Having 35 bowl games matching up teams from different FBS conferences can lead to lots of unexpected outcomes, but one thing we know for sure is that at least a few squads will get exposed.
And by get exposed we don’t mean that there will be a sudden wave of streaking this bowl season; instead it’s all about stalking into the postseason as a top-ranked program only to limp back out with question marks spinning through the winter air.
Yes, suddenly what became momentum going into next season becomes months filled with much needed recovery and angst.
To illustrate, think back to last season’s Orange Bowl when Clemson looked to be the favorite over West Virgina only to suffer a beatdown that will be difficult for Tiger fans to ever come to grips with.
The following slideshow pinpoints five teams that have a great shot of getting totally exposed in the 2012-13 bowl season.
Each of these squads have enjoyed significant success this season, but either due to a slate of regular-season foes that hid an alternate truth or a bowl meeting with an overmatched opponent may fall unexpectedly in the weeks ahead.
Well, it’s hard to argue the Badgers' three consecutive Big Ten titles and that despite the fact that the most recent crown came via a race that didn’t include perfect Ohio State and a decent Penn State team.
But, is getting into the Rose Bowl with a team that went 8-5 overall and 4-4 in a weak Big Ten just a disaster waiting to happen rather than an opportunity?
The unranked Badgers squaring off with No. 6 Stanford won’t be a high-flying affair, and since we’re talking about two rushing offenses that rely heavily on stifling defenses, don’t expect a blowout.
But, should Wisconsin be careful what it wished for in getting to the BCS via a very unlikely path and should what is a young team—not a bad team—truthfully have waited till next year before facing a Top 10 team in the biggest non-championship bowl game?
Though it’s impossible not to be impressed what Kent State has done this season, especially in light of its somewhat dim outcome over the last couple of decades, what kind of foundation have the Flashes built this season on?
And, can this underpinning provide enough stability for Kent State’s first bowl win in program history?
What’s unsettling about the 11-2 Golden Flashes is an offense that is one-dimensional in a run-dominated sort of way and then a pass defense that has struggled big time this season.
And what makes things worse from a “you’re going to get exposed” perspective is that these weaknesses match up poorly with Kent State’s bowl opponent Arkansas State.
First, the Red Wolves have a passing attack that has averaged 264 yards per game, a huge threat to a Golden Flashes’ D that has allowed 276 yards per game earning them the dubious ranking of No. 111 in the nation.
Next, Arkansas State has been successful vs. the run all season (allowing only 153 yards per game on the ground) which matches up very well with Kent State’s run-dominated attack (ranked No. 15 in rushing yards vs. No. 114 in passing yards).
Though the Red Wolves don’t seem to present the kind of threat to Kent State that say TCU would, what if the ASU D manages to force a running team to pass and then shreds the Flashes’ very questionable secondary?
When you look at Clemson’s 10 wins in 2012, you really have to ask yourself who the Tigers have beaten.
Though it’s not Clemson’s fault that the ACC pumped out one of its worst football fields in recent history, it means that the Tigers got to double-digit wins in a much easier fashion than did squads from other major conferences.
Clemson’s ACC wins this season pretty much speak for themselves: at Boston College, vs. Georgia Tech vs. Virginia Tech, at Wake Forest, at Duke, vs. Maryland and vs. NC State.
So, what happens when the Tigers' No. 6-ranked scoring offense, with a statistical resume built on a slate of opponents that have struggled in 2012, squares off with LSU’s No. 11-ranked scoring defense in the Chick-fil-A Bowl?
Will LSU lay down the hammer on Clemson, prevent the kind of points that has been necessary to win games 45-31, 47-31 and 62-48 over Boston College, Georgia Tech and NC State respectively?
And then what does a defense that ranks No. 62 vs. the run and No. 82 vs. the pass do with a LSU offense than hung up 37 points on a good Mississippi State team late in the season?
It’s almost heart-wrenching to say that Clemson, a team that suffered a devastating fate in last season’s Orange Bowl, will be exposed in this year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl, but it could happen.
And if you don’t think so, look at the box score from the South Carolina game, a defense that hasn’t had the success of LSU’s this season but still managed to hold Clemson to 17 points and 328 total yards.
After icing Alabama in Tuscaloosa and capturing the program’s first Heisman since 1957, it seems almost ridiculous to assert that Texas A&M won’t ride out of the Cotton Bowl, and the 2012 season, draped in the glory it's fought so hard to earn.
But, what if the “other” difference (besides the new coaching staff and Johnny Football) from last season to the current campaign is that the Aggies' defense didn’t have to cope with the pass-happy Big 12?
And what if all this ends on Friday, Jan. 4 in the Cotton Bowl?
Though it sounds ludicrous on the surface the numbers don’t lie—A&M’s No. 81-ranked pass defense will have to put the hammer down on Oklahoma’s No. 5 pass offense.
And what happened the last time the Aggies faced a high-flying pass O?
Well, that was the game with Louisiana Tech; the team with the No. 4-ranked passes offense, and if you remember, that was a contest that pushed Texas A&M to the brink.
The final score was 59-57 in favor of the Aggies, but La Tech hung up 450 passing yards on A&M’s D and this was minus the athletes that the Sooners have and, oh yeah, Oklahoma’s defense which may be a bit more stifling.
Not only will the Irish’s somewhat questionable offense face the best defense they have met with all season in the BCS title game, Notre Dame’s vaunted D will square off with, arguably, the most balanced attack it has dealt with in 2012.
Though we all know about Alabama’s top-ranked defense did you know that the Tide have the No. 15-ranked scoring offense in the nation, a unit that has averaged 38.5 points per game?
And this is a very balanced attack which averages 224.62 yards per game on the ground and 214.5 yards per game through the air.
So, can the Irish D contain the Tide O to the same tune that it has its other 12 foes this season and then can the Notre Dame offense manage to score points on Alabama’s defense?
Or, does a team that looks so similar to its own actually present the perfect storm for Notre Dame to fall hard in the title game?
Sometimes when you’ve fought to a 12-0 record and gotten the few, key lucky breaks necessary to go all the way, it’s almost natural to fall especially with the biggest cheesiest enchilada of them all is on the line.
The college football nation might need a non-SEC national champion, but the Irish may not be that team…at least not in 2012.