BCS Bowl Games 2012-13: Most Intriguing Matchups in Each Game
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Bowl season is well underway, but the real action begins New Year's Day when the BCS bowls kick off.
Starting off with a Rose Bowl showdown between two smashmouth teams in Wisconsin and Stanford, the BCS bowl season should give fans plenty of intriguing matchups to keep an eye on.
Whether it's Manti Te'o and the Notre Dame defense trying to shut down Alabama's NFL-caliber rushing attack, or seeing which offense will outscore the other in the Fiesta Bowl, January promises to be an exciting month of college football.
Let's take a look at the most intriguing matchups in each of the BCS bowl games.
Rose Bowl: Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas, LBs (Stanford) vs. Montee Ball, RB (Wisconsin)
Fans of a classic slobber knocker will love this battle between two NFL-caliber linebackers and perhaps the best running back in the country.
Though he hasn't been quite the same player since tearing his ACL in 2011, inside linebacker Shayne Skov is still one of the most talented defenders in the country.
The Cardinal will need the 6'3", 242-pounder to be physical in the hole as they try and stop the ultra-productive Montee Ball.
With Skov taking on blockers, it should open up room for running mate Chase Thomas to fill the holes and stop Ball—the nation's fourth-leading rusher with 1,730 yards and 21 touchdowns.
One of the most complete outside linebackers in the nation, Thomas also brings incredible size to the table (6'4", 248 pounds) and has a knack for making plays in the backfield (14 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks).
Stanford will need both its stalwarts to play the game of their lives if it hopes to shut down Wisconsin's work horse.
Orange Bowl: Jordan Lynch, QB (Northern Illinois) vs. FSU Front Seven
While Johnny Manziel garnered all the attention for his amazing dual-threat capabilities, it's actually Northern Illinois's Jordan Lynch who produced more yards and the same number of total touchdowns as the Heisman Trophy winner.
Incredibly, Lynch finished the regular season as the nation's third-leading rusher, ahead of star backs like Montee Ball, Kenjon Barner and Eddie Lacy.
Besides providing a true running threat, Lynch is also an accomplished passer, throwing for nearly 3,000 yards while posting an excellent 24:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Stopping Lynch will be priority No. 1 for Florida State, who will be missing star defensive end Cornellius "Tank" Carradine (torn ACL).
Despite the loss of their leading tackler, the Seminoles still have a deep front seven, particularly along the defensive line.
Probable top-10 pick Bjoern Werner anchors a talented front four which also includes defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and freshman Mario Edwards, Jr.
Along with linebackers Christian Jones and Telvin Smith, FSU's front seven is among the best in the nation, but it'll have a tough task stopping the dangerous Lynch.
Sugar Bowl: Will Muschamp (Florida) vs. Charlie Strong (Louisville)
This game shouldn't be close, so the only storyline that may prove interesting is the battle of both programs' head coaches.
Since taking over in December 2010, Will Muschamp has transformed Florida from a broken program into a viable national title contender.
The defensive-minded Muschamp led the Gators to a surprising 11-1 record, including wins against Texas A&M, LSU and South Carolina.
On the other sideline stands Charlie Strong, a name that should be familiar to Gators fans.
Before taking the head coaching job at Louisville, Strong engineered two championship defenses for the Gators, sending guys like Channing Crowder, Derrick Harvey, Reggie Nelson and Ray McDonald to the NFL.
Strong has also turned around the Louisville program, and it will be interesting to see how he plans to attack the Gators' run-first attack.
Fiesta Bowl: Marcus Mariota, QB (Oregon) vs. Collin Klein, QB (Kansas State)
The over/under in the matchup between Oregon and Kansas State currently sits at 75, but it'll be hard to take the under if Marcus Mariota and Collin Klein play up to their capabilities.
Mariota, a 6'4", 196-pound freshman, runs Chip Kelly's high-octane offense with incredible efficiency and is one of the best overall playmakers in the country.
Though the Ducks ultimately fell short of their quest for a national championship, Mariota's first year at the helm was a highly successful one.
Oregon's signal-caller completed 70 percent of his passes for 2,511 yards and a stellar 30:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He also chipped in 690 yards on the ground and four more scores.
Trying to go score for score against Mariota will be Heisman finalist Collin Klein.
Kansas State's No. 1 threat didn't finish the season strong, but his overall numbers were still impressive.
The Wildcats quarterback accounted for nearly 3,500 total yards and scored an incredible 22 rushing touchdowns while leading his team to an 11-1 record.
Scoring should be at a premium in this matchup, so watch out for both quarterbacks to make big plays with their arms and on the ground.
BCS National Championship: Manti Te'o, LB (Notre Dame) vs. Eddie Lacy, RB (Alabama)
It's a shame Manti Te'o couldn't cap off his incredibly resilient senior season with a Heisman Trophy, but settling for a national championship wouldn't be a bad consolation prize.
Notre Dame's emotional and physical leader quarterbacks the nation's best defense and is arguably the best defensive player in the country.
The fierce middle linebacker utilizes his 6'2", 255-pound frame to punish ball carriers, but don't think he's just a one-trick pony.
In what turned out to be his best overall season of his four-year career, Te'o displayed a pair of sticky hands, tied for second in the nation with seven interceptions.
However, Notre Dame won't be counting on its defensive leader to break up passes in the national title game, as they'll need Te'o to combat Alabama's fantastic rushing attack.
The Crimson Tide feature a bevy of talented running backs, but none more scary than NFL-bound junior Eddie Lacy.
Like predecessor Trent Richardson, the 6'1", 220-pound Lacy is an absolute animal with the ball in his hands, shedding would-be tacklers with such ferocity it makes you cringe.
For such a big back, his 6.4 yards-per-carry average really stands out. His 16 touchdowns and dominating 181-yard, two-touchdown performance against Georgia in the SEC Championship doesn't hurt, either.
If Te'o and the Fighting Irish hope to complete a magical 2012 season, it comes down to stopping Lacy and the Crimson Tide's rushing attack.
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