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5 must see non-BCS bowls

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Bowl season kicks off on Saturday with the usual mix of lower-tier bowls.  But as we get closer to and into January the bowls get bigger.  Of course there's always focus on the Rose, Fiesta, etc. but here's five non-BCS games that are worth tuning in for:

Alamo Bowl Texas vs. Oregon State, December 29 5:45 pm ESPN

This game would be an ABC prime time matchup if it was played during the regular season.  Oregon State proved their fast start to the season was no fluke but late losses to Stanford and Oregon ended any Rose Bowl aspirations.  The Longhorns were 8-2 in late November and in the BCS discussion but ended the season dropping their last two games.  Certainly both teams are good enough to play in a better bowl so the question is which team's late season collapse was a mirage?

Sun Bowl USC vs. Georgia Tech, December 31 1 pm CBS

In the latest of example of why preseason polls are meaningless USC was atop the AP poll in August and quarterback Matt Barkley was the early Heisman front runner.  By the end of October USC's title hopes were dashed and Charles Barkley had a better shot of winning the Heisman than the USC quarterback.  Nevertheless, the Trojans are a talented team led by the nation's best receiving tandem in Marqise Lee and Robert Woods.  It'd be easy to overlook Georgia Tech considering the 6-7 record.  But factor out their last two losses where they were outclassed and the Yellow Jackets were rolling late, averaging 38 points in a six game stretch starting in early October.  Plus there's that triple option offense which is tough to prepare for.

Chick-fil-A Bowl LSU vs. Clemson, December 31 6:30 pm ESPN

The last game of 2012 also happens to be one of the best on paper.  It's a classic confrontation of offense vs. defense.  Clemson is sixth in the nation in scoring with an average of 42 points per game.  LSU is 11th in scoring defense, yielding just 17 points per game.  Something's gotta give here, though usually defense gets the upper hand in bowl matchups.  There's also loads of NFL talent on both sidelines.

Outback Bowl South Carolina vs. Michigan, January 1 12 pm ESPN

Call it the Redemption Bowl.  Back in October it looked like South Carolina would run away with the SEC East after a dominating performance against Georgia.  But back-to-back losses followed by a gruesome injury to running back Marcus Lattimore de-railed the season.  After a rough start the Wolverines were on track to lead the Legends Division but a loss to Nebraska ended any Rose Bowl hopes.  A win for either team would offer a little redemption for a disappointing season.

Cotton Bowl Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma, January 4 7 pm FOX

This might as well be a BCS game.  Both teams certainly have the resume to be playing in the Sugar Bowl and Oklahoma would be headed to New Orleans had it not been for BCS busting Northern Illinois.  Oklahoma's only two losses came to BCS bound Kansas State and Notre Dame while Texas A&M ended the season with five straight wins, including a road upset of then #1 Alabama.  The Aggies hung around in their two losses, losing by a combined eight points.  And of course, A&M is led by Heisman winner Johnny Manziel.

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