— NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
LSU (BCS No. 1) vs. Alabama (BCS No. 2)
Jan. 9, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
At New Orleans
Comment: The SEC vs. SEC rematch for the national title seems inevitable now because of the weekend’s chaos. Well, this makes it official. The SEC will win an unprecedented sixth straight national championship. Will this game actually feature a touchdown (LSU won a 9-6 overtime decision on Nov. 5 in Tuscaloosa)? LSU’s two national titles were captured at the Superdome (and Alabama’s Nick Saban was LSU’s coach for that 2004 Sugar Bowl triumph).
Virginia Tech (ACC anchor) vs. Houston (BCS at-large)
Jan. 4, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Comment: After witnessing Clemson executing a deep fade pattern, we’re going with the safest bet in the ACC and that’s Frank Beamer’s generally reliable Hokies. Unbeaten Houston vs. one-loss Virginia Tech? It probably won’t generate boffo TV ratings, but it’s worth watching.
Michigan (BCS at-large) vs. West Virginia (Big East champion)
Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
At New Orleans
Comment: The LSU-Alabama title game takes away the Sugar Bowl’s SEC anchor team (twice), but the fast-charging Wolverines and the Mountaineers, escaping from the Big East scrum, make for a fascinating matchup. Coin-flip idea: Rich Rodriguez.
Oklahoma State (Big 12 anchor) vs. Stanford (BCS at-large)
Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Glendale, Ariz.
Comment: Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden vs. Stanford’s Andrew Luck – not a bad quarterback matchup. Oklahoma State, of course, will forever dream about what might have been. It still must defeat Oklahoma on Dec. 3 to clinch the Fiesta Bowl bid. Stanford, too, can look back at its 53-30 loss to Oregon with regret, but at least the Cardinal can try to win a second straight BCS bowl.
Wisconsin (Big Ten anchor) vs. Oregon (Pac-12 anchor)
Jan. 2, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Pasadena, Calif.
Comment: If you reshuffle the deck of this season, the Badgers and Ducks very well could be playing for a national championship. But a play here, a play there, and that scenario didn’t work out. It’s still a very nice Rose Bowl matchup with a pair of Heisman Trophy contenders (Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson, Oregon RB LaMichael James) leading the way.
Ohio (MAC No. 1) vs. Arkansas State (Sun Belt No. 2)
Jan. 8, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Mobile, Ala.
Comment: We’re projecting Ohio to defeat Northern Illinois in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game. On Saturday, Arkansas State accepted the bowl bid, its first since the 2005 New Orleans Bowl.
BBVA COMPASS BOWL
Mississippi State (SEC No. 8/9) vs. Louisville (Big East No. 5/C-USA)
Jan. 7, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Birmingham, Ala.
Comment: When Urban Meyer won two national championships at Florida (2006, 2008 seasons), his offensive coordinator was Dan Mullen and his defensive coordinator was Charlie Strong. It’s reunion time. Mullen is at Mississippi State. Strong is at Louisville.
Kansas State (Big 12 No. 2) vs. Georgia (SEC No. 3-West)
Jan. 6, 8 p.m. ET, FOX
At Arlington, Texas
Comment: Kansas State will finish 10-2 if it defeats Iowa State. That’s an outstanding season and it’s worthy of BCS bowl consideration. This isn’t a bad fallback prize. With Arkansas claimed by the Capital One Bowl and no suitable SEC West option available, the Cotton Bowl will turn to Georgia, the SEC East champion.
South Carolina (SEC No. 3) vs. Nebraska (Big Ten No. 3)
Jan. 2, 1 p.m. ET, ABC
At Tampa, Fla.
Comment: South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier once faced Nebraska for a national title. It was the 1996 Fiesta Bowl – Nebraska 62, Florida 28. Thankfully, for Spurrier’s sake, he won’t be facing Tommie Frazier this time. But Cornhuskers QB Taylor Martinez will still be a nightmare for a South Carolina team that could be aiming for a program-best 11th victory.
Penn State (Big Ten No. 4/5) vs. Florida (SEC No. 6)
Jan. 2, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN2
At Jacksonville, Fla.
Comment: It’s a matchup of brand-name programs, but how things have changed. The Nittany Lions have had to play through the specter of a child sex abuse scandal that led to the firing of Coach Joe Paterno. The Gators have struggled through Will Muschamp’s first season with no victories of note, but they still will be a nice draw for the Jacksonville-based bowl.
CAPITAL ONE BOWL
Michigan State (Big Ten No. 2) vs. Arkansas (SEC No. 2)
Jan. 2, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Orlando, Fla.
Comment: Arkansas is BCS bowl-worthy, but it picked the wrong SEC season (see LSU, Alabama) to put together a strong record. Michigan State, too, will narrowly miss a BCS bowl opportunity.
TICKET CITY BOWL
Illinois (Big Ten No. 7) vs. Southern Methodist (C-USA)
Jan. 2, Noon ET, ESPNU
Comment: Ron Zook’s Fighting Illini began 6-0, then squeaked into the bowl picture. It will seem like a true road game with an SMU-friendly crowd.
Clemson (ACC No. 2) vs. Auburn (SEC No. 5)
Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Comment: Clemson began 8-0 and had visions of a BCS bowl bid. We don’t think it’s going to happen. The regular-season finale against South Carolina could be Clemson’s third loss in its last four games. We’re favoring Virginia Tech to win the ACC Championship Game. Nobody is wild about staging a regular-season rematch – Clemson beat Auburn 38-24 in September – but that’s how it’s falling right now.
Southern Miss (C-USA No. 1) vs. Vanderbilt (SEC No. 8/9-Big East)
Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
At Memphis, Tenn.
Comment: We think Vanderbilt can get it done against Wake Forest to clinch the program’s second bowl bid since 1982. Southern Miss will take what is normally Conference USA’s top prize, while Houston rockets off to a BCS bowl.
KRAFT FIGHT HUNGER BOWL
California (Pac-12 No. 6) vs. Syracuse (Army/ACC)
Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
At San Francisco
Comment: Hungry for ticket sales? The California Golden Bears should help. Syracuse, provided the Orange get one more victory, draws the San Francisco trip because Army won’t be bowl eligible.
Georgia Tech (ACC No. 4) vs. Washington (Pac-12 No. 4)
Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ET, CBS
At El Paso, Texas
Comment: Both teams are sliding. Georgia Tech’s 6-0 start was offset by three losses in four games. Washington must defeat Washington State in Saturday’s Apple Cup to avoid a four-game losing streak.
MEINEKE CAR CARE OF TEXAS
Missouri (Big 12 No. 6) vs. Iowa (Big Ten No. 6)
Dec. 31, Noon ET, ESPN
Comment: Nothing like a good border war to spice up a bowl game. Both teams have notable victories against conference foes. Missouri beat Texas. Iowa defeated Michigan. Otherwise, there was little to see here.
Texas A&M (Big 12 No. 4) vs. Ohio State (Big Ten No. 4/5)
Dec. 30, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Tempe, Ariz.
Comment: It’s Texas A&M’s last Big 12 bowl trip before shuffling off to the SEC. Ohio State would like to pull up the covers and just forget this regular season, which could finish on a three-game losing streak.
MUSIC CITY BOWL
Virginia (ACC No. 6) vs. Tennessee (SEC No. 7)
Dec. 30, 6:40 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Nashville, Tenn.
Comment: Whew! The sound you hear is the relief from Tennessee coach Derek Dooley, whose Volunteers rallied from a two-touchdown deficit to defeat Vanderbilt in overtime, preserving their opportunity to become bowl eligible. Tennessee can make it official by defeating Kentucky, which has lost 26 straight against the Vols.
Texas (Big 12 No. 7) vs. Rutgers (Big East No. 4)
Dec. 30, 3:20 p.m. ET, ESPN
At New York
Comment: It hasn’t ended well for the Longhorns, who are 6-4 with road dates ahead against Texas A&M and Baylor. They can use a fun way to ring in the New Year, so why not the Big Apple? Rutgers is a natural choice from the Big East.
ARMED FORCES BOWL
Brigham Young (BYU) vs. Tulsa (C-USA)
Dec. 30, Noon ET, ESPN
At Fort Worth, Texas
Comment: Tulsa is unbeaten in the Conference USA’s West Division, but it’s expected to settle for this consolation prize after running into Houston to close the regular season. Brigham Young has eight victories, but none of them resonate.
Baylor (Big 12 No. 3) vs. Utah (Pac-12 No. 2)
Dec. 29, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
At San Antonio, Texas
Comment: Baylor QB Robert Griffin III is an attraction all to himself. Utah will be in good spirits. Its first Pac-12 season could finish with a five-game winning streak (and maybe a spot in the league’s championship game).
CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL
Notre Dame (Big East No. 2) vs. Florida State (ACC No. 3)
Dec. 29, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Comment: The Champs Sports can take Notre Dame in place of a Big East team (provided the Fighting Irish are 7-5 or better) once in a four-year cycle, so the time is right. Florida State, once ranked in the national top five, could use a marquee victory to erase the taste of a bitter season.
Arizona State (Pac-12 No. 3) vs. Oklahoma (Big 12 No. 5)
Dec. 28, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
At San Diego
Comment: Is that you down there, Oklahoma? Sad, but true. The Sooners seemingly lost their shot at a national title with an inexplicable loss against Texas Tech. Somehow, they were climbing back to the BCS forefront before falling at Baylor. Meanwhile, Arizona State knows all about disappointing seasons after failing to take control of the Pac-12 South in a season when USC was ineligible.
North Carolina (ACC No. 8) vs. Air Force (replacement pick for Navy)
Dec. 28, 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Washington, D.C.
Comment: Navy was sunk by a 27-24 defeat against San Jose State, preventing it from becoming bowl eligible, so Air Force makes for an appropriate replacement.
Cincinnati (Big East No. 3) vs. Wake Forest (ACC No. 5)
Dec. 27, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Charlotte, N.C.
Comment: When Cincinnati QB Zach Collaros went down, so did the Bearcats’ chances of winning the Big East title. Wake Forest has wins against Florida State and N.C. State, two of the ACC’s bowl-bound teams.
LITTLE CAESARS BOWL
Northern Illinois (MAC No. 2) vs. Northwestern (Big Ten No. 8)
Dec. 27, 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Comment: Christmas in Detroit? After a five-game losing streak at midseason, Northwestern is OK with that. The Wildcats must find a way to slow down QB Chandler Harnish and Northern Illinois’ offense, which has surpassed the 40-point mark nine times this season.
Wyoming (Mountain West No. 3) vs. N.C. State (ACC No. 7)
Dec. 26, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN2
At Shreveport, La.
Comment: This would’ve been the slot for the Miami Hurricanes, but the school turned down a bowl bid as part of its NCAA penance. Miami was certainly worthy. Five of its losses were by a combined 24 points. N.C. State, which became bowl eligible on Sunday, is the ACC fallback option.
Hawaii (WAC) vs. East Carolina (C-USA)
Dec. 24, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Comment: We’re picking East Carolina to defeat Marshall in the regular-season finale and clinch a 6-6 record. The payoff isn’t too bad.
TCU (Mountain West No. 1) vs. UCLA (Pac-12 No. 5)
Dec. 22, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Las Vegas
Comment: TCU could be headed for a 10-2 finish, which would be Coach Gary Patterson’s eighth double-digit victory season in the past 10 years. How solid is his program as it prepares for its ascension into the Big 12. Meanwhile, how shaky is Coach Rick Neuheisel’s status at UCLA?
Boise State (Mountain West No. 2) vs. Nevada (WAC)
Dec. 21, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
At San Diego
Comment: Great irony if this matchup comes about. Last season, Nevada defeated Boise State 34-31 in overtime to prevent the Broncos from reaching a BCS bowl. For the second straight season, a foiled field-goal attempt has thwarted Boise State’s lofty ambitions, but here’s a chance to make some amends.
BEEF ‘O’ BRADY’S BOWL
Pittsburgh (Big East No. 6) vs. Iowa State (replacement for C-USA)
Dec. 20, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
At St. Petersburg, Fla.
Comment: Conference USA might not be able to fill this slot – Texas-El Paso could get to six wins – but let’s send Iowa State to the beach. Why not? The Cyclones deserve something after topping Oklahoma State to jump start all the BCS chaos.
NEW ORLEANS BOWL
Louisiana-Lafayette (Sun Belt No. 1) vs. Temple (replacement for C-USA)
Dec. 17, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
At New Orleans
Comment: Conference USA can’t fill this slot, so let’s give a Bourbon Street trip to the Temple Owls of the Mid-American Conference. Two bowl bids in the past three seasons for Temple. Pretty heady stuff.
FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL
Toledo (MAC No. 3) vs. Louisiana Tech (WAC)
Dec. 17, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Boise, Idaho
Comment: It’s not often that one program gets TWO trips to Idaho in one season. Louisiana Tech traveled to Idaho and beat the Vandals. It’s also not often that a team scores 60 points – and loses! But you can look it up. Northern Illinois 63, Toledo 60. The Rockets were so angered that they promptly beat Western Michigan 66-63.
NEW MEXICO BOWL
San Diego State (Mountain West No. 4/5) vs. Utah State (Pac-12 No. 7/WAC)
Dec. 17, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Albuquerque, N.M.
Comment: The Pac-12 can’t fill this slot and the WAC will struggle to find a team. Utah State has five victories. It has games remaining with Nevada and New Mexico State. For now, we’ll pencil in the Aggies. If they don’t? Next week, we’ll be accepting applications (no phone calls, please).