College football's BCS bowl games are set and already teams are being counted out from contention. Notre Dame will face Alabama, and no one is giving them a shot to upset the defending champions.
Likewise, the MAC champion Northern Illinois Huskies are being given little chance at competing with the champions of the ACC, the Florida State Seminoles.
But what these critics fail to see is the unpredictable nature of bowl games and college football in general. There is ALWAYS a matchup or a team that matches up better against another team that you just don't expect.
Bowl season in 2012-13 is no different. It's actually the best time to see those upsets come to life because there are so many games that happen that are not typical matchups.
Take a look at three underdogs, including the Fighting Irish, that will come out on top of their BCS bowl games.
Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio: Wisconsin vs. Stanford
The Wisconsin Badgers find themselves in a BCS bowl game despite having lost five games during the 2012 season. That’s a staggering number of losses for a team who won this game just one season ago.
Stanford, on the other hand, has revived its season after dropping two disappointing games earlier in the season to No. 1-ranked Notre Dame and Washington.
Neither team has a lost a game that’s been decided by more than seven points. That softens the blow a little for the Badgers, who are coming off on an offensive explosion against the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Big Ten Championship Game. Wisconsin put up 70 points, winning by 39 to reach the Rose Bowl in convincing fashion.
Stanford is no slouch, either, though. The Cardinal knocked off the high-flying Oregon Ducks on Nov. 17 and then defeated the UCLA Bruins in consecutive weeks to get them to Pasadena.
The advantage here has to go to the Badgers, who play a stout defense and also have the ability to win the battle along the offensive line. That’s helped the team dictate the pace of games with senior running back Montee Ball.
Ball became the all-time FBS leader in touchdowns against Penn State. He could add the exclamation point to an excellent senior season with a strong final performance.
The Cardinal may have the third-ranked rush defense in the FBS, but Ball and that offensive line are a capable unit and should be able to help move the sticks.
Prediction: Badgers 17, Cardinal 14
Discover Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. Northern Illinois
Like the Boise State Broncos before them, these BCS busters are not coming just for the free trip to Florida. Just like the Broncos, not many people are giving the Huskies a chance at winning against the ACC’s best, Florida State.
Head coach Dave Doeren took the head coaching position at North Carolina State just one day before the announcement that his Huskies were BCS bound. Rod Carey, the team’s offensive coordinator and offensive line coach earlier in the season, will lead them against the Noles in Florida.
Carey commented on the Huskies’ players and their chances on Jan. 1, according to Ben Strauss of NYTimes.com.
“Just about every one of these guys was told he wasn’t good enough, that he wasn’t wanted by one of the bigger schools. That creates that chip, and they come here to work,” he said.
It’ll be a hostile and tough environment for the Huskies, but they have certainly proven they have what it takes to win football games. Now all they have to do is travel south and prove it in their biggest test ever.
The biggest matchup will be the Huskies’ ninth-ranked rush offense against the Seminoles’ fifth-ranked rush defense. Florida State has shut down the run for much of the season, giving up just 93 yards per game to opposing rushing attacks.
Despite that success, the team has still surrendered 10 rushing touchdowns. That’s something the Huskies will look to exploit when they’re in the red zone. Northern Illinois has been efficient, scoring 80 percent of the time (34 rush TD/ 15 pass TD/ 6 FG) when reaching an opponent's red zone. Teams have scored on 25 of 29 red-zone attempts against the Noles this season.
Prediction: Huskies 21, Seminoles 17
Discover BCS National Championship Game: Notre Dame vs. Alabama
It’s truly the national title game that the majority of college football fans wanted to see. Now that it’s set, no one seems to think the Fighting Irish have much of a chance to prevent Alabama from winning its third title in four seasons.
The Irish have the perfect type of team to challenge the Crimson Tide. Despite its defense-first mentality, Notre Dame has game-changing athletes on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, its imposing offensive line matches up well against the very strong Crimson Tide front-seven. If the men up front can get hats on the defenders and get to the next level, dynamic backs Cierre Wood and George Atkinson III may be able to break some big plays.
If the Tide stack the box, the Irish have an answer for that too. Theo Riddick, a former receiver, has the ability to catch passes from the backfield and create plays in space. Everett Golson also has the ability to extend plays once he’s out of the pocket and could give Alabama trouble if he gets free.
We all remember what Johnny Football was able to do against Bama in the team’s only loss of the season.
Defensively, the Fighting Irish match up well against the Nick Saban’s offense. Stopping the run and winning the battle at the line of scrimmage has been key in the team finishing fourth in rush defense. Notre Dame allowed just two rushing touchdowns all season and just 92.42 yards per game on the ground.
If they shut down the run, its pass defense should be able to keep AJ McCarron and the Tide receivers in check. Deep threat receiver Kenny Bell broke his leg against Auburn and will likely be unable to play in the title game.
Notre Dame is allowing an FBS-best 9.68 yards per completion, a number that should concern Saban and McCarron as they prepare without their home-run hitter. Without big plays, or the threat of those plays, the game will become a lot more predictable and the Irish match good enough to pull off the upset.
Prediction: Fighting Irish 23, Alabama 21