Yesterday, matchups for all 28 bowl games were announced, and it looks as if Michigan will be heading to San Antonio for the Alamo Bowl. The Wolverines (5-3 Big Ten, 7-4 overall) will take on Nebraska (4-4 Big 12, 7-4 overall), a team led by former NFL coach Bill Callahan. Callahan has transformed the Cornhuskers from a run-first, run-second option team into one with a West Coast-style offense. The game will settle old scores – Michigan and Nebraska split the national title in 1997. Texas and Southern Cal will face off in the Rose Bowl for the national title in the most highly anticipated game of the year. Here’s a close look at the four BCS games and a glimpse at all the others.
Jan. 4 – 8 p.m. – ABC
Texas (9-0 Big 12, 12-0) vs. Southern Cal (8-0 Pac-10, 12-0)
This is the matchup everyone’s been waiting for since last season ended. The teams began the year Nos. 1 and 2 and have been the clear-cut favorites for the BCS championship. The Longhorns come in after thoroughly destroying Colorado in the Big 12 Championship game, 70-3. Vince Young’s breakthrough Rose Bowl performance against Michigan was the starting point for his Heisman candidacy. Teams dared him to beat them with his arm, and he did that, passing for over 2,700 yards while tossing 26 touchdowns. But his legs worked just fine, too, in tearing defenses apart for 850 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground.
The Trojans come in with two Heisman candidates in Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush. Just as most prognosticators predicted, Southern Cal has dismantled its competition. The team has been challenged for an entire game just twice this season – against Notre Dame and Fresno State. Bush has taken the lead in the Heisman race with his breakneck speed and stop-on-a-dime quickness. Bush’s long runs have demoralized opponents, but his ability, paired with LenDale White’s, has kept the chains moving and made the Trojans more of a power football team than you might think.
With three Heisman contenders, the Rose Bowl should feature big plays and breathtaking moments. The Longhorns come in with less acclaim than Southern Cal, but their offense and defense can keep them in the game. Young’s legs should challenge the Trojans’ suspect defense, and his arm will keep them honest. But in the end, Southern Cal’s offensive balance will be too much for the Longhorns.
Jan. 2 – 4:30 p.m. – ABC
Ohio State (7-1 Big Ten, 9-2) vs. Notre Dame (9-2)
Both teams received automatic bids to the BCS when the final standings came out yesterday. By finishing in the top four, No. 4 Ohio State qualified, and No. 6 Notre Dame also made the cut because of a clause in its contract with the BCS.
Ohio State has only lost to teams that qualified for BCS bowls. The Buckeyes dropped their season opener against No. 2 Texas and lost to eventual-Big Ten Champion Penn State in Happy Valley. They’re currently riding a six-game winning streak, most recently defeating Michigan in Ann Arbor. Ohio State is paced by its daunting defense, which is led by linebackers A.J. Hawk and Anthony Schlegel. It also has a dual threat in signal-caller Troy Smith, who has shown the ability to make big plays both on the ground and through the air.
Although it began the year unranked, Notre Dame started strong. After beating then-No. 3 Michigan at the Big House, the Irish were in the top tier for good. They are led by quarterback Brady Quinn, who has thrived in first-year coach Charlie Weis’s system. The Irish’s best performance of the year came against No. 1 Southern Cal. The Trojans needed a miracle final drive to defeat the upset-minded Notre Dame squad in South Bend.
Ohio State’s balance and Notre Dame’s lack of wins against above-.500 teams should be the difference in a tight game.
Jan. 3 – 8 p.m. – ABC
Penn State (7-1 Big Ten, 10-1) vs. Florida State (6-3 ACC, 8-4)
Florida State’s upset on Saturday of ACC-leading Virginia Tech propelled the Seminoles to an automatic BCS bid. Penn State’s No. 3 ranking, coupled with its Big Ten title, gave the school its first-ever BCS bid.
The game pits college football’s two all-time winningest coaches against each other. Penn State’s Joe Paterno (353 wins) took an unranked Nittany Lions team to national prominence following an impressive run through the Big Ten. Penn State’s lone blemish was a last-second loss to Michigan following a Mario Manningham catch with no time remaining.
The Seminoles are coached by Bobby Bowden (359 wins). Although it limps into the BCS with an 8-4 record, Florida State has posted impressive wins against Miami (Fla.) and Boston College.
Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Michael Robinson has a wide variety of young weapons at his disposal for the Nittany Lions, and if his offense is having a rough outing, it’s usually backed up by the guys on the other side of the ball. Linebacker Paul Posluszny leads Penn State’s top-ranked defense.
Florida State, on the other hand, comes in without a true identity. It has shown signs of brilliance at times, but has also looked lost at others.
Bottom line: No. 3 vs. unranked. It appears to be too simple. In reality, it probably is. Penn State is the real deal and should prove it against the overmatched Seminoles.
Jan. 2 – 8:30 p.m. – ABC
West Virginia (7-0 Big East, 10-1) vs. Georgia (7-2 SEC, 10-2)
The Big East has been the whipping boy of the major conferences all season long. But make no mistake about it: West Virginia is no pushover. Quarterback Pat White doesn’t throw the ball much – but that’s because he doesn’t have to. He’s attempted just 100 passes for 708 yards and seven touchdowns. White’s legs are his moneymakers. The dynamic freshman has carried the Mountaineers by picking up 875 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. He’ll have to bring his best game, since West Virginia figures to be a heavy underdog in a pseudo-home game for Georgia.
If not for an injury to senior quarterback D.J. Shockley and a fluke play against Auburn, Georgia could have – and probably should have – gone undefeated. Using a stout running game and a punishing defense, the Bulldogs rumbled to the SEC championship. Against Louisiana State, Georgia used the same formula from the regular season, pressuring the Tigers’ JaMarcus Russell and stopping Louisiana State’s running game.
Although many believe that this is the worst of the BCS bowls, West Virginia won’t lay down for the Bulldogs. But the Georgia defense, led by hard-hitting safety Greg Blue, will be able to stop the Mountaineers’ rushing attack.