USC will take on Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl Classic in one of the more intriguing postseason matchups
Nine Pac-12 teams will continue their seasons with a bowl game in December. The league offered remarkable balance in the 2017 season, with seven teams winning at least seven games.
Such parity ultimately cost Pac-12 champion USC a shot at playing for a national title. No Pac-12 teams made the four-team College Football Playoff for the second time in four seasons. Fans will have to settle for bowl games that offer several intriguing matchups against intersectional opponents.
Oregon gets things started when the Ducks go up against Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 16. Washington caps it off when the Huskies take on Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 30
Here is your guide on which Pac-12 bowl games are must-see TV and which ones will make you change the channel.
Note: All times are ET.
1. Cotton Bowl Classic — USC (11-2) vs. Ohio State (11-2)
Dec. 29 — 8:30 p.m., ESPN
This is a classic Rose Bowl pairing transplanted to Texas. It is essentially a de facto Rose Bowl, since USC won the Pac-12 crown and Ohio State claimed the Big Ten title. Trojan QB Sam Darnold will face a stiff test from the Buckeyes' defensive line. Ohio State DE Nick Bosa is one of the nation's best pass rushers and is guaranteed to make Darnold feel the heat for four quarters. Fans will get treated to a nice running back duel between USC's Ronald Jones and Ohio State's J.K. Dobbins. Both are effective runners. Dobbins averages 7.5 yards per carry while Jones averages 6.1 yards per attempt.
2. Fiesta Bowl — Washington (10-2) vs. Penn State (10-2)
Dec. 30 — 4 p.m., ESPN
Can the Huskies stop Saquon Barkley? The junior running back does a little bit of everything for Penn State. He ranks second nationally with 2,154 all-purpose yards. Washington's secret weapon could be Vita Vea. He's a defensive lineman who has the tools to make big plays outside the tackle box and should make it harder for Barkley to find open space. Washington has a three-head offensive monster in QB Jake Browning, RB Myles Gaskin and WR Dante Pettis that's sure to give the Nittany Lions fits. The trio ranked in the top 10 among Pac-12 players in passing, rushing and receiving respectively.
3. Holiday Bowl — Washington State (9-3) vs. Michigan State (9-3)
Dec. 28 — 9 p.m., FOX
Luke Falk will wrap up an amazing career that saw him progress from a walk-on quarterback to the Pac-12's career passing leader. The Cougars' fortunes rise and fall with Falk. In their three losses, Falk totaled eight interceptions. In Washington State's nine wins, he threw a total of 28 touchdown passes. Michigan State is a tough defensive team who is well equipped to slow down the Air Raid offense. Kenny Willekes ranked in the top five among Big Ten players in tackles for a loss (14.5) and sacks (7.0). Joe Bachie ranked in the top 10 in the league in tackles (94).
4. Alamo Bowl — Stanford (9-4) vs. TCU (10-3)
Dec. 28 — 9 p.m., ESPN
What can Bryce Love do when he's facing one of the nation's top run defenses? Love ran for 1,973 yards in 12 games and repeatedly burned opponents with runs of 50 yards or longer throughout the season. Duplicating a similar performance against TCU will be no simple task. The Horned Frogs allow just 99.9 rushing yards per game, which ranks fourth among FBS teams in that defensive category. Mat Boesen and Ben Banogu key that attack up front. The duo have combined for 20 sacks and 30 tackles for a loss this season.
5. Las Vegas Bowl — Boise State (10-3) vs. Oregon (7-5)
Dec. 16 — 3:30 p.m., ABC
Boise State is playing in its 16th consecutive bowl game, the sixth-longest active streak among FBS teams and is in the Las Vegas Bowl for the first time since 2012. Oregon will provide a suitable challenge to the Broncos now that Justin Herbert is healthy again. Herbert is 6-1 as a starter this season and the Ducks average 52.1 points per game when he is at the controls on offense. Boise State has a solid defense led by Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year Leighton Vander Esch. The Broncos are allowing just 22.5 points per game and have forced 26 turnovers this season.
6. Heart of Dallas Bowl — Utah (6-6) vs. West Virginia (7-5)
Dec. 26 — 1:30 p.m., ESPN
Winning bowl games is almost automatic for the Utes under Kyle Whittingham. He is 10-1 in bowl games as Utah's head coach, the best winning percentage for any coach in NCAA history. The starting quarterbacks for both teams are a question mark heading into the game. West Virginia junior Will Grier broke a middle finger on his throwing hand in mid-November against Texas. Grier totaled 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns this season. Utah sophomore Tyler Huntley did not play in the regular season finale against Colorado after suffering an undisclosed injury. Huntley ranked second in the Pac-12 in total offense with 2,726 yards despite playing in only nine games.
7. Foster Farms Bowl — Arizona (7-5) vs. Purdue (6-6)
Dec. 27 — 8:30 p.m., FOX
Khalil Tate's emergence helped Arizona rise from the Pac-12 cellar this season. Tate, a sophomore quarterback, is an electric runner who totaled 1,267 yards on 123 carries over Arizona's final eight games of the regular season. He suffered a shoulder sprain against Arizona State, but is ready to go in the Foster Farms Bowl. Purdue became bowl eligible after sophomore quarterback Elijah Sindelar led the Boilermakers to wins over Iowa and Indiana late in the season. Sindelar totaled 388 yards and five touchdown passes over those two games.
8. Sun Bowl — NC State (8-4) vs. Arizona State (7-5)
Dec. 28 — 3 p.m., CBS
Arizona State got back to a bowl game on the shoulders of an explosive offense. Manny Wilkins is an excellent passer. Demario Richard has been steady in the backfield. Wilkins is closing in on 3,000 passing yards and Richard is a whisker away from 1,000 rushing yards. NC State has a good enough defense to slow the duo down. Bradly Chubb is a sack machine, leading the ACC in that category with 10 sacks. The Wolfpack offense is strong in the passing game. Ryan Finley is one of the league's top passers with 3,200 yards and 16 touchdowns so far this season.
9. Cactus Bowl — Kansas State (7-5) vs. UCLA (6-6)
Dec. 26 — 9 p.m., ESPN
UCLA's fortunes will rest squarely on the arm of Josh Rosen as they have done all season. When Rosen is playing well, the Bruins' offense keeps them in any game. If he struggles, UCLA's defense will doom the Bruins. UCLA ranks last in the Pac-12 in total defense (488.8 ypg) and 11th in scoring offense (36.8 ppg). Kansas State is rather mediocre on defense, but dual-threat quarterback Skylar Thompson has infused a dangerous element into the offense since taking over the starting job in November. Thompson completed 73.5 percent of his passes during a two-game winning streak that helped the Wildcats get bowl eligible.
— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.