Head Coaches Rod Carey and Jimbo Fisher meet at the 2012 Orange Bowl Kickoff
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com
The most wonderful time of the year is here.
College football's bowl season kicked off with two games Saturday and culminates with the Jan. 7 Discover BCS National Championship in Miami.
Here's everything you need to know about this season's bowl lineup:
Discover Orange Bowl
No. 15 Northern Illinois vs. No. 12 Florida State, Jan. 1 (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET)
Why to watch:
It's the classic David versus Goliath matchup. The Huskies are the first non-undefeated team from a non-BCS conference to play in a BCS bowl game. The Seminoles won the ACC and are playing in a bowl game for the 31st consecutive season, the longest such streak in the country.
Who to watch:
Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch probably should have been a Heisman Trophy finalist. He led all FBS players with 1,771 rushing yards and was 25th in pass efficiency with a 152.9 rating. He completed 222 of 353 passes for 2,962 yards and accounted for 43 total touchdowns.
Motivation for Northern Illinois:
The Huskies are out to prove they belong in a BCS bowl game. They've won 12 games in a row after losing to Iowa 18-17 in their Sept. 1 opener.
Motivation for Florida State:
The Seminoles probably don't want to be the team that loses to a MAC opponent in a BCS bowl game. The Seminoles lost only twice this season, falling 17-16 at NC State and 37-26 to No. 3 Florida.
Pick: Florida State 34, Northern Illinois 24
Discover BCS National Championship
No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Alabama, Jan. 7 (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET)
Why to watch:
Two of college football's traditional heavyweights will play for all the marbles in Miami. Alabama is trying to become the first consensus back-to-back national champion since Nebraska in 1994-95. The Fighting Irish are trying to win their first national title since 1988.
Who to watch:
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o will leave school as one of the most decorated players in college football history. The Heisman Trophy finalist is the heart and soul of Notre Dame's defense, which has led the team's resurgence. Te'o led the Fighting Irish with 103 tackles to go along with 5½ tackles for loss, seven interceptions, 11 passes defended and two fumble recoveries.
Motivation for Notre Dame:
The Fighting Irish will attempt to prove that their arrival in South Florida isn't a fluke. After closer-than-expected victories over Purdue, BYU and Pittsburgh, some college football fans are still wondering whether Notre Dame deserves to be there. The Irish can prove everyone wrong by upsetting the Tide.
Motivation for Alabama:
The Crimson Tide can win their third national championship in four seasons, which would cement their place among the sport's great dynasties. The Tide can also win the SEC's seventh BCS national championship in a row.
Pick: Alabama 31, Notre Dame 17
Check out the rest of the bowl game predictions here.
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