Nebraska Cornhuskers [SRS 23]
Best Wins: Michigan State (15), Penn State (29), Ohio State (34), Iowa (36)
Losses: Wisconsin (7), Michigan (9), Northwestern (58)
Famous Alum: Johnny Carson
Nebraska struggled more than expected in the Big Ten, mostly because injuries sapped their supposed strength, defense. The blackshirts were vulnerable up front finishing just 58th overall against the run, 8th in the Big Ten. Their offense was erratic, suffering the ebbs and flows of quarterback Taylor Martinez. The key for the Cornhuskers will be running a lot of no huddle to keep South Carolina’s defensive line off balance. If the Gamecocks defensive line can substitute and tee-off on passing downs, they will treat Taylor Martinez like a piñata.
South Carolina [SRS 20]
Best Wins: Georgia (16), Clemson (27), Vanderbilt (33), Florida (37), Miss. St. (38)
Losses: Arkansas (12), Auburn (57)
Famous Alums: Hootie and the Blowfish
The Gamecocks’ offensive triumvirate never came to fruition. Marcus Lattimore was knocked out for the season. Stephen Garcia was a disaster and was eventually kicked off the team. That said, their defense was outrageously good, led by a deep, athletic and versatile defensive line. Had they not inexplicably dropped a home game against Auburn, they win the SEC East.
For Recreational Purposes: South Carolina (-3)
Michigan State is bitter. Last year, Big Ten tiebreakers cost them a BCS place after an 11-1 season. This year, they would have owned the tiebreakers but the Big Ten switched to a division format, forcing them into a title game they lost. The loss opened the door for rival Michigan to go to the Sugar Bowl (a fact more painful than the loss itself). They will be looking to send a message. Though, an SEC opponent sent them a clear one last year.
Michigan State Spartans [SRS 15]
Best Wins: Wisconsin (7), Michigan (9), Ohio State (34), Iowa (36)
Losses: Wisconsin (7), Notre Dame (17), Nebraska (23)
Famous Alum: Chris Hansen
The Spartans ranged from very solid to domineering, barring their two disappointing road trips to Notre Dame and Nebraska. They have a tenacious top five defense led by a quick and active defensive front. Their offense, however, was unreliable because of offensive line issues. Despite quality backs they often failed to establish a running game and put Kirk Cousins under more pressure than he’s equipped to handle.
Georgia Bulldogs [SRS 16]
Best Wins: Vanderbilt (33), Florida (37), Mississippi St. (38)
Losses: LSU (1), Boise State (8), South Carolina (20)
Famous Alum: Alton Brown
Georgia recovered well after losing their first two to Boise State and South Carolina. That’s not surprising, since the best team they played the rest of the regular season was Vanderbilt. After the initial barrage, their young skill players on offense developed as did their defense, led by a huge three-man line and Jarvis Jones, one of the nation’s best pass rushers.
For Recreational Purposes: Georgia (-3)
It’s the Urban Meyer bowl, his former team against his future one. Neither is that fun to watch. But how about those story lines! And those high stakes! Thankfully, it’s Craig James free.
Ohio State Buckeyes [SRS 34]
Best Wins: Wisconsin (7), Toledo (31), Illinois (53)
Losses: Michigan (9), Michigan State (15), Nebraska (23), Penn State (29), Miami (41), Purdue (71)
Famous Alum: R.L. Stine
The Buckeyes were gutted by the Jim Tressel scandal, losing their coach, their identity and, perhaps most importantly, their senior quarterback. Ohio State was among the worst passing teams in the country, relying almost exclusively on a power running game. Their defense was good enough to keep games within range, but, with five B1G losses by a touchdown or less, the offense was seldom good enough to capitalize. They do, however, have DeVier Posey back, who gives them a credible deep threat.
Florida Gators [SRS 37]
Best Wins: Vanderbilt (33), Tennessee (43)
Losses: LSU (1), Alabama (3), Georgia (16), South Carolina (20), Florida State (24), Auburn (57)
Famous Alum: Stephen Root
Urban Meyer left after a disappointing 2010. Florida got boned by injuries and a rough schedule, causing things to degrade even further. The Gators’ defense under Will Muschamp was very good. Their offense was a disaster. Charlie Weis provided little schematic advantage and won’t be watching on Sunday to see where John Brantley gets drafted. They basically tried to run a power running system with speed backs and an unimposing offensive line. It didn’t work out so well, especially against LSU and Alabama.
For Recreational Purposes: Ohio State (+2)
[Photos via Getty]