Rose Bowl Game Presented By Northwestern Mutual: Oregon Ducks vs. Florida State Seminoles




Season highlight: Winning the Pac-12 championship. The Ducks' 38-point win against Arizona made up for the fact the Wildcats gave the Ducks their only blemish of the season. But when you come back and absolutely dominate that opponent in the most important game of the season, those wounds seem to heal pretty quickly. Quarterback Marcus Mariota had more than one Heisman moment and finished the day with three rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns.

Season lowlight: That Oct. 2 loss to Arizona. The Ducks could've been undefeated had they not laid an egg against the Wildcats in their first encounter. The Ducks' defense looked confused and scatterbrained, giving up 495 yards of offense and letting redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon and freshman running back Nick Wilson look like All-Americans.

Player to watch: Mariota. He's not just the player to watch for Oregon or the Pac-12. He's the player to watch nationally as the front-runner for the Heisman (and folks who say otherwise probably haven't spent enough time -- or any time -- watching him play). This season he has thrown 38 touchdowns while being picked off just two times. Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty is the only QB who has thrown more touchdown passes, with 44. But he also has eight more interceptions than Mariota. There's no quarterback more efficient in college football right now.

Motivation factor: This is the season. The Ducks almost have it all -- including the big names, and their flashy style -- but what they don't have is a national title. And in the first year of the College Football Playoff, it's within their reach. The chances Mariota returns next year are similar to that of an iceberg's chances in Hades. He's surrounded by huge playmakers on offense and a defense that has made major strides in the second half of the season. This roster has the talent to win a national title, and if Oregon wants a chance at glory anytime soon, this seems to be the season.

-- Chantel Jennings



Season highlights: It begins with the fact that the Seminoles were the only team to finish the regular season undefeated, and they did it with three nonconference games against Power 5 opponents. While FSU had to sweat out nearly all of its victories, the Seminoles received every team's best shot. Their ACC season was littered with come-from-behind wins and it began with an overtime win against Clemson without quarterback Jameis Winston. After he returned to the lineup, Winston orchestrated game-winning fourth-quarter drives against Notre Dame, Louisville, Miami and Boston College -- all of which came over a five-game period.

Season lowlights: With an undefeated record, all of the lowlights came off the field. Winston was suspended for screaming a sexually charged phrase near the hub of the campus. Karlos Williams was investigated for assaulting his live-in ex-girlfriend, who was pregnant with the couple's second child. And the ruling from Winston's student code of conduct hearing should come down soon. The other lowlights came every Tuesday after the midway point of the season. Each week the College Football Playoff rankings were released, the Seminoles walked away from the television feeling slighted.

Player to watch: The player to watch is Winston any time he is on the field. Although the reigning Heisman Trophy winner didn't match the numbers from his redshirt freshman season, he rose to the occasion every time the Seminoles needed him. No matter the deficit, and Florida State has seen many this season, it's foolish to count out Winston. What's also worth watching is whether Winston has the opportunity to play in the remainder of the postseason. The code of conduct decision is still pending and could jeopardize his eligibility.

Motivation factor: Florida State has become a polarizing program over the past 13 months with Winston's transgressions, coach Jimbo Fisher's public defense of Winston and the selection committee's opinion of a team on a 29-game winning streak. That has generated the popular us-against-the-world mentality in the FSU locker room. That's been the source of motivation much of the season for the Seminoles. On top of that, the team is chasing history. Never has Florida State posted back-to-back undefeated seasons or national championships. It can do both.

-- Jared Shanker