The Bowl Championship Series put together a pretty strong group of games for its grand finale. With several power programs, no shortage of star power and an evenly matched set of contests, it should allow the system to end on a high note.
Of course, the matchup college football fans around the country are waiting for is Florida State and Auburn for the national title. The Seminoles will enter as the favorites, but the Tigers have shown all season that the moment they get counted out is when they seem to play their best.
There's a lot of football to get played before those teams take the field, including four other intriguing BCS bowls. So let's take a look at some predictions for all of the marquee matchups, followed by a trio of players worth watching closely in the big games.
Full BCS Bowl Predictions
|Rose Bowl||Michigan State vs. Stanford||24-21 Cardinal|
|Fiesta Bowl||Baylor vs. UCF||38-28 Bears|
|Sugar Bowl||Alabama vs. Oklahoma||28-17 Crimson Tide|
|Orange Bowl||Ohio State vs. Clemson||30-24 Buckeyes|
|BCS National Championship||Florida State vs. Auburn||34-31 Seminoles|
Difference-Makers to Watch
Jameis Winston (Florida State)
Any list of players to watch during bowl season wouldn't be complete without Winston. Florida State had a very strong team in place, but it wasn't until he arrived and dazzled en route to becoming the youngest Heisman Trophy winner in history that the Seminoles became title contenders.
Jameis Winston: youngest player to win @HeismanTrophy (age 19)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 15, 2013
He heads into the championship game having accounted for over 4,000 yards of total offense and 42 touchdowns. His ability to stand tall in the pocket, read defenses and deliver strikes to his receivers certainly looks nothing like a traditional first-year quarterback.
The same goes for his decision-making prowess. He's not a natural dual-threat quarterback like Johnny Manziel, but his instinctual ability to escape the pocket to throw or run if necessary helps keep defenses off balance. Auburn will have a hard time slowing him down even with the extra preparation time.
Ryan Shazier (Ohio State)
It wasn't a banner year for the Ohio State defense. The Buckeyes rank outside the top 20 in points allowed and struggled to get key stops down the stretch, especially in the loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Which of these players will shine brightest in a BCS bowl?
That said, it would have been a lot worse and the team's winning streak probably doesn't last as long if not for Shazier's contributions. The junior linebacker racked up 134 total tackles, 22.5 of which were for a loss, six sacks and four forced fumbles.
If the Buckeyes are going to contain the high-powered Clemson attack led by Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins, Shazier must be a constant presence in the backfield. If he's not silencing the Tigers' ground game and getting hits on Boyd, Ohio State will be in trouble.
Antwan Goodley (Baylor)
Baylor puts up nearly 360 yards per game through the air. Quarterback Bryce Petty deserves a lot of credit, but Goodley is often the player making things happen down the field. He averages nearly 20 yards per grab and caught 13 touchdowns.
More impressively, he topped the 100-yard mark in eight of the team's 12 games. Having that type of consistent success is extremely difficult because teams start building their game plans around stopping any player posting those types of numbers.
Yet, between Goodley's game-breaking ability and the quick-paced Bears offense, he's become one of the toughest players in the country to stop. UCF hasn't faced anybody with his skill set this season, which will make the task even tougher.