For college football fans, there is no better time of year than bowl season. Every year there are upsets, blowouts, incredible individual performances and all-around the best football of the season.
However, this year was like no other in the BCS era. Besides the National Championship, every BCS Bowl matchup resulted in an upset, but even that game was a near upset before Heisman Trophy Winner Jameis Winston led the Florida State Seminoles on a game-winning drive in the game’s waning moments.
Starting with the Rose Bowl, the Stanford Cardinals began the game as 6 ½ point favorites over the Michigan State Spartans. Many experts expected Stanford to grind this game out behind running back Taylor Gaffney and a stout front seven, but the Spartans were able to beat them at their own game.
After a fast start for the Cardinal running game, the Spartans defense held the Stanford offense in check and only allowed 71 rushing yards for the last three quarters which is an amazing accomplishment against Stanford. The Spartans won the time of possession battle and cranked out ten more first downs than their counterpart en route to a 24-20 win in “The Granddaddy of Them All.”
Then there was the game that had upset written all over it. The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl featured 17-point favorite Baylor and the team nobody saw coming, UCF. With Baylor getting trampled by Oklahoma State in late November which ended their National Championship hopes, and UCF riding an eight-game winning streak after a heartbreaking loss to a more than solid South Carolina team, I was shocked when Baylor was announced as a three-score favorite.
UCF let Baylor know very early on that they were not going to roll as they raced out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Baylor was able to make it a game, but UCF quarterback Blake Bortles proved why he is a potential top-5 pick in April’s NFL Draft. He accounted for 394 yards and four touchdowns and was able to carve up the Baylor Bears’ defense time and time again as UCF more than covered the spread, winning 52-42.
Nobody gave Oklahoma a chance in the Allstate Sugar Bowl because their offense had been anemic for nearly the entire season and they were facing the daunting Alabama defense. Alabama was favored to win by 16 against Oklahoma, but Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight showed the nation why the game is played on the field rather than on paper.
Knight made tearing the hearts out of Alabama fans look easy as he completed 32 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns. Pass rusher Eric Striker sealed the game in the final minute by sacking and stripping Alabama’s A.J. McCarron. Oklahoma’s Geneo Grissom scooped and scored the fumble to give the Sooners a 45-31 victory.
Though Ohio State was favored by three points, Clemson’s Sammy Watkins stole the show to produce the fourth upset in BCS Bowl Games. The Discover Orange Bowl was the most entertaining game of the bowl season with the score see-sawing in each team’s favor throughout the game.
This game came down to which star was going to take over which Watkins did, hauling in 16 receptions for 227 yards and two touchdowns. If Ohio State’s Braxton Miller was anywhere near even 80 percent healthy, this game could have been totally different in the second half, but Clemson was able to pull the upset, 40-35.
The biggest takeaway from the BCS Bowl Games is that the SEC is no longer the unquestioned powerhouse conference in the country. Their streak of seven straight National Championships ended this year and both SEC teams that made BCS Bowl Games lost to ACC schools.
While the BCS has been an imperfect system since day one of its existence, it has produced some of the most entertaining games in college football history. The BCS will give way to the College Football Playoff next season which will finally give college football fans what they have been begging for since they realized how bad the BCS system was.
My way too early prediction for the playoff has Florida State, Auburn, Michigan State and UCLA making the final four. UCLA will upset Florida State to play Auburn in the National Championship, but they will not have enough firepower to keep up with Auburn. Auburn will beat UCLA 45-41 in an instant classic.