The Rose Bowl is the oldest game of its kind in college football, and while the two privileged participants remain undecided, it is sure to be another epic BCS showdown following the 2013 season.
It is often reserved for premier teams—if not champions—from the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences. However, since Ohio State is No. 2 in the latest BCS rankings entering a conference championship clash with Michigan State on Saturday, there are a number of different scenarios that could play out.
Let's take a look at some expert projections for who will square off in Pasdena, along with a less mainstream possibility that would also make for an outstanding matchup.
Note: Team statistics are courtesy of NCAA.com.
B/R Projection: Michigan State vs. Arizona State
A battle of top-25 defenses and two of the nine least turnover-prone teams in the nation would translate to plentiful physicality and perhaps not as much scoring as casual fans might hope for.
Then again, the Sun Devils do have the No. 8 scoring offense, putting up 43.3 points per game and facing a Spartans defense that is No. 1 in total defense.
Something would have to give there, and it would likely be whether or not Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly could challenge the secondary while not making critical mistakes.
Kelly creates more big plays with his arm than Michigan State's more conservative passer Connor Cook, but averages one interception per 39 attempts, compared to Cook's rate of 76 throws for each pick.
The difference comes on third down, though, where Sparty converts at 46 percent compared to 40.6 percent for the Sun Devils, who would be facing their toughest opposing defense of the year.
Prediction: Michigan State 23, Arizona State 21
Jerry Palm (CBSSports.com) Projection: Michigan State vs. Stanford
This would be another smashmouth battle between two defensive juggernauts. The Cardinal are 15th in the country in total defense, led by senior linebacker and team captain Trent Murphy.
B/R expert Matt Miller spoke to an NFL scout who held Murphy in high regard—as an enhanced version of Green Bay Packers star Clay Matthews:
"He's Clay Matthews 2.0 to me. Best 3-4 OLB prospect in college." NFL team scout to me regarding Stanford's Trent Murphy.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) November 26, 2013
Spartans running back Jeremy Langford would have his work cut out for him facing Stanford's formidable front seven that allows 2.94 yards per carry.
Then again, the Spartans only yield 2.23 yards per pop on the ground, so running room would be hard to come by for both teams.
When in doubt, the outcome can often be determined by the quarterback position. Sophomore Stanford signal-caller Kevin Hogan has been a liability in terms of decision-making at times, yet his superior athleticism would give the Spartans something extra to account for.
In another prospective grinder, the Spartans would come out on the wrong end of this one.
Prediction: Stanford 21, Michigan State 17
Juiciest Projection: Ohio State vs. Stanford
If Urban Meyer's Buckeyes stumble in the Big Ten championship game and lose to the Spartans, they will have to settle for a Rose Bowl berth.
Which Rose Bowl matchup is likeliest to happen?
It would be exciting to see how dual-threat Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller and powerful runner Carlos Hyde would stack up with Stanford's stout run defense.
But there would also be more of a chance for the Cardinal to get going on the ground with senior Tyler Gaffney, who has 1481 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns in 2013.
That may be too much for Ohio State to overcome, especially considering it gave up 152 yards to Michigan last week for a team that had averaged a 32.5 rushing-yards game in the month of November before then.
As hard as it is to picture, the Buckeyes could be in danger of dropping their final two games, as this would simply not be a good matchup for them.
Prediction: Stanford 31, Ohio State 27