Xtra Points: Let's go bowling
With (most of) the warm-up bowl games in the books, let's take a look at the BCS bowls and the Capital One Bowl the Wisconsin Badgers are playing in and pick the winners against the point spread. Favorites are listed first with the spread in parentheses.
Stanford (6½) vs. Michigan State
Sparty makes its first Rose Bowl appearance in 26 years after upsetting Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game, and the Cardinal is back after topping Wisconsin a year ago in Pasadena.
Of all the BCS games, this betting line has moved the farthest after Stanford opened as 1½-point favorites, though that probably has more to do with betting trends than the quality of the two teams. It's also the only other game besides the national title game that pits top 10 opponents against each other.
Both squads boast top 10 scoring defenses, which leads me to believe a big defensive play late will be the difference in a game that will be reminiscent of those played 100 years ago in the infancy of the Rose Bowl tradition. Michigan State bettors will go home happy when the Spartans cover, but MSU's green-clad fans will have to wait a little longer for a win in the granddaddy of them all.
STANFORD 16, MICHIGAN STATE 13
Baylor (16½) vs. Central Florida
Both these schools are making their BCS debuts after winning their conference titles.
The Knights played and won close games all season, but that was against the likes of Southern Methodist, Memphis and South Florida.
Needless to say, none of those teams presented the same kind of problems that Baylor's blur of an offense will in this game. Central Florida will learn quickly that it isn't playing in the friendly confines of the American Athletic Conference on this night. The Bears deal out a drubbing.
BAYLOR 59, CENTRAL FLORIDA 20
Alabama (16) vs. Oklahoma
All season, college football fans were hoping to see the contrasting styles of Alabama and Oregon clash in the BCS National Championship. Oregon couldn't hold up its end of the bargain through the regular season, and the dream seemed dead—until Auburn shocked Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Ducks fans put their “We want 'Bama!” T-shirts back on and waited to be paired with the Tide, even if it wouldn't be in the title game.
Unfortunately for them—and perhaps the rest of us—the Sugar Bowl picked a relatively unimpressive Oklahoma Sooner team for the Tide to play, probably because their fans are a sure bet to pack up their Boomer Sooner wagons and roll on down to New Orleans to help fill the Superdome.
Alabama's sole loss of 2013 will be remembered for a long time with the deciding play to be replayed over and over for as long as there's sports on TV, especially if Auburn winds up winning the national championship.
But what should be remembered here is that the Crimson Tide is still a strong force to be reckoned with, and as long as Nick Saban is steering the ship, the team deserves to be double-digit favorites in just about every game it plays. This one is no different, though Oklahoma isn't exactly a walkover. Bob Stoops' crew covers the 16-point spread.
ALABAMA 34, OKLAHOMA 21
Ohio State (3) vs. Clemson
After surviving a two-point conversion attempt that would've won the game for rival Michigan, Ohio State came up short in the Big Ten title game, losing its long winning streak and its chance to play in the national championship game in the process.
Clemson mostly romped through its ACC schedule (save for against Florida State and in a nonconference rivalry game with South Carolina) on the arm of quarterback Tajh Boyd, but the only ranked team the Tigers beat was a No. 5 Georgia team that is now ranked No. 22 after other losses to Missouri, Vanderbilt and Auburn.
I think Urban Meyer motivates the Buckeyes to play with a purpose, eager to show that the team that showed up for the Big Ten Championship Game shouldn't be the Ohio State fans remember from this season.
OHIO STATE 30, CLEMSON 24
BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
Florida State (8½) vs. Auburn
Remember Notre Dame's run to last season's national championship game? How the Fighting Irish needed a last-second field goal to beat Purdue? Or the controversial non-touchdown call to beat Stanford in overtime? Or needing three overtimes to beat Pittsburgh?
So many times, the team's national championship aspirations could've ended, but a few well-timed strokes of luck carried them through to a No. 1 ranking and an undefeated season.
If you remember all that, surely you also remember what happened to them in the national championship game.
Auburn's run this year is eerily similar.
First, a little deflection magic against Georgia. Then the Tigers benefit from a rare Saban brain cramp when an impossibly long field goal try at the end of regulation blew up in his face. Regardless of how Auburn got to this point, it has a chance to win the national title, which is more than 122 other teams in the bowl subdivision can say.
But the Tigers have their work cut out for them with Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and the Florida State Seminoles on the other sideline. They steamrolled every team that dared get in their way.
Auburn's luck runs out in Pasadena, and Florida State's coronation begins in the last national title game before next year's implementation of the four-team college football playoff.
FLORIDA STATE 41, AUBURN 27
CAPITAL ONE BOWL
Wisconsin (1½) vs. South Carolina
Finally, the pick you all have been waiting for.
This line seems generous to the Badgers, especially considering the way the two teams finished their regular seasons.
If you banished the events of Nov. 30 from your memory, allow me to refresh you:
Bucky entered as heavy home favorites against the Penn State Nittany Lions, and a win probably would've made the Badgers eligible for selection to a BCS bowl (whether one of those bowls would've taken them, however, is another story).
Penn State's freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg thoroughly outplayed Joel Stave in a hostile environment, burning the Badger defense for 339 yards and four touchdowns without committing a turnover.
That same day, the Gamecocks took on in-state rival Clemson, a team ranked No. 6 by the AP at the time and one playing in a BCS bowl, and forced six turnovers in a 31-17 win. They also beat a second BCS team (OK, it was Central Florida, but still) on Sept. 28 and then-No. 5 Missouri on the road on Oct. 26.
The Penn State loss was probably just a blip on an otherwise spotless radar for the Badger defense, and the unit will return to its stingy ways on New Year's Day, but the Gamecocks are the second-best team the Badgers will have played this season after Ohio State.
I see this one playing out much like last season's Rose Bowl appearance for Wisconsin—as a low-scoring slugfest—and the final result, unfortunately for the Badgers, will be similar, too. Gamecocks not only cover the razor-thin point spread, but they win outright.
SOUTH CAROLINA 20, WISCONSIN 17
This week's sports haiku:
Boykin's score symbol
of division's year. Ball there
to take; Packers do.
Email Tim Seeman at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter (@Tim_Seeman).