Will Tre Mason (left) and Nick Marshall (right) lead Auburn to a BCS title?
Although the entire college football bowl season is a time of excitement, nothing stands out quite like the five BCS bowls.
Auburn will chase the completion of a remarkable one-season turnaround against Florida State in the BCS title game. Two of college football’s most storied programs in Oklahoma and Alabama will clash in the Sugar Bowl. Baylor will attempt to capture the school’s first-ever BCS bowl victory against UCF in the Fiesta Bowl.
These are the storylines fans anticipate.
But why wait until January?
Join B/R as we break down each BCS game by ignoring what should happen and taking a stab at what could happen.
You might want to leave your logical thinking and reasoning behind before clicking “begin.”
Can Cook put in back-to-back spectacular performances?
The Matchup: No. 5 Stanford (11-2) vs. No. 4 Michigan State (12-1); Pasadena, Calif.; Jan. 1; 5 p.m. ET on ESPN
Bold Prediction: The quarterbacks—not the running backs—will steal the show.
The excitement leading up to this bowl game is that this matchup will pit two of the nation’s hottest running backs head-to-head.
For the Cardinal, Tyler Gaffney has powered the rushing attack. The senior has been a consistent source of offense for the team, rushing for 1,618 yards and 20 touchdowns on 306 carries.
On the other hand, the Spartans have counted on Jeremy Langford to bring the offense to life. The junior has answered the call, racking up most of his 1,338 yards and 17 touchdowns in the second half of the season.
Both teams, however, also happen to specialize in stopping the run.
Stanford ranks No. 3 against the run (91.6 YPG) and has given up seven touchdowns on 2.98 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Michigan State ranks tops in the nation (80.8 YPG) and has only conceded seven scores on 2.70 yards per carry.
That makes quarterback play all the more important.
Ironically, both teams are tied at No. 91 in terms of passing offense, averaging 202.5 yards per game while recording 21 passing touchdowns.
Kevin Hogan will be under center for the Cardinal and Connor Cook will be taking the snaps for the Spartans. Although both signal-callers have had less than stellar 2013 campaigns, expect both Hogan and Cook to break out of their shells in this one.
The Knights' defense will slow down the mighty Bears' offense.
The Matchup: No. 15 UCF (11-1) vs. No. 6 Baylor (11-1); Glendale, Ariz.; Jan. 1; 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Bold Prediction: Both teams will combine for fewer than 30 points.
The Bears' troubles away from home are well documented. In fact, eight of the team’s nine losses over the last three seasons have come on the road.
This year has been no different.
Baylor struggled to put away Kansas State and TCU—teams with a combined 11-13 record—earlier in the season. Not to mention, the team’s only loss came in Stillwater against Oklahoma State, 49-17.
Even on a neutral field versus Texas Tech, the Bears needed 21 third-quarter points to pull away for a 63-34 victory.
It certainly doesn’t help that the Knights boast a very good defense.
Through 12 games, the unit ranks No. 13 in scoring (19.6 PPG) and No. 19 in total defense (346.3 YPG). Furthermore, UCF is stingy against the run (116.5 YPG) and has only given up 11 passing touchdowns.
Given that the Knights have only topped 25 points once in their last five games, it’s a safe bet to assume they won’t score too many points against one of the most physical defensive units they’ve seen all season.
The surprise will be the complete shutdown of a Baylor offense that leads the nation in scoring (53.3 PPG).
The Sooners' defense will once again steal the show.
The Matchup: No. 11 Oklahoma (10-2) vs. No. 3 Alabama (11-1); New Orleans; Jan. 2; 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Bold Prediction: Sooners' defense dominates, pick-six dooms Crimson Tide.
Lost in all the quarterback shuffle controversy in Norman is the fact that Oklahoma has a very good defense.
Through 12 games, the unit ranks No. 21 in scoring (21.3 PPG), No. 13 in total defense (336.3 YPG), No. 16 against the pass (198.0 YPG) and No. 26 against the run (138.3 YPG). Furthermore, the Sooners have given up just 15 rushing touchdowns and 15 passing touchdowns.
It’s no secret that Alabama struggles against strong defenses.
In its only two matchups with top 20 defenses, the team struggled to assert itself offensively.
In Week 1, against Virginia Tech—No. 4 in total defense—the Tide only managed 206 total yards. Furthermore, the team was 6-of-17 on third-down conversions and only scored 14 points on offense.
Alabama took on LSU—No. 20 in total defense—on Nov. 9. The team only managed 372 yards of total offense and needed 21 points in the game’s final 20 minutes to break a 17-17 tie.
It's hardly the dominance we’ve come to know from the Tide.
This matchup will be no different, as Oklahoma will use its defense to keep the Alabama offense at bay—much like it did to Baylor early on. Meanwhile, the mobility of quarterback Trevor Knight and the rushing ability of running back Brennan Clay will keep the Sooners in it.
In the end, it will be the defense that comes through. Oklahoma will return a poorly timed AJ McCarron pass back to the house for the defenses' fifth defensive touchdown of the season.
Vic Beasley (right) will be too much to handle for the Buckeyes.
The Matchup: No. 12 Clemson (10-2) vs. No. 7 Ohio State (12-1); Miami; Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Bold Prediction: The Tigers will stifle the Buckeyes' rushing attack and cruise to victory.
Ohio State can run with the best of them.
Through 13 games, the team ranks No. 3 in the nation, averaging 317.5 yards per game. Furthermore, the Buckeyes have rushed for 270 or more yards in seven consecutive games while finding the end zone 25 times during that span.
Whether it’s running back Carlos Hyde (183 CAR, 1,408 YDS, 14 TDs) or quarterback Braxton Miller (153 CAR, 1,033 YDS, 10 TDs), this is a team that has provided nightmares to any and all defenses.
If you recall, the duo combined for 260 yards against Michigan State in the Big Ten title game a couple weeks ago; the Spartans currently rank No. 1 against the run.
So how can a Clemson run defense that ranks No. 51 in the nation and has given up 19 rushing touchdowns slow down Hyde and Miller?
Two words: Vic Beasley.
The junior defensive lineman has had an impressive season. He’s recorded 36 tackles (19.0 for loss) and 12.0 sacks, forced four fumbles and returned his lone fumble recovery 13 yards for a touchdown.
Although Beasley has been quiet for much of the second half of the season, the Adairsville, Ga., native is coming off a game where he tallied five tackles (2.0 for loss) and 2.0 sacks and forced a fumble.
Beasley also played a large part in limiting South Carolina’s rushing attack to just 2.8 yards per carry.
Look for the Tigers to do much of the same as the team coasts to an unexpected upset win.
Not even the mighty Seminoles will be able to stop these two.
The Matchup: No. 1 Florida State (13-0) vs. No. 2 Auburn (12-1); Pasadena, Calif.; Jan. 6; 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Bold Prediction: The Tigers will continue ground dominance and rush for another 500 yards in a blowout win.
Can anyone stop the Auburn rushing attack?
Through 13 games, the team ranks No. 1 in the nation, averaging 335.7 rushing yards per game. Furthermore, the Tigers have topped 280 yards on the ground in all but two games this season.
That includes racking up 545 yards and seven touchdowns against then-No. 5 Missouri in the SEC title game.
Entering this matchup, the Seminoles are firm in their belief that nobody can run on them. The team ranks No. 14 against the run (116.5 YPG) and has only conceded five rushing touchdowns on a meager 3.14 yards per carry.
Florida State, however, has yet to face anyone like running back Tre Mason (283 CAR, 1,621 YDS, 22 TDs) or quarterback Nick Marshall (156 CAR, 1,023 YDS, 11 TDs).
In fact, the only other player that can say they’re in the same class as those two is Boston College’s Andre Williams, and he gashed the Seminoles for 149 yards on 28 carries.
Whether teams like it or not, Auburn will run the ball and run it well.
Not even the No. 1-ranked team in all of college football will be able to do anything about that.
All stats and rankings are courtesy of Cfbstats.com.