NCAA Football

Power Ranking BCS Teams Heading Into Bowl Season

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Power Ranking BCS Teams Heading Into Bowl Season

bcs trophy
John David Mercer - USA TODAY Sports

The BCS bowls have been set following an exciting finish to the 2013 season. While there were a few mild surprises in the selection process (like No. 10 Oregon Ducks being passed over), the selection committees made some great matchups that will be must-see television this January.Some teams, however, have shown themselves to be at a totally different level heading into the bowl season.

The BCS National Championship game pits two teams that few would argue have separated themselves as the best in the nation. The Florida State Seminoles rolled through their schedule with little opposition to make it to the title game and will be going up against the Auburn Tigers who completed one of the most dramatic turnarounds in college football history this season. The Tigers are on a "run of destiny" to the title game and will have their shot to win it all in Pasadena this January.

There are plenty of intriguing matchups in the other bowl games as well. In the 100th Rose Bowl Game, played on the same field as the BCS National Championship, the Stanford Cardinal go for their second straight Rose Bowl win as they match up with the defensively stout Michigan State Spartans. The pair of old-school style powers will go toe-to-toe in what should be one of the most physical matchups of this bowl season.

Meanwhile, the other conference champions in the BCS this season square off in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl when the Baylor Bears take on the Central Florida Knights. It's a matchup of first-time BCS participants as Baylor won their first outright Big 12 title and UCF shocked the world in winning the AAC out from under the Louisville Cardinals. Both will hope to take advantage of their first (and last) opportunity to make an impact in the BCS.

In the other two bowls, at-large bids square off with the Oklahoma Sooners and Alabama Crimson Tide squaring off in the Allstate Sugar Bowl while the Clemson Tigers and Ohio State Buckeyes face each other in the Discover Orange Bowl. Alabama and Ohio State were in position to play for the BCS National Championship but slipped up late in the season and will be looking to bounce back with strong BCS performances.

But of the ten teams in the BCS bowls, who comes in as the strongest? Let's break down the power rankings of the BCS teams heading into the bowl season.

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10. Central Florida Knights (11-1)

blake bortles
Jim Cowsert - USA TODAY Sports

UCF took advantage of their first season in an AQ conference by running the table and winning the AAC outright. Blake Bortles has led the Knights through some hairy games this season and were a late rally by the South Carolina Gamecocks away from securing a perfect record. Their season was highlighted by their road upset over the Louisville Cardinals which put them in the driver's seat of the AAC, a position that they did not give up the rest of the way. Their lack of experience against major competition, however, puts them at a disadvantage heading into a tough matchup against a high-powered Baylor team in the Fiesta Bowl.

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9. Oklahoma Sooners (10-2)

jalen saunders
Richard Rowe - USA TODAY Sports

Coming into the final week of the season, Oklahoma was not in a position to make the BCS this season but played their way in thanks to a win over the Oklahoma State Cowboys in Bedlam. They jumped up to No. 11 in the final BCS standings and earned one of the at-large bids to a major bowl game. They have a pair of ugly losses this season, including a blowout at the hands of Big 12 champion Baylor, and have had some inconsistency under center. Their up-and-down production makes them a risky pick against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl this January.

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8. Clemson Tigers (10-2)

roderick mcdowell
Jeff Blake - USA TODAY Sports

Clemson came into the season with high hopes of breaking into the national title conversation. They had their opportunity for a statement win at home against FSU but got blown out instead. Another loss at the end of the season against South Carolina put the Tigers' chances of a BCS bid in jeopardy but they were ultimately able to hold on to the No. 12 spot in the BCS standings. Their two losses came against the best two teams on their schedule making the Orange Bowl against Ohio State their last chance to beat an elite opponent.

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7. Stanford Cardinal (11-2)

david shaw
Mark J. Rebilas - USA TODAY Sports

Stanford defended their Pac-12 championship and earned an opportunity to win another Rose Bowl trophy this season. The Cardinal have a strong identity as a physical team that can impose their will on their opponent but have lost track of that identity at times this season (leading to their pair of losses). That identity will be tested by Michigan State who has the ability to match up with Stanford in what will likely be the most physical slug-fest of any BCS game this postseason.

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6. Baylor Bears (11-1)

baylor bears
Jerome Miron - USA TODAY Sports

Art Briles has built a football program up in Waco and led Baylor to their first outright Big 12 title. Their reward is a favorable matchup against UCF in the Fiesta Bowl where they should be able to get their offense up and running to full speed. If they can, they might just have the most impressive offensive performance of any team this postseason and on one of the biggest stages. Is this the start of a football renaissance for the Bears?

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5. Ohio State Buckeyes (12-1)

ohio state
Brian Spurlock - USA TODAY Sports

After winning 24-straight games to start the tenure of Urban Meyer, Ohio State was in a position to punch their ticket to the BCS National Championship. They failed to seal the deal, however, against Michigan State in the Big Ten title game and will have to settle for an at-large bid to the Orange Bowl. The Buckeyes were one of the best offensive teams in the country this season and will be hoping for a bounce-back performance against Clemson.

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4. Michigan State Spartans (12-1)

michigan state
Andrew Weber - USA TODAY Sports

No elite team has flown under the radar this season quite like Michigan State. The Spartans have been one of the toughest defensive teams in the country and rode that defense all the way to the Big Ten title and a trip to the Rose Bowl. Mark Dantonio has a winning formula going into the bowl season that has carried the Spartans all the way to Pasadena where they will put that formula to the test against a tough Stanford squad.

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3. Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1)

aj mccarron
John David Mercer - USA TODAY Sports

The two-time defeding national champions won't get the opportunity to defend their crown this season after Alabama lost in spectacular fashion in the Iron Bowl. They had to sit and watch Auburn play for and win the SEC title as they came just short of making it back to the BCS National Championship as the No. 3 team in the final BCS standings. Nick Saban must regroup his team and get them focused on their Sugar Bowl matchup against Oklahoma to finish the season strong.

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2. Auburn Tigers (12-1)

auburn tigers
John David Mercer - USA TODAY Sports

Just one season removed from a winless SEC season in 2012, Auburn has completed a remarkable turnaround this year to win the SEC title and qualify for the BCS National Championship. Gus Malzahn has unlocked the potential of this Tiger team and has them on the precipice of extending the SEC national title streak to eight straight while also keeping the BCS National Championship in the state of Alabama for a fifth straight season.

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1. Florida State Seminoles (13-0)

jameis winston
Bob Donnan - USA TODAY Sports

Nobody has been as dominant in 2013 as the Florida State Seminoles. They have been winning their games by an average of more than 40 points on their way to an ACC title and perfect 13-0 record. Jameis Winston has returned FSU to the top of the college football world and is poised to walk away with the Heisman Trophy next week in a walk. Can Winston and the Noles ride that wave of dominance right through the BCS and walk away with the final BCS National Championship?