Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, January 6, 2012 at 10:43 AM
The BCS Championship Game has been played - under that title - for the past five years and everyone knows the Southeastern Conference has won each/every one of these showdowns and they're gonna win this year's tilt too as #1 LSU battles #2 Alabama one mo' time.
But are you aware of the fact that four of the first five BCS Championship Games were decided by double-digit margins and the overall average margin of victory in these handful of games was a whopping 14 points - go ahead and tell us right here/right now if you think either LSU or Alabama is gonna win Monday Night's game by 14-or-more points ... seems hard to fathom right now, doesn't it?
Meanwhile, it's worth mentioning that LSU (13-0) has won 12 games by twin-figure margins this year with the lone exception to the rule - of course - that 9-6 overtime tug-of-war win at 'Bama back on November 3rd. Note that LSU's closest wins were the 13-point triumphs over Oregon on September 3rd - a 40-27 win at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington - and a 19-6 win at Miss State on September 15th.
Conversely, Alabama (11-2) won by double-digit margins in all 11 of the Crimson Tide's victories and did you know the closest margin of victory for 'Bama was the 16-point win at Penn State back on September 10th when the SEC visitors won 27-11.
Lots more BCS Championship Game notes straight ahead in the next couple of Jim Sez columns ... okay?
Tonight, it's ...
COTTON BOWL - at Arlington, TX
KANSAS STATE (10-2) vs. ARKANSAS (10-2) - 8 p.m. ET, Fox
Call it a good news, bad news year for the Arkansas Razorbacks, if you will: Okay, the good news is that the 2011 Razorbacks won double-digit games for a second straight year while besting the likes of Texas A&M and South Carolina but the bad news is Bobby Petrino's club also had to play #1 LSU (a 41-17 day-after-Thanksgiving loss) and #2 Alabama (a 38-14 loss back on September 24th) and therein lies the rub why these Hogs didn't get to play in a BCS Bowl Game - remember that one of the many silly stipulations in the BCS system is that three teams from the same conference cannot play in BCS bowls.
On the flip side, it was way more good than bad for Kansas State - a club that was expected to finish eighth or ninth in the 10-team Big 12 this year and instead Coach of the Year contender Bill Snyder rallied his underestimated troops to a batch of upset wins behind QB Collin Klein who rushed for 26 TDs and threw for 1,745 yards and another dozen scores.
The key to this Cotton Bowl clash is simple: Can the Razorbacks defense - one that yielded 28-or-more points in half of the team's games this year - wrap up Klein here and limit his third-down effectiveness?
Note that Arkansas ranked 15th nationally in scoring offense this season at 37.4 points a game and keep eyes glued here on the pass-catch combo of QB Tyler Wilson (3,422 yards passing with 22 TDs and just 6 INTs) to WR Jarius Wright (1,029 yards receiving and 11 scores) - if the Hogs get three or four major "chunk" plays here in the passing game than it might be too much for K-State's smaller defensive front to hold up time-after-time in the red zone.
Note one X-factor here, folks: Arkansas heads into this tilt with a slew of coaching changes under Petrino including the fact there's a new defensive coordinator (former Ohio State assistant coach Paul Haynes) after DC Willy Robinson resigned recently.
Spread Notes - Arkansas is 7-5 ATS (against the spread) overall this season but the Hogs enter this prime-time bash having failed to cover their last four consecutive post-season bowl games dating back to 2006. Meanwhile, Kansas State's not covered any of its last five bowl games the past 10 years but the Wildcats were one of the country's "best bets" this year while cranking out a 9-3 ATS log that included outright upset wins against Miami, Baylor, Missouri, Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Texas.
On Saturday, it's ...
COMPASS BOWL - at Birmingham, AL
SMU (7-5) vs. PITTSBURGH (6-6) - 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
Hey, for a gazillion dollars (kidding, of course!): Who is the Pittsburgh head coach for this bowl game? If you said it's a chap named Keith Patterson, you win. Patterson was the team's defensive coordinator in 2011 but now is actually the fifth full-time or interim head coach at the school in the past 13 months ... really!
The departure of one-and-done boss-man Todd Graham didn't sit well with most Pitt players/fans but now the Big East crew looks to string together a third consecutive bowl win and QB Tino Sunseri - better known for having been sacked 54 times this season - looks to light the fuse against a SMU club without injured star RB Zach Line who rushed for 1,224 yards and 17 TDs this season before suffering a toe injury. Maybe the Mustangs can pull the mild upset with WRs Darius Johnson and Cole Beasley who combined for 151 receptions and 1,952 yards this '11 campaign.
Spread Notes - Pittsburgh rock-n-rolls its way into this matinee clash riding a five-game spread winning streak and note the Panthers are 7-5 ATS overall this season while SMU has failed to cover its last six consecutive games in the 2011 campaign and the Ponies are just 4-8 versus the vig this year and just 12-19 against the odds overall dating back to late in the 2009 season.
NOTE: Get our GoDaddy.com Bowl Preview plus College Hoops in tomorrow's Jim Sez.