No system is perfect, but the Bowl Championship Series truly provides an unruly amount of grist for the “we got screwed” mill. This year Oklahoma State is left on the outside looking in, a one-loss Boise State has a legitimate gripe getting shuffled off to play Arizona State when they trounced the SEC East champion (Georgia) and Kansas State finished the season with three strong wins only to be eschewed by the Sugar Bowl in favor of Virginia Tech, who beat no one of consequence.
But this isn’t about how unfair the BCS selection system is (though you better believe it would be if Michigan got the shaft), this is about forecasting five great matchups, and enjoying the last gasp of college football before the seniors matriculate and a new cast steps in to complete the perennial cycle.
The BCS National Championship—Alabama vs. LSU January 9, 8:30 p.m.
Defense wins championships. That’s the maxim most fans, sportswriters and coaches believe wholeheartedly. There’s certainly an amount of truth to that, but most of it lays in perception: Alabama is viewed as a better team than Oklahoma State largely because of its tradition and terrifying defense. If you looked at either teams’ resume blindly, Oklahoma State clearly has more quality wins—they’ve beaten five top 25 teams to Alabama’s two. Its overtime loss to a 6-6 Iowa State doesn’t look good, but neither does the fact Alabama already lost to LSU. For what it’s worth, I think OSU deserves it, but Alabama has a better shot at knocking off LSU.
No matter, this is happening and I don’t think it’s going to be quite the field goal fest that LSU’s 9-6 victory was the first time around. There’s talk of splitting the National Championship if Alabama wins a close one (with LSU given the AP crown), but I don’t think that’ll be necessary. LSU just has that team of destiny vibe, and as evilly brilliant as Nick Saban is, you can’t outfox crazy, and Les Miles is totally batshit insane.
Prediction: LSU 28, Alabama 24 (Bonus: “Honey Badger” Tyrann Mathieu either scores a touchdown on defense or special teams).
Rose Bowl—Oregon vs. Wisconsin January 2, 5 p.m.
The granddaddy of ‘em all provides two teams a chance to prove their emergence as conference powerhouses shouldn’t be diminished by postseason struggles. Wisconsin is back after losing to TCU in the Rose Bowl last year, and Chip Kelly’s Oregon Ducks are bouncing back after consecutive losses in the Rose Bowl and National Championship game. Despite Wisky’s defensive reputation, this ought to be a shootout, in the mold of Wisconsin’s rollercoaster victory over Michigan State in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game.
Except, Oregon is no Michigan State. Their offense is akin to theoretical physics, difficult to comprehend and full of infinite possibilities. The only way to shut them down seems to be dominant defensive line play, and Wisconsin just doesn’t have the hogs. They do, however, have Montee Ball—who is one touchdown short of tying Barry Sanders’ record for rushing touchdowns in a season, and who certainly deserves a place on the Heisman podium after his tremendous season.
Prediction: Oregon 49, Wisconsin 34 (bonus: Ball has three rushing touchdowns).
Fiesta Bowl—Stanford vs. Oklahoma State, January 2, 8:30 p.m.
Ball will be standing next to Andrew Luck, Stanford’s golden boy QB and the most surefire number one draft pick in recent memory. Oklahoma State has their own senior quarterback as well, and I’m not sure they’d swap Brandon Weeden for anyone else in the country.
Both teams are kicking themselves for letdowns that cost them perfect seasons—OSU for the aforementioned Iowa State loss and Stanford for getting rolled by Oregon. This was the year for both teams, and while neither will completely fall off, this was the best shot at a title either team will probably have for quite a while. Still, assuming LSU wins, the winner of this game will likely finish 2nd in the final BCS polls—certainly nothing to be ashamed of and both teams’ best final ranking in decades.
I’m not sure how to call this one: it ought to be high scoring, and the burden to lead his team to victory will largely fall on Andrew Luck, and well, luck. Oklahoma State would appear to have the emotional advantage, or at least a lead in bulletin board material, but it’s easy to envision a number of scenarios playing out. Here’s one: triple overtime, it comes down to a perfectly thrown corner fade on a two-point conversion…
Prediction: Stanford 56, OSU 54 (Bonus: Luck wins the Heisman.)
Sugar Bowl: Michigan vs. Virginia Tech, January 3, 8:30 p.m.
I’m a Michigan homer, and as such all optimism is tempered by repeated letdowns in recent years. This doesn’t feel like the same team though; Brady Hoke’s Wolverines exude confidence and have put all the pieces of the puzzle together, gotten better as the season has gone on and find themselves poised to win their first BCS game in… Jesus, it’s been 11 years since Tom Brady led Michigan to an Orange Bowl victory over Alabama in 2000!
It won’t be a cakewalk, as Virginia Tech is a good team. How good? No one really knows. The ACC hasn’t sent two teams to the BCS ever, and most were surprised Virginia Tech, with no signature wins, was selected after getting crushed twice by Clemson. As a Michigan fan, I’m pleased to see us go up against a team we’ve never played before. Even if Michigan loses, the seniors will leave with heads held high—this season has already been a certified blessing.
Prediction: Michigan 38, Virginia Tech 24 (Bonus: Fitzgerald Toussaint and Junior Hemingway combine for three scores, best names in the world).
Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. West Virginia, Jan. 4, 8:30 p.m.
Why exactly does the Big East have an automatic bid? West Virginia deserves credit for taking care of business, but this isn’t the Pat White/Steve Slaton Mountaineers, this team is a little more like last years Big East champ, Connecticut—solid but unspectacular. Clemson ought to win in a rout, with the talented duo of QB Tajh Boyd and freshman WR Sammy Watkins repeatedly hooking up like drunken teenagers with their parents out of town.
But football is strange, and I just realized I haven’t gone out on a limb with any of these predictions. So here goes: Holgo over Dabo, West fuckin’ Virginia pulls ahead early, withstands Clemson’s aerial attack and ekes out a win much to the chagrin of every flammable couch in Morgantown.
Prediction: WVU 42, Clemson 39 (Bonus prediction: much alcohol will be consumed).