The top five college football bowls

Scott Kaufman-Ross

5. Arizona State vs. Rutgers
Insight Bowl – Phoenix, Arizona

Try to ignore my New Jersey bias here, but when the Rutgers Scarlet Knights are playing in a bowl game, it’s an absolute must-watch. This team has been one of the laughingstocks of college football for the past decade and a half, and this season, in a weak Big East conference, managed to pull off a 7-4 record. Rutgers had victories over big-name teams, too, knocking off both Pittsburgh and Syracuse en route to their first bowl bid since 1978. The Sun Devils had a somewhat disappointing 2005 campaign. A promising season turned into five losses, albeit one of them was a great effort against a tough LSU team. The Sun Devils boast a high-powered offense, led by star wide receiver Derek Hagan, who totaled 1,113 yards and 8 touchdowns this year. The game is in Phoenix, which is an advantage to the Sun Devils – they will be a big favorite, but don’t count out Greg Schiano’s mighty Rutgers squad.

4. Texas Tech vs. Alabama
SBC Cotton Bowl – Dallas, Texas

Alabama’s dream season came to an abrupt halt with two straight losses, but they still earned a trip to Dallas to play in the Cotton Bowl. Neither of these teams is particularly strong, but what makes this such an intriguing game is the match-up when Texas Tech is on offense. The Red Raiders finished the season with the fourth-ranked scoring offense in the nation and the top passing attack, led by QB Cody Hodges. The Crimson Tide counter with the second-ranked defense, allowing just 10.7 points per game, as well as the top-ranked scoring defense. Something has to give as these two impressive units collide, and should make for a very entertaining show. It will also be interesting when the Tide have the ball; an offense that can’t move the ball versus a defense who can’t stop anyone. Should be a fun one.

3. Miami vs. LSU
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl – Atlanta, Georgia

Two teams who probably should have won their respective conferences will have to settle for a great match-up on Dec. 30 in Atlanta. After beating Virginia Tech last month, Miami seemed destined for the Orange Bowl, but a home loss to Georgia Tech handed the Hokies back the ACC Coastal division and the Hurricanes settled for third in the ACC. LSU lands here after a disappointing loss in the SEC Championship Game to Georgia, forfeiting their ticket to the Sugar Bowl. Both teams have terrific defenses (Miami ranks third and LSU fifth) and have terrific young quarterbacks in Kyle Wright and JaMarcus Russell, respectively. A great match-up between two great teams should produce a very entertaining game, however disappointed the teams are to be there.

2. Ohio State vs. Notre Dame
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl – Tempe, Arizona

The Fighting Irish’s incredible run lands them in the BCS, and earns them a date with the Ohio State Buckeyes, fresh off their victory in the Big House a few weeks ago. Notre Dame enters amongst some controversy, with many claiming Oregon deserves to be in Tempe instead, but a near-upset of USC and national popularity got the Irish the bid. Irish QB Brady Quinn and receiver Jeff Samardzija, who have hooked up for 15 touchdown passes this season, along with running back Darius Walker lead a potent Irish offense against an Ohio State team that ranks fourth in total defense. The Buckeyes, whose only losses in the season came to No. 2 Texas and No. 3 Penn State, finished the season strong and have found new confidence in their QB Troy Smith. Notre Dame has yet to face a tough test since the Trojans came to town, so it should be interesting to see how head coach Charlie Weis handles Jim Tressel’s bunch.

1. USC vs. Texas
The Rose Bowl presented by Citi – Pasadena, California

In what might be the most anticipated National Championship game ever, the Rose Bowl pits the only two unbeatens against each other. USC and Texas have gone wire to wire as No. 1 and No. 2 all season long, as the BCS finally produces a non-controversial National Championship game. The Trojans have won two consecutive titles behind last year’s Heisman winner QB Matt Leinart, and are looking to make history with a third. This year’s Heisman favorite, USC RB Reggie Bush, makes the Trojans offense as dangerous as ever, as the Trojans seem to be able to score at will. The defense has struggled at times, but despite a few close calls, the Trojans put together another incredible year, and have won 34 straight games overall. The Longhorns come in with the nation’s top scoring offense, averaging over 50 points per game, including a 70-3 rout over Colorado in the Big XII Championship game last week. Mack Brown and his squad finally got the monkey off their back and beat Oklahoma, as well as everyone else on their schedule with their balanced offensive and defensive attack. QB Vince Young is a Heisman candidate and can beat a team with any combination of his strong arm, incredible speed and power running the football. The Longhorns also have an established ground game led by RB Selman Young, and many believe the Longhorns are the more complete team. Leinart and his Trojans are tough to outscore, but Vince Young’s explosiveness and a tough defense might just snap Pete Carroll’s streak. Make sure to watch this one on the eve of Jan. 4 – it could be one for the ages.

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