The College Bowl Season: An Analysis (Part 7)
All right, boys and girls. It’s time to get down to business, as the BCS bowls are upon us. The stage is set, and the teams have had a month to prepare for their matches. Now, it’s time to break down who is going to come away with some serious hardware. Starting with the granddaddy of them all, the Rose Bowl, all the way to the grand finale, the BCS National Championship Game, I’ll discuss what each team’s strengths and weaknesses. Then I’ll pick who I think will most likely come out on top.
The Rose Bowl Game
Pasadena is once again bombarded by college football fans in the beginning of January, as they get to witness the oldest bowl game in existence. This year’s contest will feature the Big Ten champion Wisconsin Badgers, versus the Pac-12 champion Oregon Ducks.
Wisconsin (11-2, 6-2 Big Ten) has had an extremely dominant season on both sides of the ball, defeating teams in and out of conference with ease. However, back-to-back losses to Michigan State and Ohio State dashed any hopes of a national championship bid. Leading the Badgers to their first ever Big Ten title game, and victory, was senior quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson had a tremendous year throwing for 2900 yards and 31 TDs. Though, with any good passing attack, you need to balance it with a strong ground game. That’s exactly what the Badgers had with Montee Ball. Ball was a force to be reckoned with, rushing for 1750 yards and 32 TDs to further advance Wisconsin’s high-powered offense. On the defensive side of the ball, the Badgers have had one of the best defenses in the country, but that could all be null and void going up against Oregon, the best offense in the land. The Badgers need to buckle down, especially in the red zone, if they want to come away with a win.
Oregon (11-2, 8-1), was on a mission to get back to the national title game, in order to right what they felt was a wrong. However, their very first game against LSU put an end to that, and the Ducks had to climb all the way back from that just to get a BCS berth. Of course, being Pac-12 champs helps to reach that spot as well. The Ducks were led by their junior running back LaMichael James, who was one of the integral parts of Oregon’s “point-a-minute” offense, rushing for 1650 yards and 17 TDs. Of course, if it weren’t for the help of quarterback Darron Thomas and his 2500 passing yards and 30 TDs, the Ducks wouldn’t have reached this far. The Oregon defense has been pretty average this year, but when your offense can score more points than the other teams, who needs a defense? But this is Wisconsin coming up, and the Ducks need to find a way to keep the dam from breaking.
Two high scoring offenses clashing makes it hard to choose a victor. I’ll take Wisconsin due to them having a more proven defense.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
In the match-up where the winner will most likely end number 2 in the nation, this bowl game will pit the Stanford Cardinal versus the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Stanford (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12) come into this game having just missed out on a Pac-12 title berth, with their only loss against Oregon. Now, senior quarterback and potential first pick in the NFL Draft, Andrew Luck, will try to lead his team to victory. Can you blame him for being in the Heisman race all season? The man threw for 3200 yards and 35 TDs in the high octane Pac-12 conference, where offense is at the forefront. Giving Luck another offensive option is leading rusher Stepfan Taylor, who ran for 1150 yards and 8 TDs of his own. Their defense is a sight to behold as, barring the Oregon game, they only gave up 21 points maximum per game. They certainly look like the team to beat in this game.
Oklahoma State (11-1, 8-1 Big 12) was one of the last undefeated tams in the nation, and certainly looked to be headed to the national title game. But a double overtime loss to Iowa State late in the season all but crushed those dreams. Now, the Cowboys, led by Brandon Weeden, look to dominate this game and attempt to claim a share of the national title. Weeden was an imposing force with the ball, throwing for 4300 yards and 34 TDs on the season. In the backfield, he had a great running back in Joseph Randle to take the pressure of him in times of need; Randle rushed for 1200 yards and 23 TDs. On defense, the Cowboys looks very average. There were too many games where they’d give up 3 or more touchdowns; while they had the offense to back it up, like Oregon, this is a big problem that they must fix before the bowl game.
Another BCS game, and yet another close call. All signs point to Stanford with an upset victory, but I will go with my gut and pick Oklahoma State to pull out of the game with a win.
Allstate Sugar Bowl
Down in the bayou, we’re cooking up some good old-fashioned football fun, with the Michigan Wolverines taking on the Virginia Tech Hokies.
The Wolverines (10-2, 6-2 Big Ten) returned to the BCS after a long absence, thanks to some nifty offense and stalwart defense. Though one man shouldn’t be the reason a team succeeds, Denard Robinson surely can come close. The dual threat quarterback has led Michigan back to national prominence with both his arm (2050 yards, 18 TDs) and his legs (1160 yards, 16 TDs). The Wolverines like to change the plays up a bit when Denard is tired or is being targeted, so running back Fitzgerald Toussaint helped out in an immense way, rushing for another 1000 yards and 9 TDs on the season. Defensively, the Wolverines have been consistent in giving up 17 points or less a game (9 times), and are very much considered a well-rounded team, giving Virginia Tech probable cause for concern.
The Hokies (11-2, 7-1 ACC) arrive at this bowl game having lost to Clemson not once but twice on the year, and by more than 20 points both times. They will look to turn around their fortunes against Michigan with quarterback Logan Thomas at the helm; his 2800 passing yards and 19 TDs have been key for the team all year. Don’t discredit their running backs, though, as they have the power to burn anyone out there. Leading rusher David Wilson and Thomas have accounted for 2000 yards and 19 TDs during the season, giving opposing defenses quite a bit to think about when facing them. On defense, the Hokies have had just as much success as the Wolverines, allowing just over 17 points a game on average, thanks in large part to the secondary. The Hokies have had great success in defending the deep ball and forcing opponents to run but, against Michigan, that might not be a good idea.
Both teams are well-rounded, but my pick lies with Michigan, as Denard Robinson has the ability and intelligence to make plays out of nothing.
Discover Orange Bowl
Maybe the weakest bowl game of the bunch, this BCS match-up will feature the co-Big East champion West Virginia Mountaineers against the ACC champion Clemson Tigers.
West Virginia (9-3, 5-2 Big East) had many tough battles throughout the season to get to the BCS.. Blowout losses to LSU and Syracuse, and a close loss to co-champion Louisville put serious doubt into their selection to a BCS bowl game, yet here they stand. The Mountaineers are led by quarterback Geno Smith, who threw for an impressive 4000 yards and 25 TDs for the season. Backing him up, though, there weren’t a lot of options to go to. Leading rusher Dustin Garrison managed to get 742 yards and 6 TDs, but that isn’t enough to consider him a threat for the defense to key in on. Defensively, the Mountaineers weren’t all that flashy. They were able to get the job done during wins but, against higher ranked opponents, faults were clearly shown. Most of these issues came to light when the defensive line was covering the quarterback. That needs to be worked on if West Virginia wants to win this game.
Clemson (10-3, 6-2 ACC) started off the season strong, with 8 straight victories and great momentum. But a brick wall named Georgia Tech stifled the Tigers, who went on to lose 3 of their last 4 before the ACC title game. They would beat Virginia Tech to claim that crown. The Tigers are led by sophomore quarterback Tajh Boyd, who threw for 3600 yards and 31 TDs on the year. His favorite receiver, Sammy Watkins, corralled in a third of those yards. Tajh did have some decent backup, with running back Andre Ellington helping the offense with 1062 yards and 10 TDs. Defensively, the Tigers have had a good year, but the last half of the season showed a significant drop off of performance. If Clemson wants to win, they need to also work on their defensive front, trying to pressure the quarterback.
West Virginia will have a tougher time moving the ball down the field against Clemson’s defense, so I’ll have to go with the Tigers to win.
BCS National Championship Game
At long last, this is the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The only game that really matters to some people. It’s the National Championship Game, which will pit #1 LSU Tigers versus #2 Alabama Crimson Tide.
LSU (13-0, 8-0 SEC) got here by being the last undefeated team in the nation; if you do that, of course you should play for the title. That goes without saying, but being 2nd in the nation in defense certainly helps your case. LSU had seven games where they kept their opponents in the single digits for scoring, while posting scores of 35 points or higher in 11 games. The Tigers haven’t had a dominating quarterback to rely on; in fact, the Tigers used two of them throughout the season. Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson took turns at the role, accumulating 2000 yards and 20 TDs combined. In the backfield, LSU has had three backs rush for over 500 yards, with the leader, Michael Ford, running for 755. The Tigers look not to have a repeat of their previous game against Bama, meaning they should actually score a touchdown this time.
Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC), on the other hand, got here by simply dominating the schedule up and down, with the lone exception being a loss to LSU. Now, I could go into a whole spiel about how Bama shouldn’t play in the title game because they didn’t even win their conference, but that’s a whole different story for a later time. Right now, I could say that Alabama made it to the title game by being to only team to give up fewer points a game than even LSU. That’s right; Alabama has given up a whopping 8.8 points per game on average. That speaks volumes about how much their defense has performed all year. Then you look at their offense and you can see even more reasons why they should be in the title game. Quarterback AJ McCarron threw for 2400 yards and 16 TDs this year, which is good for the average quarterback. Trent Richardson, leading rusher and Heisman candidate, ran for 1600 yards and 20 TDs of his own, helping the Tide out in a huge way. All of these factors are what lead me to believe why the BCS committee would choose Alabama over an Oklahoma State or a Stanford.
When it’s all said and done, will we have another 9-6 bore fest? Maybe. I will say this though: I’m backing Alabama in this game because, if they win, this further proves that the BCS needs to be thrown out in favor of a playoff system.
That’s it, ladies and gentlemen! What do you think about the upcoming BCS games? Do you agree/disagree with what I’ve been talking about? Let me know in the comments section below.