The 2013-14 college football season will conclude with five BCS bowl games that feature the nation's strongest teams packed with an exuberant amount of talent. Despite a couple of surprise teams in these contests, we are sure to witness games of epic proportions.
Each team has a good chance to emerge victorious—it all depends on taking advantage of matchups to enhance their own strengths and exploit opponents' weaknesses.
Let's take a look at the most pivotal matchup that will take place in each game. After all, the fate of each game could certainly depend on how these ensuing matchups end up panning out.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
Baylor's Bryce Petty vs. UCF's Secondary
Baylor has certainly been a run-first team throughout the course of the season with 588 rushing attempts against 401 passing attempts. However, it has been the efficiency of quarterback Bryce Petty that has propelled the team to an 11-1 record.
Petty has completed 220 of his 356 passing attempts for 3,844 yards, 30 touchdowns and just two interceptions for a passer rating of 179.2. He has been incredibly efficient and has been able to take care of the football throughout the season.
UCF's passing defense is ranked 61st in the nation, allowing an average of 229.8 yards per game, according to NCAA.com.
That's not a terrible average. However, they must tighten up against such an efficient quarterback.
So far this season, UCF has been able to intercept 13 passes. Continuing in that fashion is necessary as Baylor's success has stemmed from a lack of turnovers.
Discover Orange Bowl
Ohio State's Rush Offense vs. Clemson's Defense
Although quarterback Braxton Miller has found success through the air this season, Ohio State has been successful mostly due to their ground attack.
Led by Carlos Hyde, Ohio State has rushed for 4,128 yards and 42 touchdowns as a team in 2013.
Both Hyde and Miller have each rushed for over 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns this season. Hyde has accumulated 1,408 yards and 14 touchdowns, while Miller rushed for 1,033 yards and 10 scores.
Clemson's run defense has been respectable this season.
Although they are ranked 49th in the nation while giving up an average of 152.6 yards per game, according to NCAA.com, they are allowing an average of just 3.70 yards per carry.
The key for Clemson is to force Ohio State into third-and-long situations by remaining stout against the run on first and second down in this game. If Ohio State gets off to a fast start on the ground, things could get out of hand quickly.
Allstate Sugar Bowl
Oklahoma's Defense vs. Alabama's Defense
Yes, these two units will not be on the field at the same time. However, that does not mean that this will not be the game's most crucial matchup.
Defense is the strength of both of these teams.
Both squads have been able to maintain balanced offenses throughout the season, but the defensive side of the ball has been the cornerstone for both teams in 2013.
Alabama and Oklahoma are ranked fifth and 13th in the nation for total defense, respectively, according to NCAA.com.
Alabama does have an advantage in terms of scoring defense as they rank second in the nation while allowing just 11.3 points per game.
Oklahoma is not far behind, ranking 23rd in the nation in the same category. However, they are allowing 21.3 points per game—a difference of 10 points when compared to Alabama.
The defense that is able to maintain its composure and continue to play stifling football in this contest will be the team to emerge victorious.
Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio
Tyler Gaffney vs. Michigan State's Run Defense
This is a classic matchup of strength versus strength.
Gaffney has been an absolute workhorse for Stanford this season.
He has accumulated 1,618 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns in 2013. He was able to put Stanford in this position after rushing 22 times for 133 yards and three touchdowns against Arizona State in the Pac-12 Championship game.
Once Gaffney gets going, Stanford is extremely difficult to maintain.
Michigan State, however, is certainly capable of containing this dangerous running back.
Currently, the Spartans rank first in the nation in run defense, allowing an average of 80.8 yards per game and an average of just 2.70 yards per rush, according to NCAA.com. Also stout in the red zone, Michigan State has only allowed seven rushing touchdowns this season.
If Michigan State can contain Gaffney and force Stanford into a one-dimensional offense, they may be able to hold off the surging Cardinal.
Vizio BCS National Championship Game
Auburn's Triple Option vs. Florida State's Defense
Auburn runs one of the most interesting offensive schemes in all of college football—the triple option.
This scheme begins as a typical read-option play in the backfield. However, after the initial read, a new wrinkle is added. If the quarterback decides to keep the football, he has another option to shovel the ball ahead to a waiting wide receiver.
This system has made Auburn one of the toughest teams to defend in 2013.
Running back Tre Mason and quarterback Nick Marshall have flourished in this system. Mason has rushed for 1,621 yards and 22 touchdowns while Marshall has gained 1,023 yards and 11 scores.
Also in the mix here is wide receiver Sammy Coates.
Usually on the receiving end of the triple option, Coates has caught 38 passes for 841 yards—an astounding average of 22.1 yards per reception—and seven touchdowns this season.
However, Auburn's high-octane offense will have to compete with one of the best defenses in the nation.
Florida State is ranked third in the nation in total defense as they are allowing just 268.5 yards of total offense per game. Teams have continuously struggled to find room against this defense and are only averaging 3.95 yards per play.
Another big advantage that Florida State's defense has is an ability to create turnovers.
With nine fumble recoveries and 25 interceptions, they have gained 34 turnovers this season. After giving up the ball 17 times this year, their margin sits at plus-17. That would be good enough for third in the nation, according to NCAA.com.
This game will come down to the old adage of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.
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