Roundtable: Which non-New Year's Six bowl game offers best matchup?

Which non-New Year's Six bowl games are the most intriguing? SI's experts make their picks.
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It’s only natural that most of the focus of bowl season falls on the College Football Playoff games. And it’s equally understandable that the rest of the New Year’s Six games draw significant attention, especially with high-profile matchups with Ohio State-Notre Dame and Stanford-Iowa.

But those games occupy just two days (three, including the championship) and six games of the entire postseason. There’s plenty of intrigue in the other 34 bowl matchups. Which ones are the most captivating? SI’s college football experts made their picks.

Brian Hamilton: Holiday Bowl
(USC vs. Wisconsin)

I'm interested to see how the Trojans respond to weeks of direction on Clay Helton's watch as permanent coach.  It was, after all, only a few days of prep between Helton losing the interim title tag and the Pac-12 championship.  And then there's the subplot involving Dave Aranda, the Wisconsin defensive coordinator: Will he be running a defense against his future employer for 2016?  He'll be in high demand either way, most likely.

Lindsay Schnell: Alamo Bowl
(Oregon vs. TCU)

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I answer this enthusiastically because I'm thinking two of the most dynamic quarterbacks in college football, Trevone Boykin and Vernon Adams, will finally be fully healthy and provide us with a crazy entertaining game. Prepare yourself for LOTS of points. It's a bonus if standout receiver Josh Doctson plays. This is a postseason matchup some of us would have predicted in the preseason but in a New Year's Eve playoff semifinal. I'll settle for a killer Jan 2 contest.

Zac Ellis: Alamo Bowl
(Oregon vs. TCU)

Like offense? Oregon and TCU both average more than 41 points per game. They feature two electric quarterbacks in Vernon Adams and Trevone Boykin. And they both hoped to be playing in better bowls when the season started. The likelihood for chaos is even greater when considering neither the Ducks nor Horned Frogs boast a formidable defense. Get your popcorn ready in San Antonio.

Joan Niesen: Independence Bowl
(Virginia Tech vs. Tulsa)

This might just be because I'm currently in Blacksburg working on a story (and have enjoyed every human being I've spoken with here), but I'm pretty interested to watch the Independence Bowl between Virginia Tech and Tulsa on Dec. 26. It might be mediocre football, but you kind of have to tune in for Frank Beamer's final game on the sidelines, don't you? His players are fired up. They want to win one last game for the coach who built their program and has led their team since 1987. The postgame emotions are bound to be must-see.

• Complete 2015–16 bowl game schedule, TV listings


Ben Glicksman: Alamo Bowl
(Oregon vs. TCU)

In an alternate reality, both Oregon (9–3) and TCU (10–2) could have ended up in this season’s College Football Playoff. But a series of early troubles plagued the Ducks, while a pair of late stumbles spoiled the Horned Frogs’ 8–0 start. Now, in San Antonio, two of the premier offenses in the FBS will meet.

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Since Ducks quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. returned from a finger injury on Oct. 17 at Washington, he has been nothing short of prolific. He finished the 2015 regular season with 2,446 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and six interceptions, and he boasts the best passer rating (179.59) of any player in the nation. Meanwhile, TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin—who averaged 380.6 yards of total offense—expects to be at full health after injuring his leg in a 23–17 win over Kansas on Nov. 14. Josh Doctson, the Frogs’ Biletnikoff Award finalist at receiver who went out following a wrist injury in November, also hopes to be back on the field.

The game takes place on Jan. 2, and expect the scoreboard to be active.

Colin Becht: Russell Athletic Bowl
(Baylor vs. North Carolina)

While everyone focuses on the Alamo Bowl, the two teams in the Russell Athletic Bowl actually combined for more points per game (88.9 to Oregon and TCU’s 84.9). So if you’re looking for the best shootout of bowl season, look to Orlando on Dec. 29. North Carolina brings the dynamic quarterback Marquise Williams (2,829 yards passing, 867 yards rushing, 32 total touchdowns) and Elijah Hood (1,345 yards rushing), who was one of the best running backs in the ACC with little fanfare. Baylor, of course, has its prodigious offense and benefits greatly from the return of quarterback Chris Johnson. Bears wide receiver Corey Coleman also gets to put on one last show for NFL scouts to prove that he should be the first receiver off the board in April’s draft.

Gabriel Baumgaertner: Las Vegas Bowl
(Utah vs. BYU)

The New Holy War should be pretty entertaining after Utah defensive lineman Vilseni Fauonuku shouted that BYU was a dirty team at the Las Vegas Bowl-sponsored dance off. “Don’t start nothing, won’t be nothing. I swear, we will legally hurt you every play,” is the most vicious bit of trash talk I’ve heard in bowl history.

• HAMILTON: Las Vegas Bowl Preview: Turnovers key to Holy War

Chris Johnson: Alamo Bowl
(Oregon vs. TCU)

Oregon and TCU were pegged as potential College Football Playoff contenders entering this season. Both teams fell short, but that wasn’t because they couldn’t score. It happened because they had a tough time stopping other teams from scoring. The Ducks and Horned Frogs rank sixth and eighth in the country, respectively, in scoring offense, but 114th and 59th, respectively, in scoring defense. Expect TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin to carve up Oregon’s secondary and pick up big chunks of yards with his legs, but Oregon signal caller Vernon Adams and running back Royce Freeman shouldn’t face much resistance, either. If you like offense, make sure to catch this game.

Ben Estes: Alamo Bowl
(Oregon vs. TCU)

This should be the most entertaining of the non-New Year’s Six games—and perhaps the most entertaining bowl, period. The Alamo Bowl pits two high-octane offenses, with two dynamic (and now healthy) quarterbacks in Trevone Boykin and Vernon Adams and such supporting stars as Josh Docston, Royce Freeman, Aaron Green and Bralon Addison. Neither team’s defense is exactly a world-beater either. Add it up, and it should be quite the offensive show in San Antonio. Close runners-up: The Russell Athletic Bowl (likely another points fest, I might have picked it if Jarrett Stidham was healthy) and the Las Vegas Bowl (rare to see a true rivalry game like the Holy War in a bowl).