Few topics in sports have attracted as much controversy as college football's BCS system. The call for a playoff has finally been answered, and by 2014 the national champion will be picked in a new, more fan-friendly format. However, until that time the college football world still has the BCS system, and luckily this year is shaping up to be one of the most memorable in recent years.
This year gives us one of the most anticipated National Championship match-ups ever, with perennial powerhouse Alabama squaring off against a rejuvenated Notre Dame team, which just completed its first undefeated regular season in more than 20 years. The two programs are some of the most decorated in college football history, and the Fighting Irish are one of the biggest surprises of the year after they started off the season ranked outside the top 25. When the two teams kick off on January 7, it may be one of the most watched games of the sports year.
Of course, there are a number of other compelling games, including the Orange Bowl. Played each year in Miami, this year's contest features an unusual match-up between ACC champion Florida State and MAC champion Northern Illinois. The selection of NIU caused quite a stir, especially since their placement in the Orange Bowl knocked Oklahoma out of the BCS picture. While Northern Illinois, who finished the season 12-1, is certainly a good team, their regular season schedule was not particularly challenging, with their biggest win probably coming over Army. Not only that, but their lone loss came to Iowa, who finished the year a paltry 4-8. If they can pull off the upset of Florida State it would be one of the most stunning victories of all time.
The Orange Bowl is surrounded by controversy, but that's not the case with some of the other games, especially the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, which pits Oregon against Kansas State. Both teams were contenders for the National Championship before late-season losses dropped them out of the picture, but they still stand as two of the most exciting squads in the country. KSU is led by Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Collin Klein, while Oregon's high-flying offense will give the Wildcats a serious test.
There are more than two dozen other bowls to check out, and sometimes it's hard to keep track. Some to be on the lookout for include Capital One Bowl, which pits Nebraska against Georgia, and the Outback Bowl, which features Michigan against South Carolina.
November is one of the best months of the year for sports fans. The NFL and college football are both starting to heat up while basketball and hockey are usually kicking off. November is also when college basketball teams begin their march toward the Final Four in April, and this year it looks like some historic programs will be making a push toward the title.
Indiana comes into the year after having one of its best seasons in recent memory. Last year, the Hoosiers advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in 10 years, and it looked like they were moving toward returning to their glory days of the 1970s and 80s. Pollsters seem to have taken note - the Hoosiers enter the season as number one on the Associated Press Top 25.
It's easy to understand why many experts see big things from Indiana this year. Not only are they led by a great coach in Tom Crean, but they return almost all of last year's squad including seven-foot sophomore Cody Zeller, a unanimous preseason All-American. The return of Zeller, coupled with the arrival of guard Kevin Ferrell, has Indiana sitting as a good pick.
But you can never count out last year's champ Kentucky. Unlike Indiana, the Wildcats return virtually nobody from last year's team, including freshman phenom Anthony Davis (now with the New Orleans Hornets), but coach John Calipari has a new crop of young, talented stars waiting in the wings. Leading the charge is North Carolina State transfer Ryan Harrow who will run the point, but he will be joined by the likes of freshmen Nerlens Noel and Alex Poythress.
The Wildcats aren't the only team from Kentucky to enter the season with high expectations, cross-state rivals Louisville are in the mix as well. The Cardinals visited the Final Four last year under the leadership of coach Rick Pitino, and they return three starters from the team, which had one of the best defenses in the country. It certainly won't surprise anybody if Peyton Siva and Russ Smith lead the Cardinals back to the Final Four.
Last year was strange that Kentucky was the presumptive favorite and never wavered from their quest to capture the title, but that might not be the case this year. Though Indiana, Kentucky and Louisville lead the way, this year is wide open. Anybody - from Ohio State and Michigan, to Syracuse and UCLA - could end up cutting down the net come April.
The first BCS Standings are out! Grab your alma mater's pennant flag, toss on that school sweatshirt and start flying those colors because here is your look at the top 5! The big question on everyone's mind … who is going to fill that #1 slot?
- Alabama Crimson Tide
- Florida Gators
- Oregon Ducks
- Kansas State Wildcats
- Notre Dame Fighting Irish