It's the most wonderful time of the year -- bowl season! Counting the inaugural College Football Playoff games, there are 39 bowl matchups, beginning Dec. 20, and ending with the national championship game on Jan. 12, 2015. NCAA.com projects the winners and the must-see matchups:
Brendan Bures, Editor
• Outback Bowl -- Auburn vs. Wisconsin
Any matchup that pits two starkly contrasting schools of philosophy against each other generally is exciting. Wisconsin vs. Auburn couldn’t be more old school vs. new school. Wisconsin has had the same team for as long as I can remember: elite running back, dysfunction under center and a defense which fluctuates season to season. Oh, and Barry Alvarez will manage to coach a game every 3-5 years. Auburn, meanwhile, has the most dynamic offense in college football created by college football’s most vanilla coach, Gus Malzahn. (That description feels more like an insult to vanilla than Malzahn ...) This matchup between what-ifs reminds us how precarious a team’s fortunes can be during a season; in another world, this game could be a CFP stand-in. I believe everyone associated with these programs might agree, which is why this game will feel more important than it probably is.
Duane Cross, Managing Editor
• Gator Bowl -- Iowa vs. Tennessee
I'm going full-blown homer mode. It's been a month of Sundays since the Big Orange went bowling, and Tennessee fans have every right to be excited about trekking to Jacksonville, Florida, to face Iowa. Butch Jones' brick-by-brick rebuilding project is on schedule; a 7-6 finish would be the Vols' first winning mark since 2009. For a program that boasts 23 members of the College Football Hall of Fame -- tops in the SEC and seventh-most in major college football -- it's been a long time since the 2010 Music City Bowl. ... As for Iowa, I haven't forgotten 1982; the Hawkeyes broke my 14-year-old heart while knocking off Tennessee in the Peach Bowl. Thirty-plus years later, Chuck Long and Ronnie Harmon still haunt the darkest corners of my mind.
JONES: It’s one thing to go to a bowl game, now we have to win the bowl game.— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) December 12, 2014
Tesalon Felicien, Editor
• Peach Bowl -- Ole Miss vs. TCU
If you favor a matchup between a tenacious defense and high-powered offense, then this year’s Peach Bowl is a must-see. Ole Miss' defense, ranked No. 13 nationally, looks to limit a TCU offense that scored at least 30 points per game and topped 80 in a win against Texas Tech on Oct. 25. The Horned Frogs, who held the third playoff spot heading into their final game, dropped to No. 6 despite a 55-3 drubbing of Iowa State. After a 7-0 start, Ole Miss conceded three of its last five regular-season games, including back-to-back losses to LSU and Auburn. I expect a Trevone Boykin-led TCU offense to overwhelm Mississippi and run away with the victory.
Gerard Gilberto, Editor
• Russell Athletic Bowl -- Clemson vs. Oklahoma
The most interesting part of bowl season will be seeing how the Big 12 fares. The return of Trevor Knight for Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl could be the spark the Sooners need to prove there is a little more depth in the conference. Since Knight went down, Semaje Perine has emerged as another stud in the “Year of the Running Back” and having a quarterback back in the system provides another weapon for OU to use when the Sooners put up their average of nearly 40 points per game. Having Knight back does not make this an automatic win for Oklahoma. Clemson allows an average of just 17.6 points per game and if the Tigers can hold down the Oklahoma offense, they’ll avoid leaning on Cole Stoudt to go punch for punch with Knight.
Douglas Kroll, Senior Producer
• Cotton Bowl -- Baylor vs. Michigan State
Give me the Cotton Bowl as the matchup I’m most looking forward to. Sure, I could’ve gone with one of the two CFP semifinal matchups, but that would be too easy. Michigan State and Baylor will meet in Arlington, Texas, in a game that many people were hoping to see a year ago. But a season later, it’s still pretty juicy for the obvious reason: the Sparty defense against the Baylor offense. Baylor is 4-22-1 against current Big Ten teams, including 0-1 against Michigan State, although that was in 1968. The last time the Bears beat a current Big Ten team? Go back to 1976, when Baylor edged Illinois in Champaign. These intersectional games -- two teams who hardly ever get to meet get to face off on the gridiron -- are my favorites to watch.
Stephen Sellner, Editor
• Fiesta Bowl -- Boise State vs. Arizona
You don’t have to be a college football fanatic to know why this year’s Fiesta Bowl is so intriguing. On the one end you have Arizona, a team that broke onto the national radar under Rich Rodriguez to the tune of a 10-3 record and Pac-12 title game appearance against Oregon. Then there’s Boise State, a team that’s all too accustomed to the Fiesta life. Does the statue of liberty ring a bell? Maybe the hook and ladder? The Broncos aren’t the same team that produced Fiesta Bowl wins in 2007 and 2010, but we all know you can never doubt the mighty Boise State. I’m going with Arizona in this one, but don’t be surprised to see a few tricks emerge from the Broncos sideline.
Craig Thomas, Coordinating Producer
• Orange Bowl -- Georgia Tech vs. Mississippi State
Football is supposed to be fun. Do you know who will have some fun on New Year’s Eve? The people attending the Orange Bowl. Give me cowbells and nerds instead of the football bluebloods. Neither Mississippi State nor Georgia Tech are regulars when it comes to the prime-time bowl matchups. MSU’s last appearance in the Orange Bowl was 1940. While the Ramblin’ Wreck last rolled into Miami in 2009, they have never left the Orange Bowl with the win in the history of the program. One team is going to win a meaningful bowl for the first time in school history. It will be more entertaining than watching Anderson Cooper’s mock embarrassment of whatever Kathy Griffin just said in Times Square. Countdown to the new year with a little Dak Dynasty while trying to figure out the triple option.
This is fun https://t.co/kQnhmuOC7q— MSU Football (@HailStateFB) December 15, 2014
Eric Vander Voort, Interactive Producer
• Rose Bowl -- Florida State vs. Oregon
Look at all you guys trying to go outside the box to find the most intriguing game. Sure, there are some great games outside of the playoff, but the best bowl game is the Rose Bowl. I know it's an easy pick, but that's the simple fact of the matter. The other 37 bowl games combine for zero Heisman winners. This one has two, and that’s happening for the third time in the history of bowl games. And what about the fact that this game between explosive Oregon and the undefeated defending national champion in Florida State has more than a bowl game trophy on the line? With one of the best quarterback matchups in recent memory and the fact that the winner lives on to play for a national title, this is the most intriguing college football game of the season to date.
La.-Lafayette 16, Nevada 3
Utah State 21, UTEP 6
Utah 45, Colorado State 10
Air Force 38, Western Michigan 24
Bowling Green 33, South Alabama 28
Memphis 55, BYU 48
Marshall 52, Northern Illinois 23
Navy 17, San Diego State 16
Western Ky. 49, Central Mich. 48
Rice 30, Fresno State 6
Louisiana Tech 35, Illinois 18
Rutgers 40, North Carolina 21
NC State 34, Central Florida 27
Virginia Tech 33, Cincinnati 17
Arizona State 36, Duke 31
South Carolina 24, Miami (Fla.) 21
Penn State 31, Boston College 30
USC 45, Nebraska 42
Texas A&M 45, West Virginia 37
Clemson 40, Oklahoma 6
|Heart of Texas
Arkansas 31, Texas 7
Notre Dame 31, LSU 28
Georgia 37, Louisville 14
Stanford 45, Maryland 21
TCU 42, Ole Miss 3
Boise State 38, Arizona 30
Georgia Tech 49, Mississippi State 34
Wisconsin 34, Auburn 31
Michigan State 42, Baylor 41
Missouri 33, Minnesota 17
Oregon 59, Florida State 20
Ohio State 42, Alabama 35
Houston 35, Pittsburgh 34
Tennessee 45, Iowa 28
UCLA 40, Kansas State 35
Oklahoma State 30, Washington 22
Florida 28, East Carolina 20
Toledo 63, Arkansas State 44
Ohio State 42, Oregon 20
• Who will win the inaugural CFP?