As flawed as the BCS system is, this might be the first year the system got most of it right. Besides UConn, the matchups are about as perfect as you can get.
Here is a breakdown of the Rose, Orange, Sugar and Fiesta Bowls.
Wisconsin vs. TCU
Offensively, their styles may be different, but the results are the same. The Badgers and Horned Frogs both love to run the ball.
Wisconsin is 12th in rushing in the FBS averaging 243 yards per game. Running behind one of the best offensive lines, John Clay provides the power and James White brings the speed.
Ask Ohio State how they feel about this dynamic combination. OSU finished fourth in the FBS in rushing defense allowing just 93 yards per game. Clay and White torched them for 188 yards and three touchdowns. Ouch.
Led by Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker, TCU is even better on the ground averaging 261 yards per game. The Horned Frogs like to spread out the field and get their playmakers the ball in space.
Despite the rushing attack, the X factor for both teams is the quarterback. Scott Tolzien and Andy Dalton are both very efficient finishing fourth and fifth respectively this year. They don’t make mistakes.
Defensively, the Horned Frogs finished first in both total defense and scoring defense giving up just 211 yards and 11 points per game. They play an odd scheme, 4-2-5, but the Frogs are lightning quick, and are as fundamentally sound as any defense can be.
Though not as statistically impressive as the Frogs, the Badgers defense is good. They’ve also played better competition so it is more difficult to accurately compare the strength of the two defenses. What is certain is TCU’s offense will present many challenges for Wisconsin’s defense, especially in the air.
No real secret here. The key to this game is TCU’s ability to stop Wisconsin’s rushing attack. The Frogs’ only played two teams this year that have any semblance of a running game, and both were not even close to what Wisconsin brings to the table. The 4-2-5 alignment will hurt their ability to stop the Badgers rushing attack, and this will ultimately cost them the game.
Outcome: Wisconsin 31-20.
Virginia Tech vs. Stanford
The Hokies are two plays away from being undefeated. They had Boise on the ropes, but let it slip away. If they win that game, it is doubtful they lose to JMU the following week.
Stanford had Oregon dead in the water jumping out to a huge lead in Autzen Stadium back in October. The Ducks’ woke up, and the Cardinal fell apart in the second half. Other than that, the Cardinal were pretty dominating the rest of the season.
Both teams are led by outstanding quarterbacks. Tyrod Taylor finished 13th in passing efficiency this year, and threw for 23 touchdowns with just four interceptions.
Andrew Luck finished seventh in passing efficiency, and threw for 28 touchdowns with just seven interceptions.
Strangely, the Hokies and Cardinal both prefer to lead with the run. Darren Evans and Taylor form a great one, two punch for Va. Tech averaging 110 yards per game. Backup David Wilson added another 50 yards per game.
Stepfan Taylor rushed for 1000 yards with 15 touchdowns for Stanford. Luck and backup Anthony Wilkerson added another 850 yards and six touchdowns.
Defensively, the Hokies generally assume the blue collar mentality of DC Bud Foster, but not this year. Surprisingly, they are allowing 411 yards per game. Fortunately, the Hokies play a bend, but don’t break brand of football though giving up just 19 points per game.
Stanford is solid on the defensive side of the ball. They finished 24th in total defense in the FBS and 11th in scoring defense which is impressive considering they played four Top 30 offenses. This is why DC Vic Fangio has won a few DC of the Year awards.
Trench warfare decides this game. The Hokies’ ability to get to and/or apply pressure on Luck will determine the outcome.
Outcome: Stanford 35-28
Oklahoma vs. Connecticut
On paper, this looks like a complete mismatch. The Sooners won the Big 12 which is much better than the Big East, and they are an experienced BCS bowl program.
UConn did not win a significant game all season, is not very good offensively or defensively and they have never been to a major bowl game.
Hate to sound ordinary, but this is why they play the game. Everyone expected the Sooners to roll Boise St and West Virginia too in 2006 and 2007.
Oklahoma is a pass happy offense led by QB Landry Jones. He passed for 4300 yards with 35 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions. His favorite target is Ryan Broyles who caught 118 passes for 1400 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Even though the Sooners think pass first, Demarco Murray was still able to rush for 1100 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also averaged 4.5 yards per carry. He is a beast.
On the other side of the ball, UConn cannot pass so they lean on running back Jordan Todman to carry the offensive load. He finished with 1600 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Defensively, neither team is very good at stopping the run. The Sooners allow 150 yards per game and the Huskies are slightly better allowing 147 yards per game. Look for both teams to exploit this weakness.
UConn’s best hope is to keep Jones and Co. off the field by running Todman all night long to control the clock. If not, maybe the loss of OC Kevin Wilson disrupted the Sooners preparation for the game.
For Oklahoma, Bob Stoops needs to win this game. The shine on his Big Game Coach trophy has long since passed, and he is desperate for a BCS bowl win. He’ll get it.
Outcome: Oklahoma 50-21.
Ohio State vs. Arkansas
Until TattooGate, this looked like the best bowl game outside of the National Championship. No word has been given on whether or not Pryor, Posey, Herron and Adams will play, but the distraction alone is enough to believe the Buckeyes chances of winning their first bowl against the SEC are on life support.
Coming off the big win against Oregon in last year’s Rose Bowl, the Buckeyes entered the 2010 season with BCS Championship aspirations. A loss at Wisconsin in October derailed the title hopes, but they still managed to win a part of the Big Ten Championship finishing 11-1.
The record is misleading though. Ohio State’s schedule was weak, especially after the collapse of the Hurricanes. The Buckeyes played just one team in the Top 25 BCS regular season final ranking, Wisconsin, and lost convincingly. By comparison, Arkansas played six and went 4-2.
OSU’s offense was the best in Jim Tressel’s tenure averaging 40 points and 448 yards per game. They did play six teams that finished in the Top 50 in total defense so it is reasonable to say the Buckeyes’ offense is much better than most think it is.
Statistically, the Silver Bullet defense finished in the top five again, but they only played against three teams with an offense in the Top 50. They are opportunistic though creating 29 turnovers.
An area of concern is the lack of sacks this year. The veteran unit got to the QB just 19 times on the season. They’ll have to be better against Arkansas to have a chance at winning the game.
Led by Ryan Mallett, the Razorbacks are a wildly dangerous team. Mallett finished the regular season passing for 3600 yards and 30 touchdowns. Even more impressive is he accomplished these stats despite the emergence of RB Knile Davis who rushed for 1200 yards and 13 touchdowns, mostly in the last six games.
The other key player is TE D.J Williams. He is a huge target for Mallett, and will present major match-up problems for OSU’s secondary.
Unlike the offense, the Razorback defense has few stars, but they are definitely much better than advertised. The unit played against seven teams that finished in the Top 50 in total offense, and they still managed to finish 33rd in total defense.
A major reason for their success is they are very good at getting into the backfield, and like OSU, great at forcing turnovers.
If there is an area to exploit, it is running the ball. The Razorbacks allowed 157 yards per game on the ground. However, that is probably more due to the offenses they played against (six in the Top 50 in rushing) than an actual weakness.
Assuming the Big Four play, there is one critical area that will determine the outcome, red-zone defense. The offenses will get their yards, but the defense that wins the battle in the red zone will win the game.
Outcome: Arkansas 31-24