No. 8 Kansas State @ No. 6 Arkansas
This game is a matchup of two teams that were snubbed in the BCS process this season. Arkansas, only two short weeks ago was a potential national title game participant, and Kansas State has had one of the best seasons in program history, losing only two games all year to the two squads from the “Sooner State.” Both schools probably should have made it into a BCS game instead of Virginia Tech and Michigan State, but the Cotton Bowl isn’t bad. The Razorbacks feature one of the best aerial attacks in the nation, putting up 307.8 yards per game through the air. Their passing attack is spearheaded by quarterback Tyler Wilson, who fans will remember as the leader of Arkansas’ comeback against Texas A&M earlier in the year. Their only two losses of the year also happen to have come from the pair of teams competing in the national title game, LSU and Alabama, so this will be a tough team to knock off. Kansas State is a quality team though, and they have proven it all season scratching and clawing their way to a top-10 ranking, and a 10-win season. They have come through in the clutch, winning a one-point affair against Baylor and a triple overtime slugfest with the Aggies.
No. 9 South Carolina @ No. 20 Nebraska
South Carolina has had a turbulent season thus far. Early on in the year the Gamecocks lost star running back Marcus Lattimore to a season-ending injury, that could have made lesser teams quit, because the flow of their offense ran solely through their bruiser of a back. They didn’t quit though, even working through the dismissal of their senior quarterback Stephen Garcia from the team to finish the season with 10 wins, and an appearance in a top-tier bowl. South Carolina accomplished this largely because of its defense that stepped up to the challenge, allowing only 18.8 points a game. The Gamecocks will be going up against a team that is very similar to themselves, in the form of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Cornhuskers had their first season ever as a part of the Big Ten, and overall it was successful. They won nine games and finished the season ranked in the top 20. Like the Gamecocks they lean heavily on their run, averaging 224 yards on the ground. They are also paced by their defense which allows a respectable 22.8 points a contest, despite going up against Big 10 offenses for the first time. Expect a smash mouth game as these two teams’ strengths on both sides of the ball clash.
No. 17 Michigan State @ No. 16 Georgia
Michigan State had the unfortunate fate of being a school that failed to make a BCS game largely because of losing its conference championship game, and an idle team similar to them — Michigan — benefited. While the Spartans should probably be playing in one of the four big games, their loss is to the advantage of the Outback Bowl, because they are talented. Their defense is one of the best in the country and holds teams to only 17.5 points a game, keeping them in any contest they are a part of. If the game gets close, the team knows they can rely on senior quarterback Kirk Cousins to deliver in the clutch. Georgia also competed in a championship game last weekend, but their experience was much different. They were overwhelmed by LSU in 32-point loss. The Bulldogs are still very good though, their only defeats on the year came to three teams ranked in the top 12, and they were rolling before playing LSU. Much like the Spartans, they rely on an above-average defense, and a star quarterback as their recipe for success, and usually Aaron Murray and the defense find the right ingredients to pull out a win. It will be an intriguing game that features two strong defenses and smart quarterbacks trying to figure out how to beat them.
No. 19 Houston @ No. 22 Penn State
Houston and Penn State are two of the most the most talked about programs in the country this season, and neither story has a very good end to it. Penn State is suffering the ill effects of one of the worst scandals in college football history, and on top of that they were destroyed in their last game of the season by Wisconsin, with a spot in the Big 10 title game on the line. Houston’s last game did not go much better, as they lost out on an undefeated season, a conference USA championship, and the school’s first ever BCS birth by falling in a shocker to Southern Mississippi. To make matters worse they were grossly outplayed. Despite the terrible finishes to the schools’ seasons, the teams really are very good and, interestingly for fans, feature exact opposite styles of play. The Cougars sling the ball around the field, and move it quickly giving them the top ranked offense in the nation, putting up points at a 50-a-game clip. The Nitty Lions’ calling card on the other hand comes on the defense side of the ball, where they give up they give up only 15.7 points a contest, good for fifth in the country, but then again what else would you expect from “Linebacker U?” Opposites will meet when these two teams take the field.