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December 3, 2006

Breaking down the winners and losers

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The Florida Gators had better put the UCLA Bruins on their Christmas shopping lists.

The Bruins' stunning upset of then-No. 2 USC on Saturday - coupled with the Gators' 38-28 victory over Arkansas for the SEC Championship - provided an early present for Urban Meyer's team. Florida jumped ahead of Michigan and will meet Ohio State for the national title on Jan. 8.

You haven't heard the last of it from the Wolverines, but it's only so much baying at the moon. The matchups are set.

The Associated Press poll and the USA Today coaches' poll moved the Gators to second place ahead of Michigan.

A quick glance at the bowl schedule reveals some intriguing games and some potential snoozers. Here's a look at how things shook out once the dust settled on the bowl picture on Sunday:

Rivals.com Early Bowl Glance
Big winner, team: Florida.
It would have been hard to stomach if the Southeastern Conference champion had been passed over for the national title game. Despite ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit telling pollsters that voting Florida over Michigan just because they didn't want to see a rematch was wrong, they set aside the rematch. What Herbstreit fails to understand is that it's no given that Michigan is better than Florida, and the Wolverines did have a chance to prove themselves against the Buckeyes. The Gators deserve that same chance.
Big loser, team: Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights deserved a better fate after losing in triple overtime on the road to a very good West Virginia team. Rutgers finished 10-2 and not only lost out on the Big East title and an automatic BCS bid, but fell all the way to the Houston Bowl and a date with Kansas State (7-5).
Big winner, BCS bowl: Rose.
Before Saturday it appeared unlikely the granddaddy of them all would get anything it wanted given that an Ohio State-USC matchup looked like a lock. Now, the Rose has a team that many believe should playing for the national title. The area-favorite Trojans and Michigan are coming off big disappointments, but the folks in Pasadena, Calif., have to be pleased with their matchup.
Next big winner, BCS bowl: Sugar.
With Florida's victory, the Sugar folks get to keep LSU close to home and match them with the TV draw and ticket-selling power of Notre Dame.
Big loser, BCS bowl: Fiesta.
With all due respect to Boise State and Oklahoma, this game has no drawing power whatsoever. Malcolm Kelly is one of the best players no one has heard of, and not that many more will have after the Fiesta.
Next big loser, BCS bowl: Orange.
Wake Forest is a great story. But the Demon Deacons aren't a great draw. At least a Georgia Tech-Louisville matchup would have had Calvin Johnson against the Cardinals' high-powered passing game. Quick, name two players for Wake Forest.
Big winner, non-BCS bowl: Music City.
The Clemson-Kentucky game isn't necessarily the best game, but it sure is for Nashville bowl officials. They never believed the Tigers would drop into their laps, but they're thrilled to have one of the college game's most powerful offenses to match with the nearby Wildcats.
Big loser, non-BCS bowl: Gator.
It already had enquired with the ACC about passing on Georgia Tech if it lost the ACC title game. The league said, "Umm, no." So it's forced to bring the Yellow Jackets back to Jacksonville (site of their loss Saturday in the ACC Championship) and matches them with West Virginia - which could have a lame-duck coach by then. Not a dream scenario by any means.

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