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2012 Bowl Notes and Facts

Computer says 14 games to be decided by 4 points or less

by Dave Congrove
December 12, 2012

The 2012 bowl season opens on Saturday, December 15 in Albuquerque and Boise, and ends on January 7 in Miami Gardens where the 2012 BCS Champion could be an SEC team for a 7th consecutive year.

The Congrove Computer Rankings predict 14 games will be decided by 4 points or less. The closest? Bowling Green over San Jose State in the Military Bowl by two thousandths of a point (0.002). The biggest blowout? Oklahoma State by 19.61 over Purdue in the Heart Of Dallas Bowl.

The bowl season is one day longer than last year, stretching over a 25-day period. But for the third year in-a-row, the number of postseason games holds at 35.

Some games have changed names. The Insight Bowl (Tempe) is now the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, the TicketCity Bowl (Dallas in Cotton Bowl Stadium) morphed into the Heart Of Dallas Bowl, and the Champs Sports Bowl (Orlando, Citrus Bowl Stadium) has become the Russell Athletic Bowl.

This year marks the next-to-last season for the BCS, as we've known it since 1998.

The championship game, of course, will pit undefeated Notre Dame (12-0) against SEC kingpin Alabama (12-1) with the Congrove Computer Rankings favoring the Crimson Tide by 6.42 points.

The computer was 24-11 picking bowl games last year and is 305-198 in such games since the inception of the rankings in 1993.

A newcomer to the BCS bowls this year is the MAC conference which qualified Northern Illinois (12-1) as an automatic entrant after the Huskies finished the year at No. 15, ahead of the Big East's highest-ranked team (Louisville) at No. 21.

Not a newcomer this year is Virginia Tech. The Hokies avoided having their 19-season appearance streak snapped by winning their last two games of the regular season to become eligible at 6-6. In the end, they were the third ACC team chosen when the Russell Athletic Bowl tapped Frank Beamer's bunch to face former Big East rival Rutgers (9-3). Now, Virginia Tech must win that contest to avoid its first sub-.500 season since 1992 and the computer picks the Hokies to do just that, albeit by a scant 2.18 points. Virginia Tech already has losses this season to Big East members Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

Virginia Tech has the nation's third-longest consecutive bowl appearance streak, behind Florida State (31) and Florida (22).

Overall, 78 teams had qualifying bowl records. However, North Carolina, Ohio State and Penn State were not eligible to be chosen for postseason play due to NCAA probation. Miami opted to take itself out of the bowl pool in an effort to mitigate the severity of expected forthcoming penalties from the NCAA. Louisiana Tech (9-3) was left out after it turned down an Independence Bowl invite, believing it would receive a bid from the Liberty Bowl. Middle Tennessee (8-4) was the only other qualified team that was passed over.

Georgia Tech (6-7) received a waiver from the NCAA, just as UCLA did last year, on the basis that an appearance in the conference championship game shouldn't count against the school. The Yellow Jackets were "forced"to play for the title due to North Carolina's probation and Miami's self-sanctioning. Otherwise, they were already qualified for a bowl.

An ever-growing problem in the bowl season is the shuffling of head coaches before the postseason games begin. The aforementioned Northern Illinois makes it to a BCS game, only to find its head coach is now Rod Carey and not Dave Doeren. Doeren has left for N.C. State after compiling a two-year record of 23-4 and winning two MAC titles in his two-year stint in Dekalb.

Arkansas State, Cincinnati, N.C. State, Purdue, San Jose State, Texas Tech, Western Kentucky and Wisconsin will be led by interim coaches. Don't feel too sorry for Wisconsin, though, as they get program savior Barry Alvarez back in charge for at least one game.

Meanwhile, the GoDaddy.com Bowl game will be the last for Darrell Hazell at Kent State before he moves to Purdue.

Who knows how many more changes may occur between the time this article was written and the bowl games come to a close. So far, 26 teams will open the 2013 season with a different head coach.

COMPUTER SUCCESS:
The computer's preseason rankings correctly tabbed the winners of the ACC Atlantic (Florida State), Big Ten Leaders (Wisconsin), Big Ten Legends (Nebraska, forecasted co-champ), Big East (Louisville) and Mountain West (co-champ Boise State). 54 of the 70 teams it said would make a bowl game did in fact qualify for the postseason.

The rankings pegged the exact final record of 17 teams before a single snap was taken. It missed by just one win or loss on 28 other teams, and two wins or losses on 25 more teams.

BOWL FACTS:
Louisiana-Monroe and Western Kentucky are each making their very first bowl appearances. The Warhawks rejoined the higher classification of teams in 1994 while the Hilltoppers have been full-fledge for only four seasons (2009).

The proliferation of bowl games over the last several years has made it easier for teams to achieve bowl eligibility and six of the last seven seasons have seen at least one team break through. Louisiana-Lafayette did so last year (New Orleans Bowl), FIU in 2010 (Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl), Buffalo in 2008 (International Bowl), FAU in 2007 (Motor City Bowl), and Middle Tennessee in 2006 (New Orleans Bowl).

Everyone Has Been Bowling
Every eligible FBS team has now made it to at least 1 bowl game. The four new teams this year - Massachusetts, South Alabama, Texas State and UTSA - were all transitioning from the FCS. All but UTSA will be eligible to compete for a bowl slot in 2013.

First Time In A Long Time
Of the teams that made it this year, these had the longest wait to get back to a bowl game:
Kent State, 1972 (lost only previous bowl game - Tangerine Bowl)
Duke, 1995 (hasn't won a bowl game since the 1960 season Cotton)
Rice, 2008 (won Texas Bowl)

Waiting To Return
These teams have the longest continuing current streaks of bowl absence:
New Mexico State, 1960
Eastern Michigan, 1987

Bowl Appearance Streak
These teams have the longest continuing current streaks of bowl appearances:
Florida State, 31
Florida, 22
Virginia Tech, 20
Georgia, 16
Georgia Tech, 16

Bowl Winning Streak
These teams have the most consecutive bowl victories (last season of a bowl loss in parenthesis):
Mississippi State, 5 (1998)
Rutgers, 5 (2005)
Auburn, 5 (2005)
Florida, 4 (2007)
Florida State, 4 (2007)
Mississippi, 4 (2000)
USC, 4 (2005)

Bowl Losing Streak
These teams have the most consecutive bowl losses (last season of a bowl win in parenthesis):
Northwestern, 9 (1948)
Georgia Tech, 7 (2004)
Ball State, 5 (Never)
UTEP, 5 (1967)
Western Michigan, 5 (Never)
Kansas State, 4 (2002)
Minnesota, 4 (2004)

Note: Ohio, Texas A&M and Michigan State all snapped 5-bowl losing streaks last year.
Ohio edged Utah State 24-23 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Texas A&M downed Northwestern 33-22 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.
Michigan State won 33-30 in triple-overtime over Georgia in the Outback Bowl.

Bowl Winless (at least 1 appearance)
Ball State, 0-5
Western Michigan, 0-5
Arkansas State, 0-2
Akron, 0-1
Buffalo, 0-1
Kent State, 0-1
UAB, 0-1

Note: Ohio was 0-5 before defeating Utah State 24-23 in last year's Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Best Bowl Winning Percentage
(Minimum 20 appearances. Source: College Football Data Warehouse)
USC, .667 (32-16)
Mississippi, .636 (21-12)
Oklahoma State, .636 (14-8)
Penn State, .636 (27-15-2)
Florida State, .625 (24-14-2)
Auburn, .622 (22-13-2)
Oklahoma, .611 (27-17-1)
Alabama, .602 (34-22-3)
Boston College, .591 (13-9)
Georgia, .585 (26-18-3)

Most Bowl Wins
Alabama, 34
Southern Cal, 32
Oklahoma, 27
Penn State, 27
Georgia, 26
Texas, 26
Tennessee, 25
Florida State, 24
Nebraska, 24
Auburn, 22
Georgia Tech, 22
LSU, 22
Mississippi, 21
Michigan, 20
Ohio State, 20

FBS vs. FCS:
All of the FBS-FCS games have been played and FBS teams finished the season with a 98-10 (.907) record vs. FCS schools and are now 736-65 (.919) in such games since 2003.

101 FBS teams played a total of 108 games against FCS foes in 2012. UTSA played 4 such schools in its first year of transitioning from the FCS. Cincinnati, Florida State, Pittsburgh and Texas A&M each played two such games.

Here are the results of the FBS losses to FCS schools this season:
9/29: Stony Brook 23, Army 3
9/15: Cal Poly 24, Wyoming 22
9/8: Sacramento State 30, Colorado 28
9/8: North Dakota State 22, Colorado State 7
9/8: Illinois State 31, Eastern Michigan 17
9/8: Northern Arizona 17, UNLV 14
9/1: Youngstown State 31, Pittsburgh 17
9/1: Tennessee-Martin 20, Memphis 17
8/30: McNeese State 27, Middle Tennessee 21
8/30: Eastern Washington 20, Idaho 3

STREAKS:
Notre Dame - Won 12 straight overall. The Irish face Alabama in the BCS Championship Game in Miami Gardens on January 7.

Ohio State - Won 12 straight overall. Season complete due to NCAA probation.

Northern Illinois - Won 12 straight overall, 21 straight home games and 17 straight conference games. Plays Florida State in the Orange Bowl on January 1.

LSU - Won 41 straight nonconference games. Plays Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on December 31.

Michigan - won 14 straight home games. Plays South Carolina in the Outback Bowl Bowl on January 1.

Oregon - Won 15 straight road games. Plays Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl on January 3.

Southern Miss - Lost 12 straight overall. Season complete.

Akron - Lost 26 straight road games, 22 straight FBS games and 16 straight conference games (MAC). Season complete.

Kansas - Lost 21 straight FBS games, 21 straight conference games and 19 straight road games. Season complete.

UNLV - Lost 22 straight road games. Season complete.