Ranking the BCS Games in Terms of Watchability
Over the next month, a whopping 35 different schools will get a chance to hoist a trophy for the cover of next year's media guide. College football bowl season is officially upon us, with 68 schools fighting for little more than postseason pats on the back while two teams—LSU and Alabama—are playing for what really matters: the national championship.
Sure, the Allstate BCS National Championship game is the only bowl game that really matters, but does that make it the most anticipated BCS game to watch?
Let's rank the five BCS games in order of "watchability."
5. Discover Orange Bowl
The Orange Bowl committee could not has asked for a worse outcome in the ACC title game with Clemson blowing the doors off of Virginia Tech.
Someone out there could sell a Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia game to a national audience. There's nobody out there who can sell Clemson and West Virginia as a game that means anything.
West Virginia is clearly the most deserving team to come out of the Big East, and Clemson did beat Virginia Tech twice, but it has to be a tough sell for the BCS to keep automatic bids into their exclusive bowl party when these two teams are in the BCS while Michigan State is playing Georgia in the Outback Bowl and Kansas State is playing Arkansas in the AT&T Cotton Bowl (which, cleverly enough, is on January 6th, likely confusing people into thinking the Cotton Bowl actually is a BCS game).
People will watch the Orange Bowl because it's a big bowl game, it's football on Wednesday night and there will be little else on. ESPN may get a bump from having their Monday Night Football crew call the game because at least NFL fans will have familiar voices calling two teams they've likely never seen play.
If you watch this game, you either went to one of the schools or are a total football junkie. Average fans can take the night off.
4. Allstate Sugar Bowl
With all due respect to Michigan fans, who watched the Wolverines have an amazing return to prominence this season under Brady Hoke, there is no way they deserve to be in the BCS.
Crossstate rivals Michigan State lost by three points to Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game and dropped from 13th in the BCS to 17th, getting leapfrogged by a host of teams including, you guessed it, Michigan.
If there is one signifying factor in this year's BCS selections that proves the system is broken, it's that three of the at-large teams this season didn't even play in their conference title game.
It's obvious that Stanford (or Oregon) benefited from both teams not being in the Pac-12 title game. Alabama clearly benefited more than anyone by not qualifying for the SEC title game because the Crimson Tide are in the same division as LSU. But Michigan gets into the BCS because Michigan State lost a game against Wisconsin. That's the real reason.
Look, I get that the computers have the Spartans at No. 21, but it's ridiculous that a team like Michigan State is ostensibly punished by playing in its title game and the sole beneficiary is their archrival which it beat for the chance to play in that title game.
And yes, Michigan is a huge national draw, but let's be honest here: the team that got screwed more than Michigan State is clearly Boise State, who lost one game this season, finishing seventh in the BCS standings, but missed out on the BCS and has to play in the Las Vegas Bowl on December 22nd against a 6-6 Arizona State team.
That is an embarrassment.
The fact is, Boise State could, and perhaps should, have been in this game instead of Virginia Tech too. Heck, Kansas State could have a reason to complain about it too, if they didn't get themselves into the best non-BCS game possible. Even Baylor is ranked ahead of Michigan. But none of those teams have the same drawing power as Michigan or, to a lesser extent, Virginia Tech.
The system is a joke.
As for the "watchability" of the Sugar Bowl, I'm sure it will be a fine contest, and Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe will add to the big-game feel of the telecast. There are still three games I feel football fans would rather watch. You can always DVR the Boise State game and watch it later.
3. Rose Bowl Presented by Vizio
If you weren't excited about seeing Oregon's offense play against Wisconsin's offense, just wait until three minutes before kickoff, after Brent Musburger—calling the game with Kirk Herbstreit and Erin Andrews—froths up his Rose Bowl lather. By kickoff, you'll feel like you're watching the national championship game.
Clearly Oregon is one of the great teams in the country and was a loss to USC away from probably playing in a rematch of the season opener against LSU. While it's not for the national title, the matchup against Wisconsin may create a more fun game to watch.
Oregon has the sixth-best offense in terms of total offense in the nation. Wisconsin has the 15th best. Both teams have top-10 run offenses, led by two of the best running backs in all of football in Oregon's LaMichael James and Wisconsin's Montee Ball.
Oh, and the rest of the offense, including quarterbacks Darron Thomas and Russell Wilson, aren't exactly slouches. There could be some points scored in this one.
The only thing that might make this game less watchable is that for some reason Musburger insists on calling James by his first name. The over/under on "LaMichael" being said on the telecast is set at 30. (And knowing Brent, he's probably looking for a piece of that action.)
This could be a really great Rose Bowl to watch. But it's still not the best BCS game.
2. Allstate BCS Championship Game
This is the only game that matters and if it wasn't for the fact that the winner gets to declare itself national champion, this game would probably be knocked down a spot or two.
These two teams are great college football teams with two all-time great defenses. Alabama is averaging 36 points per game and only letting up 8.8, with its only loss of the season coming in a game in which it allowed just nine points.
LSU has the second-best defense in the country after allowing just 10.5 points per game. Its offense is incredibly explosive, averaging 38.5 points per contest.
LSU scored fewer than 35 points just twice this season and scored more than 40 in nine of its 13 games. Alabama had just one game of less than 24 points and scored more than 40 in five of its 12 games. Both offenses are great. But both defenses are better.
LSU held its opponents to 10 points or less in nine games this year and gave up more than 20 just twice (to Oregon's vaunted offense and on the road at West Virginia).
The irony of Alabama's season is that the only game in which it gave up more than more than 20 points was in a blowout win over Georgia Southern. Alabama has surrendered 10 points or less in eight of its 12 games this season. That's insane.
This could be a game for the ages. It could. And Musburger, Herbstreit, Andrews and Tom Rinaldi's pocket square will certainly try to put the game into historical perspective for us. But we all watched the 9-6 snoozefest earlier in the season. It was a defensive struggle with a few missed kicks and tough goal-line stands. It was interesting to watch, but it certainly wasn't all that entertaining.
I'm not a points snob either (I love soccer, remember) but there was something about that game that was just downright…boring.
That's the only reason this game isn't No. 1: we've seen it already this year and it wasn't that great to watch. If conferences like the SEC would get away from arbitrary divisions and reward the two best teams spots in their title games, we could have settled this in the SEC title game instead of the national championship. But that's Oklahoma State's gripe, not the viewers' problem.
Still there is one game that's ultimately more watchable.
1. Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
Because the NFL owns Sundays, we're forced to wait a day this season for January bowl game madness to ensue. January 2 is the day where college football fans can wake up hung over and sit on the couch for literally 12 hours watching nothing but bowl game after bowl game.
There are five bowl games on January 2 before America gets to feast on the college football evening snack that is the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. On paper, there won't be a more entertaining game all bowl season.
Oklahoma State heads to Arizona with a giant chip on its shoulder after being snubbed out of the BCS title game in favor of Alabama. The Cowboys have the third-best offense in the country in terms of total offense that features the nation's second-best passing offense. Brandon Weeden is 11th in the country in passing efficiency and third in passing yards per game with 360.7. Yikes.
If it's passing you like, there's a guy on the other side of the field you may know too: Andrew Luck.
Luck, revered by scouts as the best quarterback to play the game every in the history of the world forever and ever and ever, will be playing in his final college game. Expect "all the throws."
Standford also has a bit of a chip on its shoulder after losing just one game this season to a BCS team at home. Sound familiar, Alabama?
Yet unlike Alabama, Stanford is penalized because the BCS team they lost to not only lost to the BCS team Alabama lost to (LSU) but also lost to another team that's not in the BCS (USC).
Sure, Alabama had a harder schedule and Oklahoma State has a bigger gripe about being left out of the title game after winning their conference and also finishing the year with just one loss (though that loss came to 6-6 Iowa State), yet despite losing one game to a BCS team and finishing fourth in every poll, Stanford hasn't been mentioned in any national championship scenarios for weeks.
Isn't the BCS system grand?
Regardless of what the Stanford-Oklahoma State game means—nothing—it should be quite the barnburner. If you can tune in for just one game this bowl season (and who am I kidding...if you're reading this, you'll be watching every game like me), this is the game to see.