In the midst of conference championship weekend, there are still some outcomes to be decided before the final BCS bowl matchups are set in stone for the 2013 season.
Presuming the undefeated Florida State Seminoles and Ohio State Buckeyes avoid upsets in their respective games on Saturday, though, they should be in line to play in the BCS National Championship Game.
That showdown would be much to the chagrin of whatever team wins the SEC title, but it will be a deserved honor for both teams if they keep their perfect records intact through Week 15.
Here is a look at the latest projections for the BCS, along with a breakdown of the most intriguing potential clashes on tap.
|Jan. 6, 2014||BCS National Championship||No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Ohio State||Seminoles|
|Jan. 3, 2014||Orange Bowl||No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 13 Clemson||Crimson Tide|
|Jan. 2, 2014||Sugar Bowl||No. 3 Auburn vs. No. 16 UCF||Tigers|
|Jan. 1, 2014||Rose Bowl||No. 7 Stanford vs. No. 10 Michigan State||Spartans|
|Jan. 1, 2014||Fiesta Bowl||No. 6 Oklahoma State vs. No. 14 Northern Illinois||Cowboys|
Source: Jerry Palm, CBSSports.com
BCS Championship: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Ohio State
Among a panel of B/R experts, Barrett Sallee is the only one who believes the Buckeyes will knock off Michigan State to win the Big Ten and clinch a spot to battle for the Coaches' Trophy.
The Spartans defense is formidable, but this is Ohio State's big chance to prove to the world that it is indeed worthy of the No. 2 slot in the BCS and a legitimate contender for the national title.
That doesn't mean the Buckeyes would beat the Seminoles, though. Florida State should have no problem knocking off Duke to win the ACC, either.
Led by freshman quarterback and Heisman Trophy contender Jameis Winston, a formidable backfield and a loaded, athletic defense, Florida State would give Urban Meyer's bunch all sorts of problems.
With dynamic dual-threat QB Braxton Miller and powerful running back Carlos Hyde, OSU could try to shorten the game and get physical with the Seminoles up front Miller's improved passing ability would also leave the defense susceptible on the back end to the big play.
Sure, Ohio State has a No. 5 rush defense of its own, but the onus would be on Miller to out-duel Winston with his arm even if the Buckeyes stymie Devonta Freeman and Co.
Bear in mind: The best quarterback the Buckeyes played all year before Michigan's Devin Gardner lit them up for 451 yards and four touchdowns in the regular-season finale had to be Wisconsin QB Joel Stave.
Bad news for Buckeye fans: Winston is superior to both of them by a long shot. In this hypothetical national title showcase, that would be OSU's downfall.
Prediction: Florida State 34, Ohio State 23
Orange Bowl: No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 13 Clemson
So much NFL-caliber talent would be on display in this one. Five players are ranked in the top 25 on ESPN expert Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest big board for the 2014 draft (subscription required).
While Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley (No. 6) will try to control the front seven and make the calls for the Crimson Tide to stymie Clemson's running game, the secondary will have its hands full defending the Tigers' aerial attack, led by star receiver Sammy Watkins (No. 7).
B/R's Matt Miller holds Watkins in extremely high regard:
For all the talent in the WR class, I feel Sammy Watkins is an elite player. AJ Green-level prospect. #Clemson— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) December 3, 2013
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd is a savvy senior who can make all the throws and has both Watkins (85 receptions, 1237 yards and 10 touchdowns) and 6'5" junior Martavis Bryant at his disposal. Watkins will garner the majority of attention, but Bryant averages a whopping 20.5 yards per catch, too.
The tipping point that will turn this tilt in the Tide's favor is the fact that the Tigers have the No. 50 rush defense in the country and will have to contend with a massive Alabama line and super sophomore running back T.J. Yeldon.
AJ McCarron has also proven himself to be more than a game manager. The senior QB doesn't have the arm talent that his counterpart Boyd possesses, but he thrives on the big stage more often than not.
If this matchup materializes, look for Alabama's superior balance to push it over the top in bouncing back from the devastating Iron Bowl loss to Auburn.
Prediction: Alabama 31, Clemson 24
Rose Bowl: No. 7 Stanford vs. No. 10 Michigan State
Even with a loss in the Big Ten title game, the Spartans and conference coach of the year Mark Dantonio will have a trip to Pasadena as a consolation prize. It will also serve as a proving ground that they belong among the nation's elite.
Which lower-ranked team would be likeliest to win these potential matchups?
The Cardinal do have the edge in the battle of sophomore signal-callers with Kevin Hogan over Connor Cook. Hogan can make more plays with his feet and averages far more in yards per attempt (8.53 to 6.97).
But Hogan would be facing a top-10 pass defense, and Cook would be up against a defense that is 99th against the pass.
What it would really come down to is the effectiveness of the running games, which are spearheaded by Sparty's Jeremy Langford and Stanford's Tyler Gaffney. They have combined for 33 rushing touchdowns in 2013.
Since Michigan State is less prone to giveaways and boasts a +15 turnover margin compared to an even ratio for the Cardinal, that would likely send the Spartans to victory in the Grandaddy of Them All.
Prediction: Michigan State 20, Stanford 13