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College bowl season preview

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Published:   |   Updated: December 21, 2013 at 12:06 PM

In 16 days, the Florida State Seminoles (13-0) will face the Auburn Tigers (12-1) in the BCS Championship Game at Pasadena, Calif.

But well before then, avid college football fans will be bowled over by wall-to-wall postseason games throughout the holiday season. There are 35 bowl games in all, including Monday’s Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl between East Carolina and Ohio University at Tropicana Field, along with the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl between LSU and Iowa at Raymond James Stadium.

Buffalo, Middle Tennessee, Rice, UNLV, Tulane and Ball State are in bowl games.

The Florida Gators and USF Bulls are not.

All of the Heisman Trophy finalists — FSU quarterback Jameis Winston, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, Boston College running back Andre Williams and Auburn running back Tre Mason — will be showcased.

In the final year of the Bowl Championship Series — before the College Football Playoff begins next season — FSU-Auburn has shaped up as an undisputed title game. But the BCS also has produced intriguing matchups such as Alabama-Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, Ohio State-Clemson in the Orange Bowl and Baylor-Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl.

Meanwhile, in an era of high-flying offenses, the Rose Bowl goes old school as it celebrates the game’s 100th edition with Stanford against Michigan State, a grind-it-out matchup.

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COMING ATTRACTIONS

As if this season’s 35-bowl lineup isn’t enough, the 2014-15 slate will add four new bowl games.

• Camellia Bowl – Sun Belt vs. Mid-American Conference in Montgomery, Ala.

• Bahamas Bowl – Mid-American Conference vs. American Athletic Conference in Nassau, Bahamas.

• Boca Raton Bowl – Mid-American Conference vs. Conference USA in Boca Raton.

• Miami Beach Bowl – American Athletic Conference vs. C-USA, Sun Belt or MAC team at Marlins Park (site of the former Orange Bowl).

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STORYLINES

• Pinstripe Bowl – Notre Dame makes its return to Yankee Stadium, where it has gone 16-6-3, dating to the original facility. ND beat Army 12-6 in 1928, when Knute Rockne made his “win one for the Gipper’’ speech. The Fighting Irish face Rutgers, located about 50 miles away from the Bronx.

• Russell Athletic Bowl – Louisville junior QB Teddy Bridgewater, of Miami Northwestern High, originally committed to the Hurricanes. Now he gets a chance to beat them. Soon after that, he’s expected to declare for the NFL draft, where he could be the No. 1 overall pick.

• AdvoCare V100 Bowl – Boston College RB Andre Williams (2,102 yards, 17 touchdowns) matches up against Arizona RB Ka’Deem Carey (1,716, 17 touchdowns).

• Texas Bowl – Heartwarming story here. Fans of Syracuse (6-6) could be sparse in the Houston-based game against Minnesota. But Sean Keeley, an SU alum who operates a blog about Orange sports, challenged Syracuse supporters to donate money and send underprivileged Houston children to the game. Donations recently surpassed the $30,000 mark, meaning more than 1,000 local kids will attend. They will receive free Syracuse Orange T-shirts and food vouchers, while sitting near the SU band.

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WORTH WATCHING

• Fresno State QB Derek Carr, the nation’s passing leader at 4,866 yards, 70.1 completion percentage and 48 touchdowns. He could carve up the USC Trojans in today’s Las Vegas Bowl.

• Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald, a one-man wrecking crew (26.5 tackles for a loss). The Panthers are 6-6 and facing Bowling Green in the decidedly off-Broadway Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. He is one of the most decorated defensive players in recent history, having won the Nagurski, Bednarik and Lombardi awards, along with the Outland Trophy.

• Florida State QB Jameis Winston, the Heisman Trophy winner, who passed for 38 touchdowns as a freshman. Note: Auburn is ranked 102nd nationally in pass defense.

• Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks, the Biletnikoff Award winner, who had 1,670 receiving yards and caught at least six passes in each game.

• The Baylor Bears, who average 624.5 yards of offense (second all-time to 624.9 by the Andre Ware-led Houston team of 1989) and could run up a big number against the UCF Knights at the Fiesta Bowl.

• The 100th Rose Bowl, which, appropriately, could have a matchup that harkens back to the leather-helmet days. It’s smash-mouth Stanford (11-2) against smash-mouth Michigan State (12-1).

• The Orange Bowl, which features Ohio State QB Braxton Miller against Clemson QB Tajh Boyd in what could be a high-scoring game.

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UNDER THE RADAR

• New Mexico Bowl – Colorado State RB Kapri Bibbs, who rushed for 1,572 yards and 28 TDs, despite not starting until the sixth game.

• Famous Idaho Potato Bowl – Buffalo LB Khalil Mack, a probable first-round pick, who might be the nation’s top LB.

• Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl – East Carolina WR Justin Hardy, the school’s first player with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.

• Armed Forces Bowl – Navy QB Keenan Reynolds, who set an FBS record for touchdown runs by a quarterback (29). He accounted for eight touchdowns (one passing, seven rushing) in a three-overtime game at San Jose State..

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