With the National Championship Game and Rose Bowl essentially set in stone, much of the attention regarding the BCS shifts to the other three bowls. The Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Fiesta Bowl all have plenty of options, and it will certainly be interesting to see in which directions they ultimately decide to go.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of factors at work that might prevent the best possible games from happening. Proximity and national support play a big role, so it's possible that more deserving at-large teams will be left out of the proceedings. Whatever the case, all of the bowls will feature top teams that are perfectly capable of turning in some great performances.
Here is an in-depth look at the three BCS bowls that have yet to be decided along with predictions for the matchups that could be contested in each.
Ohio State vs. Clemson (Orange Bowl)
All signs pointed toward Ohio State taking on Florida State for the national title, but the Buckeyes couldn't close the deal in the Big Ten Championship Game against Michigan State. Because of that, Ohio State figures to take the Seminoles' spot in the Orange Bowl. Since the Orange Bowl lost the No. 1 team in the nation in Florida State, it will have the first replacement selection. Since the Sugar Bowl has the right to take Alabama as an SEC replacement, though, the Orange Bowl will "settle" for Ohio State. The Buckeyes' likely opponent will be Clemson in order to keep the ACC element intact.
Although Clemson faded a bit down the stretch, it may be the most intriguing matchup on the board for Ohio State, aside from perhaps Oregon. Ohio State and Clemson boast two of the most explosive offenses in the nation. Ohio State is led by the combination of dual-threat quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde, while the Tigers hang their hat on quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins. With so many offensive weapons in place, Tom D'Angelo of the Palm Beach Post believes this is the best potential Orange Bowl contest in years.
It's hard to argue with that assessment since the scoreboard operator figures to get a thorough workout. Ohio State is likely to be a significant favorite in this game, especially after Clemson was destroyed in the Orange Bowl by West Virginia two years ago. With that said, Boyd needs a big performance in order to boost his stock in the NFL draft, and that shouldn't be discounted. Whatever the case, this should be an up-and-down affair that will interest even the most casual of college football fans.
Alabama vs. Oklahoma (Sugar Bowl)
Like Ohio State, playing in an alternative BCS bowl probably doesn't feel like proper consolation for Alabama considering the fact that the National Championship Game was so close. At the same time, the Sugar Bowl is a prestigious game in its own right, and the Crimson Tide should be honored to represent the SEC. Most observers seem to believe that the SEC is the most dominant conference in college football, and Nick Saban's squad has a golden opportunity to prove that by decimating the competition within the confines of the Superdome in New Orleans.
The Sugar Bowl will have the pick of the litter as far as at-large teams go, and while the majority of fans would probably prefer to see Oregon's high-powered offense against Alabama's stout defense, the most likely selection is Oklahoma. Not only is it far closer to New Orleans than Oregon, which will help in terms of fan support, but the Sugar Bowl is on the verge of a relationship with the Big 12 as well. Alabama may struggle to get up for this game not only because of Oklahoma's potentially controversial inclusion, but also because of what could have been had the College Football Playoff been in place this season, according to ESPN's Phil Savage.
The big X-factor in this game is the fact that it will be Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron's final collegiate contest. That alone should be enough to make the rest of the Crimson Tide players want to perform at a high level. McCarron is one of the most successful quarterbacks in the history of the program, and it's only fitting that he goes out on top. Bama has to be careful, though, because Oklahoma has a dangerous read-option attack, and the Tide struggled against the run in the Iron Bowl against Auburn. That is one thing that could allow the Sooners to hang around in this one.
Baylor vs. UCF (Fiesta Bowl)
Oklahoma State seemingly had a Fiesta Bowl berth in its sights, but a blown lead late against Oklahoma opened the door for either Baylor or Texas to capture the Big 12 title. The Bears took advantage of their opportunity by disposing of the Longhorns and clinching their most successful season in years. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Baylor's Fiesta Bowl foray marks their first ever BCS appearance.
It isn't yet official, but it's pretty safe to say which team will be contesting the Bears on New Year's Day. Since the Fiesta Bowl has the final selection, it will be obligated to take Central Florida. The Knights of UCF earned an automatic BCS berth by winning the American Athletic Conference, but since their fanbase and tradition aren't as celebrated as most of the at-large options, it's tough to imagine the Orange Bowl or Sugar Bowl going after them. That doesn't mean that the Knights aren't a quality team, though.
UCF lost just one game this season, and it was against a very strong South Carolina squad. In fact, the Knights had the Gamecocks on the ropes, and Steve Spurrier's team just barely escaped with a win. The biggest matchup to watch in this contest is the battle between the quarterbacks. Bryce Petty has had a fantastic season for Baylor, but Blake Bortles has been nearly as good for UCF. Baylor boasts the No. 1 offense in the nation, but the Knights have the No. 13 defense, so something has to give.
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