Running back Tyler Gaffney (1,618 rushing yards) and quarterback Kevin Hogan (Gonzaga) have helped Stanford to the Rose Bowl for the second consecutive season. The Cardinal face Michigan State, which is in the game for the first time since 1987. (Danny Moloshok/AP)

★ ★

Rose Bowl

No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 5 Stanford

When: 5 p.m.

The Spartans are back in the Grandaddy of Them All for the first time since 1987 and have ascended to their highest ranking since 1967. The Cardinal, meanwhile, is in Pasadena for the second straight season. Suffice to say, Michigan State and its fans might be a bit more excited, and Spartans Athletic Director Mark Hollis estimated that there could be 50,000 Spartans fans in the stands. Under heralded coordinator Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State’s defense has been simply dominant this season, leading the nation in yards allowed per game (248.2) and ranking fourth in points allowed per game (12.7). In six games, the Spartans did not allow a touchdown. Stanford’s power running attack — the Cardinal has averaged 234.2 rushing yards per game over its past five — should pose a challenge, however, with quarterback Kevin Hogan (Gonzaga) handing off the ball to Tyler Gaffney (1,618 rushing yards, 20 touchdowns this season).

Verdict: Must-see TV

Capital One Bowl

No. 8 South Carolina vs. No. 19 Wisconsin

When: 1 p.m.


Expect a healthy amount of carries from both teams. Gamecocks running back Mike Davis was the SEC’s fourth-leading rusher, and quarterback Connor Shaw was second on the team in rushing while also throwing just one interception this season. The Badgers feature a pair of top-flight running backs in Melvin Gordon (122.2 yards per game, 13th nationally) and James White (111.4 yards per game, 17th nationally). Gordon is averaging 8.1 yards per carry, tops in the nation among running backs with at least 105 attempts.

Verdict: Worth watching

Outback Bowl

No. 14 LSU vs. Iowa

When: 1 p.m.


It’s a study in contrasts, as Tigers Coach Les Miles (who never met a fake punt he didn’t like) matches wits with Hawkeyes Coach Kirk Ferentz (who never met a punt he didn’t like, even in opponent’s territory). The Tigers will start freshman Anthony Jennings at quarterback after Zach Mettenberger — the nation’s No. 3 quarterback in terms of passer rating — suffered a season-ending injury against Arkansas on Nov. 29. Jennings will go up against an Iowa defense that ranked seventh nationally (303.2 yards allowed per game).

Verdict: Worth watching

Gator Bowl

No. 23 Georgia vs. Nebraska

When: noon.


The Bulldogs and Cornhuskers meet in a New Year’s Day bowl game for the second straight year, so get excited. Neither team will have its starting quarterback from a year ago: Georgia’s Aaron Murray tore his ACL against Kentucky on Nov. 23 and Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez never truly got over the foot injury he suffered against UCLA on Sept. 14.

Verdict: Watch with one eye open

Fiesta Bowl

No. 6 Baylor vs. No. 15 Central Florida

When: 8:30 p.m. TV: ESPN.

Bears quarterback Bryce Petty (30 touchdown passes, two interceptions) and Knights quarterback Black Bortles (22 touchdown passes, seven interceptions) will share the spotlight. Central Florida advanced to its first BCS game by virtue of its American Athletic Conference title, though its late-season results do not inspire much confidence. The Knights defeated Temple, South Florida and SMU — teams with a combined 9-27 record — by a combined 10 points.

Verdict: Watch with one eye open

Heart of Dallas Bowl

UNLV vs. North Texas

When: noon.


The Rebels are making their first bowl appearance since 2000. The Mean Green is making its first since 2004. Why is this game on New Year’s Day?

Verdict: Stick to Christmas clean-up

— Matt Bonesteel