As the college football postseason moves into the playoff era, the Rose Bowl takes on a new role. The top bowl games will now rotate on a yearly basis, with the annual California showcase filling one of the national semifinal spots for the 2014-15 campaign.
The Rose Bowl will feature the clash between the No. 2 team and the No. 3 team in the final College Football Playoff rankings. Right now, that would mean a semifinal pitting Oregon against TCU. It has already changed several times since the initial standings were released, though.
Let's check out all of the important details for this year's Rose Bowl, which remains in its usual New Year's Day spot. That's followed by predictions for the matchup and the game odds.
Where: Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California
When: Thursday, Jan. 1 at 5 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Predicted Matchup: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State
Oregon heads into the Pac-12 Championship Game with a chance to accomplish two tasks. The first is solidifying its spot in the playoffs. The second is exacting revenge on Arizona, which edged the Ducks back in October for their only loss so far.
Their biggest problem in the first meeting was an inability to get off the field on third down. They allowed the Wildcats to convert nine of 17 attempts. That, of course, leads to time-consuming drives and leaves the high-powered Oregon offense standing on the sidelines.
Look for the Ducks to play a little more aggressively on the early downs in an effort to force Arizona into more 3rd-and-long situations. If they can do that and give their pass-rushers a chance to get loose on third down, the chances for success skyrocket compared to the style of game played last time.
At the very least, Mark Helfrich is confident about the state of his team. Andrew Greif of The Oregonian provided the head coach's remarks about the mental side of things heading into the crucial game.
"Our guys are in a great place right now mentally and psychologically and now they'll be excited," he said Sunday. "We had a workout today and they did a nice job with what we asked them to do and they'll be excited to prepare for Arizona."
Oregon lost by only seven points in the previous meeting despite the Wildcats' firm control in time of possession. Even minor improvement on the defensive side against Arizona's spread look should be enough to reverse the result this time around.
Marcus Mariota should be able to take another step toward the Heisman Trophy with a strong showing that secures the No. 2 seed for his Ducks.
The other team is more of a mystery. On the surface, it seems the College Football Playoff committee is trying to use Florida State as an example for future seasons. An undefeated record is great, but it's not going to guarantee a certain place in the rankings.
As of now, the Seminoles have slipped to the No. 4 spot despite remaining unbeaten. That's in large part due to their lack of marquee wins, especially with Notre Dame fading in a major way following its loss to Florida State in mid-October.
Not everybody agrees with the committee's approach, however, as Mike Greenberg of ESPN made clear:
Of course, it doesn't help that the 'Noles have turned virtually every game into an adventure. They have a zero in the loss column, but they haven't looked dominant.
That's why the ACC title game against Georgia Tech is so important. A convincing win should move them back into the No. 3 spot, with TCU having very little to gain against an Iowa State squad that's winless in Big 12 play.
The Yellow Jackets are coming off back-to-back wins over Clemson and Georgia. Add the pressure of having no margin for error, and this is a serious test for the reigning champions. A return to form should push them back to No. 3 in the final rankings.
Looking ahead, if the matchup does come together as Oregon against Florida State, it will generate plenty of hype. The quarterback battle between Mariota and Jameis Winston is enough to sell the game, but the shootout potential makes it even more intriguing.
The Ducks would likely be the favorites by around a touchdown because the Seminoles haven't shown the level of play necessary to keep pace, mostly due to some slow starts. But Florida State will hope it can get back on track at the right time and make a run to another title.
Predicted Odds: Oregon -7