1. BCS title (Jan. 10)
Auburn vs. Oregon
In its last three games, Auburn allowed 10 second-half points to Georgia, three second-half points to Alabama and three second-half points to South Carolina. If the Tigers can be that impressive in the final 30 minutes again, they will be consensus national champions for the first time since 1957.
Auburn should have the best offensive player (Cam Newton) and the best defensive player (Nick Fairley) in Glendale, Ariz., but Oregon’s special teams could be problematic for the Tigers. It’s definitely going to be difficult for both teams to get better as the game goes on, which has been the case with each all year.
What is the point of wagering against Newton at this stage? Considering all the 6-foot-6, 250-pounder has overcome this season and how much he has improved as the weeks have progressed, if he can match or surpass his SEC title-game performance, Auburn will build up too many points to match. Tigers 41, Ducks 34.
2. Sugar (Jan. 4)
Arkansas vs. Ohio State
The Big Ten announced its “Leaders” and “Legends” divisions earlier this month, and they were instantly mocked by fans within and outside the Midwest. Some of the more amusing suggestions since have included the “Three Yards” and “Cloud of Dust” divisions, the “North” and “Norther” divisions, and the “Can’t Beat SEC Teams” and “Never Beat SEC Teams” divisions.
Ohio State is pegged for the “Leaders” division in 2011 but also could qualify, at least in bowl games, for the “Never Beat SEC Teams” grouping. The Buckeyes are 0-9 against SEC teams in bowls, a record their players were hearing daily until this past week’s announcement that Terrelle Pryor and four others will be suspended for the first five games next season.
Arkansas will have the crowd advantage as well as quarterback Ryan Mallett looking to go out a winner, and the fact the Razorbacks have been respectable this season against dual-threat QBs not named Newton may play a role as well. Razorbacks 30, Buckeyes 27.
3. Rose (Jan. 1)
TCU vs. Wisconsin
This has something the BCS title game doesn’t: a loaded offense facing a stingy defense. Wisconsin averages 43 points a game and scored 70 or more three times, while the Horned Frogs allow only 11 points a game and gave up a combined 23 points in five October contests.
With TCU soon headed off to the Big East and Utah to the Pac-12, the only David vs. Goliath matchups after this one for the foreseeable future will contain Boise State. Badgers 23, Horned Frogs 20.
4. Capital One (Jan. 1)
Alabama vs. Michigan State
The Spartans have the better record and ranking, but the Crimson Tide have the more appealing roster and coach. Plus, Michigan State has a 37-6 loss at Iowa on its docket, while Alabama blew a chance to take a 42-7 halftime lead on Auburn. Alabama’s motivation may be questioned after appearing in two consecutive BCS bowls, but this is Tide coach Nick Saban going up against his former school. Tide 27, Spartans 16.
5. Chick-fil-A (Dec. 31)
Florida State vs. South Carolina
Each team is 9-4. Both are coming off losses in conference championship games. And both teams were three touchdowns better than Florida (like we all pegged that in August). The Gamecocks have been mediocre in bowls under Steve Spurrier, but they haven’t had Marcus Lattimore, either. Gamecocks 24, Seminoles 23.
6. Music City (Dec. 30)
Tennessee vs. North Carolina
Remember when T.J. Yates was a proven bum for the Tar Heels and Tyler Bray was too skinny and inexperienced to make a dent in the SEC? Now these two comprise one of the better quarterback pairings in all of the bowls.
North Carolina has the more veteran roster and looks more like the SEC team coming off the bus, but Tennessee has the momentum and will be playing at Neyland Stadium West. Vols 17, Tar Heels 14.
7. Orange (Jan. 3)
Stanford vs. Virginia Tech
These two teams thrive in turnover ratio because they have quarterbacks who rarely make mistakes. Stanford’s Andrew Luck has 21 more touchdown passes than interceptions, while Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor has 19 more aerial scores than picks.
If you’ve picked against Atlantic Coast Conference teams in BCS bowls since 2000, you’ve enjoyed a 90 percent success rate. Cardinal 28, Hokies 20.
8. Cotton (Jan. 7)
LSU vs. Texas A&M
Although he was overshadowed by Auburn’s Gene Chizik, LSU coach Les Miles did a lot to restore his stature with a 10-2 regular season, but have his Tigers peaked? They looked stout in upsetting Alabama but have been ordinary since in escaping Ole Miss and losing at Arkansas.
The fact leading rusher Stevan Ridley may miss the game for academic reasons doesn’t help LSU’s cause.
Texas A&M, meanwhile, ended the regular season with six consecutive victories and is arguably the best team in the Big 12. Its late-season roll included defeats of Oklahoma and Nebraska, the two teams that vied for the league championship. Aggies 24, Tigers 19.
9. Sun (Dec. 31)
Miami vs. Notre Dame
Where are Tony Rice, Cleveland Gary, Rocket Ismail, Russell Maryland and Michael Stonebreaker when you need them?
There wasn’t a bigger matchup nationally in college football during the late 1980s, and nobody could fault CBS for replaying Notre Dame’s 31-30 series win in 1988 instead of this pairing of 7-5 teams. Miami will arrive on a two-game losing streak and with an interim head coach, while Notre Dame closed with three straight triumphs, including unexpected wins over Utah and Southern Cal.
Just think, if all you had on your television set was ABC, CBS and NBC, this is one of two bowls out of 35 you could watch. Irish 27, Hurricanes 24.
10. Outback (Jan. 1)
Florida vs. Penn State
Florida has had a clear-cut advantage in coaching during recent practices, with 46-year-old outgoing coach Urban Meyer and 39-year-old incoming coach Will Muschamp combining for one more year of life on this planet than 84-year-old Penn State counterpart Joe Paterno. If only Meyer and Muschamp could combine to be former Florida coach Ron Zook, whose Fighting Illini thumped the Nittany Lions 33-13 in early October.
The Gators have been painful to watch at times offensively this season, but they’ve had more moments than Penn State. Gators 17, Nittany Lions 13.
11. Fiesta (Jan. 1)
Connecticut vs. Oklahoma
Oklahoma’s Sooners have been upset by Boise State and West Virginia in recent Fiesta Bowls, but this would take embarrassment to a new level. Connecticut has a wonderful streak going in women’s basketball, but its football team qualified for a BCS bowl despite a three-point loss to Rutgers, a 14-point loss to Temple and a 26-0 loss to freshly crowned Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl champion Louisville.
Even Huskies fans aren’t basking in their Big East football championship, as fewer than 5,000 tickets have been sold through the school out of an allotment of 17,500. Should those sales fail to improve, the school could have to pay more than $2 million for unsold tickets.
Happy New Year! Or perhaps not. Sooners 40, Huskies 19.
12. Gator (Jan. 1)
Michigan vs. Mississippi State
The Bulldogs were undefeated in games this season against teams not in the SEC West, while the Wolverines lost five times by double-digit margins in what was actually their best season yet under third-year coach Rich Rodriguez. It is unknown whether Rodriguez will be back again next season, but it is known that Dan Mullen won’t replace Meyer at Florida.
Mullen has said that MSU’s ability to somewhat slow Auburn’s Newton won’t have any carryover when it comes to defending Denard Robinson, but it can’t hurt. Bulldogs 31, Wolverines 20.
13. Champs Sports (Dec. 28)
N.C. State vs. West Virginia
North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson has been one of the nation’s most productive players this season — his 306.8 total yards per game are within a yard of Newton — while West Virginia tailback Noel Divine has been among the most invisible. Divine has a decent 886 yards this season but suffered a toe injury at LSU that left him anything but dazzling.
West Virginia has been dealt an ACC bowl foe for the seventh time in nine seasons, with the only exceptions being its upset victories over Georgia and Oklahoma in BCS bowls. Mountaineers 22, Wolfpack 21.
14. Liberty (Dec. 31)
Georgia vs. Central Florida
The intrigue of UCF coach George O’Leary facing Georgia again is minimal. What’s far more interesting is how talented Bulldogs such as receiver A.J. Green and outside linebacker Justin Houston perform in what will assuredly be their last college games.
In fact, the biggest news could be whether Green, Houston or any other Bulldogs debating their futures announce their intentions right after the game or opt to delay. Bulldogs 37, Knights 24.
15. Independence (Dec. 27)
Air Force vs. Georgia Tech
Tech’s Yellow Jackets lead the nation in rushing offense with 327 yards a game, while the Falcons rank second with 317.9. If this game wasn’t televised, it could be played in 90 minutes. Falcons 24, Yellow Jackets 21.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...