Most sports are able to associate a holiday with themselves. Football has Thanksgiving, baseball has the 4th of July, basketball has Christmas (or at least they try to), and college football has New Year's Day. There is no shortage of great matchups tomorrow, as Northwestern and Texas Tech start things off, followed by Florida vs.Penn State, Alabama vs. Michigan State, and Mississippi State vs. Michigan.
The two BCS bowl matchups, however, are where the focus lies. Alabama and Michigan State come on at 1 p.m. as a lead-in, Wisconsin and TCU play in the Rose Bowl at 4:30 p.m., and Connecticut and Oklahoma play in the Fiesta Bowl at 8:30 p.m. If one has to pick a BCS matchup to watch, which should be chosen? Which of the two is the better showdown?
When two top five teams in the country square off, it's inherently going to be an amazing game to watch. Wisconsin comes into this game having only lost one contest this season (to Michigan State), and TCU comes into this game as one of the three undefeated teams in the nation.
Both teams have played well enough that we know they are ready for this matchup, and both will be out to prove that their top five rankings are more than justified.
Those that are fans of the Fiesta Bowl are likely fans of the major conferences. After Oklahoma last played in 2008 against West Virginia, Texas and Ohio State played, then it was TCU and Boise State, two mid-majors. Now, it's back to two major conferences, and Oklahoma makes its return for the third time in five years.
After their last two losses in the Fiesta Bowl, they are more determined to win than ever. There's blowout potential as Oklahoma will not have a better opportunity than now to win a Fiesta Bowl matchup.
To say Wisconsin's three-pronged rushing attack is good doesn't do it justice. It's one of the best in the nation and, given how often Auburn and Oregon's are brought up, easily the most underrated. Every single Wisconsin back has multiple 100 yard games, and there have been games where two of the three rushers both gained 100.
John Clay was the leader of the pack, and when he missed time due to injury, James White filled in and ended up being even better. Montee Ball is easily the best third option in the country, and can run the ball very well in his own right. That rushing attack is pretty much unstoppable so far. Even in the loss to Michigan State White and Clay ran for 178 yards.
Oklahoma's offense is certainly very good, with Landry Jones developing gradually into a star and Demarco Murray remaining a great option. The difference maker in this matchup? Oklahoma's junior wide receiver Ryan Broyles. While rival Justin Blackmon has been making the highlight reel, Ryan Broyles has been just as amazing in the Big 12.
Broyles is third in receiving yards with 1,452, and not only has multiple games of 150+ receiving yards, but multiple games of 12+ receptions. Landry Jones loves to throw to him, and I expect a big game from him.
Andy Dalton and Scott Tolzien are not names you think of when you think of Heisman-worthy, No. 1 selection players. Nonetheless, they are two of the best quarterbacks in the country at simply leading their teams. They are not flashy and won't change the game on their own, but they lead their team to victory.
Tolzien and Dalton are fourth and fifth in passing efficiency, respectively, and have very high completion percentages, with Tolzien in particular nearly completing 75% of his passes, a practically unreal total.
In the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, Oklahoma and Boise State faced off in one of the greatest college football games in history. Most had Oklahoma winning in this matchup, but Boise State persevered and won. The following year, the third-ranked Oklahoma Sooners faced off against West Virginia. They were again favored, and again lost, this time by 20 points.
This year, Oklahoma is of course favored, but they've had bowl issues, having not won a major bowl game since 2002 (they won bowl games outside the big five twice though). That's too long in any Oklahoma fan's mind, so they'll be on the lookout for a possible upset.
How is Wisconsin's rushing attack so good and their passing game so efficient? They have possibly the best offensive line in the country. Led by Gabe Carimi, all five players are monsters that can make big openings. How is TCU the No. 1 ranked defense in the league? They don't allow points or yards, and it's thanks in part to the defensive line.
The standoff between these two forces will be the big story. Whichever one wins will be the deciding factor in who wins the game.
The Fiesta Bowl has one of the best running back matchups among the bowl games. Oklahoma has DeMarco Murray, who has been a workhorse this year for the Sooners with over 250 carries. He's a tough force that defenses have to keep an eye on, especially if their priority is shutting down Broyles.
As tough as Oklahoma's running back is, Connecticut might have them beat here with Jordan Todman. A top-five rusher with over 300 carries on the year, Todman has been everything for the running-based offense of UConn. Without him, there's no BCS bid no question. Which one will be great? Both will be, but which one will be more dominant?
This year could end with another college football mid-major power running the table if TCU beats Wisconsin. Beyond that, if they do win, could they actually gain a first-place vote or two in the final rankings? Who knows what will happen if TCU wins; either way, that will be a major thing both sides are fighting about, whether to preserve or destroy it.
So far, there's been a very good track record in place when Oklahoma is mixed with the Fiesta Bowl in terms of enjoyable games. Could we see another game as good at 2007? Probably not, but it'll be worth watching just in hopes that something like that does happen.
Which game is the more enjoyable one to watch? I think that's a fairly easy one. The Rose Bowl pitting Wisconsin and TCU is a very exciting matchup, and I'd say the second best bowl game behind the National Championship. The Rose Bowl is going to be an amazing back-and-forth game to watch, and the one that I would recommend.