Let the Bowl Season Begin

Special to Rattleandhumsports.com

ORLANDO, Fla. — Georgia and Nebraska are hoping a New Year’s trip for Florida will be the perfect place to get over their conference championship game disappointments.

Both teams accepted bids to the Jan. 1 Capital One Bowl on Sunday, just a day after falling in their respective conference championship games.

The Bulldogs (11-2) came up just a few yards short of winning the SEC crown and trip the BCS national championship game Saturday night, losing to defending BCS champion Alabama, 32-28.

Capital One

For the Cornhuskers (10-3), their 70-31 loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game might not have had the nail nibbling heartbreak Georgia endured, but was just as painful.

The New Year’s Day meeting at the Florida Citrus Bowl will mark only the second time Georgia and Nebraska have met. Nebraska defeated the Bulldogs, 45-6, in the 1969 Sun Bowl.

Nebraska is appearing in the Capital One Bowl for the second straight season. The Cornhuskers fell 30-13 to South Carolina in last season’s matchup. It is their 49th bowl appearance overall.

It will also be farewell to former longtime coach and current Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne, who will retire from that position on Jan. 1 as well.

Georgia won the SEC East division title for the second consecutive year. It is making its sixth appearance in the Cap One, having last beaten Michigan State in 2009. This will be the Bulldogs’ 48th bowl game.

This second matchup between Nebraska and Georgia should be closer than the first.

Georgia thrived this season offensively behind Tampa, Fla. native and junior quarterback Aaron Murray. He leads the nation in yards per passing attempt (7.8), while throwing for 31 touchdowns.

Defensively the Bulldogs had the SEC’s second-ranked pass defense, allowing just 120 yards per game. Linebacker Jarvis Jones has been a big part of that, with 12.5 sacks on the year.

The Cornhuskers also have a capable signal caller in junior Taylor Martinez. He is Nebraska’s all-time career leader in total offense with more than 9,000 yards.

Martinez has also gotten a lot of support from running backs Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah, a tandem that lead the most productive rushing attack in their conference, averaging 254 yards per game.

AT&T Cotton Bowl 

After missing out on the BCS, Big 12 co-champion Oklahoma will instead take on Johnny Football and former conference rival Texas A&M in the AT&T Cotton Bowl.

The Sooners (10-2) had their chances of an at-large BCS bid extinguished Sunday when MAC champion Northern Illinois moved up far enough to claim an automatic bid. Instead, they’ll take on Heisman Trophy contender Johnny Manziel and the Aggies, who had been divisional rivals and yearly opponents for the past 16 seasons before A&M left for the SEC.

It’ll be the first chance for Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops to coach against Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin, who was an assistant with the Sooners for five years.

The game will be played at Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Jan. 4.

Chick-fil-A Bowl 

LSU will face Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta on Dec. 31.

Officials announced their selection of LSU (10-2) on Sunday night after a day of frenzied speculation about how the SEC bowl hierarchy would shake out. Clemson (10-2) was a lock to be the ACC representative after Florida State won the league championship.

LSU has won its five previous appearances in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, most recently a 38-3 rout over Georgia Tech in 2008. Coach Les Miles’ team will be trying to lock up the seventh 11-win season in school history.

Clemson is set to play in the Atlanta game for the eighth time, having lost to LSU 10-7 in 1996 when it was known as the Peach Bowl.

Outback Bowl

Michigan (8-4) has been invited to represent the Big Ten in the Outback Bowl against South Carolina (10-2) of the SEC on Jan. 1.

It’s the second trip in five seasons to the New Year’s Day game for South Carolina, which lost 31-10 to Iowa in Tampa in January 2009.

Michigan hasn’t played in the Outback in 10 years. The Wolverines beat Florida 38-30 to conclude the 2002 season and faced Alabama in two previous trips to Tampa.

Hyundai Sun Bowl

Georgia Tech is heading back to the Hyundai Sun Bowl for the second straight year and will face underachieving USC on Dec. 31 in El Paso, Texas.

The Yellow Jackets, who got a waiver from the NCAA to play in the postseason despite having a 6-7 record following a loss in the ACC championship game, will play in a bowl game for the 16th straight season. That’s the fourth-longest streak in the nation.

USC (7-5), which was ranked No. 1 to start the season, hasn’t faced Georgia Tech since 1973. The Trojans have won two of the three previous meetings.

“After not being in a bowl the past two years, we look forward to playing in a bowl with the tradition of the Sun Bowl,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said in a statement. “Georgia Tech is a very well-coached team and will present a challenge on both sides of the ball, especially with their great ability to run the ball.”

Valero Alamo Bowl 

Texas will make a short postseason trip this year to face Oregon State in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

The Longhorns (8-4) will need only to zip down Interstate 35 to San Antonio for the Dec. 29 game. It will be Texas’ first appearance in the bowl since 2006.

Oregon State coach Mike Riley says it will also be a bit of a homecoming for Beavers running  Storm Woods, who is from nearby Pflugerville.

The Beavers (9-3) will be playing in a bowl game for the first time in three years.

TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl 

Northwestern and Mississippi State will play in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. on New Year’s Day.

The Wildcats (9-3) and Bulldogs (8-4) accepted invitations Sunday, giving the bowl a less-than-marquee matchup. The Gator Bowl pitted Florida and Ohio State last season, an intriguing matchup that featured Urban Meyer’s former team against his future team.

This time, the bowl wasn’t nearly as fortunate.

Sure, Northwestern is playing on New Year’s Day for the third time in four years. But the Wildcats aren’t known for filling stadiums. And Mississippi State is back in Jacksonville for the second time in three years. In 2010, coach Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs were one of the surprises of the Southeastern Conference. This time, though, MSU comes in having lost four its last five games.

 Heart of Dallas Bowl 

Oklahoma State and Purdue will finally play again — 15 years later in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

The Cowboys, one of five Big 12 teams with a 7-5 record, and Purdue (6-6), from the Big Ten, were chosen Sunday as the participants for the New Year’s Day game played at the historic Cotton Bowl Stadium.

It is a rematch of the 1997 Alamo Bowl won 33-20 by the Boilermakers — their first bowl appearance in 15 years — at the end of then-coach Joe Tiller’s first season.

Tiller’s successor, Danny Hope, was fired after four seasons with a 22-27 record. That decision came a day after the Boilermakers ended the regular season with a 56-35 win over Indiana for their third consecutive win since losing five in a row.

Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl

The UCLA Bruins and Baylor Bears will play each other for the first time when they meet in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27 at Qualcomm Stadium.

The Bruins (9-4) won the Pac-12 South and are coming off a 27-24 loss to No. 8 Stanford in the conference championship game. Baylor (7-5) closed the regular season with three straight victories, including a 52-24 upset of Kansas State on Nov. 17. At the time, K-State was ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings.

On Saturday, the Bears beat Oklahoma State 41-34, knocking the Cowboys out of the Top 25.

“To a man they were all excited about getting to play one more time and getting to play in the Holiday Bowl,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said. “I just think they like to play. They like to play together and they like to compete. That’s the sense that I got.”

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl 

Michigan State and TCU will meet in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

Two of the nation’s best defensive teams, the Spartans and Horned Frogs will play at Sun Devil Stadium on Dec. 29.

TCU (7-5) had an up-and-down first season in the Big 12 — winning its first four games, then losing three of four before clinching its eighth straight bowl appearance with a double-overtime victory over West Virginia on Nov. 3.

Michigan State (6-6) also got off to a solid start before losing five games in the Big Ten by a combined 13 points. The Spartans are making their eighth bowl appearance since 2001.

BBVA Compass Bowl

Pittsburgh is making its third straight trip to the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala.

The Panthers will face Mississippi on Jan. 5 in a matchup of 6-6 Big East and Southeastern Conference teams. Both are led by first-year coaches.

Pitt became bowl eligible for the fifth consecutive season with Saturday’s 27-3 rout of South Florida, rebounding after losing its first two games to Youngstown State and Cincinnati.

Paul Chryst’s Panthers also took No. 1 Notre Dame to triple overtime before losing.

Mississippi won its sixth game with a 41-24 upset of Mississippi State for their first Egg Bowl win in four years. Rebels coach Hugh Freeze led a resurgence of a team with one Southeastern Conference win over the previous two seasons.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl 

Vanderbilt will only have to travel a few miles from campus for its bowl game.

The Commodores (8-4) will face North Carolina State (7-5) in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl on Dec. 31 at LP Field.

This game matches a coach who just signed a contract extension against an interim coach. Vanderbilt coach James Franklin agreed to a new contract Sunday after reaching a bowl game for a second straight season, the first time the Commodores ever have gone bowling in back-to-back years. North Carolina State offensive coordinator Dana Bible will serve as the Wolfpack’s interim head coach in place of Tom O’Brien, who was fired last weekend.

Vanderbilt is making its second Music City Bowl appearance in the last four years. The Commodores beat Boston College 16-14 in 2008.

Russell Athletic Bowl 

Rutgers and Virginia Tech will square off in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 28 in Orlando, Fla.

The Scarlet Knights (9-3), representing the Big East, are making their first appearance in an Orlando bowl. The co-Big East champions have a five-game bowl win streak, tied for the nation’s longest.

Rutgers is looking for its first double-digit win season since 2006. Next season will be its last in the Big East, after announcing plans to join the Big Ten in 2014.

The Hokies (6-6), from the Atlantic Coast Conference, lost twice to Big East teams this season. They fell 35-17 to Pittsburgh and 27-24 to Cincinnati.

Virginia Tech and Rutgers were Big East foes before the Hokies left for the ACC in 2004. Virginia Tech holds an 11-3 all-time edge against Rutgers.

Meineke Car Care Bowl 

Minnesota will face Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston on Dec. 28.

It’s the first bowl appearance since 2009 for the Gophers (6-6), who reached the postseason despite winning just two Big Ten games.

Texas Tech (7-5) returns to the postseason after a one-year absence. The Red Raiders dropped their final regular-season game to Baylor in overtime, 52-45, but they beat West Virginia and TCU and doubled their Big 12 win total from last season.

Minnesota and Texas Tech played each other in the 2006 Insight Bowl. The Gophers suffered an epic meltdown, blowing a 31-point lead and losing 44-41.

Belk Bowl 

The Duke Blue Devils will make their first bowl appearance since 1994, taking on  the Cincinnati Bearcats in the 11th annual Belk Bowl on Dec. 27 in Charlotte.

Duke finished the season with a 6-6 overall record, including a 3-5 in the ACC.

The Blue Devils won six of their first eight games. They beat rival North Carolina 33-30 to become bowl eligible, but lost their final four contests. Coach David Cutcliffe was named the 2012 ACC Coach of the Year and nine Blue Devils earned All-ACC recognition.

Cincinnati (9-3 overall, 5-2 in the Big East) won their first five games and then four of their last five contests to earn a share of the Big East title.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl (Blog)

Syracuse is headed back to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl for the second time in three years and will face former Big East foe West Virginia on Dec. 29 in Yankee Stadium.

Syracuse (7-5) won five of its last six games to capture a share of the Big East championship with a 5-2 league mark. The Mountaineers (7-5, 4-5 Big 12) completed their regular season with a 59-10 win over Kansas.

This is the 11th straight bowl trip for West Virginia, which started the season with five straight wins and was ranked as high as fifth before five straight losses.

It will be Syracuse’s 24th bowl appearance overall. The Orange is 13-9-1 all-time and 4-2 against the Big 12 in the postseason.

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas 

The MAACO Bowl Las Vegas will have a Northwest flavor with a matchup featuring Boise State and Washington.

The Broncos and Huskies accepted invitations to the Dec. 22 bowl Sunday, setting up just the second-ever matchup between the two schools from neighboring states.

The Broncos (10-2) have played in the Las Vegas Bowl each of the last two years, beating Arizona State last year and Utah the year before. Washington (7-5) is making its third straight bowl appearance.

The Broncos earned the invitation after knocking off Nevada on Saturday to earn a share of the Mountain West Conference title with Fresno State and San Diego State.

The Huskies beat Boise State 24-10 in their first meeting in Seattle in 2009, snapping the Broncos’ 14-game winning streak.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl 

Two teams that ended their regular-season schedules in disappointing fashion will meet at University Stadium on Dec. 15, when Nevada faces Arizona in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.

Nevada (7-5, 4-4 Mountain West) got off to a 6-1 start to become eligible for a bowl. But an overtime loss to San Diego State sent the Wolf Pack into a 1-4 tailspin to close the season.

Arizona (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12) looked bound for a winning conference record in its first year with Rich Rodriguez at the helm, but the Wildcats lost 41-34 at home to rival Arizona State in their season finale.

Both teams feature powerful rushing offenses that rank in the top 15 nationally in yards per game. Both programs also are among the best in the FBS in points scored — and among the worst in points allowed.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl 

Conference USA champion Tulsa will get another shot at Iowa State when the teams meet in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

The Cyclones accepted the bid to the Dec. 31 game on Sunday. Tulsa (10-3) earned its Liberty Bowl bid Saturday by defeating UCF 33-27 in overtime.

Iowa State (6-6) won four of its first five games this season, but the Cyclones have gone 2-5 since. The Cyclones will be playing in the Liberty Bowl for the first time since 1972, when they lost 31-30 to Georgia Tech.

When the teams met back on Sept. 1, Iowa State beat Tulsa 38-23 in Ames. The Cyclones’ Steele Jantz threw two touchdown passes and Shontrelle Johnson rushed for 120 yards.

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl 

Louisiana-Monroe, playing in its first bowl game, will meet Ohio in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl.

The Independence Bowl selected Ohio (8-4, 4-4 Mid-American Conference) after being told Louisiana Tech was not yet ready to accept an invitation the Dec. 28 contest that could have been a matchup of two north Louisiana schools.

The Warhawks (8-4, 6-2 Sun Belt Conference) announced Saturday that they had accepted an invitation to play in Shreveport, which is a drive of less than two hours from Monroe.

The Bobcats, whose selection was announced Sunday night, opened the 2012 season 7-0 and were ranked as high as No. 25 in the AP poll, but lost four of their last five games. Ohio will be playing in its fourth straight bowl and second in Louisiana since 2010.

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl 

Rice is carrying a four-game winning streak into the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, where the Owls will play Air Force, Dec. 29 in Fort Worth, Texas.

The game will be played in the completely redone stadium on the TCU campus. For its 10th game, the bowl is returning to its original location after two years at SMU.

Air Force (6-6) will play in its fourth Armed Forces Bowl, the most for any team. The Falcons, with a school-record sixth consecutive bowl season, played in three Armed Forces Bowls in a row from 2007-09, losing to California and splitting a pair of games against Houston.

The Owls (6-6) won five of their past six games to get bowl eligible. Rice is in its third bowl game since a postseason drought from 1961 to 2006.

Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman 

Bowling Green has accepted an invitation to play San Jose State in the Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman.

Officials announced Sunday that the Falcons from the Mid-American Conference will face the Spartans in the game at RFK Stadium in the nation’s capital on Dec. 27.

Bowling Green went 8-4 in the regular season and is one of a MAC-record seven teams from the conference who are bowl-bound.

San Jose State of the Western Athletic Conference accepted its bid Friday. The Spartans are 10-2 and entered the AP Top 25 Sunday at No. 24.

This year’s Military Bowl was set to feature Army against a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference, but Army isn’t bowl eligible and the ACC doesn’t have enough eligible teams to fulfill its bowl tie-ins.

S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (Blog)

After earning a share of the Mountain West Conference title for the first time since 1998,San Diego State will face BYU in the S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 20 at Qualcomm Stadium.

The Aztecs (9-3, 7-1) finished the regular season on a seven-game winning streak to share the conference title with No. 20 Boise State and Fresno State. San Diego State is just two years removed from its last Poinsettia Bowl appearance, a 45-17 victory over Navy in 2010.

The Cougars (7-5), an independent program, lost three regular-season games to ranked teams, including a 17-14 defeat to national championship participant Notre Dame. Four of the Cougars’ five losses were by six points or fewer.

The Poinsettia Bowl pits SDSU’s powerful rushing offense, averaging 229 yards per game, against a BYU defense allowing just 14.7 points per game.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl 

Utah State and Toledo have accepted invitations to play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Utah State (10-2) is making its second straight appearance in a game played at the home of Boise State University and its funky blue turf. The Aggies lost a last-second thriller 24-23 last year against Ohio. They get a shot at redemption on Dec. 15 against the Rockets, another MAC team.

Toledo (9-3) is making a return to the postseason after missing out last year. The Rockets beat Air Force in the 2011 Military Bowl.

Utah State won the WAC title this season and set a school record for wins in a season.

Toledo won eight straight at one point this year, including a victory over Cincinnati.

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl

Fresno State says it has accepted an invitation to play SMU in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu on Christmas Eve.

Bowl and Fresno State athletics officials confirmed Sunday that The Bulldogs (9-3) will play in the Dec. 24 game against the Mustangs (6-6).

Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter says his team is in for a good week and a challenge in competing against SMU. Fresno State finished in a three-way tie for first place in the Mountain West.

SMU accepted its invitation last week. SMU athletics director Rick Hart said the game is a tremendous reward for the school’s players. SMU finished second in Conference USA’s West Division.

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl

UCF’s loss in the Conference USA championship game has the Knights staying close to home for the holidays against Ball State in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl.

UCF (9-4) will make the 100-mile trip west from Orlando to St. Petersburg to face the Cardinals, who will carry a six-game winning streak in the Dec. 21 matchup at Tropicana Field.

Ball State (9-3) received its first postseason berth since appearing in the 2008 GMAC Bowl, filling a slot for the Big East, which didn’t have enough bowl-eligible teams to fill the league’s commitments.

UCF lost the Conference USA championship game 33-27 to Tulsa in overtime. Ball State went 6-2 in the MAC.

GoDaddy.com Bowl

Kent State will meet Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl in the first bowl appearance in 40 years for the Golden Flashes.

The game is played on Jan. 6, the eve of the BCS national championship game.

It’s the second straight appearance in Mobile for Arkansas State, which lost 38-20 to Northern Illinois last season.

Kent State has won a program-record 11 games. The Golden Flashes are 0-2 all time in bowl games, including trips to the Refrigerator Bowl in 1954 and the Tangerine Bowl in 1972.

The Golden Flashes lost to Orange Bowl-bound Northern Illinois in double-overtime in the MAC championship game.

The Red Wolves won the Sun Belt Conference title and are 9-3 under first-year head coach Gus Malzahn.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl 

East Carolina has accepted an invitation to meet Louisiana-Lafayette in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Dec. 22 in the Superdome at 11 a.m.

The invitation went out to the Pirates (8-4, 7-1 Conference USA) after Tulsa’s overtime victory over Central Florida in the Conference USA title game Saturday. East Carolina has won five of its last six games, but lost out in tiebreaker with Central Florida for Conference USA’s East Division crown.

The Ragin’ Cajuns (7-4, 5-2 Sun Belt Conference) are the defending New Orleans Bowl winners and were looking to clinch a second-straight eight-win season in their regular-season finale Saturday night at Florida Atlantic.

Louisiana-Lafayette accepted its bowl invitation after beating South Alabama last week.

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl 

Western Kentucky is heading to its first bowl since joining college football’s top-tier in 2009.

The Hilltoppers will play in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit on Dec. 26 against Central Michigan. Western Kentucky (7-5) was also bowl eligible last year but didn’t get to play in one.

The Sun Belt Conference team received an invite from the Pizza Bowl, which has ties with the Big Ten and Mid-American conferences. With Ohio State and Penn State ineligible, postseason options from the Big Ten were limited this year.

This is Western Kentucky’s fourth season in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Central Michigan (6-6) played in this bowl three straight years from 2006-08.

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl 

Navy will take on Arizona State in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 29 in San Francisco.

Navy (7-4) has won six of its past seven games following a 1-3 start. And, as usual, it has been led by the run game. The Midshipmen rush for 285.5 yards per game, good for sixth nationally.

The Sun Devils (7-5) are strong on both sides of the ball. The offense has good pass-run balance, and the defense is led by defensive tackle Will Sutton, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.