Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch (6) prepares to pass during the first quarter of the Mid-American Conference championship NCAA college football game against Kent State, Friday, Nov. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) Advocate story Dec. 15, 2012 Comments December 15 New Mexico Bowl Nevada vs. Arizona Noon in Albuquerque, N.M. TV: ESPN Records: Nevada 7-5, Arizona 7-5 Why you should watch: Rich Rodriguez’s first season at Arizona ended with a loss to rival Arizona State, but he’ll have a chance to create postseason momentum. Nevada RB Stefphon Jefferson had a seven-touchdown game at Hawaii in September and finished with 1,703 yards on the ground this season. Potato Bowl Toledo vs. Utah State 3:30 p.m. in Boise, Idaho TV: ESPN Records: Toledo 9-3, Utah State 10-2 Why you should watch: This bowl has a history of providing competitive matchups: Six of the past eight haven’t been settled until the last drive, and the average final score of the past 15 is 31-24. Toledo reached No. 24 in the BCS on Nov. 4, and Utah State, which departs the Western Athletic Conference for the Mountain West after this season, was No. 22 in the final BCS rankings. December 20 Poinsettia Bowl BYU vs. San Diego State 7 p.m. in San Diego TV: ESPN Records: BYU 7-5, San Diego State 9-3 Why you should watch: The Cougars’ defense ranks third in the nation, surrendering just 266.3 yards per game. The Aztecs counter with the country’s No. 16 rushing game, powered by sophomore RB Adam Muema (1,355 yards, 16 TDs). December 21 Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl Central Florida vs. Ball State 6:30 p.m. in St. Petersburg, Fla. TV: ESPN Records: UCF 9-4, Ball State 9-3 Why you should watch: Both teams have had quality seasons. UCF lost only to Ohio State, Tulsa (twice) and Missouri. Ball State lost to Clemson, Northern Illinois and Kent State. Ball State RB Jahwan Edwards rushed for 1,321 yards and 14 TDs; UCF counters with a balanced offense featuring QB Blake Bortles (2,787 yards, 22 TDs) and RB Latavius Murray (1,035 yards, 14 TDs). December 22 New Orleans Bowl ULL vs. East Carolina 11 a.m. in New Orleans TV: ESPN Records: ULL 8-4, East Carolina 8-4 Why you should watch: The Ragin’ Cajuns return to the New Orleans Bowl after last year’s 24-karat thriller — Brett Baer drilled a 50-yard field goal as time expired for a 32-30 win over San Diego State. Expect another shootout with both teams averaging more than 250 passing yards and pass defenses that rank 105th (ECU) and 111th (ULL) nationally. ULL quarterback Terrance Broadway needs 258 total yards to break Blaine Gautier’s single-season record. ECU’s Shane Carden threw for 300-plus yards in four of his past six games, including a school-record 439 in a double-OT win over Marshall. Las Vegas Bowl Washington vs. Boise State 2:30 p.m. in Las Vegas TV: ESPN Records: Washington 7-5, Boise State 10-2 Why you should watch: Boise State nearly always delivers a worthwhile performance. The Broncos are making their third consecutive trip to this bowl, having beaten Arizona State and Utah the past two years. This is a chance to check out the improvement by a Washington team that lost to LSU 41-3 on Sept. 8 in Tiger Stadium. December 24 Hawaii Bowl Fresno State vs. SMU 7 p.m. in Honolulu TV: ESPN Records: Fresno State 9-3, SMU 6-6 Why you should watch: Fresno State averages 40 points and comes in having won its past five games. Safety Phillip Thomas has eight interceptions, the most in the nation. SMU coach June Jones brings his always-entertaining offense back to Hawaii, where he used to coach. December 26 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Western Kentucky vs. Central Michigan 6:30 p.m. in Detroit TV: ESPN Records: Western Kentucky 7-5, Central Michigan 6-6 Why you should watch: Western Kentucky will no doubt be fired up for its first bowl game, and running back Antonio Andrews leads the nation with an average of 248 all-purpose yards. He needs 273 in this game to break Barry Sanders’ NCAA single-season record. Central Michigan has won four of its past five. December 27 Military Bowl San Jose State vs. Bowling Green 2 p.m. in Washington TV: ESPN Records: San Jose State 10-2, Bowling Green 8-4 Why you should watch: San Jose State is just two years removed from a 1-12 season, and it’s riding a six-game winning streak. Led by QB David Fales (3,798 passing yards, 31 TDs), the No. 24 Spartans are ranked for the first time since 1975. Bowling Green has won seven of eight and has the nation’s ninth-stingiest defense (15.8 points per game). Belk Bowl Cincinnati vs. Duke 5:30 p.m. in Charlotte, N.C. TV: ESPN Records: Cincinnati 9-3, Duke 6-6 Why you should watch: Butch Jones left for Tennessee, but the Bearcats still have the delightfully named Munchie Legaux, an Edna Karr graduate and standout quarterback. Duke could make history: The Blue Devils are playing postseason football for the first time since the 1995 Hall of Fame Bowl, and they haven’t won a bowl game since topping Arkansas 7-6 in the 1961 Cotton. Holiday Bowl Baylor vs. UCLA 8:45 p.m. in San Diego TV: ESPN Records: Baylor 7-5, UCLA 9-4 Why you should watch: Robert Griffin III has moved on to the NFL, but this game might not be a whole lot different than his last college game, when he led Baylor to a 67-56 victory against Washington in the Alamo Bowl. Griffin’s replacement, Nick Florence, leads the nation in total offense at 387.7 yards per game. Terrance Williams leads the nation with 1,764 receiving yards, and the Bears average 44.1 points. UCLA is no slouch on offense, ranking 20th nationally in yards. The Pac-12 runner-up features the Bruins’ career rushing leader (Johnathan Franklin) and dual-threat QB Brett Hundley. December 28 Independence Bowl Ohio vs. Louisiana-Monroe 1 p.m. in Shreveport TV: ESPN Records: Ohio 8-4, ULM 8-4 Why you should watch: ULM should pack the stadium for its first bowl since joining the FBS in 1994. QB Kolton Browning leads an offense that averages 442 yards and 35 points. Ohio RB Beau Blankenship averages 139.8 all-purpose yards. Russell Athletic Bowl Rutgers vs. Virginia Tech 4:30 p.m. in Orlando, Fla. TV: ESPN Records: Rutgers 9-3, Virginia Tech 6-6 Why you should watch: The former Champs Sports Bowl welcomes Rutgers, which would be gearing up for a BCS bowl had it not dropped its finale to Sugar Bowl-bound Louisville. Virginia Tech edged rival Virginia 17-14 for a 6-6 record that extended its bowl streak to 20 games, the third-longest in the nation. Meineke Car Care Bowl Texas Tech vs. Minnesota 8 p.m. in Houston TV: ESPN Records: Texas Tech 7-5, Minnesota 6-6 Why you should watch: The Red Raiders try to keep their aerial attack aloft despite Tommy Tuberville having jetted to Cincinnati. Offensive line coach Chris Thomsen takes over as interim and is sure to let Seth Doege (3,934 yards, 38 TDs) keep throwing it. Minnesota, in its first bowl since 2009, is 114th in offense (317.5 ypg) and will struggle to keep pace without WR A.J. Barker, who quit in November alleging mistreatment by coach Jerry Kill. December 29 Armed Forces Bowl Air Force vs. Rice 10:45 a.m. in Fort Worth, Texas TV: ESPN Records: Air Force 6-6, Rice 6-6 Why you should watch: Little reason unless you are determined to cast your eyes on every single bowl. Air Force runs with typical military academy efficiency, No. 2 nationally at 328.8 rushing yards. Rice, the second-youngest team in the FBS, has won five of its past six. Pinstripe Bowl West Virginia vs. Syracuse 2:15 p.m. in New York TV: ESPN Records: West Virginia 7-5, Syracuse 7-5 Why you should watch: Geno Smith is reason enough. The West Virginia senior QB has passed for 4,000 yards this season with 40 TDs and six interceptions in an offense that averages more than 41 points. Syracuse finished strong, winning five of its last six to grab a share of the Big East title. Fight Hunger Bowl Navy vs. Arizona State 2:15 p.m. in San Francisco TV: ESPN2 Records: Navy 8-4, Arizona State 7-5 Why you should watch: Navy capped its season by beating Army for the 11th straight time behind 99 yards from Noah Copeland, one of its three 500-yard rushers. Arizona State could get run over. First-year coach Todd Graham’s Sun Devils allowed 2,064 yards on the ground, third-worst in the Pac-12. Alamo Bowl Oregon State vs. Texas 5:45 p.m. in San Antonio TV: ESPN Records: Oregon State 9-3, Texas 8-4 Why you should watch: Check out the Longhorns and imagine what might have been if Northern Illinois wasn’t in the Orange Bowl, pushing Texas out of a likely Cotton matchup with LSU. Former Catholic QB Major Applewhite calls plays for Texas, but who will be his quarterback? Mack Brown must pick David Ash or Case McCoy. The Beavers, who tied the biggest turnaround in the FBS after going 3-9 in 2011, boast a pair of 1,000-yard receivers: Markus Wheaton (1,207 yards, 11 TDs) and Brandin Cooks (1,120 yards, five TDs). Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl TCU vs. Michigan State 9:15 p.m. in Tempe, Ariz. TV: ESPN Records: TCU 7-5, Michigan State 6-6 Why you should watch: The former Insight Bowl gets a decent matchup to go with its new name. TCU had arguably the most entertaining season in the country — surviving West Virginia in double overtime, falling to Texas Tech in three OTs and spoiling Texas fans’ Thanksgiving with a 20-13 upset. The Spartans’ five Big Ten defeats were by one, three (in double OT), two, four and three points, so they know drama, too. December 31 Music City Bowl N.C. State vs. Vanderbilt 11 a.m. in Nashville, Tenn. TV: ESPN Records: N.C. State 7-5, Vanderbilt 8-4 Why you should watch: N.C. State has its next leader in former Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren, and he’ll get a good look at an offense that led the ACC in passing. Vandy has won six straight, with four of those victories by 23 or more. Sun Bowl Southern Cal vs. Georgia Tech 1 p.m. in El Paso, Texas TV: CBS Records: Southern Cal 7-5, Georgia Tech 6-7 Why you should watch: His team was a disappointment, but Southern Cal sophomore WR Marqise Lee deserves your attention (and probably should’ve been a Heisman Trophy finalist) after racking up 1,680 receiving yards and 14 TDs. Georgia Tech, only eligible because of an NCAA waiver, lost 30-27 to Utah in this game last year, the first overtime affair in Sun Bowl history. Liberty Bowl Iowa State vs. Tulsa 2:30 p.m. in Memphis, Tenn. TV: ESPN Records: Iowa State 6-6, Tulsa 10-3 Why you should watch: It’s a rematch from the regular season, and who doesn’t love rematches this time of year? The Cyclones won that game 38-23 in Ames. The Conference USA champion Golden Hurricane will send its league-leading rushing offense against Iowa State’s all-Big 12 LBs, A.J. Klein and Jake Knott. Chick-fil-A Bowl LSU vs. Clemson 6:30 p.m. in Atlanta TV: ESPN Records: LSU 10-2, Clemson 10-2 Why you should watch: It’s the only game being played on New Year’s Eve night and one of the most interesting matchups, including the BCS games. Clemson has one of the nation’s most-productive offenses, and LSU has one of its stingiest defenses. QB Tajh Boyd (the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year), 1,000-yard rusher Andre Ellington and 1,000-yard receiver DeAndre Hopkins run into LSU’s talented defense, led by LB Kevin Minter, S Eric Reid and ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery. January 1 Gator Bowl Northwestern vs. Mississippi State 11 a.m. in Jacksonville, Fla. TV: ESPN2 Records: Northwestern 9-3, Mississippi State 8-4 Why you should watch: Two solid teams will be trying to reverse bad trends. State, which lost backup RB Nick Griffin (ACL) this week, has lost four of five after a 7-0 start. Northwestern has lost all nine bowls since its only postseason win (1949 Rose). Both teams play to a statistical draw. NU averages 31.5 points per game, MSU 30.3. NU allows 22.8 points per game, MSU 22.4. MSU is fifth in turnover margin, NU 10th. Heart of Dallas Bowl Oklahoma State vs. Purdue 11 a.m. in Dallas TV: ESPNU Records: Oklahoma State 7-5, Purdue 6-6 Why you should watch: Both programs are rebuilding, the Cowboys after a brush with the BCS title game last season, the Boilermakers after firing coach Danny Hope. WR coach Patrick Higgins will be the interim. OSU’s potent offense makes it a big favorite: The Cowboys rank third in scoring (44.7 ppg), fifth in total yards (548.9 ypg) and seventh in passing (333.4). Purdue may fare better than expected. Since QB Robert Marve returned (knee), the Boilermakers averaged 34.3 points in their final 3 games. Outback Bowl South Carolina vs. Michigan Noon in Tampa, Fla. TV: ESPN Records: South Carolina 10-2, Michigan 8-4 Why you should watch: To see if the SEC can assert dominance over the Big Ten once again. The SEC is favored in every bowl, including this one. Michigan must try to save face after being sandblasted by Alabama 41-14 in the Cowboys Classic opener. If you like football in the trenches, take your eyes off the ball long enough to watch a pair of All-Americans cross swords: Gamecocks DE Jadeveon Clowney and Wolverines OT Taylor Lewan. Capital One Bowl Georgia vs. Nebraska Noon in Orlando, Fla. TV: ABC Records: Georgia 11-2, Nebraska 10-3 Why you should watch: If his Nebraska defense turns in another effort like it did in the Big Ten Championship Game, former LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini may leave his coaching staff in Orlando. Wisconsin racked up an obscene 539 rushing yards in its 70-31 victory, which snapped the Cornhuskers’ six-game winning streak. The Huskers’ reward is a date with the Georgia backfield tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, who combined for 1,983 yards and 24 TDs on the ground. Rose Bowl Wisconsin vs. Stanford 4 p.m. in Pasadena, Calif. TV: ESPN Records: Wisconsin 8-5, Stanford 11-2 Why you should watch: Quite the coaching contrast in this one: Wisconsin legend Barry Alvarez fills in for Bret Bielema (who’s getting settled in at Arkansas) against Stanford’s David Shaw, who’s working miracles in Palo Alto. The Badgers’ five losses are the most a Rose Bowl participant has ever had, but this is their third straight trip to Pasadena, and senior RB Montee Ball holds the FBS career records for touchdowns and rushing TDs. The Cardinal’s 41-38 overtime loss to Oklahoma State in last season’s Fiesta Bowl was the best bowl of the year. Freshman QB Kevin Hogan, elevated to the starting job in the first week of November, responded with five straight victories, including that BCS-altering win at Oregon. Orange Bowl Northern Illinois vs. Florida State 7:30 p.m. in Miami TV: ESPN Records: Northern Illinois 12-1, Florida State 11-2 Why you should watch: The last game on the New Year’s menu should demonstrate whether BCS buster Northern Illinois really belongs in a game like this. The MAC champion rolls into Miami with a 12-game winning streak that is tied for the longest in the country. QB Jordan Lynch is third in the nation in total yards per game (364), but he hasn’t faced a defense with talent like the Seminoles’. FSU is No. 2 in the nation in total defense and No. 7 in scoring defense. This isn’t David vs. Goliath, but you’re sure to hear that comparison throughout the telecast. January 2 Sugar Bowl Florida vs. Louisville 7:30 p.m. in New Orleans TV: ESPN Records: Florida 11-1, Louisville 10-2 Why you should watch: If Notre Dame had slipped up just once, say in OT against Pittsburgh, it may well be Florida-Alabama for the BCS title. As it is, the Gators will have to settle for a Sugary consolation prize against the Big East champion and future ACC contender Louisville. Florida won big this season in spite of a sluggish offense (Mike Gillislee is a tough runner with 1,104 yards) that ranks 104th (338.0 ypg). Its defense, though, is dominant, No. 3 nationally allowing 12.9 ppg. It will try to put the brakes on a Cardinals offense led by exciting QB Teddy Bridgewater (3,452 yards, 25 TDs), who is on the mend from wrist and ankle injuries. January 3 Fiesta Bowl Oregon vs. Kansas State 7:30 p.m. in Glendale, Ariz. TV: ESPN Records: Oregon 11-1, Kansas State 11-1 Why you should watch: This could’ve been the BCS Championship Game, but instead it should be one of the best bowls of the year — as the Fiesta often is. Oregon ranks third in the nation in rushing (323.3 yards per game) and second in points (50.8), breaking 40 in every game but that 17-14 overtime loss to Stanford. Freshman QB Marcus Mariota (2,511 passing yards for 30 touchdowns, 690 rushing for four) managed to find ways to outshine senior RB Kenjon Barner (1,624/21), but that might not be easy against a Kansas State defense that was one of the nation’s staunchest ... except for one game. That 52-24 loss at Baylor ruined Bill Snyder’s latest stunning turnaround, but he still has Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein (2,490 passing yards for 15 TDs, 890 rushing yards for 22 scores). January 4 Cotton Bowl Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma 7 p.m. in Arlington, Texas TV: Fox Records: Texas A&M 10-2, Oklahoma 10-2 Why you should watch: This could be as entertaining as any bowl. The Aggies feature the Heisman Trophy winner, uber-entertaining QB Johnny Manziel. The Sooners’ QB, Landry Jones, is no slouch, having become the Big 12 career passing leader. Manziel is second in the country in total yards per game and broke Cam Newton’s Southeastern Conference record for total yardage. Oklahoma tied Kansas State for the Big 12 title, losing only to the Wildcats and Notre Dame. January 5 BBVA Compass Bowl Pittsburgh vs. Ole Miss Noon in Birmingham, Ala. TV: ESPN Records: Pittsburgh 6-6, Ole Miss 6-6 Why you should watch: The Panthers did take undefeated Notre Dame to three overtimes in South Bend. Ole Miss, led by multi-talented QB Bo Wallace, has been entertaining under first-year coach Hugh Freeze. January 6 GoDaddy.com Bowl Kent State vs. Arkansas State 8 p.m. in Mobile, Ala. TV: ESPN Records: Kent State 11-2, Arkansas State 9-3 Why you should watch: As appetizers go, this one looks delicious. The last bowl before the BCS title bout features a Golden Flashes team that finished a win shy of the Orange Bowl. Kent State (Nick Saban’s alma mater) features one of the most exciting players you never heard of: RB Dri Archer, No. 5 in all-purpose yards (189.2 ypg). ASU, winner of seven straight, will try to keep its offense going after coach Gus Malzahn left for Auburn. Defensive coordinator John Thompson is the interim. January 7 BCS Championship Game Notre Dame vs. Alabama 7:30 p.m. in Miami TV: ESPN Records: Notre Dame 12-0, Alabama 12-1 Why you should watch: Whether you love or loathe the Crimson Tide and Fighting Irish, there’s no denying this is about as high-profile of a title matchup as you can get. Between them, the schools claim 25 national titles. The key number here is seven — as in, can the SEC win a seventh straight BCS championship? Bama is heavily favored to do so and become the first school since Nebraska (1994-95, 1997) to win three national titles in four years. But the Tide will have to get through Notre Dame’s defense first. Led by Heisman runner-up Manti Te’o at middle linebacker, the Irish leads the nation allowing 10.3 points per game (the Tide is No. 2 at 10.7) and have given up just two rushing TDs. Bama is No. 1 in total defense (246.0 ypg) but has been vulnerable to the long pass. Can Irish freshman QB Everett Golson outduel Bama junior AJ McCarron?