The BCS Matchups & Early Previews
Posted Dec 7, 2008

It's Tim Tebow's Florida vs. Mossis Madu's Oklahoma for the national title as the headliner of a potentially great BCS season. Check out what the matchups will be along with quick breakdowns and early analysis of the five biggest games of the season.

By Pete Fiutak   

Here we go with the biggest of the matchups ... sorry, Texas. The five BCS games will be Florida vs. Oklahoma in the BCS Championship, Texas vs. Ohio State in the Fiesta, Alabama vs. Utah in the Sugar, Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati in the Orange, and Penn State vs. USC in the Rose. Here are the quick breakdowns and lookaheads for each game, with much, much more to come in the coming weeks.

Rose Bowl 
Penn State vs. USC
Jan. 1 / 5:10 p.m. ET  Pasadena, Calif. ABC
BCS vs. BCS (Big 10 vs. Pac 10 if available)

While it would've been a nice storyline if Oregon State was able to find its way to Pasadena, the Beavers already got blasted by Penn State this year and this matchup is far, far more interesting. It's the first time USC and Penn State have squared off since a 29-5 Trojan destruction of Joe Paterno's team in the 2000 Kickoff Classic, and it's the first bowl between the two teams since a 26-10 Penn State win in the 1982 Fiesta Bowl. These two have met in the Rose Bowl before with USC winning 14-3 in 1923. Each team feels it should've been in the national title discussion, but Penn State blew its chance with a 24-23 loss at Iowa, while USC's loss to Oregon State kept it out of the BCS Championship hunt. This is the seventh straight BCS bowl for USC, and its fourth straight Rose Bowl, while Penn State is back in Pasadena for the first time since beating Oregon 38-20 at the end of the 1994 season. Penn State has won three straight bowl games and nine of its last 11. It's a true Big Ten vs. Pac 10 champion matchup for the first time since 2004 (USC vs. Michigan), while the Big Ten hasn't won the bowl since a 2000 Wisconsin victory over Stanford.

Quick Breakdown: Defense, defense, defense. USC has been special, allowing just 93 points on the year, and have allowed more than seven points just four times. The offense has been less than USC-like, but it's been fine. It's just not the defense. Penn State led the Big Ten in defense by a long shot, and finished fifth in the country allowing 264 yards per game. The offense never got a lot of credit, but it was almost perfectly balanced averaging 241 passing yards and 212 rushing yards per game. However, the attack hasn't been consistent. The line play is among the best in America, while this will be the most complete team the Trojans have faced by far. It you want to go by common opponents, Penn State beat Ohio State in Columbus 13-7, while USC beat a Beanie Wells-less OSU in a 35-3 blasting. USC lost to Oregon State 27-21, while Penn State beat the Beavers 45-14.

Best Wins: USC 35-3 over Ohio State, Penn State 13-6 at Ohio State

The Buzz Will Be ... that this should be the second best bowl game of the season. If either one wins convincingly, a No. 2 spot in the final rankings will be possible. Penn State and the Big Ten desperately need to show they can play with USC, while the Trojans will look to keep their Pasadena dominance. Whichever team that wins will be screaming that it deserves to be in some sort of a playoff.

Orange Bowl 
Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati
Jan. 1 / 8 p.m. Miami Gardens, Fla. FOX
BCS vs. BCS (ACC Champion to play here if available)

It's the land of the misfit teams that no one really cares about seeing play. There's a lot to prove for each team as the ACC could desperately use a BCS win. Florida State's 31-26 win over Notre Dame in the 1996 game was the last time the ACC has won an Orange Bowl, while the Big East needs to keep some decent momentum going. West Virginia has represented itself well in the BCS, while Louisville managed to beat Wake Forest two years ago in the 2007 Orange Bowl. Now it'll be up to Cincinnati to keep up the tradition. Virginia Tech is coming off a solid ACC title game win over Boston College, with the defense starting to kick in again to the old Hokie level, while Cincinnati survived Hawaii to close off a fantastic year. No, this won't be the highest-rated game, but it should be competitive and it will go a long way for conference bragging rights for each team's respective lead.

Quick Breakdown: Virginia Tech's offense has revolved around two very good, very banged up players: QB Tyrod Taylor and RB Darren Evans. The time off should do wonders for each of them against a strong Cincinnati run defense that was one of the Big East's best. The Bearcats also need the time off to heal with star WR Dominick Goodman suffering a separated shoulder against Hawaii. UC doesn't have the defense that Virginia Tech has shown, but it's aggressive and it's great at getting into the backfield. The passing game is efficient, the special teams have been fantastic, and the results have been there under head coach Brian Kelly with 21 wins in the last two years. Can Virginia Tech's mediocre offensive line handle the Bearcat defensive front? That's the key to the game. Tech won't show much of a passing game and will need to run well and must come up with big plays from the special teams and defense to win. Taylor and Evans have to be great, too.

Best Wins: Virginia Tech 30-12 over Boston College in the ACC Championship; Cincinnati 28-21 over Pitt

The Buzz Will Be ... which conference will represent? Many believe that the ACC and Big East shouldn't get an automatic bid into the BCS, and this will universally be seen as the least interesting BCS game. The two teams have to change that with a good game. The Orange has been entertaining over the last three years, even though the matchups haven't captured America's fancy. Would a win launch Cincinnati into the big time, or at least the bigger time? Would a win for Virginia Tech reestablish the program as a power after a rough year? It'll be a battle.

Sugar Bowl 
Utah vs. Alabama
Jan. 2 / 8:30 p.m. ET  New Orleans, La. FOX
BCS vs. BCS (SEC Champion to play here if available)

Utah had to be stuck somewhere. The Utes desperately wanted to go to the Fiesta Bowl to allow their fan base to be able to drive down, but the idea of Texas vs. Ohio State was way too spicy for the Glendale types to pass up. Now the Sugar Bowl gets its second straight matchup of the automatic non-BCS conference team against the grouchy, disappointed SEC team, and America can only hope this is slightly better than Georgia's 41-10 blasting of Hawaii last year. Of course, the Tide was hoping to be off to the national title game, but its hard-fought loss to the Florida Tebows, uh, Gators means the trip to New Orleans will have to do. Before the season, Tide fans would've taken the Sugar Bowl in a heartbeat, but now it's a no-win game. Beat Utah, big deal. Lose to Utah, the season goes from epic to disastrous. The Utes were never seriously in the national title debate, even though they're unbeaten, and they'll be looking to prove they should've been in Miami on January 8th rather than in New Orleans six days earlier.

Quick Breakdown: While the two teams play different styles of offense, they're more like each other than it might seem on the surface. There will be some major league hitting going on highlighted by big, physical offensive line play. Alabama's front five has been special, while Utah's running game is all about power, power, power. Oh sure, the Utes run the spread, though not nearly as well as Florida, but when push comes to shove, they like to push and shove. Utah has an ultra-efficient passing game and an offense that doesn't make mistakes, Alabama has a tough, smart passing game and an offense that doesn't make mistakes. The focus will be on two veteran quarterbacks, Alabama's John Parker Wilson and Utah's Brian Johnson. They've both seen and done it all, and they should ensure a tight, tough game without a lot of offensive sloppiness.

Best Wins: Utah 13-10 over TCU; Alabama 41-30 over Georgia

The Buzz Will Be ... is Utah for real? If the Utes pull this off, then it'll be time to reevaluate Alabama's season and the SEC as a whole, if the league doesn't have a great bowl season. If they win, they'll have a legitimate chip in the national title debate considering they'll be unbeaten with a win every bit as good as Florida's. Meanwhile, a win for Alabama can be a launching pad to what's expected to be a big 2009, even with a slew of top talents gone. This is the curiosity game, and it'll be one that'll get the message boards buzzing with a slew of wild debates about the BCS teams vs. the non-BCSers.

Fiesta Bowl 
Texas vs. Ohio State
Jan. 5 / 8 p.m. Phoenix, Ariz. FOX
*BCS vs. BCS (Big 12 Champion, if available)

Utah wanted the Fiesta, the Fiesta wanted Texas - Ohio State. Fine, so it would've been more interesting to have seen Ohio State play Alabama, just to see if the program can get the SEC elephant off its back, but there's no complaining about this matchup that was national title-good not all that long ago when Troy Smith and Vince Young were winging it around. Texas believes it should've been in Kansas City to play Missouri as a pitstop before going off to deal with Florida in the BCS Championship game, but someone had to be screwed in the equation. For those who care about this sort of thing, an impressive performance could mean an AP national title, even if it's a bit far-fetched and doesn't matter compared to the BCS Championship. A win for the Longhorns would allow the ticked off fans to gripe even more about what might have been, while a win for Ohio State would be the big-time victory the program desperately needs after the last two national title games and the fiasco against USC to start the year.

Quick Breakdown: The two run defenses are among the best in America and, while it might not be sexy, you're not going to see a better matchup of punting games all year. That will matter as field position could mean everything. This will be the best defense Texas has faced by far. Colt McCoy and the offense has been able to light everyone up like a Christmas tree, but they haven't seen a secondary like this one. Meanwhile, Ohio State might actually have to open things up a little bit and start to throw the ball a bit more to keep up if McCoy gets rolling. Can the much-maligned Buckeye offensive line handle the Texas pass rush? It'll have to if this gets into any sort of a shootout.

Best Wins: Ohio State 45-7 over Michigan State; Texas 45-35 over Oklahoma

The Buzz Will Be ... Texas might want to come out and beat Ohio State, Oklahoma, Missouri and Florida in the first quarter. This will be an angry, angry team with a lot prove to the world as it'll want to make a statement. On the flip side, Ohio State had better show up. Another blowout loss in a BCS game would be a nightmare for the program and the Big Ten. Lose this big, and the Buckeyes will struggle to get the benefit of any BCS doubts going forward.

BCS Championship Game 
Oklahoma vs. Florida
Jan. 8 / 8 p.m. Miami Gardens, Fla. FOX
BCS No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2

This might not quite be Texas vs. USC at the end of the 2006 season, but it's not far off.  If nothing else, the speed and athleticism on both sides will be breathtaking. Putting the whole Texas debate aside, this is the matchup that everyone really wants, at least outside of Austin, with the potential to be among the best BCS games ever if the two teams play up to their capabilities. At the very least the month-long pregame analysis will be a blast. The record-setting Oklahoma offense vs. a Florida attack that's better than anything Steve Spurrier ever put together. Athletes galore on both defenses, questions about the toughness of OU, the secondary of Florida, and the head coaches with mega-watt star power will be among the main topics. Urban Meyer and Bob Stoops will each look to go from elite to a whole other level of legendary with a second national title for the résumé, the Heisman debate will be settled a game too late, and reputation of the two power conferences will be be at stake. It was a down year for the SEC, but a win by Florida would make everything seem fine as the league would take home its third straight national title. For Oklahoma, a win would end the ugly slide of bad performances in BCS games, making amends for past sins against West Virginia, Boise State, USC and LSU.

Quick Breakdown: Tim Tebow has said he'd like to get a crack at the Big 12 defenses. Here's his shot. It'll be asking a lot for Oklahoma to put up 60+ points on the board like it did with regularity over the second half of the season, but the Florida defense hasn't exactly been tested by a who's who of offensive juggernauts. On the flip side, the Sooners haven't faced a team with this much defensive talent since the loss to Texas. Neither team makes mistakes, they're 1 (Florida), 2 (Oklahoma) in turnover margin, Tebow and Sam Bradford are two of the most efficient passers in the history of college football, and each team gets to the quarterback ... there's a lot to chew on, breakdown, and digest.

Best Wins: Florida 31-20 win over Alabama in the SEC Championship; Oklahoma 65-21 win over Texas Tech

The Buzz Will Be ... the reputation maker. Florida will either be the superpower of college football superpowers, with two national titles in the last three years, or Oklahoma will reestablish itself on top of the world with its first national title since 2000. No matter what happens, if Texas beats Ohio State, there will be a major debate. However, the game itself has the potential to be special. Anything less than a classic will be a major disappointment.