(RNN) – So, by now you've heard everything about the BCS national championship you need to know – and there are still four weeks until the game is played.
Additionally, Alabama is getting a shot to put Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops in his SEC-hating place in the Sugar Bowl and the we-deserved-the-fourth-playoff-spot-if-the-playoff-started-this-year matchup between defensive stalwarts Michigan State and Stanford will likely make the Rose Bowl an "instant classic."
Unlikely 11-1 teams Baylor and UCF will square off in a Fiesta Bowl game you'll watch only because it's the only game being played at the time and Ohio State and Clemson will duel in an Orange Bowl where this year's national championship dreams went to die.
But the BCS is a terrible system and is disappearing next year and its five bowl games will get plenty of hype without being discussed here. So, this article is for the five best bowl games outside of the BCS conglomerate, why you should be interested in them and what player to watch in each. (All times Eastern.)
Las Vegas Bowl
Teams: No. 20 Fresno State (11-1) vs. No. 25 Southern California (9-4)
When you should watch: Saturday, Dec. 21, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
Why you should watch: These teams have a bit of a history (Fresno nearly derailed USC's run to the BCS title game in 2005 and the teams will open next season against each other), and will help kick off the bowl season with what should be a compelling game. This is the second bowl to kick off and the first involving ranked teams. There will be 10 days and 21 games before another matchup between ranked opponents, so it's by far the biggest of the early games. Early, insignificant bowl games are always forgotten by the time the national championship rolls around, but they're often equally as entertaining, if not more so.
Who you should watch: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State. Carr leads the nation in total offense, passing yards (4,866) and passing touchdowns (48). He's got 10 more touchdowns than Florida State's Jameis Winston, who is second, and will be facing a Trojans team on its third head coach of the season – offensive coordinator Clay Helton.
Russell Athletic Bowl
Teams: Miami (9-3) vs. No. 18 Louisville (11-1)
When you should watch: Saturday, Dec. 28, 6:45 p.m. (ESPN)
Why you should watch: The Russell Athletic Bowl is one of the most underrated bowl games in college football. Four of the last six games were decided by less than a touchdown and last year's matchup between Virginia Tech and Rutgers was the only bowl game to go into overtime. Louisville's roster is full of players from Florida, including quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who is one of 15 from Miami.
Who you should watch: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville. Every time Louisville plays, no matter who it is against, all eyes are on Bridgewater. Most NFL mock drafts have Bridgewater being the first quarterback taken next April, and some have him as the No. 1 overall pick. Bridgewater rarely makes mistakes, has excellent arm strength, can avoid pressure and is laser accurate, sometimes all on one play. He threw 28 touchdowns with just four interceptions and is fifth nationally with a QB rating of 169.7.
Teams: No. 10 Oregon (10-2) vs. Texas (8-4)
When you should watch: Monday, Dec. 30, 6:45 p.m. (ESPN)
Why you should watch: Each of these teams was a breath away from a BCS berth and present an interesting challenge for each other. Both teams are offense-heavy and defensively challenged. Oregon has the edge in that department with the No. 2 total offense in the country, but the San Antonio crowd will be decidedly Texas-leaning after the Longhorns rebounded from a disastrous start.
Who you should watch: Case McCoy, QB, Texas. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota will likely be the star of the game, but in order for Texas to have a chance at capping its season with a win, McCoy and the Longhorns offense will have to match Oregon score-for-score. This could challenge the Cotton Bowl (see below) as the highest-scoring bowl game of the year.
AdvoCare V100 Bowl
Teams: Arizona (7-5) vs. Boston College (7-5)
When you should watch: Tuesday, Dec. 31, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Why you should watch: The former Independence Bowl will kick off a depleted New Year's Eve slate with two of the best running backs in the country. BC's Andre Williams and his nation-leading 2,102 rushing yards will face the Wildcats' Ka'Deem Carey and his No. 5 nationally 1,716 rushing yards. Neither team is good at defending the run with the Eagles ranked 50th nationally and the Wildcats 70th.
Who you should watch: Andre Williams, RB, Boston College. While Arizona runs well with Carey and B.J. Denker, who has 898 yards, Williams is single-handedly Boston College's offense. Everything the Eagles do works off of him. He's averaging 175 yards per game, and that includes a 29-yard, injury-shortened effort against Syracuse to close the season. However, the injury is not expected to limit him in the bowl game.
Teams: No. 13 Oklahoma State (10-2) vs. No. 8 Missouri (11-2)
When you should watch: Friday, Jan. 3, 7:30 p.m. (FOX)
Why you should watch: There will be 100 points scored. Jan. 3 will be one of the highest scoring days of the bowl season, and it only has two games. The Cotton Bowl gets a one-hour head start on the Orange Bowl and there could easily be 40-plus points already on the board by then. The teams combine to average more than 900 yards of offense and allow nearly 800 yards on defense. The Cotton Bowl is always a BCS-level matchup and for the second straight year, a recently departed Big XII team will defend its new conference's reputation against its former conference.
Who you should watch: Henry Josey, RB, Missouri. Despite its defensive failings, Oklahoma State is fairly decent against the run. The Cowboys allow 132 yards/game on the ground, but they have only played two teams in the top 50 in rushing yards – Oklahoma and Mississippi State. Josey and Tigers quarterback James Franklin will test the Cowboys' defense more than any other offense they've faced. Josey was injured when he was pushed into a golf cart on the sideline during the SEC championship game, but returned to the game and is expected to be fine for the postseason.
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