Motivating factor for USC: Despite everything that went wrong this season, the Trojans still have a chance to finish 10-4. Plus, they can send Helton, their offensive coordinator, out with a 1-0 record as head coach.
Pick: Fresno State 34, USC 31
Buffalo vs. San Diego State, Dec. 21 (ESPN, 5:30 p.m. ET)
Why to watch: How many times have you seen the Bulls play in the postseason? In their 15th season as an FBS program, they are making only their second appearance in a bowl game and looking for their first victory. San Diego State bounced back from a 0-3 start to finish 7-5 and make the postseason.
Who to watch: Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack was a Butkus Award finalist and is projected to be a first-round pick in next spring's NFL draft. The MAC Defensive Player of the Year had 94 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, three interceptions and five forced fumbles this season. He won the Jack Lambert Award, which is given by the Touchdown Club of Columbus (Ohio) to the country's top linebacker. He already holds the FBS record with 16 career forced fumbles and is one TFL away from setting the FBS career record with 75.
Motivating factor for Buffalo: The Bulls have eight wins in coach Jeff Quinn's fourth season, which are their most victories in a single season during the BCS era. The Bulls have never won a bowl game; they lost to Connecticut 38-20 in the 2009 International Bowl in Toronto.
Motivating factor for San Diego State: The Aztecs haven't won a bowl game under coach Rocky Long, who is 1-6 in bowl games overall, including an 0-2 mark at San Diego State. SDSU lost to BYU 23-6 in the Poinsettia Bowl last season and 32-30 to Louisiana-Lafayette in the 2011 New Orleans Bowl.
Pick: Buffalo 37, San Diego State 21
Tulane vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, Dec. 21 (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET)
Why to watch: New Orleans knows how to throw a party, and the environment in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome figures to be festive as these Louisiana rivals meet for the first time in the postseason. After enduring 10 consecutive losing seasons, the Green Wave finished 7-5 and will play in their first bowl game since 2002.
Who to watch: Tulane quarterback Nick Montana, the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Montana, completed 53.1 percent of his passes for 1,654 yards with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Montana, a junior from San Francisco, started his career at Washington, transferred to Mt. San Antonio (Calif.) Junior College last year after he lost the Huskies' starting job to Keith Price and then made his way to Tulane this season.
Motivating factor for Tulane: The Green Wave probably wants to send out the Superdome the right way. The Superdome has been Tulane's home stadium since 1975, but it's moving to a new on-campus venue next season. The Green Wave went 5-1 in the dome this season.
Motivating factor for Louisiana-Lafayette: The Ragin' Cajuns are attempting to win a third consecutive New Orleans Bowl, after defeating East Carolina 43-34 last season and San Diego State 32-30 in 2011. They might have to try to beat Tulane without star quarterback Terrance Broadway, who broke his right wrist in a 31-28 loss to Louisiana-Monroe on Nov. 30.
Pick: Tulane 23, Louisiana-Lafayette 17