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12 of this year’s college Bowl games that are worth watching

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Bowls, bowls, everywhere bowls.

There are Taxslayer Bowls and Nova Home Bowls and Motel 6 Bowls. There’s a Potato Bowl and a Poinsettia Bowl and a Popeye’s Bowl. There are Bowls on every day of the week.

But which ones should you watch?

A dozen bowls you shouldn’t miss.

1. National Championship Game, Jan. 9, Tampa, Fla.: Will it be an Alabama-Clemson rematch? Will it be Nick Saban vs. Urban Meyer? Can the maligned Washington Huskies sneak through? This is the one with all the hype, the one that relegates the other bowls to supporting actors.

2. National Championship semifinal, Jan. 2, Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, Arizona: Most of the noise will follow defending champion Alabama, but the Clemson-Ohio State game is better with quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and J.T. Barrett. Both have had closer games than you might expect, but both have plenty of firepower.

3. National Championship semifinal, Jan. 2, Peach Bowl, Atlanta, Ga.: Is this Saban’s finest team? Certainly, it might be his finest defense. If that defense is sharp, it shouldn’t have a major problem with Washington, which got to the playoffs despite a weak out-of-conference schedule. Alabama has opened as a  14-point favorite.

4. USC vs. Penn State, Rose Bowl, Jan. 2, Pasadena: Penn State remains outraged it wasn’t invited to the playoffs. Against USC, the Lions play another one of the hottest teams in the nation, however. Penn State has won nine straight games and USC has won eight. USC’s Sam Darnold and Penn State’s Trace McSorley combined for 51 touchdown passes.

5. FSU-Michigan, Orange Bowl, Dec. 30, Miami: Start the conversation with Jimbo vs. Jim, two fiery coaches who were both fined for their outbursts this season. Throw in Dalvin Cook and Deondre Francois of FSU and Wilton Speight and Jabrill Peppers of Michigan. Michigan, the No. 5 team in the country, will be favored.

6. LSU vs. Louisville, Citrus Bowl, Dec. 31, Orlando, Fla.: LaMar Jackson has lost some of his early-season momentum, but he still might win the Heisman. LSU’s excellent defense will try to slow him down, and hope Leonard Fournette can break one.

7. Okahoma State vs. Colorado, Alamo Bowl, Dec. 29, San Antonio, Texas: Oklahoma State is ranked 12th, Colorado 10th. That promises an even match-up that should be entertaining to watch. Quarterbacks Mason Rudolph of OSU and Sefo Liufau of Colorado lead their teams.

8. Houston vs. San Diego State, Dec. 17, Las Vegas Bowl, Las Vegas, Nev.: One of the season’s finest early-Bowl games. Houston has Greg Ward Jr. and San Diego State moves behind running back Donnel Pumphrey, who has gotten mention for the Heisman. Don’t care about who wins: Just watch.

9. Stanford vs. North Carolina, Dec. 30, Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas: Yes, both teams could have been better this year. But with North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, there should be enough offense to make fans watch.

10. Iowa vs. Florida, Outback Bowl, Jan. 2, Tampa, Fla.: If you’re interested in offensive fireworks, this isn’t the game for you. But Florida had enough defense to get past LSU this year, and Iowa had enough to get past Michigan. Could the Gators give a freshman quarterback playing time? Maybe.

11. Auburn vs. Oklahoma, Sugar Bowl, Jan. 2, New Orleans, La.: Oklahoma ended the season hot, and if not for an early-season loss to Ohio State (one of their two losses), the team could be in the playoff conversation. Auburn lost momentum late, but remains talented.

12. USF vs. South Carolina, Birmingham Bowl, Dec. 29, Birmingham, Ala.: It will be intriguing to see how the high-scoring Bulls fare against an SEC foe coached by defensive whiz Will Muschamp. USF’s offense ranks No. 5 in the nation in rushing (291.8 yard per game), No. 7 in scoring (43.6 points per game) and No. 10 in total offense (515.1 yards per game).

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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