Ok OFD'ers, pick yourselves up. Dust off the cobwebs. Focus. This is the hot dog eating contest of bowl season and we've eaten 60 hot dogs and need to eat 6 more. It is the home stretch! You can do it!
We've got a preview of the final stretch of bowl games for you, leading up to the National Championship. On the bright side, the post-New Years bowl schedule brings us some of the greatest matchups of the entire bowl season. Expect awesomeness and receive awesomeness.
Let's take a look at what the College Football gods have in store for us:
Thursday, January 2nd
Allstate Sugar Bowl
Alabama vs. Oklahoma 8:30 pm ESPN
Alabama went from a shoo-in participant in the National Championship game to goat in the length of time it took for Chris Davis to return the Tide's short field goal back for the game-winning touchdown. That is the state of college football this season. One second, you're playing in the national championship, the next, you're playing Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. So the Crimson Tide scores the Big 12 runner-up in Oklahoma, a team that rattled off five wins to start the season (including over us...ugh) before getting humbled by Texas. Granted, the Sooners have won three straight to end the season (including over OK State), but they have an uphill battle to climb. Even despite the loss to Auburn, it looks really hard for Oklahoma to match up with the sheer amount of weapons that Alabama has. The only way that I see the Sooners being in this is if Alabama doesn't show up to play. I doubt that will happen.
Friday January 3rd
AT&T Cotton Bowl
Missouri vs. Oklahoma State 7:30 pm FOX
This might be the first bowl gameday where we have two bowl games that will directly conflict with each other. In the first primetime matchup of the night, we are treated to the Pokes against the SEC darling of the year in Missouri. After going 5-7 in 2012 (including an paltry 2-6 in SEC play), the Tigers came out of nowhere this season, going 7-0 before dropping an overtime contest to South Carolina. Adding to the impressiveness of that feat is that the Tigers did so with a backup QB at the helm in Maty Mauk. Their reward for getting runner-up for the SEC Champion Auburn Tigers is a trip to the Cotton Bowl against Mike Gundy's Oklahoma State Cowboys. Like the Tigers, the Pokes have had a solid year and are winners of 7 of their last 8 games. Their 10-2 record belies the fact that their 2 losses are by 9 points apiece, while Mizzou's 2 losses are by 2 and 17 respectively. What makes this one of the most appealing matchups of the bowl season is the points-scored category for the two teams. Mizzou ranks 16th in the nation at 39 points per game and Oklahoma State ranks 13th with 39.8 points per game. Expect this one to be high-scoring and very entertaining.
Discover Orange Bowl
Clemson vs. Ohio State 8:30 pm ESPN
Had the Buckeyes played their cards right when the sanctions banhammer came down, they would've been in Miami last year facing the Fighting Irish. Instead, they sat home with an unblemished record. Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer played fast and loose this season, padding their schedule with blowout wins against a weak-B1G slate but barely surviving Northwestern, Iowa, and Michigan before getting exposed by Sparty's top-ranked Defense. Make no mistake though, this Ohio State team can score when necessary. But against Clemson, Florida State's second fiddle in the ACC Atlantic Division, the points may be hard to come by. Outside of a dynamic offense led by Tajh Boyd, Clemson boasts a Top-20 defense and held most of their opponents to 17 points or less all season. The only blemishes were surrendering 31 and 35 points to Georgia Tech and Georgia respectively (Clemson won both games though) and getting walloped 51-14 by the Noles. I think this game might be entertaining to see if you're looking at the Braxton Miller/Tajh Boyd comparison, but to be honest, I'll probably have my TV on Fox.
Saturday January 4th
BBVA Compass Bowl
Vanderbilt vs. Houston 1:00 pm ESPN
A lot of bowl predictions had the Houston Cougars headed to New York to take on the Irish in the Pinstripe Bowl. Then Rutgers somehow manufactured a couple wins at the end of the season and the Cougars found themselves in Birmingham in 2014 taking on a Vanderbilt squad with a pretty dynamic quarterback and a coach who's name is tied to basically every open position available now, from Penn State to the Cleveland Browns to the next President of Callahan Auto Parts. Vanderbilt has the fortunate luxury of having a quarterback with a rather bro name in Austyn Carta-Samuels, too. While I like Houston's big-play ability, I'm inclined to think that the SEC squad has the advantage, provided that their coaching staff isn't preoccupied with interviewing for other jobs, of course.
Sunday January 5th
Arkansas State vs. Ball State 9:00 pm ESPN
I was told by my brother at a bar the other night that the Sun Belt had "essentially every team" bowl eligible. Naturally, I guffawed because Sun Belt. Nevertheless, I opened up my trusty IBM 486 desktop computer and lo and behold, a whopping 7 of 8 Sun Belt schools found themselves with 6 wins or more this season. Of course, given the bowl constraints and fan bases and money and prestige, only two of those teams are headed to postseason play. In the second-to-last bowl game of the bowl season, we get to see one of those teams in Arkansas State. Arkansas State head coach Bryan Harsin followed the recent history of Red Wolves coaches and bailed after one season, heading to Boise State. Ark State decided to hire Blake Anderson, the Offensive Coordinator of North Carolina, as his replacement. Truth be told, their schedule doesn't look that impressive. With a 7-5 record, it seems that the only reason we are seeing them in this game is by virtue of their 5-2 conference record and their appearance in the same exact bowl game last year. I would have liked to see Western Kentucky instead, as they had a better overall record at 8-4, with a win against Kentucky, the very Arkansas State team here, not to mention their awesome mascot, too. But I digress. Their opponent is Ball State, who finished the season with a 10-2 record under new coach Pete Lembo and love to sling the rock around. At #9 in the country in passing yards, it'll be interesting to see if Ball State is able to capitalize on their pass-heavy offense.
Monday January 6th
BCS National Championship
Florida State vs. Auburn 8:30 pm ESPN
Irish fans know the stake here. We were here last season and whatever the result, we'll never forget how it felt. To be #1, to be the best, to run the table. Beat Michigan, USC, and Stanford. Wasn't it great? Still can be, but until then, the BCS National Championship pits the Florida State Seminoles against the out-of-nowhere Auburn Tigers. Without going into too much detail on both teams, I'll simply state that the Noles have utterly destroyed every team they played this season. Their closest win was against Boston College, a 48-34 victory. Next to that, their closest win was a 41-14 win against Miami. They've scored the most points, they've got the nation's most powerful offense and they've got the Heisman Trophy winner in Jameis Winston. This is a scary, scary team. In Auburn, the Noles are getting the nation's most powerful rushing offense. Literally. The Tigers average roughly 336 yards on the ground per game. They love to run and they love to put points on the board. I think it is a given that Florida State will score points. The interesting matchup here is going to be Florida State's top-5 defense against the nation's most powerful rushing attack.
But that is all I got. What do you guy's think? Sound off below and enjoy the final stretch of bowl games!