New Orleans Bowl: Dec 20, 8 p.m. in Lafayette, La. (for New Orleans, La.)
TV: ESPNSOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI (6-5) vs. ARKANSAS STATE (6-5) Prestige (1-10): 1
Matchup (1-10): 1
Comments: Arkansas State is the Sun Belt champ; this game is usually where North Texas ends up. Southern Miss underachieved in Conference USA this year and as a result, gets the dubious honor of kicking off the bowl season. The game has been moved to Lafayette as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Southern Miss can't run, Arkansas State can't pass, and neither team plays great defense.
Quick Pick: Southern Miss 24, Arkansas State 17
GMAC Bowl: Dec. 21, 8 p.m. in Mobile, Ala.
TV: ESPNUTEP (8-3) vs. TOLEDO (8-3)
Comments: The GMAC Bowl got themselves a cherry matchup, pitting a couple of high-flying offensive teams against one another. Both are basically spread teams, but Toledo has relied much more heavily on the run this year than in the past. The question is whether C-USA or the MAC is the tougher conference. UTEP is on a two-game losing strength coming into this one, and Toledo takes better care of the football.
Quick Pick: Toledo 30, UTEP 28
Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl: Dec. 22, 8 p.m. in Las Vegas, Nev.
TV: ESPNBYU (6-5) vs. CALIFORNIA (7-4)
Comments: BYU is back to playing pass-happy offensive football and not much defense. Cal is wondering how different their season would have been had QB Nate Longshore not gotten injured in the opener against Sacramento State. Cal is unquestionably the more physical of these two teams, but the Golden Bears will have to play better pass defense than they've shown this season and not bog down offensively.
Quick Pick: California 27, BYU 24
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: Dec. 22, 10:30 p.m. in San Diego, Calif.
TV: ESPN2COLORADO STATE (6-5) vs. NAVY (7-4) Prestige: 1
Comments: Navy has the top-ranked rushing offense in the country, and Colorado State can't stop the run. The Rams have better athletes all around, but they are a shell of the team they were three or four years ago. Navy figures to have a fan advantage, too, if the coastal California Naval bases ship their sailors down for the game. The truth is, neither team has played a lot of quality competition this year, so it's hard to get a feel for this one. The biggest question, though, is how did a county credit union get a bowl sponsorship?
Quick Pick: Navy 27, Colorado State 21
Fort Worth Bowl: Dec. 23, 8 p.m. in Fort Worth, Texas
TV: ESPNKANSAS (6-5) vs. HOUSTON (6-5)
Comments: Both teams have been among the most consistent offensive teams in the country in 2005 – Houston consistently good, Kansas consistently bad. Throughout the year, Houston has typically folded against physical teams, but it's debatable whether Kansas qualifies for that description. This one looks like a snoozer.
Quick Pick: Houston 20, Kansas 17
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: Dec. 24, 8:30 p.m. in Honolulu, Hawaii
TV: ESPNNEVADA (8-3) vs. CENTRAL FLORIDA (8-4)
Comments: With no more Aloha Bowl, the Hawaii bowl becomes the sole island destination postseason game left. The game itself could generate a fair bit of interest, with Chris Ault's innovative Nevada offense going against George O'Leary's resurrected UCF program. The focus has been on O'Leary for much of the year, but Ault – a veteran, successful coach largely unknown outside the Western desert area – has done a fine job.
Quick Pick: Central Florida 35, Nevada 31
Motor City Bowl: Dec. 26, 4 p.m. in Detroit, Mich.
TV: ESPNMEMPHIS (6-5) vs. AKRON (7-5)
Comments: Akron is fresh off what was probably the most entertaining of all the conference championship games this year, the MAC. Memphis is RB DeAngelo Williams and nothing else. There may be 10,000 people in attendance for this game if the bowl organizers are lucky. Both teams come in on winning streaks; it all comes down to how well Akron contains Williams.Quick Pick: Memphis 24, Akron 21
Champs Sports Bowl: Dec. 27, 5 p.m. in Orlando, Fla.
CLEMSON (7-4) vs. COLORADO (7-5)
Comments: This one could play as a coaches-on-hot-seats game, as there has been major grousing about both coaches by their respective fan bases throughout the season. Colorado has lost its last three games by an aggregate score of 130-22. Clemson, though, has beaten Florida State and rival South Carolina back-to-back. The question is whether Clemson will feel slighted by missing out on the ACC's bigger bowls.
Quick Pick: Clemson 27, Colorado 14
Insight Bowl: Dec. 27, 8:30 p.m. in Phoenix, Ariz.
ARIZONA STATE (6-5) vs. RUTGERS (7-4)
Comments: It's hard to believe that Arizona State was once being mentioned as a BCS contender earlier in the season, considering the Sun Devils had to sneak by rival Arizona 23-20 just to qualify for this game. And speaking of qualifying, kudos to Rutgers for getting into its first bowl game in decades. But the Scarlet Knights' pass defense will probably get toasted by ASU, and this is essentially a home game for the Sun Devils anyway.
Quick Pick: Arizona State 38, Rutgers 20
MPC Computers Bowl: Dec. 28, 4:30 p.m. in Boise, Idaho
BOISE STATE (9-3) vs. BOSTON COLLEGE (8-3)
Comments: Boise State lost a couple games early in the year, which dropped them from the national spotlight. But the Broncos put together a solid year after that which included just one other loss, to Fresno State. Boston College was one of several on-the-verge teams in the ACC that never could seem to turn that last corner. Now, the Eagles get the task of traveling to Boise State's back yard and playing on the infamous blue "Smurf Turf." Good luck.
Quick Pick: Boise State 33, Boston College 21
MasterCard Alamo Bowl: Dec. 28, 8 p.m. in San Antonio, Texas
MICHIGAN (7-4) vs. NEBRASKA (7-4)Prestige: 3
Comments: This is probably no worse than the second-best matchup of the pre-New-Year's games, with a couple of old names doing battle awfully early in the bowl season. Sadly for Nebraska, Michigan underachieved to get here, meaning the Wolverines are a much tougher opponent than you'd expect to see coming from the Big Ten Conference in this game. Nebraska's defense has nice rankings, but aside from a 30-3 beating of Colorado in the last game of the year, the defense had been regressing, giving up 137 points in the four games prior.
Quick Pick: Michigan 27, Nebraska 16
Emerald Bowl: Dec. 29, 4:30 p.m. in San Francisco, Calif.
GEORGIA TECH (7-4) vs. UTAH (6-5)
Comments: This is one of those head-scratcher games; Georgia Tech deserved better, while Utah should probably be sitting home. The game itself will be a strength-vs.-strength matchup of Utah's 12th-ranked offense against Tech's 10th-ranked defense. Was Utah's bowl domination of Pitt last year a fluke? Tech hopes not, and it's a good bet Utah hasn't had to prepare for someone like QB Reggie Ball this year, either.
Quick Pick: Georgia Tech 21, Utah 17
Pacific Life Holiday Bowl: Dec. 29, 8 p.m. in San Diego, Calif.
OREGON (10-1) vs. OKLAHOMA (7-4)
Comments: How this bowl hasn't found its way to New Year's Day or later is a mystery. Most years it gives us great games, and this year it hits the jackpot, getting BCS leftover Oregon against the tradition of Oklahoma. Offensively, Oregon is much stronger than the Sooners. Defensively, Oklahoma is great, but Oregon isn't bad. If Oregon can avoid the letdown of not making it to the BCS, the Ducks should win this game comfortably.
Quick Pick: Oregon 28, Oklahoma 17
Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl: Dec. 30, 12 p.m. in Nashville, Tenn.
MINNESOTA (7-4) vs. VIRGINIA (6-5)
Comments: There should be a SEC team here, but not enough SEC teams qualified for bowls. So perennially underachieving Virginia gets plucked from the ACC to face Minnesota in a matchup of two teams which backslid into the postseason. Virginia does nothing particularly well, but Minnesota runs the football extremely well. The Golden Gophers need to play better defense in this one than they've shown to this point, however.
Quick Pick: Minnesota 24, Virginia 14
Vitalis Sun Bowl: Dec. 30, 2 p.m. in El Paso, Texas
NORTWESTERN (7-4) vs. UCLA (9-2)Prestige: 6
Comments: This game figures to be an offensive track meet between two teams that play pussyfoot defense. UCLA got clobbered by USC in its season-ender, while Northwestern made Illinois look competent before finally putting the Illini away. Northwestern is ranked dead last in total defense nationally and doesn't have the athletes to hang with UCLA's skill players. UCLA just needs to take care of RB Tyrell Sutton, but that's easier said than done.
Quick Pick: UCLA 45, Northwestern 38
Independence Bowl: Dec. 30, 3:30 p.m. in Shreveport, La.
SOUTH CAROLINA (7-4) vs. MISSOURI (6-5)
Comments: Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel will be sad to see QB Brad Smith go, because he's been the only thing keeping Pinkel from getting fired for two years. South Carolina will need to play better run defense in this game than the Gamecocks averaged this season. Missouri is better than its 6-5 record, but it remains to be seen which Tiger team actually shows up for this game.
Quick Pick: Missouri 23, South Carolina 17
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl: Dec. 30, 7:30 p.m. in Atlanta, Ga.
MIAMI (9-2) vs. LSU (10-2)
Comments: This game got a major gift when both Miami and LSU fell into the committee's laps during the selection process. The result is the Orange Bowl North, at least for one year. If LSU can't penetrate the Miami offensive line and get better heat on QB Kyle Wright than the Tigers did against Georgia's D.J. Shockley last week, Miami could toast them. Easily the most interesting game before New Year's Day.
Quick Pick: Miami 24, LSU 13
Meineke Car Care Bowl: Dec. 31, 11 a.m. in Charlotte, N.C.
SOUTH FLORIDA (6-5) vs. NORTH CAROLINA STATE (6-5)
Comments: How did this game get onto New Year's Eve? When people complain about there being too many bowl games, this is usually the kind of thing they're talking about. No one wants to watch it, and even though it will be played in N.C. State's back yard, plenty of good seats will still be available on game day. Neither team plays great offense, but the Wolfpack defense is stout. N.C. State should roll.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Dec. 31, 1 p.m. in Memphis, Tenn.
TULSA (8-4) vs. FRESNO STATE (8-4)
Comments: Again, nothing wrong with the bowl itself, it just won't draw many viewers. Tulsa was probably the quietest conference champion outside of the Sun Belt's Arkansas State, while Fresno State started strong, got edged by Southern Cal and then fell apart the last two games. Were this game played in the middle of the season, Fresno State would probably win handily. Tulsa has a better shot now, but will still be the underdog.
Quick Pick: Fresno State 31, Tulsa 21
EV1.net Houston Bowl: Dec. 31, 2 p.m. in Houston, Texas
TCU (10-1) vs. IOWA STATE (7-4)
Comments: The Houston Bowl got a better matchup than it probably thought it would. This is another bowl left scrambling when the SEC couldn't field enough eligible teams. All they ended up with was the Big 12 North runner-up and a 10-win local team that generates a fair amount of national interest. Both teams play good defense, but Iowa State has stumbled lately on offense and TCU is a tad more opportunistic.
Quick Pick: TCU 30, Iowa State 20
AT&T Cotton Bowl: Jan. 2, 11 a.m. in Dallas, Texas
TEXAS TECH (9-2) vs. ALABAMA (9-2)
Comments: Classic all-offense vs. all-defense battle, as Texas Tech's wacko passing attack tries to solve the riddle of Alabama's defense, and vice versa. This is truly an anything-can-happen game; Texas Tech is vulnerable to rushing attacks, and Alabama can run the football in spurts. Alabama's pass defense is stouter than anything Texas Tech has yet to see. The game could literally go either way.
Quick Pick: Alabama 27, Texas Tech 21
Outback Bowl: Jan. 2, 11 a.m. in Tampa, Fla.
IOWA (7-4) vs. FLORIDA (8-3)
Comments: Iowa is vulnerable to good passing attacks, and Florida's QB Chris Leak may be using this game as a last pitch to improve his draft status. Iowa struggled early in the year, but got its offense rolling late in the season and finished the year by crushing Minnesota. Florida never developed any consistent rhythm, positive or negative. The Gators appear to hold more advantages in direct head-to-head competition in this game.
Quick Pick: Florida 27, Iowa 20
Capital One Bowl: Jan. 2, 1 p.m. in Orlando, Fla.
WISCONSIN (9-3) vs. AUBURN (9-2)
Comments: This is Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez's final game, but it's difficult to tell whether the Badgers will get a big push from that considering how unpredictable they've been over the years. Statistically, Auburn wipes the floor with Wisconsin, but the intangibles are all on the Badgers' side. Auburn has to be wary of the Wisconsin offense: In three games, Wisconsin scored 23 points or fewer. In the other nine, the Badgers scored 31 or more.
Quick Pick: Auburn 34, Wisconsin 31
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Jan. 2, 4:30 p.m. in Tempe, Ariz.
NOTRE DAME (9-2) vs. OHIO STATE (9-2)
Comments: The Fiesta gets the two de facto at-large teams, and physically, Ohio State is clearly superior. But the Buckeyes are vulnerable to good passing attacks, and Notre Dame is ranked 4th in that category nationally. The Fighting Irish running game, however, is in peril in this game; Ohio State has the top-ranked rushing defense in the country. Notre Dame plays tough with its back to the wall, but if Ohio State can stop the Irish from taking a big, early lead, the Buckeyes should win this game.
Quick Pick: Ohio State 27, Notre Dame 19
Nokia Sugar Bowl: Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. in Atlanta, Ga. (for New Orleans, La.)
WEST VIRGINIA (10-1) vs. GEORGIA (10-2)
Comments: Nothing against West Virginia, but the Mountaineers just don't raise a lot of interest on the national scene. WVA gets Georgia, fresh off its upset of LSU in the SEC Championship Game, and this game might best be promoted as the battle of scrambling quarterbacks. WVA's Patrick White is a better runner than Georgia's D.J. Shockley, but Shockley is more experienced and is a far better passer. But Georgia shouldn't overlook West Virginia's defense, which is quite good.
Quick Pick: Georgia 23, West Virginia 13
FedEx Orange Bowl: Jan. 3, 8 p.m. in Miami, Fla.
PENN STATE (10-1) vs. FLORIDA STATE (8-4)
Comments: Were it not for the matchup of head coaches Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno, this game would probably not attract a lot of viewers. Florida State upset Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game to get here, and in doing so, became the poster child for teams that supposedly "don't deserve" to get to BCS games. Florida State is still 1-3 in its last four games, though, and has been a collective head case all year. Penn State is playing solid defense, and most disturbingly for Bowden's boys, has found an offense this year, particularly on the ground.
Quick Pick: Penn State 17, Florida State 13
Citi Rose Bowl: Jan. 4, 8 p.m. in Pasadena, Calif.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (12-0) vs. TEXAS (12-0)
Comments: The BCS might have gotten it right by accident, but it got it right nonetheless. This is probably the most attractive college football game in five years at least, and will pit three Heisman Trophy candidates on the field against each other simultaneously. In a game of staggering stats, the most staggering of all may be that the last time Texas scored fewer than 40 points was on Sept. 10. Each team has one hole: Texas' passing offense (41st nationally), Southern Cal's pass defense (75th nationally). The biggest question here is whether Texas head coach Mack Brown is ready to complete this final step.
Quick Pick: Texas 38, Southern Cal 35