Bowl Predictions 2012: Projecting Most Anticipated BCS Matchups
If all goes according to plan this weekend inside the Georgia Dome, two storied college football programs will be squaring off for the national championship in South Florida this January.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have locked themselves into the title game after running the regular-season table to finish 12-0, surviving plenty of scares along the way. Now, it comes down to Alabama vs. Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.
Will it be Notre Dame vs. Alabama, or Notre Dame vs. Georgia?
Here we project all five BCS bowl matchups this coming January.
Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. Rutgers
The Seminoles will take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte in Week 14. Though Florida State has yet to face Georgia Tech in 2012, Paul Johnson's Yellow Jackets are just 6-6 overall, and 5-3 in conference play.
As ACC champs, the Seminoles would earn an automatic bid to the Orange Bowl where they would play the winner of Louisville vs. Rutgers. The winner of that game will be Big East champion.
I like Rutgers to survive at home. The Scarlet Knights are coming off their first conference loss of the year after last week's game against Pittsburgh, but I believe they will bounce back in Piscataway on Thursday night and set up an intriguing Orange Bowl clash that should favor the Seminoles.
Rose Bowl: Nebraska vs. Stanford
Before the season began back in August, most believed that Michigan would be playing in the Rose Bowl this coming winter, but instead it's looking more and more like Bo Pelini's Nebraska Cornhuskers will make their first trip to Pasadena as Big Ten champions.
If Nebraska can top Wisconsin for a second straight time this season, this time in the Big Ten title game in Week 14, they'll be locked into a Rose Bowl matchup with the Pac-12 champion.
The 'Huskers went 7-1 in the Big Ten this fall while the Badgers were just 4-4. If it weren't for Ohio State and Penn State both serving postseason bans, Wisconsin wouldn't even have a shot to play for the Big Ten.
As for Nebraska's likely opponent, much like the Cornhuskers' situation in the Big Ten, no one thought that Stanford, in the post-Andrew Luck era, would be playing UCLA for the Pac-12 title instead of Oregon. The Cardinal defeated the Bruins just last week, and can cement a surprising trip to the Rose Bowl with a repeat victory over UCLA in Week 14.
Sugar Bowl: Florida vs. Oklahoma
The Gators will be kicking themselves for letting their matchup with Georgia in late October get away from them. Costly turnovers killed Florida's chances of running the table and playing Alabama for the SEC title.
Still, Will Muschamp's Gators will end up in a BCS bowl, most likely taking on the Oklahoma Sooners in a rematch of the 2008 BCS National Championship Game. Bob Stoops' Sooners can win the Big 12 with a win over TCU and a Kansas State loss to Texas in Week 14, but will likely wind up being runner-ups, meaning they'll have to settle for a Sugar Bowl appearance.
In this game, I would give the edge to Florida. The Gators boast an elite defense that would make life difficult for Landry Jones and company, matching up similarly to how Notre Dame did with Oklahoma back in October.
Fiesta Bowl: Oregon vs. Kansas State
It wasn't long ago that we were anticipating an Oregon vs. Kansas State national title tilt, but now it seems both teams are destined to meet in the Fiesta Bowl this January.
If the Wildcats can stave off Texas in Manhattan in Week 14, they will wrap the Big 12 conference championship for the first time since 2003 and lock themselves into a BCS bowl. And with either Georgia or Alabama set to lose in the SEC Championship Game, Oregon is most likely to finish in the Top Four in the BCS standings, which ensures they'll play in a BCS bowl.
Last year's Fiesta Bowl (Oklahoma State vs. Stanford) featured the Big 12 champions vs. a Pac-12 at-large, and that's what this year's is shaping up to include.
If we luck out and get this matchup, prepare for a thrilling shootout in the desert.
BCS National Championship Game: Notre Dame vs. Alabama
Unless Alabama falls victim to an upset at the hands of Georgia in Week 14's SEC Championship Game, the Crimson Tide will return to the BCS National Championship Game to take on the surprising Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
The Irish are locked in at 12-0 and No. 1 in the BCS. All that's left to do is play what is essentially a national championship semifinal between the Bulldogs and Tide in Atlanta on Saturday. The winner moves on to play Notre Dame for all the marbles.
I like Alabama to ride its No. 1-ranked scoring defense to a win over Georgia, though, setting up a defensive matchup in Miami this coming January.
Brian Kelly's Irish haven't budged defensively all year and will face their stiffest test in the defending champions. If everything pans out this weekend, you couldn't ask for a better title showdown to end what has been a fantastic season of college football.
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.
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