35 bowl games, 35 reasons to watch

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Starting Saturday in Albuquerque, N.M., and ending Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif., 35 bowl games will be played.

You should watch all of them. Here’s why.

SATURDAY, DEC. 21

New Mexico Bowl

Washington State (minus 4½) vs. Colorado State

Why watch? We haven’t seen Washington Mike Leach coach a postseason game since the 2009 Cotton Bowl, when he was at Texas Tech.

Pick: WASHINGTON STATE 31-24.

Las Vegas Bowl

Fresno State (plus 6½) vs. Southern California

Why watch? Fresno State’s Derek Carr, who leads the nation in yards passing per game (405), against the toughest defense he has faced this season. USC is tied for 11th in the country in yards per pass allowed.

Pick: USC 35-24.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Buffalo (pick’em) vs. San Diego State

Why watch? When your favorite NFL team drafts Bulls linebacker Khalil Mack in the first round, you’ll know why.

Pick: BUFFALO 26-20, OT.

New Orleans Bowl

Tulane (minus 2½) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

Why watch? A Montana playing quarterback in a bowl game. Tulane’s Nick Montana has been nursing a sore shoulder, but he is expected to be good to go against the Ragin’ Cajuns.

Pick: TULANE 23-21.

MONDAY, DEC. 23

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl

Ohio (plus 13½) vs. East Carolina

Why watch? Ohio’s costumed Bobcat mascot, Rufus, has a history of unprovoked attacks, just ask Brutus Buckeye. East Carolina’s Pee Dee the Pirate should keep his sword ready.

Pick: EAST CAROLINA 41-24.

TUESDAY, DEC. 24

Hawaii Bowl

Oregon State (minus 3) vs. Boise State

Why watch? Boise State’s first game without Chris Petersen as coach since 2005 and the Broncos are trying to avoid their first season with at least five losses since 1998.

Pick: OREGON STATE 35-21.

THURSDAY, DEC. 26

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl

Bowling Green (minus 5½) vs. Pittsburgh

Why watch? Pitt is playing in a bowl and that game is not being played in Birmingham, Ala. This must be seen to be believed. Same goes for Panthers All-America DT Aaron Donald.

Pick: BOWLING GREEN 28-21.

Poinsettia Bowl

Northern Illinois (minus 1½) vs. Utah State

Why watch? Jordan Lynch’s last college game comes against a Utah State defense that is seriously good.

PICK: UTAH STATE 31-28.

FRIDAY, DEC. 27

Military Bowl

Marshall (minus 2½) vs. Maryland

Why watch? Marshall plays fast, has a good offense and a bad defense. The possibility of 49-48 game is always high when the Thundering Herd play, and the Terps can put up points when QB C.J. Brown is healthy.

PICK: MARYLAND 49-48.

Texas Bowl

Minnesota (minus 4½) vs. Syracuse

Why watch: After all that excitement in the Military Bowl, you might need a nap. The Gophers rank 97th in the nation in yards per play. Syracuse is 102nd. Yep, that’ll do.

Pick: MINNESOTA 17-10.

Fight Hunger Bowl

BYU (plus 3) vs. Washington

Why watch? The last time we saw BYU LB Kyle Van Noy in a bowl game he scored two touchdowns, blocked a punt and had 3½ tackles for loss. Who knows what he might do for a postseason encore in his last college game.

Pick: WASHINGTON 31-21.

Saturday, Dec. 28

Pinstripe Bowl

Notre Dame (minus 15½) vs. Rutgers

Why watch? One last chance to see the look on Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly’s face — a combination of rage and resignation — when Tommy Rees throws an interception.

Pick: NOTRE DAME 38-14.

Belk Bowl

Cincinnati (plus 3) vs. North Carolina

Why watch? Find out what’s Belk.

Pick: NORTH CAROLINA 34-24.

Russell Athletic Bowl

Miami (plus 3½) vs. Louisville

Why watch? To see that Cardinals QB Teddy Bridgewater is most certainly ready for the NFL. But, hey, Teddy, if you want to give college another year we’re all for it.

Pick: LOUISVILLE 28-27.

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

Kansas State (minus 3½) vs. Michigan

Why watch? Gronk is playing! Glenn Gronkowski II is Kansas State’s starting fullback and the brother of New England Patriots star tight end Rob, who is out for the season with a knee injury. Glenn has one rushing attempt for no yards, but has caught four passes for 148 yards (37 per catch) and three touchdowns.

Pick: MICHIGAN 28-23.

MONDAY, DEC. 30

Armed Forces Bowl

Middle Tennessee (plus 6½) vs. Navy

Why watch? Navy QB Keenan Reynolds is a record-breaker. He tied an NCAA record with seven touchdowns in an overtime victory against San Jose State and set a record for a quarterback with 29 rushing TDs this season.

Pick: NAVY 37-35.

Music City Bowl

Mississippi (minus 3) vs. Georgia Tech

Why watch? Fan angst should be palpable. Both teams lost their final two regular-season games against FBS opponents, including overtime losses to in-state rivals. The loser will stumble into the offseason with a disappointing 7-6 record.

Pick: OLE MISS 31-21.

Alamo Bowl

Oregon (minus 13½) vs. Texas

Why watch? Listening to speculation about who will be the new Longhorns coach never gets old.

Pick: OREGON 42-24.

Holiday Bowl

At San Diego

Arizona State (minus 14) vs. Texas Tech

Why watch? To see the Sun Devils score 60. How do we know they will? Three of the past four times Todd Graham has coached in a bowl game his team has scored more than 60 points.

Pick: ARIZONA STATE 62-35.

Tuesday, Dec. 31

AdvoCare V100 Bowl

Arizona (minus 7½) vs. Boston College

Why watch? Two All-America running backs and the nation’s top two rushers in Boston College Heisman Trophy finalist Andre Williams and Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey.

Pick: ARIZONA 31-27.

Sun Bowl

Virginia Tech (plus 7½) vs. UCLA

Why watch? Two reasons: Myles Jack, linebacker. Myles Jack, running back.

Pick: UCLA 23-10.

Liberty Bowl

Rice (plus 7) vs. Mississippi State

Why watch? If the New Year’s Eve party starts at 4 p.m. ET, you might not make it to midnight. Think of Owls-Bulldogs as a way to pace yourself.

Pick: MISSISSIPPI STATE 24-20.

Chick-fil-A Bowl

Texas A&M (minus 12½) vs. Duke

Why watch? Yes, it might be more fun to watch Johnny Football ring in the New Year after the game, but what could be Johnny Manziel’s last college game is must-see TV, too.

Pick: TEXAS A&M 52-30.

WEDNESDAY, JAN. 1

Heart of Dallas Bowl

UNLV (plus 6½) vs. North Texas

Why watch? It goes perfectly with the seven-layer dip that’s been sitting out all night that you’ll be having for “breakfast” at noon ET.

Pick: NORTH TEXAS 31-21.

Gator Bowl

Nebraska (plus 9) vs. Georgia

Why watch? Because you missed the Huskers and Bulldogs play last year in the Capital One Bowl.

Pick: GEORGIA 35-24.

Capital One Bowl

Wisconsin (minus 1) vs. South Carolina

Why watch? We’ve been overanalyzing Jadeveon Clowney all season. No need to stop now.

Pick: WISCONSIN 27-24.

Outback Bowl

Iowa (plus 7½) vs. LSU

Why watch? The last time the Hawkeyes and Tigers played in a New Year’s Day bowl in Florida, Iowa won on a long TD pass on the last play of the game. There is precedent for madness.

Pick: LSU 24-21.

Rose Bowl

Stanford (minus 4½) vs. Michigan State

Why watch? It’s the Rose Bowl.

Pick: STANFORD 27-21.

Fiesta Bowl

Why watch? The record for most points scored by a team in a bowl game is 70, a total the Bears reached four times this season.

Baylor (minus 16½) vs. UCF

Pick: BAYLOR 65-35.

THURSDAY, JAN. 2

Sugar Bowl

Alabama (minus 15) vs. Oklahoma

Why watch? The last time Alabama lost to Auburn, the Crimson Tide took it out on Michigan State in a bowl game. The Sooners could be headed toward a similar fate.

Pick: ALABAMA 38-14.

FRIDAY, JAN. 3

Orange Bowl

Ohio State (minus 2½) vs. Clemson

Why watch? Sammy Watkins’ speed. Carlos Hyde’s power. Tajh Boyd’s throws. Braxton Miller’s moves.

Pick: OHIO STATE 35-28.

Cotton Bowl

Missouri (minus 1) vs. Oklahoma State

Why watch? It’s just like a BCS game, except it’s on Fox and Gus Johnson is screaming on every play that gains more than 10 yards.

Pick: OKLAHOMA STATE 28-26.

SATURDAY, JAN. 4

BBVA Compass Bowl

Vanderbilt (minus 2) vs. Houston

Why watch? Vanderbilt’s James Franklin could be the next Texas coach.

Pick: HOUSTON 27-23.

Sunday, Jan. 5

GoDaddy.com Bowl

Arkansas State (plus 8½) vs. Ball State

Why watch? To find out who is coaching Arkansas State, which has had three straight one-and-done coaches.

Pick: BALL STATE 37-20.

MONDAY, JAN. 6

BCS National Championship

Florida State (minus 8½) vs. Auburn

Why watch? Say goodbye to the BCS and see if Jameis Winston and the Seminoles can end the SEC’s national title streak at seven games.

Pick: FLORIDA STATE 48-35

___

Championship weekend: Record straight: 12-4; vs. points 6-10.

Regular season: 224-49; 125-119-3.

Best bet: 10-4-1.

Upset special: 6-5.

___

Follow Ralph D. Russo at http://www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

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