Alabama to cap 8-1 bowl run for SEC

Alabama to cap 8-1 bowl run for SEC

December 26th, 2012 by David Paschall in Sports - Columns

Heisman Trophy runner-up Manti Te'o leads a stout defense for top-ranked Notre Dame, but the Irish are predicted to become another victim of the Southeastern Conference in the BCS title game.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Ah yes, one last present to open under the Christmas tree, provided your dog is trained to retrieve your paper from the driveway and place it there.

It's time for the annual ranking of the top 15 bowl games worth watching. The BCS championship matchup between No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama is the obvious headliner of this year's bunch, while the Rose Bowl is way, way down on the list.

Some bowls already have come and gone, but our family of five has been too busy watching the Christmas classics such as "Rudolph," "The Grinch" and "Ted." Well, maybe not that last one.

Anyway, the big bowls are right around the corner, so away we go:

1. BCS CHAMPIONSHIP

Notre Dame (12-0) vs. Alabama (12-1)

A year after fans outside the Deep South were furious about the LSU-Alabama pairing in New Orleans -- that fury quickly gave way to boredom during the Crimson Tide's 21-0 snoozer -- college football gets a tradition-packed game that should be compelling to all. Unless Alabama's defense makes Everett Golson look like Jordan Jefferson. Crimson Tide 19, Irish 13.

2. FIESTA

Kansas State (11-1) vs. Oregon (11-1)

For a second consecutive year, Arizona brings you college football's bronze-medal game. Oklahoma State topped Stanford last year in an overtime thriller to score one for the Big 12, but the K-State Wildcats will be challenged to match points with the Quack Attack of the Pac-12. Ducks 48, Wildcats 31.

3. COTTON

Texas A&M (10-2) vs. Oklahoma (10-2)

Oklahoma is the only team this season that will get to face all three Heisman Trophy finalists. The Sooners came up short against Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein and were blown away late by Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, so to avoid going 0-3, they must stop Johnny Football. Aggies 31, Sooners 24.

4. OUTBACK

Michigan (8-4) vs. South Carolina (10-2)

Michigan was rudely introduced to the 2012 season with a 41-14 loss to Alabama and never lived up to its status as a preseason top-10 team. The Wolverines have the coolest helmets in college football, but those helmets will be on the ground a lot courtesy of Gamecocks sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Gamecocks 26, Wolverines 17.

5. CHICK-FIL-A

Clemson (10-2) vs. Louisiana State (10-2)

Though he does not desire this destination at the start of each season, LSU coach Les Miles owns the Chick-fil-A Bowl. In 2005, Miles capped his first season with the Tigers with a 40-3 bombardment of Miami in the Georgia Dome. In 2008, he returned to apply a 38-3 upset drubbing of Georgia Tech. SEC Tigers 27, ACC Tigers 20.

6. CAPITAL ONE

Nebraska (10-3) vs. Georgia (11-2)

The Bulldogs came within 5 yards and a C.J. Mosley tipped pass of defeating Alabama in the SEC title game and playing for the national championship. The Cornhuskers came within 70 points of shutting out a five-loss Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. Bulldogs 41, Cornhuskers 24.

7. SUN

Southern Cal (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (6-7)

The train wreck of the bowl season gives you the Trojans, losers of four of their last five games, against the Yellow Jackets, the first team from a BCS conference ever to qualify for a bowl with a 21-point home loss to Middle Tennessee State. Georgia Tech fired defensive coordinator Al Groh in October, and USC coach Lane Kiffin recently accepted the resignation of his father, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Trojans 47, Yellow Jackets 28.

8. MUSIC CITY

Vanderbilt (8-4) vs. North Carolina State (7-5)

N.C. State made former Tennessee coach Derek Dooley look like Vince Dooley at the start of the season. In November, Vanderbilt made Derek Dooley look like Dudley Do-Right. A victory would give the Commodores their first nine-win season since 1915. Commodores 30, Wolfpack 20.

9. SUGAR

Florida (11-1) vs. Louisville (10-2)

The Gators were impressive in triumphs over the powerful likes of Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina and Florida State, and they were not so impressive in victories over the less-heralded trio of Bowling Green, Louisiana-Lafayette and Jacksonville State. Facing Louisville would seem to fall somewhere in between. Gators 27, Cardinals 17.

10. ORANGE

Florida State (11-2) vs. Northern Illinois (12-1)

These haven't been the best of times for ACC football, but bad could get a lot worse if FSU isn't motivated for the Huskies, who have been mocked nationally for getting into this game. There are plenty of tickets still remaining on StubHub.com, including some for $15. Seminoles 33, Huskies 14.

11. ALAMO

Texas (8-4) vs. Oregon State (9-3)

Texas coach Mack Brown has gone from Mr. Automatic 10-Win Season to one of the worst investments in college football, with his $5.29 million annual salary not exactly reflecting the Longhorns being 21-16 the past three seasons. At least he can kick around Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, who made $3.84 million this season to coach the Hawkeyes to 4-8. Beavers 24, Longhorns 20.

12. GATOR

Northwestern (9-3) vs. Mississippi State (8-4)

Northwestern beat California in the Rose Bowl after the 1948 season, but the Wildcats have lost all nine bowl games since. That qualifies as motivation. The Bulldogs are 8-4 after a 7-0 start, which qualifies as motivationally challenged. There are tickets on StubHub for this one that are less than $3. Wildcats 23, Bullies 20.

13. BBVA COMPASS

Pittsburgh (6-6) vs. Ole Miss (6-6)

Pitt used to make postseason treks to the Sugar, Fiesta, Cotton and Gator bowls, but this is a third consecutive trip to Legion Field for the Panthers. That has to be getting old for a program that lost to Youngstown State yet had Notre Dame beat, but there is nothing stale about this journey for Ole Miss after last season's 2-10 debacle. Rebels 24, Panthers 17.

14. ROSE

Stanford (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (8-5)

The Badgers have brought back Barry Alvarez for a one-time coaching opportunity, but Stanford is not doing the same with Tyrone Willingham. If this was named the New Mexico Bowl and not the Rose Bowl, would anybody watch it? Cardinal 30, Badgers 22.

15. GODADDY.COM

Kent State (11-2) vs. Arkansas State (9-3)

This is the next-to-last bowl game, so there is plenty of time to rename it the GoneDaddy.com Bowl. Both head coaches have bolted, with Kent State's Darrell Hazell having left for Purdue and the Red Wolves' Gus Malzahn having left for Auburn. Red Wolves 31, Golden Flashes 27.