After a season’s worth of speculation and drama, we can finally rest for a bit. The bowl matchups have been decided, and we have a few weeks before the BCS bowls are played. No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Auburn will end a crazy season by playing for the national championship on January 6.
This is the final year for the BCS, as college football will move to a four-team playoff starting next season, so this postseason will be a special one. We’ve got some time before the next stretch of big games, but that doesn’t mean the excitement ends yet. There will still be plenty of analysis and predictions leading up to the games — including our final Power Rankings of the season, which reflect the BCS standings heading into bowl season. But if this season has taught us anything, it’s that you never know what the score will be when the clock hits all zeroes.
1. Florida State (13-0, Last week: 1)
For most of the season, we expected Florida State to play in the BCS National Championship game. The Seminoles made it official by beating Duke to win the ACC championship. Now FSU will play No. 2 Auburn for a chance to win it all. Led by quarterback Jameis Winston, who could win both the Heisman Trophy and a national championship, the Seminoles will try to cap off an undefeated season.
2. Auburn (12-1, Last week: 3)
Unlike Florida State, no one expected Auburn to be in the national title game. But that’s where the Tigers are, thanks to miracle finishes against Georgia and Alabama to clinch a spot in the SEC Championship, where they took down Missouri. Auburn has a dangerous ground game led by Tre Mason, who rushed for an SEC Championship Game-record 304 yards. Now, the Tigers are looking for one more unlikely win.
3. Alabama (11-1, Last week: 4)
Most teams would be thrilled to play in the Sugar Bowl, but not Alabama. The Crimson Tide looked like they could march to another national championship, but their loss to Auburn ended those hopes. Alabama must now focus on taking down No. 11 Oklahoma on January 2. A Sugar Bowl win wasn’t Alabama’s goal this year, but it would be a good consolation prize for one of the best teams in the nation.
4. Michigan State (12-1, Last week: Not in the Top 10)
It was almost a given that Ohio State would win the Big 12 and either play in the Rose Bowl or the national championship. In the Big Ten Championship Game, though, Michigan State reminded everyone that there’s a reason why the games are played. The Spartans held the Buckeyes to only 24 points and will play No. 5 Stanford in the Rose Bowl on January 1 where they hope to make it two huge upsets in a row.
5. Stanford (11-2, Last Week: 7)
But Stanford will try to make sure that doesn’t happen. The Cardinal won the Pac-12 by beating then-No. 11 Arizona State in the conference championship game, and can now become back-to-back Rose Bowl champs. Stanford has established itself as the team to beat in the Pac-12, and will compete for national championships in future seasons.
6. Baylor (11-1, Last week: 9)
With its win over then-No. 25 Texas, Baylor won the Big 12 and will represent its conference against No. 15 Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl on January 1. The Bears’ electric offense has stifled defenses all season, but it will have one more challenge against the Knights, which have allowed just less than 20 points per game. A Fiesta Bowl win would end a fantastic season for Baylor, which should continue to be a powerhouse.
7. Ohio State (12-1, Last week: 2)
No one expected Ohio State to finish the regular season ranked this low in the top 10, but a disappointing loss in the conference championship game dropped the Buckeyes several spots. Braxton Miller and the Buckeyes can still end the season on a good note by beating No. 12 Clemson in the Orange Bowl. The game should be an exciting matchup of two top 10-level programs that couldn’t quite compete with the elite teams.
8. Missouri (11-2, Last week: 5)
Missouri was left out of the BCS bowl picture because of its loss in the SEC Championship Game, but the Tigers will still play in a marquee game. They’ll take on No. 13 Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl on January 3, in a game that features two exciting teams that can score a lot of points. Almost winning the toughest conference in the nation and setting itself up for future title games? Missouri can look back at this year as a great one.
9. South Carolina (10-2, Last week: 8)
Like Missouri, South Carolina had a competitive year in the SEC and will end its season with a high-quality bowl game. South Carolina will play No. 19 Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl on January 1. Both teams have solid ground games, and this game could become a physical one. It could also be Jadeveon Clowney’s last college game, so make sure you tune in!
10. Oregon (10-2, Last week: Not in the Top 10)
Of all the teams in the top 10, Oregon is probably the most disappointed at the bowl game it received. Instead of playing in the Rose Bowl or even the national championship, the Ducks are playing Texas in the Alamo Bowl on December 30. The Ducks’ two losses knocked them out of BCS contention, but on the bright side Oregon should be able to win convincingly over Texas with its dangerous offense and solid defense.
How would you rank the top college teams in the country? Who should be in the top 10 heading into bowl season? Let us know in the comments section below!
Photo: Kelvin Benjamin #1 of the Florida State Seminoles runs for a touchdown during the game against the Florida Gators on November 30, 2013 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)