Bowl Previews: Papajohns.com, Alamo

The weekend went well for me as far as picking the bowl winners goes: A perfect 4-0 mark, moving my record for the postseason to a respectable 7-5. And while some of my score predictions were close, none of them were quite close enough -- and so I'm now 1-11 in coming within seven points of each team's final total. Sure, Cal could've scored another point to change that, or North Carolina could've scored two fewer points, or Wisconsin four more -- but none of that happened, so 1-11 it is. At least I won't be the Lions. To Monday's bowls.

Papajohns.com Bowl, 3 p.m., ESPN

What it is: An excuse for a million "not even sponsored by a pizza chain, sponsored by the Web site of a pizza chain" jokes.

The Teams: N.C. State, Rutgers

How N.C. State got here: Wait -- N.C. State is in a bowl?!? The team that lost 34-0 to South Carolina in its first game despite intercepting the Gamecocks four times? The team that beat William & Mary by ten? The team that started 2-6? Yes. The Wolfpack won its last four, including consecutive victories against fellow bowl teams Wake Forest, North Carolina and Miami to even their record at 6-6. QB Russell Wilson doesn't have the NCAA's highest completion percentage, but he's far more likely to throw touchdowns (16) than interceptions (1). Warning sign: N.C. State was outscored by its opponents by 31 points this year (313-281).

How Rutgers got here: Wait -- Rutgers is in a bowl?!? The team that didn't beat a team not named "Morgan State" until mid-October? Yes. The Scarlet Knights won six straight to move their record to 7-5 at season's end after losing to the first five FBS teams they faced. And they ended the season on a high note, a 63-14 blitzing of Louisville. Rutgers did outscore its opponents by 126 points on the year (348-222), so the 7-5 mark might be a bit deceiving. After a slow start, QB Mike Teel threw for 3,099 yards, 23 TDs and 12 INTs; his favorite target is WR Kenny Britt, who caught 81 balls for 1,252 yards and six scores. Not coincidentally, all Britt's touchdown catches came during the last five games of the season.

College football fans care because: It's actually fascinating that either of these teams made a bowl, setting aside the fact that both made the same bowl.

SEC fans care because: Again, this was supposed to be an SEC-vs.-Big East match-up. The ACC is taking "our" place.

Watch this game if ... : You don't mind the color read.

The result: Rutgers 34, N.C. State 13

Alamo Bowl, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

What it is: One of those early bowls that often gets a good match-up.

The Teams: No. 23 Missouri, No. 22 Northwestern (All rankings BlogPoll)

How Missouri got here: After a great year last year, the Tigers were expected by some (including your humble correspondent) to win the Big XII Championship and maybe contend for the national title. The latter fell by the wayside after a two-week stretch that included a 28-23 loss to Oklahoma State and 56-31 shellacking against Texas. The former dream dissolved in a 62-21 waxing against Oklahoma in the Big XII Championship Game. QB Chase Daniel was still impressive, completing 74 percent of his passes for 4,135 yards, 37 TDs and 15 INTs while rushing for another 236 yards. WR Jeremy Maclin had 95 receptions for 1,221 yards and 12 TDs and rushed for 250 yards and two scores. Missouri scored 561 points this season.

How Northwestern got here: By dodging Penn State and losing only to two good teams (Ohio State, Michigan State) and Indiana. The Wildcats rarely scored eye-popping totals against good or even mediocre teams; they beat only Syracuse, Southern Illinois and Purdue by 20 or more. But they scored enough points (294) to win nine games. In a less-than-stellar year for the Big Ten, that was enough.

College football fans care because: Because it's the first time we've had two ranked BCS-league teams play each other this postseason.

SEC fans care because: Because it's always fun to laugh at the "top-flight" teams of the Big Ten.

Watch this game if ... : You're interested in finding out whether it's better to be "happy to be there" or disappointed but still the better team.

The result: Missouri 56, Northwestern 32

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