While there's no surprise about who's playing for the national title in the Fiesta Bowl, the Orange Bowl has a matchup that looks more suited for Pasadena than Miami.
The long-anticipated pairing of top-ranked Miami and No. 2 Ohio State became official Sunday when the Fiesta Bowl teams were announced. The biggest shock, however, came a few minutes later.
Iowa and Southern California will play in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 2 in a game that already has taken on a new nickname - Rose Bowl East.
And Rose Bowl officials were a bit testy in discussing how their traditional Big Ten-Pac-10 matchup ended up at a stadium 3,000 miles away.
"We learned a lot about the BCS this year and the way that it operates," said Mitch Dorger, CEO of the Tournament of Roses. "We did not anticipate all the subtleties of the system.
"Everything this year was conducted in accordance with the rules. The Orange Bowl has arranged for themselves an outstanding matchup, we congratulate them for that."
Mike Tranghese, the BCS coordinator and Big East commissioner, said Rose Bowl officials were "concerned" over what transpired.
"Clearly, the Rose Bowl people would prefer to have the Big Ten-Pac-10 matchup," Tranghese said. "They've expressed their concern about it. But everybody abided by the rules."
The Rose Bowl will feature Pac-10 champion Washington State against Big 12 winner Oklahoma. The Sugar Bowl matches SEC champion Georgia against ACC champion Florida State to complete the pairings in the four Bowl Championship Series games.
The Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3 has it made - Miami (12-0) vs. Ohio State (13-0) in a matchup of the only two major unbeaten teams.
The Orange Bowl, with the first pick after the Fiesta Bowl pairing, chose Iowa (11-1). And when it came time for its second pick, both the Orange and Sugar wanted USC (10-2). However, a BCS rule states that if two bowls want the same team, the bowl with the higher payoff has the option.
So the Orange went for the Trojans, and set up a game between co-champions of the Pac-10 and Big Ten conferences.
"Traditionally, we want to go to the Rose Bowl," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "But with the BCS, the traditions have been broken."
Keith Tribble, executive director of the Orange Bowl, said the decision was strictly business.
"I hope and I think they understand," Tribble said of the other bowls. "We're all trying to do what's best not only for the universities and student-athletes but the fans. Nothing that was done was done to be hurtful in any way. It was done in a sense of us trying to create what was good for the South Florida area, what was good for our economy, what was good for our bowl, and we had an opportunity to do it."
With the release of the final BCS standings Sunday, the bowl matchups finally came into focus.
The Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1 has a nice storyline, too - Georgia coach Mark Richt against his former boss, Bobby Bowden. Florida State is 9-4, Georgia is 12-1.
Notre Dame (10-2) was the biggest loser in the bowl sweepstakes, aced out of the at-large spots by Iowa and USC. The Irish, beaten 44-13 by USC on Nov. 30, will play North Carolina State in the Gator Bowl.
Each team playing in a BCS game receives about $13 million, which is split among conference members. Notre Dame, as an independent, would have kept all the money.
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The Gator payout is $1.6 million per team.
A Miami-Ohio State matchup has been anticipated for weeks. The Buckeyes completed their season with a victory over Michigan on Nov. 23.
The Hurricanes closed out their second straight perfect regular season with a wild 56-45 win over Virginia Tech on Saturday.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel knows all about tradition, but the Buckeyes have their priorities right - national title first, Rose Bowl second.
"We went into this season with our No. 1 goal of having the opportunity to play in the Fiesta Bowl," Tressel said. "Our No. 2 goal, the Rose Bowl, is an important thing to every Big Ten member and every Pac-10 team. I don't think anyone is sitting here feeling bad because that it happens to be the Fiesta Bowl for the top two spots."
Miami, led by Heisman Trophy contenders Ken Dorsey and Willis McGahee, will try to become just the second team to repeat as national champions since 1980, and first since Nebraska in 1994-95.
Ohio State, led by running back Maurice Clarett and a solid defense, goes for its first national crown since 1968.
"They do have a great defense, and I'm just looking at the stats," Miami coach Larry Coker said. "I really haven't seen Ohio State other than a little on television. And then our offense. That will be an excellent matchup. Of course, let's not put their offense down with Maurice Clarett. He's an excellent back."
While each of the BCS games has regional tie-ins, the selection rules do not prevent bowls from ending up with both at-large teams. Champions of the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC earn automatic BCS spots.
The Orange Bowl may be the most intriguing game outside the Fiesta Bowl. The Hawkeyes and Trojans feature two Heisman-contending quarterbacks.
Iowa's Brad Banks was the nation's top-rated passer with 2,369 yards and 25 touchdowns, while Carson Palmer threw for 3,639 yards and 32 TDs.
Rose Bowl officials may not be thrilled, but Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was elated his team will play in Pasadena for the first time.
"I think it's great, every once in a while you get a different conference in a different bowl," Stoops said. "It's just a little different. I think it's a rare, special opportunity that I know we've embraced."
Without a playoff, the BCS system will never please everyone.
"The system has never, ever been perfect," Tranghese said. "But the BCS was never intended to be a perfect solution. We're not perfect."
In the final BCS standings, Miami was first with 2.93 points, with Ohio State second at 3.97 points.
Georgia, which won its first SEC title in 20 years with a 30-3 victory over Arkansas on Saturday, was third at 8.37 points. USC finished with 10.51 points, and Iowa had 10.79 points.
By finishing fourth in the BCS standings, USC was guaranteed a BCS game.
With Georgia in the Sugar as SEC champs, Iowa was the only one-loss team available.