BCS Bowl Games 2013: Breaking Down Every BCS Matchup
It's time to go bowling.
Championship Week has come to an end, and roughly four weeks from today, 10 of the best college football teams in the land will take part in the five biggest postseason games on the schedule, the BCS bowl games.
From upstart squads who seemingly came out of nowhere, like Northern Illinois, to explosive offenses who put points on the board at breakneck speed (Oregon), there's something for everyone on New Year's Day.
Lest we forget, a week later, the most anticipated game of the year kicks off in what is sure to be an epic battle for the BCS National Championship between the defending champions, Alabama, and undefeated Notre Dame.
Let's take a look at all the action that awaits us.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.
Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. Northern Illinois
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When: Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Who: No. 12 Florida State (11-2) vs. No. 15 Northern Illinois (12-1)
Contractual Obligations: ACC champion (Florida State)
It's our first—and only—BCS buster of the year.
MAC champion Northern Illinois makes it into a BCS bowl game courtesy of the Big East's ineptitude, failing to have a team rank in the Top 15 of the BCS standings and opening the door for the Huskies to sneak in.
Northern Illinois has won 12 games in a row and features a dynamic dual-threat QB in junior Jordan Lynch.
Lynch has led the team to the ninth-highest scoring average (40.8) and rushing attack (250.15 yards per game) in the country.
Defensively, the Huskies rank in the Top 40 nationally in scoring (19th), rush defense (33rd) and pass defense (40th).
But they've not faced a defense the caliber of Florida State yet, which ranks seventh in scoring, fifth in rushing and third against the pass.
The Seminoles faced a dynamic dual-threat QB last week in the ACC Championship Game in the form of Georgia Tech's Tevin Washington, and they essentially made him a non-factor.
Offensively, Florida State senior QB EJ Manuel needs to get his head back in the game and start moving the offense in the right direction; he's struggled mightily over his past two games.
I'd love to sit here and write that the Huskies were going to pull off the upset. After all, everyone loves to root for the underdog.
But the gap in talent is simply far too great, especially when Florida State's defense is on the field.
Couple that with the fact that head coach Dave Doeren is no longer their head coach. He took the head coaching job at North Carolina State, according to Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune.
The best team that Northern Illinois faced all year was Kent State. Its major conference opponents were Iowa and Kansas.
The Huskies will keep this one close for a while, but Lynch is Northern Illinois' entire offense—and one man cannot beat Florida State.
Florida State wins rather easily, 35-10.
Sugar Bowl: Florida vs. Louisville
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When: Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La.
Who: No. 3 Florida (11-1) vs. No. 21 Louisville (10-2)
Contractual Obligations: SEC (Florida)
Florida fans will see a familiar face pacing the Louisville sidelines in head coach Charlie Strong, who spent 15 years as a coach with the Gators, most recently as Urban Meyer's defensive coordinator.
The Gators are headed to the Sugar Bowl for the ninth time, winning only three of their previous eight appearances, including a 51-24 victory over Cincinnati in the 2010 edition.
The Cardinals, who have never played in the Sugar Bowl, are led by QB Teddy Bridgewater.
The sophomore has completed 69 percent of his passes this season and does an excellent job of not turning the ball over, tossing only seven interceptions to his 25 touchdown passes. He is big reason why Louisville's passing offense ranks 24th in the country, averaging nearly 300 yards per game.
Bridgewater will have his hands full against a Florida defense that ranks 15th against the pass (186 yards per game) and allows fewer than 13 points per game, third-fewest in the country.
Louisville doesn't run the ball well at all, ranking 100th in the country with just over 127 rushing yards per game. Against Florida's sixth-ranked rush defense, allowing fewer than 100 yards on the ground per game, it wouldn't have much luck anyway.
Offensively, Florida is led by its own sophomore QB in Jeff Driskel and senior RB Mike Gillislee, a back who is going to give Louisville's 53rd-ranked run defense all it can handle.
Louisville hasn't faced a ranked team all year, and it has lost two of its last three games. Florida, meanwhile, has gone 4-1 against Top 25 competition (5-1 if you want to count its 20-17 win over a then-unranked Texas A&M squad in early September).
The Gators are simply on another level than the Cardinals, and there isn't a whole lot that Louisville can do to stop Florida from making it look foolish in this one.
Florida wins easily, 28-7.
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Stanford
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When: Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
Who: No. 6 Stanford (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (8-5)
Contractual Obligations: Big Ten champion (Wisconsin) vs. Pac-12 champion (Stanford)
Few thought that Stanford would be relevant this season without QB Andrew Luck, but offense is only one half of the equation on a football field. Defensively, Stanford might be as solid as anyone in the country.
The Cardinal held an Oregon offense that averages more than 50 points per game to only 14 in Eugene, one of nine opponents who have failed to eclipse 14 points against the Stanford defense this season.
With the nation's third-ranked rushing defense, Stanford is going to give Wisconsin's run-heavy offense all it can handle—a blessing in disguise, as the Cardinal struggle against the pass, ranking 84th in the nation.
Stanford is going to need every bit of that defense to stop Wisconsin's senior RB Montee Ball, who is as hot as any player in the country.
Over his last eight games, Ball has carried the ball 208 times for 1,277 yards and 15 touchdowns. That's an average of nearly 160 yards and two touchdowns rushing per game while picking up more than six yards per carry.
Going up against Stanford's stout rushing defense, Wisconsin could have major problems moving the ball on the ground, forcing senior QB Curt Phillips to take chances down the field to create some running room for Ball.
Speedy junior WR Jared Abbrederis is fearless going across the middle, and if Phillips is able to find him, he could give Stanford's awesome group of linebackers fits.
Stanford has its own big-time running threat in senior RB Stepfan Taylor, who is averaging nearly 108 yards per game since redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan took over under center for the Cardinal five games ago.
Hogan and Taylor could have issues ahead of them against a Wisconsin defense that is solid in all aspects of the game.
Led by junior linebacker Chris Borland, the Badgers defense ranks 19th in scoring (19.1 points per game), 21st against the run (124.46 yards per game) and 23rd against the pass (196.5 yards).
Heading into Championship Week, I predicted that Stanford would blow out UCLA while Wisconsin would lose a squeaker to Nebraska.
The exact opposite happened, with Wisconsin crushing Nebraska, 70-31, while Stanford just squeaked by UCLA, 27-24.
Wisconsin has plenty of Rose Bowl experience, and Ball is absolutely on fire. While Stanford is undefeated since Hogan took over under center, it looked vulnerable against UCLA.
The Badgers will get past the Cardinal in a hard-fought battle, 28-24.
Fiesta Bowl: Kansas State vs. Oregon
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When: Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
Who: No. 5 Kansas State (11-1) vs. No. 4 Oregon (11-1)
Contractual Obligations: Big 12 champion (Kansas State)
This matchup is a long time coming.
Kansas State and Oregon had agreed to a home-and-home series that was supposed to take place in 2011 and 2012, only to have Kansas State pull out, leaving the Ducks scrambling to fill the spot on their schedule (h/t ESPN).
Oregon walks into this game with a chip on its shoulder.
Kansas State is led by a Heisman Trophy contender in QB Collin Klein, one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country.
Not to be outdone, Ducks freshman QB Marcus Mariota is every bit as dangerous—if not more so—than his senior counterpart.
While the Wildcats have Klein and junior RB John Hubert as the key pieces of their dynamic offensive attack, the Ducks have weapons all over the field.
Oregon has its own Heisman Trophy hopeful in senior RB Kenjon Barner, while his backfield mate, sophomore De'Anthony Thomas, might be the most explosive player in the country.
Defensively, the two squads allow virtually the same amount of points per game: Kansas State (21.1), Oregon (22).
K-State is better at defending the run; Oregon is better at defending the pass.
It's going to be a high-scoring affair when these two get together, and it's going to come down to who has the ball last.
A month ago, it sure looked like these two were destined to meet in the BCS National Championship Game, and neither one was able to maintain their lofty place in the BCS standings.
While Klein has more experience than Mariota does, the Ducks offense is going to prove to be far too explosive for the Wildcats to contain.
Oregon wins going away, 45-28.
BCS National Championship Game: Notre Dame vs. Alabama
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When: Jan. 7, 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Who: No. 1 Notre Dame (12-0) vs. No. 2 Alabama (12-1)
Contractual Obligations: BCS No. 1 vs BCS No. 2
It doesn't get any bigger than this.
Two of the most popular teams in the country going head-to-head for the biggest prize in the land? You couldn't write a better script if you tried.
Playing in their third BCS National Championship Game in four years, Alabama (12-1) is trying to become the first team in history to win back-to-back BCS titles.
Notre Dame (12-0), on the other hand, is making its first appearance in the BCS National Championship Game.
While Crimson Tide fans are sure to be confident about their chances, the Fighting Irish play essentially the same style of football as Alabama does.
Notre Dame is built like an SEC team.
It's a battle between the two best defenses in the nation. Notre Dame allows 10.3 points per game, while Alabama surrenders only 10.7 per game.
Both teams love to run the ball, each averaging more than 200 rushing yards per game on the season.
While the Crimson Tide put up 350 yards and three touchdowns on the ground against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, running room will be at a premium in this game. Both defenses rank in the top four nationally in stuffing the opposition's ground game.
Both Alabama's Nick Saban and Notre Dame's Brian Kelly will have a month to work up a game plan for this one, and that's simply too much time to give either coach to prepare.
Alabama will look to force Notre Dame's dynamic freshman QB Everett Golson to have to make quick decisions with the football and beat the Crimson Tide with his arm.
Notre Dame will most definitely be looking at what Georgia did against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game and bring pressure from all sorts of angles against Alabama's senior signal-caller A.J. McCarron.
The Crimson Tide had trouble all game long with the Bulldogs pass rush, especially when it came from the edges.
Both teams love to get dirty in the trenches, and that's where I believe this game will be won or lost. Whichever squad can do a better job of nullifying the opposing front seven on defense will wind up the victor.
While Notre Dame will have a nation of Fighting Irish fans—and SEC haters—behind it, the vast majority of this Alabama team has been here before.
Experience counts for something, and I think it counts for just enough to put the Crimson Tide over the top.
Alabama wins its third BCS National Championship in four years by a score of 21-17.