There are close to 450 bowl games this season (all numbers approximate), ranging from the BBVA Compass Bowl to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Despite the fact that the college football postseason has been watered down by outlandish sponsorship and 6-6 teams battling for Beef O’ Brady’s supremacy, playing in January is still meaningful.
Some teams are absolute locks to be playing after the New Year (here’s looking at you Alabama), but let’s look at a few squads that will successfully play themselves into some of the best bowl games January has to offer with impressive stretch runs.
If Stanford wins out, there is only one possible destination for the Cardinal—Pasadena. However, whether that will be for the Rose Bowl or the national title game is yet to be determined.
Stanford and its formidable defense and rushing attack will handle USC Saturday, dismantle California’s excuse for a defense and defeat Notre Dame. That will set the Cardinal up for a Pac-12 title game clash, likely against Arizona State or UCLA, both of which Stanford beat easily earlier in the year.
If the Cardinal wants to play for the crystal football they will need lots of help. They currently sit at No. 4, but Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State and Baylor are all undefeated and don’t have a loss to 4-5 Utah on their resumes. But if that doesn’t happen, a second straight Rose Bowl is a heck of a consolation prize.
Prediction: Rose Bowl
Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State may be the most underappreciated team in the country.
Whether it is because of a general dismissal of anything from the Big Ten not wearing scarlet and gray or the fact that people only tuned in to see the Spartans robbed by questionable penalty calls against Notre Dame, this stout defense isn’t getting the recognition it deserves.
Michigan State ranks third in the country in points allowed and recently sent archrival Michigan’s offense back to the Stone Age by giving up -48 rushing yards. All that stands in Michigan State’s way of an 11-1 record and a showdown with Ohio State at the Big Ten championship game are games with Nebraska, Northwestern and Minnesota.
None of those three teams have an offense capable of putting up enough points against Sparty’s intimidating defense. If Michigan State then upset the Buckeyes it would be playing in the Rose Bowl (in what could be a defenivse slugfest against Stanford), but even a loss to Urban Meyer and company wouldn’t prevent the Spartans from earning a spot in a premier January bowl.
There’s even a chance Ohio State would be in the national title game and the Rose Bowl takes Michigan State as a Big Ten replacement.
Prediction: Capital One Bowl
Central Florida Knights
When Central Florida went into Happy Valley and knocked off Penn State in September and then followed that up with a heartbreaking three-point loss to South Carolina, many assumed there was something wrong with the Nittany Lions and Gamecocks.
Could Central Florida beat another BCS-conference champion in January?
Really, it was just a demonstration of just how talented Central Florida is this season.
All that stands in the way of an 11-1 final record, American Athletic Conference championship and a spot in a BCS bowl game for the Knights are games against Temple, Rutgers, South Florida and SMU. Those four squads are a combined 11-22 thus far.
But Central Florida, who also handed Louisville its lone loss this season, is better than just a team beating up on bad opponents. They will get a chance to prove that against elite competition in January.
Prediction: Sugar Bowl
|Jan. 1||Gator||Michigan vs. South Carolina|
|Jan. 1||Heart of Dallas||Iowa vs. Rice|
|Jan. 1||Capital One||Michigan State vs. Missouri|
|Jan. 1||Outback||Wisconsin vs. Auburn|
|Jan. 1||Rose||Ohio State vs. Stanford|
|Jan. 1||Fiesta||Oklahoma State vs. Fresno State|
|Jan. 2||Sugar||Central Florida vs. Texas A&M|
|Jan. 3||Cotton||Baylor vs. LSU|
|Jan. 3||Orange||Clemson vs. Oregon|
|Jan. 4||BBVA Compass||Vanderbilt vs. Rutgers|
|Jan. 5||GoDaddy.com||Toledo vs. Western Kentucky|
|Jan. 6||BCS Title Game||Alabama vs. Florida State|
Predictions are strictly personal opinion