There is a lot of complaining about bowl games nowadays.
Kirk Herbstreit was on ESPN’s BCS Bowl Game Selection Show extravaganza slamming the process and Northern Illinois’ Orange Bowl bid. The thing is though who is going to blame Northern Illinois for accepting that bid? Who really had the right to complain?
It is just another thing to yell at the BCS about, but it was something they were almost required to do that to avoid an antitrust lawsuit. It was something some would say ESPN was very much campaigning for. If there is anyone to blame for NIU’s surprise BCS bowl bid it is the human pollsters and Nebraska. The human polls, after all, make up 2/3 of the BCS and helped Northern Illinois — and Kent State, for that matter — climb into a position where they could make the BCS with the right bounces.
Then there is Nebraska. Oh, Nebraska.
That devastating and somewhat embarrassing performance in the Big Ten Championship Game threw everything for a loop. The loss allowed Wisconsin to go to the Rose Bowl for the third straight year and added an extra team into the premium Big Ten bowl pecking order.
The fact Michigan could not jump Nebraska forced the Capital One Bowl into a Northwestern or Nebraska decision that proved to be very difficult. Yes, the conference may have stepped in to see to it that the Legends Division champion went to the conference’s marquee non-BCS bowl. But the Capital One Bowl did not break any rules in selecting the Cornhuskers. NU fans have a right to be upset, but blame the parties that really messed up — Nebraska and the Big Ten.
Or not. After all, like Northern Illinois, they were just following the rules set for this crazy game. As Stuart Scott used to say: Don’t hate the player, hate the game. And this bowl selection game — judging by the incredibly lengthy posts Brett has been putting together these last few weeks — is kind of silly.
So on to this week’s BlogPoll ballot. I think there is still time to submit edits (I am in my exam week at school, so I am a freaking wreck right now) so let me know your thoughts and any changes you would make.
1. Notre Dame
Bowl Game: BCS National Championship Game vs. No. 3 Alabama (Jan. 7, 7:30 p.m. CT/ESPN)
The Buzz: We get to see if a defensive player can win the Heisman this weekend when Manti Te’o represents his side of the ball in New York at the Heisman ceremony. The Fighting Irish were really led by the heart and passion Te’o played with this season, and he would receive my vote for the Heisman if I had one. Likely though it seems like enough momentum has been built for Johnny Manziell for him to take the trophy home. Notre Dame has a bigger trophy in mind and will face its toughest challenge in Alabama to get it in early January.
2. Ohio State
Bowl Game: No Bowl Game
The Buzz: The Big Ten’s biggest what-if this season. What if the Buckeyes were bowl eligible and able to play in the national championship game against Notre Dame? How much would it raise the conference’s profile even in this weak season to be playing for the crystal football (in Florida, no less)? Braxton Miller and the Buckeyes have a lot to be proud of this season and they might even steal a few first place votes should Notre Dame lose. But this season will always be about what could have, or should have, been.
Bowl Game: BCS National Championship Game vs. No. 1 Notre Dame (Jan. 7, 7:30 p.m. CT/ESPN)
The Buzz: The Crimson Tide played one of those great college football games in defeating the Bulldogs last weekend in the SEC Championship Game. Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon established everything on the ground early on, bulldozing their way through the Georgia defense. But it was the game-winning pass from A.J. McCarron to Amari Cooper, a beautiful 45-yard pass, that won the game. The Crimson Tide are just used to winning and they found a way to do it. They are one win away from a second straight national championship and an incredibly impressive three-year run.
Bowl Game: Tostitos Fiesta Bowl vs. No. 5 Kansas State (Jan. 3, 7:30 p.m. CT/ESPN)
The Buzz: This should have been the national championship game right? Well if Kansas State did not suffer a late-season loss to Baylor and Oregon did not suffer a late-season loss to Stanford it would have been. At least we still get to see this game. Two high-scoring offenses and two very very good teams. Oregon has that spread, fast-break offense that they run. It is extremely effective and is one that is difficult to prepare for. One thing that has been consistent in bowl games recently is that while Oregon’s talent allows the team to recover and play well, it usually takes a while for the offense to find its rhythm early on in bowl games. That might be something to watch for as Oregon apparently has its best defense of the Chip Kelly era.
5. Kansas State
Bowl Game: Tostitos Fiesta Bowl vs. No. 4 Oregon (Jan. 3, 7:30 p.m. CT/ESPN)
The Buzz: Colin Klein was the favorite for the Heisman at one point. He will be in New York for the trophy presentation, but it seems like his time passed him with one bad performance. If there is one guy who can conduct an offense to keep up with Oregon’s, it might be Klein after the season he had. That is what makes this matchup so fascinating. These are two very good teams in ways that are not always obvious. Honestly, as far as entertainment value goes, this might be the most intriguing matchup of the entire bowl schedule. Be sure to tune in.
Bowl Game: Capital One Bowl vs. No. 6 Georgia (Jan. 1, 12 p.m. CT/ABC)
The Buzz: Yuck. That was embarrassing Nebraska. No other way to put it. Sure, Taylor Martinez had one of the great quarterback runs of the year when the game still looked like it might be competitive. Wisconsin though just bulldozed its way through Nebraska on the ground and dominated the game. Thankfully for Nebraska, the conference stepped in and made sure it went to Orlando. So congratulations, Nebraska, you get to face a very strong and very physical Georgia team. Bo Pelini better make sure his players are prepared and ready to play or another embarrassment might be coming.
Bowl Game: Outback Bowl vs. No. 11 South Carolina (Jan. 1, 12 p.m. CT/ESPN)
The Buzz: Tampa is really selling the Denard Robinson vs. Jadaveon Clowney matchup in selling this game. And that has made the Outback Bowl one of the non-BCS Bowl games to watch. All Steve Spurrier comments aside, this should be a pretty good matchup between two talented but flawed teams. Too bad no one will be watching because Northwestern will be taking care of business in Jacksonville. Speaking of which…
Bowl Game: Taxlsayer.com Gator Bowl vs. Mississippi State (Jan. 1, 11 a.m. CT/ESPN2)
The Buzz: No one probably suffered more from Nebraska’s loss in the Big Ten Championship Game than Northwestern. Going from Capital One to Gator Bowl. There is definitely a loss in prestige. But if you ask the Wildcats, all that really matters is getting the win. It may not be a monkey this year, but the Cats will be hungry no matter the disappointment in falling in the bowl pecking order. We know that every bowl game matters. At least for us. Mississippi State is still a pretty good team. Not someone to look past. But it is a very winnable game for the Wildcats.
Bowl Game: Rose Bowl Game vs. No. 13 Stanford (Jan. 1, 4 p.m. CT/ESPN)
The Buzz: Am I being a bit of a Big Ten homer? Probably. The Badgers lost a lot of close games and failed to live up to expectations. Yet, there they are in the Rose Bowl Game for the third straight year. This is still an incredibly talented team and Wisconsin found itself at the end of the season and particularly in Indianapolis to win the conference yet again. That deserves a ranking. So there it is for them. Deserved or not, they are Big Ten champs.
25. Penn State
Bowl Game: None.
The Buzz: The Nittany Lions put together an incredible season considering the circumstances. It makes sense that Tom O’Brien is up for the national coach of the year. He is very deserving of it for getting his team to play with so well with so many disadvantages. He and this team deserve a salute for the work it did this season. This is my way of doing that. After that rough start, Penn State put together a superb season. Unfortunately, the sanctions are just beginning.