The Granddaddy of Them All.
Every bowl game played on New Year's Day is special, but there's a different kind of magic about the Rose Bowl, which was first played in 1902 and has been held annually since 1916.
Part of the allure of the Rose Bowl is that, even with the mess of the BCS, it has remained, for the most part, a battle between the Pac-12 and Big Ten. You've got other traditions like the Big 12 in the Fiesta Bowl or the SEC in the Sugar Bowl, but there's nothing quite like a true Rose Bowl.
And unless something drastic happens, we're going to have that again on the first day of 2014.
Date: Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014
Time: 5 p.m. ET
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Prediction: Michigan State vs. Stanford
Representing the Big Ten will almost assuredly be Michigan State.
Should the Spartans lose to Ohio State this weekend, the Buckeyes will likely seal up a spot in the national championship, leaving the Rose Bowl committee to pick MSU, the conference's next best team.
If they win, they are the champions of the Big Ten, which is a golden ticket to the Rose Bowl.
The Pac-12 representative is also simple: The winner of Saturday's matchup between Stanford and Arizona State.
David Shaw's squad beat the Sun Devils 42-28 in the teams' first matchup of the season, but that was back in September and in Palo Alto. This time around, red-hot ASU has won seven in a row, and the game is in Tempe.
Nevertheless, the Cardinal's smash-mouth run game and physical defense will slow down Taylor Kelly, Marion Grice and the Sun Devils' explosive offense en route to a second-straight Rose Bowl appearance.
That, of course, would set up a Rose Bowl matchup that not many outside of Palo Alto and East Lansing would probably be too pumped about.
The Cardinal, as we touched on above, stymie the run (3.0 yards per carry allowed, fourth-best in America), give up very few points (19.0 per game allowed, 10th-lowest in America) and grind it out on the ground (41.9 carries for 209.1 yards per game).
Who will win the Rose Bowl?
And the Spartans, well, they are the Stanford of the north. They stymie the run (2.2 yards per carry allowed, best in America), give up very few points (11.3 per game allowed, lowest in America) and grind it out on the ground (41.2 carries for 177.9 yards per game).
Talk about a potential barnburner.
In a matchup of two similar teams, I'll go with the one coming out of the better conference—that's Stanford—and the one with the more productive and dangerous QB-WR combo—that's also Stanford, with Kevin Hogan and Ty Montgomery.
Prediction: Michigan State 13, Stanford 23
Other Teams in Play
The Pac-12's spot belongs to the winner of Stanford and Arizona, plain and simple, but things aren't quite as clear on the other side.
If Ohio State beats MSU on Saturday but gets passed up by Auburn or Missouri for the national title game, the Buckeyes will be headed to the Rose Bowl.
Moreover, if the Spartans get absolutely blown out and somehow fall outside the top 14, they won't be eligible for a BCS bowl. That means, if the Buckeyes go to the national championship, the Rose Bowl will be forced to pick a non-Big Ten squad as the replacement.
There's always the chance that the Rose Bowl committee could go a different direction even if MSU loses and stays inside the top 14, but the committee has done a good job of preserving the tradition of the Rose Bowl when possible.