Predicting all 39 bowl games

For the first time, college football's national championship will be decided by a four-team playoff.

We'll have to wait until Jan. 12 for the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T. Between now and then, we'll get to see 38 bowl games, starting with five on Saturday.

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

Jump to date: Dec. 20 | Dec. 22 | Dec. 23 | Dec. 24 | Dec. 26 | Dec. 27 | Dec. 29 | Dec. 30 | Dec. 31 | Jan. 1 (including semis) | Jan. 2 | Jan. 3 | Jan. 4 | Jan. 12 (title game)

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Nevada vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, Dec. 20 (ESPN, 11 a.m. ET)

Why to watch: It's the first bowl game of the year, and the game will feature two of the country's more underrated quarterbacks: Nevada's Cody Fajardo and Louisiana-Lafayette's Terrance Broadway. Together, they accounted for more than 6,000 yards of offense and 46 touchdowns this season.

Who to watch: Fajardo is one of only two players in FBS history to pass for more than 9,000 yards and run for more than 3,000 in his career. Current San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a former Nevada star, was the other player to accomplish the feat. Fajardo is also one of only six active FBS players who has been responsible for at least 100 touchdowns in his career.

Motivation for Nevada: The Wolf Pack haven't won a bowl game since beating Boston College 20-13 in the 2010 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Nevada's Brian Polian is also seeking his first postseason victory as a head coach.

Motivation for Louisiana-Lafayette: The Ragin' Cajuns are playing close to home and are trying to improve to 4-0 in bowl games. They've played only in the New Orleans Bowl and are 3-0 in their previous trips.

Prediction: Nevada 35, Louisiana-Lafayette 31

Gildan New Mexico Bowl

Utah State vs. UTEP, Dec. 20 (ESPN, 2:20 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: You can see the quarterback who lost the Texas A&M job to Johnny Manziel. UTEP senior Jameill Showers, who left the Aggies after losing the starting job to Manziel in 2012, has been pretty good for the Miners, throwing for 1,732 yards with 12 touchdowns and running for 288 yards with four scores. Showers has thrown only one interception in the past seven games.

Who to watch: Linebacker Zach Vigil became the first Utah State player to be named Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year after leading the conference with 145 tackles and 19.5 tackles for loss. He also piled up nine sacks and returned an interception for a touchdown.

Motivation for Utah State: And you thought Ohio State has dealt with injuries this season. The Aggies have lost nine starters to season-ending injuries, including three quarterbacks, but still managed to finish 9-4. They might as well continue overcoming adversity in the bowl game.

Motivation for UTEP: Talk about a postseason drought. The Miners haven't won a bowl game since defeating Ole Miss 14-7 in the 1967 Sun Bowl. UTEP has dropped its past five bowl games, most recently a 52-24 loss to BYU in the 2010 New Mexico Bowl.

Prediction: Utah State 34, UTEP 21

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl

No. 22 Utah vs. Colorado State, Dec. 20 (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: Florida fans can get a peek at the offense new coach Jim McElwain helped produce at Colorado State. Spoiler alert: It's much better than what the Gators have been putting on the field recently. Quarterback Garrett Grayson threw for 3,779 yards with 32 touchdowns and six interceptions, and Rashard Higgins was a Biletnikoff Award finalist with 89 catches for 1,640 yards with 17 touchdowns.

Who to watch: Utah's Nate Orchard won the Ted Hendricks Award as the country's top defensive end, finishing with 80 tackles, 17.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss. The Rams might have a difficult time protecting Grayson; the Utes led FBS teams with 52 sacks.

Motivation for Utah: After playing in nine consecutive bowl games from 2003 to '11, the Utes missed the postseason in each of the past two years. They also have a chance to win at least nine games for the first time since going 10-3 in 2010.

Motivation for Colorado State: Offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin, a 35-year coaching veteran who has worked at 11 schools, is a candidate to replace McElwain after helping him produce record-setting offenses at CSU the past three seasons. A win in a bowl game might help him land the job.

Prediction: Colorado State 34, Utah 31

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Western Michigan vs. Air Force, Dec. 20 (ESPN, 5:45 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: The game pits two of the country's most improved teams against each other, as both the Broncos and Falcons won seven more games than they did in 2013. Air Force improved from 2-10 to 9-3; Western Michigan went from 1-11 to 8-4.

Who to watch: Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell completed 70 percent of his passes for 3,146 yards with 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He ranked 16th in total QBR (76.5), highest of any player from a Group of 5 conference. In a 51-7 rout of Eastern Michigan, he completed 17 of 19 passes for 357 yards with four touchdowns.

Motivation for Western Michigan: The Broncos have never won a bowl game. What more motivation could they need? Western Michigan is 0-5 in the postseason, starting with a 28-12 loss to New Mexico in the 1961 Aviation Bowl.

Motivation for Air Force: The Falcons haven't been great in the postseason, losing five of their past seven bowl games, including a 33-14 loss to Rice in the 2012 Armed Forces Bowl. They're seeking their first bowl victory since 2010.

Prediction: Western Michigan 34, Air Force 27

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

South Alabama vs. Bowling Green, Dec. 20 (ESPN, 9:15 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: It's the inaugural Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama, although the Camellia Bowl name has been used in the past. It's also South Alabama's first trip to a bowl game.

Who to watch: Bowling Green freshman Roger Lewis had 69 catches for 956 yards with five touchdowns in his first college season. He had 16 receptions for 149 yards with one touchdown in the Falcons' 45-42 upset of Indiana on Sept. 13.

Motivation for South Alabama: The Jaguars would probably like nothing more than to win their first bowl game in their home state. South Alabama is in its third year as an FBS program and went 6-6 in each of the past two seasons.

Motivation for Bowling Green: The Falcons went 7-6 in coach Dino Babers' first season and would probably like to end the campaign with a winning record.

Prediction: Bowling Green 28, South Alabama 27

Miami Beach Bowl

BYU vs. Memphis, Dec. 22 (ESPN, 2 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: You can check out what has been one of the country's most underrated coaching jobs. Memphis coach Justin Fuente, a former TCU offensive coordinator, guided the Tigers to a 9-3 record and share of the AAC title after going a combined 7-17 in his first two seasons at the school.

Who to watch: Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch threw for 2,725 yards with 18 touchdowns, while running for 283 yards with 10 scores. He set an American Athletic Conference record with 28 total touchdowns this season and hasn't thrown an interception in the past six games.

Motivation for BYU: BYU has kind of fallen out of the spotlight as an independent, so the Miami Beach Bowl is a chance for the Cougars to make a strong showing on a national stage. BYU can finish the season with five straight wins and build momentum for 2015.

Motivation for Memphis: The Tigers can win seven games in a row for the first time since 1969 and finish a season with 10 victories for the first time since 1938.

Prediction: Memphis 31, BYU 24

Boca Raton Bowl

Marshall vs. Northern Illinois, Dec. 23 (ESPN, 6 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: The Huskies and Thundering Herd were two of the best teams from the Group of 5 conferences. Marshall started the season 11-0 and was one of only two undefeated FBS teams until losing to Western Kentucky 67-66 in overtime on Nov. 28. Northern Illinois went 11-2 and won its last seven games.

Who to watch: Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato has thrown a touchdown pass in 45 consecutive games, an FBS record. He threw for 3,622 yards with 37 touchdowns this season and is the only player in Marshall history to throw 30 or more touchdowns in three seasons.

Motivation for Marshall: It was hard to gauge how good Marshall really was this season because of its soft schedule, and the Huskies will provide the Thundering Herd with one of their most difficult tests. The Herd have a chance to take a step in silencing their critics.

Motivation for Northern Illinois: As good as the Huskies have been recently, they haven't won a bowl game since defeating Arkansas State 38-20 in the 2011 GoDaddy.com Bowl. Northern Illinois lost to Florida State 31-10 in the 2012 Orange Bowl and to Utah State 21-14 in the 2013 Poinsettia Bowl.

Prediction: Marshall 45, Northern Illinois 38

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

Navy vs. San Diego State, Dec. 23 (ESPN, 9:30 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: Two of the best runners in the country will be on display: Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds and San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey. Navy's triple-option offense is always fun to watch, especially when it's firing on all cylinders.

Who to watch: Pumphrey, a sophomore from Las Vegas, ranks No. 3 in FBS in rushing with 1,755 yards. Only Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and Indiana's Tevin Coleman ran for more yards this season. Pumphrey needs 82 yards to break George Jones' single-season school record of 1,842 yards.

Motivation for Navy: The Midshipmen are playing in the Poinsettia Bowl for the fourth time, and they'll try to end a two-game slide in San Diego. They lost to Utah 35-32 in 2007 and San Diego State 35-14 in 2010.

Motivation for San Diego State: The Aztecs will try to extend their winning streak over service academies to nine games in a row. Plus, it's always nice to win in front of the home crowd.

Prediction: San Diego State 31, Navy 30

Popeyes Bahamas Bowl

Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky, Dec. 24 (ESPN, noon ET)

Why to watch: Is there a better way to spend Christmas Eve? You might be able to feel the sand between your toes as the Chippewas and Hilltoppers play the inaugural bowl game at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium in Nassau, Bahamas. If you're lucky, you might even get a whiff of the fried chicken and rice and beans.

Who to watch: Western Kentucky's Brandon Doughty led FBS quarterbacks with 4,344 passing yards, completing 67.5 percent of his passes with 44 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He threw for 491 yards with eight touchdowns in the Hilltoppers' upset of Marshall on Nov. 28.

Motivation for Central Michigan: The Chippewas can win their third straight bowl game and beat the Hilltoppers in the postseason for the second consecutive time. Central Michigan defeated Western Kentucky 24-21 in the 2012 Little Caesar's Bowl.

Motivation for Western Kentucky: After a 67-66 upset of previously unbeaten Marshall, Western Kentucky can put a fitting bow on its season by winning the school's first bowl game.

Prediction: Western Kentucky 48, Central Michigan 35

Hawai'i Bowl

Fresno State vs. Rice, Dec. 24 (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: Both teams started the season by losing their first three games, but recovered nicely to reach the postseason. Fresno State was 3-6 before winning three straight games in November to reach the Mountain West Conference championship game. Rice won five games in a row after starting 0-3 and finished 7-5.

Who to watch: Fresno State's Josh Harper had 86 catches for 1,072 yards with seven touchdowns, his second straight season with more than 1,000 receiving yards. Harper has 29 touchdown catches in 40 career games; only three active FBS players with a minimum of 25 touchdown catches have scored more frequently.

Motivation for Fresno State: The Bulldogs have dropped their past five bowl games and haven't won in the postseason since beating Georgia Tech 40-28 in the 2007 Humanitarian Bowl. They lost badly in their past two bowl games: 43-10 to SMU in the 2012 Hawai'i Bowl and 45-20 to USC in the 2013 Las Vegas Bowl.

Motivation for Rice: The Owls have won at least seven games for the third straight season and have a chance to win eight for only the 10th time in school history.

Prediction: Rice 35, Fresno State 27

Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl

Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech, Dec. 26 (ESPN, 1 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: Two coaches who needed big seasons delivered, as Illinois' Tim Beckman and Louisiana Tech's Skip Holtz quieted their critics by guiding their teams to bowl games. The Illini upset Penn State and Northwestern in their last two games to finish 6-6; the Bulldogs won six of their last seven regular-season games before losing to Marshall 26-23 in the Conference USA championship game.

Player to watch: Louisiana Tech's Kenneth Dixon ran for 1,236 yards with 21 touchdowns and seemed to be at his strongest at season's end. He had 478 yards with 10 touchdowns in the last four games, averaging more than 6 yards per carry.

Motivation for Illinois: The Illini are playing in the postseason for the first time since 2011. They can build momentum heading into the offseason and show that the program is really turning around under Beckman's watch.

Motivation for Louisiana Tech: Postseason trips have been rare for the Bulldogs, who will be playing in only their seventh bowl game. Louisiana Tech has won in the postseason only once since 1977, defeating Northern Illinois 17-10 in the 2008 Independence Bowl.

Prediction: Louisiana Tech 31, Illinois 20

Quick Lane Bowl

Rutgers vs. North Carolina, Dec. 26 (ESPN, 4:30 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: Given how poorly the defenses have performed at times this season, it might be a high-scoring affair at Ford Field in Detroit. The Tar Heels ranked 119th among FBS teams in scoring defense (38.9 points); the Scarlet Knights were 92nd (30.9 points).

Who to watch: UNC quarterback Marquise Williams didn't win the starting job until preseason camp, but he's been a perfect fit for coach Larry Fedora's spread offense. Williams has thrown for 2,870 yards, run for 737 and accounted for 32 total touchdowns. He had 463 yards of offense in the Tar Heels' 48-43 upset of Georgia Tech on Oct. 18.

Motivation for Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights weren't supposed to do much in their first season in the Big Ten, but they finished 7-5 and made the postseason. Rutgers hasn't yet won a bowl game under third-year coach Kyle Flood.

Motivation for North Carolina: The Tar Heels can't seem to get started under Fedora, who is 21-16 in three seasons. But a victory over Rutgers would give the Tar Heels a third straight winning campaign.

Prediction: North Carolina 44, Rutgers 41

Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl

NC State vs. UCF, Dec. 26 (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: You might get a crazy finish. From the beginning of the regular season to the end, the Knights have been a part of wild finishes. They lost to Penn State 26-24 in the opener in Dublin, Ireland, as the Nittany Lions kicked a 36-yard field goal at the end. In its last game, UCF won 32-30 at East Carolina when Breshad Perriman caught a 51-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass on the final play of the game.

Who to watch: NC State quarterback Jacoby Brissett, a Florida transfer, is one of three FBS quarterbacks with 20 or more passing touchdowns, 300 or more rushing yards and no more than five interceptions.

Motivation for NC State: After losing their last eight games to finish 3-9 in coach Dave Doeren's first season in 2013, the Wolfpack reversed course this season. They went 7-5, winning three of their last four games and outscoring Tobacco Road rivals Wake Forest and North Carolina 77-20 in the final two contests.

Motivation for UCF: With a victory over the Wolfpack, UCF can win 10 games or more for a third straight season and fourth time in five years.

Prediction: NC State 21, UCF 20

Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman

Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech, Dec. 27 (ESPN, 1 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: If you look hard enough, you might be able to figure out how Virginia Tech won at Ohio State earlier this season. The Hokies stunned the Buckeyes 35-21 on the road on Sept. 6, but struggled to beat nearly everyone else.

Who to watch: Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel, a Notre Dame transfer, was fantastic in his first season with the Bearcats, completing 60.2 percent of his passes for 3,010 yards with 30 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster will have an aggressive game plan waiting for him.

Motivation for Cincinnati: The Bearcats were left behind during conference realignment, but they've won nine games for the fourth consecutive season and can finish 2014 with an eight-game winning streak.

Motivation for Virginia Tech: The Hokies are playing in a bowl game for the 22nd consecutive season, the second-longest streak in FBS. They'll have to beat Cincinnati to avoid their first losing season since 1992.

Prediction: Cincinnati 27, Virginia Tech 21

Hyundai Sun Bowl

No. 15 Arizona State vs. Duke, Dec. 27 (CBS, 2 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: Maybe we'll get a repeat of last season's Chick-fil-A Bowl. Duke was a heavy underdog against Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M last season, but the Blue Devils had a 38-17 lead at the half. Manziel led the Aggies back in the second half, winning 52-48 in a game that featured 1,202 yards of offense.

Who to watch: Arizona State's Jaelen Strong is expected to enter the NFL draft after posting back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Strong had 75 catches for 1,062 yards with 10 touchdowns this year. He had 10 receptions for 202 yards with three touchdowns in a 38-34 win at USC on Oct. 4.

Motivation for Arizona State: The Sun Devils won the Pac-12 South and finished 10-4 last season but flopped in their bowl game, falling 37-23 to Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl. It was their fourth loss in their past five bowl games.

Motivation for Duke: Bowl games are still a rarity for Duke, which has won nine games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history. The Blue Devils haven't won a bowl game since beating Arkansas 7-6 in the 1961 Cotton Bowl.

Prediction: Arizona State 28, Duke 24

Duck Commander Independence Bowl

Miami vs. South Carolina, Dec. 27 (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: Miami and South Carolina were both disappointments this season, but it's always fun when Steve Spurrier goes up against the Hurricanes. Plus, it's the first chance for the SEC to end a current four-game losing streak against ACC foes.

Who to watch: Miami tailback Duke Johnson might be playing in his final college game after rushing for a career-high 1,520 yards with 10 touchdowns. He averaged 7 yards per carry, tops in the ACC for running backs with at least 100 attempts.

Motivation for Miami: Hurricanes fans are looking for some sort of sign that the program is headed in the right direction. Miami doesn't want to end the season with a four-game losing streak, which would leave it with its first losing campaign since going 5-7 in 2007.

Motivation for South Carolina: Spurrier hasn't had a college team finish with a losing record since Duke went 5-6 in 1987, his first season as a college head coach.

Prediction: Miami 27, South Carolina 20

New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Boston College vs. Penn State, Dec. 27 (ESPN, 4:40 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: If you love defense, this might be your favorite bowl game. The Nittany Lions had the No. 1 run defense (84.8 yards against per game) and No. 2 total defense (269.8) among FBS teams, while the Eagles were No. 4 against the run (95.5) and No. 12 in total defense (313.5). Buckle your chin straps.

Who to watch: Boston College's Tyler Murphy, a Florida transfer, set an ACC record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,079 and scored 10 rushing touchdowns. He also threw for 1,526 yards with 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Motivation for Boston College: After winning eight bowl games in a row from 2000 to '07, the Eagles have dropped four in a row, including an ugly 42-19 loss to Arizona in the 2013 AdvoCare V100 Bowl.

Motivation for Penn State: The Nittany Lions are playing in their first bowl game in three years after the NCAA lifted its postseason ban earlier this season. Penn State's last bowl victory was a 19-17 win over LSU in the 2009 Capital One Bowl.

Prediction: Penn State 23, Boston College 20

National University Holiday Bowl

Nebraska vs. No. 24 USC, Dec. 27 (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: It will be only the fourth meeting between the Cornhuskers and Trojans, who have never played each other in the postseason. USC is 3-0-1 against Nebraska, including convincing victories in 2006 and '07.

Who to watch: Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah cooled off considerably after injuring his knee, but he still ran for 1,523 yards with 18 touchdowns. He had four 200-yard rushing performances, including 229 with two touchdowns in a 41-31 win over Miami.

Motivation for Nebraska: The Cornhuskers have already fired coach Bo Pelini, and longtime assistant Barney Cotton will serve as interim coach. Nebraska's players would probably like to send the outgoing staff out on a winning note.

Motivation for USC: The Trojans went 8-4 in coach Steve Sarkisian's first season, and they can really build some momentum for 2015 by beating the Cornhuskers. The Trojans have won five of their past six bowl games but have never played in the Holiday Bowl.

Prediction: USC 38, Nebraska 27

AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Texas A&M vs. West Virginia, Dec. 29 (ESPN, 2 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: These coaching staffs are very familiar with each other, and the sideline strategies will be very interesting to watch. The Aggies and Mountaineers both rank in the top 12 nationally in passing, and their respective coaches love to throw the ball around.

Who to watch: West Virginia senior Kevin White was sixth among FBS players with 1,318 receiving yards and fifth with 8.5 catches per game. He finished with 102 catches and nine touchdown receptions. White seems to be good for at least one "SportsCenter" highlight per game, so don't take your eyes off of him for very long.

Motivation for Texas A&M: The Aggies took a big step back in their first season without Manziel, finishing 7-5 after a 5-0 start. Coach Kevin Sumlin would like to get things headed back in the right direction.

Motivation for West Virginia: After a disappointing 4-8 finish in 2013, the Mountaineers reversed course this season, going 7-5 in coach Dana Holgorsen's fourth season. West Virginia has dropped three of its past four bowl games, including a 38-14 loss to Syracuse in the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl.

Prediction: Texas A&M 35, West Virginia 34

Russell Athletic Bowl

Oklahoma vs. No. 17 Clemson, Dec. 29 (ESPN, 5:30 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: What will Clemson's offense look like without former offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who left to become SMU's new coach? Tigers coach Dabo Swinney has named running backs coach Tony Elliott and receivers coach Jeff Scott co-coordinators for the bowl game, and they vow that the offense won't look much different than it did under Morris.

Who to watch: Unfortunately, Elliott and Scott won't have freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson available for the bowl game. Watson underwent surgery earlier this month to repair a torn ACL in his left knee. Senior Cole Stoudt, who started the first two games but didn't play well at season's end, will replace him. Stoudt threw eight interceptions in his last five games.

Motivation for Oklahoma: After being ranked in the top four in the preseason, the Sooners limped to a disappointing 8-4 season. A victory over Clemson wouldn't make up for their shortcomings, but it would give the Sooners some much-needed momentum heading into the offseason.

Motivation for Clemson: The Tigers probably want to prove to everyone that Morris wasn't the reason for their recent offensive success. It's going to be difficult to beat the Sooners without Watson, so Elliott and Scott will have to be creative in their game plan.

Prediction: Oklahoma 31, Clemson 20

AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl

Arkansas vs. Texas, Dec. 29 (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: Just pretend it's 1969, when the Longhorns and Razorbacks played what is still called the "Game of the Century." The longtime Southwest Conference rivals have played 77 times since 1894, with Texas winning nearly three out of every four contests.

Who to watch: The Hogs have one of the better one-two punches in the backfield, as Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins combined to run for 2,109 yards with 23 touchdowns this season. Texas allowed 162.1 rushing yards per game.

Motivation for Arkansas: After losing 13 consecutive SEC games to start Bret Bielema's tenure, the Hogs upset then-No. 17 LSU and then-No. 8 Ole Miss in November. They finally have turned the corner under Bielema, and a victory over Texas would be even more reason for optimism.

Motivation for Texas: The Longhorns won three of their last four games to qualify for the postseason in coach Charlie Strong's first season. If nothing else, the bowl game gives quarterback Tyrone Swoopes a few more weeks of practice to improve.

Prediction: Arkansas 24, Texas 17

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Notre Dame vs. No. 23 LSU, Dec. 30 (ESPN, 3 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: Well, it's always entertaining to root for (or against) the Fighting Irish, who lost their last four games to finish 7-5. You can also get a sneak peek at LSU, which should be one of the country's better teams in 2015 after playing a plethora of freshmen this season.

Who to watch: Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly says he'll play two quarterbacks -- Everett Golson and Malik Zaire -- against LSU. Golson returned from a season-long academic suspension to throw for 3,355 yards with 29 touchdowns. But he was dogged by 22 turnovers (14 interceptions and eight lost fumbles) in the last nine games. Zaire replaced him in a 49-14 loss at USC in the regular-season finale.

Motivation for Notre Dame: After going 12-1 and reaching the BCS National Championship Game in 2012, the Irish have lost nine games combined in the past two seasons. They dropped five of their last six this season after a 6-0 start. Kelly needs to get things turned around.

Motivation for LSU: With quarterback Anthony Jennings and tailback Leonard Fournette coming back in 2015, the Tigers have every reason to be excited about their future. A victory over Notre Dame might propel them to a high preseason ranking next season.

Prediction: LSU 27, Notre Dame 24

Belk Bowl

No. 13 Georgia vs. No. 21 Louisville, Dec. 30 (ESPN, 6:30 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: There's some lingering bad blood between the coaching staffs. Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham left Georgia last season, and then took some veiled shots at his former colleagues on his way out the door. Plus, Louisville's Bobby Petrino, a former Atlanta Falcons coach, still isn't the most popular guy in Georgia.

Who to watch: Georgia freshman Nick Chubb ran for 1,281 yards with 12 touchdowns, with much of his damage coming after UGA star Todd Gurley was suspended for accepting money for autographs. Chubb ran for more than 100 yards in each of the last seven games, averaging 151 yards during the stretch.

Motivation for Georgia: After losing to rival Georgia Tech 30-24 in overtime in the regular-season finale, the Bulldogs will be trying to avoid a two-game losing streak to ACC foes. Georgia also hasn't played well in the postseason recently, losing three of its past four bowl games.

Motivation for Louisville: By beating Georgia, the Cardinals would win 10 games and their third straight bowl game, which would put the icing on their first season in the ACC.

Prediction: Georgia 31, Louisville 27

Foster Farms Bowl

Maryland vs. Stanford, Dec. 30 (ESPN, 10 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: Both teams were probably better than their identical 7-5 records would suggest. Each of Stanford's five losses came against top-25 foes; the Cardinal finally got over the hump by stunning then-No. 8 UCLA 31-10 on the road on Nov. 28. Maryland lost games to West Virginia and Rutgers by a field goal.

Who to watch: Maryland's Stefon Diggs is one of the best big-play threats in the country when he's healthy. Diggs missed three games because of a lacerated kidney, but still finished with 52 catches for 654 yards with five touchdowns. He's expected to be available for the bowl game.

Motivation for Maryland: The Terrapins had an up-and-down first season in the Big Ten, but still finished 4-4 in league play. They didn't put up much of a fight against Ohio State and Michigan State, but beat Iowa, Penn State and Michigan. Not bad for starters.

Motivation for Stanford: After playing in four straight BCS bowl games, the Cardinal can't be too excited about playing in a bowl game so close to home. But Stanford won its last two games to become bowl eligible, and an 8-5 finish would prove the program hasn't slipped too far.

Prediction: Stanford 27, Maryland 13

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

No. 9 Ole Miss vs. No. 6 TCU, Dec. 31 (ESPN, 12:30 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: The Rebels were a few plays away from making the playoff, and the Horned Frogs might have been only a few votes away from being one of the four playoff teams. The game also provides a sharp contrast in styles: TCU's high-flying offense will get a major test from Ole Miss' athletic defense.

Who to watch: TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin might have been the country's most improved player, as he passed for 3,714 yards with 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions in the Horned Frogs' revamped spread offense. The best news for TCU: Boykin has one year of eligibility remaining.

Motivation for Ole Miss: The Rebels salvaged what was rapidly becoming a disappointing finish by upsetting rival Mississippi State 31-17 in the Egg Bowl. Ole Miss will try to win its seventh bowl game in a row.

Motivation for TCU: The Horned Frogs have to get over the bitter disappointment of not being selected for the playoff. The Horned Frogs are probably a year ahead of schedule, so beating the Rebels in Atlanta might propel them to a top-five ranking going into next season.

Prediction: TCU 34, Ole Miss 31

VIZIO Fiesta Bowl

No. 20 Boise State vs. No. 10 Arizona, Dec. 31 (ESPN, 4 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: Will Boise State pull something out of its bag of tricks? The Broncos famously used hook-and-lateral, halfback pass and Statue of Liberty trick plays to upset Oklahoma 43-42 in overtime in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. First-year Boise State coach Bryan Harsin was the Broncos' offensive coordinator at the time.

Who to watch: Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright won a hat trick of individual honors -- the Chuck Bednarik Award, Bronko Nagurski Award and Vince Lombardi/Rotary Award -- after piling up 89 tackles, 27 tackles for loss and 14 sacks this season.

Motivation for Boise State: The Broncos are 2-0 at the Fiesta Bowl; they also beat TCU 17-10 at the end of the 2009 season. Harsin guided the Broncos to an 11-2 record, proving the program won't fall off the map after former coach Chris Petersen left for Washington.

Motivation for Arizona: The Wildcats will undoubtedly be pumped about playing in the Fiesta Bowl for the first time since defeating Miami 29-0 in 1993. Arizona has made major strides under coach Rich Rodriguez, and certainly doesn't want to close the season with consecutive losses.

Prediction: Arizona 37, Boise State 34

Capital One Orange Bowl

No. 7 Mississippi State vs. No. 12 Georgia Tech, Dec. 31 (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: The Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets were two of the country's biggest surprises. Mississippi State started 9-0 before losing two of its last three games. The Yellow Jackets upset then-No. 19 Clemson and then-No. 9 Georgia before nearly beating No. 4 Florida State in the ACC championship game.

Who to watch: Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas, a sophomore from Prattville, Alabama, is tailor-made for coach Paul Johnson's triple-option spread offense. Thomas ran for 965 yards with five touchdowns, and completed 50.9 percent of his passes for 1,594 yards with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Motivation for Mississippi State: The Bulldogs don't want to finish the season on a sour note by losing three of their last four games. They were ranked No. 1 in the country for much of the season and a victory over the Yellow Jackets would erase some of the disappointment from November.

Motivation for Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets are aiming for their first 11-win season since 1990, when they finished 11-0-1 and shared a national championship with Colorado.

Prediction: Georgia Tech 34, Mississippi State 30

Outback Bowl

No. 19 Auburn vs. No. 18 Wisconsin, Jan. 1 (ESPN2, Noon ET)

Why to watch: For the second time in three seasons, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez will coach the Badgers in a bowl game, after former coach Gary Andersen left for Oregon State. Wisconsin lost to Stanford 20-14 in the 2013 Rose Bowl with Alvarez on the sideline.

Who to watch: It's your last chance to watch Wisconsin tailback Melvin Gordon, a Heisman Trophy finalist who ran for 2,336 yards with 26 touchdowns this season. He might find plenty of room against the Tigers, who gave up at least 31 points in each of their last six games against FBS foes. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn fired defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson and replaced him with former Florida coach Will Muschamp.

Motivation for Auburn: After starting 5-0, the Tigers limped to an 8-4 record, losing three of their last four games. Auburn's offense wasn't the problem; the Tigers are averaging 35.8 points per game.

Motivation for Wisconsin: The Badgers didn't just lay an egg against Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game; they were scrambled, fried and poached in an embarrassing 59-0 loss. That's not the lasting legacy Gordon and Wisconsin's seniors want to leave.

Prediction: Auburn 42, Wisconsin 35

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

No. 8 Michigan State vs. No. 5 Baylor, Jan. 1 (ESPN, 12:30 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: You won't find a matchup of more distinctly different styles of play than the Cotton Bowl, which pits Baylor's high-flying offense against Michigan State's menacing, black-and-blue defense. The Bears averaged a whopping 48.8 points per game; the Spartans allowed only 19.9.

Who to watch: Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty battled nagging injuries and his statistics weren't as good as last season's, but he was still pretty darned effective. Petty completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 3,305 yards with 26 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Motivation for Michigan State: Sure, the Spartans went 10-2 and are playing in a New Year's Six bowl game, but what do they really have to show for this season? They lost badly in their two biggest games, falling 46-27 at Oregon and 49-37 to Ohio State at home. Beating the Bears would at least add a feather to their caps.

Motivation for Baylor: Like TCU, the Bears were bitterly disappointed about being left out of the playoff. But coach Art Briles loves the fact that Baylor is playing in the Cotton Bowl, and he's looking for his team to make amends for last season's postseason flop, a 52-42 loss to UCF in the Fiesta Bowl.

Prediction: Baylor 45, Michigan State 38

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl

No. 16 Missouri vs. No. 25 Minnesota, Jan. 1 (ABC, 1 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: Check out two of the country's most underrated coaches: Missouri's Gary Pinkel and Minnesota's Jerry Kill. Pinkel has guided the Tigers to SEC East titles in each of the past two seasons; Kill has led Minnesota -- Minnesota! -- to 16 victories during the past two seasons.

Who to watch: Minnesota's David Cobb ran for 1,548 yards, which ranked ninth among FBS players. He had a season-high 220 yards against Middle Tennessee State and 207 against San Jose State.

Motivation for Missouri: It's time to quit doubting the Tigers, who have won the SEC East in two of their first three seasons in the league. Missouri had to replace a boatload of talent this season but didn't miss a beat. A bowl win would give the Tigers 23 victories over the past two seasons.

Motivation for Minnesota: The Gophers have been surprisingly good under Kill, but he hasn't yet led them to a bowl victory. In fact, Minnesota hasn't won in the postseason since beating Alabama 20-16 in the 2004 Music City Bowl, dropping its past six postseason games.

Prediction: Missouri 24, Minnesota 20

Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual

No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State, Jan. 1 (ESPN, 5 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: Well, for starters, the Rose Bowl is the first of the two semifinal games in the inaugural four-team College Football Playoff. On top of that, the game features the past two Heisman Trophy winners -- Florida State's Jameis Winston and Oregon's Marcus Mariota.

Who to watch: Mariota, a junior from Honolulu, won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide after completing 68.3 percent of his passes for 3,783 yards with 38 touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran for 669 yards with 14 touchdowns, and his 53 total touchdowns (he also caught a score) set a Pac-12 single-season record.

Motivation for Oregon: A trip to the Jan. 12 College Football Championship Game is on the line. The Ducks have never won a national championship. They came close in 2010, losing to Auburn 22-19 in the BCS National Championship Game.

Motivation for Florida State: The Seminoles can earn a chance to win back-to-back national championships for the first time in school history. They can also extend their winning streak to 30 games, the longest such streak in FSU and ACC history.

Prediction: Oregon 42, Florida State 31

Allstate Sugar Bowl

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State, Jan. 1 (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: The second CFP semifinal features two of the sport's traditional heavyweights and two of the hottest teams down the stretch. The Crimson Tide and Buckeyes have played only three times (Alabama won every previous matchup), but Alabama's Nick Saban and Ohio State's Urban Meyer had quite a rivalry brewing when Meyer coached at Florida.

Who to watch: Alabama's Amari Cooper won the Biletnikoff Award as the country's top receiver after leading FBS players with 115 catches and 1,656 receiving yards. He had more than 200 receiving yards in three games, including 224 yards on 13 catches with three touchdowns in a 55-44 win over Auburn in the Iron Bowl.

Motivation for Alabama: With a victory over the Buckeyes, the Crimson Tide will have a chance to win their third national championship in four years and fourth under Saban.

Motivation for Ohio State: The Buckeyes are trying to reach their first national championship game since losing in back-to-back BCS National Championships in 2006 and '07. The Buckeyes will also try to end a 10-game losing streak to SEC teams in the postseason, after having to vacate a 31-26 win over Arkansas in the 2011 Sugar Bowl because of NCAA sanctions.

Prediction: Alabama 31, Ohio State 24

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

Houston vs. Pittsburgh, Jan. 2 (ESPN, Noon ET)

Why to watch: It's the Interim Bowl. Houston fired coach Tony Levine and Wisconsin is expected to hire Pitt's Paul Chryst to replace Andersen. Defensive coordinator David Gibbs will serve as the Cougars' interim coach before Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman takes over after the playoff. If Chryst leaves, his replacement would be Pitt's sixth coach (including two interims) since 2010.

Who to watch: Pittsburgh's James Conner was named the ACC's Player of the Year after running for 1,675 yards, fifth most among FBS players. He also ranks third nationally with 24 rushing touchdowns, most in a single season in Pitt and ACC history, and is fifth with 139.6 yards per game.

Motivation for Houston: The Cougars weren't that far away from having a really good season. They lost four games by eight points or fewer, including a 33-25 loss to then-No. 25 BYU and 17-12 to UCF.

Motivation for Pitt: Like Houston, the Panthers were on the wrong end of several close calls, losing four games by five points or fewer. The Panthers lost to then-No. 24 Duke 51-48 in two overtimes and 40-35 at North Carolina.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 28, Houston 24

TaxSlayer Bowl

Iowa vs. Tennessee, Jan. 2 (ESPN, 3:20 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: Iowa and Tennessee can only hope the TaxSlayer Bowl can jump-start their programs, which have been trying to escape from mediocrity for a while now. The Hawkeyes haven't won more than eight games since going 11-2 in 2009. The Volunteers haven't won more than seven games since going 10-4 under former coach Phillip Fulmer in 2007.

Who to watch: It might not be sexy, but Iowa offensive tackle Brandon Scherff might be the best player on the field. He won the Outland Trophy as the country's top interior lineman and was named an All-American by The Associated Press.

Motivation for Iowa: The Hawkeyes can end a two-game slide in the postseason and win eight games again, but they have to be kicking themselves for not winning the Big Ten West.

Motivation for Tennessee: The Volunteers continue to take baby steps under second-year coach Butch Jones, and winning a bowl game for the first time since 2007 would be a step in the right direction.

Prediction: Tennessee 28, Iowa 17

Valero Alamo Bowl

No. 11 Kansas State vs. No. 14 UCLA, Jan. 2 (ESPN, 6:45 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: The Alamo Bowl features one of the better quarterback matchups of the postseason with UCLA's Brett Hundley squaring off against Kansas State's Jake Waters. Hundley, who is entering the NFL draft according to Bruins coach Jim Mora, passed for 3,019 yards with 21 touchdowns, while running for 348 yards with eight touchdowns.

Who to watch: Waters actually put up better passing yards than Hundley, throwing for 3,163 yards with 20 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also ran for 471 yards with eight scores.

Motivation for Kansas State: With a victory over the Bruins, Kansas State would finish with at least 10 victories for the third time in four seasons. It would be another improbable achievement in Kansas State coach Bill Snyder's truly remarkable career.

Motivation for UCLA: The Bruins can't be feeling good after their 31-10 loss to Stanford in the regular-season finale, which cost them the Pac-12 South title and a chance to play in the Pac-12 championship game. They'd probably love to send Hundley out with a bowl win.

Prediction: Kansas State 27, UCLA 24

TicketCity Cactus Bowl

Washington vs. Oklahoma State, Jan. 2 (ESPN, 10:15 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: You can get a sneak peek at three Washington players who are probably going to be big-time NFL players. The Associated Press named Washington linebackers Shaq Thompson and Hau'oli Kikaha and defensive tackle Danny Shelton first-team All-Americans on Tuesday. It's the first time three Huskies have been named All-Americans in the same season.

Who to watch: Thompson was one of the top two-way players in the country, finishing with 456 rushing yards and two touchdowns as a tailback and totaling 70 tackles, seven sacks, nine tackles for loss and four defensive touchdowns on defense. He won the Paul Hornung Award as the country's most versatile player.

Motivation for Washington: With so much talent on defense, it almost feels like the Huskies were a disappointment by finishing 8-5 in Chris Petersen's first season. A second straight bowl victory might provide some consolation.

Motivation for Oklahoma State: The Pokes were very young and lost a couple of quarterbacks, so making the postseason was a bit of a surprise. The Cowboys' 38-35 upset of Oklahoma on Dec. 6 probably gave them more satisfaction than any bowl victory would.

Prediction: Washington 28, Oklahoma State 14

Birmingham Bowl

East Carolina vs. Florida, Jan. 3 (ESPN, noon)

Why to watch: You want to see a great individual matchup? How about East Carolina receiver Justin Hardy against Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III? Hargreaves has five interceptions and 23 pass breakups during the past two seasons; Hardy ranks second nationally in receptions (110) and fifth in receiving yards (1,334).

Who to watch: A four-year starter at wide receiver, Hardy has caught more passes (376) than any player in FBS history. He set the record against Tulane on Nov. 22, breaking the previous mark of 349 set by Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles from 2008 to '11.

Motivation for East Carolina: The Pirates can beat a third opponent from a Power 5 conference this season. Earlier this year, ECU knocked off Virginia Tech 28-21 on the road and walloped North Carolina 70-41 at home.

Motivation for Florida: The Gators are going to have to be careful that they don't lay an egg in Birmingham. This season has been another disappointment, and former coach Will Muschamp has already paid the price by getting fired. The Gators can finish with a winning record by beating the Pirates.

Prediction: East Carolina 27, Florida 23

GoDaddy Bowl

Toledo vs. Arkansas State, Jan. 4 (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: It's the last bowl game before the CFP title game. Get your football fix before an eight-day layoff.

Who to watch: Toledo tailback Kareem Hunt ran for 1,360 yards with 11 touchdowns, despite missing three games with an ankle injury. He averaged 7.9 yards per carry and had 265 rushing yards with two touchdowns in a 27-20 win over Bowling Green on Nov. 19.

Motivation for Toledo: The Rockets can win nine games in a season for the first time since 2012, when they lost to Utah State 41-15 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Motivation for Arkansas State: The Red Wolves can't get complacent, as they're playing in the GoDaddy Bowl for the fourth straight season. They defeated Kent State and Ball State in their previous two trips to Mobile, Alabama.

Prediction: Toledo 42, Arkansas State 38

Bonus pick (assuming my College Football Playoff semifinal predictions are correct)

College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 Oregon, Jan. 12 (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET)

Why to watch: It's for the national championship, man.

Who to watch: The quarterback battle between Mariota and Alabama's Blake Sims. Sims, a senior from Gainesville, Georgia, was a surprising choice to win the starting job in preseason camp. But he has played well, completing 64.8 percent of his passes for 3,250 yards with 26 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Can he go nose-to-nose with the Heisman Trophy winner?

Motivation for Alabama: The Crimson Tide can win their fourth national title in six years. Alabama coach Nick Saban would win his fifth national title (he also won one at LSU), which would pull him within one of legendary Crimson Tide coach Paul "Bear" Bryant for the most in major college football history.

Motivation for Oregon: The Ducks could go a long way in earning respect for the Pac-12 and spread offenses everywhere if they're able to knock off the Crimson Tide. The Ducks would also win their first national championship.

Prediction: Alabama 37, Oregon 28