Well a long 16 week college football season is now behind us, which means only one thing – time to go bowling. Bowl season is always interesting for a variety of reasons. First, which teams will show up with the same passion and enthusiasm that they brought to the regular season? This could be particularly important for teams like TCU and Baylor who both believe they should be in the first ever college football playoff. Second, we see interesting and intriguing match-ups between traditional college powers that are not frequently offered to us during the regular season.
There are 39 total bowl games so we are here to help make a little sense of it.
Best Bowls Without Playoff Implications
National University Holiday Bowl – Nebraska vs. USC, Dec. 27, 2014 – San Diego, CA
The Huskers and Trojans take the field in San Diego in a match-up of two historic football programs. Steve Sarkisian is in his first season at the helm for USC and is trying to rebuild a Trojans program still suffering from its previous sanctions. Nebraska on the other hand will be without Bo Pelini, who was let go following the season and recently hired as the head coach at FCS, Youngstown State. The Trojans were up and down all year as was quarterback Cody Kessler who destroyed the Notre Dame secondary in their regular season finale. It’s match-ups like this however that make bowl season so much fun. Two storied programs clashing and fighting for the pride of their programs.
Hyundai Sun Bowl – Arizona St vs. Duke, Dec. 27, 2014 – El Paso, TX
A great ACC-Pac 12 match-up with the high scoring offense of Arizona State taking on the strong running game of the Blue Devils. After being only known as a basketball school for many years, Duke has become one of the stronger football programs in the ACC as of late. They are a well coached and disciplined team that schematically is always tough to defend. Arizona State was flying high after their victory against Notre Dame but tailed off a bit at season’s end. The team that is the most hungry will win this game, and Duke is still the team with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove.
Advocare V100 Texas Bowl – Arkansas vs. Texas, Dec. 29, 2014 – Houston, TX
Two teams with .500 records in general wouldn’t spark a great deal of attention, but these two teams are better than their records indicate. Texas is still in rebuilding mode under first year head coach, Charlie Strong. Bret Bielema, Arkansas’s third year coach, seems to have finally righted the ship. The Razorbacks shut out both LSU and Ole Miss, and nearly beat Alabama, losing 14-13. Texas on the other hand suffered five of their six losses to teams that were all ranked inside the top 12 when they played.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl – Notre Dame vs. LSU, Dec. 30, 2014 – Nashville, TN
In all honesty, neither of these teams set out to be playing in Nashville on Dec. 30. Notre Dame was at one point ranked No. 5 in the country and LSU was moments away from knocking off the Crimson Tide in Baton Rouge. This season for the Irish and Tigers was one of unfulfilled promise, but both could use this game to head into the off-season on a positive note. The big thing to watch in this game is how snaps will be split by Everett Golson and Malik Ziare for Notre Dame. At season’s beginning, Golson was the entrenched starter looking to mix it up in the Heisman race. He finished the season pulled out of the USC game by head coach, Brian Kelly.
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual – Oregon vs. Florida State, Jan. 1, 2015 – Pasadena, CA
The storyline could not be better for this New Year’s Day showdown in Pasadena. The last two Heisman Winners, Marcus Mariota from Oregon and Jameis Winston of Florida State face each other in the first of the two playoff games. Throughout the season, the Ducks have dominated opponents save their single home-loss to Arizona in early October. Florida State, riding a 29-game win streak, has spent the season sneaking by opponents, finding a way to win late in games. The ‘Noles’ defense has been porous all year long, and it will be a long night for them if they allow Mariota and company to run free in the secondary. Winston, though not playing at the level he was last year, is still capable of shredding defenses. There is no way the winner of this game scores less than 30, and he will likely need to score over 40 to get the W and advance.
AllState Sugar Bowl – Alabama vs. Ohio State, Jan. 1, 2015 – New Orleans, LA
Urban Meyer and Nick Saban renew their rivalry from Meyer’s days at Florida in New Orleans at the Sugar Bowl. On paper, the Tide appears dominant on both sides of the ball. And they are. There isn’t a team that Ohio State has faced that has near the talent of Alabama. After all, if the Buckeyes are to pull this one out, they will be doing it with their third string quarterback. Cordale Jones, the Buckeyes signal caller, was lights out in the Big 10 title game against Wisconsin. He will have to bring a lot of the same game to keep the Buckeyes in this one.