Every year is the same. There are the bowl games that are competitive and exciting and in which you could make a strong case for either team. The playoff games fit that mold this year, as do most of the games played around the same time, and several others do too along the way. At the elite level it is a really strong year for bowls. Then there are the other games - the ones that are so uninteresting in the pairing because you really struggle to make any kind of a convincing argument for one team to win. In order for things to turn out any way other than expected, one team would have to fail to show up, or the other would have to play so much better than they have seemed capable of. They are mismatches, and that just isn't fun.
Here are the five biggest mismatches this year in my eyes. It's important to note that these aren't the five games with longest odds. Michigan State is a bigger underdog than two teams here, for example, but it is much easier to imagine the Spartans winning than these teams. These are the games that most seem like they are over before they started. ( Odds are from BetOnline):
New Mexico Bowl, December 19 - Arizona (-11.5) vs. New Mexico: The story would have been quite a bit different here if Rich Rodriguez had taken the South Carolina job, but he made the right decision and now the game should be much less interesting. New Mexico plays in this game for one reason alone - geography. It's certainly not because they inspire anyone. They have the better record at 7-5, but it has not come against a good schedule, and they were completely crushed when they played Arizona State, their lone Pac-12 opponent before now. Arizona is 6-6, but against a much better schedule and with a more explosive offense. You have to take common opponents with a grain of salt, but you can't avoid the fact that Arizona crushed Nevada, and New Mexico was beaten up by them. If Arizona plays at anything near full steam then this one shouldn't be very close.
Camellia Bowl, December 19 - Appalachian State (-9) vs. Ohio: The Mountaineers would be even more favored here if people were used to the idea that they have been an FBS team for two years now and are no longer just that pesky FCS team that gave Michigan fans nightmares. Appalachian State is 10-2, and one of their losses comes against Clemson, so it hardly counts against them. They have lost just once in their last 10. Most notable, their offense, which is diverse and averages a very solid 35 points a game, is up against an Ohio defense that allowed more than 31 per game. The Mountaineers will score. Ohio has lacked consistency, has not really stepped up against good teams, and just generally isn't good enough here. The MAC often seems to shine in bowl season, but it's hard to see it happening here.
GoDaddy Bowl, December 23 - Bowling Green (-8) vs. Georgia Southern: Here's a second MAC vs. Sun Belt contest, but this time it is the MAC team that should have all the fun. Bowling Green was the MAC champion this year, pounding Northern Illinois into submission in the championship game. It wasn't close. Their reward, it seems, was playing in an ugly bowl in Alabama that few people not related to the players will bother to watch. Georgia Southern, in their first year of bowl eligibility, has an offense that is outmatched here, and it doesn't seem that their defense will be up to the challenge, either. They are obviously a building program, but they aren't in the place they need to be for this one just yet.
Independence Bowl, December 26 - Virginia Tech (-13) vs. Tulsa: Virginia Tech players should be fired up for this one. It is their chance to say goodbye to the institution that is Frank Beamer and to send him off on a good note. It is also their chance to impress new coach Justin Fuente and set themselves up well for next year. Tulsa has a really awful defense that allows almost 40 points per game. Virginia Tech, meanwhile, has a defense that has had some luck shutting down strong offenses - like North Carolina recently, for example. Add in the motivation factors to the general differences in current quality - Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery is in his first year, and he took over a mess - and you have a game that has no business being close.
Liberty Bowl, January 2 - Arkansas (-12) vs. Kansas State: Kansas State has won three in a row against weaker opponents but had dropped six straight before that and looked lousy doing it. This is not a classic Bill Snyder squad. Arkansas isn't without flaws, but they have played darned good football lately. They have won five of six, including wins at Ole Miss and LSU, and the lone loss was against Mississippi State in a crazy shootout. They are in form and dangerous, and that is going to be a real problem for the Wildcats.
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