Iowa State (6-6) vs. Rutgers (8-4)Dec. 30, 3:20 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Reason to watch: The fourth college football game ever to take place at Yankee Stadium will feature two freshman quarterbacks who hit their strides this fall. Iowa State's dual-threat newcomer Jared Barnett snagged the starting job against Texas Tech in October and reeled off three straight victories for the Cyclones. Barnett helped ISU attain bowl eligibility by throwing for a season-best 376 yards and three scores in a 37-31 double-overtime upset over then No. 2 Oklahoma State in November. For Rutgers, freshman Gary Nova led the Scarlet Knights with 1,533 passing yards and 11 touchdown passes despite starting only five games. Nova tossed two touchdowns on four separate occasions.
Keep an eye on: Rutgers' flashy wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, who set a Big East single-season record with 109 catches, fifth-most in the nation, and finished the year with a team-leading 1,144 reception yards. The junior registered seven 100-yard receiving games this season, including a 176-yard, two-touchdown performance against Ohio. Sanu's bowl success is well-documented after claiming the 2009 St. Petersburg Bowl MVP, hauling in one touchdown catch and adding two rushing scores in a rout of UCF.
Did you know: Greg Schiano has almost single-handedly constructed Rutgers' postseason résumé. The head coach has the Scarlet Knights playing in their sixth bowl game in seven seasons after the program reached only one bowl in 135 seasons prior to Schiano's arrival.
Final analysis: Iowa State faced more ranked teams and a more challenging Big 12 schedule than Rutgers, but the defensive comparison between the Cyclones and Scarlet Knights is difficult to ignore. Rutgers allowed only 18.75 points per game (12th nationally) and 314 yards of offense (No. 14) behind co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year Khaseem Greene, a free safety-turned-linebacker who anchored Rutgers' stingy pass rush and led the conference with 127 tackles. Meanwhile, Iowa State's defense finished 99th in the country and gave up almost 30 points per game. With Yankee Stadium only a short trip from Rutgers' New Jersey campus, expect the Scarlet Knights to take advantage and emerge in what will essentially be a home game.
The pick: Rutgers 28, Iowa State 21