Sports, Thrill of Victory

S&E Nashville’s guide to the rest of the bowl games

Earlier in the week we took a look at the College Football Playoffs and the bowl games features teams from the Southeastern Conference. Now we turn our attention to the rest of the bowl games and get you ready for the 25 games featuring teams you may not have paid as much attention to during the year and what to watch for in each.


GoDaddy BowlGoDaddy Bowl

Mobile, Ala./ Ladd-Peebles Stadium

January 4 – ESPN

Toledo vs. Arkansas State

What to watch for: A matchup of strength vs. strength: ASU’s Michael Gordon and Fredi Knighten each rushed for over 1,000 yards in 2014, while Toledo allowed just 120 yards and 3.6 yards per carry.



CactusBowlLogo2014Ticket City Cactus Bowl

Tempe, Ariz./ Sun Devil Stadium

January 2 – ESPN

Washington vs. Oklahoma State

What to watch for: Washington, in its first year under coach Chris Petersen, took a small step back after losing so much of its offense from 2013. However, linebacker Shaq Thompson, a potential top-10 pick in the first round of the NFL Draft next spring, leads a team that played pretty well the last two months. Oklahoma State’s young team struggled with injuries, particularly at quarterback, but shocked everyone in snapping a five-game losing streak by beating Oklahoma to get bowl eligible, a game in which OSU was a 20-point underdog.



Alamo Bowl logoValero Alamo Bowl

San Antonio, Texas/ Alamodome

January 2 – ESPN

Kansas State vs. UCLA

What to watch for: This easily qualifies as one of the best five non-playoff bowl games. It’s the last collegiate game for Brett Hundley, one of the Pac-12s best quarterbacks in its history, who’ll try to wrap up a great three-year run. On the other sideline, Kansas State’s 75-year-old coach, Bill Snyder, will have a month, and one of college football’s better defenses, to try to stop him.



lockheed-martin-armed-forces-bowl-210Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

Fort Worth, Texas/ Amon G. Carter Stadium

January 2 – ESPN

Houston vs. Pittsburgh

What to watch for: A 7-5 record wasn’t good enough to save coach Tony Levine’s job, and so defensive coordinator Dennis Gibbs will lead the erratic Cougars (they beat Memphis, but lost to Tulane and Texas-San Antonio) against an equally hard-t0-figure Pitt team, which beat Miami and Boston College but lost to Akron. Pitt’s James Conner (1,675 yards rushing) and a stingy Panther defense could be the difference here.



Goodyear Cotton BowlGoodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

Dallas, Texas/ AT&T Stadium

January 1 – ESPN

No. 8 Michigan State vs. No. 5 Baylor

What to watch for: There may not be a better defensive coach in the country than MSU’s Mark Dantonio, and the same could be said about his Baylor counterpart, Art Briles, and his offensive genius. Both teams get a lot of attention for being great on those respective sides of the ball, but are very underrated on the other sides, too.



Vizio Fiesta BowlVIZIO Fiesta Bowl

Glendale, Ariz./ University of Phoenix Stadium

December 31 – ESPN

No. 20 Boise State vs. No. 10 Arizona

What to watch for: Everybody forgot about Boise State after it collapsed in the fourth quarter of the opener vs. Ole Miss, and since then, the Broncos won every game but one to sneak into a major bowl. Led by dual-threat freshman quarterback sensation Anu Solomon, the Wildcats can put up points on just about anyone, but they’ll give them up, too, so expect a lot of fireworks on New Year’s Eve.



Foster Farms BowlFoster Farms Bowl

Santa Clara, Calif./ Levi’s Stadium

December 30 – ESPN

Maryland vs. Stanford

What to watch for: Stanford’s College Football Playoff hopes got dashed early as the Cardinal lost a ton of close games early because they simply couldn’t score. The Cardinal, though, are still elite defensively, and that could be trouble for a Maryland team playing without wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who is far and away the team’s most talented player.



Russell_Athletic_BowlRussell Athletic Bowl

Orlando, Fla./ Florida Citrus Bowl

December 29 – ESPN

Oklahoma vs. Clemson

What to watch for: After losing so much offensive production from this year, the Tigers weren’t even close to the offensive juggernaut they were in 2014. Spirits in Clemson sagged a bit after the Tigers fell to 1-2 when they gave away a game vs. Florida State, too. But since, then, CU got it together to win eight of nine, and that included slaying the Tigers’ version of the Wicked Witch when they snapped a five-game losing streak over South Carolina. Oklahoma, meanwhile, slipped from the playoff discussion into relative 8-4 irrelevance, largely because senior All-American kicker Michael Hunicutt, who had been money his entire career, suddenly got the yips in a couple of close losses. Bowl games are often about who wants to be here most; with Clemson getting late life and OU having goals much bigger than the Russell Athletic Bowl, that could be a clue as to where this is heading.



NU-Holiday-Bowl-Logo-2013National University Holiday Bowl

San Diego, Calif./ Qualcomm Stadium

December 27 – ESPN

Nebraska vs. USC

What to watch for: Nine wins wasn’t enough to save Nebraska coach Bo Pelini’s job, mostly because they rarely came against name teams. Well, the Cornhuskers will get one of those in USC, which suddenly learned to throw the ball again in coach Steve Sarkisian’s first year in L.A. It’ll be the last game as Cornhuskers for running back Ameer Abdullah and defensive end Randy Gregory, two of the best in NU’s storied history.



Pinstripe BowlNew Era Pinstripe Bowl

Bronx, N.Y./ Yankee Stadium

December 27 – ESPN

Boston College vs. Penn State

What to watch for: Penn State couldn’t score or protect talented quarterback Christian Hackenberg, but thanks to the genius of defensive coordinator Bob Stoops, the Nittany Lions were hard to score on, and really hard to run on (2.6 yards per carry). Running (5.1 yards per carry) is what BC does best, and the Lions will have their hands full with mobile quarterback Tyler Murphy (1,079 yards), a Florida transfer whom Stoops was able to keep under wraps when he was Vandy’s defensive coordinator a year ago.



Hyundai Sun BowlHyundai Sun Bowl

El Paso, Texas/ Sun Bowl

December 27 – CBS

Arizona State vs. Duke

What to watch for: Two of the nation’s most underrated coaches, Duke’s David Cutcliffe and ASU’s Todd Graham, square off out West. The Sun Devils have a decided talent advantage and the benefit of a healthy Taylor Kelly at quarterback, but the Blue Devils can always move the ball and played surprisingly good defense in 2014, too.



MB_DC_1Military Bowl

Annapolis, Md./ Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium

December 27 – ESPN

Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech

What to watch for: Virginia Tech nearly saw its 21-game bowl streak–the second-longest in the country–snapped, but the Hokies held on late against rival Virginia to get here. It’s the same story for Tech as always: the Hokies can defend about as well as anyone, but can’t score. They’ll have their hands full with talented Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel, who was a 5- star recruit in high school.



bitcoin-bowl-logoBitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl

St. Petersburg, Fla./ Tropicana Field

December 26 – ESPN

NC State vs. UCF

What to watch for: Coach Dave Doeren engineered a nice turnaround in his second year in Raleigh, going 7-5 with a rout of North Carolina in the season’s last game. UCF quietly won nine of 10 after losing its first two, thanks to a scoring defense (17.9 ppg) that ranked ninth in the country.



 Quick_Lane_Bowl_logoQuick Lane Bowl

Detroit, Mich./ Ford Field

December 26 – ESPN

Rutgers vs. North Carolina

What to watch for: Sometimes, a matchup of a 7-5  and 6-6 teams is a hidden gem; this isn’t one of them. Rutgers, despite its winning record, got out-scored by over six points a game, while the Tar Heels can score (34.3 ppg) but can’t stop anyone (38.9 ppg.) If you’re looking for a reason to watch, here’s one: UNC return man Ryan Switzer, who has five career return scores.



Zaxby's_Heart_of_Dallas_Bowl_logoZaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl

Dallas, Texas/ Cotton Bowl

December 26 – ESPN

Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech

What to watch for: This isn’t isn’t exactly appointment TV; a 6-6 Illinois team got bowl-eligibe for the first time since 2011 but got out-scored 7.3 points per game on average, while 8-5 Tech rebounded nicely from last year’s 4-8 campaign to get here. The Bulldogs are a little better than you might suspect, but still, let’s not go overboard about a team that lost to Old Dominion.



Hawaii BowlHawai’i Bowl

Honolulu, Hawaii/ Aloha Stadium

December 24 – ESPN

Fresno State vs. Rice

What to watch for: Here’s another dog in a series of bad pre-Christmas bowl games; Fresno State went 6-7 and record aside, is probably the worst team in a bowl, while 7-5 Rice was out-scored on the season. I’m looking for a reason to tell you why you should watch, though at 8 p.m. Eastern on Christmas Eve, you wouldn’t, anyway.



Popeyes-Bowl-LogoPopeyes Bahamas Bowl

Nassau, Bahamas/ Thomas A Robinson National Stadium

December 24 – ESPN

Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky

What to watch for: The WKU defense was so poor that a roster assembled from people reading this could probably put up a TD or two on the Hilltoppers, but hey, when you have the nation’s leading passer in Brandon Doughty (4,344 passing yards, 44 TDs), who needs defense? The Chippewas (23.2 ppg) have a little bit of that, so there’s that angle if you’re inclined to watch.



Poinsettia-BowlSan Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

San Diego, Calif./ Qualcom Stadium

December 23 – ESPN

Navy vs. San Diego State

What to watch for: Hidden in these pre-Christmas games is the occasional reason to watch, and this might be a game that gives you that, presuming you like old-school football. Everyone knows that Navy’s going to run its triple-option attack, and it came as no surprise that the Midshipmen (358 rushing yards per game) finished second in the country there. But San Diego State gave up just 3.8 yards per rush and just 20.1 points per game, and so Navy could find some resistance here.  Oh, and even though Marshall Faulk left the building long ago, the Aztecs, led by Donnel Pumphrey (1,755 yards,  6.9 per carry) can run it, too.





Boca Raton BowlBoca Raton Bowl

Boca Raton, Fla./ FAU Stadium

December 23 – ESPN

Marshall vs. Northern Illinois

What to watch for: It’s tempting look at the combined records of these teams and scream, “Wow! Great matchup!” since Marshall is 12-1 and Northern Illinois is 11-2, and while it certainly it should be fun to watch, but this year’s Husky squad doesn’t quite stack up with the double-digit win teams of the last four years. The guy to watch here is Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato, who thew for 3,622 yards and 37 TDs and led an offense that scored 45.1 points per game.  but the Huskies



miami_beach_bowl_logoMiami Beach Bowl

Miami, Fla./ Marlins Park

December 22 – ESPN

Memphis vs. BYU

What to watch for: One of the better pre-Christmas bowl games. Memphis coach Justin Fuente, now a name coming to the top of the list at a lot of schools with coaching vacancies, had vastly improved the Tiger defense in his previous two years, and now that he found a talented quarterback in Paxton Lynch, UM soared to a 9-3 mark. BYU, left for dead after it lost superstar quarterback Taysom Hill and consequently lost its next four games, finally found a capable replacement in Christian Stewart and won four in a row to end its regular season.



PrintRaycom Media Camellia Bowl

Montgomery, Ala./ Cramton Bowl

December 20 – ESPN

South Alabama vs. Bowling Green

What to watch for: Another “meh” game between two teams that got outscored for the season, though South Alabama will be excited about playing in its first bowl game ever after not even having a program until 2009. More was expected from Bowling Green under first-year coach Dino Babers, who has an outstanding offensive mind, but the Falcons underachieved a bit at 7-6.



Idaho Potato BowlFamous Idaho Potato Bowl

Boise, Idaho/ Albertsons Stadium

December 20 – ESPN

Western Michigan vs. Air Force

What to watch for: This could well be dubbed the “Turnaround Bowl” since WMU and Air Force each improved seven wins over respective 1-11 and 2-10 marks from last year. The Falcons, as always, feature a triple-option rushing attack which ranked ninth in America (272 ypg) and WMU struggled a bit against the run. The Broncos just signed 34-year-old coach P.J. Fleck to a new deal that runs through 2020, but you can bet that with a few more seasons like this, he’ll be somewhere else.



Royal Purple LV Bowl FinalRoyal Purple Las Vegas Bowl

Las Vegas, Nevada/ Sam Boyd Stadium

December 20 – ABC

Utah vs. Colorado State

What to watch for: Two more programs with nice turnaround seasons face off, but there’s been a significant damper on both seasons since the end of the regular season. CSU lost coach Jim McElwain to Florida, and Utah may have to fend off Michigan to keep Kyle Whittingham. It’s a matchup of strength on strength; CSU had one of American’s top 10 passing attacks (and a potential first-round pick in left tackle Ty Sambrailo to protect record-setting quarterback Garrett Grayson) while Utah’s success came because of its ability to rush the passer and force turnovers in bunches.



Gildan New Mexico BowlGildan New Mexico Bowl

Albuquerque, N.M./ University Stadium

December 20 – ESPN

Utah State vs. UTEP

What to watch for: One of the craziest storylines of the season came from Logan, Utah, where the Aggies, on October 25, pulled the redshirt off quarterback Kent Myers in the third quarter of a game that day. The Aggies hung on to win with Myers at the helm, but the real story there was that Myers was playing only because injuries had knocked out three players in front of him for the season. It was the first of four straight wins that Utah State got with Myers at the helm, though none came against bowl teams. On the UTEP side, a rare bowl game (just its second since 2005) gives the nation a chance to watch sophomore running back Aaron Jones (1,233 yards) and quarterback Jameill Showers, whose claim to fame is that he was once ahead of former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel on the Texas A&M depth chart.



R+L-Carriers-New-Orleans-BowlR+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

New Orleans, La./ Mercedes-Benz Superdome

December 20 – ESPN

Nevada vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

What to watch for: Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo passed for 2,374 yards and ran for 997 more. Louisiana-Lafayette had never been to a bowl in its history until coach Mark Hudspeth took the Ragin’ Cajuns there in 2011; this one now makes four in a row for a team that gets it done primarily on the ground (228 rushing yards per game).



Check out what to expect in the College Football Playoffs and bowl games of Southeastern Conference teams here.