Alabama rolls to title, and other predictions for every bowl game

By the time the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T kicks off on Jan. 11, 41 other bowl games will have been played.

Talk about holiday gluttony.

We'll see teams playing in bowl games for the first time (Appalachian State, Georgia Southern and Georgia State) and coaches leading their teams for the final time (Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer and BYU's Bronco Mendenhall). One undefeated team (No. 1 Clemson) will play in the postseason, along with three teams with losing records (Minnesota, Nebraska and San Jose State).

While others might argue there are too many bowl games, here's a reason to watch every one of them:

Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl

North Carolina A&T vs. Alcorn State
Dec. 19 (ABC, noon)

Why to watch: It's the inaugural Celebration Bowl at Atlanta's Georgia Dome, which matches the champions of the MEAC and SWAC and is being called the unofficial "black college national championship." It should also be the most entertaining halftime show of the postseason, when Alcorn State's Sounds of Dyn-O-mite and North Carolina A&T's Blue and Gold Marching Machine take the field.

Who to watch: North Carolina A&T running back Tarik Cohen, a junior from Bunn, North Carolina, is one of the most dynamic players in HBCU football. The two-time MEAC Offensive Player of the Year ran for 1,255 yards with 12 touchdowns this season. He also became a social media sensation last summer, when he caught a pass with one hand while doing a backflip.

Motivation for North Carolina A&T: The Aggies, who are making their first postseason appearance in 12 years, are seeking their first 10-win season since 2003.

Motivation for Alcorn State: The Braves will attempt to win 10 games in back-to-back seasons. They're hoping this trip to Atlanta is better than their last one, a 69-6 loss at Georgia Tech in their opener on Sept. 3.

Prediction: Alcorn State 20, North Carolina A&T 17

Gildan New Mexico Bowl

Arizona vs. New Mexico
Dec. 19 (ESPN, 2 p.m.)

Why to watch: It's the first bowl game of the season and it's an old Southwest rivalry that used to mean something to both sides. The Wildcats and Lobos played every season from 1946 to 1977, but they've met only five times since 1987.

Who to watch: Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon was plagued by concussions during the season and missed the finale, a 52-37 loss at rival Arizona State. When healthy, he was one of the Pac-12's best quarterbacks, completing 62.7 percent of his passes for 2,338 yards with 18 touchdowns and four interceptions. If Solomon can't play in the bowl game, freshman Brandon Dawkins will probably get the start.

Motivation for Arizona: Injuries derailed what was supposed to be a good season for the Wildcats, who had to upset then-No. 10 Utah 37-30 to finish 6-6. They played in the Fiesta Bowl after the 2014 season, so motivation might be an issue for Arizona, which will be trying to avoid its first losing season since 2011.

Motivation for New Mexico: The Lobos finally broke through in coach Bob Davie's fourth season, finishing 7-5. After knocking off Utah State, Boise State and Air Force, the Lobos would probably like nothing more than to beat a Pac-12 opponent in their bowl game.

Prediction: Arizona 37, New Mexico 28

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl

BYU vs. Utah
Dec. 19 (ABC, 3:30 p.m.)

Why to watch: It's the first Holy War to be played in the postseason -- and it will happen in Sin City, of all places. BYU and Utah, which are separated by only 48 miles, played every season from 1946 to 2013, until the Utes dropped the rivalry game to play a home-and-home series against Michigan.

Who to watch: BYU freshman Tanner Mangum was forced into the starting role after Taysom Hill was hurt in the opener. Mangum threw Hail Mary touchdowns to beat Nebraska and Boise State in consecutive weeks, and finished the regular season with 3,062 passing yards with 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Motivation for BYU: The Cougars will be playing their final game under Bronco Mendenhall, who was named Virginia's new coach after spending 11 seasons at BYU. They'd probably love to send him out with a victory.

Motivation for Utah: The Utes have a four-game winning streak over BYU and would probably love to send Mendenhall out with a fifth consecutive loss. The Utes can also improve to 9-1 in bowl games under coach Kyle Whittingham.

Prediction: Utah 28, BYU 27

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

Ohio vs. Appalachian State
Dec. 19 (ESPN, 5:30 p.m.)

Why to watch: It's the first bowl game for Appalachian State, the former FCS powerhouse which famously upset Michigan 34-32 in the 2007 opener. The Mountaineers went 7-5 in 2014, but were ineligible for a bowl game as an FBS transitional member.

Who to watch: Appalachian State's Taylor Lamb was one of the Sun Belt Conference's best quarterbacks, throwing for 2,263 yards with 29 touchdowns and eight interceptions, while running for 385 yards with four scores.

Motivation for Ohio: The Bobcats snapped a three-game losing streak and then won their final three games to finish 8-4. The Bobcats could win nine games in a season for the first time since 2012 with a victory over Appalachian State.

Motivation for Appalachian State: The Mountaineers haven't had much trouble jumping to the FBS and they can win the school's first FBS bowl game in only Year 2. Appalachian State's only losses this season came against No. 1 Clemson and Sun Belt champion Arkansas State.

Prediction: Appalachian State 24, Ohio 20

AutoNation Cure Bowl

San Jose State vs. Georgia State
Dec. 19 (CBSSN, 7 p.m.)

Why to watch: Georgia State is one of the sport's best stories. The Panthers went 2-33 from 2012 to '14 and then started 2-6 in 2015. But Georgia State won its last four games, including a 34-7 upset at Georgia Southern, to finish 6-6 and qualify for its first bowl game.

Who to watch: Quarterback Nick Arbuckle has led Georgia State's improbable turnaround, throwing for 4,160 yards with 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Arbuckle, a senior from Camarillo, California, needs only 95 yards to break the Sun Belt Conference's single-season passing record.

Motivation for San Jose State: The Spartans lost three of their final four games to finish 5-7, and they're playing in the postseason only because of their lofty APR scores. A win over Georgia State would at least give them some momentum heading into the offseason.

Motivation for Georgia State: The Panthers didn't even beat an FBS opponent in their first two seasons as an FBS member. Ending Year 3 with a 7-6 record, five-game winning streak and a bowl victory would give coach Trent Miles some much-needed legitimacy on the recruiting trail.

Prediction: Georgia State 35, San Jose State 27

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Arkansas State vs. Louisiana Tech
Dec. 19 (ESPN, 9 p.m.)

Why to watch: It should be a fun shootout in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Red Wolves and Bulldogs combined to average more than 77 points per game, while allowing more than 55 per contest.

Who to watch: Former Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel found a home at Louisiana Tech, where he threw for 3,575 yards with 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions this season. He had seven games with more than 300 passing yards, after failing to have any during parts of four seasons with the Gators.

Motivation for Arkansas State: The Red Wolves have to be happy to not be playing in Mobile, Alabama, where they appeared in the GoDaddy Bowl in each of the previous four seasons. With a victory over the Bulldogs, Arkansas State would win 10 games in a season for only the fourth time in school history.

Motivation for Louisiana Tech: Although it's hardly close to home, the Bulldogs have never played in the New Orleans Bowl. Louisiana Tech can also win back-to-back bowl games for the first time.

Prediction: Arkansas State 41, Louisiana Tech 38

Miami Beach Bowl

Western Kentucky vs. South Florida
Dec. 21 (ESPN, 2:30 p.m.)

Why to watch: If you watched the Hilltoppers play in the inaugural Bahamas Bowl last season, you'd know that anything is bound to happen in this game. Western Kentucky plays an exciting brand of offense.

Who to watch: WKU's Brandon Doughty will be playing in his final college game, after finishing No. 2 in FBS with 4,594 passing yards. He completed a whopping 71.8 percent of his passes, with 45 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Motivation for Western Kentucky: With a victory over the Bulls, WKU can win 12 games in a season for the first time since 2002, when Jack Harbaugh guided the Hilltoppers to a 12-3 record and the NCAA Division I-AA national championship.

Motivation for South Florida: The Bulls might have saved coach Willie Taggart's job by finishing 8-4, and a win over the Hilltoppers would give them even more momentum heading into the offseason. USF is playing in its first bowl game since 2010.

Prediction: Western Kentucky 35, South Florida 28

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Akron vs. Utah State
Dec. 22 (ESPN, 3:30 p.m.)

Why to watch: It's your last chance to watch Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton, whose once-promising career has been derailed by myriad injuries. When Keeton is healthy, he's a really fun player to watch.

Who to watch: Akron linebacker Jatavis Brown was named the MAC Defensive Player of the Year with 108 tackles, 17½ tackles for loss and 10½ sacks. Brown, a junior from Belle Glade, Florida, leads a Zips defense that ranked No. 3 in FBS against the run, allowing only 89.8 yards per game.

Motivation for Akron: The Zips will be trying to win a bowl game for the first time in school history. Akron lost to Memphis 38-31 in the 2005 Motor City Bowl, its only other appearance in an FBS bowl game.

Motivation for Utah State: The Aggies are trying to finish the season with a winning record. After stunning Boise State 52-26, Utah State dropped four of its last six games to finish 6-6.

Prediction: Utah State 21, Akron 20

Marmot Boca Raton Bowl

Toledo vs. Temple
Dec. 22 (ESPN, 7 p.m.)

Why to watch: The Rockets and Owls were two of the best teams from the Group of 5 conferences and two of the biggest surprises in the country.

Who to watch: Temple linebacker Tyler Matakevich won the Bronko Nagurski Award as the country's top defensive player. He became only the seventh player to have at least 100 tackles in four consecutive seasons, finishing with 126 stops, five interceptions, 4½ sacks and 15 tackles for loss.

Motivation for Toledo: After a 7-0 start, the Rockets fizzled a bit at the end, losing two of their last four games to finish 9-2. Matt Campbell left to become Iowa State's new head coach, but Toledo's players would like to end the season on a winning note.

Motivation for Temple: The Owls just missed winning an American Athletic Conference championship, losing to Houston 24-13 in the AAC championship game. The Owls are playing in only their fifth bowl game and would love to put a star on what has been a truly special season in Philadelphia.

Prediction: Temple 24, Toledo 17

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

Boise State vs. Northern Illinois
Dec. 23 (ESPN, 4:30 p.m.)

Why to watch: It's a matchup of two of the bigger names from the Power 5 conferences and both teams have enjoyed success on a large stage in recent seasons.

Who to watch: Boise State freshman QB Brett Rypien -- the nephew of Super Bowl XXVI MVP Mark Rypien -- averaged nearly 300 passing yards in 10 starts for the Broncos. After taking over in the third game, Rypien threw for 2,976 yards with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Motivation for Boise State: After upsetting Arizona 38-30 in the Vizio Fiesta Bowl in 2014, the Broncos might not be too fired up about playing in the Poinsettia Bowl. But Boise State needs to beat Northern Illinois to avoid finishing 8-5 for the second time in three seasons.

Motivation for Northern Illinois: The Huskies also fell short of their recent standards this season, finishing 8-5 after losing to Bowling Green 34-14 in the MAC championship game. Northern Illinois will try to end a three-game losing streak in bowl games and avoid a six-loss season for the first time since 2009.

Prediction: Boise State 28, Northern Illinois 24

GoDaddy Bowl

Georgia Southern vs. Bowling Green
Dec. 23 (ESPN, 8 p.m.)

Why to watch: If you haven't yet seen Bowling Green senior quarterback Matt Johnson in action, you're missing something special. He led FBS quarterbacks with 4,700 passing yards to go along with 43 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Who to watch: Georgia Southern's Matt Breida ran for 1,540 yards in 12 games, which is 10th best among FBS players, and did it on far fewer carries than the players ahead of him. Breida averaged an FBS-best 8.19 yards per carry and had 151 fewer carries than Alabama's Derrick Henry, who led the country with 1,986 rushing yards.

Motivation for Georgia Southern: The Eagles probably have a pretty awful taste in their mouth after losing to Georgia State 34-7 in their finale, which was the worst home loss in school history. Plus, the six-time FCS national champions are headed to an FBS bowl game for the first time in school history.

Motivation for Bowling Green: The Falcons have a chance to win 11 games for the first time since 2003, and they'll try to win their bowl game without former coach Dino Babers, who left for Syracuse. Defensive coordinator Brian Ward will serve as interim coach.

Prediction: Bowling Green 38, Georgia Southern 31

Popeyes Bahamas Bowl

Middle Tennessee vs. Western Michigan
Dec. 24 (ESPN, noon)

Why to watch: If Western Michigan wins a bowl game for the first time in school history, coach P.J. Fleck might row his boat back to the U.S.

Who to watch: Western Michigan duo Daniel Braverman and Corey Davis combined to catch 185 passes for 2,519 yards with 23 touchdowns. It's the highest total for receptions by two players on the same team this season, and the first time since 2010 players on the same team both had more than 1,200 receiving yards.

Motivation for Middle Tennessee: After being snubbed for the postseason with a 6-6 record in 2014, the Blue Raiders are seeking their first bowl victory since beating Southern Miss 42-32 in the 2009 New Orleans Bowl.

Motivation for Western Michigan: The Broncos will be trying to end an 0-6 drought in bowl games, including a 38-24 loss to Air Force in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl last season.

Prediction: Western Michigan 28, Middle Tennessee State 24

Hawai'i Bowl

San Diego State vs. Cincinnati
Dec. 24 (ESPN, 8 p.m.)

Why to watch: You can spend Christmas Eve night watching one of the country's most underrated players: San Diego State's Donnel Pumphrey, who finished No. 9 in FBS with 1,554 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns.

Who to watch: When healthy, Cincinnati's Gunner Kiel, a Notre Dame transfer, was one of the sport's most prolific passers. He threw for 2,777 yards with 19 touchdowns in 10 games.

Motivation for San Diego State: The Aztecs will be trying to improve their 1-3 record under coach Rocky Long in bowl games.

Motivation for Cincinnati: The Bearcats haven't yet won a bowl game under coach Tommy Tuberville and haven't been very competitive in two losses, falling to North Carolina 39-17 in the 2013 Belk Bowl and 33-17 to Virginia Tech in the 2014 Military Bowl.

Prediction: San Diego State 31, Cincinnati 27

St. Petersburg Bowl

Connecticut vs. Marshall
Dec. 26 (ESPN, 11 a.m.)

Why to watch: If you watch long enough, maybe you'll be able to figure out how the Huskies upset AAC champion Houston 20-17 on Nov. 21.

Who to watch: UConn cornerback Jamar Summers was third nationally with seven interceptions, including four in the last three regular-season games. He's a big reason the Huskies ranked 17th in FBS in scoring defense, allowing only 19.8 points per game.

Motivation for Connecticut: The Huskies were one of the country's most-improved teams, jumping from 2-10 in coach Bob Diaco's first season to 6-6 this year. A bowl victory would be a major boost for a program that has fought for relevancy since playing in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl.

Motivation for Marshall: The Thundering Herd can win at least 10 games for the third straight season with a bowl victory.

Prediction: Marshall 20, Connecticut 17

Hyundai Sun Bowl

Miami vs. Washington State
Dec. 26 (CBS, 2 p.m.)

Why to watch: It might end up being one of the most exciting games to watch because of the quarterback matchup: Miami's Brad Kaaya vs. Washington State's Luke Falk.

Who to watch: Falk, who missed the Cougars' regular-season finale against Washington because of a concussion, threw for 4,266 yards with 36 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Motivation for Miami: The Hurricanes won four of their last five games and would probably like to win one more for interim coach Larry Scott before former Georgia coach Mark Richt takes over. Miami also is riding a five-game losing streak in the postseason.

Motivation for Washington State: After losing to FCS foe Portland State in the opener, the Cougars have a chance to finish 9-4. Plus, they haven't won a bowl game since defeating Texas 28-20 in the 2003 Holiday Bowl.

Prediction: Washington State 42, Miami 38

Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl

Washington vs. Southern Miss
Dec. 26 (ESPN, 2:20 p.m.)

Why to watch: It's a chance to witness one of the better coaching jobs in the country. Under third-year coach Todd Monken, the Golden Eagles have improved from one victory in 2013 to three in 2014 to nine this season.

Who to watch: Washington freshman Jake Browning didn't get as much publicity as UCLA's Josh Rosen, but he had a stellar rookie campaign in the Pac-12. Browning completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 2,671 yards with 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Motivation for Washington: The Huskies have a chance to close the season with a three-game winning streak and a winning record.

Motivation for Southern Miss: A victory over a Power 5 opponent in a bowl game would give even more legitimacy to the Golden Eagles' remarkable turnaround.

Prediction: Southern Miss 31, Washington 28

New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Indiana vs. Duke
Dec. 26 (ABC, 3:30 p.m.)

Why to watch: If you're flipping through the channels on the day after Christmas, you might actually think it's a good college basketball game.

Who to watch: Indiana running back Jordan Howard missed the regular-season finale against Purdue, but the Hoosiers are hoping to have him back for the bowl game. Howard, a UAB transfer, was named All-Big Ten after running for 1,213 yards with nine touchdowns in nine games.

Motivation for Indiana: Are you kidding? What more could the Hoosiers want? They're playing in their first bowl game since 2007 at Yankee Stadium. They'll try for their first bowl win since beating Baylor 24-0 in the 1991 Copper Bowl.

Motivation for Duke: The Blue Devils are looking for something good to happen after losing four of their last five games to ruin what seemed to be a special season.

Prediction: Indiana 42, Duke 38

Camping World Independence Bowl

Tulsa vs. Virginia Tech
Dec. 26 (ESPN, 5:45 p.m.)

Why to watch: It's the end of the road for legendary Hokies coach Frank Beamer, who is retiring after 29 seasons as coach of his alma mater.

Who to watch: Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans flourished under first-year coach Philip Montgomery, a former Baylor offensive coordinator, throwing for 3,958 yards with 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Motivation for Tulsa: With a victory over the Hokies, the Golden Hurricane can finish 7-6 in Montgomery's first season, which isn't a bad start.

Motivation for Virginia Tech: The Hokies can send Beamer into retirement with a victory in his final game. Could they possibly need any more motivation?

Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Tulsa 20

Foster Farms Bowl

UCLA vs. Nebraska
Dec. 26 (ESPN, 9:15 p.m.)

Why to watch: Come on: The final minute of any Nebraska game is much-watch TV this season.

Who to watch: Josh Rosen cooled off a bit down the stretch, but he was still one of the country's best freshman quarterbacks. He completed 59.5 percent of his passes for 3,351 yards with 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Motivation for UCLA: The Bruins can win at least nine games for the fourth straight season and win their third consecutive bowl game under coach Jim Mora.

Motivation for Nebraska: The Cornhuskers have to beat the Bruins to avoid losing eight games in a season for the first time since going 1-9 in 1957.

Prediction: UCLA 41, Nebraska 21

Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman

Pittsburgh vs. Navy
Dec. 28 (ESPN, 2:30 p.m.)

Why to watch: Pitt has one of the country's best run defenses, but will have its hands full trying to slow down Navy's triple-option offense, which averaged a whopping 319.2 rushing yards per game.

Who to watch: Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds has been one of the country's best players the past four seasons. He broke the NCAA Division I career record with 85 rushing touchdowns, and ran for 1,229 yards with 21 touchdowns this season.

Motivation for Pittsburgh: The Panthers can't be happy about being passed over in the ACC's bowl pecking order. Pitt can finish 9-4, which would be a nice opening campaign for first-year coach Pat Narduzzi.

Motivation for Navy: With a victory over the Panthers, the Midshipmen can win 11 games in a season for the first time in the 123-year history of the program.

Prediction: Navy 28, Pittsburgh 24

Quick Lane Bowl

Central Michigan vs. Minnesota
Dec. 28 (ESPN2, 5 p.m.)

Why to watch: If the game is half as good as Central Michigan's last bowl game -- a 49-48 loss to Western Kentucky in the 2014 Bahamas Bowl -- it's going to be fun to watch.

Who to watch: Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush might be a legitimate NFL prospect, after throwing for 3,703 yards with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions as a junior.

Motivation for Central Michigan: The Chippewas won five of their past six games and have a chance to finish 8-5 after a 2-4 start.

Motivation for Minnesota: The Gophers will be trying to avoid a 5-8 finish, and new coach Tracy Claeys can earn a lot of goodwill by ending their seven-game losing streak in bowl games.

Prediction: Central Michigan 34, Minnesota 28

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

California vs. Air Force
Dec. 29 (ESPN, 2 p.m.)

Why to watch: It's probably your last chance to watch California's Jared Goff, who might end up being the first quarterback taken in the 2016 NFL draft.

Who to watch: Goff and Memphis' Paxton Lynch are considered the top quarterbacks eligible for the NFL draft. Goff threw for 4,252 yards with 37 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Motivation for California: The Bears should be pretty motivated after keeping third-year coach Sonny Dykes, who has a chance to guide his team to an 8-5 record.

Motivation for Air Force: The Falcons sputtered down the stretch, losing their last two games to New Mexico and San Diego State, and would like to avoid a three-game losing streak heading into the offseason.

Prediction: California 35, Air Force 31

Russell Athletic Bowl

North Carolina vs. Baylor
Dec. 29 (ESPN, 5:30 p.m.)

Why to watch: It should be a high-scoring shootout between two of the best spread offenses -- if the Bears' quarterback situation is sorted out.

Who to watch: Baylor's Corey Coleman won the Biletnikoff Award as the country's top receiver, and North Carolina's defense might have a difficult time keeping up with him. He finished with 74 catches for 1,363 yards with 20 touchdowns.

Motivation for North Carolina: The Tar Heels' breakthrough season under coach Larry Fedora might end with 12 victories for the first time in the 112-year history of the program.

Motivation for Baylor: The Bears lost three of their last four games to knock them out the College Football Playoff race. Baylor would also like to erase memories of its last two losses in bowl games.

Prediction: North Carolina 42, Baylor 38

NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl

Nevada vs. Colorado State
Dec. 29 (Campus Insiders, 7:30 p.m.)

Why to watch: You might think it's October, with Mountain West Conference foes Colorado State and Nevada playing in a bowl game for the first time.

Who to watch: In three seasons, Colorado State's Rashard Higgins became the school's all-time leading receiver with 230 catches. He needs 114 receiving yards to break the CSU record, and he led the MWC with eight touchdown catches in 2015.

Motivation for Nevada: The Wolf Pack can finish 7-6 with a bowl victory for the first time since beating Boston College 20-13 in the 2010 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

Motivation for Colorado State: The Rams can carry a five-game winning streak into the offseason and finish 8-5 in coach Mike Bobo's first season.

Prediction: Colorado State 27, Nevada 21

AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl

LSU vs. Texas Tech
Dec. 29 (ESPN, 9 p.m.)

Why to watch: LSU tailback Leonard Fournette needs 259 rushing yards to reach 2,000 for the season. He might be able to do it against Texas Tech's porous defense, which surrendered 271.8 rushing yards per game.

Who to watch: Texas Tech's DeAndre Washington was the Big 12's leading rusher with 1,455 yards in 12 games. He averaged 121.2 yards per game and had 248 yards in a 59-44 win over Kansas State.

Motivation for LSU: The Tigers dropped three of their last four games, but ended the regular season with a 19-7 win over Texas A&M, which might have saved coach Les Miles' job.

Motivation for Texas Tech: The Red Raiders ended the season with two straight victories. After beating Arkansas and Texas in the regular season, a victory over LSU would give coach Kliff Kingsbury a pretty good trifecta.

Prediction: LSU 31, Texas Tech 24

Birmingham Bowl

Auburn vs. Memphis
Dec. 30 (ESPN, noon)

Why to watch: It's a game featuring Tigers of different stripes. Auburn finished 6-6 and was one of the country's biggest disappointments; Memphis went 9-3 and was one of the biggest surprises.

Who to watch: Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch might be one of the first players off the board in the 2016 NFL draft. He threw for 3,670 yards with 28 touchdowns and three interceptions.

Motivation for Auburn: The Tigers need a victory to avoid their first losing season since going 3-9 in 2012. They'll have to do it without defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who left to become South Carolina's new coach.

Motivation for Memphis: The Tigers can win 10 games for the second straight season, which they've never done. Interim coach Darrell Dickey will try to guide his team to a win for the first time since he was North Texas' coach in 2006.

Prediction: Memphis 34, Auburn 21

Belk Bowl

NC State vs. Mississippi State
Dec. 30 (ESPN, 3:30 p.m.)

Why to watch: It's a pretty good matchup of athletic, talented quarterbacks. Mississippi State's Dak Prescott and NC State's Jacoby Brissett will try to lead their teams to a victory in their final college games.

Who to watch: Few FBS players were as valuable to their teams as Prescott, who threw for 3,413 yards with 25 touchdowns and four interceptions this season. He also led the Bulldogs in rushing with 541 yards and 10 scores.

Motivation for NC State: The Wolfpack have fared pretty well in the postseason, winning six of their past eight bowl games. Beating an SEC opponent in a bowl game for the first time since a 28-24 victory over Mississippi State in the 1994 Peach Bowl would be another nice feather in their caps.

Motivation for Mississippi State: After losing to rival Ole Miss 38-27 in the Egg Bowl, the Bulldogs want to send Prescott out a winner. He'll leave as arguably the best player in school history.

Prediction: Mississippi State 31, NC State 27

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Texas A&M vs. Louisville
Dec. 30 (ESPN, 7 p.m.)

Why to watch: If nothing else, it's worth seeing who actually starts at quarterback for the Aggies. Sophomore Kyle Allen has already left, and freshman Kyler Murray is reportedly considering transferring to another school. Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin says he expects Murray to start against the Cardinals.

Who to watch: Aggies receiver Christian Kirk was one of the country's top freshmen, leading the team with 70 catches for 925 yards with six touchdowns. He also led the SEC in punt returns with a 24.4-yard average and took two to the house.

Motivation for Texas A&M: After losing four of their last seven games, the Aggies really need some momentum heading into the offseason. A loss in the bowl game would drop Texas A&M's record to 8-5, which wouldn't be good for coach Kevin Sumlin.

Motivation for Louisville: The Cardinals were a disappointment this season, finishing 7-5. But they can close the season with consecutive victories over SEC opponents, after coming from behind to beat Kentucky 38-24.

Prediction: Louisville 24, Texas A&M 17

National Funding Holiday Bowl

USC vs. Wisconsin
Dec. 30 (ESPN, 10:30 p.m.)

Why to watch: The Badgers won nine games under first-year coach Paul Chryst, and the Trojans won eight games after Clay Helton took over following Steve Sarkisian's firing.

Who to watch: Wisconsin's Joe Schobert was named the Big Ten linebacker of the year after he totaled 18½ tackles for loss, 9½ sacks and a school-record five forced fumbles. He leads the top-scoring defense in the FBS.

Motivation for USC: The Trojans can finish 9-5 after losing Sarkisian in midseason and head into the offseason with some momentum under Helton, who was named his permanent successor. USC can also win the Holiday Bowl in consecutive seasons after defeating Nebraska 45-42 in San Diego in 2014.

Motivation for Wisconsin: The Badgers have something to prove after totaling nine wins against opponents that weren't very good. They can also win 10 games in Chryst's first season, which would be a nice achievement.

Prediction: USC 27, Wisconsin 21

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

Houston vs. Florida State
Dec. 31 (ESPN, noon)

Why to watch: It's one of the more intriguing storylines in the New Year's Six bowl games: Can upstart Houston upset Florida State, which played in the inaugural College Football Playoff in 2014?

Who to watch: Florida State's Dalvin Cook might have been a Heisman Trophy finalist in another season, after running for 1,658 yards with 18 touchdowns. He had more than 100 yards in eight games, including four straight to end the regular season.

Motivation for Houston: After going 12-1 in coach Tom Herman's first season, the Cougars can earn some legitimacy with a victory over one of the sport's traditional powers. They can also win 13 games in a season for the first time since 2011.

Motivation for Florida State: After falling short of an ACC title with a 10-2 record, the Seminoles probably don't want to head into the offseason with a loss to an opponent from a Group of 5 conference.

Prediction: Florida State 28, Houston 27

College Football Playoff semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl

Oklahoma vs. Clemson
Dec. 31 (ESPN, 4 p.m.)

Why to watch: It's a great quarterback matchup on one of the postseason's biggest stages, with the winner advancing to the College Football Playoff National Championship. Clemson's Deshaun Watson was a Heisman Trophy finalist; Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield believes voters overlooked him.

Who to watch: Watson, a sophomore, was arguably the country's best quarterback, completing 69.5 percent of his passes for 3,512 yards with 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He also ran for 887 yards with 11 scores.

Motivation for Oklahoma: Besides trying to earn a spot in the national championship game, the Sooners will be trying to avenge an ugly 40-6 loss to the Tigers in the 2014 Russell Athletic Bowl.

Motivation for Clemson: The Tigers can improve to 14-0 and move one step closer to winning their first national championship since 1981.

Prediction: Oklahoma 35, Clemson 34

College Football Playoff semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

Michigan State vs. Alabama
Dec. 31 (ESPN, 8 p.m.)

Why to watch: Two of the sport's most physical defenses will square off in the second College Football Playoff semifinal. Alabama's Nick Saban will face his former team and a former assistant, Michigan State's Mark Dantonio.

Who to watch: Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry more than carried the load for the Crimson Tide down the stretch, getting more than 40 carries in each of the past two games. He finished the regular season with an SEC-record 1,986 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns.

Motivation for Michigan State: The Spartans seem to relish the underdog role, and they'll try to knock off the Crimson Tide and move one step closer to winning their first national title since sharing a championship with Notre Dame in 1966.

Motivation for Alabama: The Crimson Tide would like to avoid losing to a Big Ten opponent in the CFP semifinals for the second season in a row. Alabama is trying to win its fourth national championship in seven years.

Prediction: Alabama 27, Michigan State 17

Outback Bowl

Northwestern vs. Tennessee
Jan. 1 (ESPN2, noon)

Why to watch: It's the SEC vs. the, uh, SAT? The Wildcats have been very good on defense this season, and would probably like nothing more than to knock off an SEC opponent in the postseason.

Who to watch: Northwestern sophomore Anthony Walker was named All-Big Ten after leading the Wildcats with 113 tackles, to go along with 19½ tackles for loss, three sacks, three fumble recoveries and one interception.

Motivation for Northwestern: The Wildcats are back in the postseason for the first time since beating Mississippi State 34-20 in the 2012 Gator Bowl, which snapped a nine-game losing streak in bowl games. They can also win 11 games for the first time in school history.

Motivation for Tennessee: The Volunteers have been slowly building under third-year coach Butch Jones, and a victory over the Wildcats in a New Year's Day game would be another brick in the foundation.

Prediction: Tennessee 23, Northwestern 17

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl

Michigan vs. Florida
Jan. 1 (ABC, 1 p.m.)

Why to watch: Two of the country's best first-year coaches -- Florida's Jim McElwain and Michigan's Jim Harbaugh -- go nose-to-nose in the postseason. It will be especially fun to watch if you like defense.

Who to watch: You might not be able to find a better collection of cornerbacks on the field at the same time. Florida had two All-SEC cornerbacks -- Jalen Tabor and Vernon Hargreaves III. Michigan's Jourdan Lewis was an All-Big Ten selection, too.

Motivation for Michigan: After going 5-7 in coach Brady Hoke's final season in 2014, the Wolverines can double their victory total in Harbaugh's first season coaching his alma mater.

Motivation for Florida: After starting the season 10-1, the Gators ended with a thud, losing to Florida State 27-2 and Alabama 29-15 in the SEC championship game. They'd like to avoid a three-game losing streak heading into the postseason.

Prediction: Michigan 24, Florida 20

BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl

Notre Dame vs. Ohio State
Jan. 1 (ESPN, 1 p.m.)

Why to watch: The Buckeyes and Fighting Irish were perhaps one or two plays away from reaching the College Football Playoff. The rare matchup between the traditional powers might be the best matchup outside of the two semifinals.

Who to watch: Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott was one of the best tailbacks in the country -- when his coaches gave him the ball. He ran for 1,672 yards with 19 touchdowns, including 214 yards with two scores in a 42-13 win over Michigan.

Motivation for Notre Dame: The Irish can win three bowl games in a row for the first time since 1991-93 and can win a New Year's Day bowl for the first time since defeating Texas A&M 24-21 in the 1994 Cotton Bowl. Notre Dame hasn't beaten OSU since a 7-2 win in 1936.

Motivation for Ohio State: The defending national champion Buckeyes just missed the playoff, but they can win at least 12 games for the fourth straight season. They'll try to beat Notre Dame for the fourth straight time.

Prediction: Ohio State 35, Notre Dame 24

Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual

Stanford vs. Iowa
Jan. 1 (ESPN, 5 p.m.)

Why to watch: If you didn't get to see Stanford's Christian McCaffrey play much this season, it's definitely worth your time. He broke Barry Sanders' NCAA single-season record with 3,496 all-purpose yards and might be the most exciting player in the country.

Who to watch: Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan will play his final college game after throwing for 2,644 yards with 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He'll have to keep his eye on Iowa cornerback Desmond King, who won the Jim Thorpe Award as the country's best defensive back.

Motivation for Stanford: The Cardinal are playing in the Rose Bowl for the third time since 2011, and lost to Michigan State 24-20 in their last trip to Pasadena, California.

Motivation for Iowa: The Hawkeyes' dreams of an undefeated season, Big Ten championship and spot in the College Football Playoff ended at the goal line in the final seconds of a 16-13 loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game. They're making their first trip to the Rose Bowl in 25 years.

Prediction: Stanford 27, Iowa 24

Allstate Sugar Bowl

Oklahoma State vs. Ole Miss
Jan. 1 (ESPN, 8:30 p.m.)

Why to watch: The Sugar Bowl will feature one of the postseason's best individual matchups: Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil, a potential NFL first-round choice, against Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, the sport's active sacks leader with 28.

Who to watch: Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell will probably be playing in his final college game. The junior is expected to enter the NFL draft after catching 76 passes for 1,082 yards with eight touchdowns.

Motivation for Oklahoma State: The Pokes didn't look very good in their last two games, a 45-35 loss to Baylor and 58-23 loss to Oklahoma. A win over the Rebels would take the bad taste out of their mouths.

Motivation for Ole Miss: The Rebels would like to erase the horrific memories of their last bowl game, an ugly 42-3 loss to TCU in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl after the 2014 season.

Prediction: Ole Miss 31, Oklahoma State 24

TaxSlayer Bowl

Georgia vs. Penn State
Jan. 2 (ESPN, noon)

Why to watch: The Bulldogs and Nittany Lions have played only one other previous time. Penn State beat No. 1 Georgia 27-23 in the 1983 Sugar Bowl to win a national championship.

Who to watch: Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib, a former walk-on, has been a one-man wrecking crew. He won the LOTT Impact Trophy after leading FBS with 15.5 sacks and six forced fumbles. He also led the Big Ten with 19.5 tackles for loss.

Motivation for Georgia: Former head coach Mark Richt is gone, along with defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Will the Bulldogs be motivated playing under a skeleton coaching staff?

Motivation for Penn State: Quarterback Christian Hackenberg has a chance to make one more impression on NFL teams after a so-so junior campaign. He completed 53.3 percent of his passes for 2,386 yards with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Prediction: Georgia 20, Penn State 17

AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Kansas State vs. Arkansas
Jan. 2 (ESPN, 3:20 p.m.)

Why to watch: It's one of the more interesting coaching matchups of the postseason: gentlemanly Bill Snyder versus brash Bret Bielema.

Who to watch: Arkansas junior Hunter Henry won the John Mackey Award as the country's top tight end. He had 46 catches for 647 yards with three touchdowns and is a nightmare matchup for defenses.

Motivation for Kansas State: The Wildcats beat West Virginia 24-23 to finish 6-6 and become bowl eligible. They'd like to avoid their first losing season since going 5-7 in 2008. They've lost six of their last seven bowl games, too.

Motivation for Arkansas: After routing Texas 31-7 in the Texas Bowl last season, the Hogs can win three bowl games in a row for the first time in school history.

Prediction: Arkansas 31, Kansas State 28

Valero Alamo Bowl

Oregon vs. TCU
Jan. 2 (ESPN, 6:45 p.m.)

Why to watch: The two quarterbacks -- Oregon's Vernon Adams and TCU's Trevone Boykin -- might have been Heisman Trophy finalists if they'd stayed healthy this season. This bowl game should be a high-scoring shootout and one of the most entertaining to watch.

Who to watch: After missing three games and most of another with a broken index finger, Adams returned to lead the Ducks to six straight victories. He threw for 19 touchdowns in the final five games and had more than 300 passing yards in four of the last five.

Motivation for Oregon: The Ducks' championship hopes were derailed by Adams' injury, but they can end the season with 10 victories and a seven-game winning streak. They'd also like to have a better showing than their 42-20 loss to Ohio State in the 2014 national championship.

Motivation for TCU: With a victory over the Ducks, the Horned Frogs can win more than 10 games in back-to-back seasons, which would be a heck of an achievement after enduring so many injuries.

Prediction: Oregon 51, TCU 44

Motel 6 Cactus Bowl

West Virginia vs. Arizona State
Jan. 2 (ESPN, 10:15 p.m.)

Why to watch: It's the final appetizer before the national championship, which at this point will be nine days away.

Who to watch: West Virginia's Wendell Smallwood was the Big 12's second-leading rusher with 1,447 yards and nine touchdowns. He had more than 100 rushing yards in five of the last six games.

Motivation for West Virginia: The Mountaineers throttled Clemson 70-33 in the 2011 Orange Bowl in coach Dana Dana Holgorsen's first season. They haven't won a bowl game since, losing to Syracuse 38-14 in the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl and Texas A&M 45-37 in the 2014 Liberty Bowl.

Motivation for Arizona State: The Sun Devils are looking for some sort of silver lining after a disappointing 6-6 finish. A loss to West Virginia would give them a losing record after back-to-back 10-win seasons.

Prediction: Arizona State 27, West Virginia 24

College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T

Alabama vs. Oklahoma
Jan. 11 (ESPN, 8:30 p.m.)

Why to watch: It's the national championship game and the final college football contest of the season.

Who to watch: Alabama quarterback Jake Coker was benched early in the season but recovered and has been pretty steady. He completed 65.7 percent of his passes for 2,489 yards with 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Can he handle the biggest stage of all?

Motivation for Alabama: The Crimson Tide don't want to end a third consecutive season with a loss. Oklahoma upset Alabama 45-31 in the Sugar Bowl at the end of the 2013 season, and Ohio State upset the Tide 42-35 in the inaugural College Football Playoff semifinals in 2014.

Motivation for Oklahoma: OU coach Bob Stoops loves beating SEC teams, and a victory over the Crimson Tide would give the Sooners their first national championship since 2000.

Prediction: Alabama 27, Oklahoma 21