The regular season has wrapped up. The conference championship games are complete. And if the BCS bowl games are anything like the insanity of the past two weekends, it’s going to be a crazy postseason, too.
Florida State (13-0, 11-2 ATS) reaching the BCS Championship Game wasn’t really a surprise, after the Seminoles drubbed upstart Duke in the ACC championship game 45-7 to cash as a 30-favorite Saturday. Auburn, on the other hand, went on a midnight run that would have made Cinderella blush. The Tigers (12-1 SU, 11-2 ATS) stunned Georgia on a last-minute deflected pass that turned into a winning touchdown reception, then shocked Alabama with a field-goal return TD to beat the No. 1 Crimson Tide 34-28 as a 10-point underdog.
Auburn’s offense then went haywire against Missouri in a 59-42 victory Saturday in the SEC title game, with Auburn a 2-point pup. Coupled with Ohio State’s loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game, Auburn now finds itself playing Florida State on Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif.
And it’s not only a battle between the two best teams on the field, but the two best teams at the betting window. The Seminoles and Tigers are tied for the best ATS record in the nation, and Jay Kornegay, sports book director at the LVH in Las Vegas, installed Florida State as a 7.5-point favorite.
“A lot of people have fallen in love with the Tigers over the last couple of weeks, but the Seminoles are at a different level,” Kornegay said. “Their defense is stout and will be able to slow down that Auburn offense. The Tigers’ defense is very questionable and will have a high degree of difficulty stopping Florida State.”
Jan. 1, Pasadena, Calif.
Stanford Cardinal vs. Michigan State Spartans (+6)
The Spartans (12-1 SU, 8-4-1 ATS) capped a strong season with a 34-24 victory over Ohio State as 5.5-point ‘dogs on Saturday in the Big Ten title game, their ninth consecutive victory. Michigan State went 7-2 ATS in that stretch and won all nine games by double digits, leaning on a defense that ranks No. 1 in rushing yards and total yards, and No. 4 in points allowed (12.7 ppg.).
Stanford (11-2 SU, 7-6 ATS) walloped host Arizona State 38-14 in Saturday’s Pac-12 title tilt, rolling as a 3-point underdog to cap a late-season run of 6-1 SU (5-2 ATS), with the only loss coming on a last-second field goal at Southern Cal.
“Stanford and Michigan State mirror each other, but the Cardinal is better at almost everything,” Kornegay said. “This will be a 1980s-like game, which is becoming extinct. Huddles, talk and using the entire play clock will be aplenty."
Jan. 1, Glendale, Ariz.
Baylor Bears vs. Central Florida Knights (+16.5)
On a wild final Saturday in the Big 12, Baylor (11-1 SU, 9-3 ATS) thumped visiting Texas 30-10 as a 17.5-point chalk, and with Oklahoma State falling to Oklahoma, that gave the Bears the conference title and the Fiesta Bowl bid.
Central Florida, meanwhile, held off host Southern Methodist 17-13 laying 13.5 points Saturday. The Knights (11-1 SU, 7-5 ATS) won the automatic bid from the American Athletic Conference, but they are big ‘dogs against the Bears’ high-flying offense.
“Central Florida faced Penn State and Louisville, but those two are nothing like Baylor,” Kornegay said. “Baylor’s no-huddle offense is probably the best in college football. Central Florida can practice all it wants over the next month, but it will be a huge challenge for the Knights to stop the Bears.”
Jan. 3, Miami
Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Clemson Tigers (-2.5)
The Buckeyes (12-1 SU, 6-6-1 ATS) were 5.5-point favorites against Michigan State in the Big Ten finale, and they led 24-20 entering the fourth quarter Saturday at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis, poised to win a berth in the BCS Championship Game.
Then they got outscored 14-0 in the final frame, losing 34-24. That knocked Ohio State to the Orange Bowl instead, where it will face Clemson (10-2, 6-6 ATS) out of the ACC. The Tigers also come in on a losing note, falling on the road to archrival South Carolina 31-17 as a 2.5-point pup on Nov. 30.
“This will be a tough matchup for the Buckeyes,” Kornegay said. “Ohio State thinks it had its hands full with Michigan State. Well, the Tigers’ offense is no comparison. Clemson’s no-huddle is also one of the best, and the Buckeyes will have to get their offense going to keep up.”
Jan. 2, New Orleans
Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Oklahoma Sooners (+11.5)
Alabama (11-1 SU, 6-5-1 ATS) blew its shot at a third straight national title with its stunning 34-28 loss to Auburn on Nov. 30. Even though the Crimson Tide were on the road in that game, they were 10-point favorites.
Oklahoma, on the other hand, played its way to a BCS bowl berth with a 33-24 road upset of rival Oklahoma State in a downright freezing Bedlam game on Saturday. The Sooners (10-2, 7-5 ATS) won and covered their last three games.
“This will be all about motivation,” Kornegay said. ”Will Alabama be motivated? I’m sure the Crimson Tide are going to hear a lot about the last time they were in the Sugar Bowl, against Utah. The Utes had a very good team and took the Crimson Tide behind the woodshed.
“Most likely, this game will motivate Alabama. The inconsistent quarterback play that we have seen at Oklahoma will make it a huge challenge for the Sooners."