College Football Bowl Games Preview, TV Schedule — December 27-January 4
The first week of bowl season was entertaining, but now we get into the heart of bowl season with some big names and exciting matchups.
Here is your rundown of the next week’s festivities (all times Eastern).
Note: the playoff and other “Big Six” games are not included here. We will have complete previews of those games coming soon.
Military Bowl Presented by Northrup Grumman
Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6)
Dec. 27, 1:00 PM (ESPN)
Cincinnati comes into this game riding a seven-game winning streak, the Bearcats’ best since a 12-0 regular season in 2009. The Hokies, meanwhile, needed to knock off in-state rival Virginia in the regular season’s final game just to extend their bowl streak to 22 straight years, the second-longest active run in the country. Virginia Tech ranks 17th nationally in total defense but will be tested by a Bearcat offense that has outscored opponents by 20.4 points per game during their current winning streak.
Hyundai Sun Bowl
No. 15 Arizona State (9-3) vs. Duke (9-3)
Dec. 27, 2:00 PM (CBS)
Both teams limp in after suffering late-season losses that knocked them out of contention for their respective conference title games. But this should be a fun strength vs. strength matchup with the Sun Devils’ potent offense (ranked 19th nationally in scoring) against Duke’s defense, which has held all but three opponents to 22 or fewer points this year. The Blue Devils have not beaten a Top 25 team outside the ACC since 1971.
Duck Commander Independence Bowl
Miami (6-6) vs. South Carolina (6-6)
Dec. 27, 3:30 PM (ABC)
Both teams have struggled through disappointing .500 seasons. But this will still be one of the highest-rated games of the bowl season, thanks to the legion of Duck Dynasty fans tuning into catch a glimpse of the Robertson clan.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Boston College (7-5) vs. Penn State (6-6)
Dec. 27, 4:30 PM (ESPN)
At the start of the season, Penn State was still under NCAA probation and ineligible for a bowl game. But even when the NCAA lifted the sanctions, the Nittany Lions just barely made the most of it, losing six of their last eight to barely qualify. Look for this to be a low-scoring affair, as both teams boast top 12 scoring defenses. Hope the people going like that sort of thing, as this is the most expensive ticket of the weekend.
National University Holiday Bowl
Nebraska (9-3) vs. No. 24 USC (8-4)
Dec. 27, 8:00 PM (ESPN)
These are two teams with lots of history (12 national championships and nine Heisman winners between them) who have not lived up to their high expectations. Nebraska fired coach Bo Pelini after a tenure that saw him go 67-27, but just 26-25 against teams with winning records and fall flat in big games. USC, meanwhile, has shown flashes of the NFL-caliber talent throughout the roster, but has been inconsistent. Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler (36 TDs, 4 interceptions this year) should be able to find success against a shaky Cornhusker secondary.
Autozone Liberty Bowl
Texas A&M (7-5) vs. West Virginia (7-5)
Dec. 29, 2:00 PM (ESPN)
West Virginia will be starting a new quarterback after Clint Trickett announced he was retiring from football after suffering his fifth concussion in just 14 months. However, backup Skyler Howard has thrown for 483 yards and five scores in limited duty and should have success against an Aggie defense that ranks 104th nationally in total defense (449 ypg). Both teams rank in the top 12 nationally in passing, so tune in if you want to see some big numbers.
Russell Athletic Bowl
Oklahoma (8-4) vs. No. 17 Clemson (9-3)
Dec. 29, 5:30 PM (ESPN)
Three years ago, Oklahoma fans basically ran defensive coordinator Brent Venables out of town. Now he has a chance for some payback in what should be a fun matchup between Clemson’s top-ranked defense against a Sooner offense that has scored 30+ in all but one game this year. Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight is expected to return after missing the last three games with a neck injury.
Advocare V100 Texas Bowl
Arkansas (6-6) vs. Texas (6-6)
Dec. 29, 9:00 PM (ESPN)
Two old Southwest Conference rivals come together hoping to end their turnaround seasons on a positive note. After losing nine straight games to end 2013, Arkansas has rebounded this season with six wins, including upsets of LSU and Ole Miss. Likewise, Texas started slow (2-4) but rallied to win four of its last six. The Longhorns need a win to avoid their first losing season since 2010 and just the second since 1997.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Notre Dame (7-5) vs. No. 23 LSU (8-4)
Dec. 30, 3:00 PM (ESPN)
In most years, this would have been a matchup with national title implications. Instead, both teams limp in after disappointing endings. LSU dropped two of its last three while the Fighting Irish fell in five of their final six. Points could be at a premium as LSU leads the nation in pass efficiency defense and is third in scoring.
No. 13 Georgia (9-3) vs. No. 21 Louisville (9-3)
Dec. 30, 6:30 PM (ESPN)
This should be a fun one as the Bulldogs’ eighth-ranked offense goes against former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and a Louisville defense that ranks sixth in total defense.
Foster Farms Bowl
Maryland (7-5) vs. Stanford (7-5)
Dec. 30, 10:00 PM (ESPN)
Stanford’s record might not be where the Cardinal hoped it would be but, in fairness, all five losses came against Top 25 teams. Maryland, meanwhile, got off to a 4-1 start only to alternate losses and wins the rest of the way. The Terrapins find themselves as the biggest underdog of the bowl season as their offense, which ranks 109th nationally in total offense, goes against the Cardinal’s second-ranked scoring defense.
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl
No. 9 Ole Miss vs. No No. 6 TCU (11-1)
Dec. 31, 12:30 PM (ESPN)
This could be the most exciting of the non-playoff games as two teams that were title contenders until very late in the season square off. Ole Miss boasts the nation’s top-ranked defense while TCU brings in the No. 2 scoring offense. TCU has won six of its last eight bowl games while the Rebels have not lost a postseason game since 2000.
No. 19 Auburn (8-4) vs. No. 18 Wisconsin (10-3)
Jan. 1, 12:00 PM (ESPN2)
This is a game between two really good teams who are looking for answers. Once a national title contender, Auburn limps into this game after dropping three of its last four. Wisconsin, which came into the Big Ten title game with a seven-game winning streak, is still trying to regroup after a 59-0 loss to Ohio State. If you like smashmouth football, this could be a fun one as both teams boast potent running games, highlighted by the Badgers’ Heisman finalist, Melvin Gordon.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
No. 8 Michigan State (10-2) vs. No. 5 Baylor (11-1)
Jan 1, 12:30 PM (ESPN)
The scoreboard operator could get a workout in this one. We all know what Bryce Petty and Baylor’s high-octane offense can do (first nationally in scoring offense). But while Michigan State has a well-deserved reputation for defense (giving up less than 20 ppg), the Spartans have also gotten it done on offense this year, averaging 43.1 points per game (seventh nationally). It will be interesting to see Baylor’s mindset in this one after being left out of the playoff in favor of a Big Ten team. (Although I still contend Baylor has no one to blame but Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby.)
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
No. 16 Missouri (10-3) vs. No. 25 Minnesota (8-4)
Jan. 1, 1:00 PM (ABC)
Missouri was riding a six-game before getting blasted in the SEC title game. This week, they’ll face a Minnesota squad that started the season 6-1, but dropped three of its last five. The Gophers live by the run (27th nationally in rushing vs. 124th in passing), so this game will hinge on a Tigers’ defense that has held six of its last seven opponents to 155 or fewer yards on the ground.
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Houston (7-5) vs. Pittsburgh (6-6)
Jan. 2, 12:00 PM (ESPN)
Pitt lost six of seven games in the middle of the season and needed to eke out wins in its last two games just be become bowl-eligible. Houston brings in the nation’s 11th-ranked scoring defense against a Panthers offense that ranks 15th in rushing. Both teams will be entering the game playing for interim coaches.
Iowa (7-5) vs. Tennessee (6-6)
Jan. 2, 3:20 PM (ESPN)
Don’t ever let anyone tell you these minor bowl games don’t matter—Tennessee is in a bowl game for the first time since 2010 and, with a win, can secure the Vols first winning season in six years. Iowa is also looking for some redemption after dropping three of its last four games this year.
Valero Alamo Bowl
No. 11 Kansas State (9-3) vs. No. 14 UCLA (9-3)
Jan. 2, 6:45 PM (ESPN)
The Alamo Bowl has traditionally been one of the more exciting bowl games, and that should continue with its first-ever Top 15 matchup. The Bruins Pac-12 title hopes came to an end with an upset loss to Stanford, but quarterback Brett Hundley (3,567 total yards, 29 touchdowns and just five interceptions) remains one of college football’s most potent weapons. But UCLA will face a tough test against a Kansas State defense that reflects the personality of head coach Bill Snyder—not flashy, but methodical and with solid fundamentals. The Wildcats simply won’t beat themselves, so it will be up the Bruins to make sure they hold on to the ball and don’t make mental mistakes against a K-State squad that feasts on those.
Ticketcity Cactus Bowl
Washington (8-5) vs. Oklahoma State (6-6)
Jan. 2, 10:15 PM (ESPN)
Oklahoma State snuck in to bowl season by upsetting rival Oklahoma in the final week of the regular season. But the Cowboys’ defense ranks 100th nationally in scoring and now faces a tough task against a Huskies offense that has scored 30+ in five of its last six matchups.
East Carolina (8-4) vs. Florida (6-5)
Jan. 3, 12:00 PM (ESPN)
Despite Florida’s struggles this year, defense has never really been the problem. The Gators held their last five opponents—including Florida State—to 24 or fewer points. But in this one, Florida will face one of its toughest tests to date against a Pirate offense that ranks third nationally in passing and 15th in scoring.
Toledo (8-4) vs. Arkansas State (7-5)
Jan. 4, 9:00 PM (ESPN)
Let’s just be honest—if you’re watching a late-night bowl game between Toledo and Arkansas State on a Sunday night, you’re either an alumni of one of these schools or you need to seek help for your serious gambling addiction.