I know there are 35 bowl games and that bowl season effectively started a couple of weeks ago, but unlike ESPN, who has a broadcasting stake in the bowl season, we all know it really begins today with two BCS bowls and the first games with both teams ranked.
Ranked teams went 7-0 in their bowl games against unranked foes while Notre Dame and Tulsa, who I ranked 20 and 24, lost by a combined seven points, both in fourth-quarter comebacks.
Below are my picks for the top 10 bowls from the 2011-12 season (along with BCS rankings and comments).
Monday, January 2
No. 22 Penn State over No. 19 Houston – The Cougars have a shot to beat a weak ranked team and finish the season with 13 wins, but this is your typical choice to go with the major conference team. But Penn State is 0-3 against ranked teams this season. This is major record-holder Case Keenum‘s swan song.
No. 9 South Carolina over No. 20 Nebraska – The Gamecocks, who are the fifth-best team in the SEC, are better than the best team in the Big Ten. The Huskers are the fifth-best team in the Big Ten.
No. 16 Georgia over No. 17 Michigan State – QB Kirk Cousins leaves the Spartans with his first 3,000 yard season. He’s 0-3 in bowl games, including a 2008 loss to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl. It’ll be deja vu.
Ohio State over Florida – The only game on this list that’s not a battle of ranked opponents. Both finished with disappointing 6-6 seasons, both will be losing key players to the four-year maximum rule. For OSU: Dan Herron. For Florida: John Brantley, Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps.
No. 5 Oregon over No. 10 Wisconsin – Arguably the biggest mismatch of the five BCS bowls, the Ducks should score points at a faster pace than the Badgers can keep up. LaMichael James and Montee Ball, who has 2,000 total yards and 38 total touchdowns, will likely forgo their senior season and enter the NFL draft. This is also the last game for Russell Wilson, who led the nation in QB rating with 31 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions.
No. 3 Oklahoma State over No. 4 Stanford – This will likely be the last game for Justin Blackmon, who is expected to enter the NFL draft early. Brandon Weeden, who threw for 1,158 more yards with a higher completion percentage than the likely-No. 1 pick Andrew Luck, will get the opportunity to cement his career as a winner against him.
Tuesday, January 3
No. 13 Michigan over No. 11 Virginia Tech
Wednesday, January 4
No. 15 Clemson over No. 23 West Virginia
Friday, January 6
No. 6 Arkansas over No. 8 Kansas State
Monday, January 9
No. 2 Alabama over No. 1 LSU – A rematch of November’s tilt in a game the Tide should’ve easily won based on missed field goals alone (4), this one is for all the marbles. The best game that no one wants to see again, the special teams might do in the Tide again in a game where every point matters. Tide kickers are just 2-for-11 from 40 yards or more this season. I can easily see the Tigers winning comfortably this time around, but I’ll go based on what I saw in their previous meeting.
This will be junior Trent Richardson‘s last game, who has had a tremendous 2011campaign. The last time an SEC running back ran for 1,583 yards was Trent’s teammate in 2009, Mark Ingram. The QB tandem of Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson will both be graduating after the National Championship Game. Expect only Jefferson to play in it.