The time has come. The regular season is almost over and bowl season is just on the horizon. Sadly, that means your opportunities to watch good Group of Five football before next fall are almost dried up. Sorry, Army - Navy may be a good historical game, but it's not going to be competitive this year. Navy will blow the Black Knights out of the water before halftime.
And with more bowl games than ever before, it can be hard to maximize your opportunities to take in good football before we enter the void. Don't stress. This week, we're changing things up a bit and putting together a bowl guide to ensure you know which games featuring Group of Five teams are worth your time.
BYU vs. Utah, Las Vegas Bowl
Why you should watch: The Holy War is heading to Vegas! These bitter rivals haven't met on the gridiron since 2013, but, thanks to the bowl selection committee, we get one of the best bowl matchups of the year, with added hatred for one another tossed in as a bonus. This is also Bronco Mendenhall's last game as the Cougars' coach and a chance to go out with his 100th win coming against a rival.
When: Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015 at 3:30 p.m. on ABC
Ohio vs. Appalachian State, Camellia Bowl
Why you should watch: Appalachian State has wasted no time adjusting to the FBS level. Now, the Mountaineers will look for their first bowl win in their first appearance in hopes of securing an 11-win season. This also might be one of the last times you'll get to see a Frank Solich-coached team on national TV. The longtime Nebraska coach has slowly molded the Bobcats into a MAC contender since getting booted out of Lincoln more than a decade ago, but he'll be 72 next season. It's hard to imagine him sticking around for much longer.
When: Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015 at 5:30 p.m. E.T. on ESPN
WKU vs. USF, Miami Beach Bowl
Why you should watch: As if getting a matchup between one of the most electric offenses in the country and a defense that is arguably the best amongst Group of Five teams wasn't enough, we also get to see Bulls' head coach Willie Taggert take on his old team for the first time since leaving in 2012.
The Hilltoppers' sixth-year senior quarterback, Brandon Doughty, leads a unit averaging a shade under 45 points a game into a showdown against a team which held opponents to just 17 points per game down the stretch. It's a clash of styles with a little bit of a scorned lover aspect. Tune in.
When: Monday, Dec. 21, 2015 at 2:30 p.m. E.T. on ESPN
Temple vs. Toledo, Boca Raton Bowl
Why you should watch: At one point, these two were the hottest non-power conference schools in the nation, and despite failing to win their respective leagues, they remain two of the better teams outside of a brand-name conference. Both teams feature nasty defenses, and Toledo is one of the more balanced teams in the nation. It's a showdown of former conference foes who have both risen to new heights. That's must-see TV in my book.
When: Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 at 7 p.m. on ESPN
Boise State vs. NIU, Poinsettia Bowl
Why you should watch: The two teams which have ruled roost over the mid-major football throne in recent years both tallied just (yes, for these teams, just) eight wins in noticeable down years. But, while these two schools are clearly not the formidable powers they were just a season ago, it's unlikely both are ready to cough up their seat at the table of mid-major powers just yet.
It may not be as sexy of a showdown as many of us hoped for, but it's still a battle between the two best mid-major programs from the past half decade.
When: Wednesday, Dec. 23 at 4:30 p.m. E.T. on ESPN
Georgia Southern vs. Bowling Green, GoDaddy Bowl
Why you should watch: Matt Johnson. The record-breaking quarterback hasn't announced whether or not he'll seek a sixth year of eligibility yet, and with head coach Dino Babers now in Syracuse, Johnson would be in store for his third system in four seasons if he were to return. This is likely the last time we'll see the Falcon Fast offense that has lit up college football for the past two seasons.
When: Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015 at 8 p.m. E.T. on ESPN
SDSU vs. Cincinnati, Hawai'i Bowl
Why you should watch: Gunner Kiel could bolt for the NFL after this, so it may be your last time to see the former Notre Dame QB play college football. Aside from that, it's an intriguing matchup between two teams that have flown under the radar for much of the season.
UC suffered from playing in the insanely deep AAC and dealing with injuries to Kiel for part of the season. SDSU happened to win the MWC in a season Boise State just wasn't all that good, meaning many people didn't pay attention to the West Coast league. They both get a chance to show they're better than you think (and they both are).
When: Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015 at 8 p.m. E.T. on ESPN
Pitt vs. Navy, Military Bowl
Why you should watch: Aside from the fact that Pitt basically announced it's now too good to play non-power conference teams on the road going forward, this is the last chance you'll get to see Keenan Reynolds play football. After this, it's off to the U.S. Navy for the NCAA's career non-passing touchdown record-holder.
When: Monday, Dec. 28, 2015 at 2:30 p.m. E.T. on ESPN
Auburn vs. Memphis, Birmingham Bowl
Why you should watch: Memphis seemed destined for a New Year's Eve bowl slot before a late-season meltdown. Now the Tigers get a chance to prove their mid-season win over Ole Miss wasn't a fluke with a shot at a weaker SEC foe. It won't be easy though. This game might as well be considered a home game for Auburn. Will Paxton Lynch be able to lead his Tigers to glory? Or did the dream of a Memphis football power lave when head coach Justin Fuente accepted thee Virginia Tech job?
When: Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015 at noon E.T. on ESPN
Houston vs. Florida State, Peach Bowl
Why you should watch: This is a no-brainer. The perceived Group of Five's best offering gets a chance to prove whether or not it can hang with the power teams. Greg Ward Jr. is a dynamic playmaker, and is currently 18-2 as a starter. Tom Herman's genius offensive mind has brought out the best in Ward and the rest of the Cougars in year one. But are they good enough to hang with an ACC power?
When: Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015 at noon E.T. on ESPN
The Underdogs Poll is a weekly venture in which SB Nation's blogs on non-power conference schools vote to rank the top 15 non-power conference teams at the moment.
|Dropped out: NIU, Louisiana Tech, Marshall | Others receiving votes: Marshall (9), Boise State (8), SJSU (6), NIU (3), WMU (3), Utah State (1)|
* Denotes conference champion
Brandon Doughty: The sixth-year senior quarterback did what he set out to accomplish: lead WKU to a Conference USA title. Doughty had one of his best games of the season, racking up 410 yards and three touchdown passes in the Hilltoppers' 45-28 win over Southern Miss.
Greg Ward Jr.: Ward once again shined when the pressure was on, leading Houston to the AAC title. His 148 yards on the ground were more than double thee game's next leading rusher's total. More importantly, Ward improved to 18-2 since taking over the starting quarterback role. Let that sink in.
Travis Greene: The senior BGSU running back stepped up big in Detroit, leading the Falcons to their second MAC Championship in three seasons. Quarterback Matt Johnson looked human for once, but it didn't matter because his old pal, Greene, stepped up. Greene racked up 183 yards and a pair of scores in the win over NIU (the third time in three seasons these two met for the MAC title).
Nick Arbuckle: Were you shocked by Georgia State's routing of Georgia Southern last week? You're not alone. The senior quarterback's big game helped lead the Panthers to the surprising upset in the season finale. He tossed for 346 yards and three scores and secured the Panthers' best season since 2010.
Christian Chapman: The true freshman stepped up big in Saturday's Mountain West Conference title game last week, leading the Aztecs to the win over Air Force. Completing nearly 65 percent of his passes for 203 yards and a score, Chapman got the job done in place of injured starter Maxwell Smith.