The bowl season is upon us, and the matchups have been announced. Fans are up in arms over the latest controversy regarding the LSU-vs.-Alabama rematch in the BCS National Championship game. Fan message boards are aflutter with comments and opinions on which teams were robbed, which conference gets the most media love and how Team A is going to absolutely destroy Team B come Date X in late December or early January.
There are multiple compelling bowl games on the horizon, but let’s take a minute to speculate on possible contests that didn't make the cut due to conference invitation rules, ticket sale politics or win/loss differentials during the season.
I’m not presuming that these options would be better than the existing bowl arrangements, but I do think they would all be more entertaining than the currently slated national championship game.
Michigan State is 10-3, while Mississippi State is 6-6, so there is no way they would have been invited to the same bowl.
However, a few things stick out for consideration.
Last year, Michigan State got blasted by SEC West member Alabama on a score of 49-7 in the Capital One Bowl; while Mississippi State throttled Big Ten representative Michigan 52-14 in the Gator Bowl.
Also, aside from a last-minute loss to Auburn in Week 2, the Bulldogs didn’t really lose to anyone they shouldn’t have; meanwhile, Michigan State turned in a few sloppy performances against very average Notre Dame and Nebraska teams. The best from the Big Ten against a middle-of-the-pack SEC team should be a good matchup.
OK, so it’s silly and ridiculous to have teams from the same conference play each other in a bowl game (cough!) However, a matchup between the two best quarterbacks and offenses in the SEC would definitely be worth the price of admission.
Arkansas’s offense is more potent, but UGA is a bit more balanced and plays better defense. Game would settle once and for all the burning question of who the third-best team is in the SEC.
A rematch of the 1988 national championship! While we won’t see Major Harris and Tony Rice under center, or witness any electric runs by Rocket Ismail, this is still a matchup between two solid football teams.
Despite starting the season 0-2, the Fighting Irish positively responded by finishing 8-2 in their final 10 games. Meanwhile, the West Virginia Mountaineers turned in a respectable 9-3 season, earned a Big East championship, and produced more offensive yards against the vaunted LSU defense than any other team.
One more Notre Dame victory, and this could have been the Orange Bowl.
A contest between the teams that laid the two biggest eggs on the last weekend of the regular season.
Oklahoma was embarrassed by its interstate rival Oklahoma State, 44-10, while Houston surrendered any shot at a BCS bowl with its 49-28 loss to an underrated Southern Mississippi team.
This would be a redemption game for both teams. Is Houston still for real? Is Oklahoma better than they’ve shown? Who would want it more?
If the bowl selection individuals are so big on rematches, why not pair up the Rose Bowl representatives from last year?
Last year’s contest was a barn burner, with TCU producing a 21-19 victory over Wisconsin, after running back Montee Ball’s failed 2-point conversion in the game’s final minutes.
This year’s versions of the teams are slightly less competitive, but a rematch would still be very fun to watch.
The matchup itself isn’t as compelling as is the injustice that KSU didn’t get the invitation over Virginia Tech. Even non-fans have to recognize what Bill Snyder has done in Manhattan. He builds a nationally competitive program, the program suffers upon his initial retirement and he returns to make them competitive again.
A BCS bowl should include a battle between great coaches, which this does with Coach Snyder at KSU, and Brady Hoke reestablishing the Wolverines as national contenders. Furthermore, witnessing the clash of two dynamic quarterbacks in KSU’s Colin Klein and Michigan’s Denard Robinson would definitely be worth watching on January 3rd.
This game is only attractive if you like speed, big plays and continuous lead changes. Both of these teams have the ability to score fast and score often using their myriad of weapons to attack opposing defenses.
The teams have striking similarities. The QBs (Darron Thomas and Tajh Boyd) are similar in their ability to manage games, distribute the ball to their playmakers and demonstrate just enough elusiveness to force opposing defenses to account for them as mobile running threats. Both have electric freshman superstars at wide receiver in DeAnthony Thomas (Oregon), and Sammy Watkins (Clemson). Finally, Clemson’s freshman running back Mike Bellamy looks and runs like he should be in Oregon’s backfield with LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner.
Oregon would be favored in this matchup, but Clemson would definitely give them a run for their money.
The two teams that have consistently outplayed their talent levels should meet in January to determine who is the ultimate overachiever. If the most successful college QB in history meets the best pro QB prospect in over a decade on the gridiron, the result would be a celebration in smart, surgical and mistake-free football.
Under Andrew Luck, the Stanford Cardinal has gone 22-2 over the past two years, decimating opponents with cold, calculating efficiency, hard-nosed defense and big-time quarterback play. While the Boise State Broncos under Kellen Moore have won by…doing the exact same thing.
Everyone is talking about how Oklahoma State should be playing LSU in the national championship so that audiences can witness ultimate offense against ultimate defense. What people forget is that Alabama actually has the ultimate defense, leading the nation in fewest points allowed, as well as number of projected first-round picks in next year’s NFL draft.
This game would be entertaining on many levels. First, we wouldn’t have to wait until next year to see how effectively Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick shuts down OSU wide receiver Justin Blackmon.
Second, not only would OSU’s offense actually score more than 10 points against Alabama’s defense, Alabama’s offensive production would be much greater against OSU (who is giving up close to 26 points per game) than it will be against LSU when they meet on January 9th in New Orleans.
Third, I believe 50-year-old OSU quarterback Brandon Wheeden used to coach Nick Saban’s Pop Warner team, so there is a human element in this as well.
Let’s agree that college football nation has been waiting to see these two teams play for almost a decade.
In 2003, they split a national title. USC won again in 2004 (rescinded) and played for it again in 2005. LSU won it in 2007, and is playing for it all again this year. Despite the collective success, USC and LSU have not met on the field since 1979.
The only point of comparison we have for 2011 is how each team played Oregon. Both teams beat the Ducks, and in very similar ways. Oregon is typically successful when it can dictate the flow, tempo and rhythm of a football game. However, the Ducks could not do this against the athletes on the Tigers and Trojans rosters. Both teams lined up and basically drilled the ball down the Ducks throats with an effective mix of run and pass plays. To be fair, Oregon had multiple turnovers in the LSU game, and almost had a historic comeback against USC. But both squads proved to be similar in how they took advantage of a quality, speed-oriented, opponent.
In 2011, LSU is the better team. However, what other opponent could produce as favorable matchups in key positions against LSU as USC? If hitting on all cylinders, USC’s offensive nucleus of quarterback Matt Barkley, running back Marc Tyler, dynamic wide receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, and all-world offensive tackle Matt Kalil would give the LSU defense fits, take it out of its element and put a scare into the hearts of Tigers Nation.