Texas, USC among teams with most to prove in bowl games

Mack Brown

What exactly is a bowl game?

Aside from the actual national championship game, it's not like there's some kind of prestigious title on the line. It's not really an exhibition – it counts on your record and all that. It feels like it should be more important than your run-of-the-mill game in the regular season. On the other hand, we've seen more than enough teams no-show in games to know that it's not exactly getting everyone's full attention.

About the only thing we can say definitively about the bowl season is that fans of SEC programs will enjoy taking credit for their conference mates' work. (And that exotic dancers are enjoying some trickle-down economics.)

Every year, however, a handful of teams do enter college football's postseason with something to prove. Be it a widespread sense that Team X is overrated or Team Y underachieved, some squads actually do have a little more on the line. Who does that apply to in 2012?

Northern Illinois

Despite the outcry from the Kirk Herbstreits of the college football world, the Huskies have no reason to apologize for working their way into the BCS rotation. Fair or not, however, as the first non-AQ team with a loss to qualify for a BCS game, Northern Illinois will be carrying a ton of weight for the little guys from a perception standpoint.

Lay a Hawaii-like egg, and the non-AQs will keep catching shade going forward. More importantly, they'll undoubtedly suffer when the Powers That Be starting picking teams for a playoff in 2014.


Only the most optimistic of Burnt Orange fans could view this season as a stepping stone to a potential national title run in 2013, as Mack Brown contended would be the case back in the summer. The Longhorns had a decent year, but it was one that lacked any particularly impressive wins. Now, Brown has to rally his squad for a decidedly non-glamorous match-up with Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl.

Even with all the flack he's catching, Brown's job doesn't appear to be on the line. But he'd be well-advised to win.

Lane KiffinUSC

The Trojans went from the penthouse to the Sun Bowl this season. After starting the year at No. 1 in the AP poll, USC finished the season at 7-5 with no true marquee win and a bunch of negative headlines piling on Lane Kiffin.

The Trojans have a major personnel advantage against Georgia Tech, even with talented quarterback Matt Barkley on the sidelines. Yet, given how poorly USC's defense played this year, Paul Johnson's funky flexbone offense presents a major test. Southern Cal will be prepping with a lame-duck defensive coordinator as well.

Bottom line: With a loss on Dec. 31, 'SC will go down as a monumental bust.


Sure, the Bulldogs barely missed out on the national championship. They came up just short against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.

But, aside from a win over Cocktail Party rival Florida, who else did UGa beat? There was also that whole South Carolina beatdown.

Georgia probably won't get much credit for beating Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day. I assume Mark Richt can understand how bad the alternative would suck, though.


Speaking of Nebraska, when last we saw the Cornhuskers, Wisconsin was stealing their lunch money. Big Red laid down something silly with the Big Ten title on the line.

There's no escaping the hard truth that Nebraska has eroded as a program. That shellacking from the Badgers is just the latest piece of evidence. Beating Georgia just might give the 'Huskers a little bump heading into 2013, though.