having won 24 games over the last three years, Pat Fitzgerald has orchestrated the most successful three-year stretch in Northwestern football history. He will look to put an exclamation point on it by leading the Wildcats to their first bowl win since Harry S. Truman was president.

    Unfortunately, with the Cats' junior quarterback Dan Persa out for the season, it won't be easy. Before his injury, Persa was responsible for over 65 percent of his team's yards from scrimmage.

    As for Texas Tech, Tommy Tuberville has done about as well as one would have hoped in his first year in Lubbock. Certainly, 7-5 is not a great year. On the other hand, when you consider how the team had to transition from Mike Leach's somewhat gimmicky offense, as well as all the controversy that surrounded Leach's departure, you have to hand it Tuberville.

    Drama Factor: 3

    Quality Game Potential: 3

    National Interest: 3

    Total Points: 9

Humanitarian Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State

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    Where: Boise, Idaho

    When: December 18, 5:30 P.M.

    The Lowdown: After early-season losses to Iowa State and Illinois, NUI rolled over everything the MAC put in their way. In MAC-only contests, they averaged 47.75 points per game. The only game that was really close was a late October 28-21 contest against Western Michigan.

    They found themselves ranked 24th in the nation and heavily favored, as they went into the MAC Championship Game against Miami (OH). At that point, they lost a heartbreaker, 21-26.

    To add insult to injury, their coach, Jerry Kill, has accepted the head coaching job at Minnesota. Kill will not be coaching the Huskies in the bowl game.

    On the other hand, Fresno State had their typical season. Some ups, some downs, with a willingness to play anybody that wanted a game. They wound up a very respectable 8-4, but they lost to their three best WAC competitors: Hawaii, Nevada and Boise State.

    It is also worth noting that this will be the Huskies' first time playing on the blue turf. By virtue of playing in the WAC, Fresno State are old hands at this. It seems like a minor issue, but it is the little things like that that make for a home-field advantage.

    Drama Factor: 3

    Quality Game Potential: 5

    National Interest: 1

    Total Points: 9

St. Petersburg Bowl: Southern Miss vs. Louisville

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    Where: St. Petersburg, Florida

    When: December 21, 8 P.M.

    The Lowdown: When Louisville joined the Big East in 2005, they got off to a huge start, vying with West Virginia for dominance in their new conference. Then head coach Bobby Petrino left in 2006, and things fell apart under Steve Kragthorpe.

    It remains to be seen if new head coach Charlie Strong is the answer. Nevertheless, in his inaugural season with the Cardinals he went 6-6, and has them back in a bowl game for the first time since Petrino left.

    At Southern Miss, head coach Larry Fedora has had a decent three-year run. He has compiled a record of 22-16, and has made a bowl every year he has been coach. However, he has also yet to win a Conference USA title or make any major splashes.

    At 8-4, this season is his most successful yet. Moreover, three of the Golden Eagles' losses were by a touchdown or less. A bowl win might put Southern Miss in a nice position to contend for next year's conference title.

    Drama Factor: 1

    Quality Game Potential: 6

    National Interest: 3

    Total Points: 10

Poinsettia Bowl: San Diego State vs. Navy

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    Where: San Diego, California

    When: December 23. 8 P.M.

    The Lowdown: Head coach Brady Hoke has made a name for himself in reviving struggling programs. He did it at Ball State and he also took over an Aztec program that hadn't made a bowl since 1998. In two years, he has gotten them bowl eligible.

    In fact, San Diego State may be the best eight-win team in the country. This becomes evident when you look at their four losses. Three were to ranked teams—TCU, Utah, and Missouri, with the other loss being to BYU—and all were within five points or less. In fact, judging strictly by the score, TCU had its toughest win against the Aztecs.

    Meanwhile, Ken Niumatalolo didn't have quite as daunting a rebuilding job at Navy. Having taken over for Paul Johnson, Navy already had a solid program. However, Niumatalolo has maintained Johnson's success.

    In three seasons he has gone 27-13. This season, his Midshipmen went 9-3, including wins over rivals Notre Dame and Army.

    Drama Factor: 4

    Quality Game Potential: 6

    National Interest: 2

    Total Points: 12

Armed Forces Bowl: Army vs. SMU

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    Where: Dallas, Texas

    When: December 30, noon

    The Lowdown: June Jones' second year in Dallas was very similar to the first. He won the Western Division of Conference USA with a 7-6 record (6-2 in conference). However, as was the case last season, his team lacked any signature wins.

    If his career at Hawaii is any indication, Jones is looking to move his program past any perceived external limitations.

    Meanwhile, this is also Army head coach Rich Ellerson's second year at the helm. At 6-6, his Black Knights have to be considered successful, as this will be the first bowl Army will play in since 1996. Moreover, the relative success that Air Force and Navy are achieving serve as proof to Ellerson's young program that the academies are only as limited as they allow themselves to be.

    Drama Factor: 4

    Quality Game Potential: 7

    National Interest: 1

    Total Points: 12

Compass Bowl: Pittsburgh vs. Kentucky

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    Where: Birmingham, Alabama

    When: January 8. Noon

    The Lowdown: After six fairly frustrating seasons under Dave Wannstedt, Pitt forced their head coach to resign following a somewhat disappointing 7-5 season. Speaking as a Pitt class of '94 graduate, the Panthers have an historically bad habit of thinking they are more attractive than they really are.

    Then they make stupid hirings, on top of it. Did anybody really think Wannstedt would be successful?

    Regardless, by the time the bowl game is played, it is likely Pitt will have already hired their next head coach. A good bowl game—whether the new coach is involved as a coach or not—will likely give the Panthers' recruiting and momentum a running start as they head into 2011.

    On the other side of the field, Kentucky coach Joker Phillips just finished his first year as the head man. Ten years ago, his 6-6 finish in Lexington might have been considered a resounding success at the basketball-first school. However, his predecessor, Rich Brooks, increased expectations considerably in his seven years as the coach.

    A bowl win will help to prove that Phillips will pick up where Brooks left off. Nevertheless, the Wildcats will have to do it without their senior quarterback, who was suspended due to legal issues.

    Drama Factor: 3

    Quality Game Potential: 5

    National Interest: 4

    Total Points: 12

Holiday Bowl: Nebraska vs. Washington

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    Where: San Diego, California

    When: December 30, 10 P.M.

    The Lowdown: This is a replay of a game played in September in Washington that the Huskers won 56-21.

    It will also be the last game Nebraska plays as a member of the Big 12. The Huskers had hoped to end their time in the Big 12 with their first conference championship since 1999. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way, and now the Huskers will leave the conference that they were instrumental in building with a whimper.

    Meanwhile, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian had big hopes coming into this season. With possible first-round draftee Jake Locker at quarterback, the Huskies were a dark horse candidate to win the Pac-10. However, Locker has had a decidedly lackluster season, and Washington is 6-6. A win here will be a nice ending to a very mediocre year.

    Drama Factor: 3

    Quality Game Potential: 2

    National Interest: 7

    Total Points: 12

Liberty Bowl: UCF vs. Georgia

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    Where: Memphis, Tennessee

    When: December 31, 3:30 P.M.

    The Lowdown: At this point, Georgia head coach Mark Richt's seat couldn't be much hotter. In 2010, he not only went 6-6, but he lost to archrival Florida yet again. And Florida wasn't even all that good this season.

    It remains to be seen if a bowl win will help Richt keep his job, or at this point, if it even matters that much to a Dawg pound that is foaming at the mouth for an SEC East title.

    As for their opponents, George O'Leary couldn't be much safer than he is at Central Florida. In seven years with the Knights, he has 44 wins and 44 losses. That might not seem like much, but it becomes impressive when you consider that only one decade before O'Leary signed on, UCF wasn't even a FBS team.

    In his seven years with the program, he has won two Conference USA titles. He won his second title this season, going 10-3. The one knock against him is that he has yet to guide the Knights to their first-ever bowl victory.

    Drama Factor: 2

    Quality Game Potential: 6

    National Interest: 5

    Total Points: 13

Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Connecticut

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    Where: Glendale, Arizona

    When: January 1, 8:30 P.M.

    The Lowdown: Oklahoma is in a tough spot. Bob Stoops has lost five BCS games in row. He has developed something of a reputation of choking in the national spotlight. However, now the 11-2, ninth-ranked Sooners find themselves in the Fiesta Bowl against 8-4 unranked UConn.

    If Oklahoma wins, what is to really be gained? Certainly, a win will be nice, but nobody is going to take it all that seriously. And if they lose, Stoops might never be able to erase his aforementioned reputation.

    Meanwhile, Connecticut is a team with nothing to lose. They started the season as a favorite to win the Big East, but it wasn't supposed to happen this way. After opening up 3-2, they lost a close game to Rutgers, and then got shut out by Louisville. After that, they turned it around, pulling off five straight wins, including victories over West Virginia and Pitt.

    They win in Glendale and they are the Fiesta Bowl champs with a bright future in a wide-open Big East. They lose and, really, who would have expected them to beat Oklahoma anyway?

    Drama Factor: 3

    Quality Game Potential: 2

    National Interest: 8

    Total Points: 13

Texas Bowl: Illinois vs. Baylor

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    Where: Houston, Texas

    When: December 29, 6 P.M.

    The Lowdown: Believe it or not, this is only Ron Zook's second bowl game in six years with the Illini. Of course, when your one bowl game in your first five years is the Rose Bowl, you tend to get extra breathing room. This season, Zook eked out six wins, and in doing so, probably saved his job.

    That said, this season, Zook got back to what made him successful in that 2007 Rose Bowl year—a strong running game. His top running back, Mikel Leshoure, came in seventh in the country in yards rushing.

    On the other side of the field, by virtue of the Bears' seven-win season, Art Briles has led Baylor to their first bowl since 1994. Of course, Baylor, who had the 72nd-ranked rush defense in the country, might have some trouble containing Leshoure and the Illini.

    Then again, at times this season, Ron Zook's team has suffered from split personalities.

    Drama Factor: 3

    Quality Game Potential: 8

    National Interest: 4

    Total Points: 15

Independence Bowl: Air Force vs. Georgia Tech

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    Where: Shreveport, Louisiana

    When: December 27, 5 P.M.

    The Lowdown: For those that like a throwback game, this is for you. In fact, if it weren't for the newer uniforms and the level of athleticism, a channel surfer might think he had tuned into a game from the '70s or '80s.

    Both the Yellow Jackets and the Falcons run an option offense. They have the first- and second-ranked rushing offenses in the country. They also have the third- and fourth-least pass attempts in the country.

    Drama Factor: 5

    Quality Game Potential: 9

    National Interest: 2

    Total Points: 16

Pinstripe Bowl: Kansas State vs. Syracuse

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    Where: Bronx, New York

    When: December 30, 3:20 P.M.

    The Lowdown: Kansas State's all-time winning percentage is .43433. While Bill Snyder was the coach the first time around—1989-2005—his teams won .66585. In the three years he was gone, the Wildcat program he had built slipped back down to .45946.

    Now, Snyder is back, and for the first time since 2006, Kansas will be going to a bowl. With a 7-5 record, they were hardly a dominant team this season, but it is all about taking steps.

    Meanwhile, some might not be aware of this, but Syracuse is the 35th-winningest team in college football. From 1981-2000, the Orange enjoyed tremendous success under Dick MacPherson and Paul Pasqualoni. However, over the last 10 years, they have had something of a long, dark winter.

    Now, with second-year head coach Doug Marone, the 'Cuse appears to be headed back in the right direction. With a 7-5 record, this bowl game will be their first since 2004.

    Incidentally, this will be a homecoming for Marone, who is from the Bronx.

    Drama Factor: 7

    Quality Game Potential: 6

    National Interest: 4

    Total Points: 17

Car Care Bowl: South Florida vs. Clemson

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    Where: Charlotte, North Carolina

    When: December 31, noon

    The Lowdown: In Skip Holtz's first year as the head coach of South Florida, he finished with 7-5 record. This included the program's first win over Miami (Fla). As USF has something of the same dynamic as Miami (Fla)—an upstart program that resides in a hotbed of high school recruits—perhaps Holtz is looking to fashion his program after the Hurricanes of the '80s and '90s.

    A win in this bowl game would be a nice way to get things kicked off.

    Meanwhile, Dabo Swinney is in his second year as head coach of the Tigers. After tallying an impressive nine wins last season, Clemson was picked to be in competition with Florida State for the ACC title. However, with a 6-6 finish, the season has to be considered a disappointment.

    Drama Factor: 6

    Quality Game Potential: 9

    National Interest: 4

    Total Points: 19

Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Arizona

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    Where: San Antonio, Texas

    When: December 29, 9:15 P.M.

    The Lowdown: This matchup pits two teams that, through the beginning of November, still had a chance to win their conference and go to a BCS bowl.

    In the case of Arizona, they began the month with a 7-1 record. If they won out and Oregon State lost, they would have won the conference. However, the end of the season also marked the Wildcats' toughest part of their schedule.

    They proceeded to lose in succession to Stanford, USC and Oregon. Then they added insult to injury by losing a one-point game to their in-state rival Arizona State. With a 7-5 record, this season has to be considered a huge disappointment for head coach Mike Stoops; perhaps a disappointment worthy of putting him squarely on the hot seat.

    Meanwhile, Oklahoma State had control of its own destiny until the last week of the season. At that point, they were 10-1, and were favored in a home game against their arch nemesis, Oklahoma. Win, and they win a trip to the Big 12 Championship Game, among other things. Lose, and, well, here we are.

    Drama Factor: 7

    Quality Game Potential: 7

    National Interest: 7

    Total Points: 21

Music City Bowl: Tennessee vs. North Carolina

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    Where: Nashville, Tennessee

    When: December 30, 6:40 P.M.

    The Lowdown: North Carolina came into the season full of hope of an ACC championship and maybe more. They boasted five potential first-round draft picks on their defense alone. Then the litigations, suspensions and investigations started, and before the Tar Heels knew it, they had lost their first two games of the season and were on the ropes.

    They ended the year 7-5, and a defense that was a sure top-10 group wound up ranked 46th in the country.

    Meanwhile, Tennessee is in a transitional period. After the Lane Kiffin debacle, Derek Dooley became the head coach. The season started as a disaster as the Vols began with a 2-6 record. However, they rattled off four straight victories to get six wins and a bowl berth.

    Of course, those six wins were against Memphis, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Kentucky, only one of whom is bowl eligible. A win against UNC would make for a much more comfortable offseason for Dooley.

    Drama Factor: 8

    Quality Game Potential: 7

    National Interest: 6

    Total Points: 21

Insight Bowl: Iowa vs. Missouri

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    Where: Tempe, Arizona

    When: December 28, 10 P.M.

    The Lowdown: Iowa, at 7-5, is coming off a season in which they started ranked in the top 10, with talk of a national championship run. They were still in the running for a Rose Bowl bid until they dropped their last three games, including an embarrassing loss to 3-9 Minnesota.

    It remains to be seen if a bowl win can salvage an extremely disappointing season.

    Mizzou had a very respectable 10-2 season. However, having won at least 10 games three of the past four years, they have yet to receive a bid to play in a BCS bowl. Gary Pinkel has proven that he runs a good, solid program, but he must be itching to prove just how good a program it is.

    Add to all of that the fact that these border rivals haven't played each other since 1910, and have something of a past history in the games they have played and the games they haven't.

    Drama Factor: 10

    Quality Game Potential: 6

    National Interest: 5

    Total Points: 21

Gator Bowl: Michigan vs. Mississippi State

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    Where: Jacksonville, Florida

    When: January 1, 1:30 P.M.

    The Lowdown: Rich Rodriguez appears to have held onto his job for now. His Wolverines' 7-5 record was enough to get them to a bowl for the first time since Rodriguez has been in Ann Arbor. However, what has kept his job status in question has been that for the third time in three years, his defense has looked more like a sieve than a defense.

    If Michigan is to win this game, it is likely going to come the same way all their other wins have come this season; by outscoring their opponents. With the 22nd-ranked scoring offense and the sixth-ranked total offense in the nation, the Wolverines might be able to do it.

    On the other hand, Dan Mullen's job status seems to be fairly safe for now. With an 8-4 record, his two-year winning percentage is better than any two-year stretch of his predecessor, Sylvester Croom.

    However, with the 10th-ranked scoring offense in the SEC, Mullen will look to rely on his stingy third-ranked scoring defense to shut Michigan down.

    If the Bulldogs do get the win, it will be the program's most wins since 1999, when they went 10-2. It also might spell the end for Rodriguez.

    Drama Factor: 9

    Quality Game Potential: 5

    National Interest: 7

    Total Points: 21

Champs Sports Bowl: West Virginia vs. North Carolina State

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    Where: Orlando, Florida

    When: December 28, 6:30 P.M.

    The Lowdown: After three seasons with West Virginia, Bill Stewart has a 28-11 record, which is tops in the Big East over that time. However, in that time he has yet to win a Big East title outright, and he has yet to get a bid to a BCS bowl. This has been in a still wide-open conference. His predecessor, Rich Rodriguez, won the Big East title four out of his last five years in Morgantown. 

    This season, Stewart's 9-3 Mountaineers were the favorites to win the Big East. They wound up getting a share of the title, but a loss to the UConn Huskies kept them from getting their conference's bowl bid. It remains to be seen just how satisfied the WVU fanbase will remain with the Champs Sports Bowl.

    The NC State fanbase has been nothing if not patient with their head coach Tim O'Brien. He came to the Wolfpack fresh from 10 successful years at in-conference rival Boston College. In his first three years with the program, he only went to one bowl, and has never had a team go over .500.

    That changed this season, as the Pack went 8-4 on the shoulders of a passing attack that led the conference. Needless to say, O'Brien will be expected to deliver bigger and better things than Champs Sports Bowl bids, but for now, he has taken some solid steps forward.

    Drama Factor: 8

    Quality Game Potential: 9

    National Interest: 5

    Total Points: 22

Las Vegas Bowl: Utah vs. Boise State

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    Where: Las Vegas, Nevada

    When: December 22, 8 P.M.

    The Lowdown: As seems to usually be the case with Boise State, they are always playing for all the marbles. If they go through the season unscathed, they're going to a BCS bowl. If they lose even one game, it's the Humanitarian Bowl or the Poinsettia Bowl or the Las Vegas Bowl. This season, they lost one and they find themselves in Vegas for the holidays.

    Meanwhile, Utah has historically been in a similar predicament. This season, they lost two games, which means they also find themselves in Sin City.

    Both teams will switch conferences next year in a hope to improve their chances of getting major bowl bids. Utah will certainly have more opportunities in the Pac-10. It remains to be seen how BSU will fare in the now BYU, Utah and TCU-less Mountain West.

    Drama Factor: 8

    Quality Game Potential: 9

    National Interest: 8

    Total Points: 25

Sun Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Miami (FL)

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    Where: El Paso, Texas

    When: December 31, 2 P.M.

    The Lowdown: In the 1980s, these two teams met every single year except 1986. The Canes came out the better of the series, having won six and lost three. At that time, both programs were powerhouses. During that period, Miami (FL) won three national championships while the Irish won one. The two teams last met in 1990.

    Since then, both programs have fallen on hard times. Notre Dame has been through five head coaches, and this season saw them breaking in the last of that bunch, Brian Kelly. Kelly's first season wasn't quite what the Irish had hoped for, as he went 7-5, and was not without a bit of controversy. Nevertheless, Kelly has a proven track record and will have a few years to put it together.

    Meanwhile, the U has had four head coaches since 1990, and this season saw them fire the fourth. The Randy Shannon era ended as a senior-heavy Miami went a very lackluster 7-5. As of now, they are still without a head coach.

    Drama Factor: 10

    Quality Game Potential: 5

    National Interest: 10

    Total Points: 25

Outback Bowl: Penn State vs. Florida

28 of 35

    Where: Tampa, Florida

    When: January 1, Noon.

    The Lowdown: At the end of the regular season, which coach you have bet would have been most likely to call the Outback Bowl his last game: Joe Paterno or Urban Meyer? I think it is safe to say that the majority of us would have been wrong.

    JoePa will still be coaching the Nittany Lions, and, in fact, has said that he will come back next year. However, at 7-5, this season was something of a rebuilding year. Nevertheless, the PSU that started the year 3-3 is arguably a much better team at this point in time.

    Meanwhile, Florida also went a very ugly 7-5 and would be said to be rebuilding, except they will be doing it without Urban Meyer. The two-time national championship-winning coach stepped down on December 8, citing a need to focus on "family and life away from the field."

    He will stay on as Florida's coach through the bowl, but it remains to be seen how being coached by a lame duck will affect his team.

    Drama Factor: 10

    Quality Game Potential: 5

    National Interest: 10

    Total Points: 25

Capital One Bowl: Michigan State vs. Alabama

29 of 35

    Where: Orlando, Florida

    When: January 1, 1 P.M.

    The Lowdown: The Tide came into the season ranked No. 1 in the nation. They held that ranking until losing in their sixth game of the season. They proceeded to lose two more over the course of the year. After two BCS bowls in a row—including one national championship—will a relatively low-profile bowl like this be a letdown for 'Bama?

    Meanwhile, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio feels that his team has done what it had to do to win the Big Ten and get to the Rose Bowl. After all, they went 11-1 and beat the team that is in the Rose Bowl. As it stands, due to the fact that OSU is a much more high-profile team that travels better than the Spartans, MSU will have to settle for a million "what-if's" and a trip to the Capitol One Bowl.

    Needless to say, if they want to silence doubters, they couldn't have asked for a better foe than 'Bama. No matter what 'Bama's record, if Sparty beats them, people will begin to give them the respect they feel they deserve.

    As a side note, Nick Saban was the coach of Michigan State before he left East Lansing for LSU.

    Drama Factor: 9

    Quality Game Potential: 8 

    National Interest: 8

    Total Points: 25

Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M vs. LSU

30 of 35

    Where: Arlington, Texas

    When: January 7, 8 P.M.

    The Lowdown: Mike Sherman's first two years in College Station produced decidedly underwhelming results. Consequently, after compiling a 10-13 record, he was squarely on a lukewarm seat as he headed into this season.

    Nevertheless, this season, his Aggies started to deliver on their promise, going 9-3. On top of that, they played probably the hardest schedule in the Big 12, and improved down the stretch, winning their last six, including victories over Oklahoma and Nebraska.

    Meanwhile, LSU's head coach Les Miles' teams seem to always overachieve or underachieve. Most would consider the last two seasons to be underachieving. Consequently, headed into this season with only nine starters returning, the expectations weren't terribly high.

    However, with the Tigers' only two losses on the year coming to No. 1 Auburn and No. 8 Arkansas (both away games), 2010 would have to go in the books as another overachieving year for Miles.

    Drama Factor: 8

    Quality Game Potential: 9

    National Interest: 8

    Total Points: 25

Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Stanford

31 of 35

    Where: Miami, Florida

    When: January 3, 8:30 P.M.

    The Lowdown: After Virginia Tech lost to FCS James Madison in the second week of the season, it seemed unlikely that they would be here. Yet, here they are, in the Orange Bowl after going 10-2 and winning an unprecedented fourth ACC title in seven years.

    It remains to be seen how much longer Frank Beamer will be roaming the Hokie sidelines, but like Joe Paterno, he just keeps chugging along, turning out winners.

    Meanwhile, Stanford came into the season unranked. They first debuted on the AP poll in the second week of the season. It took the coaches one more week to catch up. Behind the play of quarterback Andrew Luck, the Cardinal has rolled up over 40 points per game.

    It remains to be seen if head coach Jim Harbaugh will take the Beamer route and remain with Stanford for the duration of his career. However, in Miami, the 16th-ranked scoring defense will see if they can stop the eighth-ranked scoring offense.

    Drama Factor: 8

    Quality Game Potential: 10

    National Interest: 9

    Total Points: 27

Chick-Fil-A Bowl: South Carolina vs. Florida State

32 of 35

    Where: Atlanta, Georgia

    When: December 31, 7:30 P.M.

    The Lowdown: Some went into this year feeling that if Steve Spurrier didn't win the SEC this season, then he wasn't going to win it at South Carolina. Well, he didn't win it, but he did win the SEC East and finish with a 9-4 record.

    Either way, it won't take much for Florida State fans to get rattled up to face his team—albeit a different team than they're used to. After all, it was Spurrier that called FSU "Free Shoes University" in reference to their trouble with recruiting violations. It was also Spurrier's Gators that ruined the 1997 Seminoles' undefeated bid.

    Meanwhile, FSU is also the runner-up in the ACC, having won the Atlantic Division but lost in the title game. The Gators also went 9-4 in Jimbo Fisher's first season as head coach. While Fisher doesn't have his predecessor Bobby Bowden's experience with Spurrier, Fisher is well acquainted with him, as he worked at Auburn and LSU during much of Spurrier's time at Florida.

    I suspect, in any Seminoles' minds, Spurrier will always be a Gator, and that is more than enough to get their blood boiling.

    Drama Factor:10

    Quality Game Potential: 10

    National Interest: 8

    Total Points: 28

Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. TCU

33 of 35

    Where: Pasadena, California

    When: January 1, 5 P.M.

    The Lowdown: Bret Bielema has finally stepped out of his predecessor and current Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez’s shadow. With an 11-1 record, and arguably the best offensive line to play in the Big Ten in at least the last five years, the Badgers have run over almost everything in their path. In their final three games of the season, UW averaged 67 points per game.

    Meanwhile, TCU feels they have a right to be considered for the National Championship Game. After all, they went 12-0, with only two games—Oregon State and San Diego State—that were within two scores. Of course, with a very weak schedule that only saw them play one ranked team—Utah—they have a lot to prove.

    With the top-ranked scoring defense in the country, the Horned Frogs will have an opportunity to prove quite a few doubters wrong if they shut down the Badgers.

    Drama Factor: 9

    Quality Game Potential: 10

    National Interest: 10

    Total Points: 29

Sugar Bowl: Arkansas vs. Ohio State

34 of 35

    Where: New Orleans, Louisiana

    When: January 4, 8:30 P.M.

    The Lowdown: Ohio State went 11-1 en route to an unprecedented (share of a) sixth Big Ten title in a row. They haven't lost to archrival Michigan since 2003. They have gone to a bowl every year since Jim Tressel has been at the helm, and they have gone to a BCS bowl all but two of those years. So why do a number of people view OSU as "overrated?"

    It is primarily due to national championship game meltdowns in 2007 and 2008. In those games, they lost to LSU, and got smoked by an underdog Florida team. The fact of the matter is, regardless of last year's Rose Bowl win over Oregon, until the Bucks beat an SEC team under the national spotlight, they will always be viewed as overrated.

    Meanwhile, this is Arkansas' first trip to a BCS game. In 2008, head coach Bobby Petrino was hired to bring the Razorbacks to the upper echelon of the ever-competitive SEC. Now, in his third year, it appears that he is on the verge of breaking through.

    Drama Factor: 10

    Quality Game Potential: 10

    National Interest: 10

    Total Points: 30

BCS National Championship Game: Auburn vs. Oregon

35 of 35

    Where: Glendale Arizona

    When: January 10, 8:30 P.M.

    The Lowdown: Of course, it is arguable, but in my opinion, this is the most inherently interesting and exciting national championship game since 2006 when Texas beat USC.

    Auburn's last national championship team was 1957. Since that time, they have had two undefeated teams. However, the 1993 team was denied any attempt at a national championship due to probation. Then, in 2004, the Tigers went 13-0, but were left out of the championship because they finished third in the polls behind USC and Oklahoma.

    Now, it is their turn to make up for the opportunities those teams never had. From here on out, it is entirely in Auburn's hands.

    Meanwhile, one might go so far as to look at Oregon as party crashers. Since the inception of the BCS, all of the teams that have competed in the national championship game would have to be considered in the upper echelon of national prestige.

    Florida, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas, LSU, Florida State, etc. It reads like a who's who of college football, and all of them—with the exception of Miami (FL)—rank amongst the top 20 winningest programs in college football.

    On the other hand, the Ducks had the 48th all-time most wins coming into the 2010 season. Moreover, while fans around the country know Oregon, they certainly are not as nationally or historically prestigious as Alabama or Notre Dame.

    Drama Factor: 10

    Quality Game Potential: 10

    National Interest: 10

    Total Points: 30