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Bowls instant analysis

Mack Brown was right, and Texas is headed back to Pasadena for the first time since its memorable national title victory against USC four years ago. Brown's team will face No. 1 Alabama on Jan. 7 for college football's top prize, and while many argued for TCU to leapfrog the Longhorns in the final BCS standings, this matchup doesn't come as a surprise.

The curveball in the BCS selections came from the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, which decided to pair unbeaten non-BCS powers TCU and Boise State. While a lot of folks would much rather see the Horned Frogs and Broncos compete against the BCS heavyweights, they'll certainly provide an entertaining matchup Jan. 4 in Glendale, Ariz. Ohio State and Oregon both end long droughts in returning to the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi, while Tim Tebow ends his inimitable college career against undefeated Cincinnati in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The FedEx Orange Bowl rounds out the lineup, as Iowa and Georgia Tech try to cement themselves among the nation's elite.

Here's a quick look at the BCS bowls and the best of the rest:

What to watch in the Citi BCS National Championship Game: The 2009 college football season took on a decidedly defensive tone, so it's fitting that the title game pits two teams that boast dominant defenses. Alabama leads the nation in fewest points allowed (11 ppg), while Texas is the nation's stingiest defense against the run (62.2 ypg), one spot ahead of the Tide. So it could be rough sledding for Alabama running back Mark Ingram and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, two likely Heisman Trophy finalists. Brown returns to the site of his greatest triumph, while Alabama's Nick Saban tries to win national titles at two SEC programs.

What to watch in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi: The contrast in styles here is fascinating. Oregon wears different uniforms each week, mass produces points and runs a wide-open, dynamic offense. Ohio State's boldest fashion statement is coach Jim Tressel's sweater vest, while the Buckeyes win with defense, special teams and field position. You've got Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who strongly considered the Ducks in recruiting, and Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount, who tries to make the most of a second chance. The game pits the nation's No. 6 rushing offense (Oregon) against the No. 5 rushing defense (Ohio State), not to mention two teams that many counted out earlier this fall.

What to watch in the Allstate Sugar Bowl: Spread offense connoisseurs will salivate over this matchup, which pits two of the system's gurus in Florida's Urban Meyer and Cincinnati's Brian Kelly. Whether Kelly is still coaching the Bearcats remains to be seen, but his offense has been unstoppable this year, ranking sixth nationally in scoring. The Gators try to rebound from a humbling defeat in their final SEC game. Cincinnati counters with Tony Pike and an elite group of wide receivers.

What to watch in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: For starters, it's the only bowl game besides the championship that pairs two undefeated teams. This is a rematch of last year's very competitive Poinsettia Bowl, but both teams are even better now. TCU complements the nation's No. 1 defense with an explosive offense led by quarterback Andy Dalton. Boise State isn't too shabby at quarterback, either, with sophomore Kellen Moore. Both Dalton and Moore rank among the top four nationally in pass efficiency.

What to watch in the FedEx Orange Bowl: Both teams are trying to secure elite status after facing doubts throughout the season. Iowa's weekly edge-of-the-cliff dances make the Hawkeyes a national story, but Kirk Ferentz's team faced constant scrutiny. Georgia Tech only emerged as the ACC front-runner after both Miami and Virginia Tech stumbled. While head coach Paul Johnson has earned a ton of national respect, the Yellow Jackets can get some more with a BCS bowl win. Jonathan Dwyer and Josh Nesbitt lead the triple-option offense against a fundamentally sound Iowa defense led by end Adrian Clayborn and linebacker Pat Angerer.

Final farewell to Bowden: It took some unusual maneuvering, but Bobby Bowden will coach his final collegiate game on Florida soil as his Seminoles face West Virginia in the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl. Though Bowden's exit from his post at Florida State was a bit messy, the game provides one last chance to acknowledge one of college football's coaching legends. Bowden also faces a West Virginia team that he coached from 1970-1975 before taking over in Tallahassee. The 80-year-old has won 388 career games, second all-time behind only Penn State's Joe Paterno.

JoePa vs. The Hat: Joe Paterno has won more bowl games (23) than any coach in NCAA history. Les Miles is 4-0 in bowls as LSU's head coach. Both men aren't short on personality, so the news conferences leading up to the Capital One Bowl should be pretty entertaining. The game features two of college football's most storied programs, which have met only once before, in the 1974 Orange Bowl. At the time, Paterno was finishing up his eighth season as Penn State's coach.

Here comes the Sun: Heisman Trophy contender Toby Gerhart leads Stanford into the Brut Sun Bowl against an Oklahoma team that had its season sidetracked after reigning Heisman winner Sam Bradford went down. Gerhart takes on the nation's No. 7 rushing defense (88.6 ypg) in one of the more appetizing matchups of the bowl season. Stanford makes its first bowl appearance under rising-star head coach Jim Harbaugh, while Oklahoma plays in its first non-BCS bowl since the 2005 Holiday Bowl, which also marked the Sooners' last postseason victory.

Humbled powerhouses: USC is in the Emerald Bowl. Oklahoma will be spending late December in El Paso. Georgia is heading to Shreveport for the Independence Bowl, while both Notre Dame and Michigan are staying home for the holidays. Several of the nation's flagship programs will be nowhere near the biggest stages this postseason, and it will be very interesting how they respond to unfamiliar surroundings.

Don't pass on this game: Something's got to give in the Armed Forces Bowl, as Houston takes on Air Force. Led by star quarterback Case Keenum, Houston boasts the nation's top-rated pass offense at 450 yards a game, nearly 70 more than any other team. Air Force has the nation's top-rated pass defense, allowing fewer than 150 yards a game. The Falcons allow just 15.3 points a game, while Houston averages 43.9 points a game.

A need to bounce back: Clemson tumbled from the Orange Bowl to the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl. Nebraska was a second away from the Fiesta Bowl, but now will face Arizona in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. Pittsburgh nearly had locked up a likely Sugar Bowl berth but instead faces North Carolina in a virtual road game at the Meineke Car Care Bowl. It will be interesting to see how these three squads respond from near BCS nirvana.