When negotiating bowl tie-ins, the goal is two-fold. Conferences want to maximize their payouts and put their teams into attractive games.
The ACC and Big Ten have most certainly done both, but in doing so, thanks to the sheer power of the SEC in 2012, they have also set up teams for a few lopsided meetings. Maximizing their tie-ins will, if the chalk holds true, come with some not-so-great days when it comes to winning these postseason contests.
Thanks to Northern Illinois, the Big 12 escaped pairing Texas with Texas A&M—a game that would have not only drawn plenty of discussion, but put the Longhorns disappointing defense up against the likely Heisman Trophy winner in Johnny Manziel. With Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, the Big 12 is playing a game that is a very equal, appealing contest.
The ACC and Big Ten are not so lucky. Thanks to the two-team limit on teams in BCS bowls, which we've already discussed here at Your Best 11, both the Big Ten and ACC will send teams to play elite opponents out of the SEC.
For the ACC, that means Clemson against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. In a game that pits both "Death Valley" and "Tiger Rag" against itself, the real story is going to come on the field. While the Tigers have an explosive offense, their defense has been seemingly nonexistent all season, as evidenced by their 74th ranking in total defense this season.
To say the Orange and Purple Tigers will have their hands full with the Purple and Gold Tigers is just a start. Dabo Swinney and his offense are going to find tough sledding against LSU's defense, much like they did against South Carolina's unit in their season finale loss.
It is not just the ACC that is going to be fighting an uphill battle against the SEC, though. The Big Ten, a league the Big Ten Blog's Adam Jacobi said could go winless in bowls, is staring at games against Top-10 teams as well.
Nebraska against Georgia? Both teams lost their conference title games, albeit in mighty different fashion. The Dawgs fought, competed and ultimately were a game management issue and a tipped pass away from playing Notre Dame in the BCS Championship Game. The Huskers, however, got boat raced by Wisconsin in the most one-sided conference title performance since Colorado got hammered by Texas in 2005.
Georgia's a heck of a football team, with a lot of guys looking to head to the NFL after this ballgame. To say Nebraska will have their hands full is a bit of an understatement. They are going to have to pull off a major upset to beat the No. 7 Bulldogs in the Capital One Bowl.
The Huskers are not the only Legend that has their work cut out for them. Michigan has a date with the South Carolina Gamecocks, No. 10 in the final BCS rankings. The Gamecocks have put in work this season, mashing out the aforementioned Bulldogs team and slapping around the Clemson Tigers on the road.
Michigan, a team that has had trouble scoring points against decent defenses, is going to have to pull a rabbit out of its hat in the Outback Bowl. We're talking about a Denard Robinson-sized rabbit, folks.
Which of the three teams is most likely to beat the SEC?
Yes, the Gamecocks are still without Marcus Lattimore running the ball, but they still have the services of Jadeveon Clowney on the defensive line. That cannot and should not make Michigan fans feel comfortable going into the game.
In these games, things do not look good. It is going to take a lot of effort, a little luck and great execution for the ACC and Big Ten to come out on top in these games against Top-10 teams. However, as the old saying goes, "That's why they play the games."