Bowl Games 2013-14: Most Intriguing Matchups on Remaining Slate

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 07: Deon Mix #75, Tre Mason #21, Johnathan Ford #23, Ricardo Louis #5 and fellow Auburn Tigers celebrate after defeating the Missouri Tigers 59-42 to win the SEC Championship Game  at the  Georgia Dome on December 7, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The overflow of college football bowl games makes it tougher to weed out the meaningless games from those that matter.

Given how saturated the market is with enough games to ensure that nearly every team gets to play and virtually every company gets to sponsor one, the aggregated product becomes stale—unless you're truly excited for the GoDaddy Bowl, BBVA Compass Bowl and Flint Michigan Mega Bowl, in which case, I'm glad you can maintain a positive outlook.

There's still time to kill before reaching the big bout, and many of the appetizers offer up superb competition and healthy doses of intrigue. After all, the main event isn't the only event.

Let's take a gander at a couple of the more interesting showdowns before reaching the season's grand finale.


Rose Bowl: No. 5 Stanford vs. No. 4 Michigan State (Wednesday, Jan. 1 at 5 p.m. EST)

Old-school football fans, this one is for you.

Those who enjoy hard running and debilitating defense will appreciate watching Stanford and Michigan State duke it out in a contest of two of college football's top runner-ups. 

While Stanford finished its schedule with two losses, its tough slate impressed the BCS. The Cardinal defeated seven ranked opponents (at the time of their games), including an Oregon squad clashing for the No. 2 spot at the time.

Stanford's defense, which derailed a seemingly unstoppable Oregon attack, ranks 10th in the FBS with 18.6 points allowed per game. On the other side, Tyler Gaffney leads the way with 1,618 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns.

Gaffney must poke holes in an indelible Spartans defense that allows just 2.7 yards per carry. Luckily for him, Michigan State will be missing linebacker and team captain Max Bullough, who was suspended by the team. As Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde pointed out, that makes Stanford's game plan all the more clear.

According to USA Today's Joe Rexrode, Stanford's offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren believes the Spartans will miss Bullough's leadership more than anything in the Rose Bowl.

He's an outstanding football player. The thing they're going to miss, judging by the film, is he looks like a coach out there. He's making this check and that check. In terms of performance, they've got other people who can step in and play football. I think they'll probably miss his leadership. I think they'll miss some of his checks at the line of scrimmage.

Even without Bullough, this matchup will be decided by defense. Don't expect too much scoring, which could lead to a close bout and thrilling conclusion.


Orange Bowl: No. 12 Clemson vs. No. 7 Ohio State (Friday, Jan. 3 at 8:30 p.m. EST)

But hey, some of us prefer a good old shootout. There's nothing wrong with admiring an offense's ability to seamlessly carve through the opposition.

The Orange Bowl features two premier quarterbacks in Tajh Boyd and Braxton Miller, who have pride to earn and NFL draft stocks to boost.

Boyd, a senior, has more riding on this game with his collegiate career concluding and the NFL calling. He has completed 67.3 percent of his passes and produced 38 total touchdowns, but he was last seen surrendering two interceptions in a loss to South Carolina.

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 30:  Tajh Boyd #10 of the Clemson Tigers drops back to pass during their game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 30, 2013 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Despite missing time early in the season, Miller has compiled 2,893 total yards (1,860 passing, 1,033 rushing) along with 22 passing touchdowns, 10 rushing scores and just five interceptions. But he also limped to the finish line as a passer, completing 14 out of 36 pass attempts for 234 passing yards combined in his last two games.

Expect a fast-paced slugfest on Friday night between two teams that were standing tall before suffering recent defeats.


BCS National Championship: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Auburn (Monday, Jan. 6 at 7:30 p.m. EST)

In the grand scheme of things, this is truly the only game that matters.

The other battles are consolation prizes created to draw ratings and make more money for schools and companies to not share with the players. This one (brought to you by the kind folks of Vizio, so I guess it's for all the TVs) at least decides the champion.

In an unexpected swerve, top-ranked stalwart Alabama squandered its spot at obtaining its third consecutive championship after SEC rival Auburn pulled off a last-second miracle. The Tigers will instead represent the conference juggernaut on the grand stage.

They'll face the Florida State Seminoles, who ended the season as the only squad still holding an unblemished record. Jameis Winston leads a dynamic offense that scored 53 points per game.

Winston and Co. will get their points, so the game boils down to how Florida State can stymie the nation's top-rated rushing attack. Led by Tre Mason, Auburn leads the FBS with 335.7 yards per game through the ground, but Florida State yields just 3.1 opposing yards per carry.

The Tigers can't rely on returning another missed field goal for a touchdown, so it'd be best for them to avoid a shootout akin to their matchup with the Crimson Tide. Nevertheless, that's probably the necessary path to victory during the national championship.