College football fans will be lucky to see some excellent matchups this postseason, including an Oregon-Kansas State Fiesta Bowl and an old-school national championship between Alabama and Notre Dame.
Still, with the multitude of other bowl games this season, there are always a few mismatches. Bowl season gives us the opportunity to spread out the thrill of Saturday football over the span of two weeks, but don’t expect to enjoy watching these games for very long.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Syracuse (7-5) vs. West Virginia (7-5)
Although both the West Virginia Mountaineers and Syracuse Orange are 7-5, there is a substantial difference in level of play between the Big 12 and the Big East.
The Mountaineers started the season strong and put up impossible numbers early on in the campaign. Unfortunately for Heisman hopeful Geno Smith, the loss to Texas Tech set in motion a slippery slope for the Mountaineers.
They lost five straight before winning their last two over Iowa St. and Kansas.
Syracuse, on the other hand, has allowed the 52nd-most points this season—an average of 25.7 points per game. Still, the Mountaineers eclipsed that point total 10 times this season and are seventh in points-earned. West Virginia also hit highs of 69 and 70.
Conversely, West Virginia has allowed the 116th-most points in the country, but against teams like Kansas State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech.
Syracuse may put up its share of points, but West Virginia wins by three scores.
Capital One Bowl: Nebraska (10-3) vs. Georgia (11-2)
I never like to make the, “the SEC is so much more dominant, so every other team has no chance” argument, but it applies here.
In the SEC Championship, Georgia had No. 2 Alabama dead-to-rights but lost the game with poor clock management.
In the Big Ten Championship—against a Wisconsin team that was only playing because two better teams were facing NCAA sanctions—the Cornhuskers were absolutely embarrassed 70-31.
Now put those two teams head-to-head.
Aaron Murray and Todd Gurley have too much precision and speed to not make Georgia kryptonite against Nebraska’s exploitable defense.
To Georgia’s credit, it fought through this season and put itself in position for national championship consideration (i.e. nearly earned the No. 2 spot in the country).
The true No. 2, had it not been for sanctions, was undefeated Ohio State—to whom, the Huskers lost 63-38.
If Georgia keeps its heads together, this game is over in the first half.
Discover Orange Bowl: Northern Illinois (12-1) vs. Florida State (11-2)
Let’s be clear: Northern Illinois absolutely deserves to be here.
It took care of its business; it played its schedule to a 12-1 record; and it won the MAC in a fantastic championship against Kent State.
That is all any bowl-decision panel can ask a team to do, everything else is out of its control.
Oklahoma did not take care of business; it lost big games to Kansas State and Notre Dame. That is what it was asked to do and it did not succeed.
Texas A&M lost to Florida—a team that was almost beaten by Louisiana Lafayette. It also lost to an overrated LSU team that only beat Auburn 12-10—compare that to Alabama’s 49-0 win in the Iron Bowl and it isn’t even an argument.
So yes, Northern Illinois won when it had to and Kirk Herbstreit will just have to accept that, the same way he accepts the BCS the other 364 days of the year.
That said, Florida State is about to massacre this Huskies team the same way Hawaii lost to Georgia in the 2007 Sugar Bowl. It’s just a mismatch.
Certainly, E.J. Manuel can be thrown off his game the same way he was in a disappointing loss to rival Florida, which could provide an opening for NIU. However, I expect that fear of embarrassment to be more motivating than the NIU’s promise of making history.
I’ll be rooting for NIU, but playing in Miami when they have been on the big stage plenty of times before, the Seminoles have the upper hand here.