Now that the first week of bowl games is over, more recognizable football programs start to join the list. The SEC features 12 of its 14 teams in postseason play, and there are plenty of quality bowls in the coming week.
Some are interesting matchups between divergent teams. Others feature superstar players perhaps playing in their final college games.
Just as a note, we limited our range from Saturday until next Friday and are excluding New Year’s Six bowls (we’re looking at you, Orange Bowl) from consideration because we know everyone will want to watch Jimbo Fisher and Florida State take on Jim Harbaugh and Michigan.
With that said, here are five bowl games SEC fans should be watching next week.
(All times ET)
Russell Athletic Bowl
Miami vs. West Virginia – 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in Orlando (ESPN)
While these aren’t necessarily the hottest names in college football, this should be a good game. Georgia fans will get a chance to see how Mark Richt closes his first season, especially considering this could be star quarterback Brad Kaaya’s final game. Kaaya is already the Hurricanes’ all-time leading passer with 9,686 yards — getting to 10,000 is within reach.
However, West Virginia quietly became a formidable team this year. Until it ran into the state of Oklahoma, Dana Holgorsen looked like he might lead a playoff team. The Mountaineers have a variety of excellent skill position players, including WRs Daikiel Shorts and Shelton Gibson, and running backs Justin Crawford and Rushel Shell. Whether offense or defense wins the day will be interesting to watch.
Kansas State vs. Texas A&M – 9 p.m. Wednesday in Houston (ESPN)
This game is the ultimate contrast of programs. Texas A&M has overwhelming disparities in all the traditional measurables. For example, the Aggies currently have the No. 7 recruiting class in the nation per 247Sports’ composite rankings. Kevin Sumlin has gotten eight 5-star players since arriving on campus.
Contrarily, Kansas State hasn’t landed a 4-star high school prospect since 2007. The Wildcats run an offense right out of the 1950s, boasting a single wing quarterback alignment. But gosh darn it, Bill Snyder gets results. K-State has reached a bowl game in 18 of Snyder’s 25 seasons. Seeing these two programs go at it should be supremely entertaining.
Virginia Tech vs. Arkansas – 5:30 p.m. Thursday in Charlotte (ESPN)
Most SEC fans will only remember Virginia Tech for losing to Tennessee. After that, the Hokies found their footing in the ACC. New head coach Justin Fuente was a perfect fit in Blacksburg, and keeping defensive coordinator Bud Foster was a shrewd move.
Arkansas had a great start to the year thanks to Austin Allen’s arm, but the Razorbacks struggled to build consistency late. Allen will have his hands full with an always-excellent Hokies defensive backfield. The result will depend on which Arkansas and Virginia Tech teams show up.
Oklahoma State vs. Colorado – 9 p.m. Thursday in San Antonio (ESPN)
Who would have thought this would be a highly anticipated matchup before the season? However, Mike Gundy once again pulled together a solid Oklahoma State team, and Mike MacIntyre completed one of the most improbable turnarounds in college football this year.
Now, these teams face off in one of the better quarterback battles of bowl season. The Cowboys’ Mason Rudolph and wide receiver James Washington connected for 1,209 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2016. Rudolph threw for 25 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions. However, Colorado only lost games when QB Sefo Liufau was hobbled. This should be an immensely watchable game.
Music City Bowl
Tennessee vs. Nebraska – 3:30 p.m. Friday in Nashville (ESPN)
Not only will this be Josh Dobbs’ final game as a Tennessee Volunteer, this game pits two teams that were ranked in the AP top 10 earlier in the year. Butch Jones’ seat has progressively gotten warmer, so he needs a big win in the final game with a talented team.
Nebraska runs a productive offense, but quarterback Tommy Armstrong likely will miss the game. That makes it even more of a must-win for Jones and the Vols. However, when Tennessee takes the field, no one knows what could happen.