2013-14 Bowl Picks Part 3: New Year’s Day and the BCS

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If the BCS never changed, it may be preparing for Year 17 in 2014 instead of being replaced by the impending four-team college football playoff.

Whether that’s a good thing or not, isn’t really debatable – the BCS was terrible. Or was it?

texas bowl
In fact, for the first 8 years of the BCS, the system was actually working out extremely well. Well, sort of. Oh, there’s always a "sort of" with the BCS.

In the first 8 years, the BCS set the stage for two of the greatest games in college football history – the 2003 Fiesta Bowl and the 2006 Rose Bowl – that could not have happened in a pre-BCS world thanks to the Rose Bowl’s Pac-10 and Big Ten tie-ins. For that alone, the BCS should be applauded.

But the other title games left a lot to be desired. From Miami left out in 2000 to Oregon left out in 2001 to #1 USC somehow now making the title game in 2003, the system seemed to do everything except succeed. It made for such a strange dynamic. Look at the two title games the Rose Bowl hosted in that time. One, Miami/Nebraska, was probably the worst title game in college football history. The other, Texas/USC, was possibly the greatest.

One long-forgotten aspect of the original BCS is how it did not destroy – at least not completely – New Year’s Day. With only four games, the season was always wrapped up by January 3 or 4. The title game was never played 10 days into the New Year. There were no Jan. 4 Sugar Bowls played in front of 20,000 empty seats.

Then came the dreaded double hosting model – an idea so bad, it should reside next to Baseball Night in America in the bad idea Hall of Fame. The BCS added that extra game under pressure from Congress and the system would begin its descent. The double hosting model ruined, well, just about everything.

Teams, like Ohio State in 2006, waited 50+ days to play a title game. There were the aforementioned weeknight, post-holiday bowl games that drew flies. The bowl hosted the title game always ignored the first bowl game, leading to debacles such as the Sugar Bowl in 2011 selecting Virginia Tech because they had been there before and were familiar with the game.

Yes, familiarity was a reason why Virginia Tech made a supposedly prestigious bowl game in 2011.

It also unnecessarily dragged out the bowl season. The reason New Year’s Day worked in the past – and why it will next year – is that casual fans were easily able to carve out a day or two to watch football. The bloated, double-hosting BCS required four nights that, again this cannot be overstated, took place after the holidays ended.

That part has been righted and starting next year, New Year’s Day, and New Year’s Eve, will return to hosting the most important bowl games. It’s a move, oh, 20 years overdue. But next year’s bowl schedule will be better than this year’s lineup.

Regular Season Record: 88-76-2
Best Bet: 6-9
Upset Special: 9-6

North Texas (-6.5) over UNLV
I watch a lot of college football. Have you noticed? So despite having access to just about every college football game played in a given week, save for the elusive Pac-12, I have seen a grand total of six plays combined from these two teams. And all six of them occurred when I watched UNLV try to come back against Utah State when that night’s Notre Dame game had me wanting to rip my eyeballs out.

So I haven’t watched North Texas for a second this year. I know UNLV beat San Diego State like a drum to finish the regular season, but Good Lord, did they look awful in trying to make that comeback against Utah State. While UNLV hasn’t been a to a bowl in 13 years, North Texas hasn’t been to one since 2004 and Denton, Texas is a lot closer to Dallas than Las Vegas. The Mean Green faithful are really excited – as they should – to play a New Year’s Day bowl game in the Cotton Bowl stadium, even if most mock it. I’m making this pick based solely on motivation and crowd support. Do not take it to the bank.

georiga nebraska
Georgia (-9) over Nebraska
Nebraska has to be sick of playing SEC teams in Florida on New Year’s Day, eh? Two years ago, it was South Carolina. Last year, it was Georgia.

You would think they’d have a chance this year because of Aaron Murray. If this was last year’s Nebraska team – or even the 2011 version – I might be inclined to agree with you. But this is this year’s Nebraska team and they aren’t very good. They are a Hail Mary away from behind the bottom team on the Big Ten pecking order. They beat absolutely no one of consquence, unless you consider 7-5 Michigan good, and ended the season in disastrous fashion.

Meanwhile, Georgia overcame the loss of QB Aaron Murray to stun archrival Georgia Tech in the season finale. Nebraska wants to rally around an embattled coach. Georgia has already rallied around its injured star and a star-crossed season in which everything and anything went wrong.

Georgia will end this season on a high note because it deserves to. Also, it’s like three touchdowns better than Nebraska.

South Carolina (+1) over Wisconsin *Best Bet*
This line annoys me. Wisconsin’s last game was a beatdown loss at home against Penn State. South Carolina’s last game was a beatdown win at home against Clemson.

What am I missing here? Ugh, I know whenever a line seems wrong, Vegas ends up being right. But I refuse to believe Wisconsin is a better team than South Carolina. And I don’t believe the Gamecocks won’t show up – it may be a close game, like last year’s Outback Bowl, but Spurrier will come out on top.

LSU (-7) over Iowa
I am so glad that this might be the last year of the ESPN-inspired “SEC-Big Ten roadblock” that has resulted in a seemingly never-ending stream of SEC buttwhoopings to start off the New Year. Remember in 2010, when the two Big Ten Michigan schools lost bowl games by, I believe, a combined score of 175-6?

As in 2010, the Big Ten got two deserving teams into the BCS. The problem? The rest of the league sucks. I know Zach Mettenberger is hurt and won’t play. It doesn’t matter. If LSU didn’t throw the ball once, they’d win by 10. They will likely throw it, thus they will win by a lot more than 10.

I don’t want to disparage Iowa – they had a very solid season and they had nothing but good losses. But they were still losses. This game could play out similarly to Iowa’s loss to Ohio State or Wisconsin, where they battled for three quarters but eventually fell off.

So at least this game has that going for it, right? It could be close at halftime…

Stanford (-4.5) over Michigan State
I have no good insight here. These teams are mirror images of each other. It will be a battle of wills, strength and determination.

And when I say that, I mean turnovers. Whoever commits more turnovers will lose the game. Stanford has been here before – this is their fourth BCS bowl in a row. Michigan State has not – this is their first Rose Bowl in 25 years*. I’m going with the calm, cool Stanford demeanor and betting that Michigan State makes one mistake too many.

*Watch this. Love this. "We did it! We did it! We did it!"

UCF (+16) over Baylor *Upset Special*
I love UCF in this game. They have been my upset special twice – on the road against Penn State and on the road against Louisville – and they came through in spectacular fashion both times. Why does no one believe in this UCF team? They have an NFL quarterback. They have athletes all over the field. The defense can be questionable but can make big plays. Their only loss was a 3-point defeat to Top 10 South Carolina. What am I missing?

As for Baylor, I haven’t loved them all year and have picked against them repeatedly, which hasn’t been the best course of action. Except that game against Oklahoma State. My feelings on Baylor? They are really good but a down year for the Big 12, in addition to a soft nonconference schedule, has skewed popular opinion.

In my mind, Baylor should be favored by about 5 points. So I’m getting an extra 11. Easy money baby!

Alabama (-15) over Oklahoma
This is a pretty easy game to pick because Alabama is miles better than Oklahoma. It all comes down to one question – does Alabama show up? Their no show in the 2009 Sugar Bowl against Utah has become stuff of legend, even if that Utah team is way better than people give it credit.

To me, this game feels a lot like the 2010 Sugar Bowl where a Florida team that had its national title dreams ripped away in their finale rallied around Tim Tebow – insert A.J. McCarron here – and delivered one of the most epic beatdowns in New Year’s Day history. It may not be 54-3. But I don’t think it’ll be close.

Missouri (-1) over Oklahoma State
I believe the SEC is better than the Big 12. Like, by a lot. And the Cotton Bowl in recent years has become a game of horrors for the Big 12, as they have lost the last five games and the last three haven’t been close. The last Big 12 team to win the Cotton Bowl? Missouri. They win again. Missouri that is, not the Big 12.

urban meyer orange bowl
Ohio State (-2.5) over Clemson
The more I think about this game, the more I get excited about it. It really is what bowl games – at least of the non-title variety – should be about. Two teams with great offenses, no defense and playing with nothing to lose to get a huge season-ending victory. While this game marks the end of an era for Clemson, with the loss of Tahj Boyd and the likely loss of Sammy Watkins, this feels like Ohio State’s first game in a road to redemption and a playoff berth in 2014.

Clemson played 3 big games this year. They beat Georgia. They got embarrassed by Florida State and South Carolina. Ohio State may not be as good as any of those teams – but I can’t trust Clemson in this spot. Not when they gave up 70 during their last bowl trip. Not when they haven’t beaten South Carolina in half-a-decade. Not when they have lost almost every big game they’ve played in the past 3 years, with the notable exception of this year’s opener.

And I’ll take Urban Meyer over Dabo Swinney in a big-game coaching matchup every day of the week.

Houston (+3) over Vanderbilt
Houston is either the luckiest team in the country or the most underrated. They were one of the nation’s best in turnover margin, which could mask a lot of deficiencies. On the other hand, their four losses all came by one score or less to teams with at least 8 wins – BYU, Cincinnati, Louisville and UCF. Vanderbilt likewise only lost to good teams, but they tended to be of the blowout variety.

It seems a bit foolish to even be making a pick now since any job opening – cough, Texas – means another round of rumors for James Franklin. And if I’m Franklin, I’d be on the first flight to Austin. I respect what he’s done at Vanderbilt but that program will never consistently beat out the Georgia’s and South Carolina’s of the world. And his rise coincided with a rare trip to the abyss for Tennessee.

That stuff aside, I think Houston is better than people think, I don’t think Vanderbilt is as good as people think and I bet Houston will be highly motivated to make a loud statement for the maligned American Athletic Conference. Remember UConn over South Carolina in 2009? Okay, you probably don’t. But I do. And that’s what I forsee happening.

Ball State (-9) over Arkansas State
Arkansas State lost its coach to Boise State. As I type this, Ball State hasn’t lost their hotshot coach, Pete Lembo, to anybody.

Also, Ball State is a 10-win team that has only lost to Northern Illinois since September. I think the MAC is marginally better than the Sun Belt. I think Ball State is decidedly better than Arkanas State. Not thrilled with giving 9 points in what will essentially be a home game, but I have to go with the better team.

My title game pick will come after the holidays…enjoy all the football.

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