While the BCS has given us enthralling matchups such as Georgia vs. Hawaii, Louisville vs. Wake Forest and Pittsburgh vs. Utah during its illustrious first decade of existence, lesser bowl games are often rewarded with intriguing match-ups that the BCS bowls often lack. Here are three non-BCS games on this year's bowl schedule that you shouldn't miss.
3. GMAC Bowl – Tulsa vs. Ball State
January 6, 8:00 p.m. ET, Mobile, Ala., ESPN
If you enjoy good defense, don't, under any circumstances, watch this game. Tulsa is second in the nation in total offense, averaging 565 yards per game; while Ball State sits only nine spots behind the Golden Hurricane in that category, averaging 459 yards per game this season.
Tulsa is led by QB David Johnson, who has thrown for 4,338 yards this season and 45 TD's. The senior signal-caller tossed for over 400 yards three times this season, and over 300 yards six times. It's not all about the aerial assault for the Golden Hurricane though. They boast the nation's eighth-best rushing attack, led by senior Tarrion Adams, who amassed 1,316 yards on the ground this season.
The offensive story is pretty much the same for Ball State, whose perfect season came to a screeching halt in their MAC Championship Game loss to the Buffalo Bulls. Resilient QB Nate Davis has fought through the pressure of an undefeated season and the season-ending injury to star WR Dante Love, to lead the MAC and rank 8th in the country in passing efficiency. Stepping in for Love has been the trio of Briggs Orsbon, Darius Hill and Louis Johnson, who have combined for 1,893 receiving yards this season. On the ground, the MAC's leading rusher, MiQuale Lewis, leads the charge for the Cardinals. Lewis has balanced out this potent offense with 1,701 rushing yards this season.
Defense is optional in this shootout by Mobile Bay. First one to 50 wins…maybe. Just a hint for you gambling types out there, take the "over."
2. PapaJohns.com Bowl – N.C. State vs. Rutgers
December 29, 3:00 p.m. ET, Birmingham, Ala., ESPN2
Flying under the radar, these two teams are the two hottest teams in America that nobody knows about. Even though neither team is ranked, and have, for the most part, been an afterthought since early September, this Monday afternoon battle at the "legendary" Legion Field is guaranteed to reward its viewers – at least more than The View or Guiding Light.
N.C. State ripped off four straight wins against Duke, Wake Forest, North Carolina and Miami to end the season, barely becoming bowl eligible. Now that they're in, the Wolfpack are looking to capitalize on their late-season momentum and enter the off-season on a positive note.
Since taking over as the full-time starter at QB after the South Florida game, freshman Russell Wilson has been spotless, leading the Wolfpack to a 4-3 record, throwing 13 TD's and ZERO interceptions. For the year, Wilson only has only tossed one interception and rushed for 342 yards and four touchdowns.
Rutgers could have played dial-a-score their last time out, in a 63-14 dismantling of Louisville. While N.C. State's resurgence has been impressive, Rutgers may have had the most dramatic turnaround in 2008. The Scarlet Knights have won six consecutive games after a dreadful 1-5 start. Rutgers struggled to find an identity on offense after the departure of Ray Rice. It took a while, but QB Mike Teel and WR Kenny Britt finally clicked mid-season, leading the Big East's top passing offense into a bowl game for fourth straight season.
The PapaJohns.com Bowl is not only going to offer fantastic pizza, free jalapeno peppers and legendary garlic dipping sauce, it's also the place to find two of the hottest teams in America. Extra cheese please.
1. San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl – TCU (11) vs. Boise St. (9)
December 23, 8:00 p.m. ET, San Diego, Calif., ESPN
Raise your hands if you knew that there was such a thing as the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl…anyone...anyone….Bueller? Well, if you didn't before, you will now. If not for Utah, either one of these teams could have a legitimate gripe at a BCS game.
TCU heads to sunny SoCal with a solid 10-2 record, their only blemishes being losses at Oklahoma and at Utah. The Horned Frogs haven't received much attention since their mid-season loss at Utah, effectively ending any BCS hopes. Head Coach Gary Patterson has a good thing going in, and it's time for the rest of the country to take notice.
The Horned Frogs have been doing it with defense this season, boasting the nation's best run defense and second-best total defense and scoring defense. Truly building from the inside out, Junior DL Jerry Hughes is the key component of the TCU defense, leading the nation with 14 sacks in 2008.
Boise State is to college football what Gonzaga is to college basketball. It isn't surprising to see them consistently vying for a BCS bid, it's expected. The Broncos posted their 3rd undefeated regular season in the last five years in 2008, and aren't strangers to big games.
Similar to TCU, Boise State has also been hanging their hats on the defense this season, ranking 3rd in the nation in scoring defense, giving up just 12.25 points per game. Junior DB Kyle Wilson led the WAC with five interceptions this season and also added three touchdowns on punt returns.
With both teams also bringing top 20 offenses to the table, this match-up truly is top-tier game, regardless of name recognition. It's gonna be a battle at Qualcomm. Stay classy San Diego.