BCS Bowl Preview
By: Brian Hill and John Daniel
The time has come once again. The teams who will be competing for each bowl title this season have been selected and tensions are high across the board. Games will be battled out and victors will rise for 17 days from December 21st through January 6th. The first game played will be the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, and even though the anticipation of that game may not be killing you, it marks the beginning of the holiday college football frenzy that brings sport fans excitement annually.
The BCS era of college football is coming to an end after 16 years of being the postseason format for college football. Next season the top four teams will be chosen by the College Football Playoff Selection Committee to compete in a tournament style championship. This is our last chance to view teams battle it out in the four BCS bowls (Rose, Fiesta, Sugar, and Orange) and to watch a champion be crowned at the BCS National Championship. This year’s match-ups will surely thrill the college sports world.
The Rose Bowl presented by VIZIO: #4 Michigan State vs. #5 Stanford
January 1st, 2014—Pasadena, California—5:00 P.M. ET on ESPN
On January 1, 2014, the one hundredth annual Rose Bowl will take place between the Stanford Cardinal and the Michigan State Spartans. In this match-up between the fifth and fourth ranked teams, respectively, in the country, a familiar style of football will be played. These two teams are known for playing stifling defense and stressing the importance of ball control, running the ball, field position, and limiting mistakes. This is what makes this year’s Rose Bowl so intriguing. College football has seen many teams switch to fast, no-huddle offenses predicated on simply scoring as many points as possible. However, in Pasadena, California on New Year’s Day, two teams will battle and play a more traditional brand of football that is sure to lead to an entertaining contest.
For Michigan State, red-shirt sophomore quarterback Connor Cook, who threw for over three hundred yards in the Big Ten Championship and was named the game’s MVP, leads the Spartans. While his numbers for the season are nothing too gaudy or impressive, he has shown tremendous presence under pressure, both in close games and in winning the starting quarterback position early in the season. Cook is flanked by Jeremy Langford at running back, who has run for over one thousand yards in the season, and has eclipsed the one hundred yard mark in each of the last eight games. His combination of speed and power is tough for opposing teams to defend. On the other side of the ball, quarterback Kevin Hogan and running back Tyler Gaffney lead Stanford. These two players have combined for over four thousand total yards on the year and lead a balanced offensive side for Stanford. However, the game will most likely come down to the performance of two of the top ranked defenses in the country. In a game loaded with future NFL talent, the winner will be decided by whatever team controls the offensive side of the ball and can come up with the most stops defensively.
Fiesta Bowl: #6 Baylor vs. #15 Central Florida
January 1st, 2014—Glendale, Arizona— 8:30 P.M. ET on ESPN
In this year’s Fiesta Bowl, fans can expect the polar opposite of what they will see in the Rose Bowl Game. This game features a clash between two high-powered offenses in the Central Florida Knights and the Baylor Bears. Baylor runs a no-huddle offense with quarterback Bryce Petty at the helm. Petty is paired with two dynamic, big-play running backs in Lache Seastrunk and Shock Linwood. These two running backs have combined for almost two thousand yards rushing on the year. Combining the production of the two running backs with Bryce Petty’s historic season (almost four thousand yards passing) leads to an offensive power that defenses have mostly failed to stop this year. The Bears have gone over sixty points on six separate occasions and rank first in the country in points per game, averaging just over fifty-three points.
On the other side, UCF has come as a bit of a surprise to many fans this year. They finished in first place in the American Athletic Conference, a conference that many believed Louisville would win handily. However, UCF shocked Louisville on the road in a tight three-point game that gave them control over their conference fate. While their offense does not put up the gaudy numbers that Baylor’s offense does, the UCF defense is rated in the top twenty defenses in the country. Combining that along with a scoring average of over thirty-three points per game makes an efficient team that can play with any team in the country. Quarterback Blake Bortles, who has thrown for over three thousand yards, and one thousand yard rusher Storm Johnson, lead their offense. In the end, this game will most likely come down to offensive efficiency and limiting offensive mistakes. Viewers can expect a fast-paced, entertaining, and high-scoring game.
Allstate Sugar Bowl: #3 Alabama vs. #11 Oklahoma
January 2nd, 2014—New Orleans, Louisiana— 8:30 P.M ET on ESPN
In this year’s Sugar Bowl, we have a match-up between two perennial powerhouses. The Alabama Rolling Tide look to redeem themselves after a brutal last second loss in the “Iron Bowl” against their cross-state rival the Auburn Tigers. The opposite is true for their opponent, the Oklahoma Sooners, who just triumphed over their state rival Oklahoma State last weekend and are looking to take advantage of an Alabama team that might still be sour about its loss.
Alabama’s starting rosters on both sides of the ball are stocked with NFL ready prospects, like ball-hawking safety Ha’Sean “Ha-Ha” Clinton-Dix, who will all be looking to reclaim Alabama’s dominance before leaving the program. The Rolling Tide offense will be led by 3-year Quarterback starter A.J McCarron who brought the school back-to-back National Championships the past two years and will surely be looking to end his collegiate career on a good note. The key for an Alabama victory will be to prevent turnovers on offense, because if they avoid giving the ball away the offense should be able to march up and down the field.
Oklahoma benefits from this game after the Tide’s first loss of the season because Auburn has just shown how a team can go about beating the previously “unbeatable” Alabama football program. Auburn succeeded in doing this by running the ball and sticking with that game plan throughout the Iron Bowl. Oklahoma’s rushing attack isn’t as dangerous as the Tiger’s, but if they can slow down the tempo of the game and play power football against Alabama’s defense, they will have a chance. It will be exciting to see how both of these team’s play after their last outings.
Discover Orange Bowl: #7 Ohio State vs. #12 Clemson
January 3rd, 2014—Miami Gardens, Florida— TBD on ESPN
After suffering its first loss in the past 24 games at the hands of Michigan State at the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis, #7 Ohio State University will attempt to take down #12 Clemson, a foe from the ACC. Both teams have electrifying offenses who averaged upwards of 35 points per game and are led by star Quarterbacks. Braxton Miller for Ohio State will square off with Tajh Boyd of Clemson. Both teams have been criticized heavily by the media for having weak schedules and will have to prove themselves on January 3rd.
Ohio State can’t help but be let down after the disappointing loss last weekend as their National Championship hopes faded away into nothing but a fantasy. The team has to put that behind them though and focus on what’s in front of them because Clemson is no slouch of a program. The key for OSU will be to establish its power run game early. For the first time in his coaching career, Urban Meyer had a Running back, Carlos Hyde, rush for over 1,000 yards. Compile that with the fact that Miller successfully completed his second straight 1,000 yard campaign and you have one of the best rushing attacks in all of college football, which as a team has rushed for on average seven yards a carry this season.
Clemson also suffered a tough loss in its last game to state rival University of South Carolina and will be looking to bounce back with a win in Miami at Sun Life Stadium. Boyd will most likely look to his stud wide receiver Sammy Watkins early and often, who has been on the other end of 10 of Boyd’s 29 touchdown throws. Clemson is a hard team to gage because both of their losses this year have come from teams ranked in the top ten.
Both team’s defenses are above average, as both are allowing about 21 points per game this season. The two defensive squads will try to avoid fireworks against both team’s prolific offenses, in what is shaping up to be a fantastic match-up.
BCS National Championship: #1 Florida State vs. #2 Auburn
January 6th, 2014
January 6th, 2014—Pasadena, California—8:30 P.M. ET on ESPN
Who would have thought at the beginning of the year that Florida State and Auburn would be the two teams playing for the national title? Many experts pegged teams such as Alabama, Ohio State, and Oregon to be the top three teams at the beginning of the season. Now, none of these teams are competing for the title. In the Associated Press preseason poll, neither Florida State nor Auburn were ranked in the top ten teams in the country. However, their consistent play throughout the season has earned them a berth in the national title game.
Florida State has been nothing short of dominant for the entire season. They have won all of their games by a minimum of fourteen points and have shown no signs of slowing down. Their defense is the top unit in the country in terms of scoring defense, only allowing ten points per game. This defense is complemented by the second ranked scoring offense in the country, which is led by Heisman frontrunner Jameis Winston. He is flanked by a bevy of NFL talent in his receiving corps and running backs, which has led to the offense averaging over fifty points per game. While some critics say that the Seminoles played a soft schedule, there is no question that they have established themselves as the class of the ACC.
Auburn, on the other hand, was unranked in the beginning of the season. After a dismal 2012-13 campaign that led to the firing of head coach Gene Chizik, expectations were low for a team viewed to be in rebuilding mode. However, new head coach Gus Malzahn has revitalized the program, leading them to five wins over Top 25 teams. His fast paced, read option offense has given Auburn a potent rushing attack that is unmatched by any team in the country. Heisman candidate Tre Mason, who has rushed for over 1600 yards on the year, leads this attack. Averaging over 335 yards rushing per game has made the Auburn offense a well-oiled machine capable of defeating any team in the country. In the end, this game will come down to defensive stops. Both teams boast high-powered offensive attacks and talented defensive fronts, but only one team will emerge victorious. The team that can control the defensive side of the ball, create turnovers, and execute offensively has the greatest chance to reign champion until next season.