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December 29, 2007

Rivals.com bowl viewer's guide

It's been a rough past couple of weeks for college football fans. The regular season ended Dec. 1, and while there have been some bowl games and playoffs in lower divisions, the withdrawal pains have been severe.

Well, worry no more: Since Friday at 5 p.m. Eastern, it's been overload time. By Wednesday at about 12:30 a.m. Eastern (that should be the approximate finish time of the Sugar Bowl from New Orleans), there will have been 19 bowl games played over the long weekend.

Yep, 19!

Granted, some are aren't that appetizing. But there also are some gems.

Before Friday, just one bowl (Thursday's Holiday Bowl) had matched teams from BCS leagues. But 14 of the 19 pit BCS-league teams against each other.

So, keep your snacks and beverages lined up, turn off the phone (just turn it back on when you want to talk some smack), get the rest of the family out of the way, find a comfortable place to sit and turn on the TV.

International Bowl
Rutgers (7-5) vs. Ball State (7-5)

Site: Rogers Centre, Toronto
Time: Noon
Network: ESPN2 (John Saunders play-by-play, Jesse Palmer analyst)
The line: Rutgers by 10
Top storyline: Rutgers didn't make the same kind of splash it did last season, but three consecutive bowls for the Scarlet Knights is a monumental feat. Ball State is in the postseason for the first time since 1996 and only the third time in school history.
Player to watch: Ball State sophomore Nate Davis is a star in the MAC, passing for 3,376 yards and 27 touchdowns.
Watchability factor: Davis and Rutgers tailback Ray Rice give the game some star power, but it's still a letdown after the New Year's Day games.

Tulsa (9-4) vs. Bowling Green (8-4)

Site: Ladd Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Ala.
Time: 8 p.m.
Network: ESPN (Rece Davis play-by-play, Mark May and Lou Holtz analysts)
The line: Tulsa by 4.5
Top storyline: This game matches two mid-majors carried by their passing attacks. The two starting quarterbacks in this game have passed for a combined 7,876 yards and 65 touchdowns.
Player to watch: Here's your average game for Tulsa senior quarterback Paul Smith this season: 23-of-38, 366 yards, three touchdowns. He also rushed for 12 touchdowns and leads the nation's No. 1 offense.
Watchability factor: Why isn't this bowl played in December?

BCS National Championship Game
Ohio State (11-1) vs. LSU (11-2)

Site: Superdome, New Orleans
Time: 8 p.m.
Network: Fox (Thom Brennaman play-by-play, Charles Davis analyst)
The line: LSU by 5.5
Top storyline: Another Big Ten-SEC matchup will determine the national championship. Last year, the SEC won 41-14. Lots of questions this season: What adjustments will Ohio State make after last season's embarrassment? How much of a factor will the long layoff have for Ohio State? How much of a home-field advantage will LSU have? Can Les Miles, Michigan man, beat the Buckeyes?
Player to watch: Florida flew past Ohio State's offensive line to sack Heisman winner Troy Smith five times last season. How quarterback Todd Boeckman and the Ohio State offensive line respond this season will be critical. LSU's pass rushers this season aren't as good as Florida's last season, but Tigers tackle Glenn Dorsey is disruptive up the middle.
Watchability factor: After all the surprises and upsets this season, a preseason favorite and last season's runner-up are in the national championship game. With a title on the line, this is a can't-miss game.

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.

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