RICE (6-6) VS. AIR FORCE (6-6)
TIME: 11:45 a.m./ESPN
LINE: Air Force by 3
SERIES RECORD: Air Force leads 5-1
WHAT’S AT STAKE: Both teams are trying to finish with a winning record. Rice is going for its fifth victory in a row to end its 101st football season. Air Force is playing in its school-record sixth consecutive bowl game, and fourth Armed Forces Bowl (1-2) in that span.
KEY MATCHUP: Rice defense against Air Force offense, which is second nationally with 329 yards rushing per game.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Rice–K Chris Boswell has an NCAA-leading six field goals of at least 50 yards, and 11 in his career are most among active kickers. Boswell tied an NCAA record with three 50-yard kicks in the regular-season finale. His 19 field goals overall are a single-season Rice record. Air Force–QB Connor Dietz graduated from the academy earlier this month and will play as a commissioned officer (second lieutenant). He has completed 67 of 108 passes for 1,127 yards and eight touchdowns, and has rushed for 658 yards with five touchdowns in his only season as the starter.
WEST VIRGINIA (7-5)
VS. SYRACUSE (7-5)
TIME/TV: 3:15 p.m/ESPN
LINE: West Virginia 3½
SERIES RECORD: Syracuse 32-27
WHAT’S AT STAKE: The Mountaineers are trying to wrap up a season that started great (5-0), went sour (five-game losing streak), then ended on the upswing (two straight victories) with their first bowl victory as a member of the Big 12. The Orange began their last season in the Big East 1-3 before closing strong and sharing the conference title.
KEY MATCHUP: QB Geno Smith and WRs Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin and against Syracuse’s pass defense and veteran secondary. The Orange rank 63rd in the nation in sacks and 65th in yards passing allowed. On the other side of the ball, West Virginia’s defense ranks 123rd in the nation against the pass so clearly it could use any help it can get.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: West Virginia– Austin had 1,259 yards through the air, 598 rushing and a little more than 900 on returns. Syracuse–QB Ryan Nassib. Like his West Virginia counterpart, Smith, Nassib is NFL-quality. The senior passed for 3,619 yards and 24 touchdowns.
FIGHT HUNGER BOWL
ARIZONA STATE (7-5) VS. NAVY (8-4)
TIME/TV: 4 p.m./ESPN2
LINE: Arizona State by 14½
SERIES RECORD: First meeting
WHAT’S AT STAKE: Arizona State is looking to finish off the first season under coach Todd Graham on a high note by snapping a three-game bowl losing streak and winning a postseason game for the first time since 2005. Navy did not make it to a bowl last year and has won only one bowl game since 2005.
KEY MATCHUP: Arizona State run defense vs. Navy triple option. The unorthodox offensive attack for the Midshipmen should test the Sun Devils’ defense which ranked 75th against the run this season.
Navy is sixth in the nation with 275.6 yards rushing per game.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Arizona State–DT Will Sutton. The All-American had an impressive regular season with 20 tackles for loss, 10½ sacks and 58 total tackles. He ranked fifth nationally in tackles for loss per game and 13th in sacks per game. Navy–QB Keenan Reynolds. Reynolds took over midway through his freshman season and became the first Navy QB to win his first four starts since Bob Powers won six in a row in 1979. Reynolds is 6-1 as a starter.
TEXAS (8-4) VS.
NO. 15 OREGON STATE (9-3)
TIME/TV: 6:45 p.m./ESPN
LINE: Oregon State by 3½
SERIES RECORD: Texas leads 2-0
WHAT’S AT STAKE: The Longhorns are trying to win their 10th bowl game under Mack Brown, who comes in with a 9-4 record in the postseason. The Beavers are in their first bowl game since 2009, when a five-game postseason winning streak was snapped with a loss to BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl.
KEY MATCHUP: Texas WR Mike Davis vs. Oregon State CB Jordan Poyer. Davis has 909 yards and could become just the sixth Texas player to have a 1,000-yard receiving season. Poyer, an All-American, is tied for second nationally with seven interceptions.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Texas–QB David Ash is the starter again after getting pulled in a loss to TCU and remaining on the bench in the regular-season finale at Kansas State. Oregon State–QB Cody Vaz was chosen to start over Sean Mannion as the Beavers wrapped up practice in Oregon and headed for Texas. Mannion started the first four games before sustaining a left knee injury that required surgery. Vaz has 11 touchdowns and just one interception.
BUFFALO WILD WINGS BOWL
TEXAS CHRISTIAN (7-5)
VS. MICHIGAN STATE (6-6)
TIME/TV: 10:15 p.m./ESPN
LINE: Texas Christian by 2½
SERIES RECORD: Michigan State leads 1-0
WHAT’S AT STAKE: Both teams are trying to build momentum for next season after limping down the stretch in 2012. Texas Christian opened with four consecutive wins in its first season in the Big 12 before losing four of six while the Spartans had a similar finish after opening 4-2.
KEY MATCHUP: Texas Christian’s defense against Michigan State RB Le’Veon Bell. The Horned Frogs had the nation’s 10th-best rushing defense during the regular season, allowing 103.92 yards per game. Bell was third nationally with 147.3 yards per game and had 1,648 yards, second-most in Michigan State history.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Texas Christian–QB Trevone Boykin. The Horned Frogs appeared to be in trouble when starter Casey Pachall was suspended after being arrested on drunken driving charges and later left the program. But Boykin, a redshirt freshman, threw for more than 1,800 with 15 TDs. Michigan State–DE William Gholston. The Spartans were fifth nationally in points allowed at 16.3 per game and Gholston was a big part of their success.