Is the nation's number one team playing in the number one game? Sure feels like it. Photo: USA Today Sports
The bowl match-ups are set! Did the BCS work this year? Yes, it sure looks as thou it did. But is it the best bowl game on the schedule this season? Well, yes, it probably is. While Florida State and Auburn should make for a fun game that will surely be analyzed from every possible perspective — expect weekly looks at this and some of the other big games to come from us here at Crystal Ball Run — but what about all of the other bowl games? Which of these are the best match-ups this postseason? Are there any duds?
Fortunately, the bowl line-up this season looks pretty good, which should be expected considering how many teams were eligible for postseason play this year that ended up like Charlie Brown on Valentine's Day, with no love shared in their direction.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion on which bowl games are the best. Here is how I would rank the bowls this season, from best to worst, with some commentary from my colleagues here at Crystal Ball Run added in at times. "Worst" is such a harsh word. Truth is, I'll enjoy watching all of these match-ups from start to finish, and I am sure you will as well.
1. Vizio BCS National Championship: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Auburn
There are some years when the BCS Championship Game match-up is not actually the best game (Miami vs. Nebraska, for example). That is not the case this season though as we get the clear number one and the clear number two teams in the country squaring off with plenty of rising star power. Florida State and their climb back to the top has been a work in progress since the day Jimbo Fisher was hired. Jameis Winston and his (soon to be) Heisman Trophy status could have a field day against Auburn's defense, but the Seminoles will be put to the test trying to slow down Auburn's ridiculously strong running game fueled by Tre Mason and Nick Marshall. Gus Malzahn will be charged with the responsibility to represent the SEC at the top of the BCS mountain for one final year, while the Seminoles look to come full circle in the BCS Era by losing the first BCS championship game against an SEC team (Tennessee) and winning against another.
2. Discover Orange Bowl: No. 7 Ohio State vs. No. 12 Clemson
I had hopes we would have an Alabama-Ohio State Sugar Bowl fall in to our laps somehow, but Ohio State vs. Clemson is nothing to be too upset about in the Orange Bowl. The Buckeyes and Tigers certainly have some history, but we certainly will not see Urban Meyer punching Sammy Watkins on the Buckeyes sideline this time. Clemson's defense may not be able to thrive as well as Michigan State's did, but if Clemson can get their offense on track with Tajh Boyd getting some protection they should be able to move the ball on the Buckeyes. Ohio State is looking to become the only team to win a BCS championship and win each of the four different BCS bowls in the BCS era, which would be kind of cool (Oklahoma is looking to do the same in the Sugar Bowl).
3. AT&T Cotton Bowl: No. 8 Missouri vs. No. 13 Oklahoma State
Kevin Causey: To me one of the most interesting games is Missouri against Oklahoma State. Both of these teams had great seasons but fell short in their final games which cost them BCS bowl bids. Which team shows up with something to prove? And of course the back story is about Missouri leaving the Big 12 and having so much success in the SEC this season. SEC detractors will have more ammunition if the Cowboys win. Can Missouri put a stamp on their exit from the Big 12 by putting down the Cowboys?
4. Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio: No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 5 Stanford
If you have had enough of this high-flying offensive stuff around college football, the granddaddy of them all will take you back to the game your granddaddy probably watched. This one sets up to be all about defense with the best defenses in the Big Ten and Pac 12 taking center stage in the Rose Bowl. This will be quite the opposite of Oregon-Wisconsin from two seasons ago.
5. Capital One Bowl: No. 9 South Carolina vs. No. 19 Wisconsin
Andy Coppens: Wisconsin and South Carolina is perhaps the best non-BCS matchup on New Year’s Day this year. These two teams are physical, rely on a good ground game and their defenses. If you like your football physical this is your matchup. However, don’t think physical means low-scoring either—both of these teams average over 34 points a game and give up 20 points or less. The Capital One Bowl could end up being the best game we see all NYD.
6. AllState Sugar Bowl: No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 11 Oklahoma
Like Ohio State, the Sooners are looking to end the BCS era with a BCS title and wins in each of the four major bowl games. Doing so may not be easy as Alabama will have had plenty of time to prepare. The question is, will Alabama slug through their prep as they may have against Utah years ago, or do they come to play and deliver one final message to remind us just how good they are? The coaching match-up here may be one of the best in the bowl season, with Nick Saban and Bob Stoops ready to match wits. This game should probably be higher, but I just don't know how much faith I can put in Oklahoma to keep this one entertaining for four quarters. Top three potential, but I have some doubts.
7. Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: No. 6 Baylor vs. No. 15 Central Florida
I may be a tad optimistic about this one. If Baylor's offense is on fire as they were up until meeting Oklahoma State, this one could turn ugly. But I like Central Florida's offense to do something against the Bears to keep my interest for a while. this UCF team won at Penn State, gave South Carolina more of a fight than Clemson could, and won at Louisville. And then they needed big clutch plays at Temple and SMU.
8. Outback Bowl: No. 16 LSU vs. Iowa
LSU has been a solid bowl team in the BCS era, but they have lost three of their last four heading in to this season's game. This time they will be looking to pick up some long-awaited revenge. Iowa's 30-25 victory in the 2005 Capital One Bowl continues to be one of the most exciting bowl finishes in recent memory and while that game has no connection with the teams today, Kirk Ferentz aside, that highlight will be rolling for the next month everywhere you look with this game. Iowa is 3-1 against the SEC in their last four bowl games against the conference (4-1 if you include a win against Missouri in the 2010 Insight Bowl).
9. TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl: No. 22 Georgia vs. Nebraska
Photo: USA Today Sports
Perhaps this game should be lower since Aaron Murray is out and who knows what's going to happen with Taylor Martinez, but this is a rematch of last year's Capital One Bowl, which was quite entertaining. Last year also saw Nebraska and Georgia as conference runner-ups, so this year's game takes a step down in pedigree.
10. Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: No. 20 Fresno State vs. No. 25 USC
I may be a bit higher on this match-up than others, but to me there is a lot to like here. Yes, USC is about to have their third head coach of the season after Ed Orgeron bailed on them following the Sarkisian hiring (and he did bail on them, make no mistake), but USC has shown some good things this season. Their next task will be to find a way to slow down Fresno State's Derek Carr and there will be no Reggie Bush to save them this time.
11. Russell Athletic Bowl: Louisville vs. Miami
Teddy Bridgewater could have been a Miami Hurricane. Just keep that in mind as the Cardinals look to show Miami just what is coming next season in the ACC. Miami sort of fell apart after getting trounced by Florida State, but Al Golden looks to take advantage of Miami's return to the postseason and set the tone for 2014. If this were a ranking of Twitter accounts, this one would take the top spot.
12. National University Holiday Bowl: No. 14 Arizona State vs. Texas Tech
Andy Coppens: Can you say points? If you love offensive football than the Sun Devils vs. Red Raiders is right up your alley. ASU can score in bunches against anyone not named Stanford and Texas Tech has perhaps the hottest name in offensive football as its head coach—Kliff Kingsbury. Oh, and if you didn’t think this game was going to be an offensive slugfest, just remember we’re talking about the Holiday Bowl, where crazy things happen, and the games are usually high scoring. Sit back and enjoy an affront to all things defense in this one.
13. AdvoCare V100 Bowl: Arizona vs. Boston College
If you like star running backs, this is the game for you. The nation's top two leading rushers, Boston College's Andre Williams and Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey, will be the main attraction in this one. The coaching match-up of Steve Addazio and Rich Rodriguez is pretty entertaining as well. I had this one down on my list before giving a strong second thought. It had to be higher so I bumped it up.
14. Valero Alamo Bowl: No. 10 Oregon vs. Texas
Oregon has shown cracks in the system this season, and Texas may be able to take advantage of some of them, but if Oregon's offense gets rolling this could be an ugly end to Mack Brown's time in Austin.
15. Fight Hunger Bowl: BYU vs. Washington
This game has so much to pay attention to. how will Washington prepare without USC-bound Steve Sarkisian? Is Keith Price healthy enough to play? What stunts will BYU's Kyle Van Noy have to show?
16. BBVA Compass Bowl: Houston vs. Vanderbilt
Few teams were more improved from 2012 this season than Houston, but the big question here is whether or not James Franklin will be coaching his final game at Vanderbilt.
17. Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Georgia Tech
Ole Miss is a team on the rise, with young players stepping in and contributing at key positions this season, and quarterback Bo Wallace has been fun to watch as well. Georgia Tech will look to slow the Rebels down with that running game of theirs, but don't be surprised if the Yellow Jackets try some of those fancy down field plays where the football goes through the air.
18. R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Tulane
This may seem high for some, but I think this is a fantastic match-up for the New Orleans Bowl. Getting Tulane and Louisiana-Lafayette may be one of the best possible match-ups the bowl could have asked for. This will fly under the radar for many, but this one should be a lot of fun. Tulane leads the all-time series, which dates back to 1911, 21-5-0. Louisiana won last year's regular season match-up 41-13.
19. Chick-fil-A Bowl: No. 21 Texas A&M vs. No. 24 Duke
I love Duke's story, I really do. But after seeing what happened against Florida State, I have a bad feeling about this one. I think he should come back for one more year, but the possible college finale for Johnny Manziel could be a wild one.
20. Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Michigan vs. Kansas State
Michigan may have been one of the biggest disappointments this season, certainly within the Big Ten. Their punishment will be to play a few days before 2014 with a kickoff time scheduled for 10:15 pm eastern.
21. Belk Bowl: Cincinnati vs. North Carolina
Cincinnati looks for a second straight victory in the Belk Bowl against a team form Tobacco Road. Cincinnati won a wild game last year against Duke, but now they face a North Carolina team that could be dangerous. UNC was 1-5 this season. Watch out, Cincy.
22. Hyundai Sun Bowl: No. 17 UCLA vs. Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech's defense against this UCLA offense? I'll sign up for that. Virginia Tech's offense? I'll pass.
23. New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Rutgers
Notre Dame played for the BCS title last season. This year they take on a Rutgers team that barely reached the postseason and has already started making staff changes. Consider this an early preview of the future ACC-Big Ten partnership with the Pinstripe Bowl. The two conferences officially begin their deal with the game next season.
24. Texas Bowl: Minnesota vs. Syracuse
Minnesota was the biggest (positive) surprise in the Big Ten this season and their story was a good one. Getting to play Syracuse in the Texas Bowl feels like the Gophers will end on a high note, but there likely will not be too many people there to witness it.
25. San Diego Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: Utah State vs. No. 23 Northern Illinois
This would have been one of the great quarterback match-ups of the year if Utah State's Chuckie Keeton was available. Instead, we will get to see if Utah State's stingy defense can slow down Northern Illinois power running quarterback Jordan Lynch. Also, exactly how motivated are the Huskies after coming up short of a second straight BCS bowl appearance, playing in San Diego?
26. Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: Boise State vs. Oregon State
I'm not really sure what to make of this game. With Chris Petersen gone to Washington and with Oregon State's Sean Mannion a bit of a hot and cold player, this game could go any number of ways. It could be wildly entertaining or it could turn in to a blowout. I just have no clue on this one.
27. Little Caesars Bowl: Bowling Green vs. Pittsburgh
The good news for Pittsburgh is they will not be making a trip to the BBVA Compass Bowl, the previous bowl destination for each of the past three years. The bad news is they go to Detroit to take on the MAC champs who slayed Northern Illinois.
28. Military Bowl: Maryland vs. Marshall
Maryland will get to stay close to home in the Military Bowl, which will be played in Navy's football stadium instead of old, run-down RFK Stadium. Can Randy Edsall and the Terps pick up a bowl win before moving in to the Big Ten next season? Rakeem Cato and the Thundering Herd have struggled when away from home.
29. GoDaddy Bowl: Ball State vs. Arkansas State
The night before Gus Malzahn looks to lead Auburn to a national championship, his previous team at Arkansas State will look to take down Ball (So Hard) State, the MAC's top passing offense with Keith Wenning.
30. Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl: East Carolina vs. Ohio
Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton looks to give the Bobcats their third straight bowl victory, which would be the longest active bowl winning streak in the state (Cincinnati also going for three straight). They better play some defense, because East Carolina averages 40.4 points per game.
31. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: San Diego State vs. Buffalo
San Diego State was one of the most improved teams from start to finish this season, but they hit a wall at the end. Buffalo is looking for the first bowl victory in just the second bowl game in program history.
32. Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Colorado State vs. Washington State
The New Mexico Bowl will kick off this year's bowl schedule with Mike Leach and his Washington State Cougars against a surprising Colorado State Rams team turning things around under former Nick Saban assistant Greg McElwain.
33. AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Rice
Rice's dream season included a Conference USA championship and they will have a shot to upset an SEC team. The annual Dan Mullen spotlight could shine brightly on this one.
34. Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Navy
Get ready for a whole bunch of running. Navy, of course, is once again one of the top rushing offenses because that's pretty much all they do, and Middle Tennessee is ranked third in Conference USA. This could be the quickest games in the bowl season.
35. Heart of Dallas Bowl: North Texas vs. UNLV
North Texas playing in a bowl game is great to see. Getting to play in Dallas is even better. Should this game be ranked higher?