Bowl season continues to churn out some incredible games as teams aim to finish their seasons on a high note. Friday we'll get a chance to witness Auburn-Purdue, West Virginia-Syracuse and Iowa State-Washington State in a three-game slate before the College Football Playoff begins on Saturday.
To get you prepared, we've compiled a handy, digestible guide for those needing a primer on the Music City, Camping World and Valero Alamo Bowls.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Auburn vs. Purdue (1:30 p.m., ESPN)
Why You Should Tune In: These two programs took opposite steps in 2018. Auburn was ranked in the preseason top-10 and finished 7–5 with a disappointing home loss to Tennessee. Meanwhile, Purdue kept Jeff Brohm in town after his alma mater Louisville tried to woo him away. The Boilermakers went 6–6 and are bowl-eligible for the second straight season, and true freshman Rondale Moore has been a blessing for Brohm’s offense. The Kentucky native led the country with 102 receptions and his 2,048 all-purpose yards ranked fourth in the FBS. Moore was spectacular in Purdue’s season-defining 49–20 demolition of Ohio State. After he chose Purdue over a few SEC schools, let’s see if he can do things like this against an SEC defense.
What You May Not Know: Brohm and Moore actually attended the same high school: Trinity High School in Louisville. Moore was named the 2017–18 Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year after scoring 23 touchdowns as a senior, while Brohm earned the Kentucky High School Player of the Decade honor in 1988. With Brohm as quarterback, undefeated Trinity won the state title. The duo is now tearing it up in West Lafayette. —Sam Brief
Draft Prospect to Watch: Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown utilizes his 6’5”, 325-pound frame very well, using his strong hands to push offensive linemen back and his mean streak to his advantage when chasing down ball carriers who try to break outside of the tackles. The versatility is there, as he can play a three-technique in a 4–3 scheme or play defensive tackle or end during passing downs. —Scooby Axson
Camping World Bowl: West Virginia vs. Syracuse (5:15 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Why You Should Tune In: West Virginia had one of the best offenses in the country in 2017. Then quarterback Will Grier broke his finger and the Mountaineers went into the tank, capped off by a particularly uncompetitive performance against Utah in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. West Virginia had one of the best offenses in the country in 2018. Then quarterback Will Grier announced he would skip the Camping World Bowl to begin his draft prep. Can the Mountaineers cobble together a more respectable offense with Jack Allison, the redshirt sophomore expected to take the reins in 2019, calling the shots? If they can’t, Eric Dungey and Syracuse’s full-strength Air Raid will run it up.
What You May Not Know: The Mountaineers and Orange played for the Schwartzwalder Trophy from 1993 through their final Big East regular-season meeting in 2011. It was named after college football hall of famer Ben Schwartzwalder, who played at West Virginia in the 1930s and coached Syracuse from 1949 to 1973, winning the school’s only national title in 1959. He died in 1993, and the trophy was created. Just like in the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl, the trophy will not be given to the winner of this game. —Will Ragatz
Draft Prospect to Watch: A red-zone nightmare for the majority of his career, WVU receiver David Sills V’s ability to also find the end zone from anywhere on the field will help any roster—if he can show that he can beat pressure coverage on a regular basis. Sills has good size and is a constant threat when needed to move the chains. He scored 33 touchdowns over the past two seasons, despite never reaching 1,000 yards in any year. — Axson
Valero Alamo Bowl: Iowa State vs. Washington State (9 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Why You Should Tune In: Washington State feels robbed. AD Pat Chun told ESPN “we’re very disappointed with where we ended up being ranked,” and he has a point. The 10–2 Cougars were slotted behind a trio of nine-win teams in the final CFP rankings. Washington State will come out motivated to make a point. The mustachioed Gardner Minshew (4,477 yards, most in the FBS regular season) is another deserving Heisman candidate who would’ve had a shot in most years, manning Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense to a T. At 8–4, Iowa State is in the midst of its best two-year stretch (16–9) since the 1970s. They’re ‘dogs against Washington State, but the Cyclones pulled off a big upset over West Virginia this fall.
What You May Not Know: Washington State has never won more than 10 games. The Cougars have 10 right now and a chance to make school history. And the last time Wazzu won double-digit games and a bowl? Back in 2003. That year, the Cougars’ defense picked off 24 passes, with four going back for scores. —Brief
Draft Prospect to Watch: As much as Washington State threw the ball quickly, offensive tackle Andre Dillard played a big role in protecting grad transfer quarterback Gardner Minshew. Dillard allowed only one sack and 11 hurries all season on nearly 700 snaps, but it remains to be seen whether the technique he got away with at times in the Pac-12 will fly in the NFL. —Axson