Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 12/10/12
First, let me get something off my chest. There are TOO MANY bowl games. There are 124 major college football teams. Obviously, some are way more major than others.  There are 35 bowl games. That means 70 of 124 teams get to go to a bowl game after the regular season… that’s way over half. That’s like saying everyone with a C average and above gets to graduate with honors.There are 12 teams with 6-6 records in bowl games this year and two bowls that actually match two teams with 6-6 records. Six and six! That’s kiss-your-sister mediocre. Who is proud of a 6-6 record? Sorry Virginia Tech, Ole Miss, Air Force, et al, but you should be ashamed of yourselves for accepting a bowl bid when you can’t earn a winning record in the regular season.Unbelievably, it gets worse! Georgia Tech brings a very unimpressive 6-7 record to the Sun Bowl after losing to Florida State in the ACC Championship Game. Pathetic! Who truly loves college football and wants to watch a team with a losing record play in a bowl game? At least there shouldn’t be a problem getting tickets if you’re a die-hard Rambling Wreck fan.Alright, I feel a lot better. Plus, I don‘t have to watch the bottom feeder bowls. I have a choice and I choose to watch only the top bowls that match really good or great teams and should generate exciting, meaningful football games.Now for my Top 9 Bowls to Watch List: (I tried to come up with 10, but just couldn’t do it.  Stretched it a little to come up with 9):Number 9: Capital One Bowl, Jan 1, Orlando, Florida:          #7 Georgia (11-2) vs #16 Nebraska (10-3)This bowl would have ranked much higher if Nebraska hadn’t been blown out by 8-5 Wisconsin 70-31 in the Big Ten Championship Game. Both the Bulldogs and the Cornhuskers have great balance on offense with quality quarterbacks and excellent runners. Georgia should win this game. If the Badgers, who lost 4 Big Ten games this season, can hang 70 on Nebraska, Georgia’s Aaron Murray and dynamic freshman running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall should have a field day. Georgia 38-24Number 8: Discover Orange Bowl, Jan 1, Miami                   #15 Northern Illinois (12-1) vs #12 Florida State (11-2)As a BCS bowl, this is a joke. I know I shouldn’t be so harsh with upstart Northern Illinois. After all, the Huskies (I admit I had to look up their mascot) finished 12-1. They lost to a 4-8 Iowa 18-17 team to open the season then ripped off impressive victories over such national powers as Buffalo, Akron, and Toledo. It must have been thrilling to travel to Ypsilanti and beat Eastern Michigan 49-7 in front of a near-record crowd of 1,349. That is not a misprint.Northern Illinois is the poster child for what is wrong with the BCS system. Just because they finished in the top 16 (how???), they “earned” a BCS bowl bid. Thankfully, we will have a playoff soon and it won’t matter much longer. While the Huskies were lining up against patsies in front of crowds that averaged around 15,000 per game (similar to spring football practice crowds at most real Division I schools), Florida State was beating Virginia Tech, Clemson, Miami, and South Florida enroute to the ACC Championship.The Huskies will find out what it’s like to play big boy football when they come up against the #7 scoring defense in the nation. Florida State vs Oklahoma would have been a much better game. Florida State 46-3Number 7: Outback Bowl, Jan 1, Orlando, Florida                   # 10 South Carolina (10-2) vs #18 Michigan (8-4)On paper this one doesn’t look great, but you have to remember that the four teams Michigan lost to were Alabama, Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Ohio State. Impressive lineup, eh?! Still, it was a disappointing season for the Wolverines, who are expected to challenge for the Big 10 title every year.South Carolina should come into this game with some steam after clobbering Clemson for the fourth straight year and making Steve Spurrier the winningest coach in Gamecock history. Their two mid-season losses were to LSU and Florida, both in the Top 10 to end the season. The Gamecocks beat Clemson with a backup quarterback and patched-together running game after star RB Marcus Lattimore was lost for the season with another knee injury in their game against Tennessee.Look for a low scoring Outback Bowl. South Carolina comes in with the #13 scoring defense in the nation and Michigan is #16.  Neither offense has set the world on fire this season. Michigan QB Denard Robinson will be hunted down and pounded several times by beastly Gamecock defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. South Carolina 17-14Number 6: Chick-fil-A Bowl, Dec 31, Atlanta                   # 8 LSU (10-2) vs #14 Clemson (10-2)The most interesting aspect of this game—the Tiger Bowl— will be whether Clemson can figure out how to man up against an SEC defense and score some points. The CU Tigers were averaging 44+ points per game until they met Gamecock sack machine Jadeveon Clowney and his rugged teammates. They scored 17 in their embarrassing season finale. So much for offensive coordinator Chad Morris’ high-powered scoring machine.They are going to face an equally stubborn SEC defense when they play LSU, which finished two places higher than the Gamecocks nationally in scoring defense. LSU lost to Florida and Alabama. While Clemson didn’t really have a “signature” victory, LSU defeated South Carolina as well as Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M. SEC vs ACC. Nuff said! LSU 27-20Number 5: Allstate Sugar Bowl, Jan 2, New Orleans                   #3 Florida (11-1) vs #21 Louisville (10-2)I hate to sound like a broken record, but SEC vs Big East. Nuff said again. Louisville’s signature wins came over Rutgers and Cincinnati. The Cardinals lost to Syracuse and Connecticut. Not the most impressive resume. Head coach Charlie Strong has done a great job at Louisville. He deserves consideration for other jobs and the extension/pay raise to stay at Louisville that attention brought him. But the Cardinals aren’t in the same league with Florida, literally or figuratively.The Gators lost to Georgia and beat #8 LSU, #9 Texas A&M, #10 South Carolina, 8-4  Vanderbilt, and #12 Florida State. While doing that, Florida finished the regular season allowing an average of just 12.9 points per game to rank third nationally in scoring defense. The two teams ahead of them in scoring statistics just happen to be Notre Dame and Alabama. What was that old adage about defense winning championships?Sophomore QB Teddy Bridgewater (3,400+ yards, 25 TDs passing) of Louisville meet All-SEC defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd, defensive back Matt Elam, and linebacker Jon Bostic. Florida 31-13Number 4: AT&T Cotton Bowl, Jan 4, Dallas                   # 9 Texas A&M (10-2) vs #11 Oklahoma (10-2)Maybe the best bowl of them all. Surely the most intriguing. The Sooners were cheated out of a BCS bowl and the Aggies and Manziel will have to overcome the Heisman hangover associated with all attention being the National Player of the Year brings with it. At least there should be lots of fireworks.Oklahoma has a chip on their shoulder for getting voted off the BCS island by Northern Illinois. To make matters worse, QB Landry Jones got shut out of the Heisman ceremony again this year. Jones was a 4-year starter for the Sooners and threw for an amazing 16,000+ yards and 122 touchdowns, yet never even finished in the Heisman Top 10. Now, he gets to play against A&M and Johnny Football. Is that motivation enough?The Aggies, on the other hand, have the other end of the Heisman spectrum to worry about. Can Manziel get his head out of the clouds in time for the Cotton Bowl? Can A&M back up the SEC Co-Coach of the Year honors their stellar play netted for first-year Aggie boss Kevin Sumlin?On paper, the Aggies and Sooners stack up pretty evenly. Oklahoma’s two losses were to Kansas State and Notre Dame. A&M’s to Florida and LSU. The Sooners beat Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma State, and TCU. A&M beat then #1 Alabama, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State.Oklahoma’s offense ranked #12 nationally in points per game, but was surpassed by A&M, which ranked #3 and had a better balance between passing and rushing. The Aggies’ balance came mostly from the arm and legs of Manziel, of course. That should be enough one more time this season. A&M 35-31Number 3: Rose Bowl, Jan 1, Los Angeles                   Wisconsin (8-5) vs #6 Stanford (11-2)This one became a lot more interesting after the regular season. Wisconsin annihilated Nebraska 70-31 in the Big 10 Championship Game and Stanford whipped UCLA two Saturdays in a row to claim the PAC-12 title. Then, head coach Bret Bielema shocked Badger faithful by bolting in what appears to be a lateral move to Arkansas.Former head coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez, the man who put Wisconsin football on the national map, has said he will coach the team in the Rose Bowl. But will he have a staff to lead and shouldn’t he be concentrating on finding a new head coach? This is quite a predicament for a team that just won their third consecutive Big 10 championship.My boldest suggestion for this bowl season is for Stanford to change its name to Stanford State. Other than an early season loss to Nebraska which the Badgers more than avenged, Wisconsin’s other losses came at the hands of Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, and Oregon State. See the trend? Thus my suggestion. Stanford might not be able to handle Wisconsin, but Stanford State would be a sure bet to win the Rose Bowl.The Cardinal boast the #14 scoring defense nationally and lost only to Washington and Notre Dame. They posted quality wins over USC, Oregon State, Oregon, and UCLA x 2. The Badgers were led by stellar RB Montee Ball, who had 202 yards and 3 touchdowns in the big win over Nebraska. Ball comes into the Rose Bowl with 1730 rushing yards and 21 TDs. In a down year for the Big 10, the Badgers’ only quality win came when they beat Nebraska in the title game.The Badgers may have too much to overcome after losing their head coach. If the Cardinal can figure out how to limit Ball to 100 yards, Stanford 20-17Number 2: Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Jan 3, Glendale, Arizona                   #4 Oregon (11-1) vs #5 Kansas State (11-1)This is the classic West Coast point-a-minute offense vs the plodding Mid-West ball-control offense and rugged defense philosophy.The teams’ quarterbacks reflect the difference. Ducks freshman Marcus Mariotta is rail-thin at 6-4, 196. But he is lightning quick. He threw for 2511 yards and 30 touchdowns with only 6 interceptions and scooted for another 690 yards and 4 touchdowns. K-State’s Collin Klein is a 6-5, 226 pound bruiser. He threw for 2490 yards and 15 touchdowns and smashed his way through opposing defenses for another 890 yards and 22 rushing touchdowns.Oregon’s lone loss was to Stanford. The Ducks beat Washington, Arizona State, USC, and Oregon State. The Wildcats were on their way to an undefeated season before being tripped up by Baylor in their next-to-last game. They beat Texas to claim the Big 12 Championship and also defeated Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and TCU.The Ducks were #3 nationally in rushing and #2 in scoring. They were #26 in scoring defense. Kansas State was #10 in scoring and #24 in scoring defense. I normally would pick the power team over the finesse team, but I’m leaning toward Oregon because they have so many weapons. Senior RB Kenjon Barner rushed for 1624 yards and 21 touchdowns for the Ducks. I think K-State will have a harder time stopping the Ducks than the Ducks will stopping them. Oregon 42-35Number 1: Discover BCS National Championship, Jan 7, Miami                   #1 Notre Dame vs #2 AlabamaThis should be a classic slugfest between two teams with excellent defenses. Plus, how could anyone not enjoy a championship game matching two of the greatest college football programs of all times?! Notre Dame has won 21 national championships. Alabama 17. The Crimson Tide have claimed 2 of the past 3 (2009, 2011).The Irish own a 5-1 record against Alabama, but past history will mean very little in Miami. The focus will be on Alabama’s superb offensive line vs Notre Dame’s incredible front 7, led by Heisman runner-up LB Manti Te’o. Whoever wins that battle will most likely win the national title.If you love offensive fireworks, maybe there will be a good NFL game you can watch a few days later. The Irish have been able to squeeze by some mediocre teams this season. They have done just enough to win; but, not this time. Alabama 14-10
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