Pigskin Preview – BCS Bowl Game Breakdown

The Conference title games are long gone (does anyone even remember what happened?). The BCS gods (computers) configured the final rankings and match-ups. The bowls (all 1340983475 of them) have begun. But the big mammajammas (read: BCS Bowl Games) are still looming.

Lots of people find the bowl breakdown come end-of-season wildly confusing. To quote the BCS on the web, “the BCS is a five-game showcase of college football. It is designed to ensure that the two top-rated teams in the country meet in the national championship game, and to create exciting and competitive matchups among eight other highly regarded teams in four other bowl games.”

I’m not putting a dog in the fight about the BCS this year, whether I think it’s a good system, whether there should be a playoff etc. etc. I’m too tired. What I will say, however, is that there are going to be (should be) some damn good football games to bring in 2012.

Bowl Championship Series (in chronological order)

Pretty... kind of.

Rose Bowl – Oregon vs. Wisconsin on Jan. 2, 2012, 5 p.m. (ET obv) in Pasadena, CA

  • #5 Oregon and #10 Wisconsin fire off the BCS start gun for “The Granddaddy of Them All”, better known as the Rose Bowl.  The Ducks lost last year’s title game to Auburn (cough, Cam Newton, cough), and Wisconsin actually lost last year’s Rose Bowl game to TCU. Both are looking for Rose Bowl glory in this now-fairly-standard match-up of Pac-12 & Big Ten champions. Watch these two VERY different, but very high-powered offenses go to work.

 

This bowl sounds like a joke.. but it's not (anymore).

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl – Stanford vs. Oklahoma State on Jan. 2, 2012, 8:30 p.m. in Glendale, Ariz.

  • After a shoddy match-up last year (Oklahoma faced four-loss Connecticut, in a low-rated and low-attended game) and a scandal involving wrongful political campaign contributions by Fiesta Bowl employees (including the subsequent booting of then president and CEO John Junker), the Fiesta Bowl has what looks like redemption in the form of a great game. #3 Oklahoma State, who some/many thought should have been in the title game, and #4 Stanford, led by likely first pick in the NFL Draft QB Andrew Luck, will bring their offensively-potent squads onto the Arizona gridiron this year. This very well may be the best match-up of the BCS bunch (remember the offensively riveting LSU v. Alabama game earlier this season?)
If your sugar container looks like this, you're fancy.

 

Allstate Sugar Bowl – Michigan vs. Virginia Tech Jan. 3, 2012, 8:30 p.m. ET in New Orleans, LA.

  • The Sugar Bowl takes the controversy mini spotlight (of sorts) this year because of the teams playing in it. #13 Michigan will face #11 Virginia Tech – do they seem like fairly middle of the road-ranked teams? Yes. That’s because they leap-frogged teams like  #6 Arkansas, #7 Boise State and #8 Kansas State (Arkansas and Kansas State will meet instead in the Cotton Bowl on January 6). People are pissed off, Michigan and VTech are defending their right to play in the Sugar Bowl. It’s not leaving a great taste in a lot of mouths. The Hokies having trouble selling off their share of tickets was not helping matters either. Players to watch (if you watch) – Michigan’s QB Denard Robinson (a multi-purpose offensive threat) and Virginia Tech’s RB and ACC player of the year, David Wilson.
That orange is wearing a crown.

Discover Orange Bowl – Clemson vs. West Virginia Jan. 4, 2012, 8:30 p.m. ET in Miami, FL.

  • In yet another high-octane offensive showdown, #23 West Virginia (they get a bid because they share the Big East title and because the computer said so) and #15 Clemson meet in the Orange Bowl to try to light up one another. Both of these teams averaged over 33 points and 440 yards per game this season. Clemson started the season 8-0, upsetting ranked teams and climbed up the rankings themselves, setting school records for pass yards, total yards and scoring along the way. The Orange Bowl will be the first-ever BCS bowl for Clemson.
The big one.

BCS National Championship – LSU vs. Alabama Jan. 9, 2012, 8:30 p.m. ET in New Orleans, LA.

  • In a VERY high-profile rematch (the first title game rematch in BCS history actually), #1 LSU will face #2 Alabama, this time  with the national title on the line. After all the talk of high-powered offenses in the BCS bowls, it’s (almost) refreshing to talk about two stalwart defenses who helped make a 9-3 final score possible when the teams clashed in November. The Tigers won that battle in OT, but I’m sure the Tide has other plans for the title game (like getting into the endzone). They also have something to prove to those who think/feel this rematch shouldn’t be happening. As mentioned earlier, Oklahoma State almost fought its way into the title game (beating rival Oklahoma 44-10 in the last week of play), but Alabama held the edge – the Tide finished second in both the Harris poll and the coaches’ poll, and by enough to overcome the fact that Oklahoma State had the edge in the computer rankings. If the system hasn’t pissed you off enough by this point (I know I said I’m not going to fight about this.. but I can take jabs), take into consideration that  no matter  what happens in the title game, for six years in a row, a team from the SEC is going to be crowned victorious. The system has ensured it.


 

Pigskin Review – No Big Surprises

Not a “rumor” anymore.

The biggest (college football) news of right-this-minute is that Urban Meyer is returning to football as the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes football team (officially hired Monday). Meyer, a native of Ohio, left the helm of the Florida Gators after last season due to health concerns. Apparently he’s feeling up to the task – which spells even tougher games for the other schools in the Big Ten. Yeesh.

The biggest personal news of right-this-minute is that Dirt in the Skirt is FINALLY located at a real domain. Look up at your URL bar. Snazzy as hell.

NOTABLE WEEK 13 GAMES

  • #1 LSU throttled #3 Arkansas 41-17. With the win, LSU stays undefeated (12-0 for the first time), stays at #1, and looks to its final test next weekend (the SEC Championship game) against #13 Georgia. A win in Atlanta means another trip to the BCS title game. Arkansas falls to #8.
  • #2 Alabama rolled over #23 Auburn, 42-14. Heisman candidate (and frontrunner) Trent Richardson (Alabama RB) rushed for a career high of 203 yards, Bama QB AJ McCarron threw 3 TDs, and the Cam Newton-less Auburn Tigers couldn’t stage a comeback. Alabama has its eyes on a rematch with LSU, and that will almost assuredly happen if LSU wins next week. Auburn drops out of the top 25 with the loss.
  • #9 Oklahoma found a bit of redemption (and a trip to the Big 12 Championship game) with a win over Iowa State, 26-6. This sets up a rivalry championship game – Oklahoma vs. #3 Oklahoma State (who were helped back up to #3 with the Arkansas loss). Oklahoma comes in as current champion and Big 12 championship record-holder (12).
  • #5 Virginia Tech locked up a shut-out against state-mate #24 Virginia, 36-0. Coming into the game, Virginia was working with a four-game winning streak, but the Hokies snapped that with authority (and claimed the ACC Coastal Division title). Virginia Tech holds steady at #5, and Virginia drops out of the rankings.
  • #6 Stanford dropped #22 Notre Dame, 28-14. Tossing 233 yards in the air and connecting for 4 TDs, Heisman hopeful Cardinal QB Andrew Luck set a Stanford record for most career TD passes and passed his own best-season mark. Stanford climbs up to #4 in the BCS rankings (hoping for a BCS bowl bid), and the Fighting Irish slide out of the top 25.
  • In a fight to face now-#9 Michigan State in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game, #16 Wisconsin dismantled #19 Penn State, 45-7. Badger RB Montee Ball (and should-be top Heisman candidate) ran for 156 yards and 4 TDs, while Penn State ended its emotionally-tumultous season with a loss (any many questions about what will shift for next year). Wisconsin edges up to #12, and Penn State slips to #22.

Pigskin Review – The Mighty are Falling

nnnnnotttttt quite. bummer.

#2 Oklahoma State losing on Friday night (to Iowa State) set the tone for the toppling trend in the BCS top ten (holy alliteration). LSU, Alabama, Arkansas – that’s your new top three. Here’s what went down.

-#1 LSU continued to roll, throttling Ole Miss 52-3. #3 Alabama made their BCS title game case with a big win over Georgia South, 45-21. #6 Arkansas didn’t have much trouble with Mississippi State, winning 44-17. LSU holds onto the top spot, Alabama moves up to #2, and Arkansas jumps three spots to #3.
-#4 Oregon couldn’t get past visiting USC, losing 38-35. The Ducks booted a 37-yard field goal wide left with little time left in the game, giving the Trojans the win and quashing Oregon’s hopes of moving up the NCAA ranks and entering a second consecutive BCS championship game. Oregon drops to #10.
-#5 Oklahoma now has two losses this season (and crushed national title hopes) after being upset by #22 Baylor, 45-38. Historically, Baylor had been 0-20 against the Sooners, but Bears QB Robert Griffin III found a receiver in the back of the endzone with 8 seconds left to lift Baylor to the school’s first versus-Oklahoma win. Baylor creeps up to #18, Oklahoma drops to #9, and the Sooners find themselves with new end-of-season goals – vying for another Big 12 championship, and getting into (and winning) a bowl game.
-North Carolina State turned it ON against #7 Clemson, beating the favored Tigers 37-13. Four Clemson turnovers did not help matters, and they drop to #17 overall.
-#13 Kansas State eeks one out against #23 Texas, 17-13. Kansas State edges up to #11, and Texas moves to #25.
-#21 Penn State held on against Ohio State in Buckeyes territory, winning 20-14. A surprising amount of offense for both teams early, but the defenses hunkered down in the second half to allow no scoring on either side of the field. Penn State goes into a game against Wisconsin next weekend with the Big Ten Leaders Division on the line.
-#17 Wisconsin held on to beat Illinois this weekend, which booted Ohio State from a shot at the Leaders division because the Buckeyes had already fallen three times in conference play (prior to the loss against PSU). On the Legends side of things, though #18 Michigan beat up on #16 Nebraska 45-17, #15 Michigan State was able to clinch the division with a 55-3 victory over Indiana. The inaugural Big Ten Conference Championship game will pit newly-numbered #14 Michigan State against either #19 Penn State or #16 Wisconsin.

Saturday Wrap – DEFENSE and Upsets.

November 5 college football turned out to be doozy central. Here is the big ish that went down yesterday:

respect.

-#1 LSU stays #1 after Tigers K Drew Alleman booted a 25-yard field goal in OT against #2 Alabama. Final score, 9-6, which goes into the books as the second lowest score of a 1-versus-2 game since the AP poll was incepted. HOLY defense. Neither team could reach the endzone in four-plus quarters, Alabama missed four field goals and threw an interception at the goal line, and LSU turned the ball over twice as well. Not one for the highlight reels, but a strong defensive statement for the two teams at the top of the heap.
-#3 Oklahoma State joins its state-mate Oklahoma in beating #14 Kansas State, but this game was a little closer – Cowboys win 52-45. Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden threw for a school-high of 502 yards and four TDs, but it was the Oklahoma State defense that had to fight for the W as the clock ticked down – K-State was threatening on the OSU 5-yard-line with 12 seconds left on the clock. Three incompletions sealed the Cowboy win.
-#7 Arkansas comes up big in the final quarter to beat #9 South Carolina, 44-28. The Gamecocks’ four turnovers didn’t hurt, either.
-Another win pulled out from under #10 Nebraska, this time at the hands of unranked and 17-point-underdog Northwestern and back-up QB Kain Colter (starter Dan Persa was out the second half with shoulder problems). Northwestern wins 28-25. Second-stringer Colter ran for two TDs and tossed a third, helping the Wildcats beat a top-ten opponent for the first time in two years.
-Iowa upsets #15 Michigan, 24-16. Iowa’s defense stepped up to the task of stopping the talented Wolverine QB Denard Robinson, who had his offense on the Hawkeyes three yard line with four downs and 16 seconds left on the clock, trying to tie the game. The Wolverines came up short.
-UCLA sneaks a win from #19 Arizona State (who missed a last-second FG), winning 29-28 at home.
-Louisville upsets #24 West Virginia in Morgantown, 38-35. No one in the Big East was paying attention to Louisville, but they’ve won three in a row.

Pigskin Preview – A Weekend Without Nittany Lions (kind of).

SIGH. It’s always nice to get a break from a gut-twisting season like this one (SEE ALL OF THE PAST REVIEWS OF PENN STATE GAMES I’VE POSTED), but it does feel a little weird not to have a game to plan my day around. Penn State is unfortunately in the news for a terrible off-field reason, though, which would have been my Fugly had the headlines come up a few days earlier. Jerry Sandusky, a former PSU assistant coach, has been formally indicted on felony sex abuse charges AGAINST MINORS. I think I might vomit. I think when problem times for Penn State come into the news, it’s triple-disheartening for those of us who hold Penn State to a higher standard. I hope the university handles this in the appropriate ways, out of respect to any victims and their families, and out of a passion for making things right.

NOTABLE GAMES THIS WEEKEND
-This is the big one (and you have to wait till 8 PM tonight) – #1 LSU visits #2 Alabama. Both teams are undefeated, both 8-0 overall and 5-0 in the SEC. This is huge. I don’t know how else to describe this game. Can’t wait.
-Another 8 PM kick-off – #14 Kansas State visits #3 Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State is putting up insane numbers this year, and Kansas State is coming off a rough loss to Oklahoma last week that pushed their ranking down. Can they bounce back? Or does another team from Oklahoma spoil their day?
-#9 South Carolina at #7 Arkansas, kick-off at 7:15 PM. This is a tough SEC match-up, and one that the Gamecocks have struggled with in recent years, having lost four of the last five match-ups. Arkansas only squeaked by Vanderbilt last week, so this is a prove-yourself game for both teams.

Blue and White and Red.

As I expected, Penn State’s dual quarterback attack (mismanaged plan) proved to be ineffective and inefficient in the Nittany Lions’ 28-11 loss to Alabama. At this point, it’s hard to say who is leading the QB battle between Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin. The two combined for a (whopping) total of 144 yards (completing 12-39 together), although for his part in that stat line, McGloin completed just 1 of 10 for no yards. Bolden did throw an interception, but he also suffered several key drops and eventually led a late scoring drive to avoid another touchdown-less loss to Alabama (see 24-3 2010 loss @ Alabama). One of the most frustrating things to watch in regards to a QB battle is that neither candidate seemed to be granted the chance to gain any momentum or settle into an offensive rhythm. There were a few series in which Bolden looked decent, more settled and closer to a real leader, but he was yanked the next series in favor of McGloin, who frankly could not do much of anything.

It wasn’t pretty, that’s for sure.

As far as the other games I called out as intriguing, Ohio State eeked out a 27-22 win in the final minute of their game against Toledo, and Michigan took it even closer to the wire, scoring in the last second to nab a 35-31 victory over Notre Dame. Auburn also succeeded in the final seconds of their match-up, stopping Mississippi State at the goal line on the final play of the game (final score 41-34). South Carolina was victorious at Georgia (45-42) with the help of sloppy Bulldogs turnovers-turned-Gamecock-touchdowns.

Blue and White.

Time to get rowdy about college football. It’s BACK, in full-swing in my world this weekend with Alabama visiting my alma mater, Penn State (I do not count last week’s throttling of Indiana State as a real game for PSU). Just a little bit nervous about this one, but the one true thing going for the Nittany Lions is that this game is in Happy Valley, and home field advantage makes a notable difference in State College, PA. The quarterback indecision at Penn State is problematic, though, as the Crimson Tide looks to have another strong season atop the rankings.

I am off to join my fellow alumni in NYC at a Penn State bar, where I can be nostalgic about the not-so-far-away past (I miss Michael Robinson and the terrifying Posluszny/Hali duo in Blue and White uniforms) and yell at a plethora of bright TVs.

Other notable games to watch for today:
-Toledo at 15 Ohio State (Toledo currently leading OSU 15-14 with a little under five minutes until halftime)
-16 Mississippi St. at Auburn (Currently tied 14-14 at the beginning of the 2nd quarter)
-12 South Carolina at Georgia (4:30 PM kick-off of SEC play for the Gamecocks who had a sloppy win last week… and they’re headed to hostile territory)
-Notre Dame at Michigan (8 PM kick-off. ND offense vs. Michigan Defense.. what kind of game can Tommy Rees put together for the Irish?)