Bowl season is here, and it has been long awaited. Notre Dame and Alabama will square off in the marquee game of the year for the national championship while many others will play for bowl money, a nice vacation and hopefully a win to end the season. Let's take a look at some intriguing match ups upcoming in the next few weeks.
Wisconsin vs. Stanford
Two teams that are known for their hard-nosed style of football, and massively large linemen. They both grind out a lot of yards on the ground and have a punishing defense. Stanford's latest gem of a head coach David Shaw has the Cardinal back into the national spotlight once again, and was just awarded a contract extension. Wisconsin meanwhile is trying to recover from losing longtime head coach Bret Bielema who jetted for the vacant Arkansas coaching job at the close of the regular season. Athletic Director and former Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez will coach the team in the Rose Bowl, at the request of the football team. The Badgers had a subpar year with an 8-5 record, but will be inspired and fired up after their head coach abandoned them for the SEC. Slight edge to Stanford, but wouldn't be surprised if Wisconsin pulls off the upset in their 3rd straight Rose Bowl appearance. Stanford 24-21.
Northern Illinois vs. Florida State
Florida State every year seems to be the presumed favorite to win the ACC, but always drops off the national spotlight with a loss to an average team. This year their national championship aspirations were crushed when lowly NC State beat them in a close game. The Bobby Bowden years are gone, and Jimbo Fisher has been recruiting nicely, but the fanbase wants a national championship to reassure themselves that Fisher is the guy for the job. Northern Illinois surprised everyone when they were selected to a BCS bowl, and will be looking to fit into the underdog role comfortably. They have a quarterback that was electric this year in Jordan Lynch, who is responsible for 43 touchdowns and over 4700 yards of offense. Lynch and Co. can make a name for themselves on a national stage, and show that they can hang with a traditional college football power. Look for Florida State to dominate early and often for a big win 34-17.
Florida vs. Louisville
Charlie Strong has done an absolutely amazing job with a Louisville program that has struggled since Bobby Petrino left a couple of years ago for the NFL. Teddy Bridgewater has put the team on his back this season, and had Louisville in the conversation for the national title mix before some lackluster performances. Florida has played almost as advertised for the most part with a tough defensive unit and an offense that struggled with its identity at times. Overall, UF head coach Will Muschamp will surely have his players ready for the Cardinals and the defense should be all over Bridgewater for much of the game. Keeping Strong around for the forseeable future bodes well for Louisville, but I'm afraid that their season won't have a storybook ending. SEC speed and power will over match the Big East conference school. Florida rolls 31-14.
Oregon vs. Kansas State
This match up is one of the most intriguing of all bowl games this season. Both have offenses that are capable of shoot-outs on any given evening, and both also have Heisman contenders as well as established head coaches with miles of pedigree between them. Bill Snyder has his Cinderella story rolling in Manhattan, Kansas once again behind Heisman finalist Collin Klein, and defensive captain Arthur Brown. They were so close from an undefeated regular season before losing a blow out at Baylor. Oregon was also close from an undefeated season with a close 3-point loss to Pac-12 foe Stanford. Kenjon Barner, Marcus Mariota and De'Anthony Thomas are the latest string of freak athletes to come through Chip Kelly's program. Overall, Kansas State has had a great year, but Oregon's offense is unlike any that they have seen all year (even if they are in the offensive laden Big 12). Oregon does what it does best, 45-31 over Kansas State.
Alabama vs. Notre Dame
They ultimately were the lucky teams at the end of the year who were picked by the BCS computers to play for the national championship. Notre Dame wasn't even on the radar at the start of the season to compete for any BCS bowls, but now find themselves back to their traditional ways they know best----winning. Not much more of a compelling storyline than two of college football's most storied programs facing off for the ultimate prize. Both teams feature two of the best defenses in the nation, and multiple players on each side of the ball destined for the NFL. Alabama is no stranger to the spotlight, and is looking for its 3rd national championship in four years. Nick Saban and Brian Kelly both will have their players well prepared, and it will be a defensive battle from the start. Alabama's storied run will continue in a thrilling finish 17-14 over the Fighting Irish.