Happy 2015, Dawg Fans.
It was 23 years ago today that most Husky fans started dreaming of this moment. After navigating the most fortunate and most prolific season in Husky history, the football program under Don James polished off the Michigan Wolverines in the Rose Bowl to lock up a share of a National Championship that they would share with the Miami Hurricanes. The split Championship in that year was not unique. In fact, it was one of 17 such instances since 1950.
The Huskies, by most analyses, were the superior team in all three facets of the game. However, without a system in place to pair the best teams at the end of the year, there was no way to overcome traditional bowl game alliances and determine a "one true champion". Husky fans, and Hurricane fans, have been left wondering all this time about what would have happened if those two teams had met on a truly neutral field.
Today, the new College Football Playoffs format will be revealed to the world. Four teams will take the field today, all of whom will become the first college football teams in the history of the sport to face a true "win or go home" scenario. While we can - and will - continue the debate as to format, rules and logistical implementation, I think we can all agree that the installation of this vision is a good day for the sport. College football has, once again, reclaimed New Year's Day as its own.
We can't go back and change history, but that can't stop us from making it. Today is a remarkable day. I hope that you all can find a big screen and a cozy couch with which to enjoy it.
And, Happy New Year you rabid Dawgs.
Outback Bowl: Auburn vs Wisconsin 12:00 ET ESPN2
Cotton Bowl: Mich St vs Baylor 12:30 ET ESPN
Citrus Bowl: Mizzou vs Minn 1:00 ET ABC
Rose Bowl: Oregon vs Florida St 5:00 ET ESPN
Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs Ohio St 8:00 ET ESPN
Pac 12 Bowl Game Previews (12/19)
Rose Bowl (Thur 1/1, 2:00 PT): Oregon vs Florida State
Since their failure in their one National Championship Game appearance versus Auburn, Oregon fans have been clamoring for another opportunity to restore their reputation against a major college program from the south. Thanks to the new College Football Playoffs, they will have their chance.
The Ducks will trot out Heisman winning QB Marcus Mariota, the Pac 12 Freshman of the Year RB Royce Freeman, a healthy offensive line and their opportunistic defense to take on the reigning NCAA champs led by head coach Jimbo Fisher and mercurial QB Jameis Winston. It is a dream matchup on a variety of levels, not the least of which is the pitting of the last two Heisman winners face to face.
On paper, the Ducks would seem to be a narrow favorite. They've had a better all around year offensively than the Seminoles and their defense has finally come together in the past few games, showing a better pass rush and the ability to create more turnovers than what we saw earlier in the year. The plethora of playmakers that they have on offense seems a decided advantage when you consider what Mariota has to work with in the passing game - Devon Allen, Dwayne Stanford and Darren Carrington - as well as in the rushing attack with Freeman and Thomas Tyner. The biggest wild card is receiver/rusher Byron Marshall. There are a lot of playmakers for FSU to account for.
On the flip side, FSU presents the deepest, biggest, and most athletic roster that the Ducks will have faced this season. Winston, of course, is a playmaker who has all the tools. He has a stud TE in Nick O'Leary, a 1300 yard receiver in Rashad Greene and a pair of feature RBs in Dalvin Cook and Karlos Williams. Defensively, they are similar to the Ducks in that the stats of their D-Line underwhelm you, but the measurables and the athleticism they feature at all levels really impress.
In the end, I think FSU is going to outlast the Ducks. I think the absence of Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is a big loss for Oregon, particularly in run support. I think the FSU O-Line is an advantage against the Ducks front seven and I like what CB Jalen Ramsey brings to the table in freeing up a Safety to shadow Marcus Mariota. In addition, history has shown us that athletic teams given time to prepare for the Oregon offense can have success. A grizzled and experienced coach like Jimbo Fisher is sure to have an advantage over the less experienced combo of Mark Helfrich, Don Pellum and Scott Frost.
Florida State 41, Oregon 35
Alamo Bowl (Fri 1/2, 3:45 PT): Kansas State vs UCLA
With Black Monday in the NFL only a few days away, one can't help but to look at this Kansas State / UCLA game and wonder if Jim Mora will be on his way to an NFL job (the 49ers, perhaps?) while the Bruins are led on an interim basis by OC Noel Mazzone.
Regardless, the Alamo Bowl is going to be one of the more interesting matchups of the Pac 12 post season. On one side, you have a disappointing UCLA team that was expected by many to be the Pac 12 representatives in the playoffs this season. While they defintiely showed off the benefits of their size and athleticism during times of the season, they also consistently showed off a lack of creativity, discipline and effort that have come to characterize Jim Mora's up and down season. Nobody does drama like UCLA, am I right Jeff Ulbrich?
On the other side, you have the less athletic but very organized and well-managed Kansas State Wildcats. Head Coach Bill Snyder is one of the best game day managers in all of college football and represents a major advantage fort the Wildcats.
This one is a clear pick 'em for me. On one hand, I'd like to say that Bill Snyder will have his team better prepared than will Mora - especially if there is a controversy surrounding Mora and NFL rumors. On the flip side, I think UCLA boasts significant positional advantages across the board. In particular, Brett Hundley will be the most dynamic playcaller on the field and he will have at his disposal a thousand yard rusher in Paul Perkins. You also have to like what UCLA brings to the table on D and on ST with playmakers like Eric Kendricks, Myles Jack and Ishmael Adams.
Since I have to go with one, I'll pick UCLA. I think they will bore the heck out of us with their dink and dunk horizontal passing game, but that they will also minimize mistakes in doing so. Minimal mistakes is exactly how they neutralize Bill Snyder and his game plan.
UCLA 34, Kansas State 24