In the final season of the BCS, college football fans will not be disappointed with the five BCS bowl games on the docket.
Florida State and Auburn will battle it out for the national championship, but undercard showdowns between Michigan State and Stanford, Ohio State and Clemson, Alabama and Oklahoma, and Baylor and Central Florida will provide plenty of intrigue before the Seminoles or Tigers hold up the crystal football.
Read on for television information and predictions for each of the five intriguing matchups.
Rose Bowl: Michigan State vs. Stanford
When: 5 p.m. ET, Jan. 1
The old adage that defense wins championships held true in the Big Ten and Pac-12 this season, as Michigan State and Stanford took home the respective league titles behind two of the stingiest defenses in the entire country.
Both the Spartans and Cardinal rank in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense and rely on strong running attacks when they have the ball. It could come down to which quarterback can make the critical play when the time calls for it.
Look for Connor Cook to hit on one big strike off play action in the final minutes. Michigan State will give the Big Ten a much-needed victory in Pasadena in a defensive slugfest.
Prediction: Michigan State 24, Stanford 17
Fiesta Bowl: Baylor vs. Central Florida
When: 8:30 p.m. ET, Jan. 1
Baylor and Central Florida have a grand total of zero BCS bowl game appearances between the two programs, but both earned the right to be here by winning their respective conferences.
The Big 12-champion Bears boast one of the best offenses in the country (first in the country in scoring offense at 53 points a game) and will simply have too much firepower for the overmatched Knights. This will be close for a half, but Baylor (which will finally be nearly healthy again) will pull away after intermission.
Prediction: Baylor 51, Central Florida 24
Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Oklahoma
When: 8:30 p.m. ET, Jan. 2
If we were to compile a list of the best college football programs in the history of the game, Alabama and Oklahoma would both be near the top.
Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide will look to stop Bob Stoops’ rush-oriented attack that ranks 18th in the country in rushing yards per game. Fortunately for Alabama fans, the No. 3 team in the BCS standings is powered by the nation’s second-best defense in points allowed.
The Sooners looked very ordinary against Texas and Baylor this season. As long as Alabama is motivated to play in a game that isn’t for the national title (don’t forget the Sugar Bowl against Utah), the Crimson Tide will take care of business against the overmatched Sooners.
Prediction: Alabama 31, Oklahoma 17
Orange Bowl: Ohio State vs. Clemson
When: 8:30 p.m. ET, Jan. 3
Both Ohio State and Clemson had national title aspirations at one point or another this season, so motivation may be a factor in the Orange Bowl.
The Buckeyes had their collective heart broken by Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game, while the Tigers were destroyed by Florida State earlier in the year. A showdown between two of the best offenses in the country isn’t a bad consolation prize.
Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde, Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins provide plenty of star power. Both defenses have struggled at times against lesser offenses than they will face in Miami, so whichever unit can make a big play will be victorious.
Look for Ryan Shazier to be the difference for the Buckeyes in a critical fourth-quarter possession.
Prediction: Ohio State 38, Clemson 35
BCS National Championship Game: Florida State vs. Auburn
When: 8:30 p.m. ET, Jan. 6
The national title game will pit two of the best offenses in the country against each other with the crystal football at stake.
Florida State ranks second in the country in scoring per game behind only Baylor, 14th in passing yards per game and 27th in rushing yards per game. Auburn is first in the nation in rushing and 13th in scoring per game. However, the Tigers rank 107th in passing yards per game, though that is somewhat deceptive because they haven't needed to throw the ball much.
The difference here will be the Seminoles’ dominant defense. For as much credit as Jameis Winston and company have received, the defense is first in the country in opposing scoring. Auburn’s attack is too one-dimensional to exploit this dominant defense for an entire game.
Prediction: Florida State 35, Auburn 24
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