Steve Townsend wasn't too worried about his final Harris Poll vote. "I had USC one and Texas two and it was tough to decide," he said. But, he noted, "Since they are playing each other, it really minimizes the vote. I had Penn State third, Ohio State fourth and Georgia fifth."
Townsend said the Bowl Championship Series worked this year. "I don't think there is any question that Southern Cal and Texas are the top two teams," he said. "I think you can lump one and two in a league of their own. There's another group of 10 or so that are good football teams, and would be about even with each other. But there's no team the equal of Southern Cal or Texas."
USC and Texas will meet in the national championship game in the Rose Bowl on January 4. Townsend said, "I think it will be a heck of a game. Southern Cal has the home field advantage so to speak, but it should be an excellent game. I know no one is going to shut Southern Cal down, but Texas might slow them down. There are big time players in this game. Both are on long winning streaks. It is a great match-up. I think you have to look back to 1973 to the Alabama-Notre Dame Sugar Bowl for a game with such interest."
Townsend noted that the top two teams go into the game coming off routs, USC over UCLA and Texas over Colorado in the Big 12 Championship Game. "They should have matched UCLA and Colorado in a bowl," Townsend said.
The bowls got a little shake-up when Florida State defeated Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game. "Of all the games, the only real surprise was FSU over Virginia Tech," Townsend said. "Virginia Tech played so bad for three quarters, and played bad in areas they have always been good, such as letting FSU return a kick for a touchdown. That game had a trickle down effect on ACC bowl participation."
One thing the FSU win did was put the Seminoles in the Orange Bowl against Penn State. "That made the Orange Bowl an interesting game with Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno," Townsend said. Bowden currently has the all-time record for coaching victories, five wins ahead of Paterno. Both are extraordinarily old to be coaching. "It's like Methusula against Noah," Townsend said. "The attention will definitely be on the coaches in that game."
Townsend said, "I wasn't surprised at any of the other games. I was surprised Georgia won by such a margin over LSU." LSU fell from having an outside shot at the national championship last Friday, to playing Miami in the Peach Bowl. And the Tigers may be without quarterback JaMarcus Russell, who suffered a separated shoulder in the loss.
Townsend said that Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore and University President Dr. Robert Witt "deserve a lot of credit in holding strong and getting Alabama a Cotton Bowl berth. The players certainly earned that bid, but there were factors at work against Alabama."
Townsend called Alabama "a surprise team in the positive." Bama finished 13th, up a spot from the previous week, in all the polls. Bama will be playing Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl on January 2 in Dallas.
Townsend said, "The Cotton Bowl will be a game of great interest among college football fans. It's a great contrast with a team that has one of the very best offenses in the nation in Texas Tech against Alabama, which has one of the best defenses in the nation. It may be the ultimate in contrast.
"The Rose Bowl will certainly be the bowl with the most interest and I think the Fiesta with Notre Dame against Ohio State will be the second most interesting with the Cotton Bowl third."
Townsend said, "The Fiesta has two marquee names in Notre Dame and Ohio State. Both are midwest teams, but both have national name recognition, of course. It's a pretty good contrast, too. Not as much as the Cotton Bowl. I never thought I'd say Notre Dame is better on offense than defense. And Ohio State has very good defense and is not quite as explosive on offense. I think Ohio State is only team that held Texas to under about 40 points."
Townsend noted that the Alamo Bowl got "two big names in Nebraska and Michigan, and that will be a well-watched game. I'm surprised Michigan didn't go to the Outback Bowl to play Florida. Michigan is certainly a much bigger name than Iowa."
Townsend said, "I suspect Auburn would have liked to have had Michigan, too. I don't think the Auburn-Wisconsin game (Capital One Bowl) is going to be very interesting. I'd be surprised if that is much of a game because Wisconsin doesn't match up very well with Auburn. It will be the last game Barry Alvarez coaches at Wisconsin."
Oregon is probably down. They were pretty high on most ballots, probably, and they will be going to the Holiday Bowl to play Oklahoma. The same thing happened to a good California team last year and they got waylaid by Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Steve Townsend, an independent consultant for college football, is one of 113 voters in the Harris Interactive College Football Poll, which is part of the equation for choosing teams for the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) games at the end of the season. The BCS formula also consists of the USA Today Coaches Poll, and an average of six computer rankings (Anderson & Hester, Richard Billingsley, Colley Matrix, Kenneth Massey, Jeff Sagarin and Peter Wolfe).
Steve Townsend previously served as media relations director at Alabama (1988-98) and for the Southeastern Conference, co-publisher of Tiger Rag (the LSU equivalent of ‘BAMA Magazine), and as a graduate assistant under famed LSU Sports Information Director Paul Manasseh.
He shares his thoughts on the national scene with BamaMag.com on a regular basis.