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Ten Best Non-BCS Bowl Games

Picking out the best of the not-so-best bowl games this season

Now that the bowl match-ups have been set (full schedule on Crystal Ball Run) and we have all had some time to sort through the match-ups and let some of the shock sink in (Michigan AND Virginia Tech in the BCS?), let’s see if we can pick out the best of the rest, conceding that we all buy in to the marketable idea that the BCS bowl games are in an elite class of their own.

Which games am I most looking forward to and why? Below are the ten bowl games I think have a lot of potential to be the most entertaining games, for a variety of reasons. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comment section. This list is in no particular order, so please keep that in mind when reading.

1. TicketCity Bowl: Penn State vs. Houston

OK, I can hear you now calling me a homer, and perhaps that is partly true. As you know, I cover Penn State football and I manage Nittany Lion’s Den and grew up learning about college football by watching Penn State. All of that aside, how can anyone say this match-up lacks what we all look forward to in the bow season? That being a dynamic offense like Houston’s and a leading defensive unit like Penn State’s? Oh, you want story lines on top of that? Very well then…

Will Kevin Sumlin be coaching in his final game at Houston? Will Sumlin even be coaching in the game? Will Case Keenum be able to end his collegiate career on a winning note after things went sour in the Conference USA championship game?

How does Penn State handle the situation, with Tom Bradley more than likely coaching the final game before the school ushers in a brand new coach for 2012? How do the players respond to being passed on by other Big Ten affiliated bowls after a 9-3 season? I fully anticipate Penn State and Houston to come out fired up for this game, despite some melancholy feelings right now from both sides with being in this position.

2. Outback Bowl: Michigan State vs. Georgia

The runners-up in the Big Ten and SEC will clash in the Outback Bowl, which is one of my personal favorites during the bowl season. Maybe it’s the thought of bloomin’ onions and steak, or those awesome rolls offered by Outback Steakhouse, but the Outback Bowl has been one of the better ones to watch over the years. This year should be a pretty interesting game as well.

On one sideline we have the Michigan State Spartans, who came up short in a nail-biter in the Big Ten Championship game and are looking to redeem themselves after a dismal outing in the Capital One Bowl a year ago. On the other we have the Georgia Bulldogs, who ran out of steam quickly in the SEC Championship game and hope to wrap up an 11-win season.

3. Champs Sports Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Florida State

This may not be what it once was but the fact that Notre Dame and Florida State are playing it means we can look back on some great college football games form the past. #1 vs. #2 certainly comes to mind quickly, as it was one of the first games I distinctly remember watching on television. Here we are now and Florida State and Notre Dame look like they are on the right track back to national prominence. Will this game catapult either to taking that next step in 2012? We thought Notre Dame did that last year by beating Miami, and we thought Florida State was going to be an ACC favorite this season. What will we think next summer?

4. Military Bowl: Air Force vs. Toledo

Not only will this game be heavy on the running game, it also means that it has the most potential to be done quickly. Not that we ever want a game to end early, but the game is played the same day as the Holiday Bowl and that is always a fun game to watch it seems (although it remains absent on this particular list). This game will feature the nation’s second-ranked and 14th-ranked rushing offenses, so get ready for some good, old-fashioned running plays, with a triple-option thrown in the mix as well.

5. Valero Alamo Bowl: Baylor vs. Washington

Heisman finalist Robert Griffin III will get a good stage to perform on in the Alamo Bowl. Could the game feature their first Heisman Trophy winner? Perhaps. He sure looks like the favorite (and he gets my vote of sorts), and going up against a Pac-12 defense should make for an entertaining game by RG3.

6. Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas: Texas A&M vs. Northwestern

Texas A&M failed to live up to some of the preseason hype, and Mark Sherman is looking for a new job, so I expect Texas A&M to play with a little extra fire as they prove to their new SEC rivals that they should be taken seriously in 2012. Can they set the tone in this bowl game, and avoid a second half collapse as has been a recurring theme for the Aggies this season? They’ll be in for a good battle against a Northwestern team that defeated Nebraska this season and is always likely to play hard, above their natural abilities, for 60 minutes. I’d expect nothing less of a Pat Fitzgerald-coached team.

7. Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. Arkansas State

MAC champions vs. Sun Belt champions. It may not have the national appeal as a Big Ten champ vs. an SEC champ but for those of us who committed ourselves to watching as much college football this season, including Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night college football games this is our reward for a season of MACtion and Battle of the Belts nights and conversations on Twitter. This is like our Super Bowl, or BCS Championship, in a sense as it is the next-to-last game of the bowl season. Some of us would have it no other way.

For all the girls?

8. Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Temple vs. Wyoming

Hopefully the rest of the nation gets to take advantage of this opportunity to watch Temple running back Bernard Pierce. When he is healthy he is a tough player for opposing defenses to slow down, and with Wyoming not exactly excelling in the run defense department, this could be a nice showcase game for Pierce. Steve Addazio will look to cap his first season with the Owls with an elusive bowl victory for the program. This is also the first bowl game of the season, so naturally it should be one on every college football fan’s viewing schedule.

9. MAACO Bowl Las Vegas: Boise State vs. Arizona State

So you didn’t get selected to play in a BCS bowl game, and your star quarterback, Mr. Consistency, did not get invited to New York. There is only one way to go out and respond Boise State. Unleash the inner-Bronco in you against Arizona State, a team led by the fearsome Vontaze Burfict and a Sun Devils team that will look to play with some pride after seeing Dennis Erickson be forced out the door. Will Burfict intimidate Kellen Moore? Oh man, and the uniforms… This game cannot start soon enough.

10. Gator Bowl: Florida vs. Ohio State

The Urban Bowl. The underlying Urban Meyer storyline will be the best thing about this game, and likely the only thing the broadcast crew will bother to talk about. Florida’s former head coach will be Ohio State’s new head coach in 2012 after the Buckeyes hired Meyer to be their ultimate successor to Jim Tressel. But this game has a chance to be somewhat entertaining on the field too, with a young Braxton Miller giving Buckeye fans a reason to be optimistic and Florida playing close to home, where they just about always find a way to win.

 That’s my top ten. Which games would you swap out for another?

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About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.