Bowl Schedule 2011-2012: Predicting the Winner of Every Bowl Game

Alex Callos@@alexcallosCorrespondent IDecember 13, 2011

Bowl Schedule 2011-2012: Predicting the Winner of Every Bowl Game

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    The start of the bowl season is now less than a week away.

    While the national championship is still a month out, there are some good games to get college football fans through the month of December and into the BCS bowls.

    This is a chance for conferences to earn bragging rights and teams to get one last chance to play before the season ends.

    As always, there are some good bowl games and some less anticipated ones, but they all count and mean something to at least two teams.

    Here is a breakdown and prediction of every bowl game from the New Mexico Bowl to the BCS National Championship.

New Mexico Bowl: Temple vs. Woming

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    Temple finished fourth in the MAC, but they are much better than their 8-4 record indicates.

    Three of their four losses came by a combined 11 points against Penn St, Bowling Green and Ohio.

    The Owls have Bernard Pierce, one of the best running backs in the country. Pierce finished the season with 1,381 yards and 25 touchdowns.

    Wyoming finished third in the Mountain West behind the likes of TCU and Boise St. like Temple with an 8-4 record but were blown out four times and gave up the exact same number of points they scored.

    The Temple offense really emphasizes the run, and Wyoming will have trouble slowing them down.

    Pierce will be the difference in this one.

    Prediction: Temple 27, Wyoming 17

Idaho Potato Bowl: Ohio vs. Utah St.

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    The Ohio Bobcats led by Frank Solich were runners up in the MAC to Northern Illinois.

    They are solid on both sides of the ball and rank in the top 40 in both points scored and points allowed.

    Ohio is 9-4 on the season and will be opposed by 7-5 Utah State.

    The Aggies finished second in the WAC. They won their last five games after starting off the year 2-5.

    Utah State is sixth in the country in rushing yards, led by junior Robert Turbin who has 1,416 yards and 19 touchdowns.

    Expect a close one, but the rushing attack of the Aggies should be too much for Ohio in this one.

    Prediction: Utah State 27, Ohio 24

New Orleans Bowl: Louisiana-Lafayette vs. San Diego St.

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    San Diego St. is 8-4 and led by one of the best running backs in all of college football: Ronnie Hillman.

    Hillman has 1,656 yards and 19 touchdowns already on the season and helped the Aztecs finish fourth in the MWC.

    Louisiana-Lafayette also finished 8-4 and third in the Sun Belt Conference.

    Both teams challenged themselves out of conference, but the Aztecs proved to be up to those challenges a little more than the Ragin' Cajuns.

    Hillman and San Diego St. will be too much in the end.

    Prediction: San Diego St. 28, Louisiana-Lafayette 21

Beef O'Brady's Bowl: Florida International vs. Marshall

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    Marshall was only 6-6 but finished fourth in Conference USA and had some big wins on the season, including victories over Southern Mississippi and Louisville.

    They are not much by way of offense and average only 22 points per game.

    Florida International finished 8-4 overall and fourth in the Sun Belt. They also defeated Louisville in the regular season. 

    They have a top 20 defense in the country in points allowed and will pose a huge threat to the below average Thundering Herd offense.

    Marshall does not have enough offense to hang with Florida International in this one.

    Prediction: Florida International 20, Marshall 10

Poinsettia Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs. TCU

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    This is perhaps one of the easiest of all the bowl games to pick as TCU comes in 10-2, winners of seven straight and champions of the Mountain West conference.

    They are in the top 10 in the country on offense, averaging over 41 points per game.

    Louisiana Tech has also won seven games straight to finish the season 8-4.

    They edged out Utah State and Nevada to win the WAC.

    While the Bulldogs have a solid defense, they are no match for the Horned Frogs who have one of the best teams in the country.

    Prediction: TCU 37, Louisiana Tech 17

Las Vegas Bowl: Arizona St. vs. Boise St.

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    After what seems like a decade at Boise St, Kellen Moore will be playing his final game for the Broncos against 6-6 Arizona St.

    Boise St. only had one loss on the season, a one-point defeat at the hands of TCU.

    Moore passed for an unbelievable 41 touchdowns and running back Doug Martin rushed for 1,148 yards and 15 scores.

    Arizona St. is still without a coach and lost their final four games to finish seventh in the Pac-12.

    This one could get ugly quick and be one of the biggest blowouts of the bowl season.

    Prediction: Boise St. 41, Arizona St. 14

Hawaii Bowl: Nevada vs. Southern Miss

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    Nevada comes in at 7-5 after finishing third in the WAC.

    Southern Miss won Conference USA and finished 11-2 overall.

    Their big win over Houston in the Conference USA Championship has the Golden Eagles pegged as a favorite in this one.

    Southern Miss is not afraid to put points on the board and ranks in the top 15 in the country in points scored.

    Nevada is led by star receiver Rishard Matthews who has 1,364 yards and eight touchdowns on the season.

    Southern Miss has too much for a Nevada defense that gives up over 25 points a game.

    Prediction: Southern Miss 34, Nevada 23

Independence Bowl: Missouri vs. North Carolina

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    This is the first of the bowl games with two team from a BCS conference.

    Missouri and North Carolina both come into the game 7-5 overall.

    The Tigers finished the season fifth in the Big 12 and North Carolina was eighth in the ACC.

    Neither team lived up to expectations and this will be a chance for them to make amends for the regular season.

    Missouri loves to run the football and has won three games straight coming in.

    North Carolina has lost four of their last six and has struggled all season.

    This one should be close and could come down to the final possession.

    Prediction: Missouri 24, North Carolina 23

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl: Purdue vs. Western Michigan

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    Neither of these teams really have a ton of talent. Purdue finished the season 6-6 and seventh in the Big 10. Western Michigan was 7-5 and fifth in the MAC.

    The Boilermakers somehow found their way to six wins even though they gave up more points than they scored.

    The Broncos finished 18th in the country in points scored and lost a few close games including a 66-63 thriller to Toledo.

    Wide receiver Jordan White has 1,646 yards and 16 touchdowns on the season for the Broncos.

    He will be too much for a Purdue defense that ranks in the bottom half of the country to control.

    Prediction: Western Michigan 38, Purdue 31

Belk Bowl: Louisville vs. North Carolina St.

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    This game is a battle of teams that came on strong at the end of the season.

    Louisville finished 7-5 after winning five of their final six games.

    They finished in a three-way tie for the Big East championship, but were the last of the three in the tiebreaker.

    North Carolina St. also finished 7-5 and won five of their final seven games. They finished seventh in the ACC.

    Louisville has a solid defense that ranks 14th in the country.

    North Carolina St. is not in the top 50 on either side of the ball and may struggle against a young and talented Cardinals defense.

    This one should be low-scoring and close for a while, but Louisville will have too much in the end.

    Prediction: Louisville 23, North Carolina St. 13

Military Bowl: Air Force vs. Toledo

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    The Toledo Rockets can put some points on the board in a hurry and enter the game eighth in the country averaging over 42 points a game.

    They are 8-4 and finished third in the MAC.

    Air Force finished 7-5 and fifth in the Mountain West conference. They played some good teams very tough and should be able to hang with Toledo.

    The Falcons can also put some points on the board and this one could be very high scoring.

    Look for an exciting shootout with Toledo having a little too much in the end.

    Prediction: Toledo 37, Air Force 31

Holiday Bowl: California vs. Texas

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    Both teams come into this game 7-5, but Texas has played a much tougher schedule.

    The Longhorns finished sixth in the Big 12 while the Bears were sixth in the Pac-12.

    Texas is a clear favorite in this one but struggled down the stretch, finishing 3-5 after starting the season 4-0.

    The Cal Bears are one of the few teams in the country with a 1,200 yard running back in Isi Sofele and a 1,200 yard receiver in Keenan Allen.

    The Longhorns do not have a big play-maker on offense and are near the middle of the nation in points at just over 28 a game.

    This game should be close throughout, but Texas is much more battle-tested and should come out on top in this one.

    Prediction: Texas 31, California 23

Champs Sports Bowl: Florida St. vs. Notre Dame

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    This has the potential to be one of the best pre-New-Year's-Day bowls.

    Both teams are 8-4 and were highly ranked at the beginning of the season before suffering through disappointing years.

    Florida St. quarterback EJ Manuel is very talented, but so is the Notre Dame defense.

    The Fighting Irish allow just over 20 points a game.

    The Seminoles on the other hand have one of the best defenses in the country, allowing 15 points a game.

    They will likely have their way with Notre Dame and give them fits on offense.

    This will be close, but the FSU defense will be too much for an average Notre Dame offense to overcome.

    Prediction: Florida St. 21, Notre Dame 16

Valero Alamo Bowl: Baylor vs. Washington

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    This game will obviously be highlighted by Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and the 9-3 Baylor Bears.

    But, Washington is a solid team and at 7-5, they are no pushovers.

    With that being said, Baylor finished third in the Big 12 and has the best player in the country.

    The Huskies were fourth in the Pac-12 and have lost to some good teams.

    Running back Chris Polk is one of the best in the country with 1,341 yards and 11 touchdowns.

    The Baylor offense is spectacular, averaging over 43 points a game and the Huskies will have no answer for RGIII.

    The Huskies running game may keep it close early, but the Bears will have too much in the end.

    Prediction: Baylor 44, Washington 27

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl: BYU vs. Tulsa

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    Like most teams in Conference USA, Tulsa can score some points.

    They finished third on the conference and will take on a BYU team that came on strong at the end of the year, winning eight of their final nine games.

    The Cougars like to throw the football and average over 30 points a game.

    This has all the makings of a shootout and G.J. Kinne will likely be at the heart of it all if points are being scored.

    The senior has passed for nearly 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns on the year.

    Expect this one to be close throughout—it could go either way.

    Prediction: Tulsa 38, BYU 35

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa St. vs. Rutgers

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    Rutgers comes in at 8-4 and finished fourth in the Big East.

    They have one of the best defenses in the country and Iowa St. struggles at times to score.

    The Cyclones finished 6-6 and eighth in the Big 12.

    Turnovers will be the key in this one as Rutgers will need to win that battle to win the game.

    Iowa St. has proven they can beat good teams as was evidenced with their victory over Oklahoma St.

    Mohamed Sanu of Rutgers is one of the best receivers in the country with 109 receptions and over 1,100 yards on the season.

    This will be a close, grind-it-out affair that will come down to turnovers.

    Prediction: Rutgers 16, Iowa St. 13

Music City Bowl: Mississippi St. vs. Wake Forest

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    This is clearly not one of the more marquee bowl matchups of the season as both teams come in at 6-6.

    Mississippi St. finished eighth in the SEC, but only won two games.

    Wake Forest on the other hand finished third in the ACC, going 5-3 in conference.

    The Bulldogs have played much tougher competition all season, and that will show in the bowl game. They were in the SEC West with the likes of LSU, Alabama, Arkansas and Auburn.

    Running back Vick Ballard averages over 5.5 yards a carry and will be tough for the Demon Deacons to stop.

    The Mississippi St. defense has also been solid all season.

    Prediction: Mississippi St. 27, Wake Forest 17

Insight Bowl: Iowa vs. Oklahoma

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    Oklahoma is clearly one of the most talented teams in the country and if they show up to play, they should have no trouble with Iowa.

    With that being said, however, the game is won on the field.

    Iowa finished sixth in the Big 10 and have an excellent running back-wide receiver tandem in Marcus Coker and Marvin McNutt.

    Oklahoma is tenth in the country in points per game and averages over 40 a night. Landry Jones has thrown for over 4,000 yards and the Sooner should have no trouble scoring on the Hawkeyes if they can avoid turnovers.

    Oklahoma just has too much talent to lose this game.

    Prediction: Oklahoma 42, Iowa 24

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas: Northwestern vs. Texas A&M

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    Texas A&M is perhaps the biggest disappointment of the season after starting the year ranked in the top 10 in the country.

    They have a great running back tandem in Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael.

    There is clearly more talent than there is at Northwestern, but getting something out of that talent will be the key to the game.

    Northwestern does it with balance and does not have a big name that stands out.

    The Aggies have way too much talent to lose this one, but Northwestern should be able to keep it close for a while.

    Prediction: Texas A&M 34, Northwestern 21

Hyundai Sun Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Utah

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    Georgia Tech is 8-4 and comes in losing four of their past six games.

    Utah has played most of the season without star quarterback Jordan Wynn and at 7-5, they finished near the middle of the Pac-12.

    They have relied very heavily on running back John White IV who has rushed for over 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns.

    Georgia Tech has a do-it-all quarterback in Tevin Washington. He has passed for 1,515 yards and ten touchdowns while rushing for 890 yards and 14 touchdowns.

    Like many other bowl games, this is one of the more evenly matched and should be close for a while.

    Utah will need to force a few turnovers to be able to come out on top in this one.

    Prediction: Georgia Tech 31, Utah 21

Liberty Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Vanderbilt

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    Cincinnati comes in 9-3 and tri-champions of the Big East. 

    The biggest question heading into this game is whether or not star quarterback Zach Collaros will be available.

    If he plays, Cincinnati is a clear favorite. If not, this game could be very close.

    Vanderbilt is 6-6 and has a great running back in Zac Stacy who averages over six yards a carry.

    The Cincinnati defense is great at stopping the run, and that will be the key matchup in this one.

    It is looking more and more likely that Zach Collaros will play, and if he does, Cincinnati will be a little too much for the Commodores.

    Prediction: Cincinnati 28, Vanderbilt 20

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Illinois vs. UCLA

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    When it comes to the least anticipated bowl games of all time, this one has to be in the conversation.

    UCLA comes in with a losing record at 6-7 and Illinois is 6-6, having lost their final six games of the season.

    Both teams fired their coaches at the end of the regular season and have since hired new ones.

    Whoever comes motivated to play will come out as the winner in this one.

    UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince has struggled through a disappointing season and Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has also been inconsistent.

    Iliinois is prone to turn the ball over and if they can prevent those, they are a little better than UCLA.

    Prediction: Illinois 21, UCLA 17

Chick-fil-A Bowl: Auburn vs. Virginia

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    The big news surrounding this game is the absence of Michael Dyer. The talented Auburn running back was suspended last week and while Onterio McCalebb is an adequate replacement, he is no Dyer.

    Virginia is 8-4 and finished third in the ACC.

    They have a balanced offensive attack and have come on strong at the end of the season.

    Auburn struggles to score and ranks in the bottom third of the country in both points allowed and points scored.

    The absence of Dyer will be the difference in this one, as Virginia will just have too much in the end.

    Prediction: Virginia 23, Auburn 20

TicketCity Bowl: Houston vs Penn St.

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    Houston has the most explosive offense in the country, averaging over 50 points a game, and they will be opposed by one of the best defenses in the country in Penn St.

    The Nittany Lions' defense is fifth in the country and will be the biggest challenge Houston quarterback Case Keenum has had to face all season.

    He has passed for over 5,000 yards and 45 touchdowns.

    With three receivers over 900 yards, Houston can put points up in a hurry.

    Penn St. will give them some fits, especially with the play of the defensive line, but Houston has the firepower to outscore them.

    Prediction: Houston 36, Penn St. 23

Capital One Bowl: Nebraska vs. South Carolina

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    The Capital One Bowl is the annual battle between the SEC and the Big 10. This time it is 9-3 Nebraska vs. 10-2 South Carolina.

    The Cornhuskers have been relatively inconsistent all season and go up against a Gamecocks squad that has won every game they were supposed to, even with the injury to star running back Marcus Lattimore midway through the year. 

    Running the football and playing defense has been the mantra for South Carolina this year.

    Nebraska also likes to run the football, particularly with their quarterback Taylor Martinez.

    This game could go either way and Steve Spurrier may have one final trick up his sleeve to pull this one out for South Carolina.

    Prediction: South Carolina 20, Nebraska 17

Outback Bowl: Georgia vs. Michigan St.

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    Michigan St. finds themselves in a similar position as last season and was as close as anybody to getting a BCS bid.

    Both teams are 10-3 coming in and fresh off losses in their conference championship. Georgia got hot after losing their first two games by rattling off 10 straight wins before losing to LSU.

    Michigan St. has been consistent all season and as always had one of the top 10 defenses in the country.

    Georgia also has a top 20 defense and both teams give up less than 20 points a game.

    This will be a low scoring grind-it-out affair that will come down to field position.

    Prediction: Michigan St. 20, Georgia 17

Gator Bowl: Florida vs. Ohio State

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    Perhaps better known as the Urban Meyer bowl, the Gator Bowl pits Meyer's old team against his new team.

    Both teams struggled to 6-6 records this year and finished in the bottom half of their respective conferences.

    They took very similar paths and are nearly the same as far as talent, so this one's a toss up.

    Ohio St. quarterback Braxton Miller has improved as the season has progressed and the Buckeyes will not be afraid to turn him loose.

    Wide receiver Devier Posey will only be playing in his third game, but so far he has made a big difference in the two he has participated in.

    Florida has two explosive playmakers in Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, but sometimes struggle to score points.

    Prediction: Ohio State 27, Florida 16

AT&T Cotton Bowl: Arkansas vs. Kansas St.

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    These are perhaps the two best teams not in BCS games, and this is as good as a BCS Bowl.

    Both are 10-2 on the season and ranked in the top eight.

    These offenses can also put some points on the board as both score more than 33 points a game.

    The Razorbacks are a heavy favorite in this one, but Kansas St. has perhaps the best dual-threat quarterback in the country.

    Collin Klein has passed for 1,745 yards and 12 touchdowns while rushing for 1,099 yards and 26 touchdowns.

    Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson has been excellent all season as well with 3,422 yards passing and 22 touchdowns.

    Expect a close shootout, with Kansas St. pulling off the upset.

    Prediction: Kansas St. 38, Arkansas 35

BBVA Compass Bowl: Pittsburgh vs. SMU

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    June Jones is still at SMU, and the Mustangs come in 7-5 overall after finishing fifth in Conference USA.

    Pittsburgh is 6-6 and finished fifth in the Big East.

    The Panthers will still be without star running back Ray Graham and quarterback Tino Sunseri has been inconsistent all season.

    SMU likes to throw the ball and will look to expose the Pittsburgh secondary with their wide receiver tandem of Darius Johnson and Cole Beasley. 

    Quarterback J.J. McDermott is turnover-prone with 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. If he can limit his turnovers, SMU should be able to pull off the upset.

    Prediction: SMU 34, Pittsburgh 28 Bowl: Arkansas St. vs. Northern Illinois

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    This is one of the rare bowl games pitting two teams who won their conferences.

    Arkansas St. is 10-2 and winner of the Sun Belt and Northern Illinois is 10-3 and winners of the MAC.

    The Red Wolves out of the Sun Belt have won nine straight and Northern Illinois is coming off eight straight wins.

    Northern Illinois loves to put points on the board and does so through the air and on the ground.

    Their offense ranks 13th in the country and the Arkansas St. defense ranks 15th in the nation.

    That battle will be the key to this one, with the slight edge going to Northern Illinois.

    Prediction: Northern Illinois 35, Arkansas St. 30

Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. Wisconsin

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    This is has been dubbed as one of the most anticipated bowl games, and for good reason.

    The story of this game will be Oregon running back LaMichael James against Wisconsin running back Montee Ball.

    They are two of the top five running backs in the country and lead explosive offenses.

    The quickness of Oregon on the offensive side of the ball will be a little too much for the Badgers' defense to handle as this could be the most exciting bowl game of them all to watch.

    If the Ducks can win the turnover battle, they shall prevail. If not, this one could to either way.

    Prediction: Oregon 44, Wisconsin 38

Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma St. vs. Stanford

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    Pitting two of the best quarterbacks in the nation, this year's Fiesta Bowl has all the makings of being an instant classic.

    Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is the best in the country, and Oklahoma St. will come out fired up after not being selected for the national championship game.

    At over 49 points a game, the Oklahoma St. offense is second in the country.

    Stanford is also in the top five in the country at over 43 points a game.

    The Oklahoma St. defense loves to force turnovers, but Andrew Luck does not turn the ball over too easily.

    The Cowboys are going to need to win the turnover battle to win this one, and odds are they will.

    Prediction: Oklahoma St. 42, Stanford 39

Sugar Bowl: Michigan vs. Virginia Tech

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    While some may argue that neither of these teams are deserving of a BCS bowl game, they will represent their conferences in the Sugar Bowl.

    Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson is one of the most explosive players in the country. He has passed for over 2,000 yards and rushed for almost 1,200.

    Virginia Tech has only played one ranked team, and Clemson beat them twice.

    Running back David Wilson has rushed for over 1,600 yards and nine touchdowns.

    The Michigan offense will need to keep Virginia Tech and Wilson off the field so they cannot control the game.

    The Wolverines have way too much for Virginia Tech in this one.

    Prediction: Michigan 33, Virginia Tech 16

Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. West Virginia

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    The 10-3 Clemson Tigers are winners of the ACC and they will meet the 9-3 West Virginia Mountaineers who won the Big East.

    Neither of these teams is ranked in the top 10, but both have explosive offenses, particularly at the quarterback position.

    Tajh Boyd has passed for over 3,000 yards and 31 touchdowns for Clemson, and Geno Smith has nearly 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns for West Virginia.

    Both teams can put points on the board and this should be a shootout that will stay close for a while before Clemson pulls away in the end.

    Prediction: Clemson 33, West Virginia 27

BCS National Championship: Alabama vs. LSU

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    Even though this game has already happened, fans will get to see it again for all the marbles.

    Expect another low-scoring game that will involve a lot of punts and field position. 

    These are the top two defenses in the country and the game will be won on a big play.

    LSU has just the guy for that in Tyrann Mathieu.

    The Honey Badger is a punt return waiting to happen and just might have something up his sleeve before this one is over.

    There is going to be a touchdown or two in this one, but do not expect these teams to light up the scoreboard.

    Prediction: LSU 16, Alabama 10