BCS bowl previews

The big games are coming into focus, and we help adjust the lens. Oregon and Stanford represent the Pac-12, and Alabama and LSU will conspire to ensure another SEC national title. Plus, you can't overlook the snoozers in the Orange and Sugar Bowls. Okay, maybe you can, but we won't here. Read on!

Rose Bowl, Mon. Jan. 2, 2 p.m. PT, ESPN, Pasadena, Calif.
Oregon (-6) vs. Wisconsin

Corporate sponsor: Vizio. Who doesn't like low-budget televisions? I award three of five NASCAR vehicles, plus you get to watch them go round and round in HD.

Swagalicious factor:The Quacks and the Cheeseheads receive a gift suite, Fossil watch, New Era hat and Oakley Flak Pack 3.0. An Oakley Flak Pack is a standard backpack that nears $100 after your taxes, shipping and handling. If that doesn't say conspicuous consumption, I don't know what does. I award a bottle of Dom P. on the alcohol bling-bling scale.

Must-watchness factor: If the lines are to be believed, this could well be the first bowl game the Pac-12 wins. It's the Rose Bowl, and a traditional matchup at that. It's a dramatic contrast between pro and spread offenses. Stanford's season looks a lot better if Oregon romps. Watch over your New Year's Eve hangover. And just about anything else. It's the Rose Bowl.

Prediction: Oregon 42, Wisconsin 21. A lot less margin for error when you have to go five yards a pop play after play down the field, drive after drive, versus exploiting one missed tackle for 60-yard touchdowns every other possession. Stanford found this out the hard way, and another run-heavy red and white team will as well.

Fiesta Bowl, Mon. Jan. 2, 5:30 p.m. PT, ESPN, Glendale, Ariz.
Oklahoma State (-3.5) vs. Stanford

Corporate sponsor: Tostitos. The company is responsible for about five pounds of my current body weight, but you can't argue with the scoops. Tostitos has been doing this for a while – they're not some fly by night sponsor – and I love the way the brand name rolled off Keith Jackson's tongue back in the day. Four of five NASCAR vehicles.

Swagalicious factor: Players receive the ubiquitous gift suite, a Kenneth Cole watch, a cap, and an Ogio Convoy backpack. Ogio Convoy packs are on sale at Amazon for $40 a pop, and really, it's necessary to mention that you're giving us a cap? Maybe fewer cruises would allow for better gifts. I award a 30-pack of Coors Light on the alcohol bling-bling scale.

Must-watchness factor: Umm, duh. The national commentariat is also saying this could be the best bowl game of the year. I'd imagine it'll get the second- or third-highest ratings behind the BCS National Title game and maybe the Rose Bowl, given the interest in Luck and the promise of an offensive shootout. Watch over the birth of your child. Well, as long as she's not the firstborn.

Prediction: Stanford 52, Oklahoma State 31. I think the break does Stanford more good than the Pokes, because the Card are one of the most dinged up teams in the country, so rest will help a lot. Plus, our game plans are more complex, so more time to develop and implement them should be an advantage as well. Oklahoma State has a great offense, but it's traditional and pro-style, which scares me a lot less than the spread. They'll get theirs, but half of Stanford's stars are leaving after this one and we'll be ramped up as can be. If Team T Boone can't stop Kansas State (or Iowa State), I don't see them stopping us.

Sugar Bowl, Tues. Jan. 3, 5:40 p.m. PT, ESPN, New Orleans
Michigan (-2.5) vs. Virginia Tech

Corporate sponsor: Allstate. You're in good hands, but I am tired of your commercials and your field goal net logos and the announcement every game without fail that you are donating $1,000 to the schools' general scholarship funds. Enough is enough, as there is such a thing as overexposure. I award a mere two of five NASCAR vehicles, and they each are nearing 100,000 miles.

Swagalicious factor: The Hokes and Team Hoke will receive a gift suite, Reactor watch, New Era cap and Majestic fleece pullover. The pullover and the caps are under $40 apiece. I love that players can (and are) pocketing thousands for signing with a school, or linking up with the local car dealer, or tattoo artist, or booster, or you name it, and we're supposed to be thrilled that they're getting a baseball hat. The players are drinking straight Patron in their spare time, but here, they're stuck with bottom-shelf tequila on the alcohol bling-bling scale.

Must-watchness factor: Will VT do better against Denard Robinson than they did against Andrew Luck? Of course, Michigan is perhaps the third- or fourth-best team in the Big 10, but hey, fan bases sell. Meanwhile, VT isn't even the class of the ACC, and, as you are aware, the ACC stinks. Watch over the NBA. Unless Brook or Robin or Landry or Brevin or your first-round fantasy pick are on.

Prediction: Michigan 28, Virginia Tech 13. I'm a diehard slappy (though I remain upset about how the program screwed Rich Rodriguez over), but I am a 2011 Michigan skeptic. After all, the Wolverines ducked Wisconsin and Penn State, were beyond lucky to beat Notre Dame, and the Big 10 is watered down too. However, Virginia Tech's best win was against mighty Georgia Tech, and Michigan did close with strong performances in victories over Nebraska and Ohio State. The offense gets the hype, but former Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has quietly made the Wolverines' defense a force. That should be enough against a yet-again overrated Virginia Tech squad.

Orange Bowl, Weds. Jan. 4, 5:30 p.m. PT, ESPN, Miami Gardens, Fla.
Clemson (-3.5) vs. West Virginia

Corporate sponsor: Discover. Capital One's commercials are significantly funnier, plus, does anyone take Discover? Why not just have the zloty sponsor this one; it'd be just as practical? I give two of five NASCAR vehicles.

Swagalicious factor: Players receive a gift suite and a Tourneau watch. These gifts are weak, and I'll bet Clemson and West Virginia got something similar last year anyway. A watered-down rum and coke on the alcohol bling-bling scale.

Must-watchness factor: (Chuckle.) Given the Orange Bowl's Big East and ACC tie-ins, it feels like Stanford was the best team to play in the game in the past five years. Watch over CSPAN. Actually, scratch that. I'm a politics junkie. Watch over your sock drawer.

Prediction: Clemson 9, West Virginia 6 (OT). A repeat of the thrilling Alabama-LSU regular season matchup. Naw, Clemson 31, West Virginia 21. When all else is equal, go with the team with the tougher schedule and conference.

BCS National Championship, Mon. Jan. 9, 5:30 p.m. PT, ESPN
Alabama (-1) vs. LSU

Corporate sponsor: Allstate. See the Sugar Bowl writeup. Two of five NASCAR vehicles.

Swagalicious factor: The players receive a gift suite, Fossil watch, New Era cap, and Boxer and Stone shirt. Boxer and Stone looks nice, and Fossil is a name brand. Plus, with all the oversigning, these companies probably have to shell out 120 per team. I award the finest drink on all of Bourbon Street on the alcohol bling-bling scale. Of course, this being Mardi Gras, it's served in one of those three-foot tall plastic souvenir cups.

Must-watchness factor: Yeah, the SEC superiority annoys me as much as anyone, and probably more than most after living in the heart of the beast for a good three years, a.k.a. Atlanta. I know Game One was a clunker. I know the all-SEC West title game makes a sham of regular season results, and creates one heck of a quandary – why shouldn't LSU be the co-national champion if ‘Bama wins narrowly? I know it's the Oversigning Bowl, I know Alabama stole Toby's Heisman Trophy, I know the quarterbacks are nothing to write home about, and I know the fan bases are obnoxious. However, I also know it's the SEC's umpteenth straight national title, and like it or not, these teams are the class of college football. Though the facts are inconvenient, we can't deny them – this is college football played at the highest level. Watch over any game save for the Fiesta Bowl.

Prediction: Alabama 27, LSU 13. LSU needed four missed field goals to squeak by Alabama the first time around, and I wouldn't bet on that happening again. LSU is at the Superdome, but Alabama is still a one-point favorite, which means the Tide would be favored by perhaps a field goal on a neutral field. Alabama has been the more elite squad in the last years, and I think they've recruited slightly better than the Tigers as a result. If it's close, I like LSU, with the Tigers being at home and Les Miles seemingly always finding a way to win in the fourth quarter. However, I don't think it comes down to the final whistle, as the Tide suck the life out what will prove to be an anti-climactic national title. Guess we should put up another statue of Nick Saban.


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