Everyone knows about the College Football Playoff and the Rose Bowl, or the Sugar and the Fiesta. But college bowl season is about the dozens of other games that help end one year and ring in the new one.
If you're making a list of all the bowl games you plan on watching, don't forget to find time for these 7 other games you can't forget about, besides the CFP and New Year's Six.
If you like points, don't miss this morning kick. Combined, the Hilltoppers and Mountaineers score 77.3 points per game. While Appalachian State (10-3) has more of a balanced attack — Chase Brice passed for 3,000 yards and Nate Noel ran for 1,000 yards — WKU (8-5) airs it out. QB Bailey Zappe has thrown for a national-best 5,5455 yards, which is more than 1,000 yards ahead of the No. 2 passer. He topped 500 yards in a game twice. He opened the season throwing for seven touchdowns in a 59-21 win against UT Martin and has never really stopped, as he leads the country in attempts and touchdowns.
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Here's the matchup with the most wins outside a CFP semifinal. San Diego State (11-2) and UTSA (12-1) have 23 wins between them. Though the Aztecs fell to Utah State in the Mountain West title game, UTSA outscored Western Kentucky to win its first ever C-USA championship.
And yet, one of the biggest reasons to watch will be when San Diego State fails to get a first down.
Punter Matt Araiza, the Ray Guy Award winner, is one of the viral stars of the season. His 51.4 yards per punt would set the FBS record (51.0, Texas A&M's Braden Mann in 2018) and he's within range of most punting yards in a season (a little more than 200 yards away).
Most teams' MVP plays on offense or defense, but not at San Diego State.@AztecFB punter Matt Araiza just might be in the midst of the greatest punting season in college football history. pic.twitter.com/x6KLt0TSwF— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) December 4, 2021
It's been a historic season for the Roadrunners. First AP ranking, first CFP ranking, first division title and first conference crown. UTSA leans on RB Sincere McCormick offensively, with the C-USA Offensive Player of the Year picking up 1,479 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns.
San Diego State is in the top-20 total (319.5 yards per game) and scoring defense (19.5 ppg). But the Aztecs are especially stingy stopping the run — only Wisconsin allows fewer than San Diego State's 77.5 rush yards a game.
These teams started the year in the top 10, with Clemson expecting another run at a national title and Iowa State seemingly primed for the best season in school history.
Both struggled at times, but the Tigers are on a 7-1 stretch and trounced Wake Forest 48-27 just a few weeks ago. Clemson's defense will be a tough test for the veteran Cyclones. QB Brock Purdy has 2,984 passing yards and RB Breece Hall comes in with nearly 1,500 yards on the ground. Hall finished 10th in the Heisman voting this year.
Yes, it's two big-name programs with winning traditions. But one of the notable reasons is because of the sidelines. Both the Ducks and Sooners will have interim coaches. Mario Cristobal left Oregon for Miami (Fla.) and Lincoln Riley went from OU to USC. Bryan McClendon (passing game coordinator, receivers coach) will coach the Ducks, while the Sooners will be led by former longtime coach Bob Stoops. The Hall of Fame coach Stoops went 190-48 at Oklahoma before retiring in 2017. Now he's back for the bowl game.
Here's another one that will keep you entertained if you like touchdowns. First-year Tennessee coach Josh Heupel and the 7-5 Vols scored 45, 60 and 45 points in three of their last four games as QB Hendon Hooker delivered with an impressive ratio of 26 TDs with only three interceptions this season.
Meanwhile, 8-4 Purdue memorably took down two teams ranked in the top 5 at the time of the games: No. 2 Iowa and No. 3 Michigan State. While the Boilermakers' defense led the way early in the season, it's been the offense that surged late. Aidan O'Connell passed for 536 yards to beat Michigan State and went 40 for 52 for 390 yards and four touchdowns in a loss to Ohio State.
As Wake Forest's Twitter account pointed out, coach Dave Clawson is the only coach in DI history to lead four different programs to 10-win seasons. This Demon Deacons team started 8-0 and climbed into the top 10 before losing three of the last five. Defense was often optional, looking at the Army (70-56), North Carolina (58-55)...and most other games on the schedule.
Good luck guessing how Texas A&M will do. The team that lost to Arkansas and Mississippi State in consecutive games? Or the one that upset No. 1 Alabama the next week? The Aggies appeared to figure it out after that by winning four in a row, but then they lost two of the last three. Texas A&M will have to slow down Wake QB Sam Hartman (3,924 passing yards).
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We're seeing two teams who had different expectations depending on when you asked. The Razorbacks hadn't been to a bowl game since 2016, but Sam Pittman has Arkansas back in the polls and thinking about finishing 9-4. Penn State started the year with wins against Wisconsin and later Auburn to climb to No. 4 in the polls before closing 2-5 with a bunch of close losses.
Arkansas' balanced attack will have to deal with a tough Penn State defense.