2011 Bowl Projections: 5 Teams Using Bowls to Launch 2012 Title Shots
No, college football doesn't have a playoff. But that doesn't mean bowl games don't matter.
The final game of the season can be instrumental in giving a team momentum heading in to the next season. The Texas Longhorns followed a big Rose Bowl victory in 2005 with a national championship.
Alabama used a thrashing of the Michigan State Spartans in last year's Capital One Bowl to jump-start their 2011 season.
Here are five teams that would like to use their bowl games this year as the first movement towards a BCS National Championship in 2012.
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The Oregon Ducks might be disappointed they're not vying for a shot at the BCS National Championship Game anymore, but a good showing in the Rose Bowl could see them start next season as the No. 1 or No. 2 team in the country.
Oregon will be getting seven starters back on offense next season, assuming LaMichael James returns.
But even if he moves on to the NFL, the Ducks will return Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas in the backfield, plus Darron Thomas and two of the three starting receivers.
The Ducks will have plenty of offensive firepower left after finishing this season in the top 10.
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With a rule disallowing any conference from having three teams in BCS games (unless two non-conference champions play in the BCS National Championship Game), the Arkansas Razorbacks are unfortunately the only top 10 team with no chance of making a BCS game.
However, Arkansas will still get a solid bowl opponent—perhaps the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State loser or Kansas State Wildcats in the AT&T Cotton Bowl or Outback Bowl—which will give them a chance to pick up a quality win to finish the 2011 season.
With 13 starters returning, including quarterback Tyler Wilson and six players on defense (and perhaps the injured Knile Davis), Arkansas looks like a top five team for next season.
Virginia Tech Hokies
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If running back David Wilson returns, the Virginia Tech Hokies would be returning as much of their current talent as any team in the country.
The young Hokie defense will return 10 starters next season, and that unit could be the best defensive coordinator Bud Foster has ever had. And that's saying something for a guy who regularly has his defense ranked in the top 10 in the country.
On the offensive side, the Hokies will lose four offensive lineman and receivers Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin. But there's a lot of depth at wide receiver, and quarterback Logan Thomas will be back.
If the Hokies win the ACC today and beat what will likely be a Big East opponent in the Orange Bowl, they could enter next season as high as No. 3.
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Perhaps this seems a little silly. The LSU Tigers are the favorites at this point to win the BCS National Championship this season. But even if they lose a potential rematch with the Alabama Crimson Tide, I think LSU will enter 2012 as the No. 1 team in the nation.
LSU will be losing much less than Alabama coming in to next season.
The Crimson Tide will be losing both their starting receivers (Darius Hanks and Marquis Maze) and despite what he is currently saying, I think tailback Trent Richardson as well.
Perhaps most importantly, with players leaving early, they could lose as many as eight starters from the defense.
LSU, on the other hand, will be getting back six starters on defense and eight on offense.
They will have to find a new quarterback, but with Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee splitting time this year, it's not like they've had much stability at that position anyway.
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Even with a loss to the LSU Tigers today, the Georgia Bulldogs will be ending up in a good bowl game to end this season. Placement in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, Outback Bowl, or Capital One Bowl would give them a ranked opponent.
An impressive win in what I'm predicting will be the Outback Bowl could provide some solid momentum going into the 2012 season.
Like Virginia Tech, Georgia returns a boatload of starters next season.
The Bulldogs will be getting back nine guys from a defense that is only giving up 17 points per game. And the offense will return seven starters, including quarterback Aaron Murray, tailback Isaiah Crowell and both starting receivers.
Georgia could be the sleeper pick to win the BCS National Championship next season.