Another controversial BCS bowl season is upon us. 2008 ended a little more predictably than last season’s king of the hill free-for-all. But still, there was plenty for college football fans to get worked up about. Heck, even President-elect Barack Obama weighed in.
So, how will the season end? Who beats who? Read on to find out.
8-4 Navy v 7-5 Wake Forest
A disappointing season for Wake Forest started out well enough. 3 wins, including a 12-3 strangling of then #24 Florida State. The Demon Deacons went 4-5 from there, starting with a 7-point loss at home to Navy.
Regular season rematches in bowl games always seem like a bad idea to me. A lot would indicate another Navy win in the EagleBank Bowl. The Midshipman have nabbed their 6th consecutive 8-win season. They own a better record than Wake Forest. And there’s that little head-to-head thing.
But Wake Forest played a tougher schedule. And my gut tells me the Deacons are probably the better team. If they can channel that early-season loss into some motivation (and who wouldn’t), it looks to me like an easy call.
Wake Forest 28-21
New Mexico Bowl
7-5 Fresno State v 6-6 Colorado State
Other than its final game against undefeated, top 10 Boise State, Fresno State has been competitive in every game it’s played, including a 3-point loss to Big 10 stalwart Wisconsin.
Colorado State, on the other hand, is barely bowl eligible and has been shellacked by better teams in most of its six losses. The Bulldogs will hand them loss #7.
Fresno State 38-14
St. Pete Bowl
7-5 South Florida v 6-6 Memphis
After an auspicious 5-0 start, South Florida’s season pretty much fell apart once Big East conference play started. A disappointing season — to say the least — on the heels of the school’s break out year in 2007.
Fortunately for the Bulls, they get Conference USA’s fifth best team. At home.
South Florida 42-17
Las Vegas Bowl
7-5 Arizona v 10-2 BYU
The Mountain West’s third best team vs. the Pac-10’s #5. This may seem like a mismatch, but Arizona has played its top opponents fairly close, despite those five losses.
The Wildcats and Cougers have faced off against two mutual opponents — UCLA and Washington — winning all four games. BYU owns the best win (59-0 over UCLA) and the worst (a one-pointer against winless Washington) making them a less consistent team than Arizona.
BYU is capable of putting up points, but the Wildcat defense could be the best one they face all year. BYU’s fans have a reputation for filling the stadium in Las Vegas. This one can go either way. But I’ll go with Arizona (in a low scoring affair) for being more consistent.
New Orleans Bowl
8-4 Troy v 6-6 Southern Miss
Aside from getting up-ended by one point at Louisiana-Monroe, the Troy Trojans other losses came against Ohio State, Oklahoma State and LSU. And only the Oklahoma State loss can be considered a blow out.
Southern Miss, on the other hand, went on a five game losing skid starting in late September and lasting the entire month of October. The Golden Eagles got it turned around in the nick of time, winning their last 4 games (including a nice near shut out of East Carolina) to become just barely bowl eligible.
Troy has the chops to make Southern Miss wonder if they were better off staying home.
12-0 Boise State v 10-2 TCU
A bowl match-up between two teams with combined records of 22-2 before Christmas? That’s life outside the BCS. It may be no consolation to the schools involved, but thank snobbery for giving the pre-New Years bowl schedule a little excitement. Make no mistake, both of these teams are worthy of higher venue than the Poinsettia Bowl.
Boise State tore through its WAC schedule while barely breaking a sweat. The Broncos geared up for their conference run with an impressive win over Oregon in Eugene, finishing a perfect 12-0 for the season.
TCU’s only two losses came to BCS Title contender Oklahoma and a three-point decision against conference champ (and Sugar Bowl invitee) Utah. The Horned Frogs also dominated Mountain West rival BYU midseason.
Both teams have strong defenses and potent offenses. I give the edge to TCU on the defensive side and Boise State on the offensive side. Ultimately, the Broncos’ passing attack will be too much for the Frogs to contain.
Boise State 31-28
7-6 Hawaii v 6-6 Notre Dame
The good news for Notre Dame and Coach Weis is that, after last year’s excruciating 3-9 season, the Irish are back in a bowl. The bad news is that the Hawaii Bowl might have merely the 15th best pre-New Years bowl match-up of 2008. Might.
Last season this would have been a lopsided, 40-plus point debacle. But Colt Brennan is gone. And so is the Hawaii scoring machine. Neither of these 6-loss teams can boast a marquis win over anybody. It’s hard to tell which of these two turkeys is going to come out on top. But…
This will be a low-scoring, tight win for the Rainbow Warriors.
Motor City Bowl
6-6 Florida Atlantic v 8-4 Central Michigan
The day after Christmas is officially “cupcake day” in Detroit. I really have no bearing on either of these teams, so I’ve devised a highly scientific method of divining the score. I’m dropping “Atlantic” from FAU and “Central” from CMU, leaving us with Florida v Michigan and last year’s Citrus Bowl tally.
Central Michigan 41-35
8-4 West Virginia v 8-4 North Carolina
Two programs passing like ships in the night. One on the rise, the other in decline. Minus the collapse against instate rival NC State, the Tarheels are justg 8 points shy of an undefeated season. West Virginia was also competitive in its four losses (two went into overtime), but one gets the feeling that with the departure of Rich Rodriguez, the magic could be gone from Morgantown for the time being.
North Carolina bests West Virginia, setting up 2009 with high hopes in Chapel Hill and doldrums in Morgantown.
North Carolina 28-17
Champs Sports Bowl
7-5 Wisconsin v 8-4 Florida State
Wisconsin beat only two teams with winning records in 2008 and one of those was Cal-Poly who the Badgers needed overtime to dispatch. The mighty Red W also lost to Michigan. Only two other teams can fess up to that this year (and one of those is Miami, Ohio).
Florida State, by contrast, is playing some solid football lately. Nevermind that 30-point loss to Florida — the Gators are most experts early favorite to win the BCS Title. Bobby Bowden has his team headed in the right direction. If you squint and hold one hand over your eye, his 2008 team might look a little like the 1999 Seminoles in the Sugar Bowl. For one evening anyway.
Florida State 38-21
8-4 California v 7-5 Miami (Fla)
The Miami Hurricanes (like the Seminoles) are also headed in the right direction, but they’ve got a little further to go.
Cal is a more stable team than Miami and they have the perfect weapon in tail back Jahvid Best to use against the Hurricanes’ porous run defense. Add in that this is essentially a home game for the Golden Bears and it looks like back to the drawing board for Miami.
7-5 LA Tech v 6-6 Northern Illinois
Louisiana Tech 31-16
6-6 North Carolina State v 7-5 Rutgers
Don’t let that .500 record fool you, the NC State Wolfpack can play football. Just ask Wake Forest, East Carolina and the Tarheels.
Rutgers had a disastrous early season (starting 1-5) but the Scarlet Knights have finished strong. Very strong, blowing out Pitt, South Florida and Louisville.
The Wolfpack can play all right. But I’m going with momentum on this.
9-4 Missouri v 9-3 Northwestern
If Northwestern remembers the Alamo, they probably wish they didn’t. The last time the Wildcats played in San Antonio post season, even Santa Ana’s army couldn’t have helped them as they gave up a bowl record 66 points to Big 12 rep Nebraska.
The Wildcats find themselves against another Big 12 foe on December 29. North Division champ Missouri. The Tigers are reeling after a 5-0 start, going 1-3 vs. the South Division schools and having a melt down against border rival Kansas.
Ironically, had Missouri finished stronger, I’d like Northwestern chances a little better. But Mizzou is going to be grumpy and out to prove something in Chase Daniel’s last college game. It won’t be as bad as 2000. But it will still be bad.
7-5 Maryland v 7-5 Nevada
The Terps are on a bit of a skid, while Nevada is playing solid football right now. Boise State needed a wicked pass rush in the waning seconds to outlast the Wolf Pack.
I like Nevada in this one. 28-24
9-3 Oklahoma State v 9-3 Oregon
Oklahoma State is the 4th best team in the Big 12 South. Which is good enough to be the 2nd best in the PAC-10. The Cowyboys got handled in Lubbock and against Oklahoma, but had a solid chance to beat Texas getting within a mid-field strike of knocking off the Longhorns.
Oregon is capable of rolling up points, but the Ducks play in a weaker conference. They’ll be able to keep pace with Oklahoma State for most of the game, but will ultimately come up short.
Oklahoma State 35-28
9-3 Western Michigan v 9-3 Rice
A strong Rice pass attack takes on a solid Western Michigan defense. The Owls are slightly better.
Armed Forces Bowl
7-5 Houston v 8-4 Air Force
A rematch of a game which Houston dominated statistically except for turnovers and scoreboard. Air Force jumped out to a 31-7 lead midway through the third quarter and then held on against a furious Cougar comeback.
Houston gets it right this time.
7-5 Kansas v 7-5 Minnesota
In 2007 Minnesota and Kansas had nearly mirror opposite records. The Gophers went 1-11 while Kansas finished its best season ever at 12-1
Doubtful either team thought they’d meet up with the same record in the Insight Bowl at the end of 2008. But hopes were pumped up and dashed for both teams. A 7-1 start this season had Minnesota legitimately thinking “Rose Bowl contention”. But six offensive touchdowns in your last four games doesn’t close many sales. Minnesota isn’t just slumping. The Gophers are taking it face first into the astro turf.
As for Kansas, no sequel to the magic of 2007. That’s thanks to a tougher schedule and a resurgent Nebraska team. But the Jayhawks finished with a flurry, knocking Big 12 North champion Missouri off its pedestal to the tune of 40-37.
Kansas has a strikingly better offense than Minnesota. A better psyche to boot.
8-4 Oregon State v 9-3 Pitt
The Pitt Panthers are 9-2 since laying an season opening egg against Bowling Green to finish second in the Big East.
The 2008 Beavers were able to hold mighty USC to 21 points on one end of their season and, yet, give up 65 to instate rival Oregon on the other end. I guess you can say Oregon State peaked early.
Music City Bowl
9-4 Boston College v 6-6 Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt got off to a Cinderella start by winning its first five games including South Carolina, Auburn and giant killer Ole Miss. Then the real Vandy showed up.
Boston College, as usual, competed for the ACC crown. The Eagles rev it up and take advantage of the reeling Commodores.
Boston College 28-17
9-3 Georgia Tech v 7-5 LSU
The defending National Champs find themselves lucky to be in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Who would’ve thunk it? Aside from an overtime loss to Alabama, the Tigers were just not competitive this year against anybody who mattered. Blow out losses to Florida, Georgia and Ole Miss mean more than just a “rebuilding season” for Les Miles. He’ll need to find some deeper answers — and quick.
Georgia Tech is on a roll coming off their 45-42 barn-burner of Georgia (a mutual opponent), the Yellow Jackets have been, overall, a little inconsistent. But that’s better than being consistently beaten as was LSU.
Georgia Tech 31-21
7-5 South Carolina v 8-4 Iowa
Iowa closed out an 8-win season by ruining Penn State’s National Title run and pasting their bowl-bound northern neighbors 55-0. All of Iowa’s losses have been decided by 5 points or less. There might not be a better 4-loss team in the country.
The Gamecocks are capable of pulling an upset, especially with Spurrier calling the shots. But I don’t that will happen here.
7-5 Clemson v 8-4 Nebraska
This could have been Florida State v Missouri, but Gator Bowl officials took two lower-ranked conference teams for the name-recognition cache and fanbase travel potential. Hey, we’re not complaining. Rematch of the 1981 National Title game, anybody?
Both teams finished the season strong. Nebraska’s high-powered offense is ranked 11th in the country. Clemson’s bread and butter is a stingy defense. This game will come down to the coaching. Nebraska has found its guy in 1st-year head coach Bo Pelini. Clemson, meanwhile, is in a state of flux across the board.
Nebraska pounds Clemson 35-17
Capital One Bowl
9-3 Georgia v 9-3 Michigan State
Georgia had hoped to be playing a week later to finish the 2008 season. The Spartans, on the other hand, are just pleased as punch to be playing post-New Years for the first time since January 1, 2000.
Still, Michigan State lost to every upper echelon team they’ve played. By a lot. Disappointed, or not, Georgia is still an upper echelon team. After spinning their wheels early, the Bulldogs should put the Spartans away by early 3rd quarter.
11-1 Penn St v 11-1 USC
The Big 10 hasn’t fared well against USC in the Rose Bowl lately. The Trojans made minced meat of its last three Big 10 opponents (Ohio State*, Illinois and Michigan) by an average score of 38-12.
But this year’s opponent (Penn State) is a little different. Coaching legend Joe Paterno has brought another 11-win season to Happy Valley. This is a coach who knows how to win big games. Much has also been made of the two schools’ mutual opponent — Oregon State. USC infamously lost to the Beavers 21-27. Penn State, on the other hand, demolished them 45-14.
This isn’t going to be a walk in the park for USC this time around. If the game were on a neutral field, I would say take Penn State. But it’s not. Home field advantage gives USC the win in a squeaker 27-24.
* USC played Ohio State at the Coliseum, not the Rose Bowl.
9-4 Virginia Tech v 11-2 Cincinnati
Aside from Virginia and Duke, the ACC landed every single team in a bowl this year. How does a conference do that? By beating each other up, of course.
And so here we have a four-loss champ in Virginia Tech meeting up against Big East winner Cincinnati. Tech has turned a mid-season dive around, finishing strong and even avenging an earlier loss to Boston College. Cincinnati is on a six game winning streak.
Still, both teams have looked vulnerable all season. I think the Bearcats have just a little more juice than the Hokies. They should sneak it out in a thriller.
8-4 Ole Miss v 11-1 Texas Tech
Ole Miss will kill you if you let them. Just ask Florida. Houston Nutt, along with Nick Saban, should be co-SEC coaches of the year. A near comeback against Alabama. A two-point heart-breaker at Wake Forest. The future looks bright in Oxford.
But two wins over 11-plus-win teams in one season may be a little too much to ask at this point. Add in the Cotton Bowl being a de facto home game for Texas Tech and the Rebs will need to muster more than 31 points to beat the Red Raiders.
Which won’t happen.
Texas Tech 38-28
9-4 East Carolina v 6-6 Kentucky
Kentucky has some embarrassing losses — Florida (63-5), Tennessee (28-10) — and not so embarrassing losses — Alabama (17-14), Georgia (42-38)
All of East Carolina’s losses are embarrassing. But they have some quality wins, too, against Virginia Tech, Tulsa and West Virginia.
The Pirates are inconsistent. The Wildcats are SEC battle tested. Battle tested wins out.
12-1 Alabama v 12-0 Utah
No doubt this is not where Alabama wanted to end up after a 12-0 start. But coach Saban should ask his team where they thought they would be after last year’s 7-6 season. With a few weeks to mull it over, the Crimson Tide should have no trouble getting worked up for their New Orleans trip.
Utah, meanwhile, has plenty of reason to be jacked up as the Utes survived stiff competition in the Mountain West to remain undefeated and also sneak past fellow BCS outsider, Boise State, to land one of the coveted at-large spots in the BCS bowls.
But, while talented and disciplined, don’t mistake this Utah team for the one of 4 years ago. Bama will roll in the Sugar.
8-5 Buffalo v 7-5 Connecticut
Auburn and Syracuse, Turner Gill is waiting. The transformation which the third-year coach has made at this one time Mid-American doormat is nothing short of jaw-dropping. If Gill is not calling the shots at a “name” school this time next year, then there’s something wrong.
And that’s too bad for Buffalo.
The good news for the Bulls in the short term is that their coach will be on the sidelines January 3 in Toronto.
Buffalo is rolling, winning 6 of their last 7 games, while Connecticut is on the skids. I think the Huskies have more talent overall and have faced stiffer competition playing in the Big East. But the Bulls have the momentum and a coach who is ready for prime time.
11-1 Texas v 10-2 Ohio State
Some people suspect that Texas might actually be the best team in the country. And if it weren’t for the last second heroics of Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree, the Longhorns would be out proving it against Florida on January 8.
As it is, the one loss Longhorns will face a Buckeye team with a poor recent history in big games. Will Ohio State get it together long enough to make this one competitive?
I just don’t think so. Texas has the best defense in the Big 12. And not a bad offense, either.
10-3 Tulsa v 12-1 Ball State
Ball State closes a storybook season with a heartbreaking loss in the conference title match with Buffalo.
That game told us a lot about the Cardinals. Their 12 wins are something to be proud of, but they just didn’t play anybody of significance.
Tulsa has more losses, but they were against arguably tougher teams than Buffalo. Add to it an offense that can really rack up the yards and points. Ball State will have their hands full.
BCS Championship Bowl
12-1 Florida v 12-1 Oklahoma
Defense wins championships.
You hear the old cliche more and more in the lead up the BCS Title game. Conventional wisdom has it that Florida has a defense and Oklahoma doesn’t. But is this really true?
If you look through Oklahoma’s schedule, you’ll find that the Sooners held 4 of its opponents to their lowest scores of the year. Three of those teams are currently ranked in the BCS Top 25 and feature some of the most potent offenses in the nation. Additionally, Oklahoma outscored 4 of its opponents’ game totals by the end of the 1st quarter and another 4 opponents’ game totals by the end of the 1st half. Two more opponents were put away by the end of the 3rd and only Oklahoma State and Texas pushed OU through the 4th quarter. In other words, the Oklahoma offense scored so early and so often that the defense rarely felt the pressure of having to win a game.
Florida can boast similar dominance over its own schedule. But because no team (other than Ole Miss) scored more than 21 points on Florida, the Gators had to score far fewer points to put its games away.
With no mutual opponents to compare, it’s impossible to say just by looking at points alone whether the Sooners defense is mediocre or not. What we do know is that when it has faced potent offenses, the Sooners have buckled twice (Oklahoma State and Texas) and stepped up twice (Texas Tech and Missouri).
Florida has not buckled versus any offenses period. Even Mississippi’s 31 points were heavily aided by a disastrous fumble-prone 3rd quarter. But, while the Sooner defense is 2-2 for shutting down potent offenses, dare I say that Florida is actually 0-0 against them? Looking at the Gator’s opponents, its hard to call any of them potent.
So here is the conundrum of calling this match-up. Florida has not faced an offense as explosive as Oklahoma’s. And Oklahoma has not faced a defense as good as Florida’s. But Oklahoma played one opponent who comes close.
Like the Sooners, the Longhorns faced 4 potent offenses and buckled against just one. Texas Tech. While you wouldn’t say that Texas controlled OU’s offense, the Longhorns did hold the Sooners to its lowest total of the season and, along with TCU, was the only unit to hold Oklahoma to less than 45 points.
Texas may very well be the best barometer to judge Florida against Oklahoma. Longhorn fans taunted the Sooners at the Big 12 championship by waving signs which read 45-35.
I have a hunch that will be the score again. Only this time, the Sooners will come out blazing and the Gators will be the ones playing catch-up.
More of Mark Albracht on College Football:
True college football national champions.
How to calculate the greatest college football team ever.
1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Tags:2008 College Football Bowl Picks