Most Intriguing Bowl Matchups (Non-Playoff Edition)
The bowl season is upon us, and with that comes many intriguing bowl matchups. Obviously, the College Football Playoff matchups are among the most intriguing, but there are a handful of non-Playoff games that could feature just as much excitement and drama.
Here's my take on the best non-Playoff bowl games with must-see matchups (in no particular order):
1. Las Vegas Bowl Presented by Geico: Houston vs. San Diego State (Dec. 17)
There's no Tom Herman appeal to this matchup, but Houston and San Diego State are respectable Group of Five schools. Houston had no problem showing up for the big games on its schedule, so I'd expect them to be geared up for the 2016 season finale. Plus, if you tune in, you'll probably see an offensive explosion from Greg Ward Jr. and Donnel Pumphrey.
2. Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs. No. 25 Navy (Dec. 23)
Navy's triple option offense is memorizing and unlike anything else in college football. Meanwhile, Louisiana Tech had little problem putting up points this season and ranked third in the country in passing years per game (359.8). Could there be two more different styles than what we'll see between Louisiana Tech and Navy?
3. National Funding Holiday Bowl: Minnesota vs. Washington State (Dec. 27)
Minnesota and Washington State both exceeded expectations heading into this season, but both are thirsting for a bowl win to officially call this season a success. Neither played overly difficult schedules and have plenty to prove. And we can't forget the last time Mike Leach faced Minnesota in a bowl game (2006 Insight Bowl).
4. Valero Alamo Bowl: No. 12 Oklahoma State vs. No. 10 Colorado (Dec. 29)
Even though both sides are coming off loses in games in which they could've won their respective conferences, expect both Oklahoma State and Colorado to treat this matchup as a playoff game. Colorado is coming off its best season since 2007, the last time it appeared in a bowl game, while Oklahoma State is trying to prove it's home to one of the nation's premier football programs. Two former Big XII foes finally have the chance to duke it out on the field again.
5. Capital One Orange Bowl: No. 6 Michigan vs. No. 11 Florida State (Dec. 30)
How will Michigan respond to being left out of the College Football Playoff? How will Florida State respond to what was a disappointing season by its own standards? There are a lot of questions about how motivated these two teams will be, but if Delvin Cook remains healthy, the matchup of Cook versus Michigan's defense is more than enough to tune in.
6. Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: No. 20 LSU vs. No. 13 Louisville (Dec. 31)
One of the best running backs squares off against one of the best quarterbacks/athletes in college football. Leonard Fournette vs. Lamar Jackson. Do you need any other reason to watch?
7. Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: No. 15 Western Michigan vs. No. 8 Wisconsin (Jan. 2)
If he's still around come kickoff, this will likely be P.J. Fleck's final game as head coach of Western Michigan University. Not only did he help lead his team to the Cotton Bowl, but he also helped "row the boat" all the way to an undefeated season and MAC championship. On the other side, Wisconsin has three losses, all to teams ranked in the top-six of the final College Football Playoff rankings; oh, and they're all from the Big Ten. Wisconsin's defense is no joke, and the quarterback duo of Alex Hornibrook and Bart Houston isn't too shabby either.
8. Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual: No. 9 USC vs. No. 5 Penn State
Penn State is ready and motivated to shock the world, and there isn't a better way to do so than taking on committee-favorite No. 9 USC in USC's backyard. It's a great challenge for the Nittany Lions, and I expect them to be up to the task. For USC, it's a chance to show the nation how different this team is compared to its state in September. Sam Darnold is the real deal and if you haven't seen him play yet, make sure you catch this game. Plus, it's "The Granddaddy of Them All."