It's officially bowl season with college football teams around the country locking up in showcases to wrap up their respective campaigns. But once the calendar turns to January, the competition really heats up with the top teams taking the field in college football's marquee matchups.
While there are certainly some blowouts in the making, there are also a host of games that figure to be decided in the final stages of the game. Here's a look at the remaining bowl schedule and analysis of three contests with evenly matched teams.
|Remaining Bowl Game Schedule|
|12/28||New Era Pinstripe||Rutgers||Notre Dame|
|12/28||Buffalo Wild Wings||Michigan||Kansas State|
|12/30||Bell Helicopter Armed Forces||Middle Tennessee||Navy|
|12/30||Franklin American Mortgage Music City||Ole Miss||Georgia Tech|
|12/30||National University Holiday||Arizona State||Texas Tech|
|12/31||AdvoCare V100||Arizona||Boston College|
|12/31||Hyundai Sun||Virginia Tech||UCLA|
|1/1||Heart of Dallas||UNLV||North Texas|
|1/1||Capital One||Wisconsin||South Carolina|
|1/1||Rose Bowl Presented by VIZIO||Stanford||Michigan State|
|1/1||Tostitos Fiesta||Central Florida||Baylor|
|1/3||Discover Orange||Clemson||Ohio State|
|1/3||AT&T Cotton||Oklahoma State||Missouri|
|1/5||GoDaddy||Arkansas State||Ball State|
|1/6||VIZIO BCS National Championship||Florida State||Auburn|
Capital One: No. 9 South Carolina (10-2) vs. No. 19 Wisconsin (9-3)
Both of these teams fell short of their big expectations, but it leaves us with a explosive non-BCS matchup that will pit two powerful teams against each other.
South Carolina has won five straight contests, but a 23-21 loss to Tennessee earlier in the year kept the the team on the outside of the BCS picture. Meanwhile, Wisconsin's regular season ended with a 31-24 loss to Penn State in the first year with coach Gary Andersen.
The main focus of this matchup will be on the impressive Wisconsin running game clashing with South Carolina's stout defensive front.
Behind another batch of big, athletic linemen, the Badgers ranked second in the nation with a 6.6 yards-per-carry average. Melvin Gordon (1,466 yards, 12 TDs) and James White (1,337 yards, 13 TDs) create the best backfield duo in the nation, but they will face a stiff test against South Carolina.
The Gamecocks are led by possible 2014 NFL No. 1 pick Jadeveon Clowney and All-American tackle Kelcy Quarles. Clowney became an instant phenomenon on New Year's Day 2013 with his crushing hit, and you can assume his motor will be turned up for this one.
In its three losses this year, Wisconsin has faced tough rushing defenses like Ohio State, Arizona State and Penn State. While South Carolina doesn't stack up with OSU, it compares favorably to ASU and Penn State, and it should be able to slow down Wisconsin. Badgers receiver Jared Abbrederis (73 catches, 1,051 yards, seven TDs) is a threat, but Wisconsin isn't built to win through the air.
On the other side of the ball, efficient quarterback Connor Shaw (2,135 yards, 21 TDs, one INT) and tailback Mike Davis (1,134 yards, 11 TDs) have enough firepower to get the job done for a Gamecocks victory.
Prediction: South Carolina wins 27-24
Cotton: No. 8 Missouri (11-2) vs. No. 13 Oklahoma State (10-2)
The selection committee for the Cotton Bowl picked two longtime rivals that have history dating back to 1915. The two schools were also conference foes in the Big Eight and Big 12 Conferences before Missouri joined the SEC in 2012.
Both of these teams suffered heartbreaking losses late in the season, with Oklahoma State losing its chance to win the Big 12 title by virtue of a 33-24 defeat to Oklahoma in the Bedlam rivalry game. Missouri missed out on a BCS bowl when it was walloped 59-42 by Auburn in the SEC Championship.
Still, coach Gary Pinkel deserves a lot of credit for the job he's done with Mizzou this year.
Quarterback James Franklin (2,255 yards, 19 TDs, five INTs) leads a balanced Tigers offense that also features tailback Henry Josey (1,074 yards, 13 TDs) and a trio of big wideouts in L'Damian Washington (47 catches, 853 yards, 10 TDs), Dorial Green-Beckham (55 catches, 830 yards, 12 TDs) and Marcus Lucas (55 catches, 646 yards, two TDs).
Think Missouri is pumped up for this game? Check out how excited the players were to receive their Cotton Bowl swag:
Oklahoma State also has a well-rounded offense, but I suspect Franklin will outplay inconsistent Cowboys QB Clint Chelf (1,792 yards, 15 TDs, six INTs), who will have a long day against Missouri defensive end stars like Michael Sams and Kony Ealy.
Prediction: Missouri wins 31-27
Orange: No. 7 Ohio State (12-1) vs. No. 12 Clemson (10-2)
This much-anticipated BCS matchup is expected to be a shootout, as these two schools possess some of the most potent offenses in the country.
Leading the way for both teams are a couple of talented quarterbacks in Clemson's Tajh Boyd (3,473 passing yards, 29 passing TDs, nine rushing TDs, nine INTs) and OSU's Braxton Miller (1,860 passing yards, 22 TDs, five INTs, 1,033 rushing yards, 10 TDs).
These two teams are also very similar on the defensive end in terms of points allowed per game, as Clemson (21.1) holds a slight edge over OSU (21.3). But Ohio State has a more complete attack with elite running back Carlos Hyde (1,408 yards, 14 TDs), who I suspect will run rampant against a Clemson defense that ranks 51st against the run (152.6 yards allowed per game).
Boyd and the Clemson offense will certainly put up some points, but Miller, Hyde and Buckeyes should be able to squeak by in a shootout. In the end, Ohio State is a more complete team than Clemson and should win this BCS bowl, which is something of a consolation after the Buckeyes lost out on a chance to play in the national championship.
Prediction: Ohio State wins 42-38