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What is the most and least interesting pre-New Year's bowl matchup?

December 5, 2011 |  1:41 pm

Writers from around the Tribune Co. discuss the topic. Check back throughout the day for more responses and join the discussion with a comment of your own.

Matt Murschel, Orlando Sentinel

When the bowl matchups were announced Sunday night, it was easy to pick out the must-see games and the ones that are just background noise to your in-laws holiday visit.

Of the pre-New Year’s bowl games, the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec. 29 offers one of the most interesting matchups with Florida State and Notre Dame. In front of a possible sellout crowd, two of the most storied college football programs will meet in Orlando. Two eight-win teams that had bigger things expected of them only to find themselves playing before the new year.

It’s ironic that a bowl named the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl would feature one of the least interesting matchups. Utah State will play Ohio on the blue turf in Boise State on Dec. 17 but even those kaleidoscope of colors couldn’t be enough to mesmerize most of us to watch. Even the Ohio punter tweeted he wasn’t looking forward to playing in Boise in December.

Brian Hamilton, Chicago Tribune

Coachless Illinois vs. coachless and sub-.500 UCLA in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl is interesting because of its abiding wretchedness. Utah State and Ohio in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl at least offers potential for riotous scoreboard-busting. Marshall versus FIU in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl? A .500 MAC team versus the fourth-place Sun Belt team, with neither offense portending a fireworks display?  That's must-flee TV early in the bowl season.

You can't ask for much from these second-tier bowls, of course. But Baylor and potential Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III facing a relatively potent Washington team in the Alamo Bowl is intriguing. Still, the Champs Sports Bowl's Notre Dame versus Florida State matchup offers multilayer story lines, two programs with epic history clambering back from awful starts in 2011. The rosters boast BCS-level talent in certain spots. And if nothing else, watching the Irish's quarterback conundrum unfold against the nation's No. 6 defense could infuse some serious melodrama into the proceedings.

Norm Wood, Newport News Daily Press

If Auburn cares about being in the Chick-fil-A Bowl (which it should after barely getting bowl eligible at 7-5), the game has a chance to be entertaining. Virginia will be thrilled, considering it'll be making its first bowl appearance in four years. Auburn's Michael Dyer, one of the SEC's best running backs (1,242 yards), will be pitted against U.Va.'s vastly improved rush defense (128.3 yards per game; 34th in the nation).

Speaking of teams that don't care, one has to wonder if preseason national title hopeful Oklahoma has any desire to play in the Insight Bowl against Iowa, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops' alma mater. Still ... gotta go with Florida International-Marshall in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl as the least interesting pre-New Year's game. Outside of Huntington, W.Va., does it matter to anybody? Think we already know how this game will register in Miami -- nonexistent.


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Photo: UCLA's Kevin Prince. Credit: Steve Dykes / Getty Images