The 2013-14 bowl season is underway. Smaller contests kicked off the season, and those opening acts have provided an encouraging indication of how exciting the season may be overall.
The Gildan New Mexico Bowl was a thriller that saw the Colorado State Rams upend the Washington State Cougars 48-45 in a shocking finale when the Rams hit a field goal to win it late.
The R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl followed suit, as the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns slipped past the Tulane Green Wave 24-21.
Perhaps best of all, those two contests were just the beginning of an outstanding bowl season set to coincide with the holidays.
|Bowl||Teams||Date||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream||Predicted Winner|
|Little Caesars Pizza||Pittsburgh vs. Bowling Green||Dec. 26||6 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN||Pittsburgh|
|S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia||Utah St. vs. Northern Illinois||Dec. 26||9:30 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN||Northern Illinois|
|Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman||Marshall vs. Maryland||Dec. 27||2:30 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN||Marshall|
|Texas||Syracuse vs. Minnesota||Dec. 27||6 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN||Minnesota|
|Fight Hunger||BYU vs. Washington||Dec. 27||9:30 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN||BYU|
|New Era Pinstripe||Rutgers vs. Notre Dame||Dec. 28||Noon||ESPN||WatchESPN||Notre Dame|
|Belk||Cincinnati vs. North Carolina||Dec. 28||3:20 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN||Cincinnati|
|Russell Athletic||Louisville vs. Miami||Dec. 28||6:45 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN||Louisville|
|Buffalo Wild Wings||Kansas St. vs. Michigan||Dec. 28||10:15 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN||Michigan|
|Bell Helicopter Armed Forces||Middle Tennessee vs. Navy||Dec. 30||11:45 a.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN||Navy|
|Franklin American Mortgage Music City||Ole Miss vs. Georgia Tech||Dec. 30||3:15 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN||Ole Miss|
|Valero Alamo||Texas vs. Oregon||Dec. 30||6:45 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN||Oregon|
|National University Holiday||Texas Tech vs. Arizona St.||Dec. 30||10:15 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN||Arizona St.|
|AdvoCare V100||Boston College vs. Arizona||Dec. 31||12:30 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN||Arizona|
|Hyundai Sun||Virginia Tech vs. UCLA||Dec. 31||2 p.m.||CBS||TBD||UCLA|
|AutoZone Liberty||Rice vs. Mississippi St.||Dec. 31||4 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN||Mississippi St.|
|Chick-fil-A||Duke vs. Texas A&M||Dec. 31||8 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN||Texas A&M|
|TaxSlayer.com Gator||Georgia vs. Nebraska||Jan. 1||Noon||ESPN2||WatchESPN||Nebraska|
|Heart of Dallas||North Texas vs. UNLV||Jan. 1||Noon||ESPNU||WatchESPN||UNLV|
|Capital One||Wisconsin vs. South Carolina||Jan. 1||1 p.m.||ABC||TBD||Wisconsin|
|Outback||LSU vs. Iowa||Jan. 1||1 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN||LSU|
|Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO||Michigan St. vs. Stanford||Jan. 1||5 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN||Michigan St.|
|Tostitos Fiesta||Baylor vs. UCF||Jan. 1||8:30 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN||Baylor|
|Allstate Sugar||Alabama vs. Oklahoma||Jan. 2||8:30 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN||Alabama|
|Discover Orange||Clemson vs. Ohio St.||Jan. 3||TBD||ESPN||WatchESPN||Ohio St.|
|AT&T Cotton||Missouri vs. Oklahoma St.||Jan. 3||7:30 p.m.||FOX||TBD||Missouri|
|BBVA Compass||Houston vs. Vanderbilt||Jan. 4||1 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN||Houston|
|GoDaddy||Arkansas St. vs. Ball St.||Jan. 5||9 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN||Ball St.|
|VIZIO BCS National Championship||Florida St. vs. Auburn||Jan. 6||8:30 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN||Florida St.|
Allstate Sugar Bowl: No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 11 Oklahoma
The final iteration of the BCS has gifted fans with a matchup not many want to see, as ESPN's Steve Palazzolo illustrates:
Why couldn't we get Oregon to take on Alabama instead of Oklahoma?— Steve Palazzolo (@StevePalazzolo) December 9, 2013
While it certainly is not a sexy matchup, an argument can be made about the prestige of the two teams set to do battle, as the Oklahoma twitter account details:
No college football game has ever featured two teams – Oklahoma (27) and Alabama (35) – that own more all-time combined bowl victories (62).— Oklahoma Football (@OU_Football) December 10, 2013
Alabama enters with a chip on its shoulder. The Crimson Tide were denied a bid at a third straight title via a loss in the SEC title game with one second remaining—a highlight that will forever be played as one of the most memorable in the collegiate game's history.
Senior quarterback AJ McCarron was also denied a fitting end to his collegiate career from both a team standpoint and an individual one, as he missed out on the Heisman Trophy. McCarron aims to right the ship for himself and other seniors, per Cliff Kirkpatrick of USA Today:
I want to go out the right way. I want to send these seniors out the right way. I feel it's only right for our class, my class that came in, and C.J. (Mosley) came in a year after but also a senior. We put a lot of work into this program to make it what it is today. It's only right we finish on top.
McCarron's definition of "on top" is to steal the national spotlight from the championship winner:
So we have a chance to show the country we are the best team. We might not win the national championship, but we can have everyone talking about us more than the national championship team. And that's happened in the past. We still have the opportunity to do that.
Which team wins?
That is something the Heisman finalist is more than capable of doing after a year that saw him throw for 2,676 yards, 26 touchdowns and five interceptions.
McCarron is flanked by the nation's second-best defense, which allows an average of 11.3 points per game. Meanwhile, Oklahoma ranks just inside the top 50 with an average of 31.8 points scored per game.
The Crimson Tide will cruise to a victory in a highlight-worthy affair that fulfills McCarron's wishes.
Prediction: Crimson Tide 42, Sooners 38
VIZIO BCS National Championship: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Auburn
After a thrilling SEC Championship Game win, Gus Malzahn has proved to be an offensive guru who has orchestrated arguably one of the best turnarounds fans have seen in recent years.
Receiver Sammie Coates said that was the goal all along, per John Zenor of the Associated Press (via The Morning Journal):
Our goal at the beginning of the year was to have the biggest turnaround in college football. We knew the only way to do that was to get better every single day. Tuesdays and Wednesdays (on game weeks) were big for us because those are our work days and we got better. We beat some teams that people thought we couldn’t beat.
But now the Tigers have a date with an offense even Malzahn may have trouble figuring out. Florida State's Jameis Winston, the second freshman Heisman winner in as many years, has been unstoppable this season.
In fact, the pro level is already raving about Winston and throwing out names such as Peyton Manning, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today:
"I'm not saying he's Peyton Manning, but he's pretty darn close, man." On Jameis Winston and the NFL: http://t.co/ZwpBIowVip— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) December 20, 2013
Which team wins?
That is lofty praise, but it's more than deserved. Winston threw for 3,820 yards and 38 scores on the year while leading the nation's second-highest scoring offense with an average of 53 points per game.
The Seminoles also tout the nation's top defense, which allows an average of 10.7 points per game.
All in all, there will be no miracle win for the Tigers this time around.
Prediction: Seminoles 49, Tigers 34