College Football Bowl Picks 2013-14: Predictions for Every Game
Let's go bowling!
Sunday night saw the announcement of the full 35-game slate for the 2013-14 college football bowl season, with the schedule featuring plenty of amazing matchups. Yeah, and some stinkers too.
The five BCS bowls, including the BCS National Championship Game, are ripe with traditional powers as well as a few upstarts, but good games are dotted all throughout the schedule.
The first four games kick off on Dec. 21, while the Auburn-Florida State battle for the national title ends things on Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif. The championship game, which pits the top two teams in the final BCS standings, was the obvious choice after a season of uncertainty and concern that the final year of the BCS would end in controversy.
ESPN.com's Ted Miller writes, "It will be must-see TV with plenty of intrigue and very few naysayers about the legitimacy of the matchup."
Who will win them all? Click through the slideshow for our picks on each and every one, along with analysis of some of the more key games. Then, chime in on the comments board to let us know your choices.
Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Colorado State vs. Washington State
When: Dec. 21, 2 p.m. ET
Where: Albuquerque, N.M.
Colorado State (7-6) is making its first bowl appearance since winning the 2008 New Mexico Bowl. The Rams finished third in the Mountain West's Mountain Division behind the late-season rushing dominance of running back Kapri Bibbs, who leads FBS with 28 touchdowns.
Washington State (6-6) is in a bowl for the first time since 2003, getting there thanks to road upsets of Arizona and USC. The Cougars, who finished tied for fourth in the Pac-12's North Division, have the nation's fourth-rated passing attack thanks to QB Connor Halliday's 4,187 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Prediction: Colorado State 38, Washington State 31
Final: Colorado State 48, Washington State 45
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: Fresno State vs. USC
When: Dec. 21, 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Las Vegas
Fresno State (11-1) fell short of a BCS bid when it lost its regular-season finale to San Jose State, but the Bulldogs regrouped to beat Utah State in the Mountain West title game. Fresno is an offensive juggernaut paced by QB Derek Carr, who leads FBS with 4,866 yards and 48 touchdowns.
USC (9-4) had a midseason resurgence under interim coach Ed Orgeron after it fired Lane Kiffin five games into the year. The Trojans, who tied for second in the Pac-12's South Division, overcame a rash of injuries to finish with the nation's 21st-ranked scoring defense (21.3 points per game).
Prediction: Fresno State 30, USC 24
Final: USC 45, Fresno State 20
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Buffalo vs. San Diego State
When: Dec. 21, 5:30 p.m. ET
Where: Boise, Idaho
Buffalo (8-4) is making just its second bowl appearance in school history and the first in the U.S. The Bulls lost to Connecticut in the now-defunct International Bowl in Toronto in 2008, the only other season they've had a winning record since moving back to FBS in 1999. Buffalo finished second in the Mid-American's East Division.
San Diego State (7-5) started 0-3 this season, including a home loss to an FCS team, but it won seven of eight during a stretch that saw the Aztecs go 3-1 in overtime games thanks to numerous late comebacks. SDSU is in a bowl for a school-record fourth straight year after finishing second in the Mountain West's West Division.
Prediction: San Diego State 30, Buffalo 24
Final: San Diego State 49, Buffalo 24
R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Tulane vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
When: Dec. 21, 9 p.m. ET
Where: New Orleans
Tulane (7-5) is making its first bowl appearance since 2002. The Green Wave, who play their home games in the Superdome, went 5-1 there this season despite one of the 10 lowest-rated offenses in FBS. Tulane finished fourth in Conference USA's West Division.
Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4) is the Sun Belt champion and is playing in this game for the third straight year. But this time around, the Ragin' Cajuns are limping into the Superdome on a two-game losing streak to a pair of 6-6 teams.
Prediction: Louisiana-Lafayette 27, Tulane 17
Final: Louisiana-Lafayette 24, Tulane 21
Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl St. Petersburg: East Carolina vs. Ohio
When: Dec. 23, 2 p.m. ET
Where: St. Petersburg, Fla.
East Carolina (9-3) finished second in Conference USA's East Division after getting blown out by Marshall in its season finale. The Pirates, who have wins over North Carolina and N.C. State, are 10th nationally in scoring (40.4 points per game), and QB Shane Carden has thrown for 3,866 yards and 32 touchdowns.
Ohio (7-5) is playing in a bowl for the fifth straight year and sixth time in eight seasons. The Bobcats finished third in the Mid-American's East Division due to a late-season three-game losing streak, but senior QB Tyler Tettleton has led the school to bowl wins the past two years.
Prediction: East Carolina 40, Ohio 26
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: Boise State vs. Oregon State
When: Dec. 24, 8 p.m. ET
Boise State (8-4) finished second in the Mountain West's Mountain Division, and as a result it avoided being sent to the Las Vegas Bowl for the fourth straight year. The Broncos, making their 12th consecutive postseason appearance, will be playing under interim coach Bob Gregory after Chris Petersen left to take the job at Washington.
Oregon State (6-6) backed into a bowl spot despite losing its final five games of the season. The Beavers, who finished tied for fourth in the Pac-12's North Division, still have the nation's third-best passing game thanks to QB Sean Mannion (4,403 yards, 36 TDs) and wide receiver Brandin Cooks (1,670 yards, 15 TDs).
Prediction: Oregon State 35, Boise State 34
Final: Oregon State 38, Boise State 23
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl: Pittsburgh vs. Bowling Green
When: Dec. 26, 6 p.m. ET
Pittsburgh (6-6) finished sixth in the ACC's Coastal Division, but late-season wins over Notre Dame and Syracuse enabled the Panthers to make a bowl for the sixth straight year. The previous three were all at the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham.
Bowling Green (10-3) won the Mid-American Conference title after beating Northern Illinois in the league championship game. The Falcons have won five straight thanks to a defense that is allowing the fifth-fewest points per game (14.8) in FBS, as well as a strong combo of QB Matt Johnson and running back Travis Greene.
Prediction: Bowling Green 27, Pittsburgh 13
Final: Pittsburgh 30, Bowling Green 27
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: Utah State vs. Northern Illinois
When: Dec. 26, 9:30 p.m. ET
Where: San Diego
Utah State (8-5) gave Fresno State all it could handle before falling in Saturday's Mountain West title game. The Aggies, who won the Mountain Division, are making a school-record third straight bowl appearance after not going to a bowl from 1998 to 2010. Utah State is seventh nationally in scoring defense, allowing 17.3 points per game.
Northern Illinois (12-1) was hoping to head west for a bowl game, but the Huskies were thinking of a BCS bid to the Fiesta Bowl. But then the Huskies lost to Bowling Green in the Mid-American title game, meaning electric QB Jordan Lynch will finish his college career a week earlier.
Prediction: Northern Illinois 27, Utah State 21
Final: Utah State 21, Northern Illinois 14
Northrop Grumman Military Bowl: Marshall vs. Maryland
When: Dec. 27, 2:30 p.m. ET
Where: Annapolis, Md.
Marshall (9-4) fell at Rice in the Conference USA title game, which would have sent the Thundering Herd to the Liberty Bowl against an SEC team. Instead, QB Rakeem Cato and running back Essray Taliaferro get a much more favorable matchup with an ACC foe.
Maryland (7-5) started the season 4-0, but a bevy of injuries caused the Terrapins to finish fifth in the ACC's Atlantic Division. When healthy, though, dual-threat QB C.J. Brown (2,583 yards of total offense, 23 total touchdowns) is hard to contain.
Prediction: Marshall 26, Maryland 21
Final: Marshall 31, Maryland 20
Texas Bowl: Minnesota vs. Syracuse
When: Dec. 27, 6 p.m. ET
Minnesota (8-4) is looking for its first bowl win since beating Alabama in the 2004 Music City Bowl. The Golden Gophers finished fourth in the Big Ten Legends Division, but their defense kept them in many games despite an inconsistent offense.
Syracuse (6-6) finished fourth in the ACC's Atlantic Division in its first season since moving from the Big East. The Orange reached bowl eligibility despite a very uneven season, especially on offense, where it rates 104th in passing and 99th in scoring.
Prediction: Minnesota 24, Syracuse 14
Final: Syracuse 21, Minnesota 17
Fight Hunger Bowl: BYU vs. Washington
When: Dec. 27, 9:30 p.m. ET
Where: San Francisco
BYU (8-4) hedged its bets by securing a spot in this game before the season began, and it then locked it up with seven victories in nine games from the start of October. The independent Cougars are a fun team to watch, thanks to QB Taysom Hill, and have a built-in fanbase thanks to their connections to the Mormon Church.
Washington (8-4) will be playing in this game without the coach who led the team all season (Steve Sarkisian left to coach USC) or the person who will command the Huskies in 2014 (Boise State's Chris Petersen has been hired but won't take over until after the game). But Washington still has QB Keith Price and running back Bishop Sankey.
Prediction: BYU 37, Washington 31
Final: Washington 31, BYU 16
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Rutgers
When: Dec. 28, noon ET
Where: Bronx, N.Y.
Notre Dame (8-4) got as good a situation as it could have hoped for, being without a bowl affiliation and ineligible for the BCS. Getting to play in New York City satisfies the Fighting Irish's desire to remain nationally relevant, which this game provides better than other opportunities in Dallas or Detroit.
Rutgers (6-6) didn't qualify for a bowl until Saturday night, when it needed to beat South Florida at home to end a late-season skid. The Scarlet Knights, who finished sixth in the American Athletic Conference, received this slot over Houston due to their New Jersey fanbase.
Prediction: Notre Dame 34, Rutgers 17
Final: Notre Dame 29, Rutgers 16
Belk Bowl: Cincinnati vs. North Carolina
When: Dec. 28, 3:20 p.m. ET
Where: Charlotte, N.C.
Cincinnati (9-3) finished third in the downgraded American Athletic Conference, falling in overtime to Louisville in its season finale on Thursday. The Bearcats have gotten solid production from sixth-year QB Brendon Kay and a better-than-expected defense, but their record also includes only one victory over a winning team.
North Carolina (6-6) rebounded from a 1-5 start to win five straight games to get bowl-eligible, finishing fifth in the ACC's Coastal Division. The Tar Heels have a talented dual-threat QB in Marquise Williams and maybe college's best tight end, Eric Ebron.
Prediction: North Carolina 27, Cincinnati 23
Final: North Carolina 39, Cincinnati 17
Russell Athletic Bowl: Louisville vs. Miami (Fla.)
When: Dec. 28, 6:45 p.m. ET
Where: Orlando, Fla.
Louisville (11-1) had one bad night, resulting in a Friday home loss to Central Florida, or else it would be in the BCS and involved in the discussion for the national championship game. Charlie Strong's defense and the Teddy Bridgewater-led offense are still two of the best units in the country, but the one loss dropped the Cardinals off the national map.
Miami (9-3) started the year 7-0 but dropped three straight to finish in a three-way tie for second in the ACC's Coastal Division. The Hurricanes, who sat out bowl season the last two years while waiting out an NCAA investigation, haven't won a bowl game since 2006.
The game pits teams that will be conference foes next season, as Louisville is joining the ACC. It will also be a homecoming of sorts for Bridgewater, a Miami native who originally committed to the Hurricanes before signing with Louisville. Some of his former high school teammates and competitors are looking forward to facing him, according to the Miami Herald's Susan Miller:
You know he’s going to play hard because he’s from down here. He knows a lot of us. He grew up with a lot of us on the team. He’s played great all season. I’m sure he won’t play any less against us. — Miami backup QB Ryan Williams
Prediction: Louisville 31, Miami 24
Final: Louisville 36, Miami 9
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Michigan vs. Kansas State
When: Dec. 28, 10:15 p.m. ET
Where: Tempe, Ariz.
Michigan (7-5) started 4-0 before hitting Big Ten play, and then it stumbled to fifth place in the Legends Division after its offense fell apart midseason. The Wolverines nearly upset Ohio State to end the season, though, with QB Devin Gardner showing he could still generate production.
Kansas State (7-5) lost to an FCS team to open the season and was 2-4 before winning five of six down the stretch to finish fifth in the Big 12. The Wildcats are in a bowl for the fourth straight year after losing in the Fiesta Bowl last season.
Prediction: Michigan 31, Kansas State 28
Final: Kansas State 31, Michigan 14
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Navy
When: Dec. 30, 11:45 a.m. ET
Where: Fort Worth, Texas
Middle Tennessee (8-4) finished tied for second in Conference USA's East Division after moving from the Sun Belt. The Blue Raiders, who last played in a bowl in January 2011, are riding a five-game winning streak during which they've averaged 42.6 points per game.
Navy (7-4) last played a bowl in Texas in 2009, when it defeated Missouri in the Texas Bowl. The independent Midshipmen have the third-best rushing offense in the country (320.1 yards per game), led by option QB Keenan Reynolds. Reynolds scored an FBS-record (for a quarterback) seven touchdowns in Navy's last game.
Prediction: Navy 40, Middle Tennessee 38
Final: Navy 24, Middle Tennessee 6
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Ole Miss
When: Dec. 30, 3:15 p.m. ET
Where: Nashville, Tenn.
Georgia Tech (7-5) is in a bowl game for the 17th straight year, with the last two seasons ending in trips to the Sun Bowl in El Paso. The Yellow Jackets' option run game is sixth best nationally, at 311.7 yards per game, but that was only good enough to place them in a three-way tie for second in the ACC's Coastal Division.
Ole Miss (7-5) dropped its last two games to sputter into bowl season, including an Egg Bowl defeat in overtime to Mississippi State. The Rebels, who finished tied for fifth in the SEC's West Division, faced four Top 10 teams and went 1-3 against that slate.
Prediction: Ole Miss 30, Georgia Tech 27
Final: Ole Miss 25, Georgia Tech 17
Valero Alamo Bowl: Oregon vs. Texas
When: Dec. 30, 6:45 p.m. ET
Where: San Antonio
Oregon (10-2) had a late-season swoon that kept it from reaching the BCS for the fifth straight season and dropped it to second in the Pac-12's North Division. The Ducks remain one of the country's most explosive teams, though, with QB Marcus Mariota (3,412 yards, 30 TDs) pacing a unit that scores 46.8 points per game.
Texas (8-4) was 1-2 and left for dead before winning its first six Big 12 games, including over rival Oklahoma. The Longhorns dropped two of three at the end to finish in a three-way tie for second, despite an improved defense that helped overcome many late-season injuries.
The pre-January game is one of the more highly anticipated of the non-BCS bowls, Bleacher Report's Brandon Oliver writes.
Prediction: Oregon 40, Texas 23
Final: Oregon 30, Texas 7
National University Holiday Bowl: Arizona State vs. Texas Tech
When: Dec. 30, 10:15 p.m. ET
Where: San Diego
Arizona State (10-3) got blown out at home by Stanford in Saturday's Pac-12 title game, its first loss in two months. The Sun Devils, who swept the league's South Division opponents, have been led all year by QB Taylor Kelly (3,510 passing yards, 36 total touchdowns). ASU is averaging 41 points per game, ninth-best in FBS.
Texas Tech (7-5) began the year 7-0 and then dropped its final five games to finish sixth in the Big 12. The Red Raiders offense is still ranked ninth in FBS, but its defense has allowed 48.6 points per game during the season-ending 0-5 stretch.
Prediction: Arizona State 48, Texas Tech 33
Final: Texas Tech 37, Arizona State 23
AdvoCare V100 Bowl: Arizona vs. Boston College
When: Dec. 31, 12:30 p.m. ET
Where: Shreveport, La.
Arizona (7-5) lost three of four to finish the season fourth in the Pac-12's South Division. The Wildcats, who are ranked 11th nationally in rushing offense, have the No. 2 running back in the country in Ka'Deem Carey (156 yards per game) and a quarterback in B.J. Denker who has thrown for 14 touchdowns and rushed for 12 more.
Boston College (7-5) features FBS' top-rated running back, Andre Williams, who ran for 2,102 yards despite getting hurt early in the Eagles' season finale. BC finished third in the ACC's Atlantic Division, partly because it was 0-3 against teams that finished with better records.
The stellar rushing matchup was not lost on Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, reports Arizona Daily Star's Daniel Berk. "You’re looking at maybe the two first-team All-American tailbacks, and rightfully so," Rodriguez said.
Prediction: Arizona 38, Boston College 30
Final: Arizona 42, Boston College 19
Hyundai Sun Bowl: UCLA vs. Virginia Tech
When: Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ET
Where: El Paso, Texas
UCLA (9-3) faced five ranked teams and lost to three of them, finishing second in the Pac-12's South Division. The Bruins' top rusher for the season was also its quarterback, Brett Hundley, but toward the end of the year they also discovered a hidden offensive gem in freshman linebacker Myles Jack.
Virginia Tech (8-4) finished with the eighth-best scoring defense (17.4 points allowed per game) but only scored 23.4 per game itself, part of why the Hokies finished in a three-way tie for second place in the ACC's Coastal Division. QB Logan Thomas has been decent, though his rushing numbers have been down.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, UCLA 22
Final: UCLA 42, Virginia Tech 12
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Rice vs. Mississippi State
When: Dec. 31, 4 p.m. ET
Where: Memphis, Tenn.
Rice (10-3) navigated a watered-down Conference USA to beat Marshall for its first conference title since 1957. The Owls have a solid run game and a game manager in QB Taylor McHargue, not to mention a defense that has been able to slow opponents down.
Mississippi State (6-6) won its final two games to reach bowl eligibility, including an overtime victory in the Egg Bowl over Ole Miss. The Bulldogs have been sluggish on offense, but they're better when dual-threat QB Dak Prescott is moving the ball around.
Prediction: Mississippi State 24, Rice 21
Final: Mississippi State 44, Rice 7
Chick-fil-A Bowl: Duke vs. Texas A&M
When: Dec. 31, 8 p.m. ET
Duke (10-3) made its first-ever appearance in the ACC title game but got blown out by unbeaten Florida State. Nevertheless, this has been the best season in school history for the Blue Devils, which won the Coastal Division and used a smoke-and-mirrors approach to get to 10 victories.
Texas A&M (8-4) has the country's most polarizing player in QB Johnny Manziel, but the Aggies couldn't do any better than eight wins despite his exploits because of a defense that made it impossible to stop anyone. A&M went 0-4 against ranked teams and allowed 33.5 points per game in wins over four other bowl-bound opponents.
Prediction: Texas A&M 38, Duke 27
Update: Texas A&M 52, Duke 48
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl: Georgia vs. Nebraska
When: Jan. 1, noon ET
Where: Jacksonville, Fla.
Georgia (8-4) somehow navigated a season's worth of injuries to finish third in the SEC East Division. The Bulldogs had a strong offense all year, even with losses at running back and late in the year to QB Aaron Murray, but their defense failed to hold its end of the bargain.
Nebraska (8-4) was one of the more disappointing big-name teams in the country this year, dropping games at home to UCLA and Iowa (both badly) en route to a third-place finish in the Big Ten's Legends Division. The Cornhuskers used three QBs, but running back Ameer Abdullah was solid all season.
The game is a rematch of last year's Capital One Bowl, which Georgia won 45-31. The prospect of playing Nebraska again didn't immediately go over well with some current and former Georgia players, the Athens Banner-Herald's Mark Weiszer reported:
“Nebraska again? You kidding me?” Georgia junior wide receiver Michael Bennett tweeted.
“Didn’t we see this in Orlando already?” tweeted former Georgia quarterback Buck Belue.
Prediction: Georgia 34, Nebraska 30
Final: Nebraska 24, Georgia 19
Heart of Dallas Bowl: North Texas vs. UNLV
When: Jan. 1, noon ET
North Texas (8-4) is making a bowl trip for the first time since 2004, doing so by finishing tied for second in Conference USA's West Division after moving up from the Sun Belt Conference. The Mean Green have wins over C-USA champ Rice and a 10-win Ball State team, and they played Georgia tough early in the season.
UNLV (7-5) is in its first bowl game since 2000 and its first outside of Nevada since 1984. The Runnin' Rebels, who finished tied for third in the Mountain West's West Division, won more games this year than in the previous three seasons combined.
Prediction: UNLV 28, North Texas 20
Final: North Texas 36, UNLV 14
Capital One Bowl: South Carolina vs. Wisconsin
When: Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET
Where: Orlando, Fla.
South Carolina (10-2) finished second in the SEC's East Division but still managed to end up in the Top 10 of the final BCS rankings. The Gamecocks' loss at Tennessee in October cost them dearly, or else they could have been the one to try to slow Auburn down in the conference title game.
Wisconsin (9-3) looked like an outside BCS contender until it lost at home to Penn State to end the season. Before that, the Badgers had been rolling for nearly two months behind the two-headed running combo of Melvin Gordon (1,466 yards) and James White (1,337) and a defense that is allowing 14.8 points per game.
Prediction: Wisconsin 23, South Carolina 20
Final: South Carolina 34, Wisconsin 24
Outback Bowl: LSU vs. Iowa
When: Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET
Where: Tampa, Fla.
LSU (9-3) lost road games to Alabama, Georgia and Ole Miss, but it is also the only team to take down SEC champ Auburn. The Tigers offense took a hit when QB Zach Mettenberger was lost to a knee injury in the season finale, but running back Jeremy Hill and a corps of strong receivers still provide plenty of options.
Iowa (8-4) is making its first New Year's Day bowl in four years thanks to a plodding offense that does just enough to help out the 11th-best scoring defense (18.8 points allowed per game). The Hawkeyes' losses were to teams with a combined record of 45-6.
Prediction: LSU 29, Iowa 17
Final: LSU 21, Iowa 14
AT&T Cotton Bowl: Missouri vs. Oklahoma State
When: Jan. 3, 8 p.m. ET
Where: Arlington, Texas
Missouri (11-2) was run out of the Georgia Dome by Auburn in Saturday's SEC final, but the Tigers have still had an amazing season in their second year since moving from the Big 12. A very effective offense and a swarming defense have led the team to its first January bowl game since 2008.
Oklahoma State (10-2) lost the Big 12 title—and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl—in the final minute of the Bedlam Series game against Oklahoma. The Cowboys haven't been as explosive on offense as in years past, but their defense has improved to the level that OSU doesn't just have to outscore teams.
Prediction: Missouri 30, Oklahoma State 24
Final: Missouri 41, Oklahoma State 31
BBVA Compass Bowl: Vanderbilt vs. Houston
When: Jan. 4, 1 p.m. ET
Where: Birmingham, Ala.
Vanderbilt (8-4) is making its school-record third straight bowl appearance, the result of getting hot down the stretch. The Commodores won their last four games, allowing only 13.5 points per game in that span, while their offense was efficient if not flashy.
Houston (8-4) began the year 5-0 before sputtering in the second half of the season, but the Cougars did manage to finish fourth in the American Athletic Conference after moving up from Conference USA. QB John O'Korn has been effective throwing the ball, while the defense is 16th nationally, allowing just 20.2 points per game.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 24, Houston 20
Final: Vanderbilt 41, Houston 24
GoDaddy Bowl: Ball State vs. Arkansas State
When: Jan. 5, 9 p.m. ET
Where: Mobile, Ala.
Ball State (10-2) finished second in the Mid-American's West Division after losing to Northern Illinois in mid-November. The Cardinals are 0-6 all-time in bowl games, but this season they're scoring 40 points per game and have gotten 3,933 passing yards and 39 total touchdowns from senior QB Keith Wenning.
Arkansas State (7-5) is making its third straight trip to Mobile after losing to Northern Illinois in 2012 and beating Kent State last season. The Red Wolves, who finished second in the Sun Belt, have managed sustained success despite constant coaching turnover, including a one-year stopover by Auburn's Gus Malzahn.
Prediction: Ball State 34, Arkansas State 24
Final: Arkansas State 23, Ball State 20
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio: Michigan State vs. Stanford
When: Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET
Where: Pasadena, Calif.
Michigan State (12-1) downed Ohio State in the Big Ten title game to earn its first Rose Bowl trip since it beat USC in the 1988 edition. The Spartans are allowing 12.7 points per game, fourth-best nationally, while QB Connor Cook and running back Jeremy Langford have paced an efficient offensive attack.
Stanford (11-2) is making its second straight trip to the Rose Bowl and fourth consecutive appearance in a BCS game after blowing out Arizona State in the Pac-12 title game. The Cardinal have made a habit of shutting down high-powered offenses, limiting the attacks of Oregon, UCLA and ASU (twice) behind the 10th-rated scoring defense (18.6 points allowed per game).
With two of the country's top three rushing defenses squaring off against units that like to run the ball, the game is going to be won at the line of scrimmage, Bleacher Report's Kyle Kensing writes.
Prediction: Stanford 20, Michigan State 16
Update: Michigan State 24, Stanford 20
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Baylor vs. Central Florida
When: Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Glendale, Ariz.
Baylor (11-1) is making its first-ever BCS bowl appearance after winning the Big 12 (or any previous variation) for the first time since 1980. The Bears haven't looked as dominant since losing to Oklahoma State a few weeks back, but they're still one of the most impressive offensive teams around and continue to lead FBS in scoring at 53.3 points per game.
Central Florida (11-1) is also in a BCS bowl for the first time in school history after going unbeaten in the American Athletic Conference. The Knights are the only team to beat Louisville, and they lost by a field goal to SEC power South Carolina. QB Blake Bortles (3,280 yards, 22 TDs) is drawing NFL attention, while the defense is 13th nationally, allowing 19.6 points per game.
Of the BCS bowls, this one has provided more eye-rolling than tongue-wagging, Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde writes:
The Fiesta Bowl gets stuck with this year’s bylaw-approved interloper, Central Florida, which is 11-1 but hasn’t looked impressive since coming back to beat Louisville on the road in mid-October. The Knights and Baylor are the novelty act, both playing in their first BCS bowls. Maybe it will be entertaining.
Prediction: Baylor 38, Central Florida 21
Update: Central Florida 52, Baylor 42
Allstate Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Oklahoma
When: Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: New Orleans
Alabama (11-1) missed out on a chance to three-peat after losing to Auburn on the final play of the Iron Bowl two weeks ago, but the Crimson Tide do get to represent the SEC in the stadium where they won the 2012 national title over LSU. Alabama is in a BCS bowl for the fifth time in six years, winning the last three by nearly 22 points per game.
Oklahoma (10-2) returns to the BCS after a two-year absence thanks to its last-second Bedlam Series win at Oklahoma State on Saturday. The Sooners, making their 15th straight bowl appearance, last played in the Sugar Bowl in 2004, when they lost the BCS National Championship Game to LSU. That LSU team's coach was Nick Saban.
Whether Alabama can be motivated to play in this game after missing out on another title shot is one of many storylines from this matchup, the Associated Press' Steve Megargee writes (via Yahoo! Sports).
Prediction: Alabama 27, Oklahoma 20
Final: Oklahoma 45, Alabama 31
Discover Orange Bowl: Ohio State vs. Clemson
When: Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m.
Ohio State (12-1) is making its 10th BCS bowl appearance—more than any other school—but the Buckeyes aren't in the game they wanted to be in. After falling to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game and getting knocked out of national title contention, OSU is headed to Miami for the first time since beating Colorado in the 1977 Orange Bowl.
Clemson (10-2) earned an at-large BCS bid thanks to a second-place finish in the ACC's Atlantic Division and victories over five bowl-bound opponents. The Tigers, who are in the top 20 nationally in both scoring offense and defense, look to erase the memories of a 70-33 loss to West Virginia in the 2012 Orange Bowl.
While the game itself is an intriguing one, it also provides a chance to bring up one of the most memorable moments in college football history: when Ohio State coach Woody Hayes punched a Clemson player during the 1978 Gator Bowl. That was the last meeting between the schools.
Prediction: Ohio State 43, Clemson 33
Final: Clemson 40, Ohio State 35
Vizio BCS National Championship: Florida State vs. Auburn
When: Jan. 6, 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Pasadena, Calif.
Florida State (13-0) has shown virtually no weaknesses in blitzing through the year as the only unbeaten team in FBS. Behind Heisman front-runner Jameis Winston and a defense that punishes all over the field, the ACC champion Seminoles are playing for a title for the first time since 2000.
Auburn (12-1) was winless in the SEC a year ago, but the perfect storm of Gus Malzahn as coach and an unstoppable run game featuring QB Nick Marshall and running back Tre Mason has the Tigers poised to make the most improbable turnaround in college football history. Auburn has five wins over ranked teams, and its rushing game is tops nationally at 335.7 yards per game.
Check out an in-depth look at the title game by Bleacher Report's David Regimbal.
Prediction: Florida State 38, Auburn 34
Final: Florida State 34, Auburn 31