With college football’s regular season now complete after Army was unable to become bowl eligible against Navy, it’s easy to get caught up in holiday shopping, trying to track whether Allen Iverson is or isn’t retired and the weekly terrible NFL Thursday night game.
But just because the college game is on temporary hiatus doesn’t mean it’s gone for the rest of the year — even if you’re already crowning Alabama your national champion…or arguing that Boise State should be if it wins its bowl game…or TCU...or…
Yes, it truly is the most wonderful time of the year — when staying in and bypassing happy hour for a bowl game doesn’t mean you’re lazy and unsocial.
So with the bowl season officially kicking off Saturday and Bowl Confidence Pool sheets likely needing to be in by end of day Friday, here’s a quick glance at all the matchups — just enough to get you in the mood to start filling out those sheets for the office pool.
Saturday, Dec. 19
New Mexico Bowl: Fresno State vs. Wyoming
Wyoming was often my team of choice in the old NCAA Football games for Sega back in the day because of their awesome uniforms — very San Diego Padres circa the Dave Winfield years. This is Fresno’s second consecutive appearance in the New Mexico Bowl, its third straight bowl game and eighth postseason appearance this decade. No wonder head coach Pat Hill is in line for an extension. RB Ryan Mathews will show the nation why he has an NFL future in this one.
St. Petersburg Bowl: Central Florida vs. Rutgers
How come Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick didn’t interview Central Florida’s George O’Leary for the opening in South Bend? Oh, never mind. I’m interested to see how Rutgers freshman QB Tom Savage responds to a disastrous season-ending performance against West Virginia.
Sunday, Dec. 20
New Orleans Bowl: Southern Miss vs. Middle Tennessee State
Southern Miss has a win over Virginia and a close loss to Houston under its belt. Middle Tennessee State beat Maryland. Wow, the ACC is as bad as everyone thinks.
Tuesday, Dec. 22
Las Vegas Bowl: Oregon State vs. BYU
Now we’re really into bowl season. Oregon State’s Sean Canfield in a shootout against BYU’s Max Hall? This game will let you know that bowl season has really arrived.
Wednesday, Dec. 23
Poinsettia Bowl: Utah vs. California
What’s the deal with Jeff Tedford and Cal? What has he really accomplished in his time at Berkeley? The Utes look to follow up their whipping of Alabama last year in the Sugar Bowl with a victory over the Golden Bears, who could have star Jahvid Best back after the star RB missed the Bears' final three regular-season games with a severe concussion and back injury.
Thursday, Dec. 24
Hawaii Bowl: Nevada vs. Southern Methodist
Finally recovered from the NCAA death penalty, the SMU Mustangs are back in the postseason for the first time since beating Notre Dame in the 1984 Aloha Bowl. Coach June Jones could have faced his former team, Hawaii, if the Warriors had beaten Wisconsin. Instead, the Mustangs will play the ever-dangerous Colin Kaepernick and the Nevada Wolfpack.
Saturday, Dec. 26
Emerald Bowl: Boston College vs. USC
USC playing on Dec. 26? Really? The Trojans suffered through a four-loss season, which means Pete Carroll’s boys could be angry. Can 25-year-old freshman QB Dave Shinskie deliver a win for the Eagles against 19-year-old first-year signal-caller Matt Barkley?
Meineke Car Care Bowl: Pittsburgh vs. North Carolina
Expect a lot of heavy hitting in this one. Butch Davis’ North Carolina squad is loaded with NFL prospects, but the Tar Heels played inconsistent all season. Can Pittsburgh recover from the loss to Cincinnati?
Little Caesars Bowl: Marshall vs. Ohio
Ohio fell to Central Michigan in the MAC title game, but I like this speedy Bobcats squad against the Thundering Herd of Marshall, who do have a victory over SMU.
Sunday, Dec. 27
Music City Bowl: Kentucky vs. Clemson
Anytime I get to see C.J. Spiller dancing all over the field, my day is complete. I have a funny feeling, though, that Rich Brooks coaches up his Wildcats for this one. If you haven’t read between the lines, I’m not the biggest Dabo Swinney fan.
Monday, Dec. 28
Independence Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Georgia
If you haven’t seen Texas A&M QB Jerrod Johnson chuck the ball downfield for the Aggies, you’re in for a treat. Can he repeat his Texas performance? Meanwhile, can Mark Richt end the Bulldogs’ disappointing season on a high note?
Tuesday, Dec. 29
Champs Sports Bowl: Miami (Fla.) vs. Wisconsin
An underrated ACC-Big Ten matchup that should quickly turn into a high-scoring game. I like Wisconsin’s overlooked passing game, but look for Jacory Harris to make one more big play for the Hurricanes.
EagleBank Bowl: UCLA vs. Temple
I’m ecstatic to see the return of Rick Neuheisel to postseason play. I would have liked a little bit of a more traditional matchup, but how can you not be happy for the Temple program under Al Golden, who could land at Cincinnati before this game is even played. Player to watch: Owls freshman RB Bernard Pierce, who has over 1,300 yards and 15 TDs. Pierce missed the final two games with a bum shoulder, but he’s expected to play.
Wednesday, Dec. 30
Holiday Bowl: Arizona vs. Nebraska
If you have yet to see Ndamukong Suh play, this is your last chance on the college stage. Will the Nebraska Cornhusker be in a Detroit Lions uniform next year? As the lone Lions fan in the city of Chicago, I certainly hope so.
Humanitarian Bowl: Bowling Green vs. Idaho
Don’t just tune in to see the Smurf Turf in Boise. Watch this game to check out the program Robb Akey has rebuilt in his third year on the job. The Vandals take on a Bowling Green squad that won its final four games of the season.
Thursday, Dec. 31
Chick-fil-A Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee
It seems Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin is always making off-the-field news. He’ll have a chance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl to show the nation he can make news on the sideline, as well. But how will his Vols handle stud Hokies RB Ryan Williams and the Va Tech defense?
Insight Bowl: Minnesota vs. Iowa State
Minnesota plays in the Insight Bowl for the second straight season and the third time in the last four years. Offensively, the team has really struggled since Eric Decker went down with a foot injury. Where is the Gophers program heading under Tim Brewster?
Texas Bowl: Navy vs. Missouri
I love the way Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo always has his team prepared. How will the Midshipmen handle Missouri wideout Danario Alexander?
Sun Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Stanford
Since I was a little kid, I’ve always thought the Sun Bowl was one of the most underrated games of the bowl season. In my mind, it was always the lite version of the Rose Bowl. Now, with the game’s affiliation with the Big 12, it doesn’t feel the same. However, this is still going to be a fun game to watch.
Armed Forces Bowl: Houston vs. Air Force
Case Keenum is facing an Air Force defense that ranks first in the nation. That’s all the incentive you need to make sure you’re glued to your television for this one.
Friday, Jan. 1
Sugar Bowl: Florida vs. Cincinnati
Tim Tebow’s final college game. Cue the violin. All kidding aside, how will this Cincinnati team respond to Brian Kelly’s departure? And how will the Gators respond to their SEC title game beatdown? I’m taking Superman in his final act.
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Oregon
So Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel is keeping QB Terrelle Pryor away from the media — again — before the Rose Bowl, eh? Well, Tressel can do all he wants to protect his QB, but methinks the difference-maker is the SEC-like speed of the Ducks’ offense. That’s the same offense Pryor could have been playing in if he’d signed with the Ducks. However, I think Ducks fans are pretty darn happy with Jeremiah Masoli at the helm.
Capital One Bowl: Penn State vs. LSU
This might not be a pretty one to watch, but it features two traditional programs, Joe Paterno and a potential head-scratching call by Les Miles at a crucial point in the game.
Gator Bowl: West Virginia vs. Florida State
Bobby Bowden’s swan song as head coach of the Seminoles comes against the team he coached in the early ‘70s. On the other sideline, will anyone ever recognize Bill Stewart as a pretty good coach (just don’t look at his record at VMI)?
Outback Bowl: Northwestern vs. Auburn
Not the game I’d like to wake up to early on New Year’s morning, but it’s an intriguing matchup of overachieving programs. Pat Fitzgerald did a wonderful job at NU this year, and Gene Chizik showed the naysayers that he improved as a head coach from his time at Iowa State.
Saturday, Jan. 2
Alamo Bowl: Michigan State vs. Texas Tech
Can Michigan State even hang with Texas Tech after suspensions crippled the roster? Mark Dantonio has a mess on his hands in East Lansing, while Mike Leach’s Red Raiders should put up plenty of points against a porous Spartans pass defense.
Liberty Bowl: Arkansas vs. East Carolina
Bobby Petrino’s Razorbacks take on an East Carolina team that won the Conference USA title for the second year in a row. After limiting Houston’s Keenum, can the Pirates handle Ryan Mallett? Pirates coach Skip Holtz to South Bend…in 2015?
Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Mississippi
I’m a big fan of Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt and the dynamo Dexter McCluster, but I feel like every time I watch a Rebels game on television, QB Jevon Snead struggles and falls down the draft boards. It’s too bad the nation doesn’t get another chance to watch OSU WR Dez Bryant play on a big stage.
PapaJohns.com Bowl: South Carolina vs. Connecticut
It seemed that every week UConn lost a close game, but the Huskies did beat Notre Dame, for what that’s worth. Steve Spurrier, who just received a one-year contract extension, lost four of his final six games.
International Bowl: South Florida vs. Northern Illinois
Trouble down in Tampa? Head coach Jim Leavitt allegedly struck one of his players at halftime of a game last month — not good considering what happened to former Kansas head coach Mark Mangino. Don’t sleep on the NIU Huskies.
Monday, Jan. 4
Fiesta Bowl: Boise State vs. TCU
Best game of the bowl season? Perhaps, as TCU leads the country in total defense and Boise leads the nation in scoring. Despite being a rematch of last year’s Poinsettia Bowl, both teams are undefeated and both can make an argument in the final AP Poll with a win.
Tuesday, Jan. 5
Orange Bowl: Iowa vs. Georgia Tech
The NFP’s own Matt Bowen will be drinking Bud Heavies for this one. But why is the Orange Bowl on Jan. 5? Finally, my Yellow Jackets make it back to a major bowl game, and it can’t even be played on New Year’s Day? Kirk Ferentz vs. Paul Johnson may be the best coaching matchup of the postseason.
Wednesday, Jan. 6
GMAC Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Troy
If you haven’t seen Central Michigan QB Dan LeFevour, you’re in for a treat. Troy won nine of its last 10 games, with the only loss coming to Arkansas. My only question: how is this a Jan. 6 contest?
Thursday, January 7
BCS National Championship: Texas vs. Alabama
Finally, the Crimson Tide has its Heisman Trophy winner, as Mark Ingram took home the award last Saturday. I’d love to see Colt McCoy top off his college career with a championship, but I have a feeling this is Alabama’s year. Too much defensive firepower from Nick Saban’s squad.
Dave Miller is the Web Manager of the National Football Post. You can follow him on Twitter at Miller_Dave.