By Josh Kramer
31 bowl games down. Four to go. There is no denying that this bowl season has been one for the ages. Once again I will pose what should be a familiar question to all of you who avidly read this blog. Why is it called “Capital One Bowl Week?” The first bowl game (Gildan New Mexico Bowl) was played on December 17th and the final hurrah will occur on Monday, January 9th. This by no means is a week, but more like a month. But I digress. So who else is satisfied with the BCS games thus far? Two overtime thrillers and a record number of points at the “Grandaddy of Them All?” I would say the vast majority of the matchups have lived up to all of the hype and more. Hopefully “The Game of the Century” part deux won’t disappoint.
Kansas State vs Arkansas (AT&T COTTON BOWL)
–Razorbacks by 14
Headline: Once again the Big 12 demonstrates its lack of defensive firepower, as another SEC team wins a major bowl game.
-How many of you watched the Sugar Bowl on Tuesday night? These are the two teams that should have been playing on Bourbon Street (I guess you could make a case for Boise State as well). I will refer to this as “The Should Have Gone BCS Game.” Both of these teams should have been invited to participate in BCS Bowls. Both of these teams were shafted. Arkansas has had a magical season despite the departure of Ryan Mallet (from last year’s team) to the NFL. They have taken down three ranked opponents this season and have only experienced defeat against the two teams (LSU and Alabama) that will be going toe to toe on the big stage Monday Night. Kansas State on the other hand has been a real feel good story this season. Not to many people saw this team contending in the Big 12, but contend they did. Outside of a brief lapse right around Halloween time, this team has been stellar, having knocked off both Baylor and Texas
-There have been many lessons learned during this year’s bowl season. But there are two lessons that relate directly to this outstanding matchup. First of all, nobody plays defense in the Big 12. Secondly, though it pains me to say it, the SEC is really that much better than the rest of the pack. Kansas State has given up over 50 points on three different occasions this year. Arkansas, despite traveling to Baton Rouge, Tuscaloosa, and playing against 5 ranked opponents this year, has yet to let a team hit the half-century mark. Though Collin Klein and the Wildcats have been a wonderful story in College Football this year, they simply do not have the defense to keep up with a very balanced Arkansas team. You better believe that Klein will be Heisman hopeful in 2012 though.
Southern Methodist vs Pittsburgh (BBVA COMPASS BOWL)
–Panthers by 3
Headline: Pittsburgh, despite the surprising departure of their coach, finds a way to win their third consecutive bowl game.
-Why is this game being played after New Years? This is a matchup of two teams that in my opinion do not even deserve to be playing an extra game. On one hand you have an SMU team that limped its way to a 7 and 5 record in Conference USA. Then on the other, you have a Pittsburgh team, who vastly underachieved, and stands at 6 and 6. Do either of these teams strike you as a post-New Year’s type of bowl game matchup?
-Pittsburgh has been the King of losing close games this year. Four of their losses have come by four points or less. They have shown glimpses though, especially when they dismantled South Florida back in September. SMU on the other hand is a team that does not do much particularly well. Outside of a shocking overtime victory against TCU, this team really has not impressed. On this day, SMU’s O-line will be their demise as they struggle to keep Pittsburgh’s front seven away from quarterback J.J. McDermott.
Arkansas State vs Northern Illinois (GODADDY.com BOWL)
–Red Wolves by 1
Headline: In a matchup of two of the nation’s hottest teams, the Red Wolves do the Sun Belt proud and knock of the MAC Champs.
-This is another one of those head scratchers. Why is the Sun Belt Champion going against the MAC Champion on January 8th (the day before the National Championship Game)? At least this matchup pits two conference champions against each other, and two of the hottest teams in the nation. The Red Wolves have not lost a game since September 17th, while Northern Illinois has also gone an extending period without losing a game (last loss was October 1st). Northern Illinois is a team that will light up the scoreboard behind an outstanding rushing attack, while Arkansas State plays a much more balanced game.
-Balance will be the name of the game on Sunday. Both of these teams have demonstrated the ability to put up points. The difference is Arkansas State can also slow down opponents behind their outstanding defense. This one will go down to the wire, but expect the Sun Belt’s first ten win team to record their 11th win when the smoke settles.
Alabama vs LSU (ALLSTATE BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP)
-More to come regarding “The Game of the Century” Part Deux this weekend.
I will give you a hint though on who I am leaning towards. Since back in late August, when I released my College Football Preview, I had the same team taking home the title as I do now.
You will not want to miss this epic matchup at the Superdome on Monday.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.