BCS Bowl Predictions 2012: Analyzing Likeliest Matchups for Non-Title Games
Just one week remains in the 2012 college football regular season, but the BCS bowl picture remains in a near-preseason flux, as just about every game will be decided by Saturday's action.
Some teams, like Oregon and Florida, are essentially locks to make a BCS bowl. However, being idle on Saturday puts their ultimate destination in the hands of teams playing in Week 14.
Nevertheless, we know enough about the matchups on Saturday to make relatively educated predictions about who will go where. With that in mind, here is a look at the likeliest matchups for the non-championship games.
(Spoiler alert: I'm going with a Notre Dame-Alabama matchup as a base barometer.)
Rose Bowl: No. 12 Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. No. 8 Stanford Cardinal
Considering the outcomes of the past two weeks, this matchup has almost become an inevitability. The Huskers have to take care of Wisconsin and the Cardinal has to win against UCLA in their respective championship games, but both are definitive favorites heading into Saturday.
If the favorites pull out victories, a Nebraska-Stanford Rose Bowl could be extremely interesting.
The Huskers rely heavily on a scintillating ground game led by Ameer Abdullah, Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead. Nebraska's trio of rushers have vaulted the team to seventh in the FBS in rushing offense, a standing that should only increase after the Big Ten championship.
Stanford, meanwhile, has the best run defense in the country. The Cardinal give up a mere 71.4 rushing yards per game and allow only 2.4 yards per carry to opposing offenses.
After the way the unit swallowed up Oregon's Kenjon Barner, I would have an awful difficult time picking against Stanford in this hypothetical matchup.
Orange Bowl: Louisville Cardinals vs. No. 13 Florida State Seminoles
Obviously, a massive monkey wrench known as the No. 17 Kent State Golden Flashes loom large here. If the Flashes are able to defeat Northern Illinois in the MAC championship game, it's a virtual certainty they will play in the Orange Bowl.
In that scenario, Louisville would likely end up in the Fiesta Bowl and the second-place team in the Big 12 would wind up somewhere very, very unhappy.
Unfortunately for those who enjoy chaos, Northern Illinois has won 11 straight games and looks like it could run amok on the Kent State defense.
With Kent State losing, Louisville and Florida State (the ACC champion) are all but guaranteed to meet up.
As for a winner in this game? The Seminoles should blow out a Cardinals squad that could not even create momentum against a 5-6 Connecticut squad.
Sugar Bowl: No. 4 Florida Gators vs. No. 11 Oklahoma Sooners
Those who enjoy high-powered offensive football may want to avoid watching the Sugar Bowl if this is the matchup.
The Gators have made a habit all season of winning ugly and stonewalling opposing offenses. Led by a defense that's both schematically brilliant and talented, Florida is third in the nation, giving up 12.9 points per contest.
Will Muschamp's crew also has a penchant for the late-game comeback, as evidenced by its 24-point run against the Seminoles last Saturday.
On the other side of the field, Oklahoma has fluctuated between top-notch and horrifying on the defensive side. The Sooners had given up just 30 points once all season before the last three games saw them give up an average of 43.7.
Still, with a month to prepare, Bob Stoops should be able to repair his struggling defense.
As Florida's offense continues to fluctuate as violently as Oklahoma's defense, it's a tough matchup to call. It'll be a race to three touchdowns, but as of right now, I'll take the Gators.
Fiesta Bowl: No. 5 Oregon Ducks vs. No. 6 Kansas State Wildcats
Contingent on Kansas State defeating Texas on Saturday, the Fiesta Bowl has all the makings of a thriller.
Heisman hopeful Collin Klein and his high-powered Wildcats offense come into Saturday's game 12th in the FBS, scoring 40.7 points per game. Spurred by a balanced offensive attack, Kansas State runs a spread offense better than just about any team in the country.
I say "just about" because it's almost impossible to top Oregon. The Ducks rank only behind Louisiana Tech in scoring offense at 50.8 points per game and are fourth in the nation in rushing yards at 323.3 per contest—just a single yard behind Georgia Tech.
With both squads separated by smidgens on defense, this game could come down to the last drive.
Nevertheless, just one defense (Stanford) has stopped Oregon all season, so Chip Kelly's squad would have to be at least a three-point favorite for me.
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