What surprises are in store this bowl season?
This time of year is always littered with upsets. You've got teams that have been underrated all year getting their first chance in a high-profile game against tough competition. There are also the BCS conference teams that sleepwalk through four quarters and find themselves in vulnerable situations.
Largely because of these two factors, you'll see plenty of surprises over the next month.
Looking ahead to the bowl schedule, these three teams look likely to overcome the odds and spring the upset.
Boise State Broncos
Oregon State is only opening as the slight favorite in the Hawaii Bowl, so this is one of those games that could go either way.
Some might be dismissing Boise State following Chris Petersen's departure. There's no question how much success Petersen brought the Broncos, but you can speculate how much his absence will actually hurt the team in this game.
It wouldn't be the first time that an interim head coach led his school to a win after the previous head coach moved on. Bill Stewart even parlayed his 2008 Fiesta Bowl win into a full-time gig at West Virginia.
Bob Gregory is getting the call for the Hawaii Bowl, and his players will be eager to prove that Petersen wasn't the only reason the Broncos have risen to national prominence.
Boise State will be up for this much more than Oregon State will. Coincidentally, the Beavers have lost their last five games, so that doesn't bode well for their chances.
Ohio State could still be reeling from that loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship. The Orange Bowl doesn't offer much of a consolation prize to the Buckeyes when they were so close to the national championship.
On the other side, Clemson will be be ready to send Tajh Boyd out right and cap a disappointing 2013 with a statement win.
The OSU defense is a major concern. It failed to get a stop on that fourth quarter drive that put the game out of reach, and in general, Jeremy Langford was met with little resistance. And that was after Michigan racked up 603 yards the previous week.
Suffice it to say, Ohio State can be in trouble against good offenses.
With Boyd and Sammy Watkins, the Tigers have more than enough firepower to expose the Buckeyes.
Destiny is a trope too often used to describe why a team is doing so well.
Then a team like Auburn comes along that makes you believe that some teams do in fact have the college football gods on their side. This season alone, the Tigers have the "Prayer at Jordan Hare," only to be surpassed by the "Kick Six" in the Iron Bowl, not to mention the way that Oregon, Ohio State, Stanford and Baylor have all lost to open the door for the Tigers.
Of course, luck only gets you so far. The Tigers are a strong team from top to bottom, and the combination of Nick Marshall and Tre Mason has been near unstoppable on the ground, carving up opposing defenses with ease.
Florida State hasn't seen a team like this all season. Of course, neither has Auburn, regarding Jameis Winston and the balanced Seminoles attack. Gus Malzahn was amazed at FSU's speed, per Joel A. Erickson of AL.com:
When you turn on the film on both sides of the ball, the thing that jumped out to me is speed, super fast. They've done a great job recruiting. They've got a whole lot of good players. It's not a coincidence they're the No. 1 team in the country and undefeated. Nobody has even come close to them.
Winston and Co. can't play defense, though. Simply put, the Seminoles won't have an answer for the Tigers' ground game. Malzahn has figured out a way to make a run-based offense successful in college football.
Plus, how could you bet against Auburn when nearly everything has gone right for them this season?