College Football Bowl Games: Predicting BCS and New Year's Bowl Games
It’s time to ring in the New Year!
On New Year's Day, BCS games will be played, along with other highly anticipated bowl matchups.
Oregon will look to get its 11th win of the season in the Alamo Bowl against a Texas squad that will be playing for head coach Mack Brown in his final game at the helm.
On New Year’s Eve, Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M will hope to take down a surprisingly talented Duke team.
The day will start off with the Capital One Bowl between Wisconsin and South Carolina, then move into the afternoon with the “Granddaddy of Them All” between two physical opponents in Stanford and Michigan State. At night, Baylor will look to finish off its impressive season with a win against a one-loss UCF squad.
As we move toward the weekend, Alabama will hope to avoid a potential upset to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, while Ohio State will try to shut down Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Two old Big 12 opponents will also square off, as Oklahoma State and Missouri will battle it out in Jerry World.
With much to still look forward to in the 2013-14 bowl season, here are the predicted outcomes of all of the matchups leading up to the weekend and the final BCS National Championship Game.
Dec. 30: Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl (Fort Worth, Texas)
Middle Tennessee vs. Navy, 11:45 a.m. ET, ESPN
Middle Tennessee finished the regular season on a five-game winning streak and was 6-2 in conference play.
Navy was on a four-game winning streak and coming off its 12th consecutive victory over Army.
Middle Tennessee experienced success on the ground this season by averaging 208.3 yards per game. Running back Jordan Parker was a part of that success, leading the Blue Raiders in rushing yards with 741 yards and six touchdowns.
Navy on the other hand, came in with its powerful triple-option attack, averaging 322 yards per game, which is the second best in the nation.
Sophomore quarterback Keenan Reynolds led the team in rushing with 1,260 yards and 29 touchdowns. The offense was averaging a solid 34.3 points per game this season.
If Middle Tennessee stands in any chance in this matchup, it will be up to its defense—led by All-Conference USA linebacker T.T. Barber—to stop Navy on the ground.
Prediction: Navy 34, Middle Tennessee 28
Dec. 30: Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (Nashville, Tenn.)
Ole Miss vs. Georgia Tech, 3:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
Ole Miss' program is on the rise, even though it was shut down by Missouri and Mississippi State in its final two games. The Rebels had not won seven regular season games since 2009.
The Ole Miss offense has the weapons to keep up with Georgia Tech’s triple-option on the scoreboard, with both playmakers in the running and passing game.
The Rebel defense, led by All-SEC Conference pick cornerback Cody Prewitt, has battled injuries this season and will be up against the fifth-best rushing attack in the nation.
Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jackets are averaging an impressive 311.7 rushing yards per game, while the passing game continues to take a backseat.
Senior running back David Sims leads the way with 846 yards on the ground and 11 touchdowns this season. Running back Robert Godhigh (694 rushing yards and eight TDs) and quarterback Vad Lee (1,414 passing yards, 489 rushing yards and 18 TDs) have made an impact in an offense averaging 36.6 points per game as well.
Georgia Tech defensively has been successful against the run this season (107 yards per game), but struggled against the pass (243.5 yards per game). With the Yellow Jackets struggling against the pass, it could be beneficial for Ole Miss offensively.
In a close game, Georgia Tech comes away with its second consecutive bowl win.
Prediction: Georgia Tech 35, Ole Miss 28
Dec. 30: Valero Alamo Bowl (San Antonio)
Oregon vs. Texas, 6:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
Oregon’s high-octane offense is a major focus heading into the Alamo Bowl, but nothing is as important as 16-year head coach Mack Brown coaching his last game at Texas.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota (3,412 passing yards and 30 TDs) leads a Ducks' offense, averaging 46.8 points per game. Mariota has contributed 582 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground, but Byron Marshall, De’Anthony Thomas and Thomas Tyner have led the backfield, racking up 278.3 yards per game.
Senior wide receiver Josh Huff, who has been Mariota’s main target in the passing game, has 1,036 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns this season.
An Oregon defense led by cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is holding opponents to 21.6 points per game and has the talent to shut down a Texas offense that has had trouble scoring against quality opponents.
The Horns came up only one game short from advancing to their first BCS bowl game since 2010. Unfortunately, they couldn’t hold down Baylor in a 30-10 road loss.
A lot of pressure will be placed on senior quarterback Case McCoy to lead a Texas offense averaging 423.1 total yards per game. The backfield is led by Malcolm Brown (774 rushing yards and 11 TDs), while Mike Davis (715 receiving yards and eight TDs) heads the receiving corps.
The Texas defense, led by All-Big 12 defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, must be able to contain a lethal Oregon running game. If the Longhorns can win upfront on defense, it will give them an opportunity to keep the game close and potentially give Brown a win in his last game at the helm.
Prediction: Oregon 41, Texas 24
Dec. 30: National University Holiday Bowl (San Diego)
Arizona State vs. Texas Tech, 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
Arizona State went into the Pac-12 Championship game on a seven-game winning streak, until it was manhandled by Stanford for a second time this season.
On the other hand, Texas Tech started the season 7-0, then dropped its final five games. The Red Raiders have not won a game since Oct. 19.
Todd Graham’s Sun Devils may have scored a season-low 14 points against Stanford on Dec. 7, but they are averaging 41 points per game this season (10th in the nation).
Junior quarterback Taylor Kelly, who has passed for 3,510 passing yards and 28 touchdowns this season, heads a passing attack consisting of 1,000-yard wide receiver Jaelen Strong. The Sun Devils have averaged 276.8 passing yards per game.
Running back Marion Grice is also listed as doubtful with a leg injury.
Arizona State is loaded with talent on defense. All-American senior defensive tackle Will Sutton and All-Pac-12 defensive backs Alden Darby and Robert Nelson will be up against Texas Tech’s air-raid offense that is averaging 392 passing yards per game (second in the nation).
Quarterback Baker Mayfield, who won the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, decided to leave Texas Tech, meaning Kliff Kingsbury will now choose between Davis Webb and Michael Brewer to start at quarterback.
Arizona State has the talent on both sides of the ball to give the Texas Tech team, which struggled down the stretch, big problems. If Grice is able to go as well, it will add more balance for the Sun Devils' offense.
Without Mayfield under center, the Red Raiders' offense will likely by affected and unable to keep up on the scoreboard.
Prediction: Arizona State 45, Texas Tech 28
Dec. 31: AdvoCare V100 Bowl (Shreveport, La.)
Arizona vs. Boston College, 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Arizona will be looking for its second consecutive eight-win season under Rich Rodriguez, even though it finished the regular season with a 1-3 record. The lone win, though, was an upset blowout 42-16 win over then-No. 5 Oregon.
Senior quarterback B.J Denker has had an overall solid season by passing for 2,241 yards, rushing for 898 yards and scoring 26 touchdowns. With Carey racking up 1,716 yards and 17 touchdowns this season, the ground attack is 11th in the nation (265.8 yards per game).
Arizona’s run defense surrenders 176.6 yards per game and will have the daunting task of containing Williams in Boston College’s backfield.
Boston College bounced back after a disappointing 2-10 record in 2012 by winning seven games and giving No. 1 Florida State its toughest game of the season thus far.
Williams leads the nation with an astounding 2,102 yards and has scored 17 touchdowns. Wide receiver Alex Amidon has managed to record 903 receiving yards and six touchdowns this season, but the Eagles are among one of the worst passing teams in the nation, with just 150.5 yards per game.
Much like Arizona, a Boston College defense led by All-ACC linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis will have to be able to contain Denker and Carey in the Wildcats' running game.
In an even matchup that will depend heavily on each team’s running game, Arizona will come up big when it needs to most—the fourth quarter—and get the win.
Prediction: Arizona 35, Boston College 31
Dec. 31: Hyundai Sun Bowl (El Paso, Texas)
Virginia Tech vs. UCLA, 2 p.m. ET, CBS
Both squads came up just short of playing in their conference championships.
Virginia Tech lost three of its last five games by a combined 13 points.
Senior quarterback Logan Thomas has passed for 2,861 yards and 16 touchdowns but is tied for 10th in the nation with 13 interceptions.
With a lot riding on the passing game, the running game led by Trey Edmunds (675 yards and 12 TDs) must play better if it wants to challenge UCLA’s physical defense.
Virginia Tech's defense, led by senior linebacker Jack Tyler, has been solid this season. The Hokies are only surrendering 269.6 yards per game (fourth in the nation) and 17.4 points per game (eighth in the nation).
UCLA appeared to be in a good position to challenge for a Pac-12 title, but the team lost to Arizona State 38-33 at home on Nov. 23, shattering its hopes of winning a third consecutive South Division title.
The Virginia Tech defense is only allowing 103.8 rushing yards per game, which means UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley will need to make plays with his arm. Hundley will rely on wide receivers Shaquelle Evans and Devin Fuller in the Bruins' passing game.
Myles Jack, who is the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year on offense and defense, will also have his work cut out for him against a stout Hokie run defense.
Senior All-American linebacker Anthony Barr leads a Bruins defense that has talent but struggled down the stretch by giving up an average of 193.6 rushing yards in their last seven games.
The big matchup will be UCLA’s offense against the Virginia Tech's defense. It will be interesting to see if Thomas steps up and carries the Hokies' offense on his back.
Prediction: UCLA 30, Virginia Tech 26
Dec. 31: AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Memphis, Tenn.)
Rice vs. Mississippi State, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Owls are led by their rushing attack, which is led by Charles Ross. Ross has rushed for 1,252 yards and scored 15 touchdowns this season.
The defense has done its job by keeping opponents off the scoreboard, only surrendering an average of 22.9 points per game.
Mississippi State will be without starting quarterback Tyler Russell though, who will miss his final game with a right shoulder injury. This means sophomore quarterback Dak Prescott, who leads the Bulldogs in passing and rushing, will likely start under center.
The Mississippi State defense, led by defensive back Nickoe Whitley (55 tackles and five interceptions), has only allowed an average of 15.7 points in its last three games.
Rice has won nine of its last 10 games and hopes to win a school-best 11 games, but Mississippi State’s defense has played better and will have a home-field advantage with its fans traveling a shorter distance to Memphis with their notorious cowbells.
Prediction: Mississippi State 31, Rice 28
Dec. 31: Chick-Fil-a Bowl (Atlanta)
Duke vs. Texas A&M, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
It could potentially be Johnny “football” Manziel’s final game in an Aggies uniform, after two incredible years with the program.
Sixth-year head coach David Cutcliffe has taken the Blue Devils' football program to new heights, and there would be nothing better than getting win number 11 against a talented Aggies' squad.
Until being blown out 45-7 by No. 1 Florida State in the ACC title game, Duke was on an eight-game winning streak and managed to put up enough points offensively to win games.
The Blue Devils' offense, led by Jamison Crowder (1,197 receiving yards and eight TDs), must avoid turnovers and be able to come away with points in the red zone.
Duke will also lack a running game due to its leading rusher, Jela Duncan, being suspended for academic reasons.
The defense will have more pressure on it than the offense, as it will attempt to stop an offense that's averaging 43.6 points per game. Duke’s secondary—consisting of All-ACC cornerback Ross Cockrell and safety Jeremy Cash—will have its hands full against a receiving corps consisting of All-American wide receiver Mike Evans (1,322 receiving yards and 12 TDs).
Texas A&M is racking up 350.9 yards through the air with Manziel under center. Manziel has passed for 3,732 yards, rushed for 686 yards and scored 41 touchdowns.
Running back Ben Malena has also contributed to the offense by making plays in both the passing and running games. Malena has scored 11 touchdowns this season.
Duke has its second consecutive challenge, and if it wants any chance of staying in the game, it must be able to contain Manziel and Evans. The Blue Devils' offense also has to take advantage of an Aggies' defense that has been subpar this season.
Prediction: Texas A&M 45, Duke 23
Jan. 1: TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Nebraska vs. Georgia, noon ET, ESPN2
It will be the second consecutive year these two teams will matchup. Last season, both squared off in the Capital One Bowl, where Georgia won in convincing fashion, with a final score of 45-31.
Georgia senior quarterback Aaron Murray, who is the SEC all-time passing leader, will be out due an ACL tear in his left knee. With Murray out, Nebraska could have a chance of defensively containing Georgia’s high-powered offense.
Although the Cornhuskers' defense has held opponents to only 205.8 passing yards per game, it still has managed to give up big plays through the air and not been successful against the run.
Nebraska’s defense hasn’t reached expectations, meaning it will be up to the offense to win this game.
The Huskers will likely lean on freshman quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr.,who sat out against Iowa with an ankle injury.
Wide receivers Quincy Enunwa and Kenny Bell will need to make plays in the passing game, while physical runner Ameer Abdullah (1,568 rushing yards and 10 TDs) will try to run over the Bulldogs' defense.
Georgia junior quarterback Hutson Mason will get his second career start after throwing for 299 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-34 double-overtime win against Georgia Tech on Nov. 2.
The Bulldogs' offense will rely heavily on sophomore running back Todd Gurley, though, who averaged 138.6 total yards per game this season and scored 15 touchdowns. A receiving corps, which helps lead the 16th-best passing attack in the nation, will be led by wide receivers Chris Conley and Michael Bennett.
This should be a closer game than last year, especially if Georgia's defense struggles to shut down Abdullah in the Huskers' backfield and is unable to create turnovers.
Prediction: Georgia 38, Nebraska 28
Jan. 1: Heart of Dallas Bowl (Dallas)
UNLV vs. North Texas, noon ET, ESPNU
After three straight years of two-win seasons, the Runnin’ Rebels of UNLV are bowl eligible for the first time since 2000.
A balanced offensive attack, featuring quarterback Caleb Herring (2,522 passing yards, 22 TDs, four INTs), running back Tim Cornett (1,251 rushing yards and 15 TDs) and wide receiver Devante Davis (1,194 receiving yards and 14 TDs), will go up against a top 25 North Texas defense.
Since losing at Tulane on Oct. 5, North Texas has gone 6-1 and held opposing offenses to an average of 12.6 points per game and 101.4 rushing yards per game.
Even with a reliable defense, the Mean Green still will lean on 1,000-yard rusher Brandin Byrd in the backfield.
Prediction: North Texas 38, UNLV 20
Jan. 1: Capital One Bowl (Orlando, Fla.)
Wisconsin vs. South Carolina, 1 p.m. ET, ABC
This has the making to be one of the best games on New Year’s Day, with both teams consisting of playmakers on offense and physical defenses.
Wisconsin appeared to be in good shape for an at-large BCS bid but fell to Penn State at home 31-24, giving it its first Capital One Bowl bid since 2007.
Sophomore quarterback Joel Stave will lead the Badgers' offense into Orlando with weapons in both the running and passing game.
The Badgers' rushing attack, led by explosive running backs Melvin Gordon (1,466 rushing yards and 12 TDs) and James White (1,337 rushing yards and 15 TDs), is eighth in the nation with 283 rushing yards per game.
The Badgers also have talent in their passing game, with All-Big Ten wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, who has recorded 1,051 receiving yards and seven touchdowns this season.
Wisconsin’s physical defense will play a critical role in this matchup, as it's kept opponents to 14.8 points per game and 294 total yards per game this season.
Shaw has been impressive under center this season, passing for 2,135 yards and 21 touchdowns. He’s also proven to be a good decision-maker when throwing the football by throwing only one interception the entire season.
The main focus will be on defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and the South Carolina defense, as they attempt to stop Wisconsin’s running game. The Gamecocks are holding opponents to only 20 points per game.
It should be a close game until late in the fourth quarter, but Shaw will make a big play through the air and win South Carolina its third consecutive bowl game.
Prediction: South Carolina 34, Wisconsin 30
Jan. 1: Outback Bowl (Tampa, Fla.)
Iowa vs. LSU, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
It was 2005 the last time these two teams played each other, and it produced one of the best endings in college football history.
Then-starting quarterback Drew Tate threw a game-winning Hail Mary touchdown pass to wide receiver Warren Holloway as time expired to knock off LSU 30-25 in the Capital One Bowl.
Kirk Ferentz and company surprised many in the Big Ten Conference by winning four of their last five games of the regular season. Iowa's last win of the regular season at Nebraska was a monumental win that the program desperately needed.
Iowa’s main weapon on offense has been junior running back Mark Weisman, who is only 62 yards away from reaching the 1,000-yard mark. Sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock is also expected to play after exiting in the third quarter at Nebraska.
Iowa's defense has a hard-nosed mentality and is more than capable of giving LSU's offense problems. Senior All-Big Ten Conference linebacker James Morris (99 tackles, six sacks, four INTs) leads a talented linebacking corps and a defense that’s holding opponents to 18.8 points per game (11th in the nation) and 182.4 passing yards per game (also 11th in the nation).
Zach Mettenberger’s career at LSU is over, as the senior quarterback suffered a left knee injury in the fourth quarter of the season finale against Arkansas.
It will be up to true freshman Anthony Jennings to help lead the Tigers to an Outback Bowl win. Jennings replaced an injured Mettenberger against Arkansas and helped lead LSU to a dramatic 31-27 win.
Senior linebacker Lamin Barrow leads an LSU defense that’s allowing 349.7 total yards per game.
This matchup will begin with the battle up front, whether or not each team can run the ball. Expect Iowa to put up a good fight, but it will not be able to hold LSU off in the end.
Prediction: LSU 30, Iowa 24
Jan. 1: Rose Bowl Game Presented by VIZIO (Pasadena, Calif.)
Stanford vs. Michigan State, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN
The 100th Rose Bowl features two teams that play a similar physical style of football.
The Cardinal offense is led by power running back Tyler Gaffney, who's rushed for 1,618 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Stanford focuses heavily on pounding the ball out on the ground, but redshirt junior quarterback Kevin Hogan is capable of causing problems for opposing defenses because of his ability to avoid tackles and get the ball to explosive wide receiver Ty Montgomery.
Stanford’s ground attack averages 210.9 yards per game, while the passing game averages 202.2 yards per game.
The Cardinal's defense continues to be a main factor in the team's success, as it has only surrendered 18.6 points per game and 91.2 rushing yards per game this season. The defense is made up of All-American redshirt junior safety Ed Reynolds, as well as All-Pac-12 linebackers Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov.
Michigan State will be up against its toughest opponent this season. The offense, led by sophomore quarterback Connor Cook (2,423 passing yards, 20 TDs, five INTs), continues to improve each game through the air.
With an improved passing game and a rushing attack featuring Jeremy Langford (1,338 rushing yards and 17 TDs), the Spartans have a chance to find the end zone against Stanford’s stingy defense.
While Stanford has been solid on defense, there is no better defense in the country than Michigan State’s. The Spartans are the No. 1 defense in the nation and will look to shut down Gaffney.
Unfortunately, they will be without team captain linebacker Max Bullough, who will miss the Rose Bowl due to disciplinary reasons. Not having Bullough will leave a big gap in the defense, but the team will still have All-American cornerback Darqueze Dennard and All-Big Ten defensive end Shilique Calhoun.
It should be a close, low-scoring affair like last year’s Rose Bowl game. A big play on defense late in the fourth quarter will decide who wins this matchup.
Prediction: Stanford 24, Michigan State 20
Jan. 1: Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, Ariz.)
UCF vs. Baylor, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
It’s the first time these two teams will play in a BCS bowl game.
UCF’s big 38-35 victory over Louisville in October proved to be the difference-maker as the Knights went on to win the rest of their next six games and clinch the American Athletic Conference title.
Baylor’s hopes of a BCS game and conference title appeared to be over after its 49-17 beat down at Oklahoma State, but there was suddenly life for the Bears on the final Saturday of the regular season, as Oklahoma State was upset by Oklahoma. Baylor’s 30-10 win over Texas gave the Bears their first 11-win season and first outright conference title since 1980 when they played in the Southwest Conference.
UCF is led by junior quarterback Blake Bortles (3,280 passing yards and 27 TDs) on offense. The Knights are currently averaging 280 passing yards per game (27th in the nation), with Rannell Hall leading the receiving corps. Junior running back Storm Johnson, who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season, also is a playmaker in both the running and passing games.
UCF, though, will have the tough task of keeping up on the scoreboard with the No. 1 offense in the nation.
The Bears are averaging an astounding 53.5 points per game and averaging 624.5 total yards per game. Junior quarterback Bryce Petty has passed for 3,844 yards and 30 touchdowns and will rely All-Big 12 wide receivers Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese. Reese will return to the lineup after missing the last four games of the season with a wrist injury.
All-Big 12 running back Lache Seastrunk will also look to make a statement after rushing for more than 1,000 yards for a second consecutive season. Seastrunk is the first player in Baylor history to have two 1,000-yard seasons.
UCF has been able to hold opponents off the scoreboard (19.6 points per game) and stop the run (116.5 yards per game), while Baylor is only giving up 21.2 points per game and 346.3 total yards per game.
Expect both teams to put points up in a high-scoring affair in Glendale.
The Knights have struggled to score points in their last two games, but Bortles could change that by taking advantage of a Bears defense that has proven to give up big plays this season.
UCF will stick with Baylor until the third quarter, but the Bears' offense will find its rhythm and pull away.
Prediction: Baylor 42, UCF 27
Jan. 2: Allstate Sugar Bowl (New Orleans)
Oklahoma vs. Alabama, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
It’s a matchup between two storied programs that originally didn’t anticipate making the trip to New Orleans.
Alabama was looking like a lock for a third consecutive BCS title game, but its heartbreaking 34-28 loss at Auburn put it in the Sugar Bowl.
The last time the Crimson Tide played in the Sugar Bowl was in 2009. It had come off a tough loss to Florida in the SEC Championship game and was outplayed by a mid-major Utah team 31-17.
Senior AJ McCarron is the winningest quarterback in program history and will play his last game under center for the Crimson Tide. McCarron has passed for 2,676 yards and 26 touchdowns this season and will look to his main targets—Amari Cooper and Kevin Norwood—in the passing game.
1,000-yard rusher T.J. Yeldon will lead an Alabama rushing attack that’s averaging 212 yards per game.
The Crimson Tide defense, led by All-American linebacker C.J. Mosley, is holding opponents to just 11.3 points per game (second in the nation) and will look to hold off Oklahoma’s dynamic rushing attack.
The Sooners' 33-24 win over in-state rival Oklahoma State on Dec. 7 earned them a BCS at-large bid. It’s the first time Stoops and his Sooners have advanced to a BCS bowl since 2011.
The big question for Oklahoma offensively will be the quarterback situation, as there is no word if Trevor Knight or Blake Bell will start. With questions at quarterback, running back Brennan Clay (913 rushing yards and six TDs) and wide receiver Jalen Saunders (654 receiving yards and six TDs) will need to be big playmakers against a stout Alabama defense.
The Sooners' defense will be key in this matchup, though. It struggled at Baylor but overall was solid the entire season. Oklahoma is only surrendering 198 passing yards per game and must avoid big plays, which McCarron is capable of accomplishing.
Oklahoma will be fired up heading into this game, but Alabama has too much talent on both sides of the ball and eventually will take over the game in the second half.
Prediction: Alabama 38, Oklahoma 24
Jan. 3: Discover Orange Bowl (Miami)
Clemson vs. Ohio State, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Ohio State appeared to be headed to Pasadena, Calif., to compete for a national title until Michigan State ruined its hopes in the Big Ten Championship game.
The Buckeyes will now go into Miami as a BCS at-large team. Clemson also received an at-large bid and will play in its first Orange Bowl since 2012, when it was rolled by West Virginia 70-33.
Clemson and Ohio State both rely on their high-powered offenses, which rank in the top 10 in scoring. Clemson is averaging 40.2 points, while Ohio State is racking up an average of 46.3 points.
The Tigers are led by senior quarterback Tajh Boyd (3,473 yards and 38 TDs) and always-explosive wide receiver Sammy Watkins (1,237 passing yards and 10 TDs). The duo led the 11th best air attack in the nation with 329.3 passing yards per game.
While there is a lot of focus on Clemson’s passing game, the running game consists of Roderick McDowell, who is only 44 yards away from hitting 1,000 yards for the season.
On the other hand, Ohio State has All-Big Ten quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde. Miller could cause problems from Clemson’s defense with his dual-threat ability, as he’s passed for 1,860 yards, rushed for 1,033 yards and scored 32 touchdowns. After missing the first three games of the season, Hyde has shown his physical presence in the backfield by rushing for 1,408 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The key matchup will be Clemson's offense against Ohio State's defense, led by Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year linebacker Ryan Shazier.
When the Tigers have faced top-ranked defenses Florida State and South Carolina they have been shut down offensively. The offense only averaged 15.5 points in those two games, and this will be the difference-maker in this Orange Bowl.
Prediction: Ohio State 34, Clemson 24
Jan. 3: AT&T Cotton Bowl (Arlington, Texas)
Oklahoma State vs. Missouri, 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX
Both teams were one game away from winning conference titles and advancing to a BCS bowl game.
Now, though, the Pokes and Tigers will face off for the first time as non-conference members in what will be the most intriguing non-BCS game of the 2013-14 bowl season.
Oklahoma State comes into Arlington after a heartbreaking loss to Oklahoma. The offense is headed by senior quarterback Clint Chelf, who can make plays both through the air and on the ground. Chelf will need help from Desmond Roland in the running game and look for big plays in the passing game from Tracy Moore and Josh Stewart.
The defense, led by All-Big 12 Justin Gilbert (14 tackles, six INTs, two TDs), will be up against a Missouri offense that has dangerous threats in both the running and passing games. The Pokes have held their opponents to 20 points per game this season (13th in the nation).
Missouri proved its doubters wrong this season by going 11-2 and playing in an SEC Championship game in its second year as a member of the conference.
Senior quarterback James Franklin has played well since returning from his sprained shoulder injury and has had success getting the ball to big targets L’Damian Washington and Dorial Green-Beckham. Washington and Green-Beckham have combined for 1,683 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns.
The Tigers are rushing for 236.5 yards per game, in large part because of junior running back Henry Josey, who has rushed for 1,074 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Missouri has been impressive mostly because of its defense. All-American defensive end Michael Sam and the defensive front are talented and have the means to contain Oklahoma State’s ground attack. Where the Tigers' defense could be challenged, though, is in the passing game, where it's ranked 99th in the nation (255.8).
While many fans will anticipate a shootout, the defenses will play a big role in the deciding outcome.
Prediction: Missouri 28, Oklahoma State 20