Initial BCS Game Overviews & Thoughts
The first look at all five BCS games and the initial thoughts on each
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Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO
January 1st, 5:00 pm, ESPN
Pasadena, CA Rose Bowl
Big Ten No. 1 vs. Pac-12
Projection: Wisconsin vs. Stanford
Everyone is going to try to make this game about what's missing.
Ohio State went unbeaten, but Wisconsin won the Big Ten championship by doing what it was supposed to do.
Would things have been different if the Badgers hadn't essentially locked up the Leaders title the second Ohio State and Penn State were each put on probation? That might seem like a stretch, but there were only two games this year that they had to win, and they rose up and played with an extra level of intensity in both, setting a school record for rushing yards in a 62-14 blasting of Indiana and hanging 70 on the board in the Big Ten championship blowout over Nebraska.
Meanwhile, Oregon is considered to be the Pac-12's best team – at least by the rankings – but no matter how many ways it needs to be sliced, it lost to Stanford in Autzen Stadium. The Cardinal rose up against UCLA twice, and like the Badgers, with no apologies, did what needed to be done to get to Pasadena. USC was supposed to be making the trip before the season began, and last year's Stanford team was stronger and played like a title contender, but didn't get the job done.
So while this might not seem like the right matchup, it's hard to argue too much with two teams that were in the BCS last season and with Wisconsin playing in its third straight Rose Bowl.
This is going to be power on power, strength on strength in a game that won't be for the light-hearted. Wisconsin's offensive line and running game have found their groove at the right time, but Stanford came into championship weekend with the nation's top run defense thanks to a front seven that ranks No. 1 in sacks and tackles for loss.
Neither team does much with the passing game, neither one makes a slew of mistakes, and neither one gets too fancy with it comes down to pushing and shoving. It's going to be one of the grindiest Rose Bowls ever, and it's going to be fun.
At the very least, it should be more entertaining than the boring 17-9 Wisconsin win the last time these two met in the 2000 Rose Bowl.
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January 1st, 8:30 pm, ESPN
Miami Gardens, FL Sun Life Stadium
ACC No. 1 vs. BCS At-Large
Projection: Florida State vs. Northern Illinois
Remember, except for the BCS championship, ALL the other BCS games are merely glorified exhibitions - they're not playoffs. So why not Northern Illinois? Why not give a MAC team a shot in the limelight to see what it can do? Quarterback Jordan Lynch might be the best player you've never seen, and despite the loss of head coach Dave Doeren to NC State, this is a terrific Huskie squad that has been as fun and exciting as any non-AQ team over the last few years.
Like just about everyone else, we had Florida State pegged to get here from the moment the 2011 season ended. It might not have been the prettiest route, and it might be a bit disappointing for the Seminoles to be playing in Miami on the third of January instead of the seventh, but it's still a matchup of two interesting teams, and now there's a
kitsch factor - this is the novelty game among the novelty bowls.
The Seminoles have been wildly underwhelming for a team that's been building the talent base under Jimbo Fisher for the last several years. A bad luck collapse against NC State kept them from being in the national title discussion going into Thanksgiving weekend, and then Florida came into town and ripped open their season, along with any respect for the ACC. However, with a win over the Huskies, FSU would come up with its first 11-win season since the 2000 season that ended with the legendary 13-2 national title loss to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.
And now all the pressure will be on the Seminoles.
It's not like NIU has rocked against the
BCS-conference teams - losing to Iowa to start the
season and struggling to get by Kansas - so anything
less than a total wipeout might not sit well with
the Seminole faithful. However, NIU has a balanced
attack, an aggressive defensive front, and
motivation won't be a problem in any way. The team
is going to play like it's in the Orange Bowl and
it's in the biggest game in the history of the
school, because it is. Florida State can't blink,
and it can't take this game lightly. Considering the
struggles FSU had with South Florida, Virginia Tech and
Georgia Tech, it's possible that this could be
closer than expected.
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January 2nd, 8:30 pm, ESPN
New Orleans, LA Mercedes-Benz Superdome
SEC No. 1 vs. BCS At-Large
Projection: Florida vs. Louisville
Welcome to the curveball. After seeming like a foregone conclusion that Oklahoma would get here to face Florida in a rematch of the 2008 national championship, Northern Illinois crashed the party and ended up getting into the BCS, moving Louisville over to the Sugar.
Louisville doesn't know how to play a boring game with seven of its last ten decided by a touchdown or less. It's a flawed team with a mediocre offensive line, awful special teams – outside of solid placekicker John Wallace – and a bad running game, but head coach Charlie Strong has found a way to get his team to fight game in and game out. It should've lost to Rutgers, and didn't. It should've lost to Cincinnati and South Florida, and played way down to its competition against FIU and Southern Miss, but the close calls have made this a battle-hardened team that won't back down from the mighty
Can the Cardinals be physical
enough to handle the Gators? Can the mistakes be
kept to a minimum against a team that feasts off
mistakes? The run defense hasn't been special and
the front line isn't all that aggressive with few big plays behind the line. However, overall, the Cardinal defense gets the job done giving up 345 yards per game. Considering Florida doesn't put up points in bunches, this might be kept a wee bit closer than expected.
Louisville might not have any huge wins on the résumé, but Florida had no problem coming through with flying colors against almost all the big boys. No one expected much of anything out of the team that struggled to go 7-6 last year, but it came out hot with a good early win over Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M and a nice résumé builder over LSU. The Gators blew out South Carolina and Florida State, but the one blip was an ugly game against Georgia that ended up keeping them out of the SEC championship. However, after two straight mediocre seasons, 11-1 is more than good enough.
Florida will blast away with its power running game, while the nation's No. 1 pass efficiency defense should make life difficult for
Teddy Bridgewater. However, the Gators don't have any real semblance of a passing game on offense, and the D doesn't get to the quarterback.
Will this be a showcase game for Louisville with a move to the ACC coming in a few years, or will this be a big step forward for the Florida program on the rise? There's a chance it could be both.
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January 3rd, 8:30 pm, ESPN
Glendale, AZ Univ. of Phoenix Stadium
Big 12 No. 1 vs. BCS At-Large
Projection: Kansas State at Oregon
It's the battle for No. 2. Barring a Florida blowout over Louisville in the Sugar Bowl, the winner of this game should end up finishing second in most of the polls, but that might seem a bit hollow considering what might have been.
Last year's Fiesta Bowl also provided an alternative national championship option – Oklahoma State vs. Stanford – and it turned out to be a battle of sheer brilliance that belongs on the list of the top BCS bowl games. It's asking for too much for Kansas State and Oregon to match what Andrew Luck and Brandon Weeden put together in last year's shootout, but the first ever meeting between the two schools might come close.
This was the BCS championship matchup on November 16th, a day before everything went haywire with Kansas State inexplicably being unable to get by a miserable Baylor defense and Oregon losing in a heartbreaker to Stanford. This time around, it'll be the guts and power of the Wildcats vs. the speed and flash of the Ducks, and at the same time, it should mean something completely different for each program.
Kansas State might never fall back into the abyss it was in before Bill Snyder took over, but this year might have been it. Snyder just turned 73; Collin Klein's career is about to be over; and 2012 was when everything seemed to be breaking just the right way for the program to finally have its dream season with a shot at the national championship.
There's nothing flashy about this team like there was when Darren Sproles was running wild in 2003 or when Michael Bishop led the 1998 juggernaut, but this might be Snyder's most effective team in his great career. It doesn't make big mistakes, it controls the ball, and it does all the little things right. The big numbers put on the board come from a slow drip that turns into a flood, while Oregon is a tsunami.
Kansas State got blown away by a mediocre bad Baylor team. The lone Duck gaffe came in overtime against the eventual Pac-12 champion. The loss was the only time all year anyone wasn't blown out by double digits against the breathtaking attack, and now it's a chance to confirm that the offense can actually work against a great run defense. Oregon played just one really, really good defensive front this year, and lost. Kansas State led the Big 12 in sacks and was 16th in the nation against the run.
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Discover BCS National Championship
January 7th, 8:30pm, ESPN
Miami Gardens, FL Sun Life Stadium
BCS No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2
Projection: Notre Dame vs. Alabama
It's not possible to get a bigger or better BCS championship matchup.
Yes, there's a chance that these aren't the two best teams – Oregon is awfully strong – and neither team has looked like the sure-thing, be-all-end-all team of destiny like 2010 Auburn or even last season's LSU squad. However, it's Notre Dame vs. the defending national champion from the SEC, and it couldn't be more perfect.
The Irish have a great history of streak-busting, ending Oklahoma's epic 47-game run in the mid-1950s and stopping Army's 25-game unbeaten roll in the 1940s in the classic 0-0 tie. Throw in the halting of Miami's 35-game regular-season winning streak in 1988, and suddenly, the idea of being the first team outside of the SEC to win a BCS championship in six years doesn't seem so daunting – Notre Dame has done this before, and that's why it has become Notre Dame. This is the big program that plays the big games for the biggest of stakes – at least historically. A win against the Tide wouldn't just be the first national title under Brian Kelly, it could be the marking of a consistent resurgence that Irish fans have been waiting for since the end of 1988.
Much has been made about the Irish struggling in three overtimes against Pitt and catching a nice break in the overtime win over Stanford – Stepfan Taylor could've only tied it , not win it, on his fumble in the end zone. However, the team came through in a season with all substance but no style. In all, the Irish have beaten ten bowl eligible teams, but it's the carrot on the end of the stick that this group is shooting for. It's one thing for Notre Dame football relevant on a national scale again, but it's another to beat decent team after decent team and then have to deal with the SEC champion. However it looks, if the Irish beat the Tide, it'll have earned its national championship.
The Irish aren't going to come up with anything fancy, while Alabama is about as subtle as an Eddie Lacy forearm. The Tide has the most talented offensive line in the country, and it showed in a virtuoso performance against Georgia with big run after big run thanks to the holes and empty spaces to fly through. There were a few key deep passes – the offense leads the nation in passing efficiency – but Alabama's success stems from the front five that blasted away on the Dawgs.
And now the hype begins for the first showdown between the two since the 1987 Irish win. There aren't any excuses for either team, considering neither one has a high-octane passing attack that will lose its timing over the long layoff. This isn't going to be hard – see defense, run at defense, repeat.
Either Notre Dame will be back, or Alabama will win its third BCS title in four years. No matter what, something epic is going to happen.
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