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2012 College Football Bowl Projections: LSU, Oregon To Meet Again

College football's 35 bowl games are in need of projecting, so let's get right to it. (And just think: in two years we'll be able to do this with playoff brackets.) Stewart Mandel's bowl projections, including the return of Duke!

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 03:  A general view of play between the Oregon Ducks and the LSU Tigers at Cowboys Stadium on September 3, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 03: A general view of play between the Oregon Ducks and the LSU Tigers at Cowboys Stadium on September 3, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Getty Images

I don't know if I think LSU and Oregon are the two best teams in the country. But I definitely think they'll meet in Miami to play for the national title. LSU's my No. 1 despite losing Tyrann Mathieu, and Oregon's in the top five (along with Alabama, Florida State and probably USC). The last time the two played, in the 2011 Dallas opener, the Tigers won, 40-27, though four turnovers made that one less of a brawl than it might've been. I'd like to watch it again, if you please.

SURPRISE! Five teams to watch out for this year.

The SEC and Pac-12 are shaping up to be the most important conferences this season, with the two teams at the top of each expected to control much of the top 10. I like LSU over Alabama in part because of home field advantage and less roster turnover and probably in part because I'm tired of the Tide. Just being honest. Only human.

Oregon is better than USC because it's stronger defensively, less reliant on a handful of superstar offensive players, and boasts more winning leadership. That's not to discount USC, which really could see the country's best passing game win a title (provided they have some impressive injury luck), but I think we've overvalued the scholarship-lacking Trojans due to their name and aura, the neat awakened-beast-NCAA-vengeance story line, and a string of good games to close 2011 down. (What if they'd had to play Oregon again in the Pac-12 title game after winning by a missed field goal, then play an elite team in a BCS game? Losing either of those would've had us feeling very differently about USC than we were after 50-0.)

Among the other games I really like here are Ohio-Arkansas State, Washington-Navy, Toledo-SMU, Boise State-Stanford (which would be a BCS-level matchup any other year), Bama-West Virginia (yep, I have Texas and WVU topping Oklahoma in the Big 12 -- if Mike Leach can win 11 games in the Big 12 despite not playing defense, why can't West Virginia do the same?), and of course the bowl season return of Leach against Fresno State.

As almost always, Notre Dame's playing for BCS or scraps. Having cashed in its Champs Sports card last year, it won't be able to again this year, and will either have to finish in the top eight and make a BCS bowl or wait for the best available spot to open up.

Luckily for the Irish (and others!), three likely bowl teams won't be in the postseason this year. Ohio State, North Carolina and Penn State are all taking the holidays off. Also, UCF is currently eligible but might not be for long.

UNC's ineligibility makes the ACC look much worse here than it should. I debated Wake Forest, Miami and Boston College, but ended up with a really thin crop of six bowl teams. The Big Ten was even harder, since I think Ohio State's going to be the best team in that league by the end of the year. And probably the 2013 USC.

Related: The Top 25 || Previewing Every Team || 2012's New Uniforms || All-Americans

So, here we are. Asterisks are for teams taking over another conference's vacant bowl bid. Let me know what you think below. (And yeah, the Russell Athletic here is a rematch of a recent, disappointingly attended bowl. It'll be great this time, though!)

Bowl Prediction Date Location

BCS Championship LSU vs. Oregon 1/7/2013 Miami, FL

Fiesta Texas vs. Wisconsin 1/3/2013 Glendale, AZ

Sugar Alabama vs. West Virginia 1/2/2013 New Orleans, LA

Orange Florida State vs. Louisville 1/1/2013 Miami, FL

Rose USC vs. Michigan State 1/1/2013 Pasadena, CA

GoDaddy Ohio vs. Arkansas State 1/6/2013 Mobile, AL

BBVA Compass Missouri vs. Cincinnati 1/5/2013 Birmingham, AL

Cotton Oklahoma vs. Arkansas 1/4/2013 Arlington, TX

Outback Iowa vs. South Carolina 1/1/2013 Tampa, FL

Gator Nebraska vs. Florida 1/1/2013 Jacksonville, FL

Capital One Michigan vs. Georgia 1/1/2013 Orlando, FL

TicketCity ECU vs. Mississippi State* 1/1/2013 Dallas, TX

Chick-fil-A Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee 12/31/2012 Atlanta, GA

Liberty Central Florida vs. Auburn 12/31/2012 Memphis, TN

Sun N.C. State vs. UCLA 12/31/2012 El Paso, TX

Music City Virginia vs. Texas A&M 12/31/2012 Nashville, TN

Kraft Fight Hunger Washington vs. Navy 12/29/2012 San Francisco, CA

Armed Forces Nevada vs. Houston 12/29/2012 Fort Worth, TX

Alamo Utah vs. TCU 12/29/2012 San Antonio, TX

Buffalo Wild Wings Oklahoma State vs. Illinois 12/29/2012 Tempe, AZ

Pinstripe Texas Tech vs. Rutgers 12/29/2012 New York, N.Y.

Russell Athletic South Florida vs. Clemson 12/28/2012 Orlando, FL

Meineke Car Care Kansas State vs. Notre Dame* 12/28/2012 Houston, TX

Independence Vanderbilt vs. Louisiana Tech* 12/28/2012 Shreveport, LA

Holiday Cal vs. Baylor 12/27/2012 San Diego, CA

Military Arizona State* vs. Army 12/27/2012 Washington D.C.

Belk Georgia Tech vs. Pitt 12/27/2012 Charlotte, N.C.

Little Caesars Western Michigan vs. Utah State* 12/26/2012 Detroit, MI

Hawai'i San Jose State vs. Tulsa 12/24/2012 Honolulu, HI

Maaco Boise State vs. Stanford 12/22/2012 Las Vegas

New Orleans FIU vs. Southern Miss 12/22/2012 New Orleans, LA

Beef O'Brady's Toledo vs. SMU 12/21/2012 St. Petersburg, FL

Poinsettia San Diego State vs. BYU 12/20/2012 San Diego, CA

Famous Idaho Potato Northern Illinois vs. Utah State 12/15/2012 Boise, ID

New Mexico Fresno State vs. Wash. State 12/15/2012 Albuqurque, N.M.

While we’re here, let’s watch some of the many fine college football videos from SB Nation’s YouTube channel:

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