NCF Nation: bowl rankings 15

Posted by ESPN.com'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.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Sure, the Big 12 couldn't fill all of its bowl agreements. Fans in Houston and Shreveport will have to do without a Big 12 representative in their bowls this season.

But the conference appears to have been situated in some winnable games. Early odds have not been released, but it would be surprising if more than a couple of Big 12 teams were underdogs in their games.

With that being the case, the Big 12's national stature may be riding on a big bowl season. Because if teams from the conference collectively fail this season, it will be presumed as little more than a pass-heavy league where defense isn't played.

Here's my own unofficial listing of the attractivness of the conference's seven bowl games this year.

1. BCS Championship Game
No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 2 Florida, Jan. 8, 8 p.m., FOX: This game has everything. It's the battle between two of three best scoring offenses in the country. Two likely Heisman finalists in Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow. And Bob Stoops needs a victory to restore some of the national lusture to his program -- against the school where he first emerged as a national name.
2. Fiesta Bowl
No. 3 Texas vs. No. 10 Ohio State, Jan. 5, 8 p.m., FOX: The Longhorns aren't exactly excited to be in the desert. But an impressive victory and a lackluster national championship game might give them an argument for a shared national title. The game will pit two traditional powers. And unlike most Big 12 games this season, defense won't be an afterthought.
3. Holiday Bowl
No. 13 Oklahoma State vs. No. 17 Oregon, Dec. 30, 8 p.m., ESPN: I can't wait for this game. Jeremiah Johnson vs. Kendall Hunter. Phil Knight vs. T. Boone Pickens. Pistol Pete vs. that crazy Duck mascot. This one will be like a game we've seen in the Big 12 a lot this season. First team to 50 points wins in a game where the two teams may combine for more than 1,000 yards.
4. Cotton Bowl
No. 7 Texas Tech vs. No. 25 Mississippi, Jan. 2, 2 p.m., FOX: It should be quite a show with Mike Leach and Michael Crabtree helping usher out the Cotton Bowl's era at the old stadium in Fair Park. The two teams had shootouts in 2002 and 2003 in an earlier series and I'm expecting a similar game in this one.
5. Alamo Bowl
No. 21 Missouri vs. No. 23 Northwestern, Dec. 29, 8 p.m., ESPN: The Big 12's North champions limp into this game coming off a two-game losing streak. And the game will be played in the Alamodome, a place where they were they lost the Big 12 title game last season. But Chase Daniel's final collegiate game promises to be a festive one, particularly when it's in his home state.
6. Gator Bowl
Nebraska vs. Clemson, Jan. 1, 1 p.m., CBS: This one will pit Nebraska's underrated offense against a Clemson defense that ranks in the top 17 teams in pass defense, total defense and scoring defense. But Clemson will be breaking in a new defensive coordinator and Roy Helu Jr. has been running strongly in recent games, likely given the Cornhuskers a slim edge.
7. Insight Bowl
Kansas vs. Minnesota, Dec. 31, 5:30 p.m., NFL Netwo
rk:
The Jayhawks will toast their first back-to-back bowl appearances in school history by meeting a Minnesota team that lost its last four games and finished 91st in total offense and 104th in rushing. If the Kansas secondary can hold up, Mark Mangino could have his team in line for its third-straight bowl victory.

Ranking the ACC's bowls

December, 8, 2008
12/08/08
5:10
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Which ACC games will provide the most entertainment, the best bang for your buck, the best matchups and the best storylines? Here's a quick look at the ACC's bowl matchups this season, from the best to the worst:

1. Chick-fil-A Bowl
Georgia Tech vs. LSU. Is this the best the SEC's got? LSU? Because Georgia Tech might be up for even more of a challenge under Paul Johnson. The Tigers were pounded by Georgia, a team Georgia Tech already beat. LSU has the nation's No. 17-ranked rushing defense, and that's what will make this matchup interesting. The Tigers' problems this season have been at quarterback, where Jarrett Lee has thrown 14 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
2. Papajohns.com Bowl
NC State vs. Rutgers: Football fans should be more excited about this game than they probably are. It's going to feature two interesting quarterbacks in Mike Teel and Russell Wilson, who have both been the difference for their respective teams down the stretch. For ACC fans who have spent the whole season watching standout defenses, this should be a refreshing game.
3. Gator Bowl
Clemson vs. Nebraska: Both of these teams finished strong, but Clemson's mediocre season didn't warrant one of the more lucrative bowls. So it goes. The Tigers have looked better offensively in recent weeks, but the defense will face an under-the-radar Big 12 quarterback in Joe Gantz. And they'll face him without their defensive coordinator. This should actually be an offensive game, too, as Nebraska is likely to struggle against guys like James Davis and C.J. Spiller.
4. FedEx Orange Bowl
Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati: The Bearcats are in the midst of their first 11-win season, and Virginia Tech has done a lot with a little. They're both strong on defense and special teams, and the Bearcats' secondary will present a challenge for a passing game that is finally starting to develop. Plus, you've got the whole ACC expansion subplot going on in this one.
5. Meineke Car Care Bowl
UNC vs. West Virginia: This game is about pride for the Mountaineers, who were picked to win the Big East. The WVU offense hasn't exactly been clicking in its past two games, and the Tar Heels' gritty defense would like to keep it that way. WVU quarterback Pat White will need a balanced offense in this game.
6. Champs Sports Bowl 
Florida State vs. Wisconsin: The Badgers will have a tough time keeping up with FSU's speedy playmakers. The Seminoles have the edge in athletic ability and should have the edge in the atmosphere.
7. Emerald Bowl
Miami vs. Cal: If the Hurricanes can overcome the environment and the fact they'll be playing about 13 miles away from Cal's home base, this could be a good game. Cal is a better team than when it lost to Maryland earlier in the season, and the Golden Bears have not lost at home this season.
8. EagleBank Bowl
Wake Forest vs. Navy: This is a lose-lose situation for the Demon Deacons. If they win, they're supposed to. If they lose, it will be the second time it has happened this season. While neither program is likely to admit it publicly, this isn't a matchup either one of them is thrilled with.
9. Music City Bowl
Boston College vs. Vanderbilt: Both of these teams deserve credit for what they accomplished this season. Vandy is in a bowl game for the first time in 26 years, but will need more from their offense if they actually want to win it. Then again, the same can be said for BC, which struggled to get anything going against the Hokies. This could be a 3-2 thriller.
10. Humanitarian Bowl 
Maryland vs. Nevada. The Terps will go all the way to Boise to play a team they know little about, and they'll do it without their defensive coordinator. This one could be ugly. Colin Kaepernick is a dual-threat quarterback -- an attribute the Terps have struggled against -- and running back Vai Taua has 1,420 yards and 14 touchdowns this season.

Ranking the SEC bowls

December, 8, 2008
12/08/08
5:09
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

We rank college football teams. So why not the bowls? Eight SEC teams will be playing in the postseason. Here's a look at how the eight bowl games involving SEC teams rank based on overall intrigue, the matchup and any compelling story lines that might exist:

1. BCS National Championship Game
No. 2 Florida vs. No. 1 Oklahoma, 8 p.m., Jan. 8: Easy choice here. The winner walks away with the national championship, and for the Gators, it would be their second national title in the last three years. Even if the title wasn't on the line, this one would be a game everybody was lining up to see simply because of all the talent, athletes and touchdown-makers on the field. The two teams have scored a combined 1,289 points this season.
2. Allstate Sugar Bowl
No. 6 Utah vs. No. 4 Alabama, 8 p.m., Jan. 2: Don't make the mistake of likening this game to last year's Sugar Bowl mismatch, which Georgia won 41-10 over Hawaii. Utah comes into the game with wins over Michigan and Oregon State and can play a little defense. The Crimson Tide's bruising running game will get a test against a Utes' defense ranked 14th nationally against the run.
3. AT&T Cotton Bowl
No. 25 Ole Miss vs. No. 7 Texas Tech, 2 p.m., Jan. 2: Two former star high school quarterbacks from the state of Texas hook up in Dallas. Everybody knows about Texas Tech's Graham Harrell. This is a chance for Ole Miss' Jevan Snead to introduce himself to the college football world. Ole Miss has a stellar defensive line, but few teams have been able to get to Harrell this season.
4. Capital One Bowl
No. 18 Michigan State vs. No. 15 Georgia, 1 p.m., Jan. 1: It's a matchup of two of the best running backs in the country. Michigan State's Javon Ringer has carried the ball 370 times (more than anybody in the country) for 1,590 yards and 21 touchdowns, while Georgia's Knowshon Moreno has rushed for 1,338 yards and 16 touchdowns. If it comes down to a defensive stop, the Bulldogs could be in trouble.
5. Chick-fil-A Bowl
LSU vs. No. 14 Georgia Tech, 7:30 p.m., Dec. 31: Georgia Tech closed the season by winning three of its last four games, all against nationally ranked teams. LSU closed the season by losing three of its last four games. The Tigers' defense went into the tank, and that's a problem against the Yellow Jackets' triple-option offense. It's also another chance for the ACC to beat up on the SEC. The ACC was 3-1 against the SEC on the final weekend of the regular season.
6. Outback Bowl
Iowa vs. South Carolina, 11 a.m., Jan. 1: They don't take bowl games for granted at South Carolina and certainly not bowl wins. Two of the four bowl victories in South Carolina school history have come in the Outback Bowl. Any win would look nice for the Gamecocks at this point after being uncompetitive against Florida and Clemson to end the regular season, and the last thing the Head Ball Coach wants is a second straight six-loss season.
7. Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl
Vanderbilt vs. No. 24 Boston College, 3:30 p.m., Dec. 31: There won't be a mass following of Boston College fans to Nashville. That much we know. But the Eagles have still put together a solid season and have done it the year after losing Matt Ryan to the NFL. They're ranked sixth nationally in total defense and face a Vanderbilt team that was woeful offensively for much of the season, which explains why the Commodores lost six of their last seven games.
8. AutoZone Liberty
Bowl
East Carolina vs. Kentucky, 5 p.m., Jan. 2: Both East Carolina and Kentucky started fast this season. The Pirates were able to recover from a midseason slump and upset Tulsa in the Conference USA Championship Game. The Wildcats lost six of their last eight games after starting 4-0. Their offense got a boost from freshman quarterback Randall Cobb, but their defense couldn't keep pace after several key injuries.

Ranking the Big East bowls

December, 8, 2008
12/08/08
5:03
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

What are the most and least interesting Big East bowls? Let's rank them:


Ranking the Big Ten bowls

December, 8, 2008
12/08/08
3:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten wants more respect after being skewered nationally for much of the season. An exciting bowl lineup gives the conference a chance to get its wish.

In addition to having two BCS entries for the fourth straight year, the Big Ten faces the preseason No. 1 (Georgia), a preseason national title contender (Missouri) and two of the more successful head coaches in the southeast (Bobby Bowden and Steve Spurrier).

To piggyback off Mark Schlabach's national list, it's time to rank the Big Ten bowls.

1. FedEx Orange Bowl
No. 12 Cincinnati vs. No. 19 Virginia Tech, Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m., FOX: OK, so maybe the rest of the nation -- or even the ACC -- isn't captivated by this matchup. If you listened to our bowl podcast this morning, you heard my colleague and ACC blogger Heather Dinich describe this as one of the worst games involving her league. But from a Big East perspective, every BCS game is huge for the little conference that could. Especially when it comes against one of the teams that almost killed the Big East by leaving for the ACC. Even leaving that angle aside, Cincinnati has been a great story and a fun team to watch all season. I expect nothing less than a terrific game in Miami.
2. Brut Sun Bowl
No. 20 Pitt vs. Oregon State, Dec. 31, 2 p.m., CBS: If Oregon State plays defense like it did against Oregon in the Civil War, Pittsburgh could score 50. Regardless, this game should be a lot of fun. You have the nation's best freshman running back, the Beavers' Jacquizz Rodgers, against the best sophomore tailback, LeSean McCoy. A hungry Pitt team against an Oregon State program always looking for respect. And the Big East can earn some more pride by knocking off the team that nearly won the Pac-10.
3. Papajohns.com Bowl
Rutgers vs. NC State: Dec. 29, 3 p.m., ESPN: Yes, it's only 7-5 (Rutgers) vs. 6-6 (NC State). And yes, Birmingham's aging Legion Field is about the last place you'd want to spend a December day. But this is still a matchup between two streaking teams with good quarterback play. I can't wait to see what Mike Teel, Kenny Britt and Co. do for an encore after the Scarlet Knights' amazing regular-season finishing kick.
4. Meineke Car Care Bowl
West Virginia vs. North Carolina, Dec. 27, 1 p.m., ESPN: Will the high-octane West Virginia offense we've seen in bowl games over the years show up? Or will this be the Mountaineers' attack that has continually sputtered to score between seven and 10 points in the first half of games this season? Either way, it will be interesting because of Pat White's final game, and North Carolina's quest to go 3-0 against the Big East.
5. International Bowl
UConn vs. Buffalo: Jan. 3, noon, ESPN2: How many college football fans are going to tune into a Jan. 3 game in Toronto featuring two relatively unknown programs? The Huskies have a star attraction in Donald Brown, while Buffalo is the feel-good story with its first-ever bowl appearance.
6. magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl
South Florida vs. Memphis: Dec. 20, 4:30 p.m., ESPN2: In case you're wondering, magicJack is a device you can plug into your computer, and then your cell phone, to make free calls. And if you're like me, that's the extent of your interest in this game right now. Just kidding. But there's not much to love about a game to be played indoors in a baseball stadium on Dec. 20 between two teams that haven't done much this year.
1. Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi
No. 8 Penn State vs. No. 5 USC, 4:30 p.m. ET, Jan. 1 (ABC): Two powerhouse programs, a legendary head coach (Joe Paterno) and another well on his way there (Pete Carroll), and one of college football's greatest settings make the Rose Bowl a must-see. Both of these teams easily could have been in Miami on Jan. 8, and a win will only strengthen their arguments. It will be fun to watch the Spread HD offense match up with a ferocious USC defense.
2. Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
No. 10 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Texas, 8 p.m. ET, Jan. 5 (Fox): The teams clashed in 2005 and 2006 but have never met in the postseason. It will be fascinating to see how Texas responds from its BCS title game snub. Heisman Trophy candidate Colt McCoy will go against the best defense he's faced this season in Ohio State, which ranks seventh nationally in points allowed (13.1 ppg). The Buckeyes need a win to restore their national reputation and will need strong performances from quarterback Terrelle Pryor and running back Chris "Beanie" Wells.
3. Capital One Bowl
No. 15 Georgia vs. No. 18 Michigan State, 1 p.m. ET, Jan. 1 (ABC): Forget about those Big 12 quarterbacks and that Tebow fellow. This game is all about the running backs, as Doak Walker Award finalists Javon Ringer and Knowshon Moreno match up. Ringer has carried Michigan State to this point and could capitalize on a suspect Georgia defense, while Moreno is one of the nation's most exciting running backs and takes on a Michigan State defense that struggles to stop elite players.
4. Valero Alamo Bowl
No. 21 Missouri vs. No. 23 Northwestern, 8 p.m. ET, Dec. 29 (ESPN): An insane number of sports journalists will be tuning in for this one, and you should, too. Missouri boasts one of the nation's most dynamic passing combinations in quarterback Chase Daniel and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. Northwestern counters with a sack-happy defense led by end Corey Wootton. If Northwestern quarterback C.J. Bacher discovers his 2007 form against a woeful Mizzou secondary, this could become a shootout.
5. Champs Sports Bowl
Wisconsin vs. Florida State, 4:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 27 (ESPN): Both of these teams underachieved to a certain degree this fall, but the bowl game will provide an interesting match-up of power (Wisconsin) vs. speed (Florida State). The Wisconsin rushing attack came together late in the season, but P.J. Hill and John Clay face a tough task in a Florida State defense led by superstar end Everette Brown and linebacker Derek Nicholson.
6. O
utback Bowl
South Carolina vs. Iowa, 11 a.m. ET, Jan. 1 (ESPN): I can't get enough of Shonn Greene, but aside from the powerful Iowa running back, this game doesn't provide many reasons to shake-off the New Year's Eve hangover. Iowa played excellent football down the stretch, and it will be interesting to see how the Hawkeyes match-up with an SEC team. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier returns to Florida amid increasing criticism. He needs to win this game.
7. Insight Bowl
Kansas vs. Minnesota, 5:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 31 (NFL Network): If Minnesota can get back to the disciplined and opportunistic play that spurred its 7-1 start, this game will be worth watching. But the Gophers didn't look like the same team down the stretch, and they'll need to make some major upgrades in the next few weeks to keep pace with a more experienced Kansas team led by quarterback Todd Reesing.

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