Instant Reaction: The 2012-13 Bowl Season

It's 35 games and three and a half weeks of pure football feasting.

Yep, another December and bowl season has fallen upon us. And as the matchups are now official, here's a rundown of initial thoughts as we head into the final stretch of the 2012 college football season.

The Five Most Intriguing Matchups

1) BCS Title Game (Notre Dame vs. Alabama) — Two schools, deeply steeped in football tradition, take the field in Miami. No question, this matchup has some real teeth to it. Great defenses. Fantastic offensive lines. Quarterbacks with great game management. Strong, smart coaches who will strategize like crazy over the next month. Strength and power all over the field This has the makings of an all-out war and that's exactly how the title game should be played.

2) Orange Bowl (Florida State vs. Northern Illinois) — There was shock, followed by heaps of disrespect slung towards DeKalb, Illinois tonight. Don't hate the players, hate the game. NIU did everything they had to do and the rules of an imperfect system played out as they did. Florida State and the ACC have been very underwhelming to say the least. This is a huge game for the MAC and small conference teams out to prove their case. While the heavy money is on the Seminoles, there's got to be a feeling that the Huskies are going to play with a major chip on the shoulder. This could be interesting.

3) Cotton Bowl (Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M) — Johnny Football vs. Big Game Bob. What was an old conference matchup is now a bowl game setup that once again sets up perfectly for the folks in Dallas. You have to credit the Cotton Bowl; last year they snagged two top-10 teams in Arkansas and Kansas State and packed 80,000-plus into Cowboy Stadium. This year, they land two top-11 teams and will again have little to no trouble selling out, laughing at the Orange Bowl folks for a second straight year. Oh yeah, and the game should be great. A&M's prolific offense takes on a well balanced Sooner squad that tied for the Big 12 title. This could be a close, competitive game all the way. Here's a fun fact as well: the SEC has technically never lost in Cowboys Stadium (8-0); given that Texas A&M's 0-4 Jerry World mark came as a member of the Big 12.

4) Fiesta Bowl (Oregon vs. Kansas State) — Wasn't it just a few weeks ago that these two were projected for the national title game? This one is interesting because the two teams have similar, yet different philosophies. Both teams live off the ground game and utilize talented option-style quarterbacks. However, while Oregon will charge up and down the field in record pace, Kansas State will try to control the clock and keep the Duck offense off of the field. I expect the game to be short and quick, but whoever controls the tempo will prevail.

5) Outback Bowl (South Carolina vs. Michigan) — Generally, the Outback Bowl is a close matchup and this one should be no different. What intrigues me is that, in this game, you have two teams who have changed identities during the season. South Carolina had to change due to Marcus Lattimore's season-ending injury, but has responded well since his absence. Meanwhile, Michigan continues to experiment with Denard Robinson, who started the season under Heisman consideration, but now doesn't even take the starting snap under center. Brady Hoke and Steve Spurrier are confident coaches willing to tweak systems. When you get those types in a chess match type of game, it's hardly ever boring.

The Best Bets

1) Georgia over Nebraska — Did anyone see how badly Wisconsin destroyed Nebraska? Now, does anyone remember the absolute slugfest that Georgia and Alabama played? The strong, physical running attack that Georgia brings matches up well for the Bulldogs against Nebraska.

2) There will likely be over 80 points scored in the Holiday Bowl — You can't deny the offensive juggernaut that Art Briles has built at Baylor. The Bears are a good upset pick, given that they are playing their best football right now. While I don't think Baylor will score as many as they did in last year's Alamo Bowl win, I think they'll score plenty. They'll also give up a lot, as UCLA has a pretty good offense themselves, while the Bears defense still lags way behind their offensive prowess. Regardless, expect both teams to get into the 40-point range.

3) Utah State over Toledo — I really like this Utah State squad. Gary Andersen is quietly building a pretty good Aggie football program. I thought that they didn't play their best game in last year's Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, losing to Ohio. This year, I think the Aggies are more mature, more talented and should finish the right way in Boise. USU is only getting stronger each year that Andersen is roaming the sidelines, which begs the question as to how long he stays in Ogden.

Bowls who won Selection Sunday

1) Fiesta — Oregon vs. Kansas State. Quality matchup.
2) Cotton — Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M. Great matchup, certain sellout and high ranked teams again.
3) Chick Fil-A — LSU vs. Clemson. Battle of the Tigers will be a good game with a big crowd.

Bowls who lost Selection Sunday

1) Orange — Florida State vs. Northern Illinois. Intriguing game, horrible ticket sales.
2) Sun — USC vs. Georgia Tech. Disappointing USC squad vs. 6-7 Tech. Ugh.
3) Independence — Ohio vs. La.-Monroe. What could've been with Louisiana Tech.

If you're mad at the lineup, point your finger at...

1) Louisiana Tech — Let's play devil's advocate here. Suppose the AD was right and that they asked Independence Bowl officials for more time, thinking the Liberty Bowl was within reach. That's still an insane move. This is a team whose conference went adios as of last Saturday. Would they have been a great Liberty Bowl pick? Absolutely. Sonny Dykes has one heck of an offense down in Ruston. Remember, they lost to Texas A&M 59-57 earlier this year. But if you haven't heard from any other bowls and one comes calling, you take it. You have no slot guaranteed. Take care of your players.

2) Jim Tressel — I won't touch Penn State as we've all had our fill there. However, Ohio State went 12-0 this season. Had Tressel not screwed up so royally and reported what he heard right away, the title game likely would've been Notre Dame vs. Ohio State. No unranked team with five losses in the Rose Bowl. No "Oh no, the SEC is going to win seven in a row." Just a matchup of two unbeaten teams.

3) The BCS, let's put it this way… — The BCS was supposed to get the very best teams in the biggest bowls. Instead, the 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th ranked teams are all out of the BCS picture because of the BCS rules. The "two teams per conference" rule took out four SEC teams, while the mid-major rule vaulted Northern Illinois into the picture. Meanwhile, you have a team in Florida, who finished second in the SEC East, automatically in the BCS, while Georgia, the team who beat Florida and won the East, out of luck for any BCS bowl. Why? The Bulldogs fell four yards short in a tremendous SEC title game.

Conference title games aren't going away. There's way too much money involved to eliminate them. However, what's right with a system in which a division champion is punished for losing a game to a possible BCS champion while the team they beat to win the division waltzes right into the Sugar Bowl. It's not right. And it definitely brings concern to the table when you're talking about a four-team playoff with a selection committee. Who do you pick? How do you take Oregon when Stanford, ranked lower, still won the conference and beat Oregon in Eugene? How do you take Florida when they lost the game and division to Georgia? The four-team playoff sounds good on paper but without question, there's a lot of doubt about it fixing the problems that college football faces.

Alas, the die has been cast and the bowls have been set. Happy bowling, everyone!

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