For all the attention that the BCS bowls get, it’s surprising how little is focused on the actual games. I’ve heard much more about proposed playoff systems that won’t happen then the games that will actually take place. And when people do predict the BCS games, it’s about 95% in favor of one team. This year, every BCS game but one features a heavy favorite. Can any of the underdogs win? Which team will surprise the most people? As we’ve seen countless times, great performance in a BCS bowl one year can lead to a national championship the next. Rose Bowl, #8 USC vs. #3 Michigan
This might be the first Rose Bowl ever in which both participants are completely unhappy to be in Pasadena. Both USC and Michigan could be playing for a national championship if they had won their last game. Michigan fans and many others have been complaining because their team was jumped by Florida in the rankings, however, the Wolverines have to win for these arguments to have any validity.
USC, possibly the strongest 8th-ranked team in history, comes into this game as a slim favorite. Though they slipped up twice against average Pac-10 teams this season, the Trojans have proven in many of their big games that they are still one of the nation’s toughest teams.
When USC has the ball, they should have an advantage against Michigan’s highly regarded defense. The Wolverine secondary was torched for 316 yards against Ohio State, and USC’s passing attack features the best receiving combo in the nation in Dwyane Jarrett and Steve Smith. John David Booty is no Matt Leinart, but has performed efficiently against ranked teams this year. But USC’s biggest weapon on offense could be freshman running back CJ Gable. He showed flashes of excellence against Cal and Notre Dame, and Michigan’s rush defense gave up big plays to OSU. I see USC doing many of the same things to the Michigan that the Buckeyes did: a short-to-mid range passing attack with some runs mixed in.
However, Michigan should be able to move the ball as well. Michael Hart is the most underrated running back in the nation, and he will have a big game against a somewhat suspect USC run defense. Look for Hart’s performance to make him a Heisman favorite next year.
Overall, this game has the potential to be great. I can’t envision a blowout by either side and there will be plenty of scoring. But USC should win because they have the better coach in Pete Carroll, and will be very motivated to win after that disappointing loss to UCLA. Michigan will suffer from the usual “we got robbed” syndrome, which has affected teams like Oregon, Cal, and Auburn the last few years.
Prediction: USC 35, Michigan 31
Fiesta Bowl, #9 Boise State vs. # 7 Oklahoma
This could be the most underrated matchup across the board. Boise State has been a mid-major powerhouse for years now, and it’s about time that they made it to a BCS game. Oklahoma has been here before: this is their 5th BCS game in the last 7 years. However, it is still a huge surprise for the Sooners to be here considering this is their least talented team in a while.
The big news in this game is the return of Adrian Peterson. The stud Oklahoma running back missed the last seven games of the regular season due to a broken collarbone, and this will most likely be his last college game. Peterson has been one of the best college football players at any position over the last few years, and will have something to prove as he tries to impress NFL scouts. Peterson does face the nation’s seventh-ranked rushing defense, though Boise State hasn’t faced a test nearly this tough. If Peterson plays to his full potential, he will shatter the Broncos’ defense.
With that said, Boise State also has quite the runner of their own. Ian Johnson compiled 6.4 yards per carry and 24 touchdowns despite missing a game, and he’ll face a rush defense that has not played too well against its toughest opponents. Quarterback Jared Zabransky, in his third year of starting, is having a career-best season. However, no receiver for Boise State will scare Oklahoma, which features a pretty strong passing defense.
This game could be another shootout. Oklahoma typically plays low-scoring games, but they haven’t faced any offense like Boise State’s, which is averaging nearly 40 points a game. This game will hinge on how well Peterson plays. I say he’ll do well, but the Boise State offense will do better. The Broncos will pull off an improbable upset.
Prediction: Boise State 27, Oklahoma 24
Orange Bowl, #5 Louisville vs. #15 Wake Forest
Wake Forest, the 11-2 ACC Champions, are the surprise of the year in college football. However, their dream season will come to a crashing halt against Louisville. The Cardinals are the strongest team to come out of the ACC since Miami and Virginia Tech left the conference.
Despite losing starting running back Michael Bush in the first game of the year, Louisville still has the nation’s second ranked offense. Quarterback Brian Brohm leads the charge, and he has some of the nation’s best receivers to throw to. Mario Urrutia and Harry Douglas put up very productive seasons, and they will face a simply average pass defense.
Wake Forest’s offense cannot put up enough points to compete. They are ranked 98th in total offense and 73rd in scoring. Louisville’s defense is nothing to brag about, but they should be able to get the job done.
Overall, Wake Forest just isn’t good enough to compete on a national level like this. They are a great story, and feature the coach of the year in Jim Grobe, but it won’t be enough against the aerial attack of the Cardinals.
Prediction: Louisville 41, Wake Forest 17
Sugar Bowl, #4 LSU vs. # 11 Notre Dame
The Sugar Bowl features two classic programs with 10-2 records, but one is clearly superior. This game is a statistical mismatch in many ways, as LSU possesses one of the nation’s best defenses while Notre Dame’s D has been shredded consistently this year. The only chance for Notre Dame is if quarterback Brady Quinn has a career game, which probably won’t happen against a star LSU secondary.
Notre Dame has only faced two ranked teams this year: USC and Michigan. The Irish lost to both by a combined 46 points. While I don’t think this game will be an enormous blowout, it certainly has that potential. Brady Quinn has been one of college football’s best quarterbacks over the last two seasons, with a combined 67-12 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and he has two excellent receivers to throw to in Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight. However, there have been multiple games in which the Notre Dame offense has played very well, but they lost due to their defense. That could happen again here.
LSU’s offense lacks a true star, but has still been very productive this year. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell, who has the third-highest passer rating in the nation this season, leads a reasonably balanced unit. Russell has multiple tall receivers to throw to, including Dwanye Bowe (912 yards, 11 TD’s). Bowe, Craig Davis, and Early Doucet will likely see great production against Notre Dame’s much-maligned pass defense. If LSU has a weakness offensively, it is their running game. They have a running-back-by-committee backfield and have yet to find a full-time back. However, they should be able to move the ball through the air so well that their mediocre running game shouldn’t be a glaring issue.
Notre Dame should be able to keep this one close for a while, but I predict that LSU will pull away due to their all-around excellence and fantastic team speed.
Prediction: LSU 33, Notre Dame 20
BCS Championship Game, #2 Florida vs. #1 Ohio State
Ohio State comes in as one of the biggest favorites in BCS Championship history. Few people are giving Florida a chance, though they are 12-1 and have played the nation’s toughest schedule. That’s because the Buckeyes are just that good: they have the nation’s best player in Heisman winner Troy Smith, a stable of playmakers on offense, and a defense that allowed 17 or fewer points in 11 of 12 games this season. However, this game will not be a rout. It should be a low-scoring, defensive battle between two highly talented squads.
Ohio State had one of the more dominant seasons in recent memory, with the exception of their barnburner against Michigan. Troy Smith has deserved every award he’s received, and he has a talented supporting cast as well. Ted Ginn has incredible speed, Anthony Gonzalez is a very good second receiver, and Antonio Pittman and Chris Wells are two highly productive runners. This offense has looked unstoppable at times this year, particularly in the Michigan game. However, the Buckeyes will face an extremely tough test in the Florida defense. The Gators’ secondary has two studs in Ryan Smith and Reggie Nelson, and should match up well against Ohio State’s receivers. Additionally, Florida can stop the run better than almost any team, and will do a better job of containing Pittman and Wells than Michigan did. This will be the toughest game of the season for the Ohio State offense. They won’t come close to their production against Michigan, but if a key drive is needed in the fourth quarter, Smith and company provide it.
Florida’s offense faces a difficult challenge as well. This is a team that has been more or less carried by their defense this season, and senior quarterback Chris Leak is clutch but has been known to make mistakes. However, receiver Dallas Baker is a monster in the red zone, and all-around threat Percy Harvin should provide some big plays. The weakness of the Gators’ offense has been the same all season: running back. DeShawn Wynn will benefit from time off to heal his numerous injuries, but even at full health he is no match for the Buckeye defense. Linebacker James Laurinaitis will continue to be a playmaking force, and defensive end Quinn Pitcock will be key as the Buckeyes will try to pressure Chris Leak. Leak has notoriously been poor under pressure, so Ohio State will likely blitz a lot.
This game will be a defensive struggle throughout. But the Buckeyes are too good for the Gators, who have never seemed to perform up to their talent level. In the end, Troy Smith will bring Ohio State its second BCS title in five years.
Prediction: Ohio State 20, Florida 14