Ranking the Big East bowl lineup

December, 10, 2010
12/10/10
9:00
AM ET
Big bowls can sometimes be snooze-inducing blowouts, while lower-tier games often surprise you with entertaining finishes. As I wrote this week, the Big East bowl lineup isn't brimming with exciting storylines, but there could be some good games.

Here's my ranking of the league games in terms of potential on-the-field drama (Note: thinking in terms of interesting matchups only here, not importance of the result or intrigue in the buildup to kickoff):

1. Champs Sports Bowl

NC State vs. West Virginia
Dec. 28, 6:30 p.m. ET

I'm really looking forward to seeing West Virginia's defense go against NC State quarterback Russell Wilson. The Mountaineers really haven't played a top-flight quarterback all year, and this will be a major test for the nation's No. 2 scoring defense.

2. Meineke Car Care Bowl

Clemson vs. South Florida
Dec. 31, Noon ET

Two stellar defenses, highlighted by Nagurski winner Da'Quan Bowers for Clemson, should combine to keep this score low. There will be a ton of speed on the field in Charlotte. I would expect this one to come down to the fourth quarter.

3. BBVA Compass Bowl


Kentucky vs. Pittsburgh
Jan. 8, Noon ET

The Wildcats haven't shown much taste for playing defense this year, but they've made a lot of exciting comebacks that have fallen just short. This one could be a shootout if Pitt is on its game. Then again, who knows where the Panthers' minds will be after the firing of Dave Wannstedt? I would expect them to play hard if Wannstedt coaches the bowl, but there are obvious distractions at work here.

4. New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Kansas State vs. Syracuse
Dec. 30, 3:30 p.m. ET

These Wildcats have a powerful running game and are capable of throwing big numbers up on the scoreboard. Syracuse must win with defense, as its offense really gasped to the finish line. I think the time off could help the Orange heal some nagging injuries and add some wrinkles to the attack, but this game also has the potential to be an ugly one to watch.

5. Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

Oklahoma vs. Connecticut
Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. ET

Of course, this is the most interesting game in terms of storyline: Can underdog UConn actually win some respect against the Sooners? But, of course, the Huskies will be the biggest Big East underdog and maybe the largest 'dog of any team in bowl season. There's a chance Oklahoma blows the doors off of UConn, but I suspect that with a strong running game, standout special teams and a defense that played well down the stretch, the Huskies can at least make this one more competitive than some might think.

6. Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl

Southern Miss vs. Louisville
Dec. 21, 8 p.m. ET

The Golden Eagles' defense routinely gave up 30, 40 and even 50 points down the stretch this season, and I think that spells bad news for them against Louisville. The Cardinals' defense always shows up, and they should be able to run the ball effectively with a rested Bilal Powell. This one screams blowout to me.

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