From marquee matchups featuring nationally ranked squads and bitter rivals to a handful of sub-par opponents cruising for a beatdown, the bowl season shook out to be full of intrigue and exciting storylines. Instead of projecting bowls this week, we'll take a quick look at each individual game.
New Mexico, Heart of Dallas, and Sun Bowl
New Mexico Bowl- from an advanced metrics perspective, the Lobos may be the worst bowl team of all time. Against an average schedule, you would expect a team like UNM to go 4-8 or worse. Yet here they are with six wins. Arizona is in a bit of turmoil following some buzz about Rich Rodriguez leaving, but it's going to take more than turmoil for them not to blow out the Lobos.
Heart of Dallas Bowl- The Golden Eagles have put together a surprising season and exceeded expectations, as have the Huskies. Southern Miss. excelled in Conference USA, putting together a 9-3 campaign en route to a loss in the championship game. Washington's 6-6 record is less glamorous, but came against incredibly tough competition. They have earned every win, and should be expected to earn a seventh.
Sun Bowl- The Cougars got the matchup many Ute fans wanted, taking on the fake "U". With many Florida recruits watching closely, a big win by the Utes could have been a nail in Miami's coffin. Miami stumbled hard in conference play and fired their coach, but rebounded by picking up a big name in Mark Richt. This is one of the closer advanced metrics matchups; a win here would put a rosy sheen on Mike Leach's best season as the Cougar's head coach.
Foster Farms, Armed Forces, Holiday
Foster Farms Bowl- Nebraska's 5-7 season has been defined by a series of bad beats and close losses; 6 of them have come by a score or less. Nevertheless, their unimpressive advanced statistical profile mirrors that record. The Huskers have snuck into a bowl here, but have landed against a fearsome PAC 12 opponent. A loss here would have Bruins fans deeply disappointed in the season, but the Bruins ought to win easily.
Armed Forces Bowl- Sonny Dykes' Air Raid doesn't have much on a squadron of F-16s, but luckily for Cal the Air Force they are up against is decidedly grounded. The contrasting styles in this game should make for an interesting matchup, but the advantage lies heavily with Cal.
Holiday Bowl- The Trojans have hired Helton and fired the defensive half of the staff, but this team has thrived in chaos of its own making all season, and they are a more complete team than the Badgers. Vegas sees this one as a little closer than the advanced metrics, possibly because of all the turmoil.
Alamo, Cactus, Rose
Alamo Bowl- One of the most anticipated matchups of the bowl season, this game features two dynamic offenses and defenses that leave a lot to be desired, meaning that there should be a tremendous amount of points scored. Despite the disparity in advanced metrics, Vegas wasn't willing to pick a favorite. Oregon's early struggles were largely related to the injury to quarterback Vernon Adams, and they've since rounded into fearsome form.
Cactus Bowl- A sneaky appealing matchup, the Mountaineers have looked like a solid team all year, despite losing several games during their gauntlet run at the BIG 12. Todd Graham's defense has struggled of late, and this game will likely hinge on one question: will the Mountaineers use bedsheets to disguise their offensive playcalls?
Rose Bowl- A handful of critical nonconference losses kept the PAC 12 out of the playoffs this year, and so this is as high up the bowl ladder as the conference gets. Iowa is a team with a rosy record by a lousy schedule, on paper they are as similar to the Utes as it gets. Look for Stanford to dominate this matchup in a way playoff-bound Michigan State couldn't.
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
Vegas Bowl- Plenty more on this topic both this week and next, but the early returns favor the Utes, who opened as three point favorites. Storylines abound in this game, which is not only the Holy War, but also Bronco Mendenhall's last game as BYU's head coach and his last shot at getting to 100 wins with the Cougars. The Utes look to continue their recent run of dominance despite a murderer's row of injuries to their offense. It would be a glorious thing if this senior class which has meant so much to the Utes' current upward trajectory in college football could go out with a win over the Cougars.