Here are the matchups as the college bowl season kicks off today:
No. 21 Fresno State faces USC in Las Vegas Bowl
LAS VEGAS - Although Fresno State fell one win short of a BCS berth, the Bulldogs still got a high-stakes trip to Vegas for the final game of quarterback Derek Carr's career.
The 21st-ranked Bulldogs (11-1) landed in the Las Vegas Bowl against Southern California (9-4) today, kicking off bowl season with a compelling California matchup in the shadow of the Strip.
USC is on its third head coach of a tumultuous season, but the talent-rich Trojans are still one of the nation's highest-profile programs.
With a victory over USC to clinch the first 12-win season in school history, the Bulldogs would stake a compelling claim as the best team ever to suit up in the Central Valley.
"The team is pretty fired up about being here," Fresno State receiver Davante Adams said. "They've got a great program, world-renowned, so it's going to be a lot of fun going against these guys."
Adams and Carr are excited about the challenge they'll face when the Bulldogs have the ball. While the nation's best passing offense decimated nearly every defense it faced, USC's undermanned defense still put together an impressive season against the Pac-12's high-scoring teams, ranking 14th in the nation in scoring defense.
Colorado State, Washington State eye shootout
ISLETA PUEBLO, N.M. - Colorado State hasn't been to a bowl game since 2008. Washington State hasn't been since 2003.
During those droughts, both programs struggled amid poor seasons and staff shake-ups that left players disappointed and alumni angry.
But now the two emerging programs are preparing to kick off the college bowl season and both believe a bowl victory could be the lift needed to finally get their teams back into recruiting battles. Colorado State (7-6) will meet Washington State (6-6) in the New Mexico Bowl today in Albuquerque in what is expected to be a showdown of two high-flying offenses.
"It's definitely a dream come true," said Colorado State offensive lineman Weston Richburg, a senior who has suffered through recent tough seasons. "You want to make the postseason every year in college. Unfortunately, we weren't able to do that."
The match-up brings together two second-year coaches - Rams coach Jim McElwain and Cougars coach Mike Leach- working to turn around their teams' fortunes with high-octane offenses.
Washington State opened 2013 with a 31-24 loss to Auburn, a team now in the BCS title game. And Colorado State played a respectable game against Alabama in a 31-6 loss.
ULL aims to spoil Tulane's return to postseason
NEW ORLEANS - Nick Montana has a chance to play his first bowl game in the same stadium where his famous father, Joe, won a Super Bowl.
That is, if he's healthy enough to take the field for Tulane in tonight's New Orleans Bowl.
If Montana can't go, the Green Wave (7-5) won't get any sympathy from Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4), which is in a similar predicament. Ragin' Cajuns starting quarterback Terrance Broadway hasn't played since breaking his right arm Nov. 30 in a loss to Louisiana-Monroe.
Coach Mark Hudspeth doesn't sound optimistic the right-handed Broadway will be ready.
"He's trying. He's just a long way away," Hudspeth said. "We'll see when game time gets here who we decide to run on the field. The question if we put him in, can he be effective if he's not 100 percent? ... You just wonder if he survives if he gets hit on that arm."
Montana has been beaten up playing behind a young offensive line. His throwing shoulder has bothered him much of the season.
Buffalo seeks first bowl win against San Diego State
BOISE, Idaho - Buffalo coach Jeff Quinn doesn't need any reminders about what's at stake today against San Diego State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
For Quinn, who took over the program four years ago, it's all about getting the school's first bowl victory, changing history and putting the Bulls (8-4, 6-2 Mid-American) on a different trajectory.
"And for our senior class, this has been four years in the making," said Quinn, who led the team to its most wins since Buffalo joined the FBS in 1999.
San Diego State (7-5, 6-2 Mountain West) is playing in its fourth straight bowl game, the longest streak in school history.