Since we're officially heading into the most wonderful time of the year, it's time to rank the 10 most intriguing bowl matchups.
FedEx BCS National Championship Game -- No. 2 Florida vs. No. 1 Oklahoma, Jan. 8: Maybe Texas should be in this game. Maybe not, but both of these teams have been playing phenomenally well over the second half of the season. OU's offense has been awesome over the past five games, while Florida's Tim Tebow has put the Gators program on his broad back. For all of the Gators' speed, it's hard to not give Oklahoma a bit of an edge on offense since they've been executing so well. UF gets the edge on D and a big edge in special teams. So can Bob Stoops regain the Big Game Bob rep? This will be the true test this year.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl -- No. 10 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Texas, Jan. 5: The Longhorns come to Arizona ticked -- and rightly so -- that they were bypassed in the BCS title game for a team they'd beaten by 10 at a neutral site. Then again, if anyone has reason to come into a bowl game in a bad mood, it's the Buckeyes, who have been mocked endlessly for their performance in big games over the past few years. Win here and a little of that venom will fade. If OSU wins, it'll be because the Buckeyes' offensive linemen have managed to do something they haven't in any of their big matchups: contain opposing edge rushers, and in this case, Brian Orakpo & Co.
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Citi -- No. 8 Penn State vs. No. 5 USC, Jan. 1: Lots of meaty story lines in this one, starting with 81-year-old JoePa back in the Rose Bowl; USC (yawn) is back in it for the fourth straight time; and will the Trojans players really have a passion to play this game? PSU -- and the Big Ten -- has a lot more to gain here than the Trojans. If Paterno's team beats the vaunted USC defense, that will boost the sagging credibility of the conference. Get blown out, as many will predict, and the conference will be seen merely as the Big East only with better fight songs.
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl -- No. 9 Boise State vs. No. 11 TCU, Dec. 23: The unbeaten Broncos have been the darlings of college football ever since they upset Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl a few years back. They have a charm to them and now they'll face a hard-hitting, physical defense that is looking to build on its own rep. Seeing how BSU freshman QB Kellen Moore copes with the pressure he will face from Jerry Hughes, the nation's top pass-rusher, will be very interesting.
The Cotton Bowl -- No. 25 Ole Miss. vs. No. 7 Texas Tech, Jan. 2: Let's not tout this as a precursor to the BCS title game, although there is some nice symmetry with SEC toughness vs. Big 12 offensive precision. The Rebels have the best D-line in the SEC, but can they get heat on Graham Harrell and can the undermanned Rebels DBs keep up with Michael Crabtree and that group of receivers when the Red Raiders' star comes home to Dallas? Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead, a one-time Texas Longhorn, also will be playing a game very close to his home town.
Chick-fil-A Bowl -- LSU vs. No. 14 Georgia Tech, Dec. 31: As if the defending national champs haven't had enough struggles on D this season, now they get Georgia Tech's lethal triple-option in a game that is just down the street from the Tech campus. Can Les Miles rally his defense and get his team up for this game or are they staring at a potential 7-6 season? LSU has surrendered at least 27 points in its past four games.
Pacific Life Holiday Bowl -- No. 13 Oklahoma State vs. No. 17 Oregon, Dec. 30: There are almost always fireworks in the Holiday Bowl and this year you get two explosive offenses who combine to average over 40 points per game. Five times this season the Ducks have scored at least 54 points, while OSU has also done it five times.
Allstate Sugar Bowl -- No. 6 Utah vs. No. 4 Alabama, Jan. 2: Are the Utes deserving of a BCS bowl? Or are they going to get blown out like Hawaii did last year against Georgia (41-10)? My hunch is Utah is a much more physical team than UH was. I don't know if they have enough athletes to keep up with the Tide, but they do rush the passer well and maybe they can give Bama, which has a great run-blocking O-line, some problems. That is assuming the Tide throws more than a few passes in this game.
Meineke Car Care Bowl -- West Virginia vs. North Carolina, Dec. 27: Pat White didn't generate a ton of buzz this year, but keep an eye on the WVU QB in this game. He has been spectacular in bowl play in his career. He is 3-0 as a starter with two of those wins being big upsets in BCS bowls. He is 30-of-48 with five TDs and zero INTs and also has rushed for 372 yards. Many have touted Butch Davis' team as one of those on the rise for big things in 2009, but a loss here would mean they dropped three of their final four games of the season, not the kind of way Davis would want his team to go into the offseason.
Sun Bowl -- Oregon State vs. No. 20 Pittsburgh, Dec. 31: This game features the best matchup of great young running backs as OSU's Quizz Rodgers will try and outduel Pitt's LeSean McCoy. This is also a fascinating sideline battle in which you have Mike Riley, who is always touted as one of the more underrated coaches, facing off against Dave Wannstedt, who is often one of the most skewered.
• Some observations about the coaching poll:
• Frank Beamer ranked his own team No. 23, four spots below where the rest of the coaches had it.
• Two of the coaches who ranked Texas No. 1 were Iowa State's Gene Chizik, a former UT assistant coach and North Texas' Todd Dodge, a former UT QB.
• Urban Meyer voted Florida No. 1 and Oklahoma No. 2, and had Texas No. 4 behind Alabama. He also ranked the team that beat his UF club, Ole Miss, at No. 12.
• Former Clemson coach Tommy Bowden ranked his dad's FSU team No. 21. His old man, Bobby, didn't even rank the Noles.
• Mack Brown had the team that knocked off his UT team, Texas Tech, at No. 8.
• Wyoming coach Joe Glenn had Utah (No. 5) ahead of Alabama (No. 6).
• Dan Hawkins had OU No. 1 and Boise State No. 9.
• Pat Hill had Boise State No. 6 and Utah No. 7.
• Hal Mumme had Texas Tech, coached by his protégé, Mike Leach, at No. 3, one slot ahead of Texas.
• Rick Neuheisel had USC No. 3 ahead of No. 4 Oklahoma.
• Bo Pelini ranked his Nebraska squad No. 22.
• Mike Price ranked Bama No. 4, one spot ahead of USC.
• Greg Schiano ranked Penn State, a program where he once coached, fourth, ahead of No. 5 Texas.
• Steve Spurrier ranked OU, the team coached by his protégé, Bob Stoops, higher (No. 1) than he ranked his old employer, UF (No. 2).
• Notre Dame's Charlie Weis, who has seen Urban Meyer snag a couple of his recruits lately, had the Gators No. 2 behind Oklahoma.
• Ron Zook had Oklahoma No. 1, ahead of his old team, UF (No. 2).
• One of the best sound bites I heard this season was Rob Stone's postgame interview with Turner Gill after Buffalo's win over Ball State. It was truly amazing to see Gill caught up in that moment after he was asked where this feeling ranked among all of the great moments the former Nebraska legend has had in his career.
• Lane Kiffin had a busy first week at Tennessee. Dave Hooker recaps it here and touches on the brewing rivalry between Kiffin and Spurrier:
"Evidently Spurrier doesn't think Kiffin is too bright. Kiffin confirmed he had passed the test days before in his introductory press conference. But this wasn't about the test. This was about Kiffin stealing South Carolina's recruiting coordinator David Reaves, and subsequently gaining an advantage over two prospects that UT and South Carolina are both recruiting -- tailback Jarvis Giles and safety D.J. Swearinger. I'm also told that Gamecocks coaches, including Spurrier, aren't too happy about Reaves recruiting South Carolina prospects to UT, including those who have been placed at Hargrave Military Academy after signing with South Carolina in February."
• I'm curious to see how the Auburn coaching search plays out. Is Jimbo Fisher the guy? Yes, he is slated to be the next FSU head coach, but he might be lured to Auburn rather than wait for Bobby Bowden to retire.
• Even though I grew up in a Navy family, I loved the camouflage unis Army wore Saturday. The helmets were the coolest ones anyone has worn all season.
• As expected, Al Groh had to let go of some of his assistants. Among the changes at UVa, Groh's son, Mike, is out as the team OC, and the D-line and DB coach were also let go.