In the final year before fans are introduced to the thrill of a college football playoff, the BCS bowl games will satiate our need for big-game drama.
I don't expect all five of the BCS games to be thrillers, but there are three where the matchups tell us that the outcomes will be up in the air until the final whistle.
Take a look at the schedule for the five marquee games, and then I'll break down the three I'm predicting will come down to the wire.
|BCS Title Game||Jan. 6||Pasadena, Calif.||Florida State vs. Auburn|
|Orange||Jan. 3||Miami, Fla.||Clemson vs. Ohio State|
|Sugar||Jan. 2||New Orleans, La.||Alabama vs. Oklahoma|
|Fiesta||Jan. 1||Glendale, Ariz.||Baylor vs. UCF|
|Rose||Jan. 1||Pasadena, Calif.||Michigan State vs. Stanford|
Matchup: No. 4 Michigan State (12-1) vs. No. 5 Stanford (11-2)
There are going to be some bruised players after this Rose Bowl. Michigan State and Stanford are two of the most physical teams in the nation.
For the Spartans, it all starts with their defense. Michigan State is fourth in the nation in points allowed. A dominant rush defense has paved the way to this success. By allowing 80.8 rushing yards per game, the Spartans lead the nation.
That rushing attack will be fiercely tested by Stanford's 23rd-ranked rushing attack.
The reality behind the numbers is that the Cardinal's rushing attack is better than its ranking suggests. Stanford does not boast of the most explosive attack, but its massive offensive line helps it rumble off consistent four- and five-yard gains.
Stanford's defense is not quite as impressive as the Spartans'. It is 10th in points allowed. Of course, the Spartans' offense is not as adept as the Cardinal's. Michigan State is 89th in passing and 51st in rushing.
All of this is going to lead into a low-scoring but well-played and close Rose Bowl.
Prediction: Stanford 17, Michigan State 15
Matchup: No. 12 Clemson (10-2) vs. No. 7 Ohio State (12-1)
Like the Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl is going to come down to the final whistle, but it won't be after a defensive battle.
On the whole, Ohio State and Clemson played solid defense this season. Clemson is 17th in the nation in points allowed; Ohio State is 21st.
These defenses are vulnerable to quality competition, however. For instance, the Buckeyes surrendered 41 points to Michigan, and Clemson allowed 51 to Florida State.
Both defenses will face quality offenses in this one, and both are led by premier quarterbacks in Clemson's Tajh Boyd and Ohio State's Braxton Miller.
Along with the receiving skills of Sammy Watkins, Boyd led the Tigers to the nation's 12th-ranked passing attack. Meanwhile, the dual-threat ability of Miller and Carlos Hyde's running ability helped lead the Buckeyes to the nation's fourth-best rushing attack.
All of this sets up for a game that will produce a bunch of highlights, plenty of points, very few punts and a close game.
Prediction: Ohio State 45, Clemson 42
BCS Title Game
Matchup: Florida State (13-0) vs. Auburn (12-1)
This year's title game will try to atone for the blowout debacle that occurred in last year's title game when Alabama crushed Notre Dame.
The Seminoles left little doubt about their greatness as they steamrolled through the regular season. Florida State is second in the nation in points scored and first in the nation in points allowed.
Freshman quarterback and likely Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston was nearly flawless this season, as he carries a quarterback rating of 190.1.
Auburn's results were not as convincing or dominant as Florida State's, but Auburn also played a far harder schedule, and this team improved as the season rolled along.
Auburn is powered by the nation's most prolific rushing attack that is spearheaded by running back Tre Mason and quarterback Nick Marshall.
Although the Seminoles posted solid numbers in rush defense by allowing 1,515 yards gained at an average of 3.14 per carry, Florida State has not faced a rushing attack like this.
Who will win?
Auburn's opposition knows that the Tigers want to run the ball on nearly every down, yet that has done nothing to slow them down. For instance, in the Iron Bowl, the Tigers rushed for an average of 5.7 yards per carry en route to 296 rushing yards against the vaunted defense of Alabama.
Auburn will again put up huge numbers on the ground in this game, and that will lead to another close win for this remarkable team.
Prediction: Auburn 38, Florida State 34
Stats via CFBStats.com.