BCS and PAC-12 bowl game previews

After an exciting season, the NCAA football season will finish once again with several bowl games, featuring struggles between the best college teams in the nation.

The BCS Championship game features #1 Notre Dame (12-0) and the defending champions #2 Alabama (12-1, 7-1 SEC). Alabama will try to keep the domination of the SEC alive; the past six champions have all represented the SEC (Florida 2006, LSU 2007, Florida 2008, Alabama 2009, Auburn 2010, Alabama 2011).

This game will be decided by defense; both teams  give up less than 11 points per game (Notre Dame 10.3, Alabama 10.7), the best defenses in the NCAA. Undefeated Notre Dame’s defense is led by senior linebacker Manti Te’o, heisman trophy runner-up, who will try to stop top-rated Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron from leading the Crimson Tide to a consecutive national title. The game will be played on Monday, Jan. 7 at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN.

The Allstate Sugar Bowl hosts #21 Louisville (10-2, 5-2 Big East) and #3 Florida (11-1, 7-1 SEC). The Louisville Cardinals only lost two games late in the season (at Syracuse and to Connecticut in overtime), but has also not played a ranked team this season. The Florida Gators just missed the BCS Championship game with one loss to Georgia mid-season. The Gators feature the nation’s third best defense, allowing only 12.9 points per game. They will face off on Jan. 2 at 5:30 p.m.

#9 Texas A&M (10-2, 6-2 SEC) will take on #11 Oklahoma (10-2, 8-1 Big 12) in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. Texas A&M features Heisman trophy winner quarterback Johnny Manziel, the first freshman to ever win the prestigious award. Manziel leads the nation’s third best offense, which averages 44.8 points per game. Texas A&M will play the Sooners on Jan. 4 at 5  p.m.

On New Year’s day the Discover Orange Bowl will feature #12 Florida State (11-2, 7-1 ACC) and #15 Northern Illinois (12-1, 8-0 MAC). Florida State worked their way to the Orange Bowl, falling only to North Carolina State and #3 Florida, and finished the season by defeating Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship game. The Seminoles feature a strong defense, allowing an average of only 15.1 points per game, which compliments their offense, which scores an average of 39.9 points per game.

The Northern Illinois Huskies waltzed their way into the bowl game, only losing their first game against Iowa, and defeating their only ranked competition, #25 Kent State, in double overtime at the end of their season. Northern Illinois has a very dynamic quarterback in junior Jordan Lynch, who leads his team in both passing and rushing yards, and accounts for twenty four of the team’s touchdowns. The Huskies feature a stronger offense than FSU, averaging 40.8 points, but a slightly weaker defense, allowing 19 points per game. The Orange Bowl will be played Jan. 1 at 5:30 p.m.

Seven of the Pac-12’s 12 teams will make an appearance in a bowl game. Pac-12 champions #6 Stanford (11-2, 8-1 Pac-12) will play Big-10 champions Wisconsin (8-5, 4-4 Big-10) in the Rose Bowl. Stanford lost only twice, against Washington and against #1 Notre dame, in the regular season, and defeated #4 Oregon in overtime and beat UCLA in both the regular season and the Pac-12 championship game to make their way to the Rose Bowl. Wisconsin struggled during the regular season, but demolished #16 Nebraska 70-31 in the Big-10 championship game to earn their place in the Rose Bowl. The game will be played Jan. 1 at 2 p.m.

#4 Oregon (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12) will play #5 Kansas State (11-1, 8-1 Big-12) in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Both teams appeared destined to play each other in the National Championship game (Kansas State was ranked #1 and Oregon ranked #2 with only two games left in the season), until both teams lost on the same night, Oregon in overtime to Stanford and Kansas State to Baylor.

This year’s Fiesta Bowl will surely be a battle of offense. Oregon’s senior running back Kenjon Barner leads the nation’s second best rushing offense, averaging 323.3 yards per game, while the Ducks boasts the nation’s third best scoring offense, averaging 50.8 points per game. Meanwhile, the Wildcats are led by senior quarterback Collin Klein, who finished in third for Heisman voting. Klein leads the nation’s tenth best offense, scoring an average of 40.7 points per game. The Fiesta Bowl will be played Jan. 3 at 5:30 p.m.

#17 UCLA (9-4, 6-3 Pac-12) will play Baylor (7-5, 4-5 Big-12) in the Holiday Bowl. UCLA lost their bid for the Rose Bowl with a 27-24 loss to #6 Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship game. Baylor lost to all ranked opponents, except for their 52-24 victory against then #1 Kansas State. Baylor hopes that their offense (44.1 points per game) will make up for their weak defense, which allows 38.2 points per game. UCLA looks to take advantage of Baylor’s defense with a strong offense powered by senior running back Johnathan Franklin, who has rushed for 1700 yards this season. The Holiday Bowl will be played Dec. 27 at 6:45 p.m.

#13 Oregon State (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12) will play #23 Texas (8-4, 5-4 Big-12) in the Alamo Bowl. Oregon State features a well-rounded team with a decent offense, averaging 33 points per game, and an effective defense, allowing only 19.8 points per game. Texas has not beat a currently ranked team this season, but looks to pick up their first against the Beavers. The Alamo Bowl will be played Dec. 29 at 3:45 p.m.

The Las Vegas Bowl will feature Washington (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) and #19 Boise State (10-2, 7-1 MWC). Washington has played a very inconsistent season; they handed #6 Stanford and #13 Oregon State their first losses of the season, but the Huskies also lost to Arizona 52-17 and Washington State, a team with only three wins, in overtime. Boise State looks to gain respect for the Mountain West Conference with a win. The Las Vegas Bowl will be played on Dec. 22 at 12:30 p.m.

USC (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) will play Georgia Tech (6-7, 5-3 ACC) in the Sun Bowl. USC struggled in the regular season, losing to every ranked opponent as well as to Arizona. The Trojans depend on the connection between quarterback Matthew Barkley and receiver Marqise Lee, who account for fourteen touchdowns this season, to lead their offense and make up for a weaker defense, which gave up 24.6 points per game in the regular season. Georgia Tech has similarly lost against ranked opponents, as well as losses against both Miami (FL) and Mid Tennessee. Georgia Tech hopes to capitalize on a strong running back roster, led by seniors Trevin Washington and Orwin Smith, who combine for 1311 yards and 24 touchdowns on the season. The Yellow Jackets run for 312.5 points per game, the fourth most in the nation. The Sun Bowl will be played on Dec. 31 at 11 a.m.

The NCAA 2012-13 bowl games kick off this Saturday when Arizona (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12) takes on Nevada (7-5, 4-4 MWC) in the New Mexico Bowl at 10 a.m. The game will receive live coverage on ESPN. Early in the season Arizona was a highly anticipated team, and was ranked in the top 25 after a 59-38 win over at the time #18 Oklahoma State in their second game. Arizona soon fell out of the top 25 after consecutive losses to Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford. They are currently 4th in the Pac-12 South.