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Let's go bowling: All 35 breakdowns

12/20/2013

The most wonderful time of the year is nearly here.

College football's bowl season kicks off with four games Saturday and culminates with the Jan. 6 VIZIO BCS National Championship in Pasadena, Calif.

Here's everything you need to know about this season's bowl lineup:

Colorado StateWashington State

Gildan New Mexico Bowl

Washington State vs. Colorado State, Dec. 21 (ESPN, 2 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: The first bowl game of the postseason figures to be a high-scoring affair. Under pass-happy coach Mike Leach, the Cougars rank fourth nationally in passing (364.5 yards per game) and first in attempts (58.2 per game). Conversely, the Rams love to run the ball and are led by tailback Kapri Bibbs, who ran for 1,572 yards with 28 touchdowns this season.

Who to watch: Bibbs, a sophomore from Plainfield, Ill., might be the best running back of whom you've never heard. He ranked eighth among FBS players in rushing yardage, even though he didn't start until the sixth game, and led FBS tailbacks in rushing touchdowns. He ran for 312 yards with four touchdowns on 30 carries in a 38-17 win over Nevada on Nov. 9, and then had 291 yards with six scores in a 66-42 victory at New Mexico the next week. Bibbs needs only 30 rushing yards against the Cougars to break CSU's single-season record.

Motivating factor for Washington State: The Cougars, who went 3-9 in Leach's first season in 2012, can finish with a winning record if they defeat the Rams. WSU is playing in its first bowl game since beating Texas 28-20 in the 2003 Holiday Bowl.

Motivating factor for Colorado State: The Rams went 4-8 in coach Jim McElwain's first season in 2012, but they can finish 8-6 if they defeat the Cougars. CSU is playing in its first bowl game since beating Fresno State 40-35 in the 2008 New Mexico Bowl.

Pick: Colorado State 41, Washington State 38


USCFresno State

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl

Fresno State vs. USC, Dec. 21 (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: The Bulldogs were a victory away from being a BCS buster but allowed 736 yards of offense in a 62-52 loss at San Jose State on Nov. 29. The Trojans will play their first and only game under interim coach Clay Helton, who replaced interim coach Ed Orgeron, who replaced fired coach Lane Kiffin. The Steve Sarkisian era will begin after the bowl game.

Who to watch: It will be the final college game for Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, who completed 70.1 percent of his passes for 4,866 yards with 48 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season. USC's defense ranked No. 1 in the Pac-12 against the pass, allowing 214.5 passing yards per game. The Trojans allowed only 18 touchdown passes in 13 games and were tied for second in the Pac-12 with 16 interceptions.

Motivating factor for Fresno State: The Bulldogs probably want to prove they're better than the team that collapsed against San Jose State. They'll have a chance to finish the season with a 12-1 record, which would give them a lot of momentum heading into the offseason. Fresno State opens the 2014 season against USC in Los Angeles on Aug. 30.

Motivating factor for USC: Despite everything that went wrong this season, the Trojans still have a chance to finish 10-4. Plus, they can send Helton, their offensive coordinator, out with a 1-0 record as head coach.

Pick: Fresno State 34, USC 31


San Diego StateBuffalo

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Buffalo vs. San Diego State, Dec. 21 (ESPN, 5:30 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: How many times have you seen the Bulls play in the postseason? In their 15th season as an FBS program, they are making only their second appearance in a bowl game and looking for their first victory. San Diego State bounced back from a 0-3 start to finish 7-5 and make the postseason.

Who to watch: Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack was a Butkus Award finalist and is projected to be a first-round pick in next spring's NFL draft. The MAC Defensive Player of the Year had 94 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, three interceptions and five forced fumbles this season. He won the Jack Lambert Award, which is given by the Touchdown Club of Columbus (Ohio) to the country's top linebacker. He already holds the FBS record with 16 career forced fumbles and is one TFL away from setting the FBS career record with 75.

Motivating factor for Buffalo: The Bulls have eight wins in coach Jeff Quinn's fourth season, which are their most victories in a single season during the BCS era. The Bulls have never won a bowl game; they lost to Connecticut 38-20 in the 2009 International Bowl in Toronto.

Motivating factor for San Diego State: The Aztecs haven't won a bowl game under coach Rocky Long, who is 1-6 in bowl games overall, including an 0-2 mark at San Diego State. SDSU lost to BYU 23-6 in the Poinsettia Bowl last season and 32-30 to Louisiana-Lafayette in the 2011 New Orleans Bowl.

Pick: Buffalo 37, San Diego State 21


Louisiana-LafayetteTulane

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Tulane vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, Dec. 21 (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: New Orleans knows how to throw a party, and the environment in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome figures to be festive as these Louisiana rivals meet for the first time in the postseason. After enduring 10 consecutive losing seasons, the Green Wave finished 7-5 and will play in their first bowl game since 2002.

Who to watch: Tulane quarterback Nick Montana, the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Montana, completed 53.1 percent of his passes for 1,654 yards with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Montana, a junior from San Francisco, started his career at Washington, transferred to Mt. San Antonio (Calif.) Junior College last year after he lost the Huskies' starting job to Keith Price and then made his way to Tulane this season.

Motivating factor for Tulane: The Green Wave probably wants to send out the Superdome the right way. The Superdome has been Tulane's home stadium since 1975, but it's moving to a new on-campus venue next season. The Green Wave went 5-1 in the dome this season.

Motivating factor for Louisiana-Lafayette: The Ragin' Cajuns are attempting to win a third consecutive New Orleans Bowl, after defeating East Carolina 43-34 last season and San Diego State 32-30 in 2011. They might have to try to beat Tulane without star quarterback Terrance Broadway, who broke his right wrist in a 31-28 loss to Louisiana-Monroe on Nov. 30.

Pick: Tulane 23, Louisiana-Lafayette 17


OhioEast Carolina

Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl

East Carolina vs. Ohio, Dec. 23 (ESPN, 2 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: It's a matchup of two pretty underrated quarterbacks: East Carolina's Shane Carden and Ohio's Tyler Tettleton. Carden, a junior from Houston, was named Conference USA Most Valuable Player after leading the Pirates to a 9-3 record. He threw for 3,866 yards with 32 touchdowns, while completing an FBS-best 71 percent of his passes. Tettleton passed for 2,623 yards with 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He struggled in November losses to Buffalo, Bowling Green and Kent State, throwing only one touchdown in those three contests.

Who to watch: ECU junior Justin Hardy, a former walk-on, is Carden's favorite target. He caught 105 passes for 1,218 yards with eight touchdowns this season, averaging 11.6 yards per reception. Hardy had 16 catches for 191 yards in a 52-38 win over Old Dominion in the opener, then caught 17 passes for 230 yards in a 36-33 overtime loss at Tulane on Oct. 12. He is the first ECU player to post back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons and set the school record with 25 career touchdown catches.

Motivating factor for East Carolina: The Pirates were favored to win Conference USA but lost 59-28 at Marshall in their Nov. 29 finale. They can still win 10 games in a season for the first time since going 11-1 in 1991.

Motivating factor for Ohio: The Bobcats are playing in a bowl game for the sixth consecutive season, but they didn't end the season well, losing three of their past four games. They haven't defeated an opponent with a winning record since beating Marshall 34-31 on Sept. 14.

Pick: East Carolina 38, Ohio 17


Oregon StateBoise State

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl

Boise State vs. Oregon State, Dec. 24 (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: We'll begin to find out what Boise State will be like without coach Chris Petersen, who left earlier this month to replace Sarkisian at Washington. Linebackers coach Bob Gregory will serve as their interim coach in the bowl game; former Arkansas State coach Bryan Harsin was named Petersen's successor.

Who to watch: Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion and receiver Brandin Cooks formed the most potent passing duo in the country this season. Mannion ranked No. 2 among FBS quarterbacks with 4,403 passing yards and threw 36 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. Cooks, who won the Biletnikoff Award as the country's top receiver, caught 120 passes for 1,670 yards with 15 touchdowns.

Motivating factor for Boise State: The Broncos probably want to prove there was more to their program than Petersen, who had a 92-12 record in eight seasons. Boise State has won each of its past four bowl games, including three straight wins over Pac-12 foes in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Motivating factor for Oregon State: Despite having a potent passing game, the Beavers were a major disappointment with a 6-6 record and finishing the regular season with five consecutive losses. They haven't won since beating California 49-17 on the road on Oct. 19. OSU hasn't won a bowl game since defeating Pittsburgh 3-0 in the 2008 Sun Bowl.

Pick: Boise State 28, Oregon State 24


Bowling GreenPittsburgh

Little Caesars Bowl

Pittsburgh vs. Bowling Green, Dec. 26 (ESPN, 6 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: It's your last chance to watch Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald in a college uniform. Donald, who led FBS players with 26.5 tackles for loss to go with 10 sacks, won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (best defensive player), Lombardi Award (best lineman or linebacker), Outland Trophy (top interior lineman) and the Bednarik Award (best defensive player). Bowling Green's interior offensive linemen are going to have a fun time trying to stop him.

Who to watch: Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson, a sophomore from Harrisburg, Pa., flourished in his first season as a college starter, throwing for 3,195 yards with 23 touchdowns and seven interceptions. In the Falcons' 47-27 upset of Northern Illinois in the MAC championship game, he threw for 393 yards with five touchdowns on 21-for-27 passing.

Motivating factor for Pittsburgh: Hey, at least the ACC got the Panthers out of Birmingham, Ala. After playing in the BBVA Compass Bowl in each of its last three seasons in the Big East, Pitt gets a trip to Ford Field in Detroit. It will try to win its first bowl game since 2010 and finish with a winning record in its first season in the ACC.

Motivating factor for Bowling Green: The Falcons will try to win at Ford Field for the second straight game, after ending Northern Illinois' BCS hopes on Dec. 6. Bowling Green will play without coach Dave Clawson, who was named Wake Forest's coach last week. Special teams/tight ends coach Adam Scheier will serve as interim coach in the bowl game.

Pick: Bowling Green 24, Pittsburgh 16


Northern IllinoisUtah State

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

Utah State vs. Northern Illinois, Dec. 26 (ESPN, 9:30 p.m.)

Why to watch: If you haven't watched Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch much this season, it will be your final chance to see him on a college gridiron. He was spectacular as a senior, scoring 45 touchdowns -- 23 passing and 22 rushing -- and accounting for more than 4,500 yards of total offense. He finished third in Heisman Trophy voting, behind FSU's Jameis Winston and Alabama's AJ McCarron.

Who to watch: Besides Lynch, Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward might be the best player on the field. He compiled a team-high 89 tackles with 6 interceptions, 14 pass breakups, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack and 1 fumble recovery. Ward, a senior from Mobile, Ala., was a Thorpe Award semifinalist and was invited to play in the Senior Bowl.

Motivating factor for Utah State: The Aggies were left for dead when star quarterback Chuckie Keeton injured his knee in a 31-14 loss to BYU on Oct. 4. But Utah State went 5-2 without him and finished the regular season with an 8-5 record. The Aggies will try to win back-to-back bowl games, after defeating Toledo 41-15 in the 2012 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Motivating factor for Northern Illinois: Can the Huskies wipe off the stains from their collapse against Bowling Green in the MAC championship game? They'll have to be motivated to send Lynch and his fellow seniors out as winners. Northern Illinois is also looking for redemption after last season's 31-10 loss to Florida State in the Discovery Orange Bowl.

Pick: Northern Illinois 34, Utah State 20


MarylandMarshall

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman

Marshall vs. Maryland, Dec. 27 (ESPN, 2:30 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: Marshall has one of the country's most prolific offenses, averaging 43.1 points per game. The Thundering Herd led FBS teams in passing with 365.1 yards per game and scored more than 40 points in six consecutive games until losing at Rice 41-24 in the Conference USA championship game Dec. 7. Maryland isn't a bad offense, either, if quarterback C.J. Brown is healthy and running the ball well.

Who to watch: Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato, a junior from Miami, completed 59.3 percent of his passes for 3,579 yards with 36 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He ranked third among FBS quarterbacks in passing touchdowns and 10th in passing yards. He was named Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year and threw 21 touchdowns in the past five games.

Motivating factor for Marshall: After going 5-7 last season, the Thundering Herd have a chance to double their win total with a victory over the Terrapins. Marshall hasn't had a 10-win season since going 11-2 in back-to-back seasons in 2001 and '02.

Motivating factor for Maryland: The Terrapins can't seem to catch a break under coach Randy Edsall, who guided them to a 7-5 record after going 6-18 in his first two seasons. Maryland lost top receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long in mid-October, but recovered to win two of its past three games, including a 27-24 overtime win at Virginia Tech on Nov. 16. A bowl victory would be icing on the cake.

Pick: Marshall 34, Maryland 24


MinnesotaSyracuse

Texas Bowl

Syracuse vs. Minnesota, Dec. 27 (ESPN, 6 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: You might want to check out the Gophers, one of the best feel-good stories of the college football season. Minnesota is playing in the Texas Bowl for the second consecutive season, even after it was picked to finish last in the Big Ten's Legends Division in the preseason. Worse, coach Jerry Kill took a leave of absence because of epileptic seizures, only to return and coach from the press box late in the season.

Who to watch: Gophers tailback David Cobb, a junior from Killeen, Texas, ran for 1,111 yards with seven touchdowns, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. He didn't become Minnesota's workhorse back until the seventh game, but finished with five 100-yard performances in the last six contests to become its first 1,000-yard runner since 2006. He ran for a career-high 188 yards with one touchdown in a 42-39 win at Indiana on Nov. 2.

Motivating factor for Syracuse: The Orange needs a victory to finish with a winning record in its first season in the ACC and first campaign under coach Scott Shafer. Syracuse lost two of its last three games and had to beat Boston College 34-31 on Nov. 30 to become bowl-eligible.

Motivating factor for Minnesota: The Gophers can cap off what has already been a memorable season. They won four of their last six games after Kill took a leave of absence, beating Nebraska and Penn State and winning four straight Big Ten games for the first time since 1973. A victory would give them only their second nine-win campaign in the past 108 seasons.

Pick: Minnesota 28, Syracuse 24


WashingtonBYU

Fight Hunger Bowl

BYU vs. Washington, Dec. 27 (ESPN, 9:30 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: If the Huskies are peeved about Sarkisian leaving for USC, maybe they can take it out on BYU, his alma mater. Washington probably should have finished better than 8-4; their defeats came against Stanford, Oregon, Arizona State and UCLA, which each had a chance to win a Pac-12 title. BYU also finished 8-4, so it figures to be a pretty evenly matched bowl game at San Francisco's AT&T Park.

Who to watch: Washington tailback Bishop Sankey ran for 1,775 yards -- third-most among FBS players -- with 18 touchdowns and was a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, which is given to the country's top running back. He'll be tested by BYU's stingy defense, which allowed only 3.82 yards per carry and nine rushing touchdowns this season, tied for 10th fewest among FBS teams.

Motivating factor for BYU: The Cougars have won a school-record four consecutive bowl games and haven't lost in the postseason since a 32-21 loss to Arizona in the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl. BYU also has won its past three games against Washington.

Motivating factor for Washington: After winning seven games or fewer in each of Sarkisian's first four seasons, the Huskies finally won eight this season. They haven't won nine games in a season since going 11-1 in 2000, when interim coach Marques Tuiasosopo was their starting quarterback.

Pick: BYU 28, Washington 27


Notre DameRutgers

New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Rutgers vs. Notre Dame, Dec. 28 (ESPN, noon ET)

Why to watch: What will the Fighting Irish look like without offensive coordinator Chuck Martin and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, who left to become the head coaches at Miami (Ohio) and Connecticut, respectively? The Irish finished 8-4 after playing in the BCS National Championship last season. They're heavy favorites to beat Rutgers, which had to defeat South Florida 31-6 in its regular-season finale to finish 6-6 and become bowl-eligible.

Who to watch: Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees, a senior from Lake Forest, Ill., might have a chance to leave the Irish on a winning note. He won the starting job after 2012 starter Everett Gholson was ruled academically ineligible in the offseason, and then threw for more than 300 yards in each of the first three games. But Rees hit the 300-yard mark only once in the final nine games, finishing with 2,938 passing yards with 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The Scarlet Knights allowed 3,737 passing yards this season, the most in school history.

Motivating factor for Rutgers: The jury is still out on coach Kyle Flood, who has a 15-10 record in two seasons since replacing Greg Schiano. The Scarlet Knights will leave the AAC for the Big Ten next season, and they could really use some momentum heading into the postseason. Flood fired three assistant coaches, including defensive coordinator Dave Cohen.

Motivating factor for Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish fell short of their lofty expectations this season, but it always feels nostalgic when they play at New York's Yankee Stadium. They'll try to get a jump-start on next season's facelift by beating the Scarlet Knights.

Pick: Notre Dame 31, Rutgers 13


North CarolinaCincinnati

Belk Bowl

Cincinnati vs. North Carolina, Dec. 28 (ESPN, 3:20 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: The Bearcats went 9-3 under first-year coach Tommy Tuberville, and the Tar Heels finally seemed to figure out second-year coach Larry Fedora's spread offense in the second half of the season. After a 1-5 start, the Tar Heels won five of their last six games to become bowl-eligible. Both offenses are capable of producing plenty of explosive plays.

Who to watch: North Carolina sophomore Marquise Williams took over for injured Bryn Renner in November, and helped guide the Tar Heels to five consecutive victories before losing to Duke 27-25 in the regular-season finale. Williams completed 58.2 percent of his passes for 1,527 yards with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions, while running for 490 yards with six scores.

Motivating factor for Cincinnati: The Bearcats can win their third consecutive bowl game for only the second time in school history. They defeated Duke 48-34 in the Belk Bowl last season.

Motivating factor for North Carolina: UNC has never won a bowl game in its home state, losing three times in the game played in Charlotte. UNC lost twice in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, 31-30 to West Virginia in 2008 and 19-17 to Pittsburgh in 2009.

Pick: Cincinnati 28, North Carolina 27


LouisvilleMiami

Russell Athletic Bowl

Miami vs. Louisville, Dec. 28 (ESPN, 6:45 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: Both teams were ranked in the top 10 of the polls at one point this season, but fell short of winning their respective leagues. ACC fans can get a sneak peak at the Cardinals, who are leaving the AAC for the ACC next season. It also might be the final college game for Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, a Miami native, who committed to the Hurricanes before signing with Louisville.

Who to watch: ESPN analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay rank Bridgewater as the No. 1 quarterback and No. 8 prospect overall available for next spring's NFL draft. Bridgewater completed 70.2 percent of his passes for 3,523 yards with 28 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions in 382 pass attempts. Bridgewater, who is scheduled to graduate from Louisville on Thursday, told ESPN's Brett McMurphy that he's undecided on entering the NFL draft or returning to Louisville for his senior season in 2014.

Motivating factor for Miami: The Hurricanes haven't played in the postseason since losing to Notre Dame 33-17 in the 2010 Sun Bowl. After a self-imposed, two-year bowl ban because of NCAA sanctions, Miami will try to end a three-game losing streak in the postseason. The Hurricanes haven't won a bowl game since beating Nevada 21-20 in the 2006 MPC Computers Bowl.

Motivating factor for Louisville: The Cardinals were one victory away from winning the AAC and playing in a BCS bowl game in their final season in the league. The Cardinals can win 12 games in a season for only the second time in school history; they also finished 12-1 under coach Bobby Petrino in 2006.

Pick: Louisville 28, Miami 24


Kansas StateMichigan

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

Michigan vs. Kansas State, Dec. 28 (ESPN, 10:15 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: Both teams were disappointments and finished 7-5 this season. Kansas State might be the more motivated team, after winning five of its past six games following a 2-4 start. The Wolverines limp into Tempe, Ariz., having lost five of their past six games.

Who to watch: Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner battled inconsistency all season, but he was spectacular in his last game, completing 32 of 45 passes for 451 yards with four touchdowns and one scoring run in a 42-41 loss to Ohio State on Nov. 30. Gardner, a junior from Detroit, has been battling turf toe since that bitter loss and hasn't participated in Michigan's bowl practices. If Gardner can't play against Kansas State, he'd be replaced by freshman Shane Morris, who attempted nine passes in two games.

Motivating factor for Michigan: The Wolverines would really like to build on their performance against Ohio State and head into the postseason with some momentum. After a 6-1 start, the wheels came off in November, with their only victory coming in three overtimes at Northwestern, 27-19 on Nov. 16.

Motivating factor for Kansas State: The Wildcats have lost five consecutive bowl games and haven't won in the postseason since a 34-27 victory over Arizona State in the 2002 Holiday Bowl. Last season, they were clobbered 35-17 by Oregon in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

Pick: Kansas State 31, Michigan 23


NavyMiddle Tennessee

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl

Middle Tennessee vs. Navy, Dec. 30 (ESPN, 11:45 a.m. ET)

Why to watch: Navy's triple-option offense is a thing of beauty, and the Midshipmen run it with crisp precision. The Midshipmen are No. 2 among FBS teams in rushing, averaging 322 yards per game. Even more impressive, Navy has turned the ball over an FBS-low eight times this season, even though they pitch it more than anyone else. The Blue Raiders have forced 31 turnovers this season, tied with Arizona State for fifth most in the country.

Who to watch: Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds, a sophomore from Antioch, Tenn., has been a scoring machine. He set an FBS record for touchdown runs by a quarterback with 29, to go along with eight scoring passes. He scored 22 touchdowns in the last five regular-season games, including eight (one passing and seven rushing) in a 58-52 victory in three overtimes at San Jose State on Nov. 22. Reynolds completed 53.7 percent of his passes for 1,038 yards, while running 280 times for 1,260 yards.

Motivating factor for Middle Tennessee: The Blue Raiders finished 8-4 for the second straight season, but they were left out of the postseason in 2012. Middle Tennessee brings a five-game winning streak into the bowl game and is looking for its third postseason victory. The Blue Raiders defeated Presbyterian 21-12 in the 1960 Tangerine Bowl and beat Southern Miss 42-32 in the 2009 New Orleans Bowl.

Motivating factor for Navy: The Midshipmen would like to end a 1-5 slide in bowl games, including an ugly 62-28 loss to Arizona State in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl last season. Navy hasn't won a bowl game since beating Missouri 35-13 in the 2009 Texas Bowl.

Pick: Navy 21, Middle Tennessee 17


Georgia TechOle Miss

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Ole Miss vs. Georgia Tech, Dec. 30 (ESPN, 3:15 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: Both teams will be looking for redemption after collapsing in their regular-season finales against their bitter in-state rivals. Ole Miss lost to Mississippi State 17-10 in overtime in the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving. The Rebels had a chance to tie the score in overtime, but quarterback Bo Wallace fumbled into the end zone, where the Bulldogs recovered the ball. Georgia Tech blew a 20-0 lead to Georgia and lost 41-34 in double overtime, falling to the Bulldogs for the 12th time in 13 games.

Who to watch: Wallace, a junior from Pulaski, Tenn., didn't play well in the Rebels' last two games, throwing four interceptions with no touchdowns in losses to Missouri and Mississippi State. He completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 3,090 yards with 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions, while running for 269 yards with four scores. He was MVP of the 2012 BBVA Compass Bowl, throwing for 151 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in a 38-17 win over Pittsburgh.

Motivating factor for Ole Miss: The Rebels were a popular dark horse in the SEC West during the preseason, but suffered through a three-game losing streak in midseason and finished 7-5. Ole Miss has a lot of young talent, and beating the Yellow Jackets would give the program more momentum heading into recruiting season.

Motivating factor for Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets ended a seven-game losing streak in bowl games with a 21-7 win over USC in the 2012 Sun Bowl. Now, they'd like to end a five-game losing streak against SEC foes. They haven't beaten an SEC opponent since defeating Mississippi State and Vanderbilt during the 2009 season.

Pick: Ole Miss 24, Georgia Tech 21


TexasOregon

Valero Alamo Bowl

Oregon vs. Texas, Dec. 30 (ESPN, 6:45 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: It's going to be Texas coach Mack Brown's final game. He announced last week that he's retiring after leading the Longhorns to 158 victories in 16 seasons. Texas' much-maligned defense will have to slow down Oregon's high-paced spread offense to send Brown out as a winner.

Who to watch: Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has already announced he'll return to the Ducks for his junior season (he was a draft-eligible sophomore). He'll be among the top Heisman Trophy candidates in 2014, after completing 63.1 percent of his passes for 3,412 yards with 30 touchdowns and 4 interceptions this season. He didn't throw a pick in his first 10 games, but then threw two in each of the last two games.

Motivating factor for Oregon: Ducks coach Mark Helfrich might be worried about motivating his team, after a 26-20 loss at Stanford on Nov. 7 knocked them out of the BCS National Championship and a 42-16 loss at Arizona on Nov. 23 kept them out of a BCS bowl. Oregon is playing in its first non-BCS bowl since 2008.

Motivating factor for Texas: You have to figure the Longhorns will be one of the most motivated teams in the postseason. It will be their last chance to play for Brown, who is one of the most well-liked coaches in the country. Texas has won seven of its past eight bowl games, including a 31-27 win over Oregon State in the 2012 Alamo Bowl.

Pick: Oregon 44, Texas 27


Texas TechArizona State

National University Holiday Bowl

Arizona State vs. Texas Tech, Dec. 30 (ESPN, 10:15 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: Two of the country's hottest coaches -- Arizona State's Todd Graham and Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury -- will square off in San Diego. In Graham's second season, the Sun Devils won the Pac-12 South and lost to Stanford 38-14 in the Pac-12 championship game. Kingsbury guided the Red Raiders to a 7-5 record, but they carry a five-game losing streak into the bowl game.

Who to watch: Texas Tech's quarterback, whomever it might be. Baker Mayfield, who threw for 2,315 yards with 12 touchdowns, announced earlier this month that he's leaving the team and transferring to another school. That leaves Davis Webb and Michael Brewer competing for the starting job. Webb threw for 2,315 yards with 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions, while Brewer attempted only 10 passes and was hampered by a back injury.

Motivating factor for Arizona State: Graham has a personal four-game winning streak in bowl games and can guide the Sun Devils to their first 11-win season since 1996.

Motivating factor for Texas Tech: The Red Raiders certainly don't want to carry a six-game losing streak into the offseason. With an upset win over the Sun Devils, they'll recapture the excitement of their 7-0 start in Kingsbury's first season.

Pick: Arizona State 38, Texas Tech 24


Boston CollegeArizona

AdvoCare V100 Bowl

Arizona vs. Boston College, Dec. 31 (ESPN, 12:30 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: You'll get to see two of the country's top running backs -- Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey and Boston College's Andre Williams -- face each other in Shreveport, La. Williams, a Heisman Trophy finalist, led FBS players with 2,102 rushing yards this season, becoming only the 16th Division I player to run for 2,000 yards in a season. Carey ranked fifth among FBS players with 1,716 yards and needs 284 rushing yards to reach 2,000.

Who to watch: Besides the running backs, Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker might be the most dangerous player on the field. A senior from Torrance, Calif., Denker passed for 2,241 yards with 14 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, while running for 898 yards with 12 scores. He's coming off his worst game of the season, throwing three interceptions without a touchdown in a 58-21 loss at Arizona State on Nov. 30.

Motivating factor for Arizona: The Wildcats can finish 8-5 for the second straight season under coach Rich Rodriguez. Arizona can also win bowl games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1997-98.

Motivating factor for Boston College: The Eagles were one of the most improved teams in the country in coach Steve Addazio's first season, going from 2-10 in 2012 to 7-5 this season. BC hasn't won a bowl game since defeating Michigan State 24-21 in the 2007 Champs Sports Bowl.

Pick: Boston College 31, Arizona 30


UCLAVirginia Tech

Hyundai Sun Bowl

Virginia Tech vs. UCLA, Dec. 31 (CBS, 2 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: The Bruins are going to try to win the game behind quarterback Brett Hundley, a projected NFL first-round draft pick if he leaves UCLA as a sophomore, while the Hokies will once again rely on their stingy defense. Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas, who was once considered a potential NFL first-round pick, will have one more chance to impress NFL scouts.

Who to watch: How good was UCLA freshman Myles Jack this season? He was named the Pac-12's offensive and defensive freshman of the year. He started 11 of 12 games at linebacker and had 70 tackles, five tackles for loss, one interception and 10 pass breakups. After injuries forced Jack to line up at tailback, he averaged 7.2 yards per carry and finished with 267 rushing yards with seven touchdowns.

Motivating factor for Virginia Tech: After a 6-1 start, the Hokies lost three of their last five games to finish 8-4. An upset win over the Bruins would be a sign that things are starting to turn around at Virginia Tech after a couple of mediocre seasons.

Motivating factor for UCLA: The Bruins can win 10 games for the first time since 2005 and can end a 1-4 slide in bowl games.

Pick: UCLA 28, Virginia Tech 20


Mississippi StateRice

AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Rice vs. Mississippi State, Dec. 31 (ESPN, 4 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: The Owls and Bulldogs might be better football teams than you think. Rice won 10 games in a season for only the second time in school history and earned its first outright league title since 1957 by defeating Marshall 41-24 in the Conference USA championship. Mississippi State finished 6-6, but its losses came against Oklahoma State, Auburn, LSU, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Alabama.

Who to watch: Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott came back from a nerve injury in his non-throwing shoulder that sidelined him for two games late in the season. He came off the bench in the fourth quarter against Ole Miss and his 3-yard touchdown run in overtime was the difference in the Egg Bowl. Prescott, a sophomore from Haughton, La., completed 58.2 percent of his passes for 1,657 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Motivating factor for Rice: With a victory over Mississippi State, Rice would finish with 11 victories in a season for the first time in school history. The Owls can also win bowl games in back-to-back seasons for the first time.

Motivating factor for Mississippi State: While the Bulldogs seem to be stuck in neutral in the SEC West, a victory over the Owls would produce their fourth consecutive winning season under coach Dan Mullen.

Pick: Mississippi State 28, Rice 17


Texas A&MDuke

Chick-fil-A Bowl

Duke vs. Texas A&M, Dec. 31 (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: It will probably be the last college game for Johnny Football. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner and first freshman to win the sport's most coveted individual award, is expected to enter next spring's NFL draft. Manziel has always had a flair for the dramatic, and Duke's defense might have a really hard time slowing him down in Atlanta.

Who to watch: Aggies sophomore Mike Evans, a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award as the country's top receiver, has been Manziel's favorite target. He had 65 receptions for 1,322 yards with 12 touchdowns, averaging 20.3 yards per catch. Duke's secondary has pretty good size -- cornerbacks Garett Patterson and Ross Cockrell are both at least 6-foot tall -- but the 6-foot-5 Evans presents a matchup problem for just about anyone.

Motivating factor for Duke: The Blue Devils won 10 games in a season for the first time, and they're playing in bowl games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history. But Duke hasn't won a bowl game since defeating Arkansas 7-6 in the 1961 Cotton Bowl, a 52-year drought.

Motivating factor for Texas A&M: After bursting onto the SEC scene with an 11-2 record in 2012, the Aggies slipped to 8-4 in Year 2, losing their last two games. Texas A&M went 0-4 against ranked opponents -- losing to No. 1 Alabama, No. 24 Auburn, No. 22 LSU and No. 5 Missouri. The Aggies would like to avoid making it 0-5 against the No. 24 Blue Devils.

Pick: Texas A&M 45, Duke 27


GeorgiaNebraska

TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl

Nebraska vs. Georgia, Jan. 1 (ESPN2, noon ET)

Why to watch: If the Gator Bowl goes like the rest of Nebraska and Georgia's seasons, it will probably go down to the wire. Nebraska beat Northwestern 27-24 on a tipped Hail Mary pass on the game's final play Nov. 2, and then threw the winning touchdown with about two minutes left in a 17-13 victory at Michigan the next week. Seven of Georgia's 12 games were decided by a touchdown or less, including a 43-38 loss to Auburn on Nov. 16, in which the Tigers scored on a 73-yard Hail Mary pass with 25 seconds left.

Who to watch: With star quarterback Aaron Murray sidelined with a season-ending knee injury, UGA is getting a sneak peek at junior Hutson Mason, who is expected to start in 2014. In his first college start, Mason led UGA back from a 20-0 deficit at Georgia Tech, completing 22 of 36 passes for 299 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

Motivating factor for Nebraska: The Cornhuskers will be looking for revenge after they lost to Georgia 45-31 in the 2012 Capital One Bowl. The Bulldogs rallied from a 31-23 deficit in the second half, with Murray throwing three touchdowns in the final two quarters. The Cornhuskers will try to end a three-game losing streak in the postseason, which also would give embattled coach Bo Pelini a much-needed lift.

Motivating factor for Georgia: The Bulldogs' once-promising season was derailed by myriad injuries and its porous defense, but star tailback Todd Gurley and receivers Michael Bennett and Chris Conley are expected to be ready for the bowl game. It's a chance for Mason to gain some confidence before he takes over full time next season.

Pick: Georgia 38, Nebraska 31


North TexasUNLV

Heart of Dallas Bowl

UNLV vs. North Texas, Jan. 1 (ESPNU, noon ET)

Why to watch: Don't be fooled when you flip through the channels on New Year's Day. No, it isn't a replay of a dramatic regular-season contest. Did you ever think you'd see North Texas and UNLV playing on New Year's Day? The teams combined to win six games in 2012, but they both recovered from slow starts to make the postseason. The Rebels and Mean Green are playing in a bowl game for the first time since 2000 and 2004, respectively.

Who to watch: North Texas receiver Brelan Chancellor, a senior from Copperas Cove, Texas, led the Mean Green with 47 catches for 718 yards with four touchdowns. He's even more dangerous on kick returns, leading Conference USA in both kickoff return average (28.1 yards) and punt return average (16.8). He had a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in a 45-21 loss at Georgia on Sept. 21.

Motivating factor for UNLV: Believe it or not, UNLV has never lost in the postseason. The Rebels are 3-0 in bowl games, defeating Toledo in the 1984 California Bowl, Central Michigan in the 1994 Las Vegas Bowl and Arkansas in the 2000 Las Vegas Bowl.

Motivating factor for North Texas: The Mean Green will be playing what is essentially a home game; the Cotton Bowl is less than 50 miles from their campus in Denton, Texas. North Texas has won only one bowl game, beating Cincinnati 24-19 in the 2002 New Orleans Bowl, and it has lost its previous four games against UNLV.

Pick: North Texas 31, UNLV 23


South CarolinaWisconsin

Capital One Bowl

Wisconsin vs. South Carolina, Jan. 1 (ABC, 1 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: Both the Badgers and Gamecocks were in the mix for BCS bowls, but late upset losses ruined their chances. One of the SEC's most physical defenses will try to slow down the Big Ten's most punishing ground game. South Carolina is aiming for its third 11-win season in a row; Wisconsin will try to win at least 10 games for the fourth time in five seasons.

Who to watch: South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, the potential No. 1 pick in next spring's NFL draft, became a household name with his vicious tackle of Michigan running back Vincent Smith in last season's Outback Bowl. He was plagued by injuries this season and didn't live up to the hype, finishing with three sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss in 10 games. Will Wisconsin choose to run away from him as so many SEC opponents did this season?

Motivating factor for Wisconsin: The Badgers lost in each of the past three Rose Bowl games, and they'll try to end the skid in coach Gary Andersen's first season. The Badgers haven't defeated an SEC team in a bowl game since beating Arkansas 17-14 in the 2007 Capital One Bowl.

Motivating factor for South Carolina: As good as Clowney has been the past two seasons, quarterback Connor Shaw has been just as important in South Carolina's unlikely rise in the SEC. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier would like nothing more than to send his senior quarterback out with a victory.

Pick: South Carolina 21, Wisconsin 17


LSUIowa

Outback Bowl

Iowa vs. LSU, Jan. 1 (ESPN, 1 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: Hopefully it will be as exciting as the last time these teams played. In the 2005 Capital One Bowl, Iowa's Drew Tate threw a 56-yard touchdown to Warren Holloway on the final play of the Hawkeyes' 30-25 victory, spoiling Nick Saban's final game as LSU's coach.

Who to watch: LSU freshman Anthony Jennings will start at quarterback after senior Zach Mettenberger tore the ACL in his left knee in a 31-27 win over Arkansas on Nov. 29. Jennings, from Marietta, Ga., came off the bench in the fourth quarter and led the Tigers on a 99-yard scoring drive in the final three minutes, throwing a 49-yard touchdown pass to Travin Dural with 1:15 to go. Jennings completed 4 of 7 passes for 76 yards in the game.

Motivating factor for Iowa: The Hawkeyes already have doubled their victory total from 2012, improving from 4-8 to 8-4. They can win nine games in a season for the first time since going 11-2 in 2009.

Motivating factor for LSU: As good as the Tigers have been under coach Les Miles, they haven't fared well in the postseason lately, losing three of their past four bowl games. LSU lost to Clemson 25-24 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl after last season.

Pick: Iowa 24, LSU 21


Michigan StateStanford

Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO

Stanford vs. Michigan State, Jan. 1 (ESPN, 5 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: The 100th edition of the "Granddaddy of Them All" might look like an old NFC Central game. Scoring figures to be at a premium with two black-and-blue defenses squaring off in Pasadena, Calif. The Spartans lead FBS teams in total defense (248.2 yards per game) and rank fourth in scoring defense (12.7 points). The Cardinal are 14th in total defense (339 yards) and 10th in scoring defense (18.6 points).

Who to watch: Sophomore Connor Cook wasn't MSU's starting quarterback at the start of the season, but he took over in the third game and seemed to improve every week. He was named MVP of the Big Ten championship game, completing 24 of 40 passes for 304 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in a 34-24 upset of then-No. 2 Ohio State. Cook completed 58.4 percent of his passes for 2,423 yards with 20 touchdowns and five interceptions this season.

Motivation for Stanford: The Cardinal can win back-to-back Rose Bowl games for the first time since 1970-71 and win 12 games for the second straight year.

Motivation for Michigan State: The Spartans will play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since beating USC 20-17 in 1988. A victory over the Cardinal would solidify their place among the Big Ten's truly elite teams.

Pick: Michigan State 17, Stanford 13


BaylorUCF

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

UCF vs. Baylor, Jan. 1 (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: With tailback Lache Seastrunk fully recovered from a groin injury, and wide receiver Tevin Reese coming back from a dislocated wrist, the Bears will finally be healthy again on offense. And when the Bears are at full strength, they're really, really good, leading FBS teams in scoring (53.3 points) and total offense (624.5 yards). Baylor is playing in its first BCS bowl game after winning its first outright conference title since 1980. The Knights won the AAC in their first season in the league.

Who to watch: Baylor's Bryce Petty put up eye-popping numbers, but UCF's Blake Bortles might be the better NFL prospect. He completed 68.1 percent of his passes for 3,280 yards with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Bortles threw for 358 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in a 28-25 loss to South Carolina on Sept. 28.

Motivation for UCF: The Knights are a sizable underdog in the eyes of Las Vegas oddsmakers, and coach George O'Leary's teams always seem to play with a chip on their shoulders. A UCF victory would also go a long way in helping the credibility of the gutted AAC.

Motivation for Baylor: The Bears are close to breaking a couple of long-standing NCAA single-season records for total offense (624.9 yards, Houston in 1989) and scoring (56 points, Army in 1944). But Baylor would like to finish with a 12-1 record more than anything else.

Pick: Baylor 41, UCF 27


AlabamaOklahoma

Allstate Sugar Bowl

Oklahoma vs. Alabama, Jan. 2 (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops suggested before the season that the SEC was top-heavy. SEC teams don't get any heavier than Alabama, which won each of the past two BCS National Championships and was on track for a third straight until losing to Auburn 34-28 in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 30. The Sooners won their last three games, including a 33-24 upset of then-No. 6 Oklahoma State on Dec. 7.

Who to watch: Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron will suit up for the Crimson Tide for the final time. He led the Crimson Tide to a 36-3 record as a starter and was Offensive MVP of the 2012 BCS National Championship. This season, McCarron completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 2,676 yards with 26 touchdowns and five interceptions. He'll face an OU defense that allowed only 187 passing yards per game and 15 touchdown passes in 12 games.

Motivating factor for Oklahoma: The Sooners lost in five of their past six BCS appearances, with their only victory coming in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl, 48-20 over Connecticut.

Motivating factor for Alabama: The Crimson Tide were embarrassed in their last trip to the Sugar Bowl, falling to Utah 31-17 in 2009. Tide coach Nick Saban will try to make sure his team is motivated after it lost to Auburn on a kickoff return of more than 100 yards on the game's final play.

Pick: Alabama 38, Oklahoma 21


Ohio StateClemson

Discover Orange Bowl

Clemson vs. Ohio State, Jan. 3 (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: The Orange Bowl might feature the best matchup of quarterbacks: Clemson's Tajh Boyd vs. Ohio State's Braxton Miller. Boyd threw for 3,473 yards with 29 touchdowns and nine interceptions, while Miller threw for 1,860 yards with 22 touchdowns and five interceptions. The Buckeyes and Tigers have played only once previously -- the infamous 1978 Gator Bowl in which OSU coach Woody Hayes punched Clemson linebacker Charlie Bauman after he intercepted a pass in the Tigers' 17-15 win. Hayes was fired the next morning.

Who to watch: Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, a Biletnikoff Award finalist, had 85 catches for 1,237 yards with 10 touchdowns, bouncing back from what was a mediocre sophomore season in 2012. Watkins could find holes in OSU's secondary, which hasn't been the same since safety Christian Bryant broke his ankle in the Big Ten opener. Cornerback Bradley Roby struggled at times this season, but will be an intriguing matchup against Watkins.

Motivating factor for Clemson: Few teams figure to be more motivated than Clemson, which will be trying to make amends for its embarrassing 70-33 loss to West Virginia in the 2012 Orange Bowl. The Tigers surrendered 595 yards of offense and 10 touchdowns in the beatdown.

Motivating factor for Ohio State: The Buckeyes had won 24 games in a row before losing to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game. But there wasn't a lot of meat on the winning streak, and beating an opponent of Clemson's caliber might quiet some critics.

Pick: Clemson 27, Ohio State 24


MissouriOklahoma State

AT&T Cotton Bowl

Oklahoma State vs. Missouri, Jan. 3 (Fox, 7:30 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: The former Big 12 rivals both came within one victory of playing in a BCS bowl game -- Missouri probably would have played in the BCS National Championship if it had defeated Auburn in the SEC championship game -- but they'll have to settle for playing each other in the Cotton Bowl. Both offenses are capable of scoring a lot of points, but both defenses also have been impressive at times.

Who to watch: Missouri's Dorial Green-Beckham, a 6-foot-6 sophomore from Springfield, Mo., looks like the next great receiver in the SEC. After catching 23 passes as a freshman in 2012, he had 55 receptions for 830 yards with 12 touchdowns this season. Green-Beckham had six catches for 144 yards with two scores in the Tigers' 59-42 loss to Auburn in the SEC championship game.

Motivating factor for Oklahoma State: The Cowboys haven't won the Cotton Bowl since beating TCU 34-0 in 1945. The Pokes lost to Ole Miss in each of their last two appearances in the Cotton Bowl: 31-28 in 2004 and 21-7 in 2010.

Motivating factor for Missouri: The Tigers more than proved they belong in the SEC this season, finishing 11-2 and winning the SEC East in only their second season in the league. A victory in the Cotton Bowl would be another remarkable feat after last season's 5-7 finish.

Pick: Missouri 31, Oklahoma State 30


HoustonVanderbilt

BBVA Compass Bowl

Vanderbilt vs. Houston, Jan. 4 (ESPN, 1 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: Vanderbilt beat Florida, Georgia and Tennessee in the same season for the first time in school history, and now the Commodores have a chance to win bowl games in consecutive seasons for the first time. Houston was one of the country's most-improved teams, going from 5-7 to 8-4 in coach Tony Levine's second season.

Who to watch: Houston receiver Deontay Greenberry, who shunned Notre Dame on signing day in 2012 to sign with the Cougars, has been as good as advertised. As a sophomore, Greenberry caught 76 passes for 1,106 yards with 10 touchdowns. He missed the regular-season finale against SMU because of a leg injury, but is expected to play in the bowl game. He'll be matched up against second-team All-SEC safety Kenny Ladler and second-team All-SEC cornerback Andre Hal.

Motivation for Vanderbilt: The Commodores are accomplishing a plethora of "firsts" under coach James Franklin. By beating Houston, Vanderbilt can win nine games in a season for the second straight year.

Motivation for Houston: The Cougars needed a year to regroup after losing quarterback Case Keenum to the NFL and coach Kevin Sumlin to Texas A&M, but Levine has the program back on track. Beating an SEC opponent in SEC territory would be quite a statement for the Cougars.

Prediction: Houston 27, Vanderbilt 24


Ball StateArkansas State

GoDaddy Bowl

Arkansas State vs. Ball State, Jan. 5 (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: Besides the GoDaddy commercials, you can watch Arkansas State defensive coordinator John Thompson work as an interim coach for the second straight season. Former Red Wolves coach Bryan Harsin left to become Boise State's coach, a year after Gus Malzahn left to become Auburn's coach. The Red Wolves are playing in the GoDaddy Bowl for the third consecutive season.

Who to watch: Ball State's Keith Wenning is one of the country's more underrated quarterbacks, completing 65.2 percent of his passes for 3,933 yards with 34 touchdowns and six interceptions. He was fifth among FBS quarterbacks in passing yards and passing touchdowns.

Motivation for Arkansas State: The Red Wolves can win a bowl game for the second straight season with an interim coach. Last season, Thompson guided Arkansas State to a 17-13 victory over Kent State in the GoDaddy Bowl.

Motivation for Ball State: The Cardinals have never won a bowl game, losing six postseason games, including a 38-17 loss to UCF in the 2012 Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl.

Pick: Ball State 34, Arkansas State 20


AuburnFlorida State

VIZIO BCS National Championship

Florida State vs. Auburn, Jan. 6 (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: It's the national title game and the end of the sometimes -- OK, oftentimes -- controversial BCS era. The No. 1 Seminoles will try to win their first national championship since 1999. The Tigers, who went 3-9 and lost each of their eight SEC games in 2012, will try to finish their improbable rags-to-riches story.

Who to watch: Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, who became the second straight freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, has been spectacular in his first season as a starter, completing 67.9 percent of his passes for 3,820 yards with 38 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He'll face an Auburn defense that ranked 104th in passing defense, allowing 260.2 yards per game.

Motivation for Florida State: The Seminoles have looked like the No. 1 team in the country for much of the season, and they'll try to win the school's third national championship.

Motivation for Auburn: The Tigers will try to extend the SEC's dominance in the BCS era with the league's eighth consecutive national championship. Auburn won a BCS national title in 2010.

Pick: Florida State 34, Auburn 23