College Football Bowl Games Cap 2011 Season

College football bowl games began last month but the big games are being played in the new year. There were six games played Monday including the Rose Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl. Michigan and Virginia Tech meet Tuesday night in the Sugar Bowl.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

The big bowls are underway. The five games in the Bowl Championship Series stand out in the crowded college football postseason. They command the largest national television audience and pay out the most money. They also generate the most controversy, although yesterday, the first two BCS bowl games generally created nothing but thrills.

Oregon beat Wisconsin 45 to 38 in the Rose Bowl and Oklahoma State won a 41-38 nail-biter over Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us with more.

Good morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: Let's start with the nightcap. The Fiesta Bowl in Arizona was supposed to be Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck's last chance to shine before he headed off to become the number one draft pick in the NFL. So did he shine?

GOLDMAN: Pretty much. He only misfired on four passes. He completed 27 of 31 for two touchdowns. So, yeah, he was good. But, you know, he was upstaged pretty much by Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden. That's 28-year-old Brandon Weeden. Old man Weeden led his team to a big win last night. He threw for 399 yards, three touchdowns and the big pass at the end that set up the Cowboys short winning field goal in overtime.

Still, Linda, Luck would've gone out a winner if Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson didn't blow two make-able field goals. One a 35-yarder as regulation time ended. And then a 43-yarder in overtime. And he reportedly was sobbing in front of his locker after the game and didn't speak with reporters.

WERTHEIMER: Poor guy.

GOLDMAN: Yeah.

WERTHEIMER: So, Tom, Oregon has been one of the country's most exciting teams in recent years - not to mention college football's fashion trend-setter with its uniforms and mirrored helmets yesterday. But no bowl game victories and that has finally changed, of course. So how did the Ducks break through against Wisconsin?

GOLDMAN: Well, you know, of course there were the Oregon pyrotechnics we're all used to. My favorite stat of the day, Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas scored on runs of 91 and 64 yards. Those were his only two runs of the game for 155 yards. That means he had a 77 1/2 yard per carry average.

Now, that kind of explosive run-oriented offense has defined Oregon. But their defense came through at key moments. The passing game was key. Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas and wide receiver Lavasier Tuinei hooked up for two touchdowns, but also some key first downs to keep the Ducks moving down the field. So it was a big breakthrough win for Oregon, which narrowly lost in the national championship game last season.

WERTHEIMER: Now, the recent scandals at Penn State, and before that Miami and Ohio State, seemed to sort of silence the annual criticism of the Bowl Championship Series. But are you seeing any reason for BCS haters still to hate?

GOLDMAN: Oh sure. The biggest criticism, the BCS uses polls and computers to match up teams in these five games, instead of having a playoff. That criticism still applies. You look at yesterday's games, all four very good teams played well. Could've been part of an entertaining playoff.

The other criticism was the selection of teams for this year's BCS games. Tonight's Sugar Bowl, in particular - number 11 Virginia Tech versus number 13 Michigan. When Top 10 ranked teams like Boise State and Kansas State didn't get into a lucrative BCS bowl, you know, it juts leaves critics confused about how teams are selected for these big games.

Although there is consensus, as there usually is, that the teams chosen for the national championship game - that would be, this year, LSU and Alabama next week - is fairly commendable.

WERTHEIMER: OK. NPR Sports Correspondent Tom Goldman.

Thank you, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

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