College football's bowl season is less than a month away as the final BCS standings are set to be revealed in two weeks.
Two-time defending national champion Alabama has held down the top spot since the season's first BCS rankings were released in Week 8. But the Crimson Tide aren't out of the woods just yet as they still have two more high-stakes SEC games left to play.
If bowl season started today though, Alabama would be playing for its third consecutive national crown.
With the BCS picture becoming more clear after Week 13's action, here I'll project what January's marquee bowl matchups could look like.
Note: BCS bowl matchups will be determined on Dec. 8. The following are predictions.
Rose Bowl Game: Stanford vs. Ohio State
When: Wednesday, Jan. 1 at 5 p.m. ET
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
Thanks to Arizona's blowout win over Oregon on Saturday, Stanford has locked up the Pac-12 North Division and will play Arizona State for a Rose Bowl bid.
Those Oregon players who said they thought the Rose Bowl wasn't a big deal..glad to see they don't have to worry about it anymore..— Bill Plaschke (@BillPlaschke) November 24, 2013
The Cardinal have already roughed up the Sun Devils once this season—winning by 14 in Palo Alto—and will be favored to beat them again, this time to book a trip to Pasadena for their second straight Rose Bowl appearance.
Meanwhile, Ohio State is on track to win the Big Ten Championship next month, which would land them in the Rose Bowl assuming they finish outside the top two in the BCS. The Buckeyes will conclude the regular season at Michigan in Week 14, but win or lose vs. the Wolverines, they are headed to Indianapolis to take on Michigan State for the conference crown and an automatic Rose Bowl bid.
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Fresno State
When: Wednesday, Jan. 1 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
Oklahoma State demolished Baylor in Stillwater on Saturday night and now holds down the top spot in the Big 12. If the Cowboys can beat Oklahoma at home in Week 15, they'll be Big 12 champions for the second time in three years and likely be headed for the Fiesta Bowl.
Remember, there's no Big 12 Conference Championship Game.
The Cowboys' opponent could potentially be undefeated Fresno State, who will close out the regular season against San Jose State before taking on either Utah State or Boise State in the Mountain West title game. The Bulldogs have already beaten Boise State this season and would be the favorite against either seeing as they will host the game as the conference's highest-ranked team in the BCS.
Sugar Bowl: Auburn vs. Central Florida
When: Thursday, Jan. 2 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
It'll either be Auburn or Missouri in the Sugar Bowl this winter. But seeing as Auburn is expected to lose to Alabama first, Gus Malzahn's Tigers seem like the safer bet at this point.
In a scenario where Alabama beats Auburn and Mizzou beats Texas A&M this weekend, it would be the Crimson Tide taking on Missouri in the SEC Championship Game. An Alabama win in Atlanta would give Mizzou its second loss on the year and cause Gary Pinkel's Tigers to drop in the final BCS rankings.
While it could be one of a handful of SEC teams, Auburn seems the most likely SEC No. 2 in a scenario where Alabama wins out.
Meanwhile, one-loss Central Florida controls its own destiny in the American Athletic Conference and can secure a BCS berth if it wins out against 2-8 South Florida and 5-5 SMU. Barring a serious collapse, the Knights are headed for a BCS bowl.
UCF's biggest bowl win was over 6-6 Georgia in the Liberty Bowl. Closing in on Sugar Bowl vs. Auburn/LSU/A&M/Mizzou.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) November 22, 2013
Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Michigan State
When: Friday, Jan. 3 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.
Clemson's one blemish this season came against undefeated Florida State, but if the Tigers can beat South Carolina to finish the season 11-1, they'll be a lock for the Orange Bowl assuming the Seminoles win out.
The at-large bid will likely go to either Wisconsin or Michigan State. I'll give the Spartans the slight edge right now as they'll host Minnesota to conclude the regular season in Week 14 before taking on Ohio State for the first time this year in the Big Ten Championship Game in December.
Watch for Michigan State to lose a close game to the Buckeyes and earn a berth in the Orange Bowl at 11-2.
BCS National Championship Game: Alabama vs. Florida State
When: Monday, Jan. 6 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
Neither Alabama nor Florida State look poised to stumble in the coming weeks. Both are on cruise control at 11-0 with two games left to play, and each will be favored down the stretch.
The Crimson Tide face a tough test at Auburn in the Iron Bowl this weekend, but boast a championship pedigree that should prove to be the difference in the end. Meanwhile, the Seminoles are expected to rout the hapless Florida Gators before wrapping up the ACC crown next month in Charlotte.
There's certainly a whole lot that could happen from now until the final BCS standings are revealed on Dec. 8. But barring a stunning upset, this is the championship matchup college football fans should be bracing themselves for.
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