Can QB Nick Marshall and Auburn cap off a stunning turnaround by beating Florida State for the national title?
This is the final time that the BCS will be used to determine which teams participate in the biggest games of the college football season.
A more structured format in a four-team playoff will be introduced in 2014, but the controversial system has generated a slew of exciting marquee bowl matchups that will play out to cap off the current campaign.
For all the polarizing debate the BCS has created in its time, the nation's two best teams—No. 1 Florida State and second-ranked Auburn—will play for the national championship on Jan. 6.
Below is an overview of the BCS bowl slate with predictions for each contest, along with a closer examination of the grand finale and two of the other high-profile showdowns.
|Bowl||Matchup||Predicted Winner||Date||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream|
|Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO||Michigan St. vs. Stanford||Cardinal||Jan. 1||5 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Tostitos Fiesta||Baylor vs. UCF||Bears||Jan. 1||8:30 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Allstate Sugar||Alabama vs. Oklahoma||Crimson Tide||Jan. 2||8:30 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Discover Orange||Clemson vs. Ohio St.||Tigers||Jan. 3||TBD||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|VIZIO BCS National Championship||Florida St. vs. Auburn||Seminoles||Jan. 6||8:30 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
Rose Bowl: No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 5 Stanford
This should be a defensive slugfest—a classic throwback game featuring two extremely physical teams that were able to capture their respective conference championships.
Both offenses have similar identities as well, featuring ground-and-pound running games driven by two of the most underrated backs in the country: Cardinal bruiser Tyler Gaffney (1,618 yards, 20 touchdowns) and Sparty's Jeremy Langford (1,338 yards, 17 TDs).
Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com agreed that this will indeed be a showcase of physicality:
Stanford vs Michigan State is going to be a physical Rose Bowl— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) December 8, 2013
What this will come down to is the play at quarterback. Stanford sophomore Kevin Hogan has deceptive mobility and can make plays happen with his feet better than Connor Cook can. That should come in handy against the Spartans' swarming front seven.
Then again, Cook has to be oozing with confidence after a career-high 304 passing yards and three touchdowns in guiding Michigan State to a 34-24 win over Ohio State for the Big Ten title.
It is worth noting that Stanford has beaten seven opponents in 2013 that were ranked in the Top 25 at the time it took them on, per ESPN.com.
With this much time to game-plan and that strength of schedule to help prepare the Cardinal for this final test, they will be able to pull this one out thanks to a slight edge in playmaking ability from the quarterback position.
Prediction: Stanford 23, Michigan State 17
Sugar Bowl: No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 11 Oklahoma
Most of the dual-threat quarterbacks the vaunted Crimson Tide defense has struggled against have been more quick-twitch athletes, a la Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M and most recently Auburn's Nick Marshall.
Sooners quarterback Blake Bell is a bit of a different specimen, living up to his nickname, "Belldozer," by pancaking opponents with punishing runs at 252 pounds.
However, he was Oklahoma's third option at QB in the team's 33-24 win over Oklahoma State before coming in, performing well and hitting Jalen Saunders for the game-winning touchdown near the end:
Alabama has a bit more of a fixture under center in A.J. McCarron, who played well in the Iron Bowl loss to Auburn in throwing for 277 yards and three touchdowns. The senior signal-caller has amassed a 36-3 record as a starter with two national titles to boot.
Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops has said the SEC is overrated in the past but felt compelled to emphasize he was referring to the bottom half of what is perceived as the best conference, per ESPN.com's Alex Scarborough:
I'm not playing the bottom half...If the SEC is Alabama, there is nothing to talk about, right? If you want to say the SEC is Alabama, then sure, they're the ones that have won all the national championships, or most of them. Now, if you want to play in the bottom half, that's a different story. But we're not playing the bottom half, are we? So there's not a lot to talk about, is there?
Nevertheless, Stoops' comments should only add fuel to the fire for Nick Saban's bunch to get over a heartbreaking conclusion to the regular season.
What should allow the Tide to bounce back from a devastating loss to their archrival, though, is superior defense and a physical edge in the trenches.
Look for sophomore running back T.J. Yeldon to have a big game and for linebacker C.J. Mosley to key a stout defensive effort to drive Alabama to victory.
Prediction: Alabama 24, Oklahoma 13
BCS National Championship: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Auburn
The Seminoles have torn through their schedule and have not won any of their 13 games by fewer than 14 points.
Who will win the national championship?
The Tigers have stood up time and again to adversity—including a 35-21 loss to LSU on Sept. 21—and have gotten half of their 12 wins by eight points or less.
Competition in the SEC is tougher across the board, but Florida State has been extremely impressive in its biggest tests of the year. That's what having the No. 3 total defense and No. 6 total offense will do.
As shaky as Auburn's defense looked in surrendering 42 points to Missouri in the SEC title game, it did score 59 points. The offense possesses the tools to shorten this national title clash with its prolific rushing attack, keyed by running back Tre Mason and its speedy QB, Marshall.
That could help shorten the game and keep FSU's explosive offense off the field, helping keep this game close.
But Marshall's prodigious counterpart, Jameis Winston, has been sensational for the Seminoles. Winston has capitalized on a bevvy of weapons in his supporting cast to set a freshman record with 38 touchdown passes to just 10 interceptions.
The advantage the Seminoles have at the receiver position and the prowess Winston has from the pocket, they are more equipped to play a complete game and secure the Coaches' Trophy in Pasadena.
Prediction: Florida State 31, Auburn 27