Posted 12/06/2011 at 04:55 PM
The Big XII is the big loser in the BCS process as Oklahoma State was narrowly left out of the BCS championship game and Kansas State was overlooked for an at-large spot to the Sugar Bowl that many expected. The computer ratings love the Big XII but in reality the two flagship programs, Oklahoma and Texas have had very down seasons so the strength of the conference is a bit suspect. Oklahoma State draws a great match-up with Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl and Kansas State draws Arkansas in an intriguing Cotton Bowl so overall the bowl picture features many great match-ups.
The rematch title game may not be overly popular but it was the only possible outcome and should be a great game. Don’t expect the ugly 9-6 type match-up filled with mistakes again, although this is rare BCS title game where the quarterbacks are not the stars and will not be the focus point with the media heading into the game.
While the debut of the Pac-12 championship game was a bit of a dud due to USC being ineligible, the Big Ten championship provided an instant classic. There were some concerns with ticket sales but a packed stadium showed up for a memorable game. Wisconsin looked like the better team in the regular season game lost on a Hail Mary, but Michigan State looked like the vastly superior team in Indianapolis. Wisconsin got its own Hail Mary on a dramatic fourth down conversion and Coach Dantonio’s aggressive game plan that delivered some great moments throughout the game backfired as the punt block attempt led to the penalty that ended the game. Michigan State’s consolation prize for the effort is falling to the Outback Bowl, as Michigan snags a Sugar Bowl spot and Nebraska jumped the Spartans for the Capital One Bowl. Drawing Georgia in that game is a great match-up however and a chance at redemption after a blowout loss to a SEC team last year.
While having a conference championship game can provide a late season boost to the winner in the national picture it does provide a steep penalty to loser. Michigan State and Georgia went from possible BCS bowl candidates to that Outback match-up. Houston falls to the TicketCity Bowl after suffering its first loss while UCLA does still get a bowl game despite being just 6-7, the first losing team in the postseason since 2001. The lone loser last weekend that oddly benefited was the surprise choice of Virginia Tech to the Sugar Bowl, after the Hokies were blown out for a second time against Clemson.
Green Bay moved to 12-0 and it was separation Sunday in the NFC as the Packers, 49ers, and Saints put some distance with the rest of the conference as the Cowboys, Giants, Lions, Bears, and Falcons all lost. It is almost certain that three of those five teams will make the playoffs but none of them seem to seizing the opportunity. The Giants are the farthest out but gave the best effort last week, nearly taking out the Packers. Aaron Rodgers delivered a great game winning drive that seemed routine, even though he has rarely had to perform in late game situations in close games. While the Packers are still the team to beat they have looked far more vulnerable in the last six games than in the first six games of the season. On Sunday four coin-flip replay reviews on critical plays all went their way, not to mention getting a gift pick six as well as a key 3rd and long conversion via a highly questionable illegal contact call late in the game, wiping out a New York sack.
In the AFC Houston continues to prove resilient, winning with T.J. Yates last week to stay at 9-3 along with New England, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore. The race for the final wild card spot is now a lot more interesting with the Jets, Broncos, Raiders, Titans, and Bengals all sitting at 7-5. The West winner will get a bid but there will only be one other spot as the North runner up is sure to grab the first wild card bid. Best of luck, on to this week’s slate…