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Monday, December 8, 2008
Ranking the bowls of the non-BCS

Posted by's Graham Watson

There are 16 bowls in which non-BCS teams will be participating. Some are good matchups, most are iffy and some are just awful. But that's bowl season. It's not always perfect and with so many bowls and so many teams available, there are bound to be dud matchups. But the best non-BCS teams are playing in some good bowls against quality competition, which will make for some entertaining games.

Here's how I think the bowl games featuring non-BCS teams should be ranked:

1. San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Boise State (12-0) vs. TCU (10-2): Honestly, this might be a better bowl than the Sugar and Orange bowls. It's two highly ranked teams from two rival conferences. Bowl matchups don't get much better than this.
2. Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl
BYU (10-2) vs. Arizona (7-5): BYU will look to continue their dominance over the Pac-10 and win yet another Las Vegas Bowl. The Cougars will be going for their third consecutive 11-win season, which is a remarkable accomplishment.
3. Allstate Sugar Bowl
Utah (12-0) vs. Alabama (12-1): Nick Saban isn't happy about this matchup and he laid the groundwork by indirectly talking down to Utah during the postgame press conference of the SEC title game. I don't know if Utah can win this game, but I do know they're going to put up a fight. Utah's defense is highly underrated this season.
4. GMAC Bowl
Ball State (12-1) vs. Tulsa (10-3): Although this game might have been more intriguing had both teams been undefeated, it's still going to be an offensive showdown between two of the nation's best quarterbacks (statistically) in Tulsa's David Johnson and Ball State's Nate Davis.
5. Roady's Humanitarian Bowl
Nevada (7-5) vs. Maryland (7-5): Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick is one of the most dynamic players in the game today and he'll get to showcase the country's second-best rushing offense against an ACC team that may or may not show up for the game.
6. Texas Bowl
Western Michigan (9-3) vs. Rice (9-3): If you like offense then this bowl is for you. Both of these teams have not struggled to score this season. Actually, these teams are pretty identical when you look at it. They both have good quarterbacks, good receivers and a good tight end. The only difference is that Western Michigan has a good defense.
7. AutoZone Liberty Bowl
East Carolina (9-4) vs. Kentucky (6-6): The Pirates have found their former selves and now have yet another chance to take down a BCS foe and end the season the way it started. The Pirates defense will prove the difference in this one.
8. Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl
Hawaii (7-6) vs. Notre Dame (6-6): In all honesty, this is a much more winnable game than the Irish had against Rice in the Texas Bowl. But Notre Dame still has to play in front of the Hawaii faithful and the road hasn't exactly been kind this season.
9. EagleBank Bowl
Navy (8-4) vs. Wake Forest (7-5): This is a rematch of a game from September and since that game these teams have moved in very different directions. Even thought Navy won that first meeting, it is a much better team now than it was back then. Wake Forest? Not so much.
10. International Bowl
Buffalo (8-5) vs. Connecticut (7-5): Buffalo's mindset will come into question here, especially with coach Turner Gill allegedly interviewing for every open position in the country. Will the Bulls come out timid because it's their first bowl game since moving up to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1999, or will they embrace the opportunity and have fun with it?
11. Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl
Air Force (8-4) vs. Houston (7-5): The contrasting offensive styles of these two teams make this game one of the more intriguing matchups of the bowl season. Houston quarterback Case Keenum leads the nation in total offense and the Falcons have down well against strong offensive teams this season.
12. New Mexico Bowl
Fresno State (7-5) vs. Colorado State (6-6): Congratulations to Steve Fairchild for making Colorado State relevant again in his first year as head coach. This is a sign of good things to come. Fresno State has been beaten up all season, but the layoff and some much needed wound-licking after the Boise State game should make this one competitive.
13. Motor City Bowl
Central Michigan (8-4) vs. Florida Atlantic (6-6): This is a great matchup between two quarterbacks in Florida Atlantic's Rusty Smith and Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour, who were talked about during the preseason and then trailed off in the middle of the year.
14. R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Southern Mississippi (6-6) vs. Troy (8-4): All of the playmakers in this game are young and exciting and that's what this game will bring. It's not a sexy matchup like a lot of the other bowl games, but its one that will have several dynamic offensive performances.
15. MagicJack St. Petersburg Bowl
South Florida (7-5) vs. Memphis (6-6): This isn't a great matchup for a Memphis team that's had to rely on the run while its quarterback returns from a broken thumb. South Florida has one of the best rushing defenses in the country, giving up less than 100 yards per game.
16. Independence Bowl
Louisiana Tech (7-5) vs. Northern Illinois (6-6): There isn't a whole lot of appeal for this game unless you're a Louisiana Tech or Northern Illinois fan. It is a treat to watch NIU defensive end Larry English, but other than that, this bowl probably won't draw a lot of attention.