Bowl season is finally upon us, and for K-State fans, the wait for the Fiesta Bowl is a long one. To feed their football appetite, here is a look at a few of the non-BCS bowl games that fans should tune into.
Mark Kern, sports editor
Every year there are teams that get left out of BCS bowl games that have the talent to play in a BCS game. This season is no different, and in the Chick-Fil-A bowl, the matchup between LSU and Clemson could be one of the best games of the bowl season.
Clemson may be the most explosive offense in the country east of Eugene, Ore. With Tajh Boyd leading an offense that has Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Ellington, the Tigers have enough firepower to put up 50 points.
They will face a huge test against the LSU Tigers’ defense, who have one of the best defenses in the country.
Playing in the SEC, which is known for strong defensive teams, LSU fits in perfectly. Led by junior safety Eric Reid, the Tigers make it extremely difficult to move the ball downfield with Reid playing like a center fielder. However, the Tigers have not been tested by an offense quite like Clemson’s, even including the Johnny Manziel-led Texas A&M; Aggies.
Every year in the bowl season somebody starts their own run at the following season’s Heisman, and Watkins will be doing this for Clemson. Look for him to either take a punt back, or make a huge passing play for a touchdown, and to lead Clemson to a victory that a lot of the experts do not see coming.
Mike Stanton, assistant news editor
The non-BCS matchup I’m looking forward to most is the Outback Bowl, pitting the No. 10 South Carolina Gamecocks against the No. 18 Michigan Wolverines. South Carolina, who finished a tough SEC schedule with a 10-2 record and a dominant 35-7 defeat of Georgia, came within seconds of an appearance in the BCS National Championship.
Michigan finished 8-4, but had one of the toughest schedules in the league, with losses to Notre Dame, Alabama and Ohio State.
One of the most interesting matchups in this game is Michigan’s dynamic Denard Robinson and South Carolina’s first-team All-SEC defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Robinson, an early Heisman favorite, accounted for 2,485 yards and 16 touchdowns for the Wolverines, all while wearing his trademark untied shoelaces.
Though he started out the season at quarterback, he started the last two games of the year at running back after missing two games with a nerve injury to his elbow. Robinson’s health could be a huge factor in Michigan’s success against the Gamecock’s 13th-ranked defense.
Clowney, on the other hand, a 6-foot-6-inch, 256-pound sophomore, was second in the nation in both sacks, with 13, and tackles for loss, with 21.5. He is coming off a dominant 4.5-sack outing against rival Clemson. Without star running back Marcus Lattimore, whose season ended with a gruesome knee injury in a late September matchup with Tennessee, more responsibility will fall on the defense to keep Michigan out of the end zone.
I think South Carolina will prove to be too much for Michigan in the end. The battle-tested Gamecocks will outlast the Wolverines in Tampa in one of the few solid games of the non-BCS bowl season.
Andy Rao, editor-in-chief
The most exciting non-BCS matchup will hands down be the Cotton Bowl, which will be played by former conference rivals Oklahoma and Texas A&M.;
Both teams feature dynamic playmakers, electric offenses that can stretch the field and defenses with above average pass rush abilities.
The biggest question in this game will be whether or not OU’s defense can pressure Texas A&M; freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, and force him into some bad decisions.
Manziel, who was dubbed by national media as “Johnny Football,” is currently the frontrunner to win the Heisman Trophy after ending the 2012 season with 3,419 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, a 68.3 percent completion rate and a marquee victory against the then-top ranked Alabama Crimson Tide on Nov. 10.
Oklahoma, however, won’t make life easy for the Aggies.
After losing to K-State and Notre Dame earlier in the season, the red-hot Sooners ripped off five straight victories and showed the nation that they could keep their cool in big games; four out of those last five victories were decided by 8 points or less.
Although this matchup will undoubtedly prove to be close, Manziel gives the Aggies an edge because of his poise in clutch situations.
So, ladies and gentlemen, get your popcorn ready, because this one looks like it has the makings of a showdown.