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Dec. 28 Bowl Game open thread, viewing guide, and why-to-watch: welcome, ranked teams

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Ranked teams begin to take center stage

Oklahoma v Oklahoma State

Like the December 23 schedule, today has several good bowl games on hand, with a ton of different offenses and styles of play.

Virginia at Navy (-1.5, 52) - Military Bowl

1:30 PM ET ESPN/WatchESPN

Start the day off right with two teams going in the opposite directions. The Midshipmen have not been up to vintage, being swept by its sister service academies and getting smoked by the AAC’s top tier. Meanwhile, Virginia is showing life under second-year coach Bronco Mendenhall. Like he did at BYU, Bronco is building this team’s identity as a chippy tough group of defenders with just enough opportunistic scoring to take advantage of miscues. This game will be won or lost depending on how the UVA front seven can contain the triple option. It won’t be a foreign scheme to Mendenhall, who played Air Force regularly at Provo, going 5-1 vs. the Falcons. I like the upset-minded Cavs here.

#22 Virginia Tech at #19 Oklahoma State (-4.5, 62.5) - Camping World Bowl

5:15 PM ET ESPN/WatchESPN

I could spill 1500 words breaking down this matchup, which looks to be a a good one. Oklahoma State has the talent advantage, particularly in the passing game. But, there’s a confound: Justin Fuente is looking for a program-defining win in Blacksburg. The Hokies have come close the last two years, but they’ve not quite been primetime players yet. Meanwhile, the Cowboys, who had the skill to have been a playoff team, have fallen flat on their faces and underperformed. -- yet again. This team should not have three losses. Period. It’s despicable. Until Mike Gundy proves to me he can beat a quality team when it counts, these Cowboys are all-hat, no-cattle. Give me Bud Foster and his underdog lunch pail over Gundy’s overrated diaper pail.

Washington State v Arizona State
You gotta think Phil Fulmer dropped the ball here.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

#18 Washington State at #16 Michigan State (-1.5, 47) - Holiday Bowl

9:00 PM ET ESPN2/WatchESPN

I honestly don’t know how this one will play out; which team will break a crippling trend. For Washington State, its Achilles have been playing away from home and finding consistency. For the Spartans, it has been matching up against athletic teams and finding points in big games. The Cougars have the offense and the home timezone in their favor. They also have a pass rush that can cause a lot of problems. The problem is stopping the run. If the Spartan’s steer clear of passing downs, it has a puncher’s chance here against a small, thin WSU front. If the Cougs balanced offense gets going though, it could be a bad day for Sparty. (But, we don’t know what’s wrong with Luke Falk’s hand — it’s in a cast and the eccentric Mike Leach doesn’t want anyone to know about, much less the reason for it.) My heart leans Wazzu, but Leach’s offseason drama and WSU’s play away from Pullman leads me to East Lansing.

#13 Stanford at #15 TCU (-3, 49) - Alamo Bowl

9:00 PM ET ESPN/WatchESPN

The Alamo Bowl got a good one. Stanford, who got hot down the stretch, travels to San Antonio to face the Horned Frogs, losers of two-of-its last three. TCU’s active 4-2-5 defense will have its work cut out when the nation’s second-leading rusher and Heisman finalist Bryce Love gets the ball: and he will get a load of carries against the nation’s No. 4 rushing defense. Meanwhile, Kenny Hill will look to move the ball vertically using Patterson’s modified Air Raid that’s chock full of RPOs. The Cardinal have been iffy against the pass, so this could be a chance for the Frogs to open it up a bit: Stanford doesn’t want to try to match scores. And, I don’t think they have enough firepower in the end to do so. The contrast between glacial paleoball and a wide open Big 12 offense should be as stark as it is enjoyable.