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 (P)review – Conference Championships and the Like

It’s a big Saturday for a lot of NCAA football conferences. Last chances for teams to assert themselves BCS-wise, and a lot of final games before the season wraps and the long (monthish-long) wait begins for bowl games. Here are your weekend notables and what has gone down already.

CONFERENCE USA CHAMPIONSHIP

  • #24 Southern Miss is currently visiting and leading undefeated #6 Houston, 42-21 in the 4th. Can Houston overcome and stay undefeated (seems kind of unlikely now)? What will it mean for them bowl-wise? It’s always interesting when a dominant team emerges from a smaller conference – interesting in that even when staying undefeated, it’s hard to crack into a notable bowl. Southern Miss is playing spoiler hardcore.
SEC CHAMPIONSHIP
  • #14 Georgia takes on #1 LSU for a 4 PM kick-off. If LSU beats Georgia (at the Georgia Dome), they will be (almost certainly) headed to the BCS national title game . LSU has already nabbed the first 12-0 regular season in school history, and today they battle for their 11th SEC title (first since 2007 – the year LSU also won the national title). Georgia might not make it easy for them, having won ten straight games.
BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP
  • #15 Wisconsin and #13 Michigan State are meeting in Indianapolis for the first-ever Big Ten Conference Championship game – and a rematch (remember that mildly controversial last-second Michigan State hail mary win? No? Go look it up.). Wisconsin was battling for a chance to go to the national championship when it lost to Michigan State earlier this season. Now, a ticket to the Rose Bowl is on the line for the Spartans and Badgers, both of which are riding a four-game win streak. Kick-off at (the awkward time of) 8:17 PM.
BEDLAM
  • The Big 12 no longer has a championship game (because it is kind of falling apart) due to the lack of having 12 teams, but there are big things on the line tonight when #10 Oklahoma faces off with #3 Oklahoma State for what is referred to as Bedlam (kick-off at 8 PM). There is still a (slight) chance that Oklahoma State can leap-frog current-#2 Alabama and catapult into the national title game – they have to blow-out Oklahoma tonight. The Cowboys, however, are only 3-point favorites and have historically been on the losing side of the Bedlam match-up (Oklahoma has a nine game win-streak). If an Oklahoma State win isn’t a big enough beating, or if the Sooners take another win away, the winner will head to the Fiesta Bowl (to most likely battle Andrew Luck-led Stanford).

ACC CHAMPIONSHIP

  • #5 Virginia Tech is looking to avenge its loss to #20 Clemson earlier this season in tonight’s ACC Championship game. Kick-off at 8 PM. The Hokies haven’t lost since falling to Clemson on October 1, whereas the Tigers, after a strong 8-0 start, have lost three of the last four – most recently falling to South Carolina a week ago (34-13, ouch). Tonight’s ACC winner will also head to the Orange Bowl (the Hokies made it that far last year, falling to Stanford in the Orange Bowl 40-12. Damn that Andrew Luck).
PAC 12 CHAMPIONSHIP
  • #9 Oregon is headed to the Rose Bowl after beating UCLA 49-31 on Friday night. The win sealed Oregon’s third-straight conference title. The Bruins kept it closer than most thought they would, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Ducks and RB LaMichael James (who found himself in the endzone three times), who might be slipping to the NFL next year (James is a junior).  The game was the last for UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, who was fired earlier this week.

 

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.

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.