Posted: 4:00 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014
There is plenty of football to be watched between now and the BCS title game on Jan. 6. We'll be previewing them in chunks, continuing with the games on Thursday, Jan. 2nd and Friday, Jan. 3rd.
Here's what to expect during the bowl slate Thursday and Friday. As always, all times listed are Central.
Be sure to watch this one, for it is your last chance to see Nick Saban coach the Crimson Tide before taking every available coaching job in America. Not many teams would consider an 11-1 ranking and a BCS bowl to be a disappointing end to the season, but Nick Saban has set expectations so high in Tuscaloosa that anything short of a crystal football is an upsetting outcome. Instead of lining up against a dominant Florida State team, Alabama will be facing off against a mediocre-at-best Oklahoma squad that could have easily been a 5-6 loss team this year. Neither Blake Bell nor Trevor Knight have consistently appeared to be serviceable at the quarterback position, and that pretty much sums up the Sooners' 2013 campaign. When quarterback play is good enough to open things up for running backs Brennen Clay and Damien Williams, they move the call. When the quarterback du jour struggles, the entire team bogs down. It's hard to imagine the Alabama defense allowing 14 points against such a limited Oklahoma offense. Look for the Tide to roll in their second-tier bowl game.
Finally, Missouri fans get to see how their Tigers would fare against Big 12 competition. Gary Pinkel and his Missouri defense certainly feel like they have something to prove after the absolute demolition that the Auburn rushing attack handed them in the SEC title game. The Oklahoma State offense led by Clint Chelf is a high-scoring, well-balanced attack that will will try to keep the Tigers guessing all night. Missouri quarterback James Franklin will need to stretch the Cowboys' defense downfield, and certainly has the tools at wide receiver to do exactly that. If we're lucky, we could be treated to a high-scoring Cotton Bowl where the first team to 45 wins.
I feel awful for never having thanked Ohio State for predictably dropping their game against Sparty so that Auburn could find it's way into the BCS Championship game... so here: Thank you, Urban Meyer, for continually giving Auburn some of it's most memorable victories in the modern era. Now that we're all square, this might be another game in which the scoreboard operator shouldn't take a bathroom break. Both teams feature superstar quarterbacks, and better than average players at the skill positions. Ohio State is led by Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde, while Clemson relies on Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammie Watkins to inflict their damage. For my money, though, the real story here is the matchup between two head coaches that are stand-up guys and totally likable.