Here’s a look at the bowl games this week along with previews of all of them:
East Carolina Pirates vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns — New Orleans Bowl, Saturday, Dec. 22
Odds: Ragin’ Cajuns -6
While the East Carolina Pirates aren’t as strong as they have been in past seasons, they rely on quarterback Shane Carden to lead the nation’s 35th-ranked pass attack. At 2,838 yards and 21 touchdowns, Carden relies on his favorite weapon, Justin Hardy, to produce big plays. Hardy has put up 1,046 yards and 10 touchdowns on the year. The Pirates have one of the elite red zone offenses in the country, scoring on 92 percent of their drives inside the 20, with more than 70 percent of those scores being touchdowns. Reggie Bullock was a 1,000-yard back this past season.
One loss late in the season may have told everyone more about Louisiana-Lafayette than any game that preceded it. A blocked punt led to a game-winning score for Florida — a team ranked in the top five. Without that blocked punt, the Ragin’ Cajuns would have taken the Gators to overtime in the Swamp.
While Louisiana-Lafayette may not be the offensive showstopper that other teams in the Sun Belt Conference proved to be in 2012, the Cajuns are a balanced group that ranks 33rd in the nation. This is a team that can compete with anyone.
Washington Huskies vs. Boise State Broncos — Las Vegas Bowl, Saturday, Dec. 22
Odds: Broncos -5
This will be a showdown between Boise State’s current head coach and Boise State’s former defensive coordinator. The Broncos rose to prominence from 2006 through 2009 thanks to head coach Chris Petersen — who is still at the school — and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, who now holds that position for the Washington Huskies. The chess match between Wilcox and Petersen is going to have a lot to say about this game’s outcome, but the other side of the ball will be important, too.
As has been the case with Boise State for more than a decade now, whenever things look bleak, count on the Broncos’ defense to lead the way. With the massive turnover that occurred on offense in the offseason, Boise State knew it had to be elite defensively if the Broncos were to have any chance of competing at a level they’ve become accustomed to under Petersen. The defense has responded with a top 10 national ranking and one of the best turnover margins in all of college football. The Broncos have a knack for getting after the quarterback, averaging almost three sacks per game, and have been one of the top teams in terms of red zone defense. How Washington’s offense fares against Boise State’s defense is what will probably decide this contest in the end.