Column: Chatelain: Can the Big Ten avoid another bowl bust?
Preview: Saturday's Bowl Games
Contest: College Bowl Picks
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Like it or not, the BCS championship game will be a rematch between LSU and Alabama.
Oklahoma State complained that it should have had a shot at the top-ranked Tigers, BCS bashers had more fodder for the we-need-a-playoff debate and many fans scrunched their noses at the thought of another field goal-kicking contest like the previous incarnation of the Game of the Century.
The good news, particularly if you're in the no-rematch camp, is that there are 34 other bowl games with some great players, great matchups and even some interesting nicknames, starting with that rascally Honey Badger in the Bayou.
Here's a rundown of some of the things to look for during the next month or so:
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford: The Cardinal quarterback is the fourth player to be Heisman runner-up in consecutive seasons. The likely No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft has thrown for 3,170 yards and 35 touchdowns while completing 70 percent of his passes for a second straight season. During his three seasons as a starter, Luck has set school records for wins and touchdown passes and led the Cardinal to three straight bowl games for the first time since 1935.
Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin: Ball is averaging 135.3 yards rushing per game — fourth nationally — but leads the nation with 1,759 yards rushing and 32 rushing touchdowns. He also leads the nation in total touchdowns (38), needing one more to tie the NCAA record for most touchdowns in a season set in 1988 by Oklahoma State tailback Barry Sanders.
Case Keenum, QB, Houston: The sixth-year senior will leave Houston with his own section in the NCAA record book. Being relegated to the TicketCity Bowl against Penn State after a late-season loss will likely have him motivated to go out with a big game. Keenum leads college football this season with 5,099 yards passing — the third season he has passed for 5,000 or more yards — and 45 touchdowns through the air. He led Houston to a 12-1 record.
Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback has thrown for 3,998 yards and 36 touchdowns this season. He leads the nation with a 192.31 passing efficiency, which is on pace to break the NCAA record of 186.0 set in 2006 Hawaii's Colt Brennan. Griffin was a dual threat this season as he rushed for 644 yards and nine scores while leading Baylor to a 9-3 record, which included wins against Oklahoma, Texas and TCU.
Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: The All-American is just the second two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation's top receiver, and a big-play threat every touch. As a two-year starter, Blackmon is second all time in every major receiving category at Oklahoma State. He has 244 receptions, 3,378 yards and 37 touchdowns.
Tyrann Mathieu, DB, LSU: The AP All-American has a knack for coming up with big plays at big moments. He has forced five fumbles, intercepted two passes and scored four touchdowns — two on punt returns and two from recovered fumbles — this season. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound sophomore also recorded 71 tackles and was named the Chuck Bednarik Award winner, given to the year's best defensive player.
Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: The Crimson Tide running back won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's best running back and was third in Heisman voting. He has rushed for 1,583 yards and 20 touchdowns while averaging 6 yards per carry this season. He rushed for 100 yards nine times, including a 203-yard performance against Auburn on Nov. 26.
LaMichael James, RB, Oregon: Give him a seam and he's gone; a likely Heisman finalist for the second straight season if that elbow hadn't kept popping out of place. James rushed for 1,646 yards and 17 touchdowns despite missing two games. The Rose Bowl against Wisconsin may be the fourth-year junior's final game as a Duck as reports surfaced this week that James will declare early for the NFL draft.
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INSIDE THE NUMBERS
6: Consecutive BCS national titles the Southeastern Conference will have won after the Jan. 9 game between Alabama and LSU in New Orleans.
8: Wins in the state of Texas this season by Baylor, which plays Washington on Dec. 29 in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. Baylor finished the regular season with a 9-3 record.
13: Straight seasons Oklahoma has gone to a bowl game. During that span, the Sooners have played in eight BCS bowl games.
22.67: Points Baylor quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III is responsible for per game.
38: Touchdowns Wisconsin junior running back Montee Ball has scored this season. Ball needs two scores to break the touchdown record set by Barry Sanders in 1988.
41: Years since Louisiana-Lafayette last played in a bowl game. The Ragin' Cajuns face San Diego State on Saturday in the New Orleans Bowl.
49: Wins by Boise State's Kellen Moore during his four years as a starter. That is the most by any starting quarterback in college football history. He's only lost three games — two to TCU — during that span.
91: Solo tackles by Tulsa linebacker Curnelius Arnick, most of any player in a bowl game and third in the nation. He's racked up 142 total tackles this season.
599: Yards of offense averaged by Houston, best in the nation. Quarterback Case Keenum accounted for 394.15 of those yards en route to a 12-1 record.
986: Over/under on the number of times TV announcers say Urban Meyer's name during the Jan. 2 Gator Bowl between his former team, Florida, and his new one, Ohio State.
1,038: Combined yards averaged by Fiesta Bowl foes Oklahoma State and Stanford during the regular season. Oklahoma State has the slight edge, averaging 557 yards per game compared to 481 for Stanford.
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Honey Badger: LSU's Tyrann Mathieu. From the popular YouTube video about the angry animal. The defensive back didn't like the ode to the furry and ferocious little beast at first, but it has grown on him.
Moose: Stanford's Jonathan Martin. The 300-pound offensive lineman, and protector of Andrew Luck's blindside, got the moniker after mauling other kids when he played Pop Warner football.
Nuke: Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins. The wide receiver had a preference for Nuk (pronounced Nuke) pacifiers when he was little and would spit out any other brand. Somehow still cool.
RG3: Baylor's Robert Griffin III. The combination of the quarterback's initials and being the third in a line of Robert Griffins sounds like a cool new line of shoes waiting to be released.
Wolf Man: Utah's John White. The running back has a tattoo of a wolf on his chest because wolves roll in packs and eat meat to the bone. It makes for a nice display on the Jumbotron after a touchdown.
Zeus: Alabama's Dont'a Hightower. A mythologically proportioned linebacker at 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, he leads the nation's No. 1 defense into this season's BCS championship game.
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Arkansas State: Hugh Freeze is headed for Mississippi, leaving the Red Wolves to play under running backs coach David Gunn against Northern Illinois in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
Southern Mississippi: Coach Larry Fedora is leaving for North Carolina. Fedora will coach the 22nd-ranked Golden Eagles a final time in the Hawaii Bowl.
Arizona State: Dennis Erickson was fired after five seasons, but will still coach the Sun Devils in the Las Vegas Bowl against Boise State.
Houston: Kevin Sumlin led the Cougars to the brink of a BCS bowl berth and became a hot commodity in the coaching market. He landed just down the road at Texas A&M, leaving Houston to play for interim coach Tony Levine in the TicketCity Bowl
UCLA: Rick Neuheisel was allowed to coach the Bruins in the Pac-12 championship game after being fired, but offensive coordinator Mike Johnson will run the show in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
Illinois: UCLA won't be the only team in the Fight Hunger Bowl with an interim coach. The Illini will be under the guidance of defensive coordinator Vic Koenning after Ron Zook got the hook following a six-game losing streak. Maybe Manpower.com should have stepped in to sponsor this one.