Bowl Predictions 2012: Projecting Outcomes of Potential BCS Matchups
The BCS bowl picture is still a little fuzzy coming down the stretch of the 2012 college football season, but that doesn't mean it's too early to project outcomes of the would-be must-see games of the entire year.
Yes, the SEC conference is heavily involved, and some would play host to significant underdogs from less powerful football clusters. But there are also underdog stories, and reemerging prominent programs looking to establish a new legacy.
Here is a look at what the outcomes might be of the potential BCS matchups, based on CBSSports.com's projections through Week 11.
Matchup: No. 14 Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Two younger, dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks would do battle in this one. The improvement in passing from Huskers QB Taylor Martinez from his freshman to sophomore year has been extremely impressive. He leads the Big Ten conference in passing efficiency.
Meanwhile, Irish signal-caller Everett Golson has been in and out of the lineup in favor of backup Tommy Rees in certain situations—be it game-winning drives, slight injuries or other reasons.
But Golson redeemed himself in a breakout performance at Oklahoma, and then returned from an early benching to lead a stunning triple-overtime victory over Pittsburgh to keep the undefeated season alive. As great as the Notre Dame running game and defense have been, it's been Golson who has stepped up recently in the most crucial moments.
That said, All-American linebacker Manti Te'o has keyed the Irish defense to be one of the nation's elite units. Nebraska would not be able to stand up to the kind of physicality Notre Dame brings to the gridiron.
The Irish would simply out-muscle the Cornhuskers, and win this game pretty handily. It would definitely stir the pot in the national title debate if Notre Dame ran the regular season table, too.
Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Nebraska 20
Matchup: No. 10 Florida State Seminoles vs. No. 19 Louisville Cardinals
The most efficient passer in Seminoles history, E.J. Manuel, versus one of the most underrated players in the country in Cardinals QB Teddy Bridgewater.
Louisville's defense—which just got obliterated for 524 yards of total offense at Syracuse in the team's first loss of the season in Week 11—would prove to be the difference in this matchup.
The ACC and Big East are more renowned for their basketball prowess than their football programs' accolades for the most part. But this could lend itself to a high-scoring affair and a great underdog story as Bridgewater would try to lead a historically struggling program against a big-name football juggernaut in FSU.
As outstanding as Bridgewater has been all year long in leading the Cardinals to their first ever 9-0 start, his counterpart and the duo of Chris Thompson and James Wilder Jr. would allow the Seminoles to hold the ball for most of the game.
Bridgewater has pulled out some tight games from the jaws of defeat, but this wouldn't be one of them.
Prediction: Florida State 45, Louisville 28
Matchup: No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. No. 11 Clemson Tigers
It's hard to dismiss Bama from the national title picture just yet, but for projection's sake, obviously we'll assume they won't rise to the championship game.
When Johnny Manziel shocked the Tide in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, hopes of a repeat all but evaporated. In a potential Sugar Bowl showdown with Clemson, Nick Saban's team would have an extremely difficult time dealing with the high-octane Tiger offense.
The receiver duo of DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins can stretch the field as well as any in the country, and stellar QB Tajh Boyd is quietly one of the best in the nation at his position.
What would make life really difficult for Clemson is that the Tigers only rank 75th against the run (h/t NCAA), which would be a horrible matchup opposite Tide RBs Eddie Lacy and phenomenal freshman T.J. Yeldon.
As many points as Clemson has been able to put on the board in a hurry, Boyd and his weapons haven't faced anything like the Tide defense, although the unit has shown some vulnerability as of late.
Still, I'd say the SEC reigns superior. 'Bama QB AJ McCarron makes hardly any mistakes, and the running game and size of the Tide would be too much for the Tigers to prevent them from rolling.
Prediction: Alabama 34, Clemson 24
Matchup: No. 12 Oklahoma Sooners vs. No. 7 LSU Tigers
The Sooners offense has looked pretty much unstoppable all year long—except when it faces one of the premier defenses. At Kansas State and in Norman, Oklahoma against Notre Dame, Oklahoma couldn't muster its usual production.
When Landry Jones is forced into obvious passing situations, he tends to be a little bit erratic. To make matters worse, Jones would have scary pass-rushers in Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo bearing down on him if he were to face the Tigers in the Fiesta Bowl.
Let's face it: Until the decisive drive of the Alabama, the Tigers limited Tide QB AJ McCarron to less than zero yards passing in the second half.
Absent a great run defense, Oklahoma would have a difficult time stopping LSU freshman RB Jeremy Hill and the rest of the Tiger backfield. Not to mention, junior QB Zach Mettenberger has made vast improvements lately.
Once again, Bob Stoops would fall short in a big game. Les Miles sets the tone for his LSU team with his aggressive style and would win this marquee coaching showdown in a physical, low-scoring contest.
Prediction: LSU 20, Oklahoma 17
BCS National Championship Game
Matchup: No. 1 Kansas State Wildcats vs. No. 2 Oregon Ducks
What an intriguing battle this would be between two high-powered offenses and underrated defenses. Heisman front-runner Collin Klein leads the way for Kansas State, but Ducks freshman signal-caller Marcus Mariota has been stunningly brilliant, leading the NCAA in passing efficiency entering Week 12.
But the Ducks' own Heisman candidate is senior RB Kenjon Barner, who has run for 1,360 yards and 19 touchdowns.
After being shut out of the top two most of the 2012 season, Chip Kelly's Oregon squad has proven too explosive and dominant to remain out of the national championship conversation. Other than a shootout against USC, the Ducks have shown a solid defense—albeit against very inferior competition.
This would be a shootout, and it would likely come down to who had the ball last. If this potential national championship game were to happen, it could be one for the ages.
Although it may appear that the Wildcats had the more difficult schedule simply being in the Big 12, Oregon will dismiss that conversation at least partially with remaining games against Stanford and at Oregon State.
If the Ducks win those—I believe they will—they will win this one, but it'll be close.
Prediction: Oregon 35, Kansas State 31