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From the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl to the Rose Bowl and the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl to the Allstate BCS National Championship, the college football bowl season is upon us. I know there is constant talk about having a playoff in college football, but I personally enjoy bowl season. There are some intriguing matchups between teams that wouldn’t normally face one another. On the other hand, there are also some games that lack the excitement factor, unless of course you have a connection to one of the schools. But if nothing else, bowl games provides us sports fans with our football fix for just over three weeks.

The BCS bowl games are where it’s at, though. They provide us with matchups between the premier teams in college football, which make for some exciting football. All of the games have their own storylines and intriguing factors, but here is how I ranked this year’s five BCS bowl matchups.

5. Discover Orange Bowl
No. 15 Clemson vs. No. 23 West Virginia
Jan. 4, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

This game may not be as close as some people expect.  First of all, West Virginia’s schedule was relatively easy and they still managed to lose three games and eek out wins in their last three games of the regular season. Clemson struggled over the last month of the regular season as well, but finished the season strong after crushing Virginia Tech 38-10 in the ACC championship game.  

  Baltimore Sports Report Ballot - Week 14 Rank Team Delta 1 LSU Tigers -- 2 Alabama Crimson Tide -- 3 Oklahoma St. Cowboys -- 4 Virginia Tech Hokies -- 5 Stanford Cardinal -- 6 Houston Cougars -- 7 Arkansas Razorbacks -- 8 Oregon Ducks -- 9 Boise St. Broncos -- 10 USC Trojans -- 11 Georgia Bulldogs -- 12…

  Baltimore Sports Report Ballot - Week 12 Rank Team Delta 1 LSU Tigers -- 2 Oklahoma St. Cowboys -- 3 Alabama Crimson Tide 1 4 Oregon Ducks 3 5 Oklahoma Sooners 1 6 Arkansas Razorbacks 3 7 Clemson Tigers 1 8 Virginia Tech Hokies 2 9 Stanford Cardinal -6 10 Boise St. Broncos -5 11 Houston Cougars -- 12…

Baltimore Sports Report Ballot - Week 11 Rank Team Delta 1 LSU Tigers -- 2 Oklahoma St. Cowboys 1 3 Stanford Cardinal 1 4 Alabama Crimson Tide -2 5 Boise St. Broncos -- 6 Oklahoma Sooners -- 7 Oregon Ducks -- 8 Clemson Tigers 1 9 Arkansas Razorbacks -1 10 Virginia Tech Hokies 1 11 Houston Cougars 1 12 Kansas…

Baltimore Sports Report Ballot - Week 4 Rank Team Delta 1 Oklahoma Sooners -- 2 LSU Tigers 1 3 Alabama Crimson Tide -1 4 Boise St. Broncos -- 5 Wisconsin Badgers 2 6 Stanford Cardinal -- 7 Oklahoma St. Cowboys 1 8 Oregon Ducks 2 9 Virginia Tech Hokies 3 10 Nebraska Cornhuskers 3 11 Florida St. Seminoles -6 12…

The 2011 college football season is underway, which means the SB Nation College Football BlogPoll will once again be a weekly feature on BSR.  I will be representing our site again this year and posting my rankings every Tuesday morning along with some thoughts about what occurred over the weekend.  Above are my rankings after the first full weekend of college football.  Oklahoma still gets the top spot as they blew out Tulsa, 47-14 and Alabama stays right behind them at No. 2.  LSU made their way to No. 3 after handling business against previously ranked No. 3 Oregon, who slipped down to No. 10.  Feel free to throw your two cents in and let me know how you think I did with the rankings.  Here are a few observations I made after the first full weekend of college football.

I’m sure the question of how Jimmy Smith will pan out as a professional has been asked multiple times since the Ravens drafted him back in April.  And even though it is yet to be answered, at least we have a few glimpses of live footage, albeit preseason, that have given us something to work with.  Like any rookie, he has struggled at times, but has looked good at times as well.  There’s no doubt this guy has the most raw talent of any young cornerback in the NFL, which will shine through immediately and hide some mistakes he may make as a result of being inexperienced at the professional level.

That being said, there is still quite a learning curve for him as it pertains to understanding certain defensive plays and schemes.  Both were evident in the Ravens most recent game against the Redskins in a few plays .  Smith made an excellent play in the end zone against Santana Moss, using his speed and awareness to break up a potential touchdown catch.  But a few plays later, Smith blew the coverage and followed Jabar Gaffney to the flat instead marking Moss, who was already behind him catching a touchdown pass from Rex Grossman.  Smith immediately threw his arms up, either recognizing he screwed up or complaining that Ed Reed should’ve been there.  I’m sure someone eventually told the rookie it was his fault.

The speculation about whether or not Peyton Manning will be on the field for the season opener against Houston Texans is one of the big stories leading up to the 2011-12 season.  And why wouldn’t it be?  Manning has taken every snap (excluding the preseason) for the Colts over the past 13 seasons while being one of the best, if not the best, quarterbacks in the league over that time period.  He currently has 208 consecutive starts, which is good for second in NFL history behind Brett Favre’s 297.  But Manning’s streak could be in jeopardy come Sept. 11.

It is unknown at this point whether or not Manning will be healthy enough to start the regular season after undergoing surgery to repair a bulging disk in his neck this past May.  To add insult to injury, Manning wasn’t able to work with team trainers in the offseason because of the lockout, which has slowed his recovery considerably.  But even with the setbacks Manning has encountered, I don’t see any way he doesn’t play in the season opener.  I can say this with confidence because, well, he is Peyton Manning.

When you mix the first Ravens preseason game with anxious, excited, over-the-top Ravens fans and alcoholic beverages, wagers about the upcoming season will be made. I may or may not be speaking from experience here, but I know it happens. For the past four years, a popular conversation piece around Baltimore, mostly bantered back and forth within bar walls, has been about Joe Flacco’s on-the-field performance. There are both Flacco supporters and Flacco haters out there, but despite which side you’re on, the arguments for both are nothing short of interesting.

One of those interesting discussions arose during last Thursday night’s game between the Ravens and Eagles.  The Flacco debate began and the overly confident predictions followed.  To make a long, expletive story short, a wager was made about how Flacco’s statistics last season will compare to that of this season’s.  The wager, which was brought on by the “uncertain” Flacco fan, consisted of the following stipulations – Flacco would have lower numbers this season in two of the following three statistical categories (yards, completions and passing touchdowns) than he did last season.  The “confident” Flacco fan quickly complied, the two shook hands and the deal was sealed.

The Ravens will feature a lot of young players on both sides of the ball this season and, as a result, there will be some growing pains, especially early in the season.  The offensive line is full of rookies, as is the receiving core, and the two projected starting tight ends are in just their second year. The defense has a good deal of experience, but will most likely need a few young guys to step up if they want to continue to be one of the best units in the league.  Needless to say, the Ravens are in a transitional stage, which is a scary place to be heading into a regular season with so many unknowns.

The sad reality is that not all of these young guys are going to be successful at the professional level.  Some will be busts, some will become average players and a select few have the opportunity to become superstars.  It’s hard to tell exactly which of these players will succeed and which will fail, but here are two second-year guys I think will make the Ravens happy they drafted them.