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One-stop guide to all 41 bowl games

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How to beat Clemson and Alabama (0:44)

Alabama has had some difficulty converting on third down. Clemson's Kelly Bryant has been inconsistent throwing downfield. Which contender can take advantage in the College Football Playoff? (0:44)

It's the most wonderful time of the year, and it's not because "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" is being shown every night.

The 2017 college football bowl season kicks off with a half-dozen games Saturday. From the Celebration Bowl to the College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T, here are the reasons to watch and predictions for all 41 bowl games:

Dec. 16

Celebration Bowl: North Carolina A&T vs. Grambling

(Noon ET on ABC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta)

Why to watch: It's the first bowl game of the year and will decide the HBCU national championship. Both Grambling and North Carolina A&T are riding 11-game winning streaks, and the Aggies will try to become the first MEAC team to finish unbeaten. The Tigers' only loss was a 43-14 defeat at FBS Tulane in the opener.

Who to watch: North Carolina A&T quarterback Lamar Raynard was named MEAC Offensive Player of the Year after breaking single-season school records in passing yards (2,707), completions (186), touchdown passes (26), touchdowns responsible for (29) and total offense (2,875).

Motivating factor for Grambling: The Tigers are seeking their second straight Celebration Bowl victory and HBCU national championship.

Motivating factor for North Carolina A&T: The Aggies are seeking their second HBCU national championship since 2015 and second under coach Roy Broadway, who is the only coach to win black college football national titles at three different schools (North Carolina Central and Grambling).

Prediction: North Carolina A&T 34, Grambling 27

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Troy vs. North Texas

(1 p.m. ET on ESPN at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans)

Why to watch: It's an intriguing matchup of two of the up-and-coming coaches in the FBS. Troy's Neal Brown, 37, has a 24-13 record in three seasons; North Texas' Seth Littrell, 39, is 14-12 in two seasons. The Trojans went 10-2, won a Sun Belt title and upset LSU 24-21 on the road on Sept. 30.

Who to watch: The Mean Green were the only FBS program that offered quarterback Mason Fine a scholarship. Their decision paid off as the sophomore was named All-Conference USA after throwing for a school-record 28 touchdowns with 3,749 yards.

Motivating factor for Troy: The Trojans can finish the season with a seven-game winning streak and win their third straight bowl game. Jordan Chunn is two touchdowns shy (47) of breaking the Sun Belt record for career rushing touchdowns.

Motivating factor for North Texas: The Mean Green will try to improve two dubious marks in New Orleans. They're 2-8 in their previous 10 meetings against Troy and they're 1-3 in the New Orleans Bowl. Their only win was a 24-19 victory over Cincinnati in 2002.

Prediction: Troy 24, North Texas 17

AutoNation Cure Bowl: Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State

(2:30 p.m. ET on CBSSN at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida)

Why to watch: Two first-year coaches -- Western Kentucky's Mike Sanford and Georgia State's Shawn Elliott -- need a victory for a winning record.

Who to watch: Hilltoppers quarterback Mike White accounted for nearly 80 percent of his team's total offense with his arm. He passed for 3,826 yards with 24 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. With 174 passing yards, he'll become the second quarterback in WKU history to pass for 4,000 yards in two seasons (Brandon Doughty, 2014-15).

Motivating factor for WKU: The Hilltoppers would probably like to end the season on a winning note after dropping four of their last five games. They're going for their fourth straight bowl victory -- only Marshall (five), Utah (four) and San Jose State (four) have longer active streaks in FBS.

Motivating factor for Georgia State: Receiver Penny Hart has already set Georgia State's single-season record for receptions, and with a touchdown catch and 84 yards receiving, he'll have those records as well.

Prediction: Western Kentucky 27, Georgia State 17

Las Vegas Bowl: Oregon vs. No. 25 Boise State

(3:30 p.m. ET on ABC at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas)

Why to watch: These teams really don't like each other very much, even though they haven't played that often. The Broncos beat the Ducks in back-to-back seasons in 2008 and 2009, and the second meeting turned ugly when Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount punched a Boise State player in a postgame incident.

Who to watch: Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, a former walk-on, who played eight-man football in high school, was named Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year with 113 tackles, 5½ tackles for loss and 3 sacks.

Motivating factor for Boise State: The Broncos can move to 4-0 against Pac-12 foes in the Las Vegas Bowl after beating Utah, Arizona State and Washington in three straight seasons from 2010 to 2012.

Motivating factor for Oregon: The Ducks would probably like nothing more than to kick off the Mario Cristobal era with a postseason win. The co-offensive coordinator was promoted to head coach when Willie Taggart left for FSU after only one season.

Prediction: Oregon 42, Boise State 31

GILDAN New Mexico Bowl: Marshall vs. Colorado State

(4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at Branch Field at Dreamstyle Stadium in Albuquerque, New Mexico)

Why to watch: Well, your other football viewing opportunity in this time slot involves the Chicago Bears. Plus, you can see Rams receiver Michael Gallup, who is one of the most underrated players in the country. The senior from Monroe, Georgia, has 94 catches for 1,345 yards with 7 touchdowns and was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award.

Who to watch: Wyoming's Josh Allen was supposed to be the best quarterback in the MWC this season, but Colorado State's Nick Stevens outperformed him, at least statistically. Stevens was named All-MWC after throwing for 3,479 yards with 27 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Motivating factor for Marshall: The Thundering Herd would like to head into the postseason on a positive note after dropping four of their past five games. They also have the longest active bowl winning streak (five games) to preserve.

Motivating factor for Colorado State: The Rams can move to 3-0 in the New Mexico Bowl, having defeated Fresno State 40-35 in 2008 and Washington State 48-45 in 2013.

Prediction: Colorado State 42, Marshall 35

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State

(8 p.m. ET on ESPN at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama)

Why to watch: Sure, it might not be the sexiest matchup, but you'll have to wait two more days to watch another bowl game, so you might as well watch. And Middle Tennessee did something No. 1 Clemson couldn't do -- it won at Syracuse.

Who to watch: Arkansas State likes to throw the ball a lot, and quarterback Justice Hansen has put up some gaudy stats as a result. He completed 63.7 percent of his passes for 3,630 yards with 34 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He attempted 68 passes in the opener at Nebraska and 50 in the regular-season finale against Troy

Motivating factor for Middle Tennessee: The Blue Raiders might actually have a crowd on hand after playing in the Bahamas in 2015 and Hawaii last season. Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill purchased $10,000 worth of tickets to entice fans to travel to Montgomery, Alabama, for the game. The Blue Raiders will try to end a four-game losing streak in bowl games.

Motivating factor for Arkansas State: The Red Wolves don't want their lasting image from the 2017 season to be their last-second loss to Troy in a de facto Sun Belt championship game. Also, defensive end Ja'Von Rolland-Jones is a sack away (43.5) from surpassing former Arizona State star Terrell Suggs' career total for sacks, which is the highest mark in FBS since sacks started being recorded in 2000.

Prediction: Arkansas State 24, Middle Tennessee 17

Dec. 19

Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl: Florida Atlantic vs. Akron

(7 p.m. ET on ESPN at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida)

Why to watch: Barring a huge upset, the game figures to be one of the most lopsided results of the postseason. But FAU coach Lane Kiffin gets a chance to showcase his record-setting offense on a national stage, and we never know what he might say during sideline interviews.

Who to watch: FAU sophomore Devin Singletary ranks fourth in the FBS in rushing with 1,796 yards and leads all FBS players with 29 rushing touchdowns. He might run wild against an Akron defense that's surrendering 197.2 rushing yards per game.

Motivating factor for Akron: The Zips will probably be glad to escape the frigid Midwest for sunny South Florida, but they don't figure to have much of a chance in the game. They won the MAC East but were routed 45-28 by Toledo in the MAC championship game, and they rank 117th in total offense.

Motivating factor for FAU: The Owls would probably have preferred to be playing somewhere else than their home stadium, but they'll have a great chance to put the icing on a remarkable turnaround in Kiffin's first season. After winning nine games in the three previous seasons combined, the Owls can finish 11-3 with a win over the Zips.

Prediction: FAU 49, Akron 20

Dec. 20

DXL Frisco Bowl: SMU vs. Louisiana Tech

(8 p.m. ET on ESPN at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas)

Why to watch: If nothing else, it will at least be interesting with former California coach Sonny Dykes coaching the Mustangs just over a week after he was hired to replace Chad Morris, who left for Arkansas.

Who to watch: SMU's Courtland Sutton and Trey Quinn are the only pair of FBS teammates who each have at least 1,000 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. They have combined to catch 168 passes for more than 2,200 yards with 24 touchdowns. Louisiana Tech allowed only 16 touchdown passes the entire season.

Motivating factor for SMU: It's a new era at SMU, with Dykes taking over for Morris. Dykes didn't even work as an on-field assistant this season; he was an offensive analyst at TCU.

Motivating factor for Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs rallied to win their last two games against UTEP and UTSA to become bowl eligible. With a victory over the Bulldogs, they'll avoid their first losing record since coach Skip Holtz's first season in 2013.

Prediction: Louisiana Tech 38, SMU 35

Dec. 21

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl: Temple vs. Florida International

(8 p.m. ET on ESPN at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida)

Why to watch: If the game is as good as its name, which honors the mythical Spanish pirate Jose Gaspar, it should be a fun matchup of first-year coaches between Temple's Geoff Collins and FIU's Butch Davis.

Who to watch: Junior safety Delvon Randall is one of the leaders of Temple's defense, finishing with 76 tackles, 4 interceptions and 6½ tackles for loss.

Motivating factor for Temple: The Owls are seeking to finish with a winning record in Collins' first season, and they're trying to win for only the second time in the postseason since 1979. They've dropped their past two bowl games and haven't won since a 37-15 win over Wyoming in the 2011 New Mexico Bowl.

Motivating factor for FIU: The Panthers already have doubled their victory total from last season, improving from 4-8 to 8-4. A victory over the Owls would give FIU its most wins in a season since joining the FBS in 2004.

Prediction: Temple 21, FIU 20

Dec. 22

Bahamas Bowl: UAB vs. Ohio

(12:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium in Nassau, Bahamas)

Why to watch: We can continue to witness the rebirth of UAB football, which has been one of the most remarkable stories in the FBS this season. The university dropped its program in December 2014, but then reinstated it in June 2015 after a massive funding effort. After a two-year hiatus, the Blazers went 8-4 this season.

Who to watch: When UAB cornerback Darious Williams learned the program was coming back, he was driving a flower delivery truck in his native Florida. He finished the season with 49 tackles, 15 pass breakups, 5 interceptions and 4 tackles for loss. He was named All-Conference USA and honorable mention All-American.

Motivating factor for UAB: The Blazers have accomplished more this season than most people expected, but they can end it with a first-ever bowl victory. They lost their only previous bowl appearance, losing to Hawaii 59-40 in the 2004 Hawaii Bowl.

Motivating factor for Ohio: The Bobcats lost their last two regular-season games to Akron and Buffalo to spoil what could have been a special season. They're also trying to end a three-game losing streak in bowl games.

Prediction: UAB 31, Ohio 28

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Wyoming vs. Central Michigan

(4 p.m. ET on ESPN at Lyle Smith Field at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho)

Why to watch: Wyoming's Josh Allen, who might end up being among the first quarterbacks selected in the NFL draft, is hoping to play. NFL scouts love his size, athleticism and arm strength, and he might be one of the first players off the board.

Who to watch: Allen didn't have a lot of help this season, which is why his stats were down from a year ago. He completed 56.2 percent of his passes for 1,658 yards with 13 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. But MWC coaches said he improved this season, even though his stats might suggest otherwise.

Motivating factor for Wyoming: The Cowboys haven't won in the postseason since defeating Fresno State 35-28 in the 2009 New Mexico Bowl.

Motivating factor for CMU: The Chippewas are playing in the postseason for the fourth straight season, but they lost in each of their past three bowl games. They were drubbed 55-10 by Tulsa in the 2016 Miami Beach Bowl.

Prediction: Wyoming 27, Central Michigan 24

Dec. 23

Birmingham Bowl: Texas Tech vs. USF

(Noon ET on ESPN at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama)

Why to watch: It might end up being one of the more entertaining games of the postseason because of USF's dynamic quarterback, Quinton Flowers, and Texas Tech's fast-paced spread offense.

Who to watch: Flowers, a senior from Miami, is one of the most explosive players in the country. He threw for 2,600 yards with 21 touchdowns and 6 interceptions and also led the Bulls with 972 rushing yards with 10 more scores. He ran for more than 100 yards in four of the past five games.

Motivating factor for Texas Tech: A victory would give the Red Raiders their first winning record in three seasons. After finishing last in total defense last season, they are allowing 120.3 fewer yards per game this season, the fifth-largest improvement in FBS.

Motivating factor for USF: The Bulls are one victory away from finishing with double-digit victories in consecutive seasons, which would be a first in school history. USF went 11-2 under former coach Willie Taggart in 2016.

Prediction: USF 48, Texas Tech 42

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: San Diego State vs. Army

(3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas)

Why to watch: You might not even need a complete batch of eggnog to get through this bowl game, which features the No. 1 rushing team (Army) versus the No. 1 rusher (San Diego State's Rashaad Penny). There won't be too many passes thrown, that's for sure.

Who to watch: Penny was nearly a consensus All-American and finished the season with 2,027 yards rushing. He had 54 rushes of at least 10 yards, fourth-best in FBS, and had four straight games with at least 200 yards to end the regular season.

Motivating factor for SDSU: The Aztecs have felt underappreciated for much of the season, especially after they beat both Arizona State and Stanford in September. Consecutive home losses to Boise State and Fresno State knocked them out of contention for a New Year's Six bowl game.

Motivating factor for Army: After defeating North Texas 38-31 in overtime in the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl in 2016, the Black Knights can win consecutive bowl games for only the second time (1984-85).

Prediction: San Diego State 35, Army 28

Dollar General Bowl: Toledo vs. Appalachian State

(7 p.m. ET on ESPN at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama)

Why to watch: The Mountaineers and Rockets played in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl last season, with Appalachian State winning 31-28 after Michael Rubino kicked a 39-yard field goal with just over five minutes left.

Who to watch: Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside was named the MAC Offensive Player of the Year after completing 64.9 percent of his attempts for 3,758 yards with 28 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He'll finish his career as the Rockets' career leader in passing yards, touchdowns, attempts and 300-yard games.

Motivating factor for Toledo: Along with avenging last year's postseason loss, the Rockets can win 11 games in a season for the first time since 1971, when they finished 12-0 and were ranked No. 14 in the country.

Motivating factor for Appalachian State: The Mountaineers have reached the postseason in all three seasons in which they were eligible since joining FBS in 2013. They're perfect so far, beating Ohio in the 2015 Camellia Bowl and Toledo last year.

Prediction: Toledo 28, Appalachian State 24

Dec. 24

Hawai'i Bowl: Fresno State vs. Houston

(8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu)

Why to watch: What else are you going to watch while finishing up Christmas Eve? You can also see Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver, who might be the best player in college football.

Who to watch: Oliver became the first sophomore to win the Outland Trophy after finishing the season with 69 tackles, 14½ tackles for loss, 5½ sacks, 7 quarterback hurries and 2 forced fumbles. He fought through a knee injury for nearly a month and faced double- and triple-team blocking for much of the season.

Motivating factor for Fresno State: The Bulldogs improved from 1-11 to 9-4 in coach Jeff Tedford's first season. A victory over the Cougars would complete the second-best turnaround from one season to the next in FBS history.

Motivating factor for Houston: The Cougars are trying to get back the mojo they lost when former coach Tom Herman left for Texas. They went 7-4 in coach Major Applewhite's first season, beating Arizona and USF and losing to Tulane and Tulsa.

Prediction: Fresno State 23, Houston 13

Dec. 26

Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl: West Virginia vs. Utah

(1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at Cotton Bowl in Dallas)

Why to watch: West Virginia's Dana Holgorsen will become the latest coach to try to solve the Kyle Whittingham postseason riddle. The Utes are 10-1 in bowl games under Whittingham, which is the best win percentage in bowl games in NCAA history.

Who to watch: With star quarterback Will Grier expected to miss the bowl game with a broken middle finger on his throwing hand, the Mountaineers are expected to start sophomore Chris Chugunov under center for the second straight game. He has completed 54.8 percent of his passes for 407 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Motivating factor for West Virginia: The Mountaineers' season was derailed by Grier's injury; they went 0-2 after he was hurt against Texas. West Virginia has never beaten Utah; the Utes defeated the Mountaineers 32-6 in the 1964 Liberty Bowl in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Motivating factor for Utah: The Utes finished a disappointing 6-6, but they were competitive against most of the Pac-12's best teams. They lost to Washington by three points, USC by one, Stanford by three and Washington State by eight.

Prediction: Utah 28, West Virginia 20

Quick Lane Bowl: Duke vs. Northern Illinois

(5:15 p.m. ET on ESPN at Ford Field in Detroit)

Why to watch: Tennessee fans can tune in and try to figure out why Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe decided to stay at Duke, instead of returning to UT as the Volunteers' new coach.

Who to watch: Northern Illinois defensive end Sutton Smith was one of five finalists for the 2017 Ted Hendricks Award and was named MAC Defensive Player of the Year. He leads the FBS in sacks with 14 and tackles for loss with 28.5.

Motivating factor for Duke: With a victory over the Huskies, Duke can finish with a winning record for the fourth time in the past five seasons under Cutcliffe. The Blue Devils are 1-3 in their past four bowl games.

Motivating factor for Northern Illinois: After last season's 5-7 finish, the Huskies reached the postseason for the ninth time in the past 10 seasons. They'll try to end a four-game losing streak in bowl games; they haven't won since beating Arkansas State 38-20 in the 2011 GoDaddy.com Bowl.

Prediction: Duke 20, Northern Illinois 17

Cactus Bowl: Kansas State vs. UCLA

(9 p.m. ET on ESPN at Chase Field in Phoenix)

Why to watch: It's another opportunity to watch 78-year-old Wildcats coach Bill Snyder, who just keeps going and going and going. He's 209-110-1 in 26 seasons with the Wildcats.

Who to watch: Don't blame UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen for his team's struggles this season. Rosen threw for 3,717 yards with 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions as a junior, and he's expected to be one of the first two quarterbacks selected in next spring's NFL draft if he turns pro.

Motivating factor for Kansas State: Kansas State won four of its last five games to salvage a winning season, and they'd like to give Snyder another reason to come back again next season.

Motivating factor for UCLA: The Bruins will be playing their first game under interim coach Jedd Fisch, who was promoted after Jim Mora was fired in mid-November. The Bruins hired former Oregon coach Chip Kelly to replace Mora, and the returning players would probably like to make a good first impression.

Prediction: Kansas State 41, UCLA 35

Dec. 27

Walk-On's Independence Bowl: Southern Miss vs. Florida State

(1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, Louisiana)

Why to watch: It was a season to forget for the Seminoles, who had to win their last three games to keep their 36-year bowl streak intact, and then lost coach Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M. They'll try to improve to 2-0 under interim coach Odell Haggins.

Who to watch: Freshman tailback Cam Akers was one of the bright spots for the Seminoles, running for 930 yards with seven touchdowns in his first college season. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry and had four 100-yard games. The Clinton, Mississippi, native should be motivated to play well against a team from his home state.

Motivating factor for Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles used to play FSU quite frequently when both were independents, but they haven't defeated the Seminoles since Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre led them to a 30-26 upset in 1989.

Motivating factor for Florida State: The Seminoles haven't endured a losing season since going 5-6 in 1976, which was legendary coach Bobby Bowden's first season.

Prediction: FSU 31, Southern Miss 21

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa vs. Boston College

(5:15 p.m. ET on ESPN at Yankee Stadium in New York)

Why to watch: The game features a matchup of two of the sport's more underrated tailbacks -- Iowa's Akrum Wadley and Boston College's AJ Dillon. Wadley ran for 1,021 yards with nine touchdowns this season; he's only the fourth player in Iowa history to run for more than 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons.

Who to watch: Dillon ran for 1,432 yards with 13 touchdowns, which is the second-highest rushing total by an FBS freshman. He had 1,099 rushing yards in the last six games, which was the most by any player in the FBS.

Motivating factor for Iowa: The Hawkeyes have been no-shows in the postseason recently, losing five bowl games in a row, and the last three weren't even close. A victory would give Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz his 143rd win, which would tie legendary coach Hayden Fry for the most in program history.

Motivating factor for BC: The Eagles head into the postseason on a roll, having won five of their last six games. Their only defeat in that span was a 17-14 loss to NC State. They have a chance to finish 8-5, which would be their most wins in coach Steve Addazio's five seasons.

Prediction: Boston College 21, Iowa 17

Foster Farms Bowl: Arizona vs. Purdue

(8:30 p.m. ET on Fox at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California)

Why to watch: Purdue's Jeff Brohm might have had the greatest impact of any FBS first-year coach. The Boilermakers went 6-6, doubling their victory total from 2016. In fact, Purdue won only eight games the previous three seasons combined.

Who to watch: Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate was one of the best players in the country during a four-game stretch in October. Despite only being inserted as the starting quarterback in the Wildcats' fifth game, Tate led the Wildcats in passing (1,289 yards) and rushing (1,353) and had 21 touchdowns combined. He hit roadblocks in the last two games at Oregon and Arizona State and will have to play better for Arizona to win.

Motivating factor for Arizona: The Wildcats stumbled badly last season, finishing a disappointing 3-9 and putting coach Rich Rodriguez on the hot seat. A bowl victory might be a springboard for 2018, especially with Tate coming back.

Motivating factor for Purdue: The Boilermakers haven't appeared in the postseason since the end of the 2012 season, so they'll have plenty of reason to be fired up to play. They lost badly in their last appearance, falling 58-14 to Oklahoma State in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Prediction: Arizona 27, Purdue 24

Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl: Texas vs. Missouri

(9 p.m. ET on ESPN at NRG Stadium in Houston)

Why to watch: Missouri hasn't forgotten how much Texas used to kick it around in the Big 12. After the Longhorns finished 9-4 in 2012, then-UT athletics director DeLoss Dodds infamously said: "Our bad years are not that bad. Take a school like Missouri. Our bad years are better than their good years." With a victory over the Longhorns, the Tigers can ensure that UT's year is at least worse this season.

Who to watch: Missouri quarterback Drew Lock is one of the most prolific passers in the FBS; he threw for 3,695 yards with 43 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He threw 26 touchdowns in the Tigers' six-game winning streak to finish the regular season.

Motivating factor for Texas: Longhorns coach Tom Herman's first season in Austin didn't go quite as well as planned, but he can help the Longhorns end their bowl drought. UT hasn't won a bowl game since the end of the 2012 season.

Motivating factor for Missouri: The Tigers were one of the SEC's hottest teams at season's end; their 6-0 finish followed a 1-5 start. You can look to an emotional speech from coach Barry Odom as the springboard to the Tigers' turnaround. If Lock decides to return for his senior season, they might be a legitimate SEC East contender in 2018.

Prediction: Missouri 34, Texas 28

Dec. 28

Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman: Virginia vs. Navy

(1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland)

Why to watch: It's an opportunity to watch Navy play at home in Annapolis, which is one of the greatest scenes in college football. Virginia's campus isn't too far down the road, so it should be a good post-Christmas crowd.

Who to watch: Virginia linebacker Micah Kiser led the ACC with 134 tackles. He also won the William V. Campbell Trophy -- the academic Heisman -- and has a 3.42 GPA. He's finishing a master's degree in higher education this year.

Motivating factor for Virginia: The Cavaliers lost five of their last six games to spoil what was a pretty good second season under coach Bronco Mendenhall. Virginia hasn't played in the postseason since 2011 and hasn't won a bowl game since beating Minnesota 34-31 in the 2005 Music City Bowl.

Motivating factor for Navy: The Midshipmen have dropped six of their last seven games, including a 14-13 loss to Army in Philadelphia on Dec. 9. They certainly don't want to head into the offseason with that bitter taste in their mouths.

Prediction: Navy 24, Virginia 23

Camping World Bowl: No. 22 Virginia Tech vs. No. 19 Oklahoma State

(5:15 p.m. ET on ESPN at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida)

Why to watch: Longtime Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster will try to figure out how to stop Oklahoma State's high-flying passing attack, which leads the FBS with 392.3 yards per game.

Who to watch: Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph led FBS players with 4,553 passing yards to go with 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Motivating factor for Virginia Tech: Hokies coach Justin Fuente grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and he played his last high school football game at Oklahoma State's Lewis Field, which was renamed Boone Pickens Stadium. Tech can also extend its three-game winning streak in bowl games.

Motivating factor for Oklahoma State: With a victory over the Hokies, the Cowboys can win 10 games in a season for the third straight season, which would be a first in OSU history.

Prediction: Oklahoma State 34, Virginia Tech 24

Valero Alamo Bowl: No. 13 Stanford vs. No. 15 TCU

(9 p.m. ET on ESPN at Alamodome in San Antonio)

Why to watch: It might be our last chance to see Stanford running back Bryce Love, a Heisman Trophy finalist and Doak Walker Award winner, if he decides to turn pro. Despite a nagging ankle injury, Love led Power 5 players with 164.4 rushing yards per game, averaged 8.3 yards per carry and set an FBS record with 12 runs of at least 50 yards this season.

Who to watch: Stanford sophomore K.J. Costello started the final five games at quarterback, and the extra bowl practices might pay off in a big way for him. He completed 59.2 percent of his passes for 1,361 yards with 11 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.

Motivating factor for Stanford: It's a big stage for Love to show the rest of the country what he has been doing all season. He finished second in Heisman Trophy voting, marking the fifth time since 2009 that a Stanford player finished as the bridesmaid.

Motivating factor for TCU: The Horned Frogs are returning to the site of one of their greatest postseason moments. They trailed Oregon 31-0 at halftime of the 2016 Alamo Bowl, but then rallied to score 38 consecutive points. TCU won 47-41 in three overtimes, tying the record for the largest comeback to win a bowl game, matching Texas Tech's win over Minnesota in the 2006 Insight Bowl.

Prediction: Stanford 28, TCU 24

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: No. 18 Washington State vs. No. 16 Michigan State

(9 p.m. ET on FS1 at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego)

Why to watch: It's an intriguing matchup of coaches: Washington State's Mike Leach and Michigan State's Mark Dantonio. Leach is one of the sport's most colorful coaches and will say just about anything. Dantonio coached under Nick Saban and rarely says much of anything.

Who to watch: Washington State quarterback Luke Falk ranks 13th in the FBS with 3,593 passing yards to go with 30 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He set the Pac-12 record for career touchdown passes this season.

Motivating factor for Washington State: The Cougars are playing in the Holiday Bowl for the second straight season, and they're hoping for a better performance than in 2016. Last season, they lost 17-12 to Minnesota, which had threatened to boycott the bowl game after 10 players were suspended in a sexual assault investigation.

Motivating factor for Michigan State: The Spartans missed the postseason for the first time in Dantonio's 11 seasons in 2016. They rebounded from a 3-9 disaster to finish 9-3 this season. A win over Washington State would be Dantonio's 100th victory at Michigan State.

Prediction: Michigan State 34, Washington State 31

Dec. 29

Belk Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M

(1 p.m. ET on ESPN at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina)

Why to watch: It's the ATM bowl. Texas A&M is giving interim coach Jeff Banks a $75,000 bonus to coach the Aggies in the bowl game after former coach Kevin Sumlin was fired. The Aggies are paying former FSU coach Jimbo Fisher $75 million to replace Sumlin.

Who to watch: Wake Forest's John Wolford is a dual-threat quarterback, which has given the A&M defense plenty of trouble recently. Wolford led the Demon Deacons with 615 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. He also passed for 2,792 yards with 25 touchdowns.

Motivating factor for Wake Forest: Dave Clawson has pulled Wake Forest out of the ACC cellar, going from three wins in each of his first two seasons to seven in each of the past two. Back-to-back bowl wins would be another big step.

Motivating factor for Texas A&M: Fisher probably won't keep most of Sumlin's coaching staff, so the Aggies would probably like to send them out with a victory.

Prediction: Wake Forest 34, Texas A&M 27

Hyundai Sun Bowl: No. 24 NC State vs. Arizona State

(3 p.m. ET on CBS at Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas)

Why to watch: It's Todd Graham's last go-around with the Sun Devils. He was fired after a 7-5 finish in the regular season and will be replaced by former ESPN analyst Herm Edwards.

Who to watch: NC State defensive end Bradley Chubb won the Bronko Nagurski Award as the country's top defender. He led the FBS with 23½ tackles for loss and has 25 sacks during his career. This season, he had 73 tackles to go with 9 quarterback hurries, 3 forced fumbles and 2 pass breakups.

Motivating factor for NC State: Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren turned down Tennessee to sign a contract extension at NC State. A bowl win might change the minds of some NC State fans, who think the Volunteers were the real winners.

Motivating factor for Arizona State: Haven't you heard? The Sun Devils now play to win the game!

Prediction: NC State 31, Arizona State 27

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Kentucky vs. No. 21 Northwestern

(4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee)

Why to watch: The teams are almost guaranteed to score more points than the last time they met; Northwestern won 7-0 in their only other meeting in 1928.

Who to watch: Senior Justin Jackson is Northwestern's all-time leading rusher and has gained more than 1,000 yards in each of his four seasons, joining Wisconsin's Ron Dayne as the only other Big Ten players to achieve that feat.

Motivating factor for Kentucky: UK lost three of its last four games, and the Wildcats have dropped three consecutive bowl games. They haven't won in the postseason since defeating East Carolina 25-19 in the Liberty Bowl at the end of the 2008 season.

Motivating factor for Northwestern: The Wildcats can extend their winning streak to eight games heading into the offseason.

Prediction: Northwestern 35, Kentucky 20.

NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl: New Mexico State vs. Utah State

(5:30 p.m. ET on CBSSN at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Arizona)

Why to watch: If you want to see a team that's really excited to be playing in a bowl game, check out New Mexico State. The Aggies are playing in their first bowl game since 1960.

Who to watch: Utah State cornerback Jalen Davis was named All-Mountain West Conference after leading the league and finishing seventh in the FBS with five interceptions. He also led his team with 18 passes defended, 4 sacks and was second with 5 tackles for loss.

Motivating factor for Utah State: The Aggies are not only playing in the postseason for the first time in 57 years, but they also have a chance to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2002.

Motivating factor for New Mexico State: Revenge, baby. Utah State was New Mexico State's opponent in the 1960 Sun Bowl, which Utah State rallied to win 20-13 to secure an unbeaten record.

Prediction: Utah State 20, New Mexico State 17

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: No. 8 USC vs. No. 5 Ohio State

(8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas)

Why to watch: It's probably the best matchup outside of the two CFP semifinals and involves two traditional powers. It's Big Ten vs. Pac-12. Both of these teams had arguments to be included in the playoff.

Who to watch: Sam Darnold's second season as USC's quarterback didn't go quite as planned, but he still might end up being the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft because of his size, arm strength and potential. He passed for 3,787 yards with 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions this season. He is 20-3 as USC's starter.

Motivating factor for USC: With a victory over the Buckeyes, the Trojans can win 12 games in a season for the first time since 2008, when Pete Carroll guided them to a 12-1 finish.

Motivating factor for Ohio State: The Buckeyes are probably still stinging from being left out of the CFP, but they'll have plenty of incentive to beat USC. Ohio State has dropped seven straight games to USC dating back to the 1974 season. The Buckeyes haven't defeated the Trojans since a 42-21 win in the Rose Bowl after the 1973 season.

Prediction: USC 31, Ohio State 28

Dec. 30

TaxSlayer Bowl: Louisville vs. No. 23 Mississippi State

(Noon ET on ESPN at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida)

Why to watch: It's our final opportunity to watch and appreciate Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, who was nearly as good this season.

Who to watch: Jackson finished third in Heisman voting this year, after becoming Louisville's first winner in 2016. He passed for 3,489 yards, rushed for 1,443 yards and had 42 total touchdowns this season. His yardage totals were nearly identical to last season, with nine fewer touchdowns.

Motivating factor for Louisville: The Cardinals can finish the season with a four-game winning streak, including back-to-back wins over SEC foes. Louisville has faced SEC opponents in five of its past six bowl games; it's 2-2 in the previous four.

Motivating factor for MSU: The Bulldogs might have to dig deep for motivation. Former coach Dan Mullen bolted for Florida, and running backs coach Greg Knox will serve as interim coach before Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead takes over. The Bulldogs will also be without quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who was injured in a 31-28 loss to Ole Miss on Thanksgiving night.

Prediction: Louisville 31, Mississippi State 17

AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Iowa State vs. No. 20 Memphis

(12:30 p.m. ET on ABC at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee)

Why to watch: It's an intriguing matchup of two young coaches -- Iowa State's Matt Campbell and Memphis' Mike Norvell -- who were expected to jump for bigger Power 5 jobs. Instead, both signed contract extensions with their current schools.

Who to watch: Memphis' Anthony Miller was named an ESPN All-American and was No. 2 in the FBS in receiving yards (1,407), receiving touchdowns (17) and receiving yards per game (117.3).

Motivating factor for Iowa State: The Cyclones can end an eight-year drought without a bowl victory; they last won in the postseason with a 14-13 victory over Minnesota in the 2009 Insight Bowl.

Motivating factor for Memphis: There should be a raucous home crowd on hand as Memphis plays in the Liberty Bowl for the first time since its inception in 1959. More good news: The Tigers went unbeaten at home for the first time since Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium opened in 1965.

Prediction: Memphis 41, Iowa State 35

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: No. 11 Washington vs. No. 9 Penn State

(4 p.m. ET on ESPN at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona)

Why to watch: Penn State lost two games by a combined four points and was probably one second-half collapse away from playing for a Big Ten championship and a potential spot in the CFP. Washington, a CFP participant last season, lost two games by a total of 14 points.

Who to watch: Penn State tailback Saquon Barkley was named Big Ten MVP for the second straight season after leading the league in all-purpose yards (179.5 yards per game) and finishing fourth in rushing (1,134 yards).

Motivating factor for Washington: The Huskies have never beaten Penn State. They lost to the Nittany Lions 13-10 in the 1983 Aloha Bowl and 21-7 during the 1921 regular season.

Motivating factor for Penn State: The Nittany Lions have dropped their last two bowl games and four of the last five. They've never lost three straight postseason games and won each of their previous six appearances in the Fiesta Bowl.

Prediction: Penn State 27, Washington 24

Capital One Orange Bowl: No. 6 Wisconsin vs. No. 10 Miami

(8 p.m. ET on ESPN at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida)

Why to watch: We can count how many times the Hurricanes get to pull out their turnover chain on their home field. The Badgers turned the ball over 23 times this season.

Who to watch: Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor was the best freshman back in the FBS, finishing with 1,847 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on 273 carries. He averaged 6.8 yards per carry and had 180 yards or more in four games.

Motivating factor for Wisconsin: They're going to South Florida in the dead of a Wisconsin winter. It's the Badgers' 11th trip to the Sunshine State for a bowl game, but their first appearance in the Orange Bowl.

Motivating factor for Miami: The Hurricanes' turnaround season under coach Mark Richt ended with a flop; they lost at Pittsburgh 24-14 and then fell 38-3 to Clemson in the ACC championship game. They haven't won a New Year's Six bowl since beating Florida State 16-14 in the 2004 Orange Bowl.

Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Miami 17

Jan. 1

Outback Bowl: Michigan vs. South Carolina

(Noon ET on ESPN2 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida)

Why to watch: If you like to watch defense, this is the game to watch on New Year's Day. The Gamecocks ranked 108th in total offense; the Wolverines were 101st. South Carolina has already fired offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, and co-offensive coordinator/receivers coach Bryan McClendon will call plays in the Outback Bowl.

Who to watch: Wolverines defensive tackle Maurice Hurst was named an ESPN All-American after totaling 59 tackles, 13½ tackles for loss and 5 sacks in 12 games. He's a potential top-10 pick in next spring's NFL draft.

Motivating factor for Michigan: The Wolverines have another chance to beat an SEC team in a bowl game. They're 8-5 against SEC foes in past bowl games and 25-8-1 against SEC opponents overall.

Motivating factor for South Carolina: The Gamecocks improved from 6-7 in Will Muschamp's first season to 8-4 this year. They haven't won at least nine games in a season since going 11-2 in three straight seasons from 2011 to 2013.

Prediction: Michigan 20, South Carolina 17

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: No. 12 UCF vs. No. 7 Auburn

(12:30 p.m. ET on ESPN at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta)

Why to watch: Scott Frost will coach his final game at UCF. He's leaving for Nebraska, his alma mater, but will coach the Knights one more time. UCF will try to finish unbeaten for the first time in school history.

Who to watch: Auburn's Kerryon Johnson led the SEC with 1,320 rushing yards with 17 touchdowns. He was limited by a shoulder injury in the SEC championship game, when he was held to only 44 yards in a 28-7 loss to Georgia.

Motivating factor for UCF: The Knights can finish the Frost era with a 13-0 record, which would be a remarkable achievement given where he started. UCF went 0-12 in 2015, won six games in Frost's first season and 12 so far this season.

Motivating factor for Auburn: The Tigers defeated Georgia and Alabama in the regular season, but will have to watch both of those teams compete in the CFP. They might take out their frustration on UCF.

Prediction: Auburn 44, UCF 27

Citrus Bowl Presented by Overton's: No. 14 Notre Dame vs. No. 17 LSU

(1 p.m. ET on ABC at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida)

Why to watch: It's Notre Dame versus the SEC, which is a pretty tasty appetizer before the CFP semifinals.

Who to watch: Notre Dame tailback Josh Adams was mentioned as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate before fading down the stretch because of injuries. He finished with 1,386 rushing yards with 9 touchdowns and averaged 7.3 yards per carry.

Motivating factor for Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish were a CFP contender until losing two of their last three games badly at Miami and Stanford. They can still finish 10-3 for the second time in three seasons.

Motivating factor for LSU: The Tigers can avenge their 31-28 loss to Notre Dame in the 2014 Music City Bowl, which the Fighting Irish won on Kyle Brindza's 32-yard field goal as time expired.

Prediction: LSU 28, Notre Dame 24

Jan. 1

College Football Playoff at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual: No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 2 Oklahoma

(5 p.m. ET on ESPN at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California)

Why to watch: It's a CFP semifinal at "The Granddaddy of Them All." It's SEC vs. Big 12, and OU's high-flying offense vs. UGA's menacing defense. And if that's not enough to watch, these college football blue bloods have never played each other before.

Who to watch: Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy in lopsided fashion, after completing 71 percent of his passes and throwing for 4,340 yards and 41 touchdowns with only 5 interceptions. He is averaging 11.8 yards per passing attempt, which would shatter the FBS record he set last season.

Motivating factor for Georgia: The Bulldogs are one victory away from playing for their first national championship since 1980. They'd get to play for a national title in their backyard at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Motivating factor for Oklahoma: Former Sooners coach Bob Stoops loved beating SEC opponents, and his successor, first-year coach Lincoln Riley, has a chance to extend OU's four-game winning streak against SEC foes.

Prediction: Georgia 41, Oklahoma 35

College Football Playoff at the Allstate Sugar Bowl: No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 1 Clemson

(8:45 p.m. ET on ESPN at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans)

Why to watch: It's the third round of one of college football's greatest trilogies. Alabama defeated Clemson 45-40 at the end of the 2015 season to win its fourth national championship under Nick Saban; the Tigers beat the Crimson Tide 35-31 at the end of the 2016 national title to win their first under Dabo Swinney.

Who to watch: Clemson junior Kelly Bryant had the unenviable task of replacing All-American quarterback Deshaun Watson, but he has played pretty well in his first season as a starter. Bryant completed 67.4 percent of his attempts for 2,678 yards with 13 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.

Motivating factor for Alabama: The Crimson Tide were one second away from winning a second straight national championship last season, until Watson threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow on the final play of the CFP National Championship.

Motivating factor for Clemson: The Tigers have already proved they're not a one-hit wonder, but a second straight victory over mighty Alabama would cement their place among the sport's elite.

Prediction: Clemson 20, Alabama 17

Jan. 8

College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T: No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 3 Georgia

(8 p.m. ET on ESPN at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta)

Why to watch: If it's Georgia versus Clemson (or Alabama) in the national championship game, you might need a second mortgage to attend the game. It might end up being the most expensive ticket in the sport's history.

Who to watch: Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith was a unanimous All-American selection after finishing the season with 113 tackles, 10½ tackles for loss, 5½ sacks, 2 fumble recoveries and 1 forced fumble in 13 games. He finished 10th in Heisman Trophy voting.

Motivating factor for Georgia: The Bulldogs haven't won a national championship since 1980 and they would be able to end their 37-year drought in front of a home crowd in Atlanta.

Motivating factor for Clemson: After ending a 35-year drought without a national title last season, the Tigers could become the first team to win back-to-back championships since Alabama in 2011-12.

Prediction: Georgia 24, Clemson 21