VIZIO Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA)
No. 5 Stanford Cardinals (11-2) vs. No. 4 Michigan State Spartans (12-1)
January 01, 2014 (4:00 PM, ESPN)
If you’re looking for a hard-hitting, old-school physical football game, then the Rose Bowl is the bowl game for you. The 100th edition of the Rose Bowl may be the most hard-hitting, snot bubble-inducing Rose Bowl ever, pitting the No. 1 overall defense in the country in Michigan State against the No. 15 overall defense in the country in Stanford. Both teams also feature two dominating running games as well. Stanford’s Tyler Gaffney ran for 1,618 yards and 20 TD as he led the way for the Cardinal while Michigan State was led by Jeremy Langford’s 1,338 yards and 17 TD.
The interesting aspect of these running games will be the defenses they have to try and battle. Michigan State averages almost five yards per touch as a team on the ground but Stanford’s defense only allows 2.9 yards per rush. Stanford averages five yards per carry as a team, while Michigan State gives up just 2.7 yards per rush.
Michigan State boasts the No. 2 rush defense but Stanford’s is right behind them at No. 3. In both of Stanford’s losses they allowed some big plays in the passing game, which is where Spartan QB Connor Cook will come into play. The efficient QB threw for 2,423 yards and 20 TD with just five INT, and has a trio of pass catchers to choose from in Tony Lippett (39 catches, 519 yards, 1 TD), Bennie Fowler (34 catches, 525 yards, 6 TD), and Macgarrett Kings (39 catches, 461 yards, 3 TD).
As good as Michigan State’s defense is, they will have to battle with Stanford without starting middle linebacker Max Bullough (76 TKL, 9.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 10 QBH) one of the leaders of the defense who was suspended for the Rose Bowl. This game will likely come down to a big play from either QB whether it’s Cook or Stanford’s Kevin Hogan (2,487 yards, 20 TD, 9 INT).
PREDICTION: Michigan State – 20, Stanford – 17
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, AZ)
No. 15 UCF Knights (11-1) vs. No. 6 Baylor Bears (11-1)
January 01, 2013 (7:30 PM, ESPN)
As intriguing as the Rose Bowl matchup is, the Fiesta Bowl’s is that much boring. UCF is completely outmatched by the Big XII champion Baylor Bears and it’s hard to fathom that its offense, which struggled mightily at times against weak opponents, will be able to keep up with Bryce Petty (3,844 yards, 30 TD, 2 INT passing; 192 yards, 11 TD rushing), Lache Seastrunk (1,060 yards, 11 TD), Antwan Goodley (67 catches, 1,319 yards, 13 TD), and company. UCF quarterback Blake Bortles is an emerging NFL prospect and at times was a one man show at UCF amassing 3,280 yards, 22 TD, and 7 INT. If UCF has a chance he must get some help.
PREDICTION: Baylor – 42, UCF – 24
AllState Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, LA)
No. 11 Oklahoma Sooners (10-2) vs. No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1)
January 02, 2014 (7:30 PM, ESPN)
Alabama and Oklahoma will meet for just the fifth time in the two school’s histories in this year’s Sugar Bowl, Alabama coming off of a heartbreaking loss to Auburn in the season finale, and Oklahoma coming off a thrilling win over Oklahoma State. Oklahoma’s defense was actually very solid against the pass coming in at 15th in the country in pass defense, and being in the pass happy Big XII that is a nice feat. The problem is very few teams in the Big XII have the balanced attack they will face against Alabama.
Oklahoma has been pretty solid in the running game all season long but inconsistent would be the best description of the passing game. OU will have to keep Alabama honest with some positive passing plays for any hope of another big win. The Tide struggled against Auburn and the read option which Oklahoma will obviously try and take advantage of with QBs Blake Bell and Trevor Knight.
C.J. Mosley leads an angry Alabama defense ready to prove the Auburn game was an anomaly. Alabama came into the 2008 Sugar Bowl off a heartbreaking loss to Florida in the SEC Championship as a dejected and disappointed team, and was then run off the field by overmatched Utah. On the other hand a pissed off Alabama coming off a last minute loss to Auburn in 2010 destroyed co-Big 10 champion Michigan State.
PREDICTION: Alabama – 35, Oklahoma – 13
Discover Orange Bowl (Miami, FL)
No. 12 Clemson Tigers (10-2) vs. No. 7 Ohio State Buckeyes (12-1)
January 03, 2014 (7:30 PM, ESPN)
Both Ohio State and Clemson backed their way into a BCS bowl, with Ohio State suffering its first loss of the Urban Meyer era against Michigan State in the Big 10 Championship, and Clemson embarrassed by rival South Carolina in the season finale. Both teams will look to send their respective seniors off in a much better manner and both teams boast explosive offenses.
Clemson is led by QB Tajh Boyd (3,473 yards, 29 TD, 9 INT passing; 273 yards, 9 TD rushing), RB Roderick McDowell (956 yards, 5 TD), and WR Sammy Watkins Jr. (85 catches, 1,237 yards, 10 TD) while Ohio State is run by dual threat QB Braxton Miller (1,860 yards, 22 TD, 5 INT passing; 1,033 yards, 10 TD rushing) and tailback Carlos Hyde (1,408 yards, 14 TD). Receivers Corey Brown and Devin Smith each had exactly 655 yards and Brown had 10 TD while Smith had 8.
With all this talk of offense, Ohio State’s defense must be respected, especially considered it led the nation with 40.0 sacks and was 6th in rush defense. Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier is feared and for good reason as he is the heart and soul of the OSU defense amassing 134 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 6.0 sacks, and 4 pass breakups. Defensive linemen Noah Spence (52 TKL, 14.5 TFL, 8.0 sacks), Joey Bosa (39 TKL, 12.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks), and Michael Bennett (38 TKL, 11.5 TFL, 7.0 sacks) each had double digit tackles for loss. Tajh Boyd will need another electric performance to will his team to a big win but with a defense that allows 4 yards per rush going against a team with 2 1,000 yard rushers an electric performance may not be enough.
PREDICTION: Ohio State – 45, Clemson – 35
VIZIO BCS National Championship (Pasadena, CA)
No. 1 Florida State Seminoles (13-0) vs. No. 2 Auburn Tigers (12-1)
January 06, 2014 (7:30 PM, ESPN)
As painful as this game will be for Alabama fans, it’s still a very intriguing matchup. On one hand, Florida State has dominating all opposition this year, but on the other, much of that opposition has been very, very weak. Meanwhile, Auburn has been battle tested all year long.
One thing that might bode well for Florida State’s defense is that they’ve played, and dominated, Georgia Tech and its triple option attack several times over the last few years. Auburn’s offense may not be a traditional triple option, but it is very much the same except that they use the pistol and shotgun formations rather than having the QB under center. No one was able to run against Florida State this year, except Boston College’s Heisman finalist Andre Williams, who ran for 149 yards against the Noles defense. Williams was easily the best running back FSU faced all year, so that is a game that Auburn will have paid a lot of attention to.
As good as Nick Marshall (1,759 yards, 12 TD, 5 INT passing; 1,023 yards, 11 TD rushing), Tre Mason (1,621 yards, 22 TD rushing), Corey Grant (650 yards, 6 TD rushing), and Cameron Artis-Payne (609 yards, 6 TD) have been on the ground, Auburn’s pass defense has been pretty horrible all year long. That spells doom against FSU’s Heisman winning QB Jameis Winston (3,820 yards, 38 TD, 10 INT) and his trio of receivers that all may reach 1,000 yards after the National Championship: Rashad Greene (67 catches, 981 yards, 9 TD), Kenny Shaw (52 catches, 929 yards, 6 TD), and Kelvin Benjamin (50 catches, 957 yards, 14 TD).
As deadly as Winston is and has much as he may be able to torch the Auburn defense FSU may look to Devonta Freeman (943 yards, 13 TD rushing) and Karlos Williams (705 yards, 11 TD rushing) to bleed the clock and keep Auburn’s fast paced running game off the field. FSU has the best defensive line Auburn has seen all year but that Auburn running game will get its yardage as it always does. The problem for the Tigers will be trying to stop Winston and the historically explosive FSU offense, but with that said everytime it looks like Auburn just can’t win they pull off a last second TD or field goal or a hail mary or a last second missed field goal returned for a TD (yes, it still hurts).