Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
University of Phoenix Field — Glendale, Ariz., Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN3D
Projected Teams: Oklahoma vs. Connecticut
Matchup: These two teams arrive in Glendale having earned a BCS spot via capturing their respective conference titles. Oklahoma, now with seven, has more than double the number of conference championships as any other Big 12 school. They gave Nebraska a nice parting gift, rallying from a 17-0 hole en route to a 23-20 win in Dallas.
The Huskies, winners of their last five, are officially Big East champs, by virtue of a tiebreaker over West Virginia and the right foot of kicker Dave Teggart, who drilled the game-winner from a career-long 52 yards in the season finale Saturday against South Florida.
Many will consider this a tepid matchup at best. For all intents and purposes, 8-4 UConn is appearing in the BCS by default, while the Sooners haven’t exactly set the big stage ablaze in recent seasons. Clearly, OU is the more talented team, but Bob Stoops’s squad has been schizophrenic in 2010. Will we see the team that looked absolutely indefensible at times against Oklahoma State, or will the defensive lapses that cost the Sooners in losses to Texas A&M and Missouri make the trip out West?
And how effectively, or ineffectively, will Connecticut validate its standing as a BCS participant?
Discover Orange Bowl
Sun Life Stadium — Miami, Fla., Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Projected Teams: Virginia Tech vs. Stanford
Matchup: Hats off to Frank Beamer, who somehow righted a sinking ship. Fresh off a tight loss to Boise State to open the season, Beamer’s Hokies inexplicably lost to FCS opponent James Madison at home and appeared dead in the water. But 11 consecutive wins later and here we are: Virginia Tech has won its fourth ACC title and will undoubtedly be invited to its fourth Orange Bowl.
Save for a road loss against BCS title game-bound Oregon—a game in which the Cardinal led 21-3 after one quarter—Stanford has been downright dominant this season, ranking eighth and 11th in scoring offense and scoring defense, respectively, in the nation. And despite the idea that Stanford fans may be hardened to the idea of traveling across the country, the Cardinal, which should be ranked no worse than fourth in the latest BCS rankings, deserve a spot in this game.
The game itself could be special, featuring two of the more experienced quarterbacks in the country. Tyrod Taylor is capable of beating teams whichever way he chooses, while Andrew Luck has shown he can make plays with both his right arm and legs. Ultimately, however, this game may be decided upon which side can consistently be more physical at the point of attack, particularly in the run game where flaws have proved detrimental to both teams in their three combined losses.
Allstate Sugar Bowl
Louisiana Superdome — New Orleans, La., Jan. 4, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Projected Teams: Ohio State vs. Arkansas
Matchup: Certainly no stranger to January bowls, Ohio State will participate in a BCS game for the eighth time in nine seasons, as well as claim at least a share of the Big Ten title for a record-tying sixth straight year. The consistency is a testament to head coach Jim Tressel, who has amassed 10 or more wins eight times in his 10 seasons in Columbus.
Far more occupationally fickle is Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino, who seems to have made a home in Fayetteville after burning some bridges at both Louisville and Atlanta, home to his short-lived NFL stint. Residents in perhaps the most daunting division in college football, the Razorbacks navigated through the SEC West and emerged a shiny 10-2, just good enough to earn the program its first-ever BCS berth.
At first glance, it’s hard to handicap this matchup, primarily because you never know which Terrelle Pryor will make an appearance. The all-world talent has completed at least 65 percent of his passes in seven games this season, yet he finished the regular season a modest fifth in passing efficiency among Big Ten quarterbacks, which indicates that when he’s off, he’s really off. The junior will have to be better if the Buckeyes offense has a chance of exploiting an Arkansas defense that allowed only 182 yards per game through the air, good for fourth in the SEC.
Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO
Rose Bowl — Pasadena, Calif., Jan. 1, 5 p.m., ESPN
Projected Teams: TCU vs. Wisconsin
Matchup: It wasn’t always easy (or pretty), but Gary Patterson and the Horned Frogs are the lone non-automatic qualifier deserving of a BCS slot. And they have Nevada to thank for that, as the Wolf Pack’s late-season upset of Boise State left no doubt as to who the party-crasher would be among a BCS poll top-heavy with worthy teams from AQ conferences.
Expected to join TCU is Wisconsin, which emerged out of a three-way muddling with Ohio State and Michigan State as the highest-ranked Big Ten team. Including Oregon and Auburn, you could make a case that the Badgers are the best team in the land at the moment, having racked up 201 points and winning by an average of 43 in their last three games.
Something has to give here. It will be strength versus strength, as Wisconsin’s ground game, catalyzed by an offensive line that averages more than 320 pounds, is as effective as any in the country and often imposes its will on opposing teams. Can the Horned Frogs, who have allowed only seven rushing touchdowns as the nation’s third-best unit against the run, hold up and reaffirm their status as a major player in the BCS?
Tostitos BCS National Championship Game
University of Phoenix Stadium — Glendale, Ariz., Jan. 10, 8:30 p.m., ESPN/ESPN3D
Projected Teams: Oregon vs. Auburn
Matchup: Not that any of these BCS matchups are really projections, with the possible exception of the interchangeability of the Fiesta and Orange Bowls, but the teams involved with the National Title game are set in stone and, if you ask me, have been since about mid-October.
You would have to think that defense will be at an all-time premium in this one, and if defenders make a habit of failing to maintain gap responsibility and continually take false steps, it could turn into a five-hour marathon.
With the offenses in high-gear, both teams lean on individual performances—a scenario that figures to favor Auburn. Quarterback Cam Newton has been a special player all season long, and his last two performances have been nothing short of extraordinary, if not legendary. If he has one more in him, he’ll be peddling a crystal football and able to set it neatly alongside his Heisman Trophy.