Razz and Jazz Sports College Football Expert Charu Robinson breaks down all of the key Bowl games below.
#23 West Virginia versus #15 Clemson
This match up pits the Big East champion West Virginia Mountaineers against the ACC champs the Clemson Tigers. West Virginia, even though they won the Big East, had what many believe to be a disappointing season. The Mountaineers finished 9-3, losing, understandably, to LSU. But losses to Syracuse and Louisville tainted their promising season. The team is lead by quarterback Geno Smith, who is one of the better quarterbacks in the nation, ranked eighth in the nation, averaging 341.8 yards a game. Running back Tavon Austin can be electric with his speed, and is a game changer. The Big East is looked at as the weakest of the BCS conferences, and West Virgina would serve the conference well if they can come out with a victory here.
The Clemson Tigers came out of the gates rolling, starting the season off at 8-0. They would then falter down the stretch, going 1-3, but would finish the season strong with a 38-10 win over Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game. Quarterback Tahj Boyd got his game back on track and looked like the deadly dual-threat quarterback he was throughout most of the season. His main weapon, Sammy Watkins, is a dynamic receiver that commands double teams, thus opening the running game up for Andre Ellington. Ellington is a dangerous threat also, finishing the season with 1,062 rushing yards. In previous seasons, the Tigers were known to struggle down the stretch, and were considered underachievers. They look to extinguish that label this year by winning a Bowl Championship Series (BCS) game.
This should be an interesting match up. Two very good quarterbacks, surrounded by a variety of weapons. There should be a lot of scoring in this game, with the key being quarterback protection. If Clemson can protect Boyd and allow their offense to get rolling, they will be the victors.
Prediction: Clemson 31, West Virginia 20
#13 Michigan versus #11 Virginia Tech
This will be the first meeting in history between two distinguished programs. Virginia Tech currently leads the nation in consecutive 10+ win seasons, and has dominated the ACC for the majority of the last several years. With Joe Paterno no longer coaching, Frank Beamer is now the longest-tenured coach in the FBS. Michigan is one of college football’s all-time great programs, and is looking to regain its glory days. The Wolverines have gotten off to a good start with new coach Brady Hoke, as they went 10-2 in his first season.
Michigan is led by their exciting quarterback Dernard Robinson. After Robert Griffin, III, he is arguably the next best dual threat quarterback in the nation. Robinson had nearly 2,000 yards passing, and 1,117 rushing yards, along with 16 rushing touchdowns. He had some turnover problems, but no one would argue that the offense goes as Robinson goes. Their defense is not to be underestimated, as they made a dramatic improvement from 2010, under the guidance of defensive coordinator Greg Madison. They finished seventh in the nation in overall defense, and wrecked havoc on many a team. A Sugar Bowl victory would be a major step to bringing Michigan back to national prominence.
The Virginia Tech Hokies have quietly been the most consistent program this century. As stated they currently have the longest tenured coach and the most consecutive 10+ win seasons. They have struggled to gain respect this year, as they did not have any impressive wins. The best team they have faced has been Clemson, and they lost to them twice. The Hokies still won 11 games, and were the Coastal Division champions. Virginia Tech has numerous play makers, including running back David Wilson, who is the catalyst on offense. The junior running back finished with 1,627 yards, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. He has game-changing speed, and every time he touches the ball, he is a threat to score. Big Logan Thomas mans the quarterback position. He is 6’6, 245 lbs (which the announcers usually remind you of several times a game). After a slow start, his game improved, as did his confidence. He has a strong arm, and with his size, can be a menacing runner. Cornerback Jayron Hosley is a star on defense, one of the best corner backs in the nation. It should be very interesting to see how Bud Foster’s defense handles Dernard Robinson and the Michigan attack. Virginia Tech also has a unique player in wide receiver/punter Danny Coale. Coale is a very reliable possession receiver, and is also a punter and a punt returner. I cannot recall a player that is a punters and returns punts.
All being said, this is another very intriguing match up. This is the first meeting between these two teams, and they are meeting on a grand stage. From the overall bodies of work this season, Michigan has looked to be the more impressive team. Virginia Tech was gaining momentum, but got ran over their last game, while Michigan beat arch rival Ohio State for the first time in seven years. I think Michigan will edge this one out.
Prediction: Michigan 24 Virginia Tech 20
#4 Stanford versus #3 Oklahoma State
This game features a match up between two Heisman-contending quarterbacks; Andrew Luck of Stanford, and Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State. Most experts consider Luck to be the best player in the nation, and a cinch to be the number one pick in the National Football League draft. Brandon Weeden was the spearhead of the number two offense in the nation, as the Cowboys averaged nearly 50(49.3) points a game. Oklahoma State had a chance to play in the national championship game, as they were the closest third-place finish in the rankings based on points since the inception of the BCS. However, a late season loss to unranked Iowa State pretty much doomed their national title hopes. Unfortunately, this game was played in the shadow of a plane tragedy that killed two of OSU’s women’s basketball coaches. That being taken into consideration, this loss still severely damaged them in the polls, and in the voters’ opinions. Other than that game, the team was an offensive juggernaut, dropping 70 points on Kansas, 66 on Texas Tech, and finishing the season off with a 44-10 win over arch rival Oklahoma. Wide receiver Justin Blackmon is widely considered the best receiver in the nation, with 113 receptions, 1,336 receiving yards, and 15 touchdowns. Those numbers make that hard to argue. No team has been able to contain this high-powered offense, and Stanford will have its hands full to say the least.
With the departure of coach Jim Harbaugh to the National Football League, many wondered if Stanford could continue its success from 2010. The Cardinal did not disappoint, by going 11-1, losing only to a top-ranked Oregon team. Andrew Luck did nothing to hurt his draft chances, completing 70% of his passes and posting a 167.5 Quarterback Rating, with 3,170 yards passing, 35 touchdowns, and only 9 interceptions. Luck is helped by the strong running of Stepfan Taylor, who accumulated 1,153 yards rushing. Stanford definitely has an offense that can compete, as they were fifth in the country in scoring with 43.6 points a game. The test will be stopping the OSU offense, which is going to be a grave challenge. Stanford has had difficulties guarding big, strong receivers, and Justin Blackman is just that. My prediction is that OSU will be victorious in a high-scoring shootout.
Prediction: OSU 38, Stanford 28
#5 Wisconsin versus #10 Oregon
The annual showdown between the Big 10 champion and Pac 12 champion should be another classic match up this year. The fast-paced, wide-open offense of the Oregon Ducks versus the physical ground and pound style of the Big 10’s Badgers. This game showcases three players who were in the Heisman running; running back Monte Ball and quarterback Russell Wilson of Wisconsin, and LaMichael James of Oregon. Wisconsin, for the first time in a while, has a serious weapon at quarterback in North Carolina State transfer Russell Wilson. The mobile quarterback brings a dimension to the Wisconsin offense that they have not had. This, combined with touchdown scoring machine Monte Ball, (32 TDs second all time) make them a force to be reckoned with offensively. Wisconsin is very balanced, as they are fourth in offense nationally, and sixth in defense. The defense will have its hands full dealing with Oregon’s attack.
Oregon’s hurry-up, spread offense is a nightmare for most teams to defend. Quarterback Darron Thomas is the orchestrator, and LaMichael James just keeps on running. Oregon has other play makers too. Running back Kenjon Barner is a nice power-running compliment to James, and freshman running back De’Anthony Thomas could be the fastest guy on the team. Wisconsin’s physical defense will definitely be tested, as Oregon has tons of speed, and their offense operates like a super-charged sports car. This game should definitely be high scoring, and I give Oregon the edge if the game is a race to score the most points. The Ducks are built to win shootouts.
Prediction: Oregon 37 Wisconsin 35
BCS National Championship Game
#1 LSU versus #2 Alabama
The championship will be decided in a rematch between Alabama and LSU. On November 5, 2011. LSU defeated Alabama 9-6 in a rugged, smash-mouth defensive battle settled by field goals. Many people are not looking forward to the rematch, and wanted to see a different game, but these are clearly the best two teams in the country. These teams are almost identical statistically across the board.
Each team’s strength is suffocating defense, to go along with a capable offense. There are dozens of NFL prospects in this game, including Heisman candidate running back Trent Richardson of Alabama, and defensive back Tyrann Mathieu of LSU. Richardson is an exceptional runner with the ability to juke defenders and/or run over them. Mathieu is an Ed Reed-esque ball hawk, with a knack for coming up with the football and making the big play. He is also a dangerous kick returner.
Both defenses are loaded with a slew of future NFL players. LSU is ranked #1 in defensive nationally, and Alabama #2. Some experts say that there at least six defensive backs in this game that will go to the NFL alone. On the offensive side, Jordan Jefferson has reemerged as the starting quarterback over Jarrett Lee after missing games due to suspension. Jefferson’s run/pass threat makes the LSU offense more multidimensional and versatile. LSU is very deep at running back, with Spencer Ware, Michael Ford, and Kenny Hilliard. These backs are sure to butt heads with Alabama’s front line.
Alabama’s quarterback AJ McCarron isn’t a flashy player, but is a serviceable quarterback that manages the offense. He does not have to do much because Alabama’s defensive is so deadly. The offense does not have to score many points to win games. Trent Richardson is the go-to guy on offense, and at any moment can break a big run for a touchdown. I think he is even better than former Heisman winner Mark Ingram was.
This match up will be a classic game because the two teams are so evenly matched. It should not be as low scoring as the first match up, but the defenses will still make their presence felt. I’ll give LSU the edge, because with Jefferson at quarterback, they are more versatile and dynamic on offense. Lots of people did not want to see a rematch, but this is clearly the match up that should determine who the 2011 BCS champion is.
Prediction: LSU 23 Alabama 17