Hopefully you already have seen our quick breakdown of all 35 bowl games. Now here are some of my quick thoughts on the games involving non-AQ teams.
Granddaddy of ‘em all: Anybody out there who says Wisconsin is going to wipe the floor with TCU gets a "not so fast, my friend." The Horned Frogs are the best defense the Badgers will face this season -- the No. 1 defense in the nation for the third straight season. BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall says what makes TCU so good at stopping the run is the Horned Frogs do not have to put extra guys in the box. TCU is physical and quick, but more importantly, excellent reactors to what the offense is doing. Much of that is because of safety Tejay Johnson. It is easy to look at the big-time points Wisconsin had dropped down the stretch, but take a look at the opponents before you start calling the Badgers an unstoppable juggernaut. Meanwhile, the Horned Frogs know exactly what is on the line in this game. They voted to skip Christmas at home so they could spend extra time preparing in California, and asked coach Gary Patterson to enforce a stricter curfew than he did last season for the Fiesta Bowl. “I think for us to keep climbing the mountain we need to [win],” Patterson said. “We’re not going there just to play well.”
Matchup I wanted to see: Boise State vs. Ohio State Fightin’ Orville Redenbachers. Yes, I know how the BCS system works and why Arkansas ended up in the Sugar Bowl. But how great would it have been to see Boise State take on Ohio State in a Little Sisters of the Poor vs. Big Bad Big Ten matchup?
Matchup we got instead: Boise State vs. Utah. Instead, the Broncos are paired up in a bowl game against another non-AQ school. Ho hum. This is really going to prove a lot if Boise State wins. I know Utah has an awesome bowl winning streak -- nine straight -- but it’s hard to see how competitive a game this is going to be for several reasons. 1. Utah starting QB Jordan Wynn is out. Yes, I know Terrance Cain is perfectly capable as the backup, but Wynn was outstanding in the Poinsettia Bowl last year. 2. TCU beat Utah 47-7. Here is Utah coach Kyle Whittingham’s evaluation of Boise State: the Broncos remind him of TCU. Oh, brother.
Non-AQ best bets: Six bowl games feature matchups between non-AQ teams and teams from automatic qualifying conferences. It is too early to make my picks, but of those six, my initial thought is that everyone but East Carolina (vs. Maryland) and UCF (vs. Georgia) will have an excellent chance to win. I think the Pirates' defense is going to have problems trying to slow down Maryland WR Torrey Smith, and UCF is going to have problems stopping Georgia WR A.J. Green.
Non-AQ worst bet: Three MAC-Sun Belt games are on tap. Nothing against those teams or those games, but the one that could draw the least interest is the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl between Troy and Ohio. The Trojans are not as good as they were in years' past, and Ohio just laid an egg with the MAC East on the line.
Favorite non-AQ matchups: In order of most intriguing: 1. TCU vs. Wisconsin, Rose Bowl. 2. Tulsa vs. Hawaii, Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. 3. Navy vs. San Diego State, S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. 4. Boise State vs. Utah, MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. 5a. Nevada vs. Boston College, Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. 5b. Air Force vs. Georgia Tech, AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl.
Shafted: You have got to feel for the Temple Owls, who went 8-4 with a win over Connecticut, and missed out on a bowl game. Losing two in a row to bowl teams Ohio and Miami (Ohio) to close the season did them in. Coach Al Golden did everything he could to hide his anger in this statement:
“I'm disappointed for our student-athletes, especially for a remarkable group of seniors who are the first group since 1982 to graduate Temple with a winning record. It's unfortunate for everyone in the Temple community, because this is a team truly worthy of a bowl. We played seven postseason teams, including all four nonconference opponents. We finished 8-4, 3-1 out of conference and beat three postseason teams, including a BCS win over Big East champion UConn.”