It’s that time of the year again. The most exciting and stressful regular season in all of sports gives way to one of the most nonsensical, money grabbing, corporate-run post seasons in all of sports. The fact that only two teams get a shot at the national titles means that every game during the regular season is a must win, every game is win-or-go-home. Even though there is no true playoff in FBS football (well, not until 2014 at least) the playoffs essentially started back when Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks traveled to Nashville to take on the Commodores of Vanderbuilt in the first game of the season. Every game between then and now has lead up to the BCS National Championship Game. So now here we are: 70 teams playing in 35 games in 24 days. I’m here to run through the top 10 games that you need to watch this Bowl Season.
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#10 Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl
Baylor vs #17 UCLA
Dec 27th at 9:45pm ET on ESPN
The Baylor Bears may have taken a step back since losing RGIII but they still lead the country in total offense, racking up 587.7 yards a game. The Bruins had a nice bounce back season after finishing 2011 with a 6-8 record. Jonathan Franklin’s carried the team with over 2,000 all purpose yards this season and had some early Heisman attention. Look for Franklin and the Bruins’ offense to score often on a Baylor offense that gives up nearly 40 points a game.
#9 Capital One Bowl
Georgia vs Nebraska
Jan 1st at 1pm ET on ABC
Every year there are a few teams who get left out of the BCS action (and the millions of dollars that go with playing in a BCS game). Due to the fact that each conference is only allowed two representatives in BCS bowls, Georgia is on the outside looking in and watching a team they beat playing in the Sugar Bowl. But the Dawgs had their chance and came up 2 yards shy of beating ‘Bama in the SEC Championship game and taking on the Fighting Irish for the national championship. Their consolation game: A Nebraska team that got smoked in the Big10 title game by a 5-loss Wisconsin team. Each of these teams was one game away from playing in much bigger games. UGA could have been challenging the Irish for the BCS Championship and The Cornhuskers could have been playing in the Grand Daddy of them All, the Rose Bow. The team that puts that disappointment behind them faster will have an edge in this contest.
#8 Discover Orange Bowl
Northern Illinois vs Florida State.
Jan 1st at 8:30pm ET on ESPN
There’s been a lot of negative talk directed at Northern Illinois making it to a BCS Bowl game this year. For those of you who are wondering how a 12-1 team from the MAC made it to the Orange Bowl here’s how: There’s a little known rule in the BCS guidelines that states any Non-AQ team that wins its conference, finishes the season ranked 16th or higher and, finishes the year ranked higher than a champion from one of the AQ conferences will be placed in a BCS Bowl game. So don’t get mad at the Huskies for being where they are. Get mad at the Big Ten and the Big East for having terrible years. Blame Nebraska for getting stomped by Wisconsin and not winning the Big Ten Title, blame Louisville for dropping games to Syracuse and Connecticut. Does this mean they are going to really compete against Florida State. I doubt it. The Huskies have played one team from a power conference this year and lost to a 4-8 Iowa team and needed two overtimes to beat the one ranked opponent they faced (Kent St in the MAC Championship). Florida State should easily handle the Huskies in the Orange Bowl. But if the Huskies can pull off a miracle it would be the biggest BCS upset since Boise St beat Oklahoma in the ’07 Fiesta Bow. So tune in… just in case.
#7 Allstate Sugar Bowl
#21 Louisville vs #3 Florida
Jan 2nd at 8:30pm ET on ESPN
The Louisville faithful got some great news this week when Head Coach Charlie Strong decided to leave an offer from Tennessee on the table and stay with a Cardinal team that he built into a real contender. The Cardinals weren’t supposed to be good this year. It’s a young team with an untested QB but Strong got them to play up to every challenge this year and they got their share of the Big East championship by traveling to New Jersey and beating the Scarlet Knights in their backyard. Unfortunately for Louisville they are heading to New Orleans to take on one of the top defenses in the country. In his second year, head coach, Will Muschamp has the Florida defense giving up less than 13 points a game. That’s good enough for 3rd in the nation. Florida’s only loss came at the hands of rival Georgia. As good as Florida is, it is hard to understand how a team that didn’t even win their own division is playing in a BCS game when Georgia beat them and at least made it to the conference championship game. But that’s what we are stuck with thanks to the BCS system. If Teddy Bridgewater is health look for this game to be closer than predicted but in the end the Gators have too much talent on defense.
#6 Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio
Wisconsin vs #6 Stanford
Jan 1 at 1pm on ESPN
Wisconsin is now the first 5 loss team to make it to a BCS game. In the process they are making a mockery of the most prestigious bowl game in college football. Wisconsin was 3rd in the leaders division of the Big Ten but because Ohio St and Penn St are on probation they got their shot at Nebraska in the championship game. To the Badger’s credit they lost all 5 games by a combined score of 19. This isn’t a terrible team but regardless of how you lose, a loss is a loss and a team with 5 of them doesn’t deserve to be playing in the Rose Bowl. On the other hand, what Stanford did this year was incredible. As great as Andrew Luck was he never lead the Cardinal to the Rose Bow. After losing their head coach to the NFL following the 2010 season people doubted the Cardinal and they proved everyone wrong. They did they same this year with out Luck. I think it’s time to give Stanford the credit they deserve, and with Rose Bowl win I don’t think they’ll give us much of a choice.
#5 Chick-fil-A Bowl
#8 LSU vs #14 Clemson
Dec 31st at 7:30p ET on ESPN
Tag Line: Dueces Wild! 2 teams with 2 losses to 2 ranked teams and 2 tiger mascots. LSU’s only losses came at the hands of the current #2 and #3 teams in the nation by a combined 12 points. Clemson lost early to then-ranked #4 Florida State (currently #12) and then-ranked #12 South Carolina (currently #10). LSU comes into the game with questions on offense but a tough defense that will certainly challenge Clemson’s stellar play makers, Sammy Watkin and Tajh Boyd. After last year’s record setting loss at the hands of West Virginia (70-33), Clemson will look to redeem itself against its Tiger counterpart that has won five of the five Chick-fil-A Bowls it has played in.
#4 Outback Bowl
#10 South Carolina vs #18 Michigan
Jan 1 at 1pm EST on ESPN
Tag Line: Falling Stars
Michigan took a step back this season after a break out season for head coach Brady Hoke but they still get to play in a New Year’s Day bowl game. After starting the season out by getting routed by Alabama the Wolverines never got back on track, and played the end of the season with an injured Denard Robinson. This game will be the end of the Denard Robinson era. Will he play QB or RB? How many touches will the injured spark plug get? Whatever happens we had a chance to see an extremely exciting player use his arm and legs to entertain us every Saturday. On the other side of the ball is a South Carolina team that had to overcome the loss of an NFL caliber RB for a second year in a row. Steve Spurrier rallied his team after losing Marcus Lattimore. He did so with a solid defense lead by DE Jadeveon Clowney. If Marcus Lattimore can make it back next year Spurrier’s Gamecocks will be returning two guys, Lattimore & Clowney, who can end up being top 10 picks in the 2014 NFL Draft.
#3 AT&T Cotton Bowl
#9 Texas A&M vs #11 Oklahoma
Jan 4th at 8pm ET on FOX
Tag Line: Old Flames Die Hard
After ditching the Big 12 to join the SEC, Texas A&M finds itself lining up to play a familiar foe in Big 12 representative, Oklahoma. They will do so with Johnny Football, scratch that… Johnny Heisman. The Aggies QB became the first freshman to win the award by putting up mind boggling numbers with his arm and legs, and a statement game against Alabama. The Aggies greatly exceeded expectations this season. Nobody expected the team with a new head coach, freshman QB and new conference to have the season it did. Oklahoma unfortunately falls victim to the BCS and loses its spot in a big money bowl because Northern Illinois earned its spot in the Orange Bowl. The Cotton Bowl isn’t a terrible place to be though. Considering how much recruiting Bob Stoops does in the state of Texas this is the next best possible scenario for the Sooners. This match up in Jerry’s world is most definitely a must-watch and BCS worthy.
#2 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
#4 Oregon vs #5 Kansas St.
Jan 3rd at 8:30p ET on ESPN
Tag Line: The National Championship Game… before Nov. 17th happened
On November 17th Kansas St. was the number one team in the nation followed by the Ducks at #2. Then Baylor/Stanford happened. Kansas St got routed in Waco and Oregon got out kicked in OT by Stanford in Eugene. Luckily the College Football stars aligned and still gave us the match up of two teams from opposite sides of the spectrum. Kansas St is about as bland as it is good. It’s a team that will wear your down on offense and defense. They won’t make any spectacular, huge plays, but they will make even less mistakes. They are solid in all three phases of the game and have Heisman candidate Collin Klein leading them on offense. On the opposite side of the spectrum you’ll find the Oregon Ducks with their flashy uniforms and even flashier skill players. Kenjon Barner and Marcus Mariota have combined for 5,057 yards and 56 touchdowns. These are the same guys who were sitting on the bench by the time the fourth quarter started in most of their games because Chip Kelly needed to call off the dogs. If anything, tune in just to see what Nike has put together for the Ducks to wear. My guess… either snow globe helmets or uniforms built out of actual Tostitos chips.
#1 Discover BCS National Championship Game
#1 Notre Dame vs #2 Alabama
Jan 7th at 8:30pm ET on ESPN
Tag Line: Roll Tide vs Touchdown Jesus presented by the History Channel
It all comes down to this. The bowl game that actually means the most. Actually it’s the ONLY bowl game that means anything. Everything else is a glammed up consolation game. The Fighting Irish managed to make it to #1 in the BCS even though they started the season outside of both the AP and Coaches Polls. They’ve done so with a Sophomore QB Everett Golson running the offense that has struggled at times but has been carried by the #1 scoring defense in the country. The Irish are giving up a hair over 10 points per game. Yes their offense is giving up less points than the might Alabama team and it all centers around Manti Te’o the Hawaiian has been the most important player on the ND roster and has gobbled up enough post-season awards to fill up a few mantles. Notre Dame’s status as an independent in football has been a lightning rod for sports analysts but give them credit for scheduling quality opponents with out picking up FCS teams to use as tackling dummies. Now on to the Alabama dynasty. Nick Saban has created a monster in Tuscaloosa. Going to three national championship games in 4 years is unbelievable in today’s game but Saban has set the bar so high at ‘Bama that it is either crystal ball or bust. If he decides to stay and coach this Alabama team for the rest of his career who knows how many titles he can rack up. His teams play NFL style defenses and send top draft picks each and every year. QB AJ McCarron has really developed since last season and become a play maker instead of a play manager. He rarely makes mistakes as proven by the fact that he has only thrown 3 picks all season and was the last starting QB in the country to do so. Is ridiculous as the bowl season can be, and it is certainly ridiculous this year, there is no better way to send off college football than Alabama/Notre Dame. Roll Tide vs Touchdown Jesus