Updated with the results of the Holiday Bowl.
NEW YORK (
) -- Hope everyone's been enjoying
It's time for the College Football Corner to lace 'em up again as we head into the
. For the record, we love all bowl games, but our shoestring sports operation can cover only so many.
Wasn't that a great game Wednesday night,
, 27-24, behind the bruising running of true freshman Marcus Coker in the Insight Bowl?, which shows it doesn't have to be BCS to be good.
Speaking of the BCS, we know the big one is Monday, Jan. 10 in Glendale, Arizona, between No. 1
and Cam Newton and his Heisman Trophy and No. 2
Oregon with its ever-changing uniforms (fluorescent green socks for this game)
Let's take a look at some other top-flight games this weekend.
Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas throws a touchdown pass against Arizona in a Nov. 26 game. The Ducks play for the BCS national championship vs. Auburn on Jan. 10. (
TCU quarterback Andy Dalton during a practice Tuesday. (
No. 3 TCU (12-0) vs. No. 5 Wisconsin (11-1), Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California, 4:30 p.m. EDT, Saturday (ESPN):
The granddaddy of them all is being billed as a junior national championship game. The Badgers of the Big Ten were one of the hottest teams in the country in the second half, racking up more than 70 points in three games. The Badgers will run over you with three outstanding backs -- James White, John Clay and Montee Ball -- and then they'll get in your face with all-American defensive end J.J. Watt.
They also have six all Big Ten offensive linemen, none under 300 pounds, including Outland Trophy-winner Gabe Carimi. Outsized offensive lines are a common trait of recent Badger teams.
The rap against the Mountain West's Horned Frogs, who incidentally are headed to the Big East in 2012, is "Who do they play?" TCU's two closest games were an opening 30-21 victory over Oregon State, and a 40-35 defeat of a solid San Diego State team. But TCU routed Air Force and Utah, two teams that played in bowl games. And they also have a great quarterback in Andy Dalton, who has thrown for over 10,000 yards and has 70 touchdown passes in his illustrious career.
Corner's choice: Wisconsin 34, TCU 31
Zach Frazer, Connecticut quarterback
No. 7 Oklahoma (11-2) vs. Connecticut (8-4), Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, Arizona, Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. EDT (ESPN)
: UConn should come in with a chip on its shoulder, what with all this talk about the Big East not belonging in the BCS anymore. The team from Storrs, Connecticut, has been playing FBS (Division 1 fooball) for only 12 years. They couldn't be more opposite than the legendary Sooners. Oklahoma in 2010 is a a physically dominant team, but it hasn't done much in bowl games lately. UConn has gotten back on track with Zach Frazer, the latest in its revolving-door quarterback lineup.
led the Big East in rushing. And one thing about Coach Randy Edsall's Huskies: They will play all 60 minutes.
"This is a tremendous story," Edsall said in an interview on the
San Francisco Chronicle
Web site Wednesday. "It's about giving somebody an opportunity and then those people taking advantage of the opportunity and getting to the highest level. To me, I don't know if people are focusing enough on that. ... Nobody's ever gone from
I-AA to a BCS game in seven years."
Of course, Oklahoma has veteran running back DeMarco Murray and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, lineman Jeremy Beal. And even though there's a bit of temptation to pick an upset of epic proportions, after having seen how Oklahoma got after Nebraska in the Big 12 title game, uh, no.
Corner's choice: Oklahoma 35, Connecticut 14
Andrew Luck, Stanford's strong-armed quarterback
No. 4 Stanford (11-1) vs. No. 13 Virginia Tech (11-2), Discover Orange Bowl, Miami, Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
: Stanford Coach Jim Harbaugh is on everyone's wish list for their next head coach, including some grumblers in Ann Arbor, where he starred as the Wolverines' quarterback in the 1980s. But it's not like Palo Alto is a bad place to be, and the Pac 10 is ascendant. The Cardinal had a big lead on Oregon in their only loss of the season, and who knows what might have been?
But one thing is known: Andrew Luck is one of the best quarterbacks in the country and has NFL teams champing (yes champing, not chomping, at the bit). The 6-4, 235-pound junior threw for a school-record 28 TDs (John Elway went to Stanford), passed for more than 3,000 yards and completed more than 70% of his passes. He finished second to Newton in the Heisman balloting.
Virginia Tech is an intriguing turnaround story. The Hokies opened with a tough loss to the great
and then stunningly fell to
. They then ran off 11 straight victories This game could go a long way toward re-establishing the ACC champions as a major power. Tyrod Taylor has been getting it done for four years at quarterback, and Frank Beamer is still a great coach. But this is a glorious year for Stanford, and it's doubtful anyone can stop that offense.
Corner's choice: Stanford 38, Virginia Tech 24
Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor
No. 6 Ohio State (11-1) vs. No. 8 Arkansas (10-2), Allstate Sugar Bowl, New Orleans, 8:30 p.m. ET, Tuesday, Jan. 4 (ESPN)
: One question will be what impact a five-game suspension in 2011 of Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor and other key players will have on the Buckeyes' performance in this game.
A report Thursday
said that Pryor and wide receiver DeVier Posey, running back Dan Herron and linemen Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas, who were suspended by the NCAA for selling sports mementoes, will return to campus next season. (Big Ten coordinators are doubled over in pain.)
The Corner seems to think these sanction cases are overblown as far as their on-the-field impact. That said, the rules are the rules.
Ryan Mallett of Arkansas is the other premier passer in this game, although he prefers to stand in the pocket, while Pryor takes a more Cam Newton-esque approach. (That just got me to thinking, imagine a game in which Newton and Pryor squared off? Could have happened if Wisconsin hadn't throttled Ohio State Oct. 16.) The Buckeyes haven't beaten an SEC team in nine tries, so the Big Ten's pride is on the line.
Ohio State 28, Arkansas 27
Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio
No. 9 Michigan State (11-1) vs. No. 16 Alabama (9-3), Capital One Bowl, Orlando, Florida, 1 p.m. ET (ESPN)
: It sure looks like the Spartans got a rock this season. They went 11-1 in a BCS conference but didn't get a BCS bowl bid. (A 37-6 debacle at Iowa on Oct. 30 tarnshed an outstanding season.) To add another insult, a three-loss team is favored to beat them. Granted, that three-loss team is the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide, but this looks like a mild case of some conference disrespect. The Tide did not go quietly in its three losses, and in its annual classic with Auburn, the Tigers needed an epic comeback to eke out a 28-27 victory that basically put the Heisman in Cam Newton's trophy case.
Michigan State has adeptly dealt with with some obstacles this year, including Coach Mark Dantonio's heart attack, which happened after a thrilling overtime victory over Notre Dame on Sept. 18. The Spartans' signature win of the year was a heavyweight classic with Wisconsin in East Lansing on Oct. 2. Kirk Cousins (2,700 yards passing, 20 TDs) threw the winning pass in that game to B.J. Cunningham, who is injured and won't play on New Year's Day. This game could come down to whether Michigan State can control Alabama's punishing ground game. All-Big Ten linebacker Greg Jones will face off against last year's Heisman Trophy-winner Mark Ingram. On paper, Alabama looks like the pick, but the Spartans have more to prove.
Corner's choice: Michigan State 31, Alabama 23
Miami Hurricanes Russell Maryland (67) and Bill Hawkins (54) tackle Notre Dame quarterback Tony Rice during the Fighting Irish's 31-30 victory on Oct. 15, 1988, in South Bend, Indiana.
(7-5) will be back at it again following a two-decade hiatus. The setting is the Hyundai Sun Bowl on New Year's Eve in El Paso, Texas, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN). The Irish finished the season strong, led by freshman quarterback Tommy Rees, closing with a cherished victory over
in Los Angeles. Miami and Notre Dame last met in 1990, capping an exciting decade in a time when Notre Dame's Lou Holtz and Miami's Jimmy Johnson roamed the sidelines. Miami won the 1987 national championship, while the Irish came back the next year and took the crown, the last time the storied program has done so. The 'Canes will be led by interim coach Jeff Stoutland, who took over for the ousted Randy Shannon. Notre Dame's mentor is Brian Kelly, a man not used to seeing single digits on the left-hand side of his record. Both programs are coming back, but we give the edge to Notre Dame here.
Notre Dame 27, Miami 20
In the other New Year's Eve games, the Corner likes No. 20
over No. 23
in the Chik-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta; No. 25
over a 6-6
team in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl; and
, led by Da'Quan Bowers, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy-winner as the nation's top defensive player, over
in the Meineke Car Care Bowl;
And a few more on New Year's Day:
in Gators Coach Urban Meyer's finale in the Outback Bowl in Tampa;
in the Ticket City Bowl in Dallas;
over No. 21
in the Progressive Gator Bowl in Jacksonville (only reason for this pick is a hunch that Michigan QB Denard Robinson will put on a show in his first collegiate game in his home state of Florida.
... What a game Thursday night,
30-27 double-overtime victory over a resurgent
in the, ready for this, Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. (See, we worked a business angle into the story.) Seriously, this may be one of the most entertaining bowl games of all time. Of all time? Yes, of all time.
Never seen a game hinge on so many official reviews in the last few minutes, but it did seem as if the Big Ten crew got all the calls right. It's good for Tar Heel Coach Butch Davis too, as his veteran quarterback T.J. Yates was able to spike the ball with one second left in regulation to set up a game-tying field goal. Otherwise, Davis would have been a candidate for the Clock Mismanagement Hall of Fame, as timeoutless North Carolina had started the previous play with 16 seconds left. Also of note, an ACC team beat an SEC team.
North Carolina kicker Casey Barth boots a 23-yard field goal in the second
overtime in the Music City Bowl to defeat Tennessee 30-27 Thursday. (
I would like to see these two border states schedule a skirmish every year. What a great natural rivalry. ... How about the absurdity of an "excessive celebration" call on a
player for "saluting," which cost his team the game against
in the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl in The House That Jeter Built on Thursday. Don't players have First Amendent rights? And isn't a salute arguably patriotic, as opposed to a threatening gesture? And the game was in New York, for crying out loud. We use various "salutes" here. ... Next NFL coach alert --
Coach Steve Sarkisian, after his Huskies knocked the stuffings out of the
Cornhuskers, 19-7, in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego Thursday night, casting numerous college bowl pools asunder . It was legendary UW quarterback Jake Locker's first bowl game. Football is back in Seattle.
It's been a blast. We'll be back next week to look at that Auburn-Oregon dream game and a few others.