BCS Bowl Preview 2013
Assistant Director, Internal Affairs
New Year’s Day not only signifies a new year, but also represents the start of one of the most exciting weeks in football, BCS bowl week. This year, the best of the best in college football will meet in a series of five matchups, starting with the Rose Bowl on January 1st and culminating with the BCS National Championship on January 7th. Here’s a look at what you can expect from these great matchups:
Rose Bowl Game: Wisconsin Badgers (8-5) vs. Stanford Cardinal (11-2)
January 1st, 5 p.m.
The Rose Bowl features Stanford out of the Pac-12 and Wisconsin, the representative of the Big 10. After Northern Illinois’ ascension to the Orange Bowl, the selection of Wisconsin is perhaps the most puzzling of all the teams. The Badgers finished at .500 in conference and recorded losses to Oregon State and Nebraska as well as a trio of overtime losses to Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State. Finishing the season unranked behind bowl ineligible teams Ohio State and Penn State, the Badgers have found themselves riding Montee Ball’s historic season, having seen him break the all-time NCAA touchdown record. It is not all roses for the Badgers, however, who have seen head coach Bret Bielema hired away by embattled Arkansas. In Bielema’s place, for one game, steps former Wisconsin head coach and current Athletic Director Barry Alvarez, who compiled a 118-73-4 record, including a 3-0 record in the Rose Bowl, in 16 seasons as head coach from 1990-2005. It will be interesting to see the impact of Alvarez’s return to the sideline for this one game, but Alvarez is almost certain to have a difficult time drawing up a game plan that can expose Stanford. He inherits a very one dimensional offense, making it seem as though this Wisconsin team will be easy pickings for a Stanford team who has shown how capable they are against the run, only allowing 14 scores on the ground all season long. The Cardinal are allowing about three yards per carry, two less than Ball’s average, and that’s if Ball gets out of the backfield, where Stanford has made 120 tackles this season. The Stanford secondary is no less friendly for Wisconsin, having picked off opposing quarterbacks 14 times this season. Wisconsin’s lack of confidence in their freshman quarterback Joel Stave showed in his 17 passing attempts per game, making good on just about 60% of those attempts, and compounding this issue is the fact that he will not even be available for the game. The Badgers have been deferring to senior Curt Phillips to stand under center and hand off to Montee Ball. Don’t expect much more than simple run plays, bubble screens and check down passes from the Badgers.
The line for this game stands at Stanford by a touchdown, which may just be out of respect for the BCS nature of the game. It looks to be shaping up as a very one sided affair and you should have no qualms in taking the Cardinal to roll.
Discover Orange Bowl: Florida State Seminoles (11-2) vs. Northern Illinois Huskies (12-1)
January 1st, 8:30 p.m.
Northern Illinois is the new BCS buster this year, having weaseled their way into the Orange Bowl ahead of teams like Georgia and Texas A&M. The Huskies ascended to the 15th spot in the BCS after outlasting #17 Kent State in a double overtime thriller in the Mid-American Conference championship. Their only loss was their season opener against Iowa, which makes them the first non-automatic qualifying team to reach a BCS bowl game without finishing the season undefeated. Their dual threat junior quarterback Jordan Lynch makes them a dangerous team to play. Lynch has 24 passing and 19 rushing touchdowns, tossing the ball almost twice as much as he throws. Supplementing Lynch in the backfield is junior running back Leighton Settle, who has half as many red zone carries as Lynch. The primary focus for the Florida State defense should be the ground game and Lynch. As long as they keep Lynch in the pocket and keep senior wide receiver Martel Moore in check, it should be an Orange Bowl victory for the Seminoles. Expect to see junior defensive back Xavier Rhodes showcase his skill in the secondary against Moore. Rhodes has picked off three passes this year and is very adept at breaking up passes, playing tight man coverage that will make it increasingly difficult for Northern Illinois to crack the end zone. The ‘Noles are also only allowing a slim 2.7 yards per run, and with only ten rushing touchdowns coming against them on the year, it seems that the Huskies will be at a loss as to how to move the ball. Florida State’s senior quarterback EJ Manuel already has 3100 yards on the season with 22 scores so look for him to add to that impressive total. Florida State’s turnover margin stands at -6, three of them coming at home against the Florida Gators in the Florida Cup, and if Northern Illinois can improve on their +8 margin to get some extra possessions the game might be closer than what Vegas expects.
The Seminoles currently hold the line at -14. With EJ Manuel’s skill through the air and a defense that will likely hold the Huskies below their season averages through the air and on the ground, it seems to be a good bet.
Allstate Sugar Bowl: Florida Gators (11-1) vs. Louisville Cardinals (10-2)
January 2nd, 8:30 p.m.
This year, the Sugar Bowl features the Florida Gators (11-1, 7-1 SEC) and the Louisville Cardinals (10-2, 5-2 Big East). The Gators were the darling of the BCS computers this year, and perhaps rightfully so with their stout defense and efficient offense. After only losing one conference game all season long in the one of the most grueling schedules in college football, the Gators roll into New Orleans led by sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel. Driskel is a standard quarterback in the Gators offense, doing just what he is asked but effectively executing every time he takes the ball. He is able to throw the ball well, averaging about seven yards per completion, and is also adept at the run game, having four rushing touchdowns on the season, second behind leading rusher Mike Gillislee with ten. Driskel slings the ball around evenly to his receiving squad, four of whom have twenty or more catches on the season, and three of whom have three or more touchdown receptions.
Driskel is opposed by fellow sophomore Teddy Bridgewater, who will most likely suit up for the Cardinals after New Year’s, barring any setbacks to his broken wrist and sprained ankle. Louisville finished the season by ending in a surprising slide, including a thumping loss to Syracuse at the Carrier Dome and a triple overtime thriller at home against UConn that capped an eleven spot tumble down the rankings from #10 to #21 in the BCS rankings. Bridgewater electrified the Big East with his arm, having career days at home against Temple with five touchdowns and away in the losing effort at Syracuse, passing for 424 yards on 36 completions. It is unlikely that he will have the same success against Florida and their stingy defense, which is letting up a mere twelve points a game. The Gator defensive line has not been as impressive as their secondary and giving Bridgewater time in the pocket is playing with fire. The Gators need to emphasize getting into the back field to make tackles for losses and to hurry Bridgewater into ill-advised throws that the secondary can pounce on. Look for Sharrif Floyd, a junior lineman, to force the issue with the Louisville offensive line. Florida needs to be careful in their aggression, having committed one more penalty costing them ten more yards than Louisville on average.
Vegas currently has a consensus on the game, with Florida at -14. Knowing how explosive Bridgewater can be, it might behoove one to take the points in this, considering Florida has been known to hit a wall in the scoring aspect of the game.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Kansas State Wildcats (11-1) vs. Oregon Ducks (11-1)
January 3rd, 8:30 p.m.
The fourth BCS bid for Oregon under Chip Kelly draws a formidable opponent in Kansas State under the rejuvenated Bill Snyder. Familiar to college football fans, Oregon still insists on using the no-huddle fast paced offense and gimmicky jerseys. Outside the spotlight and playing football with much less glitter and special effects has been Kansas State, who uses a John Wooden-esque “16 Goals” to ensure its success in Manhattan. Both teams have veritable playmakers in Collin Klein and Kenjon Barner, for K-State and Oregon respectively. Klein has played the central role in the Wildcats’ success this year having passed for a rather pedestrian 2490 yards and 15 touchdowns but supplementing that with a stellar 890 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns. His decision making has been at the forefront of his skill set, and his potential to score on almost any play allows viewers to overlook his slightly mechanical form. The red zone efficiency of this offense shows in its 43 touchdowns in 68 possessions, being able to produce a hair more than 40 points per game. The defense will certainly be tested by Marcus Mariota and Chip Kelly’s offensive pace, which is averaging nearly 51 points per game.
The Oregon offense will most likely try to burn the Wildcats with speed and quick strikes, but they are also efficient in marching the ball down the field to score in a more traditional way, albeit at warp speed. The double headed rushing monster of Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas have produced 32 touchdowns this year on under 30 carries per game. Matching Thomas’s offensive output is quarterback Marcus Mariota who is not only rushing for 57 yards a game but has also passed for upwards of 200 yards a game on average. Even if the Wildcats can stop the running game, the Ducks can still win through the air, with just about a third of their red zone scores being pass plays.
If Kansas State can get penetration and stop the play in the backfield it may bode well for a victory. Senior defensive lineman Meshak Williams has 23 total tackles for losses and sacks, so look for him to exploit the already suspect Oregon offensive line. Kansas State is also one of the most disciplined teams in the country, only committing 3.5 penalties on average for less than 30 yards a game. If they can keep calm and disciplined, they stand a good chance at making the Fiesta Bowl one to remember.
The line ranges from Oregon at -8 to -9 depending on where you look, which is a tricky line. Oregon is very prone to light up the score board and perhaps blow the game out of the water, but they did have trouble with the physicality of Stanford. Don’t guilt yourself into picking the underdog, but be prepared to sweat this one out.
Watch out in the coming days for our preview of next week’s BCS National Championship Game featuring Notre Dame and Alabama.