Blanchat: ‘Tis the bowl season

Dec. 7, 2011, 1:47 a.m.

Cue the sound. Turn up the lights. And let the controversy begin. As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, we’ve been rewarded with a rematch of LSU-Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game, but more importantly, Stanford has itself one hell of a matchup against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Fiesta Bowl.


With the Cardinal making its second consecutive BCS bowl appearance on Jan. 2 in Glendale, Ariz., there will be plenty of time for rumination before the Cowboys test out their high-powered offense against Andrew Luck and company–so let’s take a look at all five of the BCS bowls, see how they stack up at first glance and let you know whether or not you should tune in. Of course, we’ll start with the Cardinal and Cowboys.


Fiesta Bowl: No. 3 Oklahoma State versus No. 4 Stanford. This already appears to be one darn fine matchup, and judging by reactions from sportswriters and fans on Twitter, it looks like a lot of people will be tuning in to see Luck’s final college game against a very pissed-off Oklahoma State squad. The Cowboys were locked out of the national title game against LSU, and it’s safe to say they’ll be playing with an attitude and something to prove to everybody who left ‘Bama sitting comfortably in the number-two spot.


Of course, the story of this game is the two outstanding offenses, which everybody–except for the rare fan with a fetish for defense–finds more entertaining than 9-6 final scores.


Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden and superstar wideout Justin Blackmon bring in the nation’s second-best passing offense (386 yards per game) and the nation’s second-highest-scoring offense (49.3 points per game). Stanford has a more balanced attack between the air and the ground but still has the nation’s fifth-highest-scoring offense with 43.6 points per game.


Interestingly, Oklahoma State pairs its offense with a defense that has forced 42 turnovers, the most in the nation by a wide margin–six more than North Carolina State and nine more than San Jose State. (Yeah, that surprised me, too.) Paired with the Pokes’ offense, that could prove to be a deadly combination against a Stanford team that has struggled with turnovers lately and scored its three lowest point totals of the season in its last three games.


All in all, this looks like a great matchup on paper–and a matchup you and everyone else in the country will tune in for–even though a lot of people would have preferred to see the Cowboys in New Orleans. Naturally, that brings us to our next matchup.


BCS Title Game: No. 1 LSU versus No. 2 Alabama. Well, they say that the BCS title game is supposed to present to us the two best teams in the nation at the end of the season…but it just doesn’t feel right, does it?


This game doesn’t need to be previewed because we’ve already seen it before and had it analyzed and over-analyzed for us by every media source out there, and we already know what kind of game it will be. Unfortunately, some of the intrigue is gone from this one, because it will be a nasty football game between two schools that hate each other.


Obviously, you should tune in for this one–do you really have anything better to do on a Monday night?–but it might be best to watch this game with the sound off, or put it on your DVR and watch it at double speed. Unless, of course, you’re one of those people (like me) who needs a cigarette after a particularly good form tackle or a well-blocked punt return.


But if the SEC going for (and getting) its remarkable sixth-straight national title isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other BCS options to turn to.


Rose Bowl: No. 5 Oregon versus No. 10 Wisconsin. This game could easily be the most exciting of any BCS bowl game this year. Again, offense is the story in this one, and this time it’s because of the Badgers’ and Ducks’ ability to run the football. Oregon racks up 295.7 rushing yards per game, fifth-most in the nation, and Wisconsin isn’t too far behind with 237.4 per game, 11th in the country.


The best part of this game, much like the Stanford-Oklahoma State game, is the story of the offenses’ contrasting styles. Oregon runs their funky, spread-out, hurry-up offense, while Wisconsin grinds you down with enormous linemen that have allowed running back Montee Ball to run for 32(!) touchdowns this season. For comparison’s sake, that’s almost double the number of scores LaMichael James has run for this year.


So I’m definitely going to be watching this one, and so should you, even if it’s on my phone in the parking lot at the Fiesta Bowl. And in a move that may surprise my dedicated readers, I will also be watching at least a little bit of the next BCS bowl game two nights later.


Orange Bowl: No. 23 West Virginia versus No. 20 Clemson. These two teams are certainly not up to par with LSU and others, but I think they actually will provide a somewhat interesting matchup.


After winning its first eight games, Clemson pulled a classic Clemson move and lost three of its next four. But just when the Tigers looked like they were about to get run over in the ACC Championship Game, head coach Dabo Swinney brought out a classic rant that railed against Steve Spurrier and South Carolina, and Clemson beat Virginia Tech like a drum to make it to the Orange Bowl.


Now they face off against a three-loss West Virginia team that boasts the country’s eighth best offense–the Mountaineers put up 533 yards of offense against LSU earlier this year–and I must admit that I am intrigued.


Is it possible for Clemson to play well in two consecutive games late in the season? How many Red Bulls (Jagerbombs, perhaps?) will West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen drink during the game? Will Andrew Luck attend the game to support his dad Oliver, the West Virginia athletic director? How will the fans from rural South Carolina and West Virginia respond to Miami?


Maybe I need to chill out a bit if I’m talking myself into watching the Orange Bowl. But I know I sure as hell won’t be watching the season’s worst BCS bowl.


Sugar Bowl: No. 11 Virginia Tech versus No. 13 Michigan. Man, this game is a stinker. Sure, Michigan’s Denard Robinson and Virginia Tech’s David Wilson are two prolific runners, but unlike Oregon and Wisconsin, this game has zero sex appeal. I mean, one of the best wins that Virginia Tech had this year came against Arkansas State.


So there’s a lot of potential football-watching fun to be had when the calendar flips over to 2012, and plenty of good BCS games that should provide a strong ending to the college football season, even though it wasn’t really the ending we wanted to see. For now, it’s time to enjoy the holidays, obsessively read previews about the games and lament the fact that this Stanford season has just one game left.


It just goes so fast, doesn’t it?

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