Kansas State versus Oregon could very well devolve into a video game before halftime, so how will the defenses respond? And what about Notre Dame-Alabama, which could be one of the lowest-scoring national title games in history? Will anyone actually score some points?
Here is a detailed breakdown of the four most important bowl games remaining.
The national title bout is a pairing of heavyweights: No two teams are more physical on both sides of the ball. 'Bama, with the power and speed of Eddie Lacy and freakish frosh T.J. Yeldon's running attack, will establish its rushing game early, and will then try and go deep with big-armed quarterback A.J. McCarron, who is absolutely lethal on play action. Notre Dame's Manti Te'o gets most of the hype on the top-ranked Irish defense, but DE Stephon Tuitt has been nothing sort of sensational. His ability to get after and pressure McCarron may very well determine whether or not Notre Dame can pull an upset. The Tide, who rank just behind Notre Dame in total defensive efficiency, will turn to stellar cornerback Dee Milliner on the perimeter and as an exotic blitzer to confuse freshman QB Everett Golson. Milliner, a surefire first-round draft pick at this point, has very good cover skills and terrific zone ability. There is also the matter of fellow All-American C.J. Mosley, a linebacker who goes sideline to sideline better than just about anyone. But Golson has done a marvelous job of making sound decisions and has become a great downfield threat as a thrower and runner. His numbers (16 total TDs, 5 INTs) won't wow you, but he's become more efficient and smarter throughout the course of the season.
Recently crowned Heisman winner, Johnny Manziel, faces OU senior Landry Jones, who has had a brilliant career statistically, but has yet to win a monumental game. Sooners head coach Bob Stoops would surely prefer to be playing in the BCS, but it's his defense, not merely Jones, who has struggled this season. Normally stout, it has gone through some brutal stretches this season against athletic, fast-paced offenses, a la Manziel and A&M, thanks in large part to a dearth of talent on its defensive line and at linebacker. During a three-week period against Baylor, West Virginia and Oklahoma State, Oklahoma allowed 34, 49 and 48 points, respectively. Manziel, who has become hyper-efficient and almost surgeon-like at the line pre-snap, is averaging an insane 383.3 yards per game. If Stoops and company elect to blitz him, he will burn them, but too much time without a pass rush leaves them vulnerable as well.
Two of college football's more robust and dominant defenses (sorry, Steve Spurrier) battle in what should be a terrific clash between SEC and Big 10. South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney, a consensus All-American and the premier DE in America, is a nightmarish pass rusher and is improving as a run stopper. Michigan, with its two-headed quarterback combo of Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner, features an inconsistent passing game that especially struggles when Robinson takes the snaps. Clowney's ability to get to them will determine the outcome, as will the Gamecocks' rushing attack, which has taken a severe hit since losing Heisman hopeful Marcus Lattimore. Michigan has yet to surrender 200 yards passing all year, and with chronically injured quarterback Connor Shaw, USC remains a work in progress in getting yards through the air.
Expect a shootout when Oregon freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota, who totaled 30 touchdowns this season, faces off against K-State's Collin Klein, the third-place finisher in Heisman voting. Both guys are terrifying dual threats who can really score and run. Klein, the senior, is more polished as a decision maker, but Mariota -- who has more yards through the air -- is a surprisingly good passer and highly explosive when he tucks and runs. Both defenses, to be sure, will have their hands full. Oregon leads the nation in takeaways but is prone to giving up long drives, and a quarterback like Klein could lull them asleep (50 percent on third-downs). K-State, while not as talented a unit, ranks a solid 24th in the nation in points allowed, despite playing as fast as it does. Something must give.