BCS Bowl Games 2013-14: Key Stat That Will Decide Each Matchup

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistDecember 25, 2013

Dec 7, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Auburn Tigers running back Tre Mason (21) celebrates after a touchdown against the Missouri Tigers during the fourth quarter of the 2013 SEC Championship game at Georgia Dome. Auburn won 59-42. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The BCS bowl schedule features the best college football teams in the country, which should make every game competitive. However, you can narrow each contest down to one key stat.

While it takes balance to be able to reach this stage, every team has certain strengths and tendencies that could be exploited. When things go wrong, it could lead to a one-sided game.

This was seen in the battle between USC and Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl. Bulldogs quarterback Derek Carr was unable to pass the ball, and it led to a blowout victory for the Trojans.

Each BCS game will also have a few telling statistics by the time things are over. In all likelihood, you will be able to tell the winner simply by these numbers in each high-profile battle.


Fiesta Bowl: Baylor vs. UCF

ORLANDO, FL - NOVEMBER 29:  Blake Bortles #5 of the Central Florida Knights passes the ball against the South Florida Bulls during the first half of the game at Bright House Networks Stadium on November 29, 2013 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Joe Robbins/
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Key Stat: Blake Bortles Interceptions (1.5)

Blake Bortles has been one of the breakout stars of the 2013 season after leading UCF to an 11-1 record and an AAC title. He posted impressive numbers while completing 68.1 percent of his passes and totaling 22 touchdowns to only seven interceptions.

Additionally, scouts love his strength and mobility enough to consider him a potential first-round pick. As Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune notes, draft expert Todd McShay has Bortles listed as his No. 3 overall player:

However, Baylor represents one of the toughest defenses the junior will face all year. While the Bears offense gets more publicity, they also finished 19th in the nation in points allowed per game and ranked 15th with 17 interceptions.

UCF tends to struggle when Bortles turns over the ball. He had two interceptions in the team's only loss of the year to South Carolina, and he had two more in a three-point home win over 2-10 South Florida.

If he throws two or more interceptions, Baylor should be able to run away with this game.


Rose Bowl: Stanford vs. Michigan State

Key Stat: Time of Possession (30 minutes)

Fans that love tough, hard-nosed football will not find a better matchup than Stanford against Michigan State. These two teams will battle in the trenches all game long with the big men up front deciding the game.

However, one of the ways each team has found success this year is by controlling the ball for long periods of time. This has kept opposing offenses off the field while helping both defenses rank in the top 10 in points allowed. 

Stanford utilized this strategy to perfection against Oregon, maintaining possession for over 42 minutes in a win. Michigan State had a similar effort in an upset win over Ohio State.

These teams will both want to run the ball and control the clock. However, the strong defensive fronts will force a lot of three-and-outs. There will not be many long touchdowns, so the side that can sustain longer drives in this contest will come out victorious.


Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Alabama

STILLWATER, OK - DECEMBER 7:    Quarterback Trevor Knight #9 of the Oklahoma Sooners scrambles during the game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys December 7, 2013 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Oklahoma State 33-24. (P
Brett Deering/Getty Images

Key Stat: Trevor Knight Rushing Attempts (10)

Alabama is easily the favorite in this game after sitting on top of the polls for most of the season. Only a missed field goal returned 109 yards for a touchdown kept the Crimson Tide out of the national championship game for a third year in a row.

However, the Auburn loss also showed that the defense is vulnerable against mobile quarterbacks. Running back Tre Mason was obviously the star offensively for the Tigers, but quarterback Nick Marshall also had 99 rushing yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.

Earlier in the year, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel rushed for 98 yards to go with his 464 passing yards in a losing effort. 

Oklahoma's Trevor Knight has that ability, rushing for 428 yards in seven games, averaging 7.1 yards per carry. However, the freshman quarterback has split time behind Blake Bell.

According to Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman, offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said that both quarterbacks could play against Alabama:

We mixed and matched and some of it was planned and some of it wasn't. You have a couple different injuries that happened in the last couple weeks of the season. You try to put those guys in position to be successful.

We'll have a mixture of a little bit of everything heading into the Sugar Bowl and try to give ourselves a chance to win the ballgame.

Hopefully, Oklahoma will find a way to get Knight in the game to try to beat the Alabama defense. Otherwise, there will simply not be enough firepower to win. 


Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Ohio State

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 07:  Quarterback Braxton Miller #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks to run during the Big Ten Conference Championship game against the Michigan State Spartans at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 7, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Key Stat: Ohio State Rushing Yards (250)

Ohio State certainly has its faults, but one thing it does extremely well is run the ball. Quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde each topped 1,000 yards this season and combined for 24 rushing touchdowns.

Altogether, the squad ranks third in the nation with an average of 317.5 rushing yards per game. 

This could be a challenge for Clemson to stop, especially since the unit was only average against the run, ranking 50th in the NCAA while allowing 152.6. Considering the Buckeyes rushed for 273 yards against Michigan State and its top-ranked run defense, the Tigers could be in trouble.

However, Clemson has also shown the ability to make stops against top teams. Boston College's Andre Williams led the nation with 2,102 rushing yards this season but only totaled 70 against the Tigers. This was one of only two complete games he failed to top 100 (he left early against Syracuse with an injury).

The squad also held South Carolina's Mike Davis to his worst game of the year, finishing with only 22 yards on 15 carries.

Ohio State has a dynamic rushing attack that should be able to carry the team to victory. However, Clemson has a chance of winning if it can at least slow down Miller and Hyde.


BCS National Championship Game: Auburn vs. Florida State

Key Stat: Florida State Third-Down Percentage (40 percent)

Florida State ranked second in the nation with an average of 53 points per game thanks to the ability to sustain drives. This was thanks to a third-down conversion rate of 55.2 percent that ranked third in the country.

Heisman winner Jameis Winston was particularly impressive, especially on long plays. On third downs with 10 or more yards to gain, the quarterback completed 16 of his 21 attempts for 15 first downs. His four touchdowns in this situation helped him equal a passer rating of 265.9.

If Auburn wants to slow down the Seminoles offense, they have to find a way to get off of the field on third downs.

The Tigers were among the best in the nation in this category, allowing only 34 percent of third-down conversions. This was especially helpful in the SEC Championship Game when Missouri only went 2-of-10 in such situations.

There will be a lot of factors that go into this title game, but Florida State's ability to continue drives on third down will possibly play the biggest role of all.

Note: All stats courtesy of NCAA.com and CFBStats.com.


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