What organizers dreamed of when the Bowl Championship Series was created has arrived-real football with all the glitz and tradition-filled programs. The Sugar Bowl will feature a home team with Georgia facing West Virginia in Atlanta.
Deep in tradition lore is Notre Dame, back on the big stage, to take on Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, leaving Oregon to bite the dust. The Orange Bowl presents one of the most interesting and anticipated games of all time, JoPa’s Nitty Lions versus Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles. And then there’s the Granddaddy of them all-the Rose Bowl.
Pasadena will host USC and Texas, restoring the prestige that used to accompany the Rose Bowl in years past. Hurricane Katrina displaced the Sugar Bowl into the Georgia Dome, setting up home-field advantage for the Southeastern Conference champion Georgia (10-2), led by senior quarterback D.J.
Shockley, to try their luck against Big East champion West Virginia (10-1). All the cards are pointed towards a Georgia win, especially after the way they dismantled LSU on Saturday.
The Fighting Irish (9-2), led by rookie coach Charlie Weis, are primed for a Fiesta Bowl win on Jan. 2, as they face Ohio State (9-2). The Buckeyes captured the at-large big by finishing fourth in the final standings, pushing 10-1 Oregon into the Holiday Bowl.
Sadly Oregon coach Mike Bellotti learned that Notre Dame is still the institution and that pull will always result in favor of the Irish and their most-hated rivals. Belloti should know by now, it’s really all about the money. The added bonus will be watching the Irish’s strongest weapon; junior quarterback Brady Quinn, who will surely be a frontrunner for next year’s Heisman.
The Orange Bowl will showcase the two all-time winningest coaches in Division I-A football, with Bowden (1st with 359 victories) and Joe Paterno (2nd with 353), who also happen to be the oldest at 76 and 79 respectively.
Big Ten champion Penn State (10-1) has brought national attention back to its program, with the Atlantic Coast Conference champ Florida State (8-4), working its way up to finish No. 22 in the Associated Press poll.
Anyone’s who’s a college football fan will be rooting for the beloved and prolific JoPa, especially after many fans and alumni were calling for his retirement in recent losing seasons. The nation’s only unbeaten teams will vie for the national title on Jan.4, showing that the BCS system worked this time around.
The system was criticized for pairing the wrong teams in the championship game, from picking Oklahoma over a far, superior Auburn team to play USC for the championship last year to when USC was left out of it two years ago and had to settle for a share of the national title. This time around, there’s no mistake over who the best two teams are.
The Pac-10 champs feature 2004 Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinhart and probable 2005 Heisman winner Reggie Bush, with a 34 game win-streak.
Meanwhile, Texas holds a brilliant quarterback in Vince Young and may have an upper hand for the time being since Leinhart’s been shaky at times. There’s no doubt that this year’s championship game will be a close one and more than likely, USC will be down by a touchdown or two in the first half.
But what the Trojans know how to do best is finish strong and win. And that’s enough for a Longhorn heartbreaker.
Final predications: Georgia wins for the “home” state, the Fighting Irish give Weiss a bowl win, JoPa proves he still has the formula for success inside him, and the men of Troy do the Pac-10 and Southern California proud by capturing an unprecedented third consecutive national title.