Let's go bowling: All 35 breakdowns
Mark Schlabach [ARCHIVE]
December 14, 2012
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The most wonderful time of the year is nearly here.

College football's bowl season kicks off with two games Saturday and culminates with the Jan. 7 Discover BCS National Championship in Miami.

Here's everything you need to know about this season's bowl lineup:

Gildan New Mexico Bowl

Nevada vs. Arizona, Dec. 15 (ESPN, 1 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: The first bowl game of the postseason might be a high-scoring shootout between two very explosive offenses and two very porous defenses.

Who to watch: Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey led Football Bowl Subdivision players in rushing with 146.4 yards per game; Nevada's Stefphon Jefferson was No. 2 with 141.9 yards per game. They combined to run for 3,460 yards with 42 touchdowns this season.

Motivating factor for Nevada: The Wolf Pack dropped four of their final five games and would like to head into the offseason with two victories over Pac-12 foes. (They beat California 31-24 in their Sept. 1 opener.)

Motivating factor for Arizona: The Wildcats can win eight games in coach Rich Rodriguez's first season and don't want to head into the offseason with a two-game losing streak after blowing a big fourth-quarter lead in a 41-34 loss to rival Arizona State on Nov. 23.

Pick: Arizona 55, Nevada 41

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Toledo vs. No. 22 Utah State, Dec. 15 (ESPN, 4:30 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: The bowl game features two of the country's most underrated teams. Toledo upset then-No. 21 Cincinnati and lost at Arizona in overtime. Utah State defeated Utah and then-No. 20 Louisiana Tech, and lost 16-14 at Wisconsin.

Who to watch: Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton, a sophomore from Houston, completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,144 yards with 27 touchdowns and nine interceptions, while running for 527 yards with seven scores. He ranks No. 14 nationally in pass efficiency with a 156.7 rating.

Motivating factor for Toledo: The Rockets can win bowl games in consecutive seasons for the first time since winning the Tangerine Bowl in 1970 and '71.

Motivating factor for Utah State: The Aggies can win the second bowl game in school history; they defeated Ball State 42-33 in the 1993 Las Vegas Bowl II.

Pick: Utah State 34, Toledo 31

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

BYU vs. San Diego State, Dec. 20 (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: San Diego State's strength is running the ball; BYU's strength is its run defense. The Aztecs, who won their last seven games after a 2-3 start, are No. 16 nationally in rushing with 229.1 yards per game. The Cougars allow only 84.2 rushing yards per game, second best in the country behind only Alabama.

Who to watch: San Diego State sophomore Adam Muema ran for 1,355 yards with 16 touchdowns, averaging 6.4 yards per carry, and might have to carry an even bigger load after top backup Walter Kazee (822 yards with eight touchdowns) tore an ACL in the regular-season finale at Wyoming.

Motivating factor for San Diego State: The Aztecs are playing at home and can win the Poinsettia Bowl for the second time in three seasons after a 41-year drought in the postseason.

Motivating factor for BYU: The Cougars get one more chance to prove they're better than their record indicates. All but one of BYU's five defeats were decided by six points or fewer, including a 17-14 loss at No. 1 Notre Dame.

Pick: BYU 21, San Diego State 17

Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl St. Petersburg

Central Florida vs. Ball State, Dec. 21 (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: These teams are better than you might think. The Knights' only losses came against Ohio State, Missouri and Tulsa (twice); the Cardinals' only defeats were against Clemson, Kent State and Northern Illinois.

Who to watch: Ball State tailback Jahwan Edwards, a sophomore from Matthews, N.C., ran for 1,321 yards with 14 touchdowns in 12 games. He had 100 rushing yards or more in five of his last six games (and ran for 98 yards in the regular-season finale against Miami-Ohio).

Motivating factor for Central Florida: It might be the Knights' last bowl game for a while. The NCAA banned UCF from playing in the postseason for one year because of rules violations, but the school appealed and is awaiting a January hearing with the NCAA. If it loses the appeal, UCF will have to sit out the 2013 postseason in its first season in the Big East.

Motivating factor for Ball State: It's another opportunity for the Cardinals to notch a big out-of-conference victory. Ball State beat two foes from BCS automatic-qualifier leagues (Indiana and South Florida) in the same season for the first time in school history.

Pick: Ball State 31, Central Florida 30

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

East Carolina vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, Dec. 22 (ESPN, noon ET)

Why to watch: The Ragin' Cajuns took No. 3 Florida to the wire Nov. 10, losing 27-20 after the Gators returned a blocked punt for a touchdown with two seconds to play. Louisiana-Lafayette recovered to win its last three games and finished 8-4.

Who to watch: Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Terrance Broadway, a Houston transfer, completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 2,526 yards with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions. A native of Baton Rouge, La., Broadway also ran for 661 yards with eight scores. He'll face an ECU defense that ranked 105th in pass defense, allowing 271.6 yards per game.

Motivating factor for East Carolina: The Pirates have dropped their past three bowl games and haven't won in the postseason since a 41-38 victory over Boise State in the 2007 Hawai'i Bowl. They haven't defeated an FBS team with a winning record this season, either.

Motivating factor for Louisiana-Lafayette: The Ragin' Cajuns had never played in a bowl game until beating San Diego State 32-30 in the 2011 New Orleans Bowl. Why not make it 2-0 in the postseason?

Pick: Louisiana-Lafayette 41, East Carolina 38

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas

Washington vs. No. 19 Boise State, Dec. 22 (ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: It's a sneak peek of the 2013 season opener between the teams, which should be better next season than they were in 2012. The Broncos and Huskies have played only once before, with Washington winning 24-10 in 2007 in Seattle.

Who to watch: Washington quarterback Keith Price, a junior from Compton, Calif., might test Boise State's secondary. He completed 61.8 percent of his passes for 2,486 yards with 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The Broncos are tied for fourth nationally in pass defense and held four opponents to fewer than 100 passing yards.

Motivating factor for Washington: It's another chance for the Huskies to knock off a ranked opponent this season and a potential springboard into 2013, when they need to play...
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