Commentary

Holiday wishes: Bowl matchups we'd love to see

Updated: November 26, 2007, 8:46 PM ET
By Bruce Feldman | ESPN The Magazine

The bowl season is coming, and rather than wait until Sunday, how about we throw out some matchups we'd love to see this holiday season (regardless of bowl affiliations) as this week's top 10 list.

[+] EnlargeSedrick Ellis
Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireWouldn't it be fun to see USC's Sedrick Ellis chase down Hawaii's record-breaker Colt Brennan?

1. USC vs. Hawaii: The Trojans' defense hasn't merited all-time status but it still has been outstanding, especially late in the season. USC, led by ferocious NT Sedrick Ellis, has been getting pressure on everyone of late. The Trojans are tied for ninth in the country in sacks (36), and they have the kind of athletes in the back seven who would provide a challenge for any passing team. Seeing what Hawaii QB Colt Brennan (3,732 passing yards) would do against a team that has allowed just seven TD passes all season (fewest in the country) would be a lot of fun. Plus, a Hawaii win would go a long, long way toward helping the cause of any unbeaten mid-major down the road.

2. Florida vs. Illinois: The Zooker versus the school that fired him after three seasons would be a fascinating subplot. Ron Zook did a great job of recruiting at Florida before being unceremoniously dumped. Almost all the starters on last year's UF national title team were guys he recruited. Better still, there's the notion that a castoff like Zook, a guy whose name many Gators fans still refuse to utter, could help regain some credibility for the Big Ten. Illinois had an amazing turnaround for a program that went 4-19 over the previous two seasons. Hearing Zook's pregame speech for this matchup game would be priceless. I suspect there might be some head butts and lockers smashed a few moments before the Illini took the field.

3. Texas Tech vs. LSU: I know this would never happen, but I'd love to see Tigers fans -- and brass -- exposed to the twisted brilliance of Mike Leach. The Red Raiders' coach isn't one of the guys mentioned often as a possible successor if LSU's Les Miles bolts for Michigan. Plus, it'd be fascinating to see how the nation's sixth-rated pass defense coped with everything Leach threw at them. His teams are 4-1 in their past five bowl games and have been held under 38 points only once. Of course, that was by the one SEC team he played (Alabama).

4. West Virginia vs. Missouri: Even if a national title wasn't hanging in the balance, this one would be a blast. You have two fun versions of the spread offense that would combine for maybe 120 points. In Pat White you have the read-option whiz and in Missouri's Chase Daniel you have a patient, accurate guy who runs just enough to keep defenses off balance.

5. Michigan vs. Virginia: Michigan's Jake Long is considered by ESPN.com's Mel Kiper as the top offensive tackle prospect, and UVA's Chris Long has been a terror all season. He has 13.5 sacks, and he's escaped the big shadow of his famous dad (Hall of Famer Howie Long). This would be the kind of one-on-one matchup worth turning in for. Surprisingly, the Wolverines rank only 64th in the country in sacks allowed. Then again, they have been hit hard by injury and had a freshman QB for a big part of the season.

[+] EnlargeKnowshon Moreno
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesWould Ohio State's defense be able to contain Georgia's Knowshon Moreno?

6. Ohio State vs. Georgia: Sure, the Buckeyes still have some national title hopes and, if not, they figure to head to Pasadena. But would it get much better than to see the nation's top linebacker, Ohio State's James Laurinaitis, matched up against the top freshman, Knowshon Moreno, the Dawgs' spinning tailback sensation? Earlier in the season, OSU held Michigan State' potent tandem, of Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick, to 58 yards on 22 carries, and held Michigan's Mike Hart to 44 carries on 18 carries.

7. Central Florida vs. Arkansas: Darren McFadden is great. So is Felix Jones. Heck, Arkansas' other RB, Peyton Hills, is terrific too, but UCF's Kevin Smith might be capable of upstaging them all. Smith gashed Texas for 173 yards from scrimmage, and he's had at least 170 yards rushing a whopping eight times this season.

8. Maryland vs. Penn State: Plenty of intriguing subplots here that stem from a lot of recruiting battles. The Nittany Lions won many of them. Most notably: the Derrick Williams lottery.

9. Wake Forest vs. Alabama: Bama's Nick Saban (the $4 million dollar coach who has lost four straight, including a game against Louisiana-Monroe) versus Jim Grobe (a guy many inside the coaching world say does the best job of doing more with less). Actually, most coaches I've talked to would see this one as good versus evil on the sidelines.

10. Oregon State vs. Georgia Tech: OK, so this isn't a glamour game, but it would feature Oregon State's No. 1 run defense against the very underrated Tashard Choice (14th in the nation with 119 rushing yards per game). The Beavers haven't surrendered more than 62 yards rushing to any back in their past four games.

Bruce Feldman is a senior writer with ESPN The Magazine. His new book, "Meat Market: Inside the Smash-Mouth World of College Football Recruiting," is on sale now.