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Dec. 27 Bowl Game open thread, viewing guide, and why-to-watch (Thank you, Iowa!)

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The heart of the bowl season begins today

Ohio State v Iowa
Hashtag “don’t lose to 7-5 Iowa by 31 and give up 55 points along the way” doesn’t really roll off the tongue. But #GoHawks does. Thanks, Iowa!
Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Ed. Note: We have no idea what happened. Josh was trying to publish his article, and mine went up. Anyway, it’s almost done so now you can read it.

Today begins the meat of the P5 bowl matchup schedule. But, to be honest, most of todays games feature underachieving powerhouses, overachieving basement-dwellers, and teams with first-year coaches. When disappointing Texas is playing for pride and Shreveport-bound Florida State isn’t even bowl-eligible, you know you’re in for a day where anything can happen: Either some teams will live up to their potential, or we get a lot of 60-minute affairs where everyone goes through the motions. Purdue-Arizona and Texas-Mizzou do have potential though.

Still, it’s football...and we won’t be able to say that much longer.

Southern Mississippi at Florida State (-16.5, 49) - Independence Bowl

1:30 PM ET ESPN/WatchESPN

These teams do not belong on the same field. The Golden Eagles have had two chances to show that they belong, and, while they were game against Kentucky, USM were dominated by Tennessee. Even an unmotivated ‘Noles team with a half-functional offense should whack Southern Miss: I just don’t know where USM is going to get its points. Nor do I know how they’ll stop a Seminole running game that found its way while punishing the Gators. FSU huge, methinks.

Iowa (-2.5, 45) at Boston College - New Era Pinstripe Bowl

5:15 PM ET ESPN/WatchESPN

Like defense? Buddy, are you in for a treat. Boston College has one of the best collections of linebackers you’ve never seen and an active pass rush, while Iowa’s secondary is brilliant when everyone is reading off the same page and an undervalued front seven. The difference will arise when the teams are on offense. The Eagles want to control tempo and the line of scrimmage with a surprisingly-explosive running game. More surprising is that Iowa is led by its passing game. Call it back-to-the-future for Ferentz, but the Hawkeyes are much more of a threat when they take to the air. Still, I would be surprised if either unit got a chance to shine today with the defenses on hand and the windy, bitter cold. These are two outdoor teams from cold climates and accustomed to it — still, no one wants to be outside for 200 snaps in this filth. Old school football is on tap. Rejoice in what will likely be a briskly-paced, low scoring game.

Boston College v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Arizona at Purdue (+3.5, 6512) - Foster Farms Bowl

8:30 PM ET, FOX

Admit it, you didn’t really expect to see one of these teams in a bowl this season, much less two. Rich Rodriguez entered 2017 somewhat on the hot seat, but able to sell everyone on the bevy of young, exciting talent. The future came early and it caught a lot of the Pac 12 napping -- the Wildcats went on a midseason tear, winning 5 of 6 conference games, including dismantling No. 12 Washington State. For the ‘Boilers, absolutely nothing was expected with a new coach and an iffy holdover roster from the Darrell Hazell era. All Jeff Brohm did field was a competitive team nearly every weak, put a scare into ranked foes, dial up the offense, blast bowl-bound Missouri and Iowa on the road, improve recruiting, improve its scoring defense greatly, and then lead Purdue to its first bowl game in five seasons. Sentimentally, you’d like to see Brohm complete the Year One turnaround. Realistically, the cagey Wildcats have one of the most exciting freshman signal callers around: Khalil Tate will be a load, and if you’ve not watched him this year, make some time to check it out. The ‘Cats are favored for a reason, but it will be interesting to see how far Purdue has come. This has the potential to be a good game between two average teams.

Texas at Missouri (-2.5, 6112) - Heart of Texas Bowl

9:00 PM EST, ESPN/WatchESPN

With a six-game winning streak to end the season, Missouri seems to be one of the hottest teams in the nation. But, take a closer look: Those victims include three SEC teams that just fired their coaches, an historically bad Vanderbilt, Idaho and UConn. And, the Tigers just lost their offensive coordinator to UCF, replacing Scott Frost. Texas comes in at an erratic 6-6 where they look like kingbreakers one game and the dregs of the Big 12 the next. There’s no doubt Texas has the better talent here, and Herman does get the ‘Horns up for big games. But, will his squad consider this a big game? And, more importantly, can it take advantage of all those mistakes Drew Lock still inexplicably make? A wildcard here is the Tigers running game, which has been quietly lethal down the stretch. Call this one a tossup: It may not be very good football, but it should be entertaining. I think Texas edges out MU.