2014-2015 Bowl Mania: Day 8, 9 and 10 Recap

January 2, 2015

I told you that I’d have a difficult time keeping up with all the bowl games. The New Year’s festivities prevented me from covering a few of the days on time. So instead of breaking them up into separate posts that most people probably won’t read anyway, I decided to consolidate the recaps for December 30, 31 and January 1.

For those of you interested, I plan on posting some more in-depth analysis of the two playoff games. Considering the general location of the vast majority of my readers, I suspect there is interest.

Let’s take a second look at the bowl games played on December 30th through New Year’s Day.

Game Analysis

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl – Dec. 30

Result: Notre Dame 31, LSU 28

You wouldn’t have expected that both teams wanted to be playing in chilly Nashville over the holidays, but both teams played with intensity in this one. Notre Dame was wholly impressive on offense, creating lanes for three different running backs to eclipse the 75-yard rushing mark in the game. The Tigers also got a great performance out of freshman back Leonard Fournette, but couldn’t do enough in the passing game to break away from the Fighting Irish.

A clutch 32-yard field goal by Kyle Brindza put Notre Dame ahead as time expired, and by the celebration on the field you would have guessed that the Fighting Irish had won a much bigger bowl game.

Belk Bowl – Dec. 30

Result: Georgia 37, Louisville 14

After LSU started off the day with a loss for the SEC, Georgia cleaned up in Charlotte against the Cardinals. The Bulldogs were not at all bothered by Louisville’s run defense, gashing the Cardinals for 305 yards on the ground. Georgia also made a statement heading into next year as a potential playoff contender, with freshman Nick Chubb leading the way with 266 yards rushing and two touchdowns. This offensive performance was even more impressive considering the fact that Bulldogs quarterback Hutson Mason went down with an injury in the second quarter.

Offensively, the Cardinals were hurt by a combination of turnovers and the inability to mix things up with the running game.

Foster Farms Bowl – Dec. 30

Result: Stanford 45, Maryland 21

This one wasn’t as close as the final score would suggest. Maryland wasn’t able to stop the Cardinal rushing or passing attack en route to Stanford building a 42-7 lead. David Shaw’s team appeared to approach this bowl game as a business trip (although hardly a trip from Palo Alto) and took care of the Terrapins in every aspect of the game except turnover margin.

This was perhaps the least exciting bowl game of the season.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl – Dec. 31

Result: TCU 42, Mississippi 3

TCU made its case to the nation – and the CFB Playoff Committee – for why it should not have been left out of the group of four this season. The Horned Frogs were so much better than the Rebels in this one it was funny. Ole Miss had no answer for the powerful TCU offense and Bad Bo was forced into countless mistakes early by Gary Patterson’s defense. The Big 12 co-champions deserved every bit of this victory, and for those outside of SEC country this was fun to watch.

If there wasn’t a reason to at least consider expanding the playoff before this game, the Horned Frogs certainly gave college football one.

Vizio Fiesta Bowl – Dec. 31

Result: Boise State 38, Arizona 30

It took another statue and liberty play for a touchdown and an early lead for the Broncos, but once again Boise State shocked the country in the Scottsdale desert. Bryan Harsin’s team was impressive in the first half offensively, jumping out to a 21-0 lead on the Wildcats. Arizona slowly but surely chipped away at that lead, eventually cutting the lead to a touchdown by the middle of the fourth quarter. It came down to the final possession where Boise State’s defense came up huge, sacking Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon on the Broncos’ eight yard line as the clock expired.

Say what you want about Boise State being the little guy, but the Broncos are now 3-0 in the Fiesta Bowl and have more wins over the past decade than any other program.

Capital One Orange Bowl – Dec. 31

Result: Georgia Tech 49, Mississippi State 34

As good of a day as it was for the schools in the state of Georgia, it was equally bad for those in the state of Mississippi. Dak Prescott finished the season with a performance that resembled his first half of the year, but it still wasn’t enough for the Bulldogs to be competitive in this one. Mississippi State actually outgained the Yellow Jackets offensively, but the 452 yards on the ground that Georgia Tech accumulated were more than enough to seal this one. Big plays were the undoing of a Mississippi State defense that struggled in that area all season.

Had Paul Johnson’s team not been resilient, Mississippi State might have been able to make this one a close game at the end. But every time the Bulldogs looked to close the gap, Georgia Tech slammed the door shut.

Outback Bowl – Jan. 1

Result: Wisconsin 34, Auburn 31 (OT)

The Badgers redeemed themselves after the embarrassing Big Ten title game. Melvin Gordon tore apart the Auburn defense for 251 yards rushing and three touchdowns, coming just 41-yards shy of the NCAA record for most rushing yards in a single season. This game was back and forth for its entirety, needing overtime to settle things. In the extra time, Wisconsin’s defense came up big with a stop that allowed Brazilian kicker Rafael Gaglianone to put through the 25-yard game winner.

The bowl win was also redemption for interim coach Barry Alvarez, who lost in the Rose Bowl the last time he took over the head coaching duties for the Badgers in 2011.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl – Jan. 1

Result: Michigan State 42, Baylor 41

Talk about a comeback. After a Connor Cook interception with 2:44 to play in the third quarter, the Spartans trailed the Bears by 20 points and were about to go down by at least another three points. But a missed field goal by Baylor turned into a string of touchdowns evenly spaced out by Michigan State in the fourth quarter. The Spartans scored 21 unanswered points to take a one point lead with just 27 seconds remaining – capping off one of the most unlikely comebacks of the bowl season.

Baylor was looking to make a statement similar to that of TCU, but the Spartans weren’t having any of it. The victory is the fourth straight for Michigan State in a bowl game.

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl – Jan. 1

Result: Missouri 33, Minnesota 17

The Golden Gophers were looking to snap a six game bowl losing streak, but it was not to be against the SEC East champions. Missouri didn’t have much going on in the passing game, but the rushing attack was there to pick up the slack. Both Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough rushed for over 100 yards and on the defensive end the Tigers held David Cobb to just 81 yards on the ground. Despite Mitch Leidner winning the quarterback battle handily, Minnesota was unable to punch the ball in for a score late in the fourth quarter.

Missouri may have looked bad in the SEC title game, but the victory by the Tigers elevated the East side of the conference to 3-0 in the bowl season.

Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual – Jan. 1

Result: Oregon 59, Florida State 20

The first ever playoff game in the FBS division didn’t exactly provide the late game excitement that we would see later in the evening. Oregon dominated Florida State in the second half, letting Marcus Mariota take over and direct the up tempo offense that has made the Ducks so difficult to stop. Jameis Winston didn’t have the best performance of his career, but to say that he did not play well isn’t accurate. The fact is that the Ducks were just better, something that many fans figured before the game even began.

Oregon’s defense will have quite a challenge in the national title game, but the pace on offense is what makes this team so dangerous.

Allstate Sugar Bowl – Jan. 1

Result: Ohio State 42, Alabama 35

What’s the matter, sweetheart? The Buckeyes provided the final blow that sent the seemingly impenetrable SEC wall crashing to the ground. The SEC speed was not a factor in this one, as Ohio State proved to the nation that its athletes are just as quick as anything that Alabama had at its expense. The Crimson Tide were unable to disrupt Cardale Jones effectively, and the third string quarterback for the Buckeyes did exactly what he did in the Big Ten title game: let his receivers make plays.

Although the Buckeyes only won by seven points, this is a team that was good enough to win by more. Nick Saban knew it and those watching the game as objectively as possible knew it. Now Ohio State will need to prepare itself for an up tempo attack that is unmatched in college football.

Conference Trends

Stock Up – Big Ten Conference

It’s been awhile since the Big Ten has received much praise during the bowl season, but the conference has to be commended for its 2014-2015 performance. A 5-3 overall record is supported by a 3-1 record on New Year’s Day, including victories over Auburn, Alabama and Baylor. At this point only Ohio State has elevated itself to the level of the SEC teams in terms of speed, but things appear to be headed in the right direction for the conference as a whole.

Most fans outside of SEC country took part in the roast of the kings of college football, but the Big Ten did the brunt of the work yesterday.

Stock Down – Southeastern Conference

They say that big trees fall hard. Well, such is the case with the SEC, which didn’t do itself any favors over the past decade by establishing an air of invincibility. Particularly bad this bowl season was the SEC West, which went a cringe-worthy 1-5 in its games. Granted, several of the opponents in those games were very solid football teams. But when you proclaim to be the best, you’re expected to beat the best.

Make no doubt about it, the dominance that the conference displayed over the past decade cannot be erased with one poor bowl season. But this performance could prove to be a shift in the landscape of college football. No longer are teams outside of the southeastern United States not capable of hanging with teams in the SEC. This is good for college football.

Top Individual Performances

Nick Chubb, Georgia running back

Todd who? The freshman running back has Georgia fans giddy about next season despite losing Todd Gurley. Chubb destroyed the Louisville defense for 266 yards on 33 carries, giving the Cardinals fits all game long. This is the second time this season that Chubb eclipsed the 200 yard mark and the performance also preserved a streak of eight straight games of at least 100 yards rushing.

Without Gurley to start the game and an injury to quarterback Hutson Mason in the second quarter, the Bulldogs really needed Chubb to step up in the Belk Bowl. He didn’t just step up, he took complete control of this game and was the main reason Georgia didn’t have much trouble with Louisville.

Synjyn Days, Georgia Tech running back

The Orange Bowl was a back and forth game in which Dak Prescott threw for over 400 yards, but Days helped his team get the win. His 171 yards on 21 carries aren’t insane numbers for a back in the triple option, but his three touchdowns were part of an impressive six overall for the Yellow Jackets on the ground.

Additionally, Days was one of two backs for Georgia Tech who rushed for over 120 yards in the game.

Ezekiel Elliot, Ohio State running back

Elliot was a monster for the Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl, setting a bowl record for rushing yards with 230 on the night. It’s the first time since Cadillac Williams did it in 2004 that a running back has run for at least 200 yards on the Alabama defense. Not only was Elliot strong enough to break through the arm tackles, but he was quick enough to run away from the defensive secondary as well. The most obvious example of this was the 85-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter that put the game out of reach for the Crimson Tide.

Elliot will be a extremely important to the Ohio State offense against Oregon next week, so hopefully he left enough in the tank for that game as well.

– K. Becks

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