Well, New Year's Day 2015 has finally arrived and, with it, a new day in determining college football's top team for the 2014 season.
Both the Rose and Sugar Bowls will act as semifinal stages for Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, and Ohio State, as they try to reach the inaugural College Football Playoff national championship game on January 12 at the home of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys – AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. There are three other bowl games that will be contested on Thursday, beginning with the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
A longtime member of the year-end bowl rotation is the Cotton Bowl Classic, which was played in Dallas for many years. This year, that game will also be played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic features two teams who were in the national championship picture for much of the season. Baylor University, ranked fifth in the final College Football Playoff (CFP) poll, will meet eighth-ranked Michigan State. You can watch the Cotton Bowl Classic on ESPN, beginning at 12:30 p.m. Eastern.
Those three early games will be the appetizers for the final two games of New Year's Day. First, the Rose Bowl will have Oregon, ranked second in the CFP poll, meeting No. 3 and defending national champion Florida State in Pasadena, California.
This game features the most recent Heisman Trophy winners – 2013 recipient Jameis Winston of the Seminoles and 2014 winner Marcus Mariota of the Ducks. Both quarterbacks can throw the football, but are also dangerous when running with it.
You can watch Florida State-Oregon in the Rose Bowl on ESPN, beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern time.
Both head coaches – The Crimson Tide's Nick Saban and Urban Meyer of the Buckeyes – have been here before. Saban has led teams at both LSU and Alabama to national championships. Meyer was the head coach of two national championship teams at Florida.
Just like the Rose Bowl's two Heisman Trophy quarterbacks, the Sugar Bowl will come down to quarterback play. Blake Sims has led Alabama all year long, throwing and occasionally running the football effectively. Meanwhile, Ohio State is down to its third option at signal caller. Returning starter Braxton Miller was injured in preseason practice and was replaced by freshman J.T. Barrett, who steadily improved as the season went on. Barrett was injured playing against Michigan in late November. Cardale Jones stepped in for Barrett and led the Buckeyes in an MVP performance to a Big Ten Conference championship over Wisconsin.
The Sugar Bowl, between Alabama and Ohio State, can be seen on ESPN, beginning at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Thursday.