Navy swept the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy with its 14th consecutive victory over Army on Saturday, and Derrick Henry will return to Tuscaloosa as Alabama’s second-ever Heisman Trophy winner. With the 2015 college football regular season now officially behind us, it is time to turn our entire attention to the 40 bowl games and the national championship game that await us in the most bloated bowl season ever recorded in FBS history.
Below is a full list of the bowl games, complete with the TV schedule. As bowl previews for each individual contest appear at Sports Unbiased, you will also be able to check back here to find links to the breakdowns of each matchup. We’ve also provided a quick primer here with our picks for some the must-watch games on the schedule:
PART I: Best Under-the-Radar December Bowl Games
BEST MATCHUP ON OPENING SATURDAY: BYU v. #22 Utah
Most of the time there is little enmity between teams that are matched up in postseason contests. The Las Vegas Bowl is the exception to that rule, pitting state rivals Utah and BYU in the first installation of the Holy War since the two teams stopped playing annually after the 2013 season. The Utes have largely owned the rivalry in the 21st century, winning nine of the 13 battles between the teams since 2001 and riding a four-game winning streak in the series. Utah tapered off after a hot start to the season, but BYU has faced an even rougher go. This should be a close battle in Sin City between teams with a lot of hatred for one another.
"SHOULD BE IN A BIGGER BOWL" AWARD: Toledo v. #24 Temple
It feels weird that two teams with such strong resumes this season should be relegated to a pre-Christmas showdown at the second-year Boca Raton Bowl, yet here come the Rockets and the Owls. Toledo can't cry too much, after missing out on a chance to play for the MAC championship with a loss in their final regular-season contest. Temple at last made it to the AAC title game, but could not hang on against Houston and fell from a Georgia Dome trip to playing in a C-USA campus stadium. It sure feels like teams that combined to knock off Arkansas and Penn State deserve a more prominent venue to square off.
MOST INTRIGUING BOXING DAY CONTEST: Washington v. Southern Miss
There is a full calendar of games to lounge through the post-Christmas hangover and make Boxing Day tolerable, with three different games between Power Five schools. But rather than any of the matchups in that trio, I'll be most interested in seeing how Southern Miss fares against an up-and-down Washington squad in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. The Golden Eagles fell short in their quest to win the C-USA title, but they nevertheless managed to return to their first bowl game after three abysmal seasons languishing at the bottom of FBS. Can Chris Petersen fend off an upward-trending mid-major after falling to Boise State in the opener?
PRESEASON ROSE BOWL GONE BUST: #25 USC v. Wisconsin
In the preseason, USC projected as a top-10 team destined to threaten for the Pac-12 and College Football Playoff honors. Wisconsin was a top-20 outfit that looked like the best team in the Big Ten West. It wasn't hard to project them meeting up in Pasadena on New Year's Day, but instead underwhelming seasons have caused them to fall 130 miles south and two days earlier into the lap of the Holiday Bowl. The two teams have struggled through identity crises to arrive in San Diego with this exhibition to play. It will all come down to which team is more motivated for the contest.
PART II: Non-New Year’s Six Matchups of Top 25 Teams
THE EARLY SHOWDOWN: #10 North Carolina v. #17 Baylor
Baylor looked all season to be on course for an invite into the College Football Playoff bracket, or at worst a New Year's Six appearance. Instead they tumbled back into the post-Christmas doldrums, where the Russell Athletic Bowl lucked into one of the best matchups of the entire bowl schedule. The Bears will take on a North Carolina team that couldn't survive Clemson in the ACC title game but that went 11-2 on the year and was a threat to crash the CFP itself had they prevailed in Charlotte. The first of two battles at the Citrus Bowl might be the more intriguing of the two, as a pair of high-powered offenses jockey for supremacy and a boost to their 2016 projections.
SEC/BIG TEN MATCHUPS IN FLORIDA PT. 1: #13 Northwestern v. #23 Tennessee
When Northwestern upset Stanford in September, it was dismissed as Stanford merely being worse than expected. Instead we came to find out over the course of the season that the Wildcats were the real deal, losing only to Michigan and Iowa en route to a 10-2 regular season. Their reward is an Outback Bowl duel with Tennessee, who lost four games by a combined 17 points -- against Big 12 champion Oklahoma, SEC East winner Florida, SEC champion Alabama, and Arkansas. This will likely be a tight affair in Tampa, as the two teams grind out the game and neutralize each other's offenses.
JANUARY BATTLE AT THE ALAMO(DOME): #15 Oregon v. #11 TCU
The Alamo Bowl feels like perhaps the biggest "What might have been?" bowl game of the season. Against everybody but the Oklahoma schools TCU was perfect, weathering the storm of injuries and a thin defense to get to 10 wins. Once again, however, Gary Patterson's crew misses out on a playoff spot after being snubbed last season. This might have been a final showdown last year had the Horned Frogs made it into the bracket. Just like TCU, Oregon fell below expectations as standout transfer quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. was forced to deal with a broken thumb as he acclimated to the Ducks. With Adams and Boykin enjoying healthier offenses than they've seen in months, there should be fireworks in San Antonio.
SEC/BIG TEN MATCHUPS IN FLORIDA PT. 2: #14 Michigan v. #19 Florida
An hour later and 85 miles northeast, the Michigan team that knocked off Northwestern and the Florida team that vanquished Tennessee will square off in the Citrus Bowl. Under new head coaches, both the Wolverines and the Gators regained some of their historic swagger. Neither program is all the way rebounded, however, with better teams able to negate the advantages the Jims (Harbaugh and McElwain) have been able to build at their new jobs. It could be a crapshoot, but Harbaugh is far less likely to let his charges think of this as a vacation.
Stay tuned for College Football Playoff previews and other bowl breakdowns as we continue coverage throughout the bowl season here at Sports Unbiased.