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Most Desirable BCS Matchups for 2013

Amy DaughtersFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2013

Most Desirable BCS Matchups for 2013

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    After a 2012-13 BCS extravaganza that included a narrow Rose Bowl, a mismatched Orange Bowl, an upset-minded Sugar Bowl, a speedy Fiesta Bowl and a blowout National Championship, it’s titillating to start discussing what may be in the cards for next season.

    Indeed, before everyone starts filling out their mini brackets for the 2014 postseason, let’s not forget that we have one year remaining in the current BCS format.

    And this means that it’s high time to start predicting which teams will participate in the four blockbuster bowls that are starved of any real meaning and then forecasting which two teams will square off for a chance at the most coveted crystal pigskin in all of sport.

    The following slideshow tackles this prognostication project by offering not just one desirable matchup for each 2013-14 BCS bowl, but goes one step further by providing three delicious options for each postseason celebration.

    The key word in this presentation is “desirable,” which indicates that these matchups are all about what fans and the bowls themselves might want as opposed to what will actually happen.

    It’s more like visiting the Fantasyland section at Disneyworld than taking a trip to your local gastro center to get a colonoscopy.

    The first option transports you to a place where reality is blurred by hope and limitless possibilities while the second alternative is going to happen whether you want it to or not.

    Returning starter data used in this presentation comes via Phil Steele’s comprehensive listing.

     

Rose Bowl I: Ohio State vs. USC

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    Though based on the 2012 season the Trojans might struggle to win the Pac-12 south division, much less the conference title in 2013, USC has participated in more Rose Bowls than any other team in history making them a highly desirable target.

    The Trojans pull in the type of talent, attract the media attention and offer the prestige and tradition that make them an attractive choice for any bowl.

    When you throw in the fact that its rabid fan base is local to Pasadena, suddenly you have to think that Rose Bowl organizers are secretly rooting for USC to win the league each and every season.

    Pairing the Trojans with Ohio State for the 2013-14 “Granddaddy of them All” is pleasing for several distinct reasons.

    First, you’ve got the Buckeyes presumably winning the Big Ten and proving that the 12-0 record in 2012 was the real deal.

    Secondly, you’ve got Urban Meyer back in the BCS for the first time since 2009 and all-in for his first ever Rose Bowl appearance.

    Next, you’ve got the absolutely rabid Ohio State fanbase that has waded through the muck of 24 months of offseason drama to get to the Promised Land of the Bucks first Rose Bowl since 2009-10.

    Even if this potential clash wasn’t a fan favorite from a national perspective, it’s just the ticket for the Pac-12, the Big Ten and the bowl itself.

     

Rose Bowl II: Michigan vs. Arizona

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    Thinking a bit more out of the box than in our first Rose Bowl option, Michigan vs. Arizona presents several quality advantages.

    First, while it’s fair to point out that Arizona in its first ever Rose Bowl wouldn’t necessarily be the same as Oregon, USC, UCLA or Stanford going from a media-attractiveness perspective, it’s important to keep in mind that if the Wildcats did make the big time it would mean that they had won the conference.

    Yes, it’s hard to gauge just how much media momentum would be built up by Arizona (led by second year head coach Rich Rodriguez) capturing its first Pac-12 title since sharing the crown way back in 1993.

    That’s exciting stuff.

    Secondly, you’ve got Michigan, a team that disappointed in Brady Hoke’s second season in 2012, capturing its first Big Ten title since sharing the championship in 2004.

    And though Arizona fans might not flock westward to the tune of other groups, don’t you know Wolverine fans would buy up every available ticket?

    Finally, and really the best bit of all, you’ve got the titillating prospect of ex-Michigan coach and all-around not-so-well-thought-of-in-Ann-Arbor Rich Rod squaring off with his ex-employer for a coveted Rose Bowl title.

    Oh the irony, oh the intrigue, oh the desirability.

     

Rose Bowl III: Nebraska vs. Stanford

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    Making a move back to a more traditional matchup, Nebraska vs. Stanford in the 2013-14 Rose Bowl not only is attractive, it arguably is the most realistic clash on our list.

    What’s got to make this potential meeting look sweet to Rose Bowl organizers is that you’ve got a semi-local fanbase (Stanford) that can easily make the trip south combined with a Midwest based group that travels as well as any in the nation.

    Beyond that, the matchup would mean that Nebraska had captured its first ever Big Ten crown and the first Cornhusker league title since winning the Big 12 in 1999.

    Throw in the fact that Nebraska is 0-2 all-time in Rose Bowl play and haven’t participated since 2002 and you’ve got the freshness of a new dawn.

    From a Stanford perspective you’ve got the attractiveness of a program that is trending decidedly upwards that should play stifling defense (which will be true if the Cardinal has managed to win back-to-back Pac-12 titles) which offers an intriguing matchup with the Huskers.

    On top of all of this it’s interesting to point out that Nebraska and Stanford have only met once on the gridiron previously, in the Rose Bowl way back in 1941 when the Cardinal bested the Huskers 21-14.

     

Fiesta Bowl I: Texas vs. Texas A&M

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    At some point the Longhorns and Aggies will renew their rivalry in a postseason match-up, so why not the 2013-14 Fiesta Bowl?

    One of the few bright spots to be found from Texas A&M bolting the Big 12 for the SEC and summarily ending its 118-year rivalry with Texas is that the two are now eligible to meet in the postseason.

    The upsides to this meeting are fairly obvious; it’s an already heated rivalry that has been further flamed by one program basically moving conferences to snub the other and get out from under the other’s perceived thumb.

    It’s a classic hate-fest fueled by the big brother vs. little brother mentality.

    This clash actually coming together would mean first that the Longhorns, a team that per Phil Steele returns the most starters in the FBS in 2013, would win the Big 12 for the first time since 2009.

    Next, it means that Texas A&M would manage to nab one of only two SEC BCS bowl bids which it would have to do by finishing the season ranked as the second highest SEC representative in the final BCS standings.

    It’s important to note that the Aggies could do this, as Florida did last year, by sitting out of the SEC title game with a good enough record to keep them above the rest of the pack in the BCS rankings.

Fiesta Bowl II: Texas vs. Notre Dame

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    Sticking with the concept of Mack Brown finally righting the ship at Texas with the help of a boatload of returning starters, the Longhorns win the Big 12 and face Notre Dame in the 2013-14 Fiesta Bowl.

    In this scenario Notre Dame doesn’t win out and make the title game, but it finishes in the Top 8 of the BCS standings and the Fiesta Bowl literally leaps at the chance to offer them a bid on the legal basis of the “Notre Dame Rule.”

    What’s attractive about this matchup is first the return of the Irish to the BCS to right the wrongs of their embarrassing showing against Alabama in the 2012-13 title game.

    Yes, the Irish are here to prove that Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame program are on the right track and can win postseason games vs. heavy hitters despite an independent schedule that gets accused of being soft.

    Secondly, you’ve got a similar desirable situation with Texas finally returning to a somewhat elite status which means it finally re-cashes in on its recruiting prowess.

    On top of all this, you’ve got two old-guard, traditional powerhouses with substantial fanbases oozing with money squaring off in a major bowl game.

    Even though it doesn’t really matter who wins, it seems highly important with such big wigs on the field.

    Really from a revenue generating perspective, both in ticket sales and TV viewership, this is one of the best matchups on our entire list.

     

Fiesta Bowl III: Oklahoma vs. Nebraska

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    For our third Fiesta Bowl option let’s assume that Texas tanks and Oklahoma, despite only 11 returning starters, wins the Big 12 for the seventh time in 10 years

    And then let’s further imagine that Nebraska doesn’t win the Big Ten, but finishes high enough in the final BCS standings to receive an at-large bid that is the conference’s second and final BCS berth.

    You could also argue that this is one of the more realistic scenarios presented in this forum.

    Beyond two traditional powerhouses slugging it out in the final season of the BCS as we know it, Oklahoma vs. Nebraska oozes with desirability in that it would represent the renewal of one of the great rivalries in the history of the game.

    Oklahoma vs. Nebraska, like Texas vs. Texas A&M, was a cost associated with a major conference realignment move; in this case it occurred when the Huskers fled the Big 12 for the Big Ten after the 2010 season.

    Before that, the two stalwarts had clashed 86 times, a number that included two Big 12 championships that both were won by Oklahoma.

    Other than these two conference title meetings, the Sooners and Huskers have only squared off in the postseason once, in the 1979 Orange Bowl, a contest that Oklahoma won 31-24.

    Though definitely a bit old school, this would be a highly watched and more than likely toughly contested bowl extravaganza.

     

Sugar Bowl I: Ohio State vs. Florida

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    For our first whack at the 2013-14 Sugar Bowl we’ll throw out a dandy with Ohio State vs. Florida.

    This matchup coming to fruition would mean that Florida would either win the SEC and not ascend to the national title game (not likely), or the Gators would similarly make the Sugar Bowl by finishing as the second highest ranked SEC team in the BCS standings (which is exactly what they did last season).

    Ohio State, on the other hand, wouldn’t win the Big Ten but they would finish, like the Gators, high enough in the final BCS to grab its league’s coveted second maximum bid.

    What’s alluring about a potential Buckeyes vs. Gators extravaganza in New Orleans is fairly obvious; old coach faces ex-program with new program.

    Yes, what could be better than watching Urban Meyer coach against his old home team Florida with his new home team Ohio State?

    And what better place to pull the lever on the emotional rollercoaster than in New Orleans at the BCS Sugar Bowl?

    Beyond the enthralling Urban Meyer angle, this matchup would be well received due to the fact that it features two great programs from two great conferences.

    It’s hard to imagine that Florida fans wouldn’t travel better to see their team square off with Ohio State vs. their poor showing  against Louisville last season, and this is true regardless of the opponent’s coach.

    For Buck-nuts, the return to the BCS, especially vs. an SEC foe, would be hard to resist and the ante gets upped when nut-lovers are given an opportunity to leave their cold winter state for a couple of steamy nights in the Big Easy.

     

Sugar Bowl II: Wisconsin vs. Arkansas

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    Going in an entirely different direction for a second option for the Sugar Bowl, Wisconsin and Arkansas beat the odds and find their respective paths to the BCS.

    For Wisconsin, this means getting over the loss of coach Bret Bielema and returning to the BCS for the fourth consecutive year, but not as the four-peat Big Ten champs.

    For Arkansas, it utilizes its new coach, again Bret Bielema, and doesn’t win the SEC but climbs out of the despair of 2012 to finish as the second highest ranked SEC team in the final BCS standings.

    From a purely logical standpoint it would seem more likely that we’ll see Wisconsin in a BCS game this coming season than Arkansas, but as we know in college football, anything can and will happen.

    What’s inherently attractive about this potential meeting is the obvious twist of Bret Bielema, who once quipped “We at the Big Ten don’t want to be like the SEC – in any way, shape or form” coaching an SEC team vs. his ex-employer Wisconsin.

    Add in the fact that this means that Bielema has been immediately successful at Arkansas and that the Badgers have moved on victoriously without their turncoat leader and you’ve got a provocative postseason cocktail.

Sugar Bowl III: LSU vs. Michigan

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    Taking a final swing at the Sugar Bowl, let’s assume that LSU regains momentum and gets back into the BCS mix after taking 2012 off.

    Yes, the Tigers make Sugar Bowl organizers oh so happy by drawing a wild fanbase down I-10 and from all points within the state of Louisiana to New Orleans where fandom combines with alcohol saturation in a not-so-delicate fashion.

    This scenario means that LSU hasn’t won the SEC (unless it has done so but missed out on the BCS title game; again, not likely), but instead that they’ve finished high enough to grab the league's singular “at-large” bid.

    The Tigers’ northern foe in this case study is Michigan, which also doesn’t win its conference, but similarly grabs a bid based on a high enough final BCS ranking.

    The attractive points regarding this clash are plentiful.

    First, you’re dealing with two major, tradition-rich programs that haven’t ever met on the gridiron; a fact that’s pretty fascinating given that the two have been playing the game since 1878 (Michigan) and 1893 (LSU).

    Next, these are both programs which demand media attention and have fan bases that do and will travel, and though these pluses have nothing do with football they do rate high on the desirability scale.

    Lastly, and perhaps most deliciously, you’ve got a little personal twist that pits the quirky Les Miles against his alma mater.

    Yes, the Mad Hatter’s college football career began at Michigan where he played OL from 1974-75 before breaking into coaching as a Wolverines' GA from 1980-82.

    Miles definitely has a bit of a Cajun flavoring sprinkled on his Midwestern roots, but it’s always fascinating to watch a guy be reminded of where he came from in a competitive situation.

    Hoke vs. Miles; two Ohio boys squaring off in the Big Easy…who would have ever thunk it?

     

Orange Bowl I: Clemson vs. Nebraska

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    Clemson vs. Nebraska in the 2013-14 Orange Bowl might be one of the most far-fetched matchups on our entire list.

    Sure, Clemson could recapture the ACC title in 2013, but the last time a Big Ten team went the Orange Bowl was back in 2009-10 when Iowa faced Georgia Tech for all the fruit.

    Prior to that it was 2005-06 when Penn State took on Florida State that a Big Ten squad travelled to Miami (Fla.), which means that, though possible, it’s not probable and would be complicated.

    But, Clemson vs. Nebraska could happen and if it did it would present a wholly desirable clash.

    First, you’ve got an Orange Bowl that has frankly been strapped with some fairly un attractive matchups cashing in on the ACC champ taking on what would be a highly ranked Big Ten team.

    Though the Huskers wouldn’t have won the conference title if they make the Orange Bowl this coming season, they will have been close enough to smell it and they won’t have more than one or two losses.

    Next, you’ve got two teams that are arguably just steps away from being national championship contenders, meaning that this is a game that may eventually become the prelude to a title run in 2014-15.

    Lastly, these two major programs have only met twice in history; the most recent meeting coming in the 2008-09 Gator Bowl when the Huskers triumphed 26-21.

    Prior to that, and here’s the kicker, the two clashed for all the marbles (the big ones) in the 1981-82 Orange Bowl when Clemson bested Nebraska 22-15 to capture its one-and-only national championship.

    That’s exciting stuff.

     

Orange Bowl II: Florida State vs. Louisville

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    Though Florida State facing Louisville in the 2013-14 Orange Bowl is a very realistic prediction, it honestly lacks a real measure of desirability.

    In a statement that could be filed under the heading “harsh but true,” the Orange Bowl, along with the other non-championship BCS games, doesn’t necessarily gain a lot by welcoming the Big East champ to its postseason party.

    Sure, this is the final season the Big East will have an AQ BCS bid, but that doesn’t mean that the bowl that gets saddled with the winner has to be happy about it.

    And this is especially true to the Orange Bowl, a group that had the benefit of hosting the BCS title game in 2012-13, but also got strapped with the Northern Illinois vs. Florida State blockbuster meeting.

    But, the truth is that beyond all the negative talk, there would be some merit to Big East champ Louisville squaring off with ACC title holder Florida State in the 2013-14 Orange Bowl.

    The attractiveness of this specific potential meeting is first, the national audience gets an opportunity to see if Louisville, who knocked off Florida in last season’s Sugar Bowl, really does have the stuff that can make it more than a one-hit wonder.

    Secondly, what the Cardinals vs. Seminoles meeting also represents is what could become a major power struggle in the future expanded ACC.

    Indeed, with reports that Louisville will join Florida State in the ACC Atlantic division beginning in 2014, a potential clash in the 2013-14 Orange Bowl might be the beginning of a yearly grudge match with huge implications.

     

Orange Bowl III: Miami (Fla.) vs. Notre Dame

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    Moving completely away from the idea that either Florida State or Clemson will win the ACC next season and earn an Orange Bowl bid, for option three we’ll assume that Miami (Fla.) finally finds the head of the class.

    For this scenario to actually come to fruition a couple of key things must happen; first, the Hurricane’s have to dodge the bullet of what are still-pending NCAA sanctions and be post-season eligible in 2013-14.

    Beyond this unknown, Miami must manage to win what would be its first league title since winning a share of the Big East in 2003 to get to the Orange Bowl.

    To put a finer point on it, the Hurricanes would have to win their first ACC title of any kind to make what would be their first BCS appearance since 2003-04.

    But, if this were to all happen, magically, how thrilled would be the Orange Bowl be to welcome its home team back home?

    And then throw in a potential clash with old-foe Notre Dame and suddenly the Orange Bowl is what it used to be.

    Back in the day, when Miami was vying for titles in the '80s and early '90s, the Hurricanes were the anti-Irish in every conceivable way.

    In fact, the Hurricanes clashed with the Irish every season from 1971-90 and Miami beat Notre Dame as a part of its championship runs in 1983, 1987 and 1989.

    The Irish and Hurricanes reuniting in a BCS bowl game, especially the Orange Bowl, would have all the stuff that blockbusters are made of.

     

BCS Championship I: Texas vs. Texas A&M

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    On to the final singular BCS championship game, we’ll start with what we listed as option one for the Fiesta Bowl.

    The Longhorns and the Aggies squaring off for a national championship would take the desirability factors we presented in the Fiesta Bowl slide and amp it up to explosive levels.

    Though on the surface this might, in a sickly way, seem like a regional conflict, in reality it would be the SEC vs. the Big 12, big brother vs. little brother and perhaps one of the most anticipated title games in recent history.

    The truth is when the battle for all the marbles comes down to what is a civil war, pitting neighbor against neighbor, who wouldn’t want to watch?

    Throw in the fact that Texas A&M’s fantasies would all come true with beating down Texas in the national championship and that the Longhorns would like nothing better than to smack down the brainwashed Ags and leave them in the dust and you’ve got a provocative possibility.

    Since the Longhorns and Aggies would both likely be undefeated for this to happen, the game would be oozing with the irony that before 2012 it could have never happened.

    As a Texas Tech fan, I’d wear all my scarlet and black to watch this one and then I’d root for Baylor.

     

BCS Championship II: USC vs. Tennessee

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    So, what if Lane Kiffin licks his wounds and does in 2013 what he should have done in 2012?

    And, at the same time what if Butch Jones transforms Tennessee’s stockpile of talent, which is sitting in an under-utilized heap somewhere near Neyland stadium, and takes the Vols on an unprecedented run that ends in Pasadena, Calif. on Jan. 6, 2014?

    Though it all seems bizarre, completely, how many folks had Notre Dame in last season’s title game, Auburn facing Oregon in 2010-11, a two-loss LSU facing a one-loss Ohio State in 2007-08 and Ohio State nipping Miami (Fla.) in double overtime in 2002-03?

    What you have to love about college sports is its utter unpredictability, much like a marriage shaken up with a PMS and testosterone smoothie.

    The first alluring factor of a potential USC vs. Tennessee national championship (and it could happen) is the new blood it would pump into the game.

    Sure, it’s still an SEC team, but it’s a team from the SEC East (the first since Florida went in 2008-09) and it would represent the first Tennessee title berth since the very first year of the BCS back in 1998-99.

    Next, you’ve got the first Pac-12 squad in the championship since Oregon lost to Auburn in 2010-11 and the first USC appearance since it squared off with Texas in the 2005-06 classic.

    This is all big news for a title tilt that has featured Alabama three of the last four goes.

    Beyond all of this, and the fact that these are two old-guard programs with rabid fan bases, is the fact that the game would mean that the hated Lane Kiffin would stand between the Volunteers and their first national championship since 1998.

    The irony would be well beyond terrific and the fact that the matchup would breathe new air into an affair under the steady influence of “the same old, same old” would be as refreshing as Purdue winning the Big Ten.

BCS Championship III: USC vs. Alabama

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    It’s probably no surprise that, according to team recruiting rankings provided by Rivals.com, that on average Alabama and USC are the No. 1 and No. 2 programs in recruiting since 2009.

    But, it is somewhat a shock that in this same time period that Alabama has won three national crowns while USC is 34-17 since 2009 with zero titles.

    Of course it didn’t help the Trojans that they suffered postseason bans for two of these years and also survived a major leadership change, but still with top 10 recruiting classes every year you would frankly expect less than 17 losses.

    USC and Alabama in the 2013-14 BCS title game represents a slew of desirable things with the frontrunner being the Trojans getting the next whack at knocking both Alabama and the SEC off the top of the heap.

    Next, you’ve got the fact that this game is set to be played in the Rose Bowl, which is in the Trojans' backyard.

    Suddenly it takes the game off the SEC’s home turf and returns it squarely on the West Coast, where a Pac-12 team hasn’t vied for the crystal football since 2005-06 when USC and Texas played in one of the most memorable title games in history.

    It some strange way the Trojans and Tide in the Rose Bowl for the BCS national championship almost looks like a power shift waiting to happen.

    That is, of course, until you consider Nick Saban going head-to-head with Lane Kiffin to see who can out-coach whom.

    Either way, and no matter how you slice it or dice it, the two most talented teams in the land squaring off for the big, cheesy enchilada in a display of sheer speed, power and athleticism must be considered alluring.

    The only thing that could possibly trump this would be a national title game completely devoid of an SEC representative, an option that doesn’t seem remotely possible until somebody finally steps up and makes it happen.

     

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