With all of the hullabaloo surrounding Northern Illinois and the Orange Bowl and Oklahoma getting screwed, folks have lost sight of what really should matter: the football. There are 35 bowl games, and the diehard football fan will be trying to watch them all. There will be plenty to see, and thanks to the pairings in both the BCS and non-BCS bowls, there is great football to be had.
On the big stage, the BCS Championship Game stands on its own as the heavyweight meeting that the sport needs to repair the damage of a season ago. Less regionalism, more national perspective, and that means ratings. On the field, for the football junky, you'll see smash-mouth, hard-nosed game play, and that's a positive.
Also on the big stage, the Fiesta Bowl will give viewers plenty to enjoy. Oregon's explosive offense against Kansas State's disciplined defense. We will get to see if Kansas State is talented enough to control the line of scrimmage, a must when it comes to beating the Ducks. Throw in a Heisman finalist in Collin Klein and what you have is a game that will be an enjoyable viewing experience.
While the Orange Bowl and the Sugar Bowl likely fail to move many meters, the Rose Bowl is in an interesting position to be unexpectedly superb. We saw Wisconsin a year ago play against a team that could beat them to the edge and truly abuse their defensive weakness. This year, Stanford will be playing the exact same type of football Wisconsin has rode to three straight BCS appearances.
In Stanford and Wisconsin, we will be seeing two tough teams that want to win the physical battle. Wisconsin, when on its game, has the ability to get tough against most teams. Stanford does not shy away from contact. This is going to be a sort of mirror match in Pasadena.
However, the big bowls are not the only ones that are setting up for some football excitement. Here are a few other games that, if you love football, should be appointment viewing.
The Cotton Bowl is tops on this list, as it features old rivalries and two very closely ranked teams. Oklahoma and Texas A&M, old Big 12 South rivals, now meeting as the Big 12 versus SEC game in Jerry's World. That's a major contest, as both teams are highly ranked and, if the chips had fallen another way, could have been in BCS Bowls.
Johnny Manziel, your likely Heisman winner, will be squaring off with Landry Jones, one of the preseason Heisman favorites, and we should expect offenses to score in this ballgame. Not enough defense to get me excited, but enough quality football and angles, such as Kevin Sumlin being an old Bob Stoops assistant, to draw folks in for the game.
Speaking of great offense, Clemson taking on LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl is going to be another test of offense versus defense. The No. 9 yardage defense from Pickens County, South Carolina and the No. 8 yardage defense from Red Stick. Look, LSU's offense is probably going to have their way with the Clemson defense, but when the Orange and Purple Tigers have the ball, things will be interesting.
Eric Reid has gambled and made mistakes in the back end for LSU, and a mistake against Nuk Hopkins and Sammy Watkins spells six on the board. Throw in how LSU's monstrous defensive line combats the rushing attack of Tajh Boyd and Andre Ellington, and this game is worth the watch.
If storylines and contrasting styles are more your thing, check out the Alamo Bowl between Oregon State and Texas. Will Mack Brown get to keep his job? Is Mike Riley's team really one of the nation's best coached? Can the disciplined but less talented Beavers beat the helter-skelter, uber-talented Longhorns?
There is a lot going on in this game, and while the Texas season was disappointing, this is a game that Mack Brown most certainly needs to win. For Riley, a win here would merely be icing on a very special cake of a season. The Beavers are a very disciplined team that has the chops to beat Texas. Expect to get a real fight in the bowl.
We'll wrap up with the Military Bowl, because who doesn't love when the MACtion meets the WACtion? Bowling Green has been a really interesting team to watch, even at 8-4, because of the way their defense has played in the often-defenseless MAC. Defensive coordinator Mike Elko has got his team playing solid football, and this will be a stiff defensive test for Mike MacIntyre's team.
The Spartans finished 10-2 and had a heck of a season in the WAC. In this meeting, we'll see just how legit David Fales, their quarterback, is against a quality, capable defensive unit. Plus, with Mike MacIntyre's star continuing to rise, every contest he coaches in becomes an audition for a possible upgrade coaching job.
There are plenty of other good games to check out on the landscape. Everything from intriguing regional pairings to teams who are in the bowl for the first time ever OR in a very long time. We'll all watch because it is college football, but we'll enjoy the good games the most.
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