The 2013-14 college football bowl season is in full swing and many of the minor postseason games are now in the rearview.
With New Year’s Day just around the corner, it’s time to start focusing on some of the bigger, more prestigious playoff matchups—including the always-thrilling BCS bowls.
Let’s take a look at where you can watch each of those, plus highlight a couple of the most exciting contests on the slate.
|Rose Bowl||Michigan St. vs. Stanford||Jan. 1||5 p.m.||ESPN|
|Fiesta Bowl||Baylor vs. UCF||Jan. 1||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Sugar Bowl||Alabama vs. Oklahoma||Jan. 2||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Orange Bowl||Clemson vs. Ohio St.||Jan. 3||TBD||ESPN|
|BCS National Championship||Florida St. vs. Auburn||Jan. 6||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
Rose Bowl: No. 5 Michigan State vs. No 4 Stanford
It is fitting that two of the best defensive, power-running, smashmouth teams in the country have found their way into the 100th edition of the Rose Bowl.
The Granddaddy of Them All is steeped in tradition and rich in history, which is why memories are almost certain to be made when the Cardinal and Spartans meet on the field on Wednesday, Jan. 1.
MSU features the best defense in the nation, but Stanford isn't lagging too far behind and is ranked No. 15 in overall “D”. The Spartans concede a mere 248.2 yards per game to opposing offenses, while Stanford gives up 339 yards per contest.
Michigan State is going to find it extremely tough to run against the Cardinal, who managed to finish the regular season by giving up just 91.2 yards per game on the ground while playing an immensely tough Pac-12 schedule.
Spartans star Jeremy Langford will still do his best to plow through the opposing front and move the chains, as he did throughout 2013 to the tune of 1,338 yards and 17 scores.
His counterpart, Stanford’s Tyler Gaffney, put up even more yards this year. The senior back rumbled his way to 1,618 yards and 20 scores on 306 rushing attempts.
Cardinal head coach David Shaw made it clear that fans and the media aren't the only ones that are aware of the parallels between these two teams, as per The Associated Press (h/t CBS Los Angeles):
“This is one of the best teams we’ve faced. They’re athletic, fast and they run right at you. They’re a lot of similarities between the two teams. We have to stay focused and play smart with an attitude and have the right mindset.”
Expect a back-and-forth affair with plenty of three-and-outs, turnovers and tough yards that end up deciding the outcome.
It truly is a game of inches and each one will count when Stanford and Michigan State take to Pasadena on New Year’s Day.
BCS Championship: No. 2 Auburn vs. No. 1 Florida State
While the Rose Bowl will be thrilling for fans of old-school college football, the national title will be determined by two programs that are defined by their respective offensives and are amongst the best in the country at gaining yards and scoring points this year.
The Tigers are known for their vaunted ground game, led by superstar running back Tre Mason, while Heisman Award-winning quarterback Jameis Winston paced the Seminoles to an undefeated season in 2013.
Don’t discount the Noles’ “D”, however, as it was instrumental in getting key stops and putting the offense back on the field. The defense gave up the fewest points to opposing teams this year and the average margin of victory was a shade over 42 points.
Florida State won all but one of its contests by 27 points or more, proving just how dominant the school really is. Ranked opponents fared even worse, as FSU played four opponents found inside the Top 25 at kickoff and put up 200 points in that span, conceding just 35 total points.
Winston definitely deserves the hardware and acclaim he has received, as the 19-year-old star finished the year having completed 237-of-349 passes for 3,820 yards, 38 scores and 10 interceptions. He also ran 77 times for 193 yards and four additional touchdowns.
CollegeFootball 24/7 noted that all Winston has left to accomplish this season is a national title:
Jameis Winston adds AP player of year to Heisman, Camp, O'Brien, ACC player of year. BCS nat'l title all that's left. http://t.co/msV67ODK3g— CollegeFootball 24/7 (@NFL_CFB) December 24, 2013
Regardless of those stats, don’t expect a blowout with the crystal trophy on the line. Auburn’s rushing attack is historically powerful and will keep the team in the game even if the defense is allowing scores.
Which team will win?
The Tigers’ lightning-quick, triple-option offense is accounting for over 500 yards and 40 points per game, with quarterback Nick Marshall orchestrating it all to great effect.
Head coach Gus Malzahn isn't afraid to compliment his players, calling them a special group after the team's big win over Missouri in the SEC Championship, as per Auburn’s official website:
"This team, they are special. This is a special group. They've been through a lot, and they rallied, came together and believed in each other. They bought in to the fact to get better in each game. I told them before the game, we've been building up for this moment. The moment was to play with these guys. They did that tonight."
If this Tigers squad is truly destined for a national championship, it will have to prove it against the best team in the nation on Jan. 6. It should be a showdown for the ages and one you will not want to miss.