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Initial BCS Game Overviews & Thoughts

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Dec 4, 2011


The first look at all five BCS games and the initial thoughts on each


2011-2012 Bowls

First Look At The BCS


- 2011-2012 Bowl Matchups 
- Last year's BCS First Look

Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO 
January 2, 2012 Pasadena, CA, 5:00 pm ESPN
Wisconsin vs. Oregon

Ohio State, Michigan, and USC appear to be about a year or two away from being back to form, but they’re taking a back seat for the moment.

Yes, Big Ten and Pac-10-now-Pac-12 fans, your world has changed.

Wisconsin and Oregon are the power programs in the two respective conferences, but they each have to win something big to truly be considered truly special.

For Oregon, this is a third straight BCS game and a second Rose Bowl in two years. There’s one problem, though; the Ducks haven’t won a Rose Bowl since beating Penn 14-0 in 1916. Since then, they’ve won exactly one bowl game now in the BCS - beating Colorado in the 2002 Fiesta – and they lost to Auburn last year in the BCS championship and to Ohio State in the 2010 Rose Bowl.

Wisconsin has won two straight Big Ten titles under head coach Bret Bielema, but it lost to TCU in last year’s Rose Bowl and have lost three of its last four bowl games. Two long pass plays against Michigan State and Ohio State were all that stood between the Badgers and the national championship, but they’re going to have their hands full with an Oregon running game that’s as quick and as fast as Wisconsin’s is brutal and powerful.

Behind the running of record-setting back Montee Ball, the Badgers led the Big Ten in rushing and finished tenth in the nation. Russell Wilson was second in the nation in passing efficiency behind Baylor’s Robert Griffin, and the defense, despite having problems slowing down Michigan State in the Big Ten championship, had a stellar season finishing eighth in the nation.

Oregon got its chance against LSU in the season opener and lost 40-27. Despite a home loss to USC, the Ducks won the Pac-12 North with a dominant win over Stanford and earned the Rose Bowl bid with a blowout over UCLA. The high-powered, high-octane, hurry-up offense finished third in the nation in scoring and sixth in total yards, while the defense was among the best in the country at getting to the quarterback.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl 
January 2, 2012 Glendale, AZ, 8:30 pm ESPN
Oklahoma State vs. Stanford


Oklahoma State’s task is simple. Win the Fiesta Bowl in a blowout and let the media cry foul after the fact that it should’ve been an LSU-OSU BCS championship.

The Cowboys might be wishing they were in New Orleans instead of Glendale, but lost in the disappointment of not getting to play for the national championship is the tremendous accomplishment of winning the Big 12 title and getting a BCS bid. For the first time since 2003 a team other than Texas or Oklahoma has won the Big 12 championship, and this is the first appearance in a now-BCS bowl since the 1974 Fiesta win over BYU.

Had a Quinn Sharp field goal attempt gone a few inches to the left, and had the offense been a bit more focused – which was asking a lot coming a few hours after the death of two basketball coaches in a plane crash – the Cowboys would’ve beaten Iowa State and would be playing for it all. But beating Stanford isn’t going to be any easy task.

The Cardinal has gone 23-2 over the last two seasons – with both losses coming to Oregon – highlighted by a dominant win over Virginia Tech in the 2011 Orange Bowl. Andrew Luck has already said this is his final game before turning pro, and he and the offense should combine with the high-powered Cowboy attack to put on a wild show.

Stanford has the nation’s fifth-best scoring offense helped by a terrific offensive line that keeps Luck clean and batters away for one of college football’s most physical ground games. Oklahoma State is second in the nation in scoring, second in passing, and third in total offense with an attack that can wing the ball all over the yard in shootouts, or run wild like it did in the 44-10 win over Oklahoma.

By comparison, Oklahoma State beat Arizona at home 37-14 on September 8th, and Stanford win in Tucson 37-10 a week later. These two teams are both exciting, both have something to prove, and both should come up with one of the most entertaining games of the bowl season.

Allstate Sugar Bowl
January 3, 2012   New Orleans, LA, 8:30 pm ESPN
Virginia Tech vs. Michigan


Welcome back, Michigan.

The Wolverines are in their first BCS bowl since losing to USC in the 2007 Rose Bowl, and they have something to prove with three straight BCS losses after Tom Brady led the way to the classic 35-34 Orange Bowl win over Alabama in 2000. The last Sugar Bowl appearance was in 1984, losing to Auburn 9-7.

Whatever happens, this appears to be just the beginning of the resurgence under first-year head coach Brady Hoke, who currently has Scout.com’s No. 1 recruiting class coming in to go along with a terrific base of players to keep building around.

Denard Robinson continues to be one of the most exciting players in college football, the running attack has been unstoppable at times, and unlike last year, there’s a defense that works.

The Wolverines are seventh in the nation in scoring defense highlighted by a secondary that’s night-and-day better than it was last season. After getting destroyed by Mississippi State 52-14 in last year’s Gator Bowl, it’s redemption time for the D.

Virginia Tech is probably more surprised than anyone else to get into the Sugar Bowl after a lousy performance against Clemson in the ACC championship, but the Hokies were able to get in partly because it only lost to one team this year - losing to the Tigers twice - and because the rabid fan base will invade New Orleans.

Michigan and Virginia Tech have never played each other and it should be an interesting battle of running games. The Wolverines might have Robinson, but Virginia Tech's David Wilson is one of the nation's speediest and most dangerous backs. America will finally have a shot to see him roll.

Discover Orange Bowl
January 4, 2012  Miami Gardens, FL, 8:00 pm ESPN
Clemson vs. West Virginia  

Clemson beat Nebraska 22-15 in the 1982 Orange Bowl to win the national title. That was the last time the program has been to a bowl now in the BCS, and it was the last trip to the Orange Bowl.

This might be just the beginning, though, for a program loaded with terrific young talent from the last two recruiting classes and with more on the way. Even so, getting to the Orange Bowl is a huge step for a program that has the appearance and the name recognition of being big-time, but hasn’t done much to show it over the last thirty years.

After losing three of its last four games and appearing to hit a wall at the worst time possible, Clemson unleashed the full fury of its athleticism and potential with a dominant 38-10 win over Virginia Tech for the ACC title. Led by the running of Andre Ellington and the pitch-catch combination of Tajh Boyd to Sammy Watkins, the Tigers have one of the most dynamic offenses in America, and now it’ll have the undivided attention of a national audience to show it off.

Yes, West Virginia might be the best of this year’s lot of mediocre Big East teams, but at least the No. 7 passing offense in the nation is a whole bunch of fun. Lost in the fog of the season was how the Mountaineers had LSU reeling late in the third quarter in Morgantown, and then the floodgates opened and LSU was LSU in the fourth quarter. Even so, WVU quarterback Geno Smith threw for 463 yards and two scores on the supposedly impenetrable Tiger defense.

Like LSU, WVU has a way of dominating late in games, coming back time and again to earn several close wins – the final three victories of the regular season came by a total of seven points – to get to a BCS game for the first time since the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. The pressure is first-year head coach Dana Holgorsen to come up with a BCS win considering Bill Stewart won that Fiesta Bowl over Oklahoma and Rich Rodriguez led the team to a stunning 38-35 win over Georgia in the 2006 Sugar Bowl. 
 
BCS Championship
January 9, 2012  New Orleans, LA, 9:00 pm ESPN  
LSU vs. Alabama
 

Like it or not, rematch haters, Alabama really does appear to be the second best team in the nation, and like it or not, the game really will be played.

LSU proved during the regular season and the SEC championship that it’s the best team in college football this year, and while all this game will do is confirm that, or cloud the issue of who the national champion should be, on its own and without all the controversy, this should be a terrific game.

LSU already won the first time around in a 9-6 overtime war that, with various opinions weighing in, was either a defensive classic or a model of offensive ineptitude.

Outside of the close call in Tuscaloosa, LSU obliterated everything in its path, winning by 13 points or more in every other game and getting better as the season went on. It might not have been any big deal this year to blow away Florida, Auburn, or Ole Miss, but the Tigers obliterated Arkansas and Georgia by a combined score of 83 to 27 and scored 41 points or more in five of their last six games.

The offense might not be a thing of beauty, but the offensive line has played as well as any in America, barreling away and wearing defenses down over a full sixty minutes for a brutish running game that closes better than Mariano Rivera. From timely kick and punt returns, to the nation’s No. 3 punting game, the special teams have been terrific. The offense doesn’t make mistakes – ranking first in the nation in turnover margin – and the defense is No. 2 in the nation in yards and points allowed.

Alabama is No. 1 in yards and points allowed.

The Tide defense put together an all-timer of a season, allowing just 191 yards per game, when no one else allowed fewer than 250. No one allowed fewer than 10.5 points per game, except for a Bama D that allowed just 8.83 and gave up fewer than 75 rushing yards per game. Only six other teams allowed fewer than 100 rushing yards per outing. However, it’s not like the Tide played a who’s who of top offenses – facing no one other than Arkansas who could effectively throw a forward pass – while the run defenses that Trent Richardson piled up huge yards against weren’t exactly stellar.

In other words, the SEC wasn’t the SEC.

Even so, the conference is about to take home its sixth straight BCS championship and will have its eighth title in the BCS era.

And like it or not, this really should be a phenomenal game.