College Football Predictions: Projecting All 35 Bowl Game Participants for 2011

Amy DaughtersFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2011

College Football Predictions: Projecting All 35 Bowl Game Participants for 2011

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    ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31:  The South Carolina Gamecocks against the Florida State Seminoles during the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl at Georgia Dome on December 31, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Premature is defined as “occurring or done before the proper time.”

    And so, premature college football predictions and/or projections could rightly be described this way: “college football predictions and/or projections done before the proper time.”

    Fitting very neatly and securely into this definition would be something along the lines of projecting all 35 bowl game matchups for the 2011-12 season in February.

    Indeed, what of the finalization of schedules, changes in personnel, hiring and firing of coaches, injuries, actual bowl schedules and preferences, etc?

    Regardless of all arguments that favor logic and throwing any-and-all caution to the wind, the following slideshow will participate in premature projection and therefore boldly select matchups for every single bowl game in 2011-12.

    We shouldn’t be embarrassed; this kind of thing happens to everyone, right?

New Mexico Bowl: UCLA vs. Louisiana Tech

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    PASADENA, CA - OCTOBER 02:  Taylor Embree #82 and Sean Sheller #72 of the UCLA Bruins celebrate a touchdown against the Washington State Cougars during the game at the Rose Bowl on October 2, 2010 in Pasadena, California. UCLA defeated Washington State 42
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    The Bruins just barely manage bowl eligibility while the Bulldogs of Louisiana Tech go bowling for only the sixth time in school history.

    Louisiana Tech manages to finish tied for third in the WAC, while UCLA plays into an eighth-place finish in the new Pac-12 and captures a New Mexico Bowl bid (due to the lack of a fifth bowl-eligible team from the Mountain West Conference).

Humanitarian Bowl: Ohio vs. Fresno State

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 18:  Quarterback Boo Jackson #8 of the Ohio University Bobcats runs with the ball during the game against the Troy University Trojans  during the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on December 18, 2010 in N
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    The Ohio Bobcats go 9-3 in 2011 to capture third place in the MAC, while 7-5 Fresno State scores its fifth consecutive bowl bid for the second time in school history.

New Orleans Bowl: Houston vs. Florida International

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    PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Quarterback Case Keenum #7 of the Houston Cougars drops back to pass against the UCLA Bruins in the second quarter at the Rose Bowl on September 18, 2010 in Pasadena, California.  UCLA won 31-13.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    The Houston Cougars ride QB Case Keenum’s additional year of eligibility to an 8-4 overall finish in 2011, while FIU captures its second consecutive Sun Belt conference title and eyes its second-ever bowl win in program history.

Beef O’Brady’s Bowl: Syracuse Vs. Southern Miss

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    NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 30: Marcus Sales #5 of the Syracuse Orange is congratulated by team mate Jose Cruz #85 after scoring a touchdown against  the Kansas State Wildcats during the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on December 30, 2010 in New Yor
    Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    After breaking a five-year bowl drought in 2010, Syracuse goes 7-5 in 2011, capturing a tie for fifth in the Big East.

    Southern Miss also manages a 7-5 mark and the trip to St. Petersburg, Florida marks the Golden Eagles 10th consecutive bowl appearance

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas: Boise State vs. Oregon State

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    BOISE, ID - SEPTEMBER 25:  Wide receiver Titus Young #1 of the Boise State Broncos runs the ball against cornerback Brandon Hardin #17 of the Oregon State Beavers at Bronco Stadium on September 25, 2010 in Boise, Idaho.  (Photo by Otto Kitsinger III/Getty
    Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images

    Though Boise State manages to beat TCU at home in Boise during the regular season, a shocking loss in the opener to Georgia in Atlanta has already zapped the Broncos' national title and BCS hopes.

    Oregon State manages a 7-5 finish in the new Pac-12 and the Beavers face the Broncos in Las Vegas for a rematch of their epic September 25, 2010 meeting on Boise’s blue turf.

Poinsettia Bowl: TCU vs. Nevada

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    SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 09:  Head coach Chris Ault of the Nevada Wolf Pack is covered in water by Mike Andrews #92  in the closing minute of their victory over Boston College in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park on January 9, 2011 in San Franci
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    In their final season as a member of the Mountain West Conference, the Horned Frogs lose to incoming MWC member Boise State in their one-and-only in-conference meeting (in Boise). 

    The loss triggers a sigh of relief by the BCS that, by virtue of losses by both TCU and Boise State (to Georgia in the opener), experiences a rare era of “good feelings” without the swirling winds of controversy.

    Nevada goes 9-3 in 2011 and captures its first-ever outright, unshared WAC title.

Hawaii Bowl: UCF Vs. Hawaii

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    HONOLULU - SEPTEMBER 02: Mana Lolotai #50 of the University of Hawaii Warriors checks his helmet before the Warriors take the field in their season opener against the University of Southern California Trojans at Aloha Stadium September 2, 2010 in Honolulu
    Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

    The Knights of Central Florida just miss their second consecutive Conference USA title with a close loss to Tulsa in the championship but still manage a bowl bid and an opportunity to score the program’s second-ever bowl victory.

    Hawaii goes 7-5 in 2011 and earns its sixth bid to its home state’s bowl extravaganza.

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl: Northwestern vs. Northern Illinois

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    EVANSTON, IL - OCTOBER 23: Head coach Pat Fitzgerald of the Northwestern Wildcats encourages his team as they take on the Michigan State Spartans at Ryan Field on October 23, 2010 in Evanston, Illinois. Michigan State defeated Northwestern 35-27. (Photo b
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    In a great matchup of teams from Illinois, it’s the 9-3 MAC champion Huskies versus the 7-5 Northwestern Wildcats in the Pizza Bowl in Detroit.

    Northern Illinois bested Miami (OH) for their first MAC title since 1983, while Northwestern looks for their first bowl win since beating Cal 20-14 in the 1949 Rose Bowl.

Independence Bowl: Clemson vs. Air Force

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    LAS VEGAS - NOVEMBER 18:  Air Force Falcons cheerleaders run flags through the end zone after an Air Force touchdown against the UNLV Rebels at Sam Boyd Stadium November 18, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Air Force won 35-20.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Ima
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Mirroring their performance in 2010, Clemson barely manages bowl eligibility and garners a bid to their second consecutive Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, NC.

    The Air Force Falcons improve to 9-3 in 2011, including capturing their second consecutive Commander in Chief Trophy by sweeping Navy and Army.

Champs Sports Bowl: Miami (FL) vs. Notre Dame

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    EL PASO, TX - DECEMBER 30:  (L-R) Stephen Morris #17  of the Miami Hurricanes hugs Tommy Rees #13 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Sun Bowl on December 30, 2010 in El Paso, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The Fighting Irish improve from 7-5 in 2010 to 9-3 in 2011, while the Hurricanes achieve the same mark under new coach Al Golden (after also going 7-5 in 2010).

    The end result is a repeat of the 2010 Sun Bowl matchup between the two (Notre Dame won 33-17 last year); only this time, it’s the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Florida that will host the two perennial powerhouses.

Insight Bowl: Oklahoma State Vs. Nebraska

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    3 Oct 1998:  General view of a graphic on display during the game between the Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Oklahoma State Cowboys at the Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The Cornhuskers defeated the Cowboys 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Tim Umphrey
    Tim Umphrey/Getty Images

    Just when Nebraska thought it had washed its hands of its former Big 8/Big 12 foes, it meets not-so-old rival Oklahoma State in the 2011 Insight Bowl in Tempe, Arizona.

    Nebraska goes 5-3 in its first Big Ten campaign (9-3 overall), while the 9-3 (6-3 in conference) Cowboys wind up in a three-way tie for third place in the Big 12 (with Missouri and Texas Tech).

    Though Oklahoma State’s offense remains hot in 2011, the loss of one-year OC Dana Holgerson to West Virginia seems to have extinguished some of the spread-out, pass-happy blaze.

Military Bowl: Toledo Vs. Navy

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 23: John Dowd #68 of the Navy Midshipmen celebrates the win after the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at New Meadowlands Stadium on October 23, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Image
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    The Toledo Rockets go 7-5 in 2011, while Navy sails to an 8-4 mark, landing the two in the Military Bowl in Washington, DC.

Texas Bowl: Texas vs. Illinois

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    LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 16: The Texas Longhorn flag runs across the Nebraska Cornhusker endzone after their final score during second half action of their game at Memorial Stadium on October 16, 2010 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Texas Defeated Nebraska 20-13. (Pho
    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Though 8-4 Texas certainly bounces back from its 5-7 showing in 2010, the key losses on the coaching staff may be part of the reason the Longhorns don’t achieve a nine or 10 win season in 2011.

    The Illini’ manage seven wins in the new Big Ten and return to Houston for their second consecutive Texas Bowl appearance.

Alamo Bowl: Missouri vs. Arizona State

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    TUCSON, AZ - DECEMBER 02:  Runningback Cameron Marshall #26 of the Arizona State Sun Devils scores a rushing touchdown during the college football game at Arizona Stadium on December 2, 2010 in Tucson, Arizona. The Sun Devils defeated the Wildcats 30-29 i
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Though the Tigers certainly miss QB Blaine Gabbert, they still achieve a 9-3 mark in 2011; having all their receivers and most of their defensive line back certainly doesn’t hurt.

    Arizona State manages nine wins and captures the first-ever Pac-12 South division crown but goes on to lose the inaugural Pac-12 Conference championship game to a good Oregon team.

Armed Forces Bowl: San Diego State vs. UTEP

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    SAN DIEGO - NOVEMBER 20:  Quarterback Ryan Lindley #14 of the San Diego State Aztecs throws a pass against the Utah Utes at Qualcomm Stadium on November 20, 2010 in San Diego, California.  Utah won 38-34.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    It’s 7-5 San Diego State from the Mountain West versus 7-5 University of Texas at El Paso from Conference USA in the Armed Forces Bowl in Dallas, Texas.

Pinstripe Bowl: Pittsburgh Vs. BYU

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    FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 16:  Head coach Bronco Mendenhall of the BYU Cougars heads his team against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 16, 2010 in Fort Worth, Texas.  TCU beat BYU 31-3. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Pittsburgh secures a third-place finish in the Big East by going 4-3 in conference and 8-4 overall while newly independent BYU goes 8-4 and garners a Pinstripe Bid due to the lack of a seventh team being bowl eligible in the Big 12.

    Looking towards the future, BYU has secured an automatic bid in the Poinsettia Bowl in 2012 and the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in 2013.

Music City Bowl: Tennessee vs. North Carolina

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    COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 30:  Head coach Derek Dooley of the Tennessee Volunteers watches on against the South Carolina Gamecocks during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on October 30, 2010 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Im
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Tennessee gets the opportunity to revenge its thrilling loss to North Carolina in the 2010 Music City Bowl with an ironic sequel pitting the same teams together in 2011.

    UNC manages a 7-5 mark, while the Volunteers under Derek Dooley improve to 7-5 in 2011.

Holiday Bowl: Texas Tech vs. Arizona

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    TUCSON, AZ - DECEMBER 02:  Wide receiver Juron Criner #82 of the Arizona Wildcats is unable to catch a deep pass during the college football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Arizona Stadium on December 2, 2010 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Ch
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Texas Tech somehow scrapes together nine wins in 2011, while Arizona improves to the same mark, just narrowly missing an opportunity to play in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game.

    It’s the Big 12 No. 3 team (tied with Missouri and Oklahoma State) versus the Pac-12 No. 4 finisher (tied with USC, who is not bowl eligible).

Meineke Car Care Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. USF

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 31:  B.J. Daniels #7 of the USF Bulls celebrates after scoring a touchdown with teammate Dontavia Bogan #81 against the Clemson Tigers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 31, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Georgia Tech improves to 7-5 in 2011 (finishing tied for third in the ACC Coastal division), while the South Florida Bulls (8-4, 5-2 Big East) fall just short of a first-ever Big East championship.

Sun Bowl: Utah vs. Maryland

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    SAN DIEGO - NOVEMBER 20:  The Utah Utes get ready to take the field for the game with the San Diego State Aztecs at Qualcomm Stadium on November 20, 2010 in San Diego, California.  Utah won 38-34.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    The Utes manage to win five conference games in their inaugural Pac-12 campaign, earning them the No. 4 spot in the South division.

    Maryland goes 7-5 in 2011 and continues to improve despite a fairly harsh schedule.

Liberty Bowl: Tulsa Vs. Louisville

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    SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 30: John Flanders #21 of the Tulsa Golden Hurricane holds the ball after intercepting a pass in the end zone against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish as teammates Charles Davis #24 (center) and DeWitt Jennings #27 join the celebratio
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Tulsa achieves a 10-4 overall mark in 2011, including besting UCF for the Golden Hurricanes' second-ever Conference USA crown.  If not for Tulsa’s non-conference slate (which included games at Oklahoma, at Boise State and versus Oklahoma State), the Hurricanes might have been a potential “BCS Buster”.

    Louisville continues improving under Charlie Strong and finishes 7-5 overall (its best regular season mark since Bobby Petrino’s final season there in 2006).

Chick-Fil-A Bowl: North Carolina State Vs. Arkansas

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    ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 28:  The North Carolina State Wolfpack snap the ball during the Champs Sports Bowl against the West Virginia Mountineers at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium on December 28, 2010 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    North Carolina State returns eight starters to each side of the ball and manages an impressive 10-2 regular season finish in 2011.  They come in second to the perfect Florida State Seminoles in the ACC Atlantic Division, but nevertheless achieve their best finish since 2002.

    Arkansas manages to go 8-4 mostly on the strength of their running game, led by Knile Davis, and a stingy defense.

TicketCity Bowl: Iowa vs. SMU

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    DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 30:  Defensive end Joshua McNary #44 of the Army Black Knights defends the play against Zach Line #48 of the SMU Mustangs during the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on December 30, 2010 in Dallas, Texas.
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The re-tooling 2011 Hawkeyes go 7-5 in the new Big Ten, while the Mustangs of SMU also go 7-5 and look for only their second bowl win since 1984.

    Can the Mustangs break their bowl losing streak in Dallas’ Historic Cotton Bowl?

Outback Bowl: Michigan State Vs. Florida

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    STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 27: Head coach Mark Dantonio of the Michigan State Spartans leads his team onto the field before a game against the Penn State Nittany Lions on November 27, 2010 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. The Spartans w
    Hunter Martin/Getty Images

    In 2011, the Spartans return most of their 11-2 squad from 2010, but they can’t seem to reproduce the magic of 2010, ultimately finishing 8-4 and tied for second place in the new Big Ten Legends Division.

    The Gators improve to 8-4 under new head coach Will Muschamp, but a November road loss to South Carolina keeps them out of the SEC Championship game.

Capital One Bowl: Ohio State Vs. South Carolina

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 04:  Quarterback Terrelle Pryor #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks to hand the ball of to Dan Herron #1 against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 4, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Ohio State, suffering from early season suspensions, drops an early game at Miami (Fla.) and then struggles at Nebraska.  An additional conference loss puts the Buckeyes out of the BCS mix for the first time since 2004.

    South Carolina manages a return visit to the SEC Championship, only to be upended by the other team from Alabama, the Crimson Tide.

Gator Bowl: Georgia vs. Penn State

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    ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 27:  The Georgia Bulldogs enter the field to face the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Sanford Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Bulldogs improve to 7-5 in 2011, earning them a third place finish in the SEC East.  Meanwhile, Penn State returns eight starters to each side of the ball in 2011 and scores an 8-4 finish in the new, enhanced Big Ten. Bowl: Troy vs. Miami (OH)

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 18:  Members of the Troy University Trojans celebrate after defeating the Ohio University Bobcats 48-21 during the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on December 18, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Troy (which faces Clemson, Arkansas and Navy in non-conference games) earns a 7-4, second-place finish in the Sun Belt Conference, while the Red Hawks can’t re-enact their last-second heroics in the MAC Championship (versus Northern Illinois) and finish second at 8-4.

Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Mississippi State

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    ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 07:  Wide receiver Rueben Randle #2 of the LSU Tigers runs the ball against the Texas A&M Aggies during the AT&T Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium on January 7, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The Aggies make a repeat trip to the Cotton Bowl by virtue of a second-place finish in the Big 12, while Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs go 9-3, finishing third in the brutal SEC West.

BBVA Compass Bowl: Connecticut Vs. Auburn

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    EAST HARTFORD, CT - NOVEMBER 27:  Jordan Todman #23 of the Connecticut Huskies celebrates his touchdown with teammates Ryan Griffin #94, Kevin Friend #77 and Mathieu Olivier #66 in the fourth quarter against the Cincinnati Bearcats on November 27, 2010 at
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Two teams that played in the BCS in 2010 find themselves headed for Birmingham, Alabama’s BBVA Compass Bowl in 2011.

    Auburn, returning only four starters on each side of the ball, manages a 7-5 finish in 2011, while UConn (minus its QB and head coach) also goes 7-5 (tied for fifth in the Big East with Syracuse).

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Cal vs. Army

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    BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 13:  Brock Mansion #10 of the California Golden Bears celebrates after they scored a touchdown against the Oregon Ducks at California Memorial Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Cal improves to 7-5 in 2011, while Army is bowl eligible and, therefore, secures its automatic bid to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco.

BCS Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. Michigan

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    ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 08:  Jake Long #77 of the Michigan Wolverines blocks against the Oregon Ducks during their game on September 8, 2007 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  The Ducks defeated the Wolverines 39-7. (Photo By Gregory Shamus/Ge
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Oregon is back with a vengeance in 2011, but a shocking loss in the opener to LSU in Arlington, Texas effectively takes the Ducks out of the national championship equation before the season even gets started.

    The Michigan Wolverines become one of the biggest storylines in 2011 as they manage to sustain a great offense but add an aggressive defense to the mix that catapults them to an unlikely Big Ten Legends Division crown. 

    Things get even weirder when Brady Hoke’s Wolverines knock off Wisconsin in a bizarre inaugural playing of the Big Ten championship game, resulting in Michigan garnering a Rose Bowl bid for the first time since 2007.

BCS Sugar Bowl: LSU vs. West Virginia

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    BATON ROUGE, LA - SEPTEMBER 25:  Noel Devine #7 of the West Virginia Mountaineers avoids a tackle by Brandon Taylor #15 of the Louisiana State Univeristy Tigers at Tiger Stadium on September 25, 2010 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  The Tigers defeated the Mou
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Les Miles’ voodoo magic continues into 2011, including a historic win over Oregon in the opener in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.  The Tigers go on to fall just short of perfection with a nail biter loss to Alabama in Tuscaloosa in early November.

    West Virginia gains not only a coach in waiting in Dana Holgorsen (former OC at Oklahoma State in 2010), but they also gain a masterful offensive coordinator for 2011.  Holgorsen, a former disciple of Mike Leach, may be underestimated in the formula of why Oklahoma State was so successful offensively in 2010.

    No such mistake will be made in evaluation of the 2011 Mountaineers, which spread it out offensively to dominate and then win the Big East crown. Opposing defenses will be in therapy for months after being exposed to the spread out, fast-moving West Virginia offensive sensation.

    The Sugar Bowl will mark the second matchup between the two teams during the 2011-12 season, the first meeting being a close Tiger victory on September 24 in Morgantown.

BCS Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Wisconsin

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    MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 03:  An aerialist parachutes onto the field prior to the Stanford Cardinal playing against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2011 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Virginia Tech manages to survive the loss of QB Tyrod Taylor and rides its swarming defense to an ACC Coastal Division crown.  The Hokies fall short of another ACC title in a loss in the championship to the Seminoles but still manage a BCS bid.

    Wisconsin also manages to live without its superstar QB, Scott Tolzien, also relying on their “D”, but additionally, the Badgers retain two star backs from a squad that ranked No. 12 nationally in rushing yards.  The Badgers earn a first-ever Big Ten Leaders Division crown but fall to Michigan in what will be remembered as not only the first Big Ten Championship game, but also the strangest Big Ten title contest.

BCS Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Stanford

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    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01:  Travis Lewis #28 of the Oklahoma Sooners reacts at the end of the game against the Connecticut Huskies during the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at the Universtity of Phoenix Stadium on January 1, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Ro
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The Sooners return nine offensive and eight defensive starters in 2011 but still struggle in the opener versus a very good Tulsa squad.  The game leaves the Oklahoma faithful fearful of another slow start and fears become an ugly reality when the Sooners suffer an early-season loss to Florida State in Tallahassee during Week 3.

    The Sooners go on to dominate and win the now championship game-less Big 12, but don’t compete for an eighth national crown.

    Stanford overcomes the loss of coach Jim Harbaugh but falls short of perfection and an appearance in the first ever Pac-12 Championship game with a home loss to the Oregon Ducks.

BCS National Championship: Florida State vs. Alabama

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    ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31:  Head coach JimboFisher of the Florida State Seminoles is doused with water in the final seconds of their 26-17 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks during the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl at Georgia Dome on December 31, 2010 in Atlan
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Florida State Seminoles return eight starters on each side of the ball and, despite huge concerns at linebacker, manage a perfect run through the 2011 season.  

    A huge early-season home win over Oklahoma sets the stage and hosting Maryland, Miami (Fla.), and NC State in Tallahassee proves providential. 

    The entire season comes down to a dramatic win at Florida and a not-so-close win over Virginia Tech in the ACC title game.

    Jimbo Fisher is suddenly a genius, and the entire “coach in waiting” concept is once again heralded as pure brilliance (Will Muschamp now just wasn’t patient enough.).

    The Alabama Crimson Tide looked hungry throughout 2010 and subsequently stuff themselves full in 2011.  The Tide defense is so stingy that it gives Saban and company time to sort out the QB issue and Alabama rolls.

    The SEC West title comes down to a historic meeting with LSU in Tuscaloosa, with the Tide coming out on top, and is followed by a big Alabama win over the Gamecocks in the SEC Championship.

    As a side note, despite the media hype, the Crimson Tide do not overlook the road trip to Mississippi State immediately after the LSU win, and the Bulldogs are made to pay for their sins in 2010.

    So will the Seminoles score their second national title, or will it be Alabama who brings home her 12th national crown?