Most Likely Matchups for Each BCS Bowl
The end of college football season is a paradox. It's the best time of the season, bowl season, with tons of great non-conference matchups, but it's also the end of the season.
The BCS bowls are the marquee games (at least for the next couple seasons until the playoffs begin), so for now, we will continue to keep an eye on them as the best games of the season.
Of the 10 teams that will play in BCS games, only three are set in stone at this point: Oregon, Florida and Notre Dame.
The Irish are on top of the BCS rankings with no conference title game to play, while Oregon and Florida will both finish in the top four of the rankings and earn at-large bids.
Other than those three, chaos reigns, and we will not be certain who is playing where until after this weekend.
Read on for the three most likely matchups for each BCS game.
Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. Kent State
Florida is set, we know that.
But Kent State? The Golden Flashes (11-1) take on Northern Illinois (11-1) in the MAC title game.
Why is this significant? Because Kent State is ranked at No. 17 in the BCS rankings.
If Stanford beats UCLA, and Kent State wins the MAC title, the Golden Flashes would find themselves in the top 16 of the rankings and ahead of the Big East champ, meaning we have a brand new BCS buster, thanks to the BCS' weird rules.
This is a very real possibility, if Kent State can slow Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch.
Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. Louisville
All the 'Noles and Cardinals have to do is win.
State will slide by Georgia Tech in the ACC title game without too much difficulty; however, Louisville is a horse of a different color.
The Cardinals must beat Rutgers, a team that is coming of a loss and will be motivated to take the Big East title.
With the defense the Scarlet Knights field, ranking 14th in the nation in total defense, Louisville is the second-best option to fill this vacancy for the Orange Bowl.
Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. Rutgers
Florida State faced Georgia Tech in the ACC championship.
The 'Noles will win, placing them in this game. It's their opponent that is yet unsettled.
Rutgers faces Louisville Thursday night, with the winner earning a bid to this game.
Rutgers was very "un-Rutgers-like" in a 27-6 loss to Pitt over Thanksgiving weekend, and it will be looking to bounce back to form in this meeting.
The stakes are set. Win and the Scarlet Knights earn a BCS bid. Lose, and nobody cares.
This is the most likely scenario for this bowl, barring some kind of trade between the games.
Fiesta Bowl: Oregon vs. Clemson
Believe it or not, the Clemson Tigers still have a shot at reaching a BCS game as an at-large team. Who else is available?
The SEC will have filled its quota of teams in the Sugar Bowl and BCS championship.
The Pac-12 has Oregon and the winner of the title game.
The Big Ten has the winner of the conference title game and no other candidates.
The Big 12 will have its conference winner, and it is not likely to get another at-large into a BCS game.
If Kent State or Boise State does not make it into the BCS, there are going to be plenty of slots open that could allow the 10-2, 14th-ranked Tigers sneak into a game.
This matchup would feature a ton of points, and, frankly, not bode well for Clemson.
Fiesta Bowl: Oregon vs. Oklahoma
Yep, we might see Oklahoma as the Big 12 champ yet.
The Sooners would have to beat a solid TCU team and hope for a K-State loss against Texas.
There's a conundrum for Sooners fans: pull for Texas or not?
If that scenario plays out, the Sooners would win the Big 12, and if they are not traded with another BCS game, likely face the high-powered Oregon squad.
Fiesta Bowl: Oregon vs. Kansas State
If Kansas State can cap off a great season with a win over Texas, it is in.
Oregon, finishing in the top four in the BCS rankings, will earn an at-large bid, and the Fiesta Bowl seems like the likely landing place for the Ducks.
After a devastating loss to Stanford, the Ducks rebounded with a 48-24 pounding of Oregon State in the "Civil War" and are primed for a big-time bowl game after a long break.
This would be an excellent matchup, pitting the best the Big 12 has to offer against a team that many still consider to be the best in the Pac-12.
Oregon running back Kenjon Barner and K-State quarterback Collin Klein both have a great shot at making the trip to New York as Heisman finalists, and you better believe this game would feature a plethora of rushing touchdowns.
Sugar Bowl: Kent State vs. Florida
Florida is going to this game, there is really no way around it. The Gators made it out of the SEC with only one loss and find themselves ranked inside the top four in the BCS standings.
As either Alabama or Georgia is going to suffer a loss and drop behind the Gators, they are going to wind up as the second SEC representative in a BCS game.
That's out of the way; now here is where things get interesting.
The Sugar Bowl has the pick of at-large teams after the Fiesta Bowl.
If Kent State beats Northern Illinois in the MAC title game, it will jump into the BCS top 16 and be ahead of the Big East champ in the rankings, meaning it earns an at-large berth.
The Sugar Bowl could elect to match the Golden Flashes against the Gators in a battle of David vs. Goliath.
Not very likely, but still a possibility.
Sugar Bowl: Florida vs. Oklahoma
Let's talk about trades.
Oklahoma has played in the Phoenix area a ton over the past several bowl seasons.
For that reason, there are rumblings that the Fiesta Bowl could engineer a trade for the Sooners if they earn the bid by virtue of a Big 12 title.
As already discussed, Florida is New Orleans-bound, all that remains to be determined is the opponent.
This matchup between two storied teams with huge followings would be a dream for bowl organizers and a great watch for those of us desperate for the college football season to never end.
Sugar Bowl: Rutgers vs. Florida
As already discussed, Kent State is one win and a UCLA loss away from breaking into the BCS scene.
The Sugar Bowl is going to prefer the Big East champ over Kent State in that scenario, which leaves us with the winner of Rutgers vs. Louisville.
The Scarlet Knights' stout defense and ability to make plays in the defensive game give them a decided advantage. And with Khaseem Greene's injury not appearing to be serious, the heart and soul of this defense will be ready to slow Louisville.
While this matchup is not ideal, it certainly beats a small-market team facing an elite SEC squad in a game that is sure to be lopsided.
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Stanford
Most people seem to be favoring the Cornhuskers in the Big Ten title game, which seems to make sense, as the Badgers fell to the Huskers in their meeting earlier this season.
But let's not forget, the Badgers led that game by 17 and Nebraska only pulled out the win by three, at home.
Montee Ball has been rolling since then, and the Badgers will again be a tough out, so the Huskers' ticket to the Rose Bowl is not automatically punched.
Stanford vs. Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl would be interesting, matching great linebackers from both teams against excellent rushing attacks.
Granted, the Badgers only have this shot by default, as Penn State and Ohio State are banned from postseason play, but don't be shocked if they take advantage against Nebraska.
Rose Bowl: Nebraska vs. Stanford
If all plays out according to plan, Nebraska and Stanford will play in the Rose Bowl.
The Huskers face a team they have already beaten during the regular season and look to make a statement in their conference championship game. The Cardinal have already done that, with their victory over UCLA earlier this week.
Taylor Martinez has shown vast improvement as a quarterback over last season, is making much better decisions, and completing passes that have been a major problem in the past.
Meanwhile, with Ben Hogan at the helm, the Cardinal offense has found a spark in the past few weeks.
This would be an interesting departure from the norm for a contest that has hosted Wisconsin and/or Oregon each of the past three seasons.
BCS National Championship: Notre Dame vs. Oregon
Realistically, there is no shot of this happening, but it should be a possibility.
Which is better—Oregon's loss to Stanford in overtime, or Alabama's loss to Texas A&M?
Stanford beat the Ducks in overtime, and if the Cardinal win out, could finish in the Top Five of the BCS standings.
Meanwhile, Texas A&M outplayed Alabama and beat the Tide in regulation. The Aggies are ranked one spot behind Stanford in the latest BCS poll, at No. 9.
So yes, the SEC camp winner will face Notre Dame in the title game, but it seems a bit odd that we assume Alabama should automatically be considered the better team, just because it is from the SEC.
It's this kind of disparity in the polls that drives the rest of the nation insane.
BCS National Championship: Notre Dame vs. Georgia
Notre Dame, barring an act of God, is already prepared to head to the national championship as the top-ranked team in the BCS.
Georgia and Alabama are favored:
But this seems to be a bit presumptuous.
The Irish have had an excellent run defense all season, and when Georgia struggles to run the ball, it struggles to win.
In the Dawgs' worst rushing game of the season, against South Carolina, they also just so happened to have their only loss.
Granted, they pulled out the win a week later when the rushing game only garnered 115 yards against Kentucky, but only squeaked out the win by five over the lowly Wildcats.
Notre Dame is in, but Georgia has to overcome the massive roadblock that is Alabama.
BCS National Championship: Alabama vs. Notre Dame
This is the most likely pairing to take place in the BCS final, and it features two storied programs. One without a title in two decades and another looking to repeat its 2011 national title.
Alabama has to go through a tough Georgia squad to get here, while Notre Dame's seat is already assured.
The history and tradition taking the field for this game would make this a dream matchup for college football traditionalists.