You could argue that overall the BCS bowl games are a bit of a snoozer this season, but that's what happens when you have a system so formulaic it can't get the best matchups you and I should be seeing. But, just because some of those games suck it doesn't mean there aren't some great bowl games to be played this college bowl season.
What makes a great bowl game? Well, clashing styles, good coaching, and great players all help make a bowl game intriguing for sure. We took a look at all of those criteria and added in a sprinkle of watchability and came up with the best of the games no one is talking about today – the non-BCS bowl games.
So, with that here are Crystal Ball Run's 10 Best non-BCS Bowl games for this season:
10. AutoZone Liberty Bowl – Monday Dec. 31st, 3:30pm Eastern (ESPN)
Iowa State (6-6, 3-6 Big 12) vs. Tulsa (10-3, 7-1 C-USA)
This one is a rare rematch of a regular season game and it just so happens that this was a heck of a football game to start the season for both teams. Iowa State won that contest 38-25 at home and since then the Golden Hurricane went on to win Conference USA, giving the Cyclones one of the best non-conference wins in the Big 12 this season. The rematch should be fun, especially since the starting QB for the Cyclones won't be Steele Jantz like it was in week one, instead it's freshman Sam Richardson that will be the starting QB. Iowa State also will be different defensively as star MLB Jake Knott won't be available. Tulsa has a great rushing attack and missing Knot will make this game even more intriguing to see, simply because Tulsa could be more active on the ground than they were in the week one game where the Golden Hurricane rushed for just 160 yards, well below their season average of 240.2 yards a game.
9. Hyundai Sun Bowl – Monday, Dec. 31st, 2pm Eastern (CBS)
USC (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) vs. Georgia Tech (6-7, 5-3 ACC)
Again, you're probably scratching your head as to why this one is even on the list, but we submit this – is there a game that has a bigger style clash than this one? USC's aerial attack vs. Georgia Tech's triple option is about as polar opposite as you can get and records be damned, that styles clash makes for a potentially great bowl matchup. Matt Barkley is expected to be back for the game and Paul Johnson is up for a little bowl redemption as his Yellow jackets haven't won a bowl game in his tenure yet. Something will give in this one and for that alone it's one of the best matchups to watch this season.
8. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl – Saturday, Dec. 15, 4:30pm Eastern (ESPN)
Toledo (9-3, 6-2 MAC) vs. No. 22 Utah State (10-2, 6-0 WAC)
Utah State nearly shocked Wisconsin at home until Joel Stave entered the game and saved the Badgers hides and the Aggies' two losses are by just 5 points (3 point loss to BYU). Toledo is sitll a very difficult team to play against without Tim Beckman at the helm and this is one of the games that's going to go under the radar, but shouldn't. The game will hinge on the matchup of Utah State's stingy defense vs. Toledo's high flying offense becase frankly both teams' offenses are capable of putting up points in bunches, but only Utah State's defense can lay claim to being able to stop anyone's offense. Buckle up for what could be an electric game. Watching this one for USU's QB Chuckie Keeton and Toledo's WR Bernard Reedy is worth the time and price of admission alone.
7. Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl – Thursday, Dec. 27th, 9:45pm Eastern (ESPN)
Baylor (7-5, 4-5 Big 12) vs. UCLA (9-4, 6-3 Pac-12)
Combine one of the historically crazy bowl games with two offenses capable of lighting things up on the scoreboard and you've got the makings for one of the most fun bowl matchups of the season. However, we here actually enjoy football with a bit of defense sprinkled in and if that's the case then tune away from this game. Sure the Bruins CAN play defense a bit more than the Bears, but it's spotty at best. Strap yourself in for this one and enjoy, that's the only advice we can really give you for this one.
6. Godaddy.com Bowl – Sunday, Jan. 6th, 9pm Eastern (ESPN)
No. 25 Kent State (11-2, 8-0 MAC) vs. Arkansas State (9-3, 7-1 Sun Belt)
Kent State was Jordan Lynch away from heading to their first ever BCS bowl game, instead they end up with one of the more intriguing matchups of the bowl season as they take on the champion of the Sun Belt, Arkansas State. This is a classic clash of styles as Kent State is a run first offense vs. the Arkansas State aerial attack. Both teams score a ton of points too, Ken State – 34.6 and Arkansas State – 36.4 and rank in the top 35 of points scored. So, this game should be a ton of fun to watch and we recommend keeping an eye on these two names you probably aren't familiar with but should be – Arkansas State QB Ryan Aplin (3,129yds, 67.8comp %, 23TD's/4INT's) and Kent State RB Dri Archer (1,352yds, 15TD's, 9.0ypc).
5. Valero Alamo Bowl – Saturday, Dec. 29th, 6:45pm Eastern (ESPN)
No. 23 Texas (8-4, 5-4 Big 12) vs. No. 13 Oregon State (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12)
No one seems to be talking much about this game, but it's a great story to be told. On the one hand you have Texas who has failed to win a big game nearly all season long and then you have Oregon State who came into this season with ZERO expectations and blew that up with a home win over Wisconsin and parlayed that into a great season. On the field this is going to be a good one too as both teams can put points on the board. However, the real matchup to watch is Oregon State's defense vs. the high powered attack that Texas puts out there. If they can stop it Oregon State could wind up being the story of the year in college football.
4. Capital One Bowl – Tuesday, Jan. 1st, 1pm Eastern (ABC)
No. 7 Georgia (11-2, 7-1 SEC) vs. No. 16 Nebraska (10-3, 7-1 B1G)
These two teams will want to push the reset buttons on their seasons after what happened to them in their conference championship games. Yes, they lost in vastly different ways but the bitter taste of those defeats could fuel a heck of a bowl game matchup. This has the potential to be an offensive matchup as well with Georgia's high powered passing attack taking on the nation's best passing defense and Nebraska's run heavy offense taking on a very good run defense. This has potential to be very great or very awful, but I'm thinking with what happened to these two teams this past weekend we'll see a very good football game, perhaps one of the best of the bowl season.
3. Outback Bowl – Tuesday, Jan. 1st, 1pm Eastern (ESPN)
No. 18 Michigan (8-4, 6-2 B1G) vs. No. 10 South Carolina (10-2, 6-2 SEC)
Who doesn't want to see Denard Robinson vs. the Gamecocks defense? Seriously, the thought of watching Robinson vs. Jadeveon Clowney is mouth watering to say the least. Unfortunately both teams will be missing their top running backs who both suffered two of the nastiest injuries of the year – Marcus Lattimore's broken leg and blown up knee and Michigan's Fitzgerald Toussaint's ankle injury that required immediate surgery. Anytime the SEC and Big Ten get together it's must see TV and even more so this year if you're a Big Ten fan because of the "down year" the conference is having. A win in this game by Michigan and a few others by the rest of the conference and that may end up changing a bit.
2. Chick-fil-A Bowl – Monday, Dec. 31st, 7:30pm Eastern (ESPN)
No. 8 LSU (10-2, 6-2 SEC) vs. No. 14 Clemson (10-2, 7-1 ACC)
Anyone up for some Paula Abdul? Why do we ask that? Well, this one is all about opposites attract as LSU's high powered defense takes on one of the nation's most potent offensive attacks in Clemson. What may be most interesting to watch is actually the exact opposite matchup – the LSU offense vs. the Clemson defense. LSU's offense has grown by leaps and bounds as the season has gone on and some Tigers fans will tell you that if it wasn't for their offense outscoring opponents this team wouldn't be playing in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, but the Orange Bowl. Either way expect some fun to be had in this one as Tajh Boyd and Andrew Ellington of Clemson is a heck of a 1,2 punch for Clemson and this will be another huge test for them.
1. AT&T Cotton Bowl – Friday, Jan. 4th, 8pm Eastern (FOX)
No. 11 Oklahoma (10-2, 8-1 Big 12) vs. No. 9 Texas A&M (10-2, 6-2 SEC)
Pretty sure this one is self-explanatory and all, but if not… It's a matchup of two teams that just last season would've played each other in the Big 12. Instead it's perhaps the single best bowl game of the season and I'm including the BCS national championship in that discussion. It's Landry Jones vs. Johnny "Football" Manziel. It's the Big 12 vs. SEC for bragging rights of the best conference in America. Then there's the fact that these two teams put up a ton of points. This very well could be the most entertaining and fun bowl game of the year to watch and must see TV for any true college football fan.