The 2013 college football regular season concluded on Saturday night, providing a wild finish to one of the most unpredictable campaigns in recent memory.
It’s now the perfect time to take a look at the likely matchups in each BCS bowl game and power rank them in order from most anticipated to least exciting.
Check out these rankings while you and the rest of the world wait for the BCS Selection Show to take place on Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
No. 5: Fiesta Bowl (Baylor vs. UCF)
Baylor made it through the tough Big 12 to become champions for the first time in school history. It has been rewarded with a cupcake matchup against UCF, a team that was the best of a mediocre American Athletic Conference.
The Bears are a drastically better team here, and it will show on the scoreboard. This is a squad averaging the most points—53.3—the fifth-most passing yards—359.3—and 12th-most rushing yards—264.5—per game.
They’ve repeatedly hung 70-plus points on lesser foes and lost just a single game—against then-No. 10 Oklahoma State—this season.
UCF only played two ranked opponents this year, downing an overrated Louisville team in October and falling to a tough South Carolina program in late September. The Knights' one-loss record is a tad less impressive than Baylor’s, considering their strength of schedule.
Expect this blowout game to be the least thrilling of all the BCS games in 2014.
Prediction: Baylor 64 – UCF 21
No. 4: Orange Bowl (Clemson vs. Ohio State)
The Orange Bowl will showcase two teams that are regarded as the second-best in their respective conferences.
Clemson lost two games in 2013, one to Florida State—which will play for the national title—and another in the season finale to South Carolina. This is a solid team on both sides of the football (averaging 40.2 points per game and conceding just 21.1 per game), but it’s not a powerhouse like FSU. Regardless, the ACC will be glad to feature the Tigers as the conference representative in this Miami-based matchup.
Ohio State has to be disappointed with this bowl as well, considering the Buckeyes had a lead going into the fourth quarter against Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship.
However, this undefeated team was exposed by the Spartans and revealed that it was not worthy of contesting for the crystal trophy. It now plays for the bowl of oranges, and it’s hard to imagine the players being too excited for it when they could have had so much more on the line.
Prediction: Clemson 42 – Ohio State 35
No. 3: Sugar Bowl (Alabama vs. Oklahoma)
Speaking of teams that should be playing for more, the Alabama Crimson Tide were widely expected to represent the SEC in the national title game.
However, head coach Nick Saban’s controversial decision to kick a long field goal failed miserably in the Iron Bowl last week, as Auburn was able to return it for a touchdown and crush ‘Bama’s dreams of a three-peat.
Now the Tide will have to roll into a second-tier bowl game against Oklahoma, the second-place finishers in the Big 12.
It’s a lopsided matchup on paper and will be one when these two teams take the field in New Orleans. The Sooners simply cannot hang with Saban’s disciplined, angry and skilled group.
The Tide conceded a mere 11.3 points per game this past season—the second-best mark in the nation—and will be looking to extract revenge for their Iron Bowl shortcomings against an OU group that fell to a weak Texas unit this year.
Prediction: Alabama 28 – Oklahoma 7
No. 2: Rose Bowl (Michigan State vs. Stanford)
This is a football purist’s dream matchup.
Each team is capable of running the ball down the other’s throat while also playing the type of defense that is more than capable of keeping the other side off the scoreboard.
Don’t be surprised if The Granddaddy of Them All is won in the trenches with old-school, smashmouth football. This is the 100th edition of this prestigious bowl game, and it is fitting that the two participants play a classic brand of football.
The Spartans boast one of the top defenses in the entire nation, having conceded just 12.7 points per game to opponents during the 2013 regular season. Their only loss came against Notre Dame back in September, when the offense was still finding its legs.
MSU has definitely improved in that area, although the team still averages a mere 29.8 points per game.
If it can get close to that number of points again Stanford, it should be more than enough. The Cardinal aren’t an elite offensive unit, having scored an average of 33.2 points per game this year.
They utilized defense to earn most of their 11 wins, including the most recent in the Pac-12 Championship. The Cardinal held Arizona State to just two scores in a 38-14 drubbing in Tempe.
Expect turnovers and special teams to play a big role in the Rose Bowl outcome, as points are going to be very hard to come by.
Prediction: Michigan State 17 – Stanford 14
No. 1: BCS Championship (Florida State vs. Auburn)
While the Rose Bowl is featuring defense, offense is going to be the sole focus of this national title tilt.
Auburn is perhaps the hottest team in the country right now and is leaning on an extremely effective ground attack to vanquish top-tier opponents. The Tigers rank atop the country in rushing yards, compiling an outstanding 335.7 per game.
While the suspect defense has allowed the opposition to score an average of 24 points per game, Auburn has been able to overcome by simply putting more scores on the board.
That was evident in the SEC Championship Game, when the Tigers racked up 545 rushing yards on the Missouri Tigers and outpaced the SEC East representative, 59-42.
They’ll need to drop at least that many on the Seminoles this January, as Florida State is a powerhouse offensive squad.
The only undefeated school from an automatic-qualifying conference was the No. 2 scoring team in America, averaging an eye-popping 53 points per contest. The ‘Noles defense was also No. 1 in terms of opponents scoring on them, giving up a mere 10.7 points per game.
However, they have proven beatable. Unheralded Boston College managed to put up 34 on FSU, and it’s almost certain that Auburn will be able to reach the end zone a number of times with its powerful ground game.
Don’t be surprised if the total in this one eclipses 100 points and the game is decided in the final minutes.
Prediction: Auburn 55 – Florida State 52
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