You want college football? You got it, by the bowlful.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
Saturday’s New Mexico/Famous Idaho Potato Bowl double-dip is the starting point for 35 bowl games in 24 days, and by the time Notre Dame meets Alabama on Jan. 7 in the BCS National Championship Game, six weeks and three days will have passed since the Irish’s final regular-season game.
Nobody claims it’s a perfect system. But starting today, it’s fun through the holidays and into next year.
Here’s a quick look at each game and our star rating based on its appeal.
Gildan New Mexico Bowl **
Saturday, noon, ESPN
Arizona (7-5) vs. Nevada (7-5)
The kickoff bowl gets a team from an automatic-qualifier conference for the first time: Arizona, which has the nation’s leading rusher in Ka’Deem Carey. The Wolf Pack, with Stefphon Jefferson, is one of the nation’s top rushing teams.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl ***
Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ESPN
Utah State (10-2) vs. Toledo (9-3)
The Aggies were less than a touchdown away from a perfect record, falling to Wisconsin and BYU by a combined six points. Toledo wins in shootouts, but Utah State has the nation’s 15th-ranked defense.
San Diego Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl ***
Dec. 20, 7 p.m., ESPN
San Diego State (9-3) vs. Brigham Young (7-5)
These programs know each other well from their Mountain West days. Remember the offensive-minded Cougars? This year, BYU got it done on defense, ranking fifth in points allowed (14.7).
Beef ‘O’Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl *
Dec. 21, 6:30 p.m., ESPN
Ball State (9-3) vs. Central Florida (9-4)
Can the Cardinals keep the momentum going? They’ve won six straight, but Ball State has never won a bowl game (0-5). Half of Central Florida’s losses came to Tulsa.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl **
Dec. 22, 11 a.m., ESPN
Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4) vs. East Carolina (8-4)
The Ragin Cajuns won this bowl last year. The scoreboard should light up because neither side played much defense this season.
Maaco Bowl Las Vegas ***
Dec. 22, 2:30 p.m. ESPN
Boise State (10-2) vs. Washington (7-5)
The first of two straight games between the teams — they open the 2013 season against each other. Boise won this bowl last year. Go figure the Huskies, who fell to Washington State but beat Stanford.
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl *
Dec. 24, 7 p.m., ESPN
SMU (6-6) vs. Fresno State (9-3)
The scoreboard should be lit like a Christmas tree. Fresno averages 323 yards passing, and SMU, led by former Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert, put up 72 on Houston.
Little Caesars Bowl *
Dec. 26, 6:30 p.m. ESPN
Central Michigan (6-6) vs. Western Kentucky (7-5)
A first bowl game for the Hilltoppers, who joined FBS in 2009. Central Michigan, which beat Iowa early in the season, won its final three games to become bowl eligible
Military Bowl **
Dec. 27, 2 p.m., ESPN
San Jose State (10-2) vs. Bowling Green (8-4)
The Spartans, who went 1-12 two years ago, won 10 games for the first time since 1987. This game matches Bowling Green’s defense, ranked seventh nationally, against San Jose State’s passing offense, led by quarterback David Fales.
Belk Bowl **
Dec. 27, 5:30 p.m., ESPN
Duke (6-6) vs. Cincinnati (9-3)
The Blue Devils are bowling for the first time since 1994 but are riding a four-game losing streak. Butch Jones won’t coach the Bearcats here. He’s off to Tennessee.
Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl ****
Dec. 27, 8:45 p.m., ESPN
UCLA (9-4) vs. Baylor (7-5)
No guarantee that it will be well-played, but this will be fun. Baylor scores and doesn’t stop scoring (44-38 is Bears’ average score). UCLA has offensive stars in running back Johnathan Franklin and quarterback Brett Hundley.
AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl **
Louisiana-Monroe (8-4) vs. Ohio University (8-4)
What a year for Louisiana-Monroe. The Warhawks upset Arkansas earlier this season and now play in their first bowl game. The Bobcats started 7-0 but struggled coming home.
Russell Athletic Bowl *
Dec. 28, 4:30 p.m., ESPN
Virginia Tech (6-6) vs. Rutgers (9-3)
Both teams fell short. Rutgers had a chance to win the Big East but lost its last two. The Hokies will miss double-digit victories for the first time in nine years.
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas **
Dec. 28, 8 p.m., ESPN
Texas Tech (7-5) vs. Minnesota (6-6)
This was the bowl matchup that cost Glen Mason his Minnesota job six years ago, when the Red Raiders rallied from a 31-point deficit to win. The Gophers are bowling for the first time since 2009.
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl *
Dec. 29, 10:45 a.m., ESPN
Air Force (6-6) vs. Rice (6-6)
An early wake-up call at Fort Worth. Rice won its last four to qualify for a bowl and Air Force is in the postseason for the sixth straight year. This is the only bowl game between 6-6 teams.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl ***
Dec. 29, 2:15 p.m., ESPN
Syracuse (7-5) vs. West Virginia (7-5)
The Mountaineers’ offense of quarterback Geno Smith and wide receiver Tavon Austin is worth the price of admission, and the draft stock of Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib is climbing.
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl **
Dec. 29, 3 p.m. ESPN2
Arizona State (7-5) vs. Navy (8-4)
Navy’s triple-option is always a difficult game prep, but the Sun Devils have toughness up front led by Will Sutton, the Pac-12 defensive player of the year.
Valero Alamo Bowl **
Dec. 29, 5:45 p.m., ESPN
Oregon State vs. Texas
Both teams got off to fast starts but couldn’t finish. Regular seasons have been nothing to brag about at Texas recently, but the Longhorns have won six of their last seven bowl games.
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl **
Dec. 29, 9:15 p.m. ESPN
Michigan State vs. TCU
Spartans running back Le’Veon Bell takes on a TCU defense led by freshman defensive end Devonte Fields, who some believe was the Big 12’s top defensive player this season.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl **
Dec. 31, 11 a.m., ESPN
North Carolina State (7-5) vs. Vanderbilt (8-4)
A difference between the programs: Vandy wins eight and worries about keeping its coach, James Franklin. The Wolfpack win seven and fire Tom O’Brien. A Commodores victory will give them 15 in two seasons for the first time since 1928-29.
Hyundai Sun Bowl *
Dec. 31, 1 p.m. CBS Georgia Tech (6-7) vs. Southern California (7-5)
Bet Matt Barkley didn’t think his college career would end in El Paso, against a team with a losing record.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl **
Dec. 31, 2:30 p.m., ESPN
Iowa State (6-6) vs. Tulsa (10-3)
The Liberty could have taken Louisiana Tech, but the Cyclones became available when the Big 12 didn’t get a BCS at-large bid. Scouting will be easy for both sides. They met in the opener, with Iowa State winning 38-23 in Ames.
Chick-fil-A Bowl ****
Dec. 31, 6:30 p.m., ESPN
Clemson (10-2) vs. LSU (10-2)
This could easily be, and should be, a BCS bowl. No matter, the game and atmosphere will be better than at least a couple of the higher-paying bowls. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd goes against one of the nation’s top defenses.
Heart of Dallas Bowl **
Jan. 1, 11 a.m., ESPNU
Oklahoma State (7-5) vs. Purdue (6-6)
Along with North Carolina, Purdue qualified for a bowl and fired its coach. The situation isn’t as drastic at Oklahoma State, which held onto Mike Gundy but is looking for an offensive coordinator.
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl ***
Jan. 1, 11 a.m., ESPN2
Mississippi State (8-4) vs. Northwestern (9-3)
The Wildcats are back in a bowl; that’s the good news for the Wildcats. The bad? The program, after winning the Rose Bowl in 1949, is riding a nine-game bowl losing streak. The Bulldogs’ four SEC victories came against teams that fired their coaches.
Capital One Bowl ***
Jan. 1, noon, ABC
Georgia (11-2) vs. Nebraska (10-3)
When we last saw the Bulldogs, they were losing a heartbreaker to Alabama in the SEC title game and Nebraska was getting its clock cleaned by Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray is 1-11 against ranked teams.
Outback Bowl ***
Jan 1, noon, ESPN
Michigan (8-4) vs. South Carolina (10-2)
The Gamecocks know their way to Tampa. It’s their fourth appearance in this game since 2001. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney zeroes in on Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson.
Rose Bowl ***
Jan. 1, 4 p.m., ESPN
Stanford (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (8-5)
The granddaddy of ’em all wasn’t enough to keep Bret Bielema on the Wisconsin sideline. Wisconsin becomes the first five-loss team to play in the Rose, but the game gets a nice storyline with Barry Alvarez taking over for the event.
Discover Orange Bowl ***
Jan 1, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Northern Illinois (12-1) vs. Florida State (11-2)
Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch against the Seminoles’ defense should be fun. Will Florida State be motivated? It better be.
Allstate Sugar Bowl ***
Jan. 2, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Florida (11-1) vs. Louisville (10-2)
Had Notre Dame lost somewhere along the line, the Gators likely would be playing for the national title. As it is, Florida has to be ready for a motivated Louisville squad with a talented quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl *****
Jan. 3, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Kansas State (11-1) vs. Oregon (11-1)
Winner of this semifinal goes to the national title game, right? It’s Oregon’s fourth straight BCS bowl, and Kansas State’s third Fiesta. K-State has lost four straight bowl games.
AT&T Cotton Bowl *****
Jan. 4, 7 p.m. Fox
Oklahoma (10-2) vs. Texas A&M (10-2)
The Sooners get to see their third Heisman finalist and look for better results against Johnny Manziel than against Collin Klein’s Kansas State and Manti Te’o’s Notre Dame team. Only Florida and LSU beat Manziel’s Aggies this season.
BVAA Compass Bowl *
Jan. 5, noon, ESPN
Mississippi (6-6) vs. Pittsburgh (6-6)
The Panthers are in Birmingham for the third straight year. A nice season for the Rebels under first-year coach Hugh Freeze.
GoDaddy.com Bowl **
Jan. 6, 8 p.m., ESPN
Arkansas State (9-3) vs. Kent State (11-2)
Both programs will have new coaches next year, but each current coach — Arkansas State’s Gus Malzahn and Kent State’s Darrell Hazell — is staying on to coach this game.
BCS National Championship Game *****
Jan. 7, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Notre Dame (12-0) vs. Alabama (12-1)
This is the Irish’s first BCS title game appearance but Alabama’s third in four years — and the defending champion Crimson Tide are looking for their third victory. Notre Dame and Bama have similar styles, and both lead with run-stuffing defenses. The last time these teams played for the national title, Notre Dame won a 24-23 classic in the Sugar Bowl following the 1973 season.
To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.