Oregon vs. FSU: Preview, Prediction for 2015 Rose Bowl

R. Cory Smith@@RCorySmithSenior Writer IDecember 29, 2014

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 05: Royce Freeman #21 of the Oregon Ducks breaks through traffic in the first half against the Arizona Wildcats during the PAC-12 Championships at Levi's Stadium on December 5, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

In one of the biggest moments in college football history, Oregon and Florida State will help unveil an entirely new system. The College Football Playoff will officially kick off with the Rose Bowl as the Ducks and Seminoles vie for a spot in the national championship game.

Both teams come in after strong seasons, but the Seminoles are the only playoff team with an unblemished record. Even at 13-0, question marks surround No. 3 FSU ahead of the semifinal due to several close outcomes.

The Ducks, on the other hand, have been decisively knocking off teams since their lone loss to Arizona. Coming off a 51-13 win over the Wildcats, Oregon avenged that defeat thanks to one of the most potent offenses in the country.

Leading up to the first semifinal, below is an in-depth look at the 2015 Rose Bowl.

2015 Rose Bowl Information

Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California

When: Jan. 1 at 5 p.m. ET


Live StreamWatchESPN

Rose Bowl Preview

Witnessing two Heisman Trophy winners battle is a rarity at the college level. In fact, it has only happened two times in the past, with the most recent coming after the 2008 season when Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford faced off.

Thursday will mark the third such occurrence with Marcus Mariota recently winning the coveted award a year after Jameis Winston. Leading up to the massive showdown, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher spoke about how special the matchup will be.

"I think it'll be great. It's what college football is all about," Fisher said, via Natalie Pierre of AL.com. "You have two of the greatest players in college football right now ... That makes for great TV and makes for great competition. It's what it's about - getting the best against the best."

For Winston, the 2013 Heisman winner will be facing an Oregon defense that recently lost one of its biggest stars. Cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu suffered a knee injury that will keep him from playing in the bowl game.

Regardless of who he faces, Winston has confidence he will thrive, per Andrea Adelson of ESPN.com:

Andrea Adelson @aadelsonESPN

Jameis asked if FSU would test Oregon in pass game with Ifo out, said he would throw vs any DB. Even Richard Sherman.

Winston's 24 passing touchdowns this season prove he'll throw in the direction of any defender. However, he'll have to be much more consistent against Oregon after throwing 17 interceptions in 2014.

Meanwhile, Mariota was as dynamic as any player with 52 total touchdowns to a staggering two interceptions. The junior has three or more touchdowns in 11 games this season and has accounted for 19 in his last four games without a pick.

Much of the success for both teams is thanks to the signal-callers, but the players sharing the backfield are two of the most explosive freshmen in the country. Royce Freeman and Dalvin Cook have burst onto the scene by carrying the load down the stretch.

Freeman has 1,299 yards with 16 touchdowns on the season and was named a freshman All-American. Cook wasn't asked to do much at the beginning but closed out the year with over 100 total yards in five of the last eight games and eight touchdowns.

Tim Brando of Fox Sports offered his take on the tailbacks:

Tim Brando @TimBrando

Couldn't agree more with @KirkHerbstreit on Royce Freeman & Cook of FSU. Two incredible Freshmen running the football. Love the two matchups

In the end, both teams will likely come away with an impressive showing thanks to their offensive weapons. While FSU's defense has the edge in the matchup, Oregon's offense has been as explosive as any this season.

Mariota will eventually lead the Ducks to a national championship appearance to take on the winner of the Sugar Bowl.

Predicted final: Oregon 37, Florida State 31

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