Bowl season is upon us, and there are several quality storylines in the early matchups. Some college football stars to look for in the pre-Christmas slate are Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore, Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict, San Diego State tailback Ronnie Hillman, Utah State runner Robert Turbin, Louisiana-Lafayette tight end Ladarius Green and TCU linebacker Tank Carder. The Horned Frogs won the Mountain West, and they will take on WAC champion Louisiana Tech in an interesting Poinsettia Bowl matchup. Boise State’s Moore will lead one of the more accomplished senior classes in college football history into Las Vegas to tangle with Arizona State in what could be Dennis Erickson’s last collegiate game. Additionally, C-USA champion Southern Miss will meet Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl before Larry Fedora leaves Hattiesburg to take over at North Carolina.
Pre-Xmas Bowl you are most excited to see?
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
I will go with the Las Vegas Bowl — and not just for the glitzy panoramic shots and plethora of talent in Sin City. Arizona State and Boise State will square off in the Dirk Koetter Bowl for the only the second time in history, with ASU winning the only previous meeting 56-7 back in 1996. The most intriguing storyline isn't what league Boise State will be in next fall or Todd Graham coaching the Sun Devils in 2012; instead, it should be one of the most celebrated senior classes to ever go through any university. Seventeen of the starting 24 will be playing in their final college game, including the NCAA's all-time winningest quarterback Kellen Moore and Boise State single-season receiving touchdown record holder Tyler Shoemaker. Throw in safety George Iloka, tailback Doug Martin, defensive linemen Billy Winn and Shea McClellin and linebacker Byron Hout, and you will be watching the final game for a class that has gone 49-3 thus far. This group needs to be appreciated one more time as they attempt to get to 50 wins.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
I’m actually looking forward to the Poinsettia Bowl because I believe Louisiana Tech, a 10.5-point underdog, has a legitimate chance to beat TCU. Tech is one of the more undervalued teams in the nation. The Bulldogs went 8–4 overall and won their final seven games, including a 27–7 win at Ole Miss and a 24–20 victory at Nevada. They lost by two points at Southern Miss (11–2), by one point to Houston (12–1) and by six, in overtime, at Mississippi State. Sonny Dykes’ team will need a big game from tailback Lennon Creer, a one-time Tennessee Vol who has rushed for 80 yards or more five times this season. When healthy — he missed the final two games with an Achilles injury — Creer is a true difference-maker. TCU is obviously a very good team — the Horned Frogs won at Boise State — but this team isn’t quite as stout on defense in 2011. The Frogs have given up 28 points or more four times, including 50 to Baylor and 40 to SMU (in overtime). Louisiana Tech should be able to score some points; it will be up to the Bulldog defense to keep TCU’s offense in the 20s.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I will take the Saturday night party at the New Orleans Bowl when Louisiana-Lafayette meets San Diego State. Both programs have nice momentum right now, and there are two stars in particular that fans should check out. The Aztecs are led by running back Ronnie Hillman, who totaled 1,656 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground this season. The elusive sophomore (although he is NFL draft-eligible for being three years removed from high school) topped the 100-yard mark nine times this season, going over 140 yards seven times. Ragin’ Cajuns tight end Ladarius Green struggled with injuries early in the season, but he had 32 receptions for 308 yards and four touchdowns in his last four games. He is also the NCAA active career leader in touchdowns by a tight end. Louisiana-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth is a rising star and led the Ragin’ Cajuns to their first postseason appearance since becoming an FBS member in his first season at the school. San Diego State seems to have a slight talent advantage, but Louisiana-Lafayette should play well in its home state.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I’m intrigued by a couple of the pre-Christmas matchups, but probably the most by the Las Vegas Bowl. Arizona State enters this game with little momentum, after losing its last four regular season games and coach Dennis Erickson was canned following the finale. Erickson will coach in the bowl game, but can the Sun Devils send him out a winner? Boise State just missed out on a trip to a BCS game and this is another opportunity for it to earn a victory against a team from one of the AQ conferences. Although the Sun Devils struggled at the end of the regular season, their passing attack could give the Broncos trouble. Boise State struggled to stop TCU’s receivers and has been dealing with injuries in the secondary most of this year. If Arizona State is motivated, the offense should be able to move the ball through the air. However, can its defense slow down the Broncos? How about Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore taking on Sun Devils’ linebacker Vontaze Burfict? Assuming Arizona State shows up ready to play, this has the potential to be one of the most entertaining games of bowl season.