USC, Arkansas favorites to play for title

Caption
(AP photo)
Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley celebrates the Trojans’ 50-0 win over UCLA on Nov. 26, 2011 in Los Angeles. USC is ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press’ preseason Top 25, which was released Saturday.

So much time was spent during the offseason talking about the coming college football playoff, it almost will make you forget the Bowl Championship Series still is around for a couple more seasons.

Two more seasons of automatic bids, polls, computer ratings and two teams being selected from 124 to have a chance at the national title in the postseason.

Then college football will enter a new world of conference tie-ins and a selection committee picking four teams to have a chance at the national title in the postseason.

Won’t that be .... great?

Anyway, a way-to-early BCS projection for the 2012 season:

BCS NATIONAL

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Southern California (Pac-12 champions) vs. Arkansas (SEC champions)

During USC’s great run of the past decade, the Trojans never got a chance to play a team from the Southeastern Conference in a bowl game. That was unfortunate, and left many SEC fans wondering if the Trojans were getting off easy.

Time to rectify that – just not with one of the SEC teams most figured would get there. John L. Smith leads the Razorbacks past West rivals LSU and Alabama to their first SEC championship.

ROSE BOWL

Oregon (at-large) vs. Michigan State (Big Ten champions)

Running back Le’Veon Bell and the Spartans break their Rose Bowl drought (last one: 1988) by winning the Big Ten title against Wisconsin (again with those two!). For running back D’Anthony Thomas and the Ducks, it’s a third Rose Bowl in four years after losing twice to USC.

SUGAR BOWL

Alabama (at-large) vs. Texas (at-large)

An early loss to Arkansas keeps the defending champion Crimson Tide out of the national title game, but a victory against LSU gives Nick Saban’s team another BCS bid. Texas gets back to the big stage on the strength of a fierce defense led by ends Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat and strong running game.

Should make for a Sugar Bowl slugfest.

FIESTA BOWL

West Virginia (Big 12 champion) vs. Wisconsin (at-large)

Quarterback Geno Smith and Mountaineers win a title in their inaugural season in the Big 12 with a high-powered offense that will fit right in with their new neighbors – and just enough defense.

Running back Montee Ball and the Badgers miss out on a third straight Rose Bowl, but the Fiesta Bowl gladly will welcome their passionate fans to the desert.

ORANGE BOWL

Florida State (ACC champion) vs. South Florida (Big East champion)

The Orange Bowl hasn’t caught many breaks as far as matchups during the BCS era, and while this all-Florida game no doubt will fill the Sun Life Stadium in Miami, it’s a regular-season rematch that won’t excite many outside the state.

The Seminoles are finally back behind coach Jimbo Fisher, just missing out on a ticket to the national title game.

As for USF, well, somebody has to win the Big East, so might as well go with the team led by a talented, four-year starter at quarterback (B.J. Daniels).

And the national champion will be ... Matt Barkley and the Trojans snap the SEC’s streak of BCS titles at six with a victory in Miami, where they last took home the crystal football – before having to give it back.

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