By Omar Noujoum, from LastWordOnCollegeFootball.com
Five Best Under The Radar Bowl Games
Everyone knows about the big bowls. Alabama and Washington, Ohio State and Clemson in the Playoffs. The likes of Michigan, Penn State, USC, and even upstart Western Michigan in the other New Year’s Six bowls.
But what about smaller bowl match-ups? If you can’t spend the time to watch every single bowl game this season, here are the five best lower-tier bowls for your viewing pleasure.
Boca Raton Bowl: Memphis (8-4) vs Western Kentucky (10-3)
Like Houston, Western Kentucky heads into bowl season with their head coach on the way out. Jeff Brohm will be moving on to Purdue, his resumé solidified by the Hilltoppers’ 10-3 season. Their offense will look to continue putting up the cheat code stats that they’ve made a weekly occurrence this season. Memphis won’t shy away from scoring on the other side. They too boast a quick strike offense that can put up points in a hurry. The two teams average close to 85 points per game combined, and this bowl game could eclipse that number before the final whistle blows.
Players to Watch- MEM: Tony Pollard, WR/KR WKU: Taywan Taylor, WR
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Appalachian State (9-3) vs Toledo (9-3)
What transition period? In just their third season as an FBS program, Appalachian State claimed their first Sun Belt title. They did it by locking down opposing offenses, allowing just 17 points per game, good for 7th in the FBS. However, that defense will be pitted against an explosive Toledo offense. With 38.8 points per game (19th in FBS), there have been few defenses able to slow down Toledo’s attack, which also put up over 500 yards per game during the regular season. Something has to give.
Players to Watch- APP: Jalin Moore, RB TOL: Michael Roberts, TE
National Funding Holiday Bowl: Minnesota (8-4) vs Washington State (8-4)
For Minnesota and Washington State, their paths to the Holiday Bowl are eerily similar. For starters, Both programs managed to finish 8-4. Both schools play in the two deepest conferences in college football. Most importantly, neither team was expected to win eight games this season. Minnesota paired a smash-mouth defense with a fortuitous schedule (didn’t play Ohio State or Michigan) to get in. Meanwhile, Washington State used an eight game win streak and the arm of Luke Falk to get in. These two teams have no comparison on the field, however.
Players to Watch- MINN: Emmit Carpenter, K WSU: Luke Falk, QB
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Louisiana Tech (8-5) vs Navy (9-3)
You can expect offensive diversity in this bowl matchup. Louisiana comes in reeling after back-to-back losses, but still boasting the FBS’ 3rd best passing offense. On the other side, Navy has been gashed by the injury bug, but they’ve been gashing defenses all year with their option running attack. They’re currently 3rd in the FBS in rushing. Whichever teams controls the tempo of this game will win.
Players to Watch- LTU: Ryan Higgins, QB NAVY: DJ Palmore, LB
Las Vegas Bowl: Houston (9-3) vs San Diego St (10-3)
The star power alone put this years’ Las Vegas Bowl at the top of the heap. On the Houston side, a season that began with College Football Playoff hopes hasn’t met its full potential. They’re season did include a thrashing of Lamar Jackson and Louisville, however. As for San Diego State, they’ve established themselves as a serious threat to Boise State’s reign in the Mountain West. Star RB Donnel Pumphrey has put the team in the national spotlight this year, putting up absurd numbers.
Players to Watch- UH: Ed Oliver, DT SDSU: Donnel Pumphrey, RB