BCS Bowl Games 2013-14: Big Winners That Will Threaten Title Picture in 2014

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVDecember 22, 2013

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 30:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts in the fourth quarter against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 30, 2013 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Everything is still on the line for this season if you're Florida State or Auburn. But for any of the eight other BCS teams this season, all eyes are fixed on 2014 and getting to next season's championship game. 

Although each of these squads has had a great season, getting to the national title game is every school's goal. For a couple of these programs, anything else is considered a failure.

With the BCS switching to the four-team playoff format next season, there will be even more spots available after the regular season and that will only raise play across the board throughout the final weeks of 2014. 

These teams will have what it takes to be one of those four after the 2014 season, and they'll showcase it on the BCS stage by taking care of their opponent. 


Alabama Crimson Tide

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 30:  T.J. Yeldon #4 of the Alabama Crimson Tide tries to avoid the tackle of Chris Davis #11 of the Auburn Tigers in the third quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 30, 2013 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Imag
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

No matter what players it loses or how it ends the season, Alabama will be on the short list of national title contenders each and every year until something drastic happens in Tuscaloosa.

The Crimson Tide have stockpiled top recruiting classes year after year since Nick Saban arrived on campus. Their biggest concern regarding future success was side-stepped when a certain never-ending rumor ended with Saban signing an extension to stay at 'Bama. 

Losing A.J. McCarron will hurt the offense at the start, but let's not forget the fact that he's been a game manager for much of his career. That career included multiple national championships. There aren't many games that Alabama has to ask its quarterback to win for it, anyway. 

T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake will both be back to feature a rushing attack that should be as well-oiled and dominant as it usually is. The defense and offensive line have had no trouble replacing a bevy of NFL talent each year, and 2014 will be no different.

This is a team that is one disastrous second from being on the doorstep of four national titles in five years. That sort of success doesn't fall by the wayside over an offseason. 

The Tide will play Oklahoma, a.k.a. the SEC's favorite BCS punching bag, in the Sugar Bowl. Unless Saban's team has already forgotten about this season, it should have no trouble cruising to a win and bolstering its 2014 title chances. 


Baylor Bears

WACO, TX - DECEMBER 07:  Bryce Petty #14 of the Baylor Bears throws the ball against the Texas Longhorns at Floyd Casey Stadium on December 7, 2013 in Waco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Baylor's unheralded football success didn't end when Heisman winner Robert Griffin III left campus. In fact, that was just the beginning.

After an incredible 2013 season, the Bears won the Big 12 and punched a ticket to the Fiesta Bowl. They shouldn't have much of an issue getting past UCF there and further building hype to their shot at a 2014 national championship next season. 

The biggest question mark for 2014 is already answered. Star quarterback Bryce Petty announced his decision to stay for his senior season and not declare for the NFL draft. 

Petty was a Heisman front-runner all season long, posting 3,844 yards and 30 touchdowns—with just two interceptions—in 2013. Other than a nightmarish 49-17 loss at Oklahoma State late in the season, he led Baylor to a perfect record. It resulted in him receiving four first-place Heisman votes

If running back Lache Seastrunk decides to return—he's still undecided, per Dallas Morning News—look out. 

Baylor proved it can handle Big 12 powerhouses like Oklahoma and Texas in 2013, which it will need to replicate in 2014 as the Bears will play both of those teams on the road. But with them hosting Oklahoma State, you have to like their chances to potentially run the table. 

Even if the Bears drop one game, they could still easily get into the four-team playoff if they have the type of offensive success they mustered in 2013. 


Auburn Tigers

Dec 7, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Auburn Tigers running back Cameron Artis-Payne (44) celebrates a touchdown with quarterback Nick Marshall (14) during the fourth quarter of the 2013 SEC Championship game against the Missouri Tigers at Georgia Dome. Mandator
Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn's biggest test lies in this year's BCS title game, but the cards are stacked for another run to national glory in 2014. 

In Gus Malzahn's first year, his signature rushing attack has topped college football in ground yards per game. The two most important assets to that formula of success may both be back in 2014.

Junior quarterback Nick Marshall will be back to further deceive front sevens and escape for huge plays. He should be a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy in 2014 after the stellar season he's had. 

Tre Mason is still a question mark, as he's remaining mum on his draft status until after the title game, per NFL.com's Chase Goodbread. Winning the BCS title—which I expect to happen—may not help his chances of coming back, but you can bet that Malzahn has a plan in place to keep his running game potent.

The passing game hasn't been a feature for Auburn, but they'll even get important wideouts like Sammie Coates and Quan Bray back in 2014. 

The only way Auburn will be stopped in 2014 is if SEC defenses find the secret formula to stopping the ground-heavy Malzahn offense. Considering the Tigers have only gotten more and more dangerous on the ground as the season has progressed, don't expect that to happen over the offseason. 

Auburn will run through defenses in 2014 just like it will run through Florida State in this year's title contest.