With the holidays here, college football fans are immersed in the gifts of bowl games and top matchups between marquee programs. As much as everyone invests in bowl season, it's hard not to admit that the games after Christmas are more appealing than what's already happened.
That's not to say there haven't been electrifying games, but the Potato Bowl doesn't draw in a huge sense of wonder. With only one full week of bowl season left, not including the College Football Playoff National Championship, things are starting to pick up in a big way.
Fortunately, that means the discussion around these games has started to increase dramatically. Let's add to that with a look at the remaining games, as well as predictions for the key games still left on the schedule.
|2014-15 College Football Bowl Schedule|
|Heart of Dallas Bowl||Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech||December 26||1 p.m.||ESPN|
|Quick Lane Bowl||Rutgers vs. North Carolina||December 26||4:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|St. Petersburg Bowl||NC State vs. UCF||December 26||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|Military Bowl||Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech||December 27||1 p.m.||ESPN|
|Sun Bowl||Arizona State vs. Duke||December 27||2 p.m.||CBS|
|Independence Bowl||Miami vs. South Carolina||December 27||3:30 p.m.||ABC|
|Pinstripe Bowl||Boston College vs. Penn State||December 27||4:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Holiday Bowl||Nebraska vs. USC||December 27||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|Liberty Bowl||Texas A&M vs. West Virginia||December 29||2 p.m.||ESPN|
|Russell Athletic Bowl||Oklahoma vs. Clemson||December 29||5:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Texas Bowl||Arkansas vs. Texas||December 29||9 p.m.||ESPN|
|Music City Bowl||Notre Dame vs. LSU||December 30||3 p.m.||ESPN|
|Belk Bowl||Georgia vs. Louisville||December 30||6:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Foster Farms Bowl||Maryland vs. Stanford||December 30||10 p.m.||ESPN|
|Peach Bowl||Mississippi vs. TCU||December 31||12:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Fiesta Bowl||Boise State vs. Arizona||December 31||4 p.m.||ESPN|
|Orange Bowl||Mississippi State vs. Georgia Tech||December 31||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|Outback Bowl||Auburn vs. Wisconsin||January 1||12 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Cotton Bowl||Michigan State vs. Baylor||January 1||12:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Citrus Bowl||Missouri vs. Minnesota||January 1||1 p.m.||ABC|
|Rose Bowl (College Football Playoff Semifinal)||Oregon vs. Florida State||January 1||5 p.m.||ESPN|
|Sugar Bowl (College Football Playoff Semifinal)||Alabama vs. Ohio State||January 1||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Armed Forces Bowl||Houston vs. Pittsburgh||January 2||12 p.m.||ESPN|
|Taxslayer Bowl||Iowa vs. Tennesseee||January 2||3:20 p.m.||ESPN|
|Alamo Bowl||Kansas State vs. UCLA||January 2||6:45 p.m.||ESPN|
|Cactus Bowl||Washington vs. Oklahoma State||January 2||10:15 p.m.||ESPN|
|Birmingham Bowl||East Carolina vs. Florida||January 3||12 p.m.||ESPN|
|GoDaddy Bowl||Toledo vs. Arkansas State||January 4||9 p.m.||ESPN|
|College Football Playoff National Championship||TBD vs. TBD||January 12||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
College Football Playoff
The four teams vying for the national championship have built impressive resumes up to this point, though there seems to be a clear divide between the top two schools and the other two.
Alabama and Oregon are the overwhelming favorites to meet at AT&T Stadium on January 12. According to Odds Shark, the Crimson Tide and Ducks are each favored by nine points in their respective games against Ohio State and Florida State.
For perspective, only the Sun Bowl and Foster Farms Bowl have spreads of at least nine points. It's hard to argue with the rationale, as Alabama and Oregon have separated themselves from the pack in college football. If the BCS still existed, no one outside Tallahassee would have qualms about those teams in the top two spots.
Starting with the Alabama-Ohio State game, the Buckeyes have been a great story all year. They are on their third-string quarterback, yet they had no problems thrashing a solid Wisconsin team in the Big Ten Championship Game.
However, the Badgers defense isn't in the same class as 'Bama's. Nick Saban has to be salivating at the prospect of going against a quarterback making his second career start.
If the Buckeyes are going to win this game, it will be on the legs of running back Ezekiel Elliott. Jay Clemons of Fox Sports South offered these great stats on Ohio State's dynamic runner:
The sophomore first exploded onto the nation's radar in Ohio State's 50-spot rout of Cincinnati on Sept. 27, amassing 233 total yards and one TD against the Bearcats. But the regional microscope reveals something that's similarly stellar:
Of the Buckeyes' 13 outings, Elliott (1,610 total yards, 12 TDs) accounted for 100 total yards and/or one touchdown 12 times.
The numbers look even stronger for OSU's tent-pole victories over Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Wisconsin: The St. Louis, Mo. native averaged 146 total yards/1.4 TDs.
Unfortunately, teams haven't been able to run against Alabama, as this graphic from StatMilk indicates:
The numbers are even more impressive the deeper you dig. Alabama led the nation with only three rushing touchdowns allowed, tied for second in yards allowed per carry (2.8) and fourth in total rush yards allowed (1,153), per Yahoo Sports.
On the other side, Alabama has been able to move the ball through the air and on the ground. The Crimson Tide rank 16th in total offense and 17th in scoring offense. Amari Cooper has been as uncoverable as any receiver in the country.
Blake Sims has evolved into a dynamic player over the year, saving his best performances for the stretch run. After struggling early against Auburn, the senior quarterback has accounted for six touchdowns (five passing, one rushing) in the last six quarters.
The odds have been stacked against Ohio State all year, but Urban Meyer's crew is going against a beast the likes of which it hasn't seen in Alabama.
Moving to the Rose Bowl, even though the talent gap may not seem as stark between Oregon and Florida State, the Ducks can't lose here.
Florida State has pulled off a trick that would make Criss Angel jealous. No team should be able to win as many games by a touchdown or less as the Seminoles have (seven) without stubbing its toe at least once, yet here they are as the country's only undefeated team.
Looking at the tale of the tape, via StatMilk, Oregon wipes the floor with Florida State in virtually every major category:
The only area Florida State looks markedly better is on defense, but even that can be explained by Oregon playing so many blowouts that it gave up cheap yardage to opponents.
If the Seminoles are going to pull off the upset, it's on Jameis Winston's arm. He has been erratic all year with 17 interceptions, but he stepped up in the biggest moments to secure wins all year. His best performance was against Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game with 309 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
That is the kind of stat line Florida State will need to win, but how do you trust Winston given how he's been so Jekyll and Hyde in 2014? That kind of act can work against Notre Dame or Oklahoma State, but not the No. 2 team in the country.
When you flirt with disaster, eventually the tightrope breaks. This is Florida State's last stand, and it won't be pretty.
Predictions: Alabama def. Ohio State, 41-14
Oregon def. Florida State, 34-20