(Teams in italics have accepted bid)
BOWL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
LSU (BCS No. 1) vs. Alabama (BCS No. 2)
Jan. 9, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
At New Orleans
Comment: If LSU takes care of business (and maybe even if it doesn’t), the only way to avoid this SEC vs. SEC rematch for the national title is for the voters to revolt and vault Oklahoma State into the No. 2 position if the Cowboys beat Oklahoma on Saturday. Even that might be a stretch. Will this game actually feature a touchdown (LSU won a 9-6 overtime decision on Nov. 5 in Tuscaloosa)? LSU’s two national titles were captured at the Superdome (and Alabama’s Nick Saban was LSU’s coach for the 2004 Sugar Bowl triumph).
OTHER BCS BOWLS
Virginia Tech (ACC champ) vs. Houston (BCS at-large)
Jan. 4, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Comment: After witnessing Clemson's executing a deep fade pattern, we’re going with the safest bet in the ACC and that’s Frank Beamer’s generally reliable Hokies. Unbeaten Houston vs. one-loss Virginia Tech? It probably won’t generate boffo TV ratings, but it’s worth watching. The Orange Bowl could wind up with Virginia Tech against the Big East Conference champion, depending upon the Sugar Bowl’s intentions. The Sugar could very well be infatuated with an unbeaten Houston team.
Orange Bowl tickets
Michigan (BCS at-large) vs. West Virginia (Big East champ)
Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
At New Orleans
Comment: The probable LSU-Alabama title game takes away the Sugar Bowl’s SEC anchor team (twice). But the fast-charging Michigan Wolverines, finishing 10-2, and the West Virginia Mountaineers, whom we pick to escape from the Big East scrum, make for a fascinating matchup. (Coin-flip idea: Rich Rodriguez). The Sugar Bowl could opt to match Michigan against unbeaten Houston, but we’re first intrigued by Michigan-West Virginia possibilities. Michigan, of course, must reach the BCS top 14 to qualify for an at-large spot.
Sugar Bowl tickets
Oklahoma State (Big 12 champ) vs. Stanford (BCS at-large)
Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Glendale, Ariz.
Comment: Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden vs. Stanford’s Andrew Luck – not a bad quarterback matchup. Oklahoma State, of course, will forever dream about what might have been. It still must defeat Oklahoma on Saturday to clinch the Fiesta Bowl bid. Stanford, too, can look back at its 53-30 loss to Oregon with regret, but at least the Cardinal can try to win a second straight BCS bowl.
Fiesta Bowl tickets
Wisconsin (Big Ten champ) vs. Oregon (Pac-12 champ)
Jan. 2, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Pasadena, Calif.
Comment: If you reshuffle the deck of this season, the Badgers and Ducks very well could be playing for a national championship. But a play here, a play there, and that scenario didn’t work out. It’s still a very nice Rose Bowl matchup with two Heisman Trophy contenders (Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson, Oregon RB LaMichael James) leading the way.
Rose Bowl tickets
Northern Illinois (MAC No. 1) vs. Arkansas State (Sun Belt No. 2)
Jan. 8, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Mobile, Ala.
Comment: Northern Illinois' offense, led by QB Chandler Harnish, has surpassed the 40-point mark nine times this season. Arkansas State has accepted its first bowl bid since the 2005 New Orleans Bowl.
GoDaddy.com Bowl tickets
BBVA COMPASS BOWL
Western Kentucky (SEC No. 8/9) vs. Cincinnati (Big East No. 5/C-USA)
Jan. 7, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Birmingham, Ala.
Comment: When Cincinnati QB Zach Collaros went down, so did the Bearcats’ realistic hopes of winning the Big East Conference championship. Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart, Jim Harbaugh’s old assistant at Stanford, has guided the Hilltoppers to the program’s first-ever bowl bid as a replacement choice for the SEC slot.
BBVA Compass Bowl tickets
Oklahoma (Big 12 No. 2) vs. Arkansas (SEC No. 3-West)
Jan. 6, 8 p.m. ET, FOX
At Arlington, Texas
Comment: Kansas State, likely 10-2, is worthy of a Cotton Bowl berth, but we’re guessing that an Oklahoma-Arkansas matchup is a better fit for Jerry Jones’ big ballyard. Oklahoma, once ranked No. 1, would fall to 9-3 if it loses against Oklahoma State, but the Sooners still have great appeal. Arkansas, which will get a long look from Orlando’s Capital One Bowl, picked the wrong season to finish 10-2 with the SEC West presence of LSU and Alabama.
Cotton Bowl tickets
South Carolina (SEC No. 3) vs. Michigan State (Big Ten No. 3)
Jan. 2, 1 p.m. ET, ABC
At Tampa, Fla.
Comment: This might be the best coaching job for South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who dismissed quarterback Stephen Garcia at midseason and lost franchise running back Marcus Lattimore to a season-ending injury. Still, the Gamecocks are aiming for a program-best 11th victory. We expect Michigan State to fall in the Big Ten championship game. If the Capital One Bowl takes Nebraska, that leaves Michigan State available for its first trip to the Outback.
Outback Bowl tickets
Ohio State (Big Ten No. 4/5) vs. Florida (SEC No. 6)
Jan. 2, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN2
At Jacksonville, Fla.
Comment: Ah, it’s the Urban Meyer Bowl. Urban’s old team (Florida) takes on his new team (Ohio State). It hardly matters that the Gators and Buckeyes are each 6-6. This matchup will generate plenty of buzz. Five years ago, these programs faced each other in the BCS Championship Game, with Florida prevailing 41-14.
Gator Bowl tickets
CAPITAL ONE BOWL
Nebraska (Big Ten No. 2) vs. Georgia (SEC No. 2)
Jan. 2, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Orlando, Fla.
Comment: Nebraska’s national appeal and strong band of traveling fans will be too difficult to bypass. Georgia won 10 straight games after an 0-2 start and will still be on the uptick, even if it loses as expected in the SEC Championship Game against top-ranked LSU.
Capital One Bowl tickets
TICKET CITY BOWL
Purdue (Big Ten No. 7) vs. Southern Methodist (C-USA)
Jan. 2, Noon ET, ESPNU
Comment: Purdue (6-6) has reached its first bowl game since 2007, but this one might seem like a true road game with an SMU-friendly crowd.
Ticket City Bowl tickets
Clemson (ACC No. 2) vs. Auburn (SEC No. 5)
Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Comment: Clemson began 8-0 and had visions of a BCS bowl. It’s not going to happen. The regular-season finale against South Carolina was Clemson’s third loss in its past four games. We’re favoring Virginia Tech to win the ACC championship game. Nobody is wild about staging a regular-season rematch — Clemson beat Auburn 38-24 in September — but that’s how it’s falling right now.
Chick-Fil-A Bowl tickets
CFT: Johnny Manziel nearly transferred out of Texas A&M before the 2012 season after being suspended, according to reports, but he stayed after his successful appeal.
About 325 former Penn State players, among them Kerry Collins and Paul Posluszny, have signed a statement supporting the lawsuit filed by the family of former coach Joe Paterno.
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BCS title game
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