Final Report Card for Every Single College Football Bowl Team

Tom PerryCorrespondent IJanuary 11, 2012

Final Report Card for Every Single College Football Bowl Team

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    Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon has plenty of reasons to be smiling.

    Blackmon and his Cowboys enjoyed the greatest season in school history and won the Fiesta Bowl.

    But one mishap at Iowa State cost the Cowboys a shot at the big time.

    Every team that reached a bowl this season had those special moments...and some not so special moments.

    And with 70 teams playing in a bowl, not everyone deserves a good grade just for making the postseason. Let's take a look at how every bowl team grades out for the season.

Temple

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    Steve Addazio is now the face of Temple football.

    While Al Golden resurrected the Owls program, Addazio put his stamp on it this season.

    Running back Bernard Pierce had a huge season, including 27 touchdowns. He will be missed as he heads off early to the NFL.

    Chris Coyer also stepped up as the quarterback of the future, and should play a bigger role in 2012.

    Temple finished 9-4 and beat Wyoming 37-15 in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.

    Grade: A

Wyoming

2 of 70

    The Cowboys didn't close the season strong, losing two of their final three, but getting back to a bowl game in 2011 was a major improvement.

    One year after going 3-9 and finishing last in the Mountain West Conference, Wyoming bounced back to go 8-5.

    The Cowboys big wins came against San Diego State and Air Force.

    Wyoming should be set at quarterback for the next three seasons with Brett Smith, who threw 20 touchdown passes. He also rushed for 10 scores.

    Grade: B

Ohio

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    Frank Solich has built Ohio into a consistent contender in the Mid-American Conference, and finished the regular season 9-4 and won the East Division.

    However, the Bobcats can't seem to find the formula to win the conference championship.

    Ohio did earn its first bowl victory in school history by edging Utah State 24-23 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

    The Bobcats had a balanced offensive attack with running back Donte Harden and quarterback Tyler Tettleton.

    Solich also had one of his best defenses since arriving in Athens.

    Grade: A-

Utah State

4 of 70

    Utah State almost began the season with the biggest upset in school history, but defending champion Auburn rallied for a win.

    Freshman quarterback Chuckie Keeton was having a great season statistically until a neck injury against Hawaii.

    Keeton was 3-5 as a starter, but he's still the future for the Aggies as he may become a dual-threat quarterback in the mold of former Nevada star Colin Kaepernick.

    USU closed the season with five straight wins to become bowl eligible and finish second in the Western Athletic Conference.

    Grade: B

San Diego State

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    In the first year of Rocky Long coaching the Aztecs, San Diego State underachieved a bit.

    With star players like quarterback Ryan Lindley and running back Ronnie Hillman back after a strong 2010, expectations were pretty high this year.

    Both players had statistically impressive seasons, but the Aztecs finished fourth in the Mountain West.

    Seniors Mile Burris and Jerome Long led the team in tackles with 77 and 73, respectively.

    The Aztecs weren't really expected to beat Michigan, TCU or Boise State, but they lost to Wyoming and Louisiana-Lafayette in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. Those were both winnable games.

    So instead of going 10-3, the Aztecs finished a disappointing 8-5.

    Grade: C

Louisiana-Lafayette

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    Maybe getting to play a bowl game not too far from campus helped Louisiana-Lafayette, but earning the program's first bowl win is still a major accomplishment.

    The Ragin' Cajuns closed the regular season with losses to Sun Belt Conference champion Arkansas State and at Arizona. So they limped into the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.

    You wouldn't have know that by the way they outplayed San Diego State.

    Lafayette found a running back for the future in freshman Alonzo Harris and junior Blaine Gautier had a breakout season at quarterback.

    Grade: A

Florida International

7 of 70

    Considering how far Florida International has come under Mario Cristobal, it doesn't seem right to say that winning eight games and making a bowl is a down year.

    But expectations were high after last season.

    After opening the season 3-0 with big wins over Louisville and UCF, the Panthers lost to Louisiana-Lafayette and Duke.

    T.Y. Hilton was once again one of the best receivers and return men in the Sun Belt, and he'll be missed in 2012. Quarterback Wesley Carroll had a big senior season.

    Cristobal did find a young running back in Kedrick Rhodes.

    Grade: B

Marshall

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    The second year for coach Doc Holliday had its ups and downs, but the highs were definitely signs Marshall is heading in the right direction.

    With victories over Southern Miss, Louisville and East Carolina, the Thundering Herd became bowl eligible at 6-6.

    Marshall closed the season with a 20-10 upset of Florida International in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl.

    Defensive end Vinny Curry was the team's best player and could be a second- or third-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft.

    Outside of Curry, the Herd are young and talented. Holliday turned the team over to they youngsters to build for the future.

    That future may be 2012.

    Grade: B

TCU

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    TCU began the season ranked and favored against Baylor.

    Instead, that opener was a coming-out party of sorts for Heisman Trophy-winner Robert Griffin III.

    The Horned Frogs were also upset by SMU, but after that Gary Paterson's team found its rhythm and rolled to an 11-2 season and another Mountain West title.

    TCU's biggest win of the season came at Boise State 36-35.

    Casey Pachall developed into a standout quarterback and the defense improved as the season played out for TCU.

    Now it will be fun to see how TCU fares in the Big 12.

    Grade: B

Louisiana Tech

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    After a rough start to the season, Louisiana Tech closed the regular season with seven consecutive wins.

    The Bulldogs also played TCU tough in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.

    In fairness, Tech lost close games against solid competition like Houston, Mississippi State and Southern Mississippi.

    The season turned around once Colby Cameron started playing quarterback. He played the final seven games and completed 117-of-214 passes for 1,649 yards and 13 touchdowns.

    Lennon Creer and Hunter Lee were a solid one-two punch running the ball as the Bulldogs finished 8-5.

    Grade: B

Arizona State

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    The photo of Vontaze Burfict pointing at USC's Matt Barkley is the main highlight for Arizona State.

    The Sun Devils expected to compete for a Pac-12 championship, and after the strong start and a win over the Trojans, it looked like it might happen.

    Then ASU imploded and finished the season 6-6 and lost to Boise State 56-24 in the Maaco Las Vegas Bowl.

    Dennis Erickson was fired and then Arizona State hired the well-traveled Todd Graham.

    Overall, the entire season was a complete failure.

    Grade: F

Boise State

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    Boise State had another 12-win season and Kellen Moore closed out one of the greatest college careers in history.

    But a one-point loss at home to TCU cost the Broncos any shot at playing in a BCS bowl and probably a date with LSU in the BCS National Championship game.

    Chris Petersen's team did open the season with a nice victory over Georgia, who went on to win the SEC East.

    The Broncos dominated every team on the schedule but TCU, and rolled through Arizona State in the Maaco Las Vegas Bowl.

    Grade: B+

Nevada

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    Nevada lost a lot of talent from its Western Athletic Conference championship team, but the Wolf Pack managed to have a solid season.

    After opening the season 1-3, Nevada responded with five straight wins to become bowl eligible.

    Nevada was once again one of the nation's best rushing teams in the nation. Leading the way was Lampford Mark with 911 yards and 10 touchdowns.

    Cody Fajardo and Tyler Lantrip split time at quarterback, but Fajardo should be the starter in 2012.

    Nevada faced Conference USA champ Southern Mississippi in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl and gave the heavily favored Golden Eagles a tough game.

    Grade: C+

Southern Mississippi

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    From the outside looking in it appears Southern Miss had a perfect season.

    Knocking off Houston in the Conference USA championship game and finishing with a 12-2 record was a nice accomplishment for the Golden Eagles.

    Hey, it helped Larry Fedora land the North Carolina job.

    But Southern Miss had two unforgivable losses to Marshall and UAB. So instead of Houston vying for a spot in the BCS it should have been the Golden Eagles.

    Senior quarterback Austin Davis outplayed Case Keenum in the championship game, and finished the season with 3,496 passing yards and 30 touchdowns.

    Grade: A-

Missouri

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    Missouri coach Gary Pinkel disgraced the program when he was suspended following a DUI arrest.

    As for the on-the-field results, it was mixed.

    While the Tigers were never really a serious threat in the Big 12, Missouri did finish 8-5 and had a big win against North Carolina in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl.

    The Tigers had big wins over Texas A&M and Texas.

    Quarterback James Franklin showed signs of becoming a dangerous threat, and that's a good sign as Missouri heads to the SEC.

    Grade: B

North Carolina

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    It was tough year for North Carolina.

    Coach Butch Davis was fired just before the season began and Everett Winters did a fine job of keeping the team together.

    The Tar Heels were a disappointing 3-5 in a weak ACC, including a bad loss to rival North Carolina State.

    Freshman Giovani Bernard returned from an injury to become one of the biggest running back surprises of the season. He finished with 1,253 yards and 13 touchdowns.

    Sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner also flashed some special skills as he finished with 3,086 passing yards.

    New coach Larry Fedora is taking over a team with some talent at the skill positions.

    Grade: C

Western Michigan

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    Western Michigan may have finished 7-6 following a tough loss to Purdue in the Little Caesars Bowl, the Broncos had a good run in 2011.

    WMU knocked off Connecticut and finished the regular season by winning three of its last four.

    Junior quarterback Alex Carder enjoyed another 3,000-yard passing season as the Broncos finished eighth in the nation in passing.

    Sophomore defensive back Johnnie Simon led WMU in tackles with 114 and added two interceptions.

    Grade: C+

Purdue

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    Purdue beat every team it was supposed to and picked up a bonus win by upsetting Ohio State.

    Coach Danny Hope was rewarded with a two-year contract extension, but the expectations are the Boilermakers will get better than 6-6.

    Purdue was deep at running back Ralph Bolden (674 yards), Akeem Shavers (519 yards) and Akeem Hunt (287 yards).

    Caleb TerBush had an average season with 1,904 yards and 13 touchdowns, but he was also picked off six times. Robert Marve also played quarterback in 10 games.

    Grade: C

Louisville

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    It's tough to give Louisville a grade.

    The Cardinals had two horrible losses against Marshall and Florida International, but Charlie Strong still managed to keep the team focused.

    Louisville finished strong and went 5-2 in the Big East to claim a share of the conference championship.

    Freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater got better as the season went along and he has a chance to be the best in the Big East in 2012 (that depends on where West Virginia is playing next year).

    Louisville almost rallied to upset North Carolina State in the Belk Bowl, but fell 31-24.

    Grade: B+

North Carolina State

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    Just when you are ready to write off North Carolina State, the Wolfpack found a way to get a few signature victories.

    The resurgence starts with quarterback Mike Glennon, who finished the season with 3,054 passing yards and 31 touchdowns as N.C. State finished 8-5.

    Considering the season former quarterback Russell Wilson had at Wisconsin, Glennon's performance softened that blow.

    Defensively, David Amerson had a breakout season with 13 interceptions and 59 tackles.

    But if you look at the season as a whole, the Wolfpack should have at least two more wins. The losses to Wake Forest and Boston College are unforgivable.

    Grade: B-

Toledo

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    Toledo's resurgence under Tim Beckman helped land him the Illinois job.

    The Rockets nearly pulled off an upset of Ohio State in Columbus and still finished 9-4.

    Eric Page was one of the nation's most dangerous return men, and a quality receiver.

    Beckman utilized both Austin Dantin and Terrance Owens at quarterback, and each one had good seasons.

    Dantin threw for 1,404 yards and 15 touchdowns in 11 games. Owens was even better in 12 games as he threw for 2,022 yards and 18 touchdowns.

    The offense was balanced with Adonis Thomas chipping in with 1,071 yards and 12 touchdowns.

    Grade: A-

Air Force

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    Air Force won its second straight Commander-in-Chief's Trophy by beating both Army and Navy.

    Finding any other highlights in a 7-6 season for the Falcons is tough.

    Air Force finished 3-4 in Mountain West play and lost a heart breaker to Toledo in the Military Bowl.

    Senior Asher Clark rushed for 1,110 yards and seven touchdowns, while junior Mike DeWitt added 12 touchdowns.

    Quarterback Tim Jefferson Jr. had a solid senior season. He passed for 1,637 yards and 14 touchdowns, while adding 553 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.

    Defensively, Air Force allowed nearly 30 points a game.

    Grade: C

California

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    It's interesting how two teams can have the same record and similar results, but it doesn't always equate to success.

    In California's case, a 7-6 season is actually a nice improvement over 2010 when the Bears went 5-7. There were many who felt Cal would suffer another losing season.

    Instead, the Bears responded with a strong second half.

    After losing a to a bad UCLA team 31-14, Jeff Tedford's team responded by winning three of their last four games. Even the loss was a good showing against highly ranked Stanford 31-28.

    Cal also played Texas well in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl, but fell 21-10.

    Isi Sofele is a burgeoning star at running back and he finished with 1,322 yards and 10 touchdowns.

    The defense was much better this season as well.

    Grade: B

Texas

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    Remember what I said on the previous slide?

    Well, here's a perfect example.

    While Texas improved on last year's 5-7 season, the expectations are much higher for the Longhorns.

    Going 3-4 in Big 12 play just isn't good enough, and 8-5 overall is just OK.

    Texas was young this season and the Longhorns should be better in 2012.

    Grade: C+

Notre Dame

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    For the second consecutive season, Notre Dame went 8-5.

    However, last year's 8-5 ended on a positive note with a a huge bowl. That victory over Miami gave the Irish a lot of confidence coming into 2011.

    So how did Notre Dame respond?

    By opening the season with losses to South Florida and Michigan.

    The Irish also lost to USC, Stanford and to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl.

    Notre Dame's biggest problem all season was turnovers, especially in the Red Zone.

    Brian Kelly will need to fix that problem in his third season.

    Grade: C

Florida State

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    Florida State started the season as a top five program, and with expectations to at least win the ACC.

    There were many who felt if the Seminoles could get past Oklahoma early in the season they could roll right into the BCS National Championship.

    Boy did those plans fall apart quickly.

    It started with a 23-13 loss to Oklahoma, which also included an injury to quarterback E.J. Manuel.

    FSU followed that up with back-to-back 35-30 losses to Clemson and Wake Forest.

    So the ACC and BCS National Championship dreams were over by Oct. 8.

    They did close the season with a 21-7 win over rival Florida and an impressive 18-14 come-from-behind win over Notre Dame.

    Grade: B-

Washington

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    Steve Sarkisian's mentoring of Keith Price as the quarterback of the future this season was a nice development.

    Price finished with 3,063 yards and 33 touchdowns.He even outplayed Heisman winner Robert Griffin III in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

    Price completed 23-of-37 for 438 yards and four touchdowns in that wild 67-56 loss.

    Junior Chris Polk also had a huge season running the ball and he will leave for the NFL. He rushed for 1,488 yards and 12 touchdowns.

    The Huskies issue all season was the defense, which allowed 35.8 points a game. That poor play caused defensive coordinator Nick Holt to get fired after the bowl loss.

    Grade: C

Baylor

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    Baylor went 10-3 and quarterback Robert Griffin III won the school's first Heisman Trophy.

    Art Briles could have won coach of the year honors instead of LSU's Les Miles.

    It was an all-around exceptional season.

    Grade: A+

Brigham Young

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    BYU's first season as a independent equated to more games on national TV, but the results on the field were mixed.

    Bronco Mendenhall benched quarterback Jake Heaps for Riley Nelson because the Heaps was throwing too many interceptions. Nelson is also a better scrambler/runner.

    The Cougars went 10-3, but those three losses came against their best competition. But BYU should be credited for a nice win over Tulsa (24-21) in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl.

    BYU's defense was also stingy in the Red Zone and allowed 20.4 points a game.

    Grade: A-

Tulsa

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    Tulsa faced four top 10 teams this fall and lost to each one, but the Golden Hurricane went 7-1 in Conference USA to finish second in the West.

    Senior quarterback G.J. Kinne had a strong final season. He completed 245-of-388 passes for 3,073 yards and 28 touchdowns. He also added 405 yards on the ground.

    Sophomore running back Ja'Terian Douglas (900 yards) and Trey Watts (881 yards) paced the ground attack.

    When not playing an elite program, Tulsa's defense was actually pretty stout.

    Overall, Tulsa finished 8-5.

    Grade: B-

Rutgers

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    Rutgers rebounded from a horrible 2010 and reached the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, where the Scarlet Knights beat Iowa State 27-13.

    Finishing 9-4 and remaining relevant in the Big East all season was just what Greg Schiano ordered.

    Receiver Mohamed Sanu was once again Rutgers' best player and he's leaving early for the NFL.

    Sanu helped Chas Dodd and Gary Nova each become better quarterbacks. Dodd finished with 1,574 yards and 10 touchdowns, while Nova had 1,553 yards and 11 touchdowns.

    Grade: A-

Iowa State

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    Iowa State had three signature wins this fall, but still finished 6-7.

    It's hard to pick which win was bigger, though. You can rule out the 41-7 win over then No. 20 Texas Tech because the Red Raiders wound up being an imposter.

    Now the 44-41 overtime win over rival Iowa was the biggest at the time, but when the Cyclones hosted undefeated Oklahoma State that all changed.

    The Cowboys needed to finish the season undefeated and they'd be in the BCS National Championship. Only Iowa State would have nothing of it.

    The Cyclones played their best game of the season and won 37-31 in double overtime.

    Grade: B-

Mississippi State

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    Mississippi State hopes things will be looking up in 2012.

    It can't be any worse, right?

    Well, they do play in the SEC West so it's always going to be tough.

    Dan Mullen is a respected coach, but he didn't deliver his best performance this season.

    Grade: C

Wake Forest

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    Wake Forest finished second in the ACC's Atlantic Division at 5-3, but the Demon Deacons were 6-7 overall.

    This just showed how weak the ACC really was in 2011.

    Wake lost to Big East cellar dweller Syracuse.

    Still, any time Wake reaches a bowl game it has to be considered a success.

    Sophomore quarterback Tanner Price continues to develop into a top player.

    Grade: C+

Iowa

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    Expectations were muted a bit at Iowa this year, but when you go back and look at the losses the Hawkeyes suffered there has to be some disappointment.

    Iowa lost to rival Iowa State and a lowly Minnesota team.

    If they win those two (like the Hawkeyes should have) then they would have been 9-4 instead of 7-6.

    Iowa got a bad bowl matchup with preseason No. 1 Oklahoma and the Sooners took out their frustrations in a 31-14 win.

    The Hawkeyes had solid skill players in running back Marcus Coker, receiver Marvin McNutt and quarterback James Vandenberg.

    Grade: C-

Oklahoma

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    When you are the preseason No. 1 team and loaded with talent it's easy to see the expectations are sky high.

    So when you don't win your conference and end up in the Insight Bowl on Dec. 30 it hasn't been a good season.

    The Sooners finished 10-3, but that's not good enough.

    Grade: D

Texas A&M

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    There was not much to smile about in College Station, Texas, this fall.

    Texas A&M is easily the biggest disappointment of 2011 and it cost Mike Sherman his job.

    The Aggies started the season in the top 10 and many felt could win the Big 12.

    Well, a handful of second-half collapses led to a 7-6 finish.

    Grade: F

Northwestern

38 of 70

    Northwestern looked like a team that just couldn't find its groove all year.

    It started with quarterback Dan Persa still recovering from an injury suffered in 2010 and he missed the first three games and played sparingly in the fourth game.

    Pat Fitzgerald still led the Wildcats to a 6-6 season before falling to Texas A&M in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.

    Northwestern is always going to have tough battles since it will never get the top recruits, but 2011 was a missed opportunity as some of the better teams were down.

    Grade: C+

Georgia Tech

39 of 70

    Georgia Tech's season started so promising with six straight wins and it looked like the Yellow Jackets would battle Clemson for the Coastal Division title.

    Then the wheels fell off and Paul Johnson's team lost five of their last seven games.

    However, they did take down Clemson—the eventual ACC champ.

    The Yellow Jackets had one of the nation's best running attacks, and even set a school record with 604 rushing yards against Kansas.

    Finishing the season by allowing Utah to rally for a come-from-behind win in the Hyundai Sun Bowl was a depressing way to end the season.

    Grade: C+

Utah

40 of 70

    Utah's first season in the Pac-12 wasn't a complete disaster, but it sure started off bad.

    It took the Utes until Oct. 29 to get their first conference win over Oregon State.

    Utah, who was considered a favorite to win the Pac-12 South, went 4-5 in conference play and even lost to 2-10 Colorado.

    Kyle Whittingham's team learned that playing a BCS-quality schedule isn't so easy.

    Grade: C

Cincinnati

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    Second-year coach Butch Jones redeemed himself with a 10-win season a share of the Big East championship.

    The Bearcats were in prime position to win the league outright, but West Virginia knocked them off 24-21 and quarterback Zach Collaros was lost for the rest of the regular season.

    Running back Isaiah Pead was voted the conference's offensive player of the year, and he had a strong performance in Cincinnati's 31-24 win over Vanderbilt in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

    Cincinnati's defense also ranked among the best in the nation, including 21st in points allowed at 20.3.

    Grade: A

Vanderbilt

42 of 70

    Vanderbilt finished with a losing record at 6-7, but the impact of first-year coach James Franklin was immense.

    The Commodores entered their bowl game with Cincinnati at 6-6 and played the Big East champs tough.

    Quarterback Jordan Rodgers was benched in the bowl game, but he had a solid season after taking over for Larry Smith.

    It will also be nice to have running back Zac Stacy back in 2012.

    Grade: B

Illinois

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    Illinois had an unbelievable start to the season that resulted in six straight wins.

    Then the bottom fell out and the Fighting Illini lost six straight and Ron Zook was fired.

    Sophomore quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase became the unquestioned leader, but he also had an up-and-down season.

    The defense actually didn't give up many points, but the offense went dormant in the second half of the season.

    Illinois did close with a win by downing UCLA 20-14 in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

    Grade: C-

UCLA

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    It's not often a program qualifies for the conference championship but can't wait to usher its head coach out of town.

    Well, that's what happened with UCLA.

    Alumnus Rick Neuheisel didn't have the right touch with the Bruins, and he never notched a win against rival USC.

    The Bruins went 6-6 and then lost to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game and to Illinois in a bowl.

    Overall, it was an ugly season.

    Grade: D

Virginia

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    Even though Virginia ended the season with two blowout losses, it doesn't detract from the great work of Mike London.

    He took over a Virginia program that was in dismal shape following the Al Groh era, but London got the Commodores to eight wins in just his second season.

    There's still a lot of work do, which is obvious by the 38-0 loss to Virginia Tech. Then the Cavaliers rolled into the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Auburn and couldn't hang with the Tigers.

    Michael Rocco had a breakout season at quarterback.

    Grade: B+

Auburn

46 of 70

    Most Auburn fans knew the Tigers were not going to be anything like the team that won the BCS National Championship last season.

    Auburn was young and had some big shoes to fill.

    However, you could see this team mature throughout the year, and it culminated with an impressive showing in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

    Michael Dyer was once again the leading rusher, but he was suspended for the bowl and has since been given his release to look for a new school.

    Auburn's defense will need to improve a great deal if Gene Chizik wants the Tigers to be competitive with the best in the SEC.

    Grade: B-

Houston

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    One loss is all that keeps Houston from getting a top grade.

    After playing nearly flawless in route to a 12-0 regular season, the Cougars played a miserable game against Southern Miss in the Conference USA Championship.

    That cost them a shot at a BCS bowl. However, the strong showing landed coach Kevin Sumlin the Texas A&M job.

    Quarterback Case Keenum finished off a record-breaking career, and topped it off with a win over Penn State in the TicketCity Bowl.

    Houston went 13-1 after leading the nation in passing yards per game.

    Grade: A-

Penn State

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    In a season marred by the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the eventual firing of long-time coach Joe Paterno, Penn State's players were able to deliver a 9-4 season.

    Before the controversy, the Nittany Lions were 8-1. Then they went 1-3 to close the season.

    Penn State still doesn't have a legitimate answer at quarterback, but the defense was stout most of the season.

    Silas Redd was a consistent performer all season with more than 1,200 yards rushing.

    Grade: B

Michigan State

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    Michigan State has been very good the past two years, but the Spartans also seem like the unluckiest team as well.

    The Spartans reached the inaugural Big Ten championship game, and after outplaying Wisconsin for a good part of the game the Badgers rallied for the win.

    Michigan State also beat rival Michigan for a fourth straight year, but the Wolverines earned a BCS bowl bid. The Spartans had to settle for the Outback Bowl.

    But instead of falling to an SEC team again, Michigan State rallied to beat Georgia 33-30 in overtime.

    Quarterback Kirk Cousins closed out his career in East Lansing in style, while Le'Veon Bell became a surprise star at running back.

    Grade: B+

Georgia

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    Georgia opened the season with two losses and closed the year with two losses.

    Sandwiched in between were 10 victories and a first-place finish in the SEC East.

    Georgia was young this season starting with sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray, who is quickly becoming one of the best.

    Sophomore linebacker Jarvis Jones was named to almost every All-American team after recording 70 tackles and 13.5 sacks.

    The Bulldogs should be fun to watch in 2012.

    Grade: B

Nebraska

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    Nebraska handled the transition from the Big 12 into the Big Ten about as well as you could expect.

    There were some pretty steep expectations placed on the Cornhuskers, but expecting them to win the league in their first season was probably too much.

    Nebraska's Taylor Martinez is still an inconsistent passer, but he's one of the league's best dual-threat quarterbacks.

    The Cornhuskers defense wasn't as good as most college fans are accustomed to, especially when you consider they gave up 23.4 points a game.

    They also allowed 48 to Wisconsin and 45 to Michigan.

    Nebraska was outclassed by the SEC's South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl.

    Grade: B-

South Carolina

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    Anything short of an SEC championship was going to be considered a disappointment for South Carolina.

    The Gamecocks may have come up short on that count, but it doesn't take away from the great coaching job put on by Steve Spurrier.

    He had no choice but to boot starting quarterback Stephen Garcia off the team and turn over the offense to Connor Shaw.

    South Carolina also lost stud running back Marcus Lattimore to a knee injury.

    But the Gamecocks kept plugging along with a stacked defense and finished the season 11-2.

    Grade: A-

Ohio State

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    The best thing to come out of the 2011 season was the eventual hiring of Urban Meyer as Ohio State's coach of the future.

    There was also the experience that freshman quarterback Braxton Miller gained this season and that should lead to a more productive 2012.

    Ohio State did have a big win over Wisconsin, but finished with its first losing season since 1988.

    The Buckeyes (6-7) dropped four straight to finish with seven losses for the first time since 1897.

    Luke Fickell didn't fare so well when given an opportunity to run things in Columbus, but he can't shoulder all of the blame.

    Following an offseason of turmoil, it would have been tough for even the most seasoned coach to navigate the 2011 season at OSU.

    Grade: D

Florida

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    Florida did avoid its first losing season since 1979 by beating Ohio State in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, but Will Muschamp's first season was a big disappointment.

    It did start with a lot of fanfare as Florida opened the season 4-0 against inferior opponents, but then the Gators got into the meat of their schedule.

    From this point on we learned Florida was an average SEC team.

    Quarterback John Brantley couldn't stay healthy and speedsters Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps never lived up to the hype.

    Offensive "guru" Charlie Weis also bolted after less than a year in Gainesville to become the head coach at Kansas.

    Grade: C+

Wisconsin

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    Wisconsin has represented the Big Ten in consecutive Rose Bowls, but unfortunately the Badgers have lost both.

    Transfer-quarterback Russell Wilson became an immediate leader and star for coach Bret Bielema.He completed 73 percent of passes for 3,175 yards and 33 touchdowns. Even more impressive was he was picked off just four times.

    Then there was Montee Ball, who rushed for 1,923 yards and 33 touchdowns. He finished with amazing 39 total touchdowns.

    All three of Wisconsin's losses this season were by seven points or less, so the Badgers were not too far away from being perfect.

    Grade: A

Oregon

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    Oregon and Chip Kelly have provided their fans with Pac-12 championships, huge offensive numbers and countless uniform combinations.

    What had been lacking was a program-changing victory.

    Well, the Ducks finally got it by beating Wisconsin in the 98th Rose Bowl. The win ended a 95-year drought in the Rose Bowl for Oregon.

    Oregon was able to reach 12 victories because of its up-tempo offense that could score at any time from any place on the field.

    Quarterback Darren Thomas was good, but speedsters LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas were unstoppable for defenses.

    Oregon did have a few off-field distractions this season, but were able to overcome them.

    Grade: A-

Stanford

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    This was the year Stanford could have won the Pac-12, but the Cardinal didn't even make the championship game.

    OK, that has a little to do with the fact Stanford is in the toughest division, but the Cardinal couldn't get by nemesis Oregon in Palo Alto, Calif.

    Stanford still finished 11-2 and that's a big deal, and it reached a BCS bowl for a second straight season.

    Quarterback Andrew Luck had a Heisman-quality season, while tight end Coby Fleener and running back Stepfan Taylor were nice complements.

    The offensive line was also stacked with NFL-quality talent.

    Grade: A-

Oklahoma State

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    How bad would Oklahoma State's players love a second shot at that Iowa State game?

    That lone loss to the Cyclones in overtime is all that separated Mike Gundy's team from a spot in the BCS National Championship game with LSU and playing in the Fiesta Bowl.

    Still, a 12-1 season is a school best record.

    The Cowboys were loaded with NFL talent, including receiver Justin Blackmon, offensive lineman Levy Adcock and free safety Markelle Martin.

    Quarterback Brandon Weeden closed out his career with another spectacular season.

    It was a dream season at Oklahoma State, which included a 44-10 win over rival Oklahoma.

    Grade: A

Michigan

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    Michigan moved on from the Rich Rodriguez era by going 11-2 and earning its berth in a BCS bowl since the 2007 Rose Bowl.

    While Brady Hoke gets most of the credit for the Wolverines' breakout season, Rodriguez actually deserves some credit for the talent assembled in Ann Arbor.

    Denard Robinson was once again among the best dual-threat quarterbacks, and Fitzgerald Toussaint developed into Michigan's No. 1 running back. 

    The big story of the year, though, was the improvement made on defense.

    During the Rodriguez era, the defense was much maligned. Under defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, Michigan's defense became a strength for the Wolverines.

    Grade: A

Virginia Tech

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    Virginia Tech enjoyed another 11-win season, but don't read too much into that.

    The Hokies had one of the easiest schedules, and were dominated by Clemson in two meetings.

    Tech also has a reputation of playing "Beamer Ball" on special teams, but if you watched the Hokies in the Sugar Bowl it was the special teams that cost them the game.

    Running back David Wilson produced one of the best in school history with 1,709 yards, while sophomore quarterback Logan Thomas improved a great deal as the season played out.

    Tech should have won the Sugar Bowl, and thoroughly outplayed Michigan. However, turnovers and mistakes cost them the game.

    Grade: B-

West Virginia

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    West Virginia was easily the most talented team in the Big East, but the Mountaineers found a way to lose games they shouldn't have.

    It started with an embarrassing loss at Syracuse, which finished last in the conference. WVU also fell to a young Louisville team at home.

    After that loss, though, it seems the Mountaineers finally started to settle in under first-year coach Dana Holgorsen and they closed with three close wins to get a share of the conference championship.

    WVU finally put it all together against Clemson in the Orange Bowl where the Mountaineers rolled to a 70-33 victory over the ACC champs.

    Quarterback Geno Smith flourished in Holgorsen's offense, and so did receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.

    The defense wasn't as strong as in the past, but Jeff Casteel had the unit playing better the second half of the season.

    Grade: A-

Clemson

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    The Orange Bowl game was clearly an "F" performance, but you can't judge Clemson's entire season on a 70-33 loss to West Virginia.

    But that' still a rough way to head into the offseason. It didn't help that Dabo Swinney said before the game that he thought everyone would be talking about Clemson's defense after the game.

    Yep, they were.

    Still, Clemson blessed all of us with receiver Sammy Watkins, who just may have been the most talented freshman since Herschel Walker.

    Sophomore quarterback Tajh Boyd also blossomed this season, but he struggled over the final five games.

    Clemson has the talent to win the ACC again next season.

    Grade: B-

Kansas State

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    Very few people outside of Manhattan, Kan., expected much out of Kansas State this season.

    Then veteran coach Bill Snyder worked some of his magic and the Wildcats became one of the season's best stories.

    Snyder looked like a genius because of how well quarterback Collin Klein played this year. He doesn't look pretty doing it, but he is effective.

    He threw for 1,918 yards and rushed for another 1,141 yards and 27 touchdowns.

    Kansas State was a little outmanned by Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl, but still finished second in the Big 12 and 10-3 overall.

    Grade: A

Arkansas

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    Being the third-best team in the SEC is nothing to be embarrassed about.

    But Arkansas was a distant third from Alabama and LSU, which accounted for the Razorbacks two losses this season.

    Bobby Petrino worked his magic with another quarterback, and this time it was Tyler Wilson. The junior completed 63 percent of his throws for 3,638 yards and 24 touchdowns as Arkansas finished 11-2.

    The Razorbacks didn't have top running back Knile Davis all season after he broke his ankle in preseason practice.

    Arkansas boasted one of its best defenses in the Petrino era.

    Grade: A-

Southern Methodist

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    SMU reached a bowl game for a third consecutive year, something the Mustangs had not accomplished since the program was given the death penalty in the mid-1980s.

    June Jones has worked a small miracle at SMU and even appeared to be leaving for Arizona State when that fell through.

    SMU's players didn't let it bother them a bit as they took down Pittsburgh 28-6 in the BBVA Compass Bowl.

    The Mustangs finished at 8-5 and senior quarterback J.J. McDermott stepped up for his team when they needed him this season.

    Grade: B

Pittsburgh

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    Pittsburgh closed out the season with a whimper by being outclassed by Southern Methodist in the BBVA Compass Bowl.

    The Panthers' signature win was a 44-17 thrashing of then No. 16 South Florida. Of course, the Bulls finished with a losing record.

    Pitt played rival West Virginia tough, but lost 21-20.

    The Panthers also have an issue at quarterback as Tino Sunseri has been inconsistent for two straight seasons.

    Pitt finished 6-7 and lost its coach, Todd Graham, to Arizona State before the bowl game.

    Grade: C-

Arkansas State

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    In one season as the coach at Arkansas State, Hugh Freeze led the Red Wolves from four victories in 2010 to 10 victories and a Sun Belt Conference championship.

    Freeze capitalized on his success and landed the job at Ole Miss.

    He wasn't around for the GoDaddy.com Bowl and Arkansas State lost to Northern Illinois 38-20.

    Quarterback Ryan Aplin had an outstanding junior season as he threw for 3,588 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also led the Red Wolves in rushing with 588 yards and 10 touchdowns. However, he did throw 16 interceptions.

    Arkansas State's other two losses came against Illinois (33-15) and Virginia Tech (26-7).

    Grade: A

Northern Illinois

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    In Dave Doeren's first season at Northern Illinois, the Huskies claimed an elusive Mid-American Conference championship by rallying to beat Ohio.

    NIU also reached 11-win plateau by defeating Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.

    The Huskies had one of the nation's best offenses and their lone loss within the conference was a 48-41 setback against Central Michigan.

    NIU did have one bad loss and that came against Kansas 45-42.

    Grade: A

Alabama

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    It was another championship season for Nick Saban and Alabama,

    So what if the Crimson Tide didn't win the SEC Championship, or even the SEC West.

    Alabama defeated rival LSU in the BCS National Championship game and that is the ultimate goal for any Tide player.

    The Crimson Tide lost at home to LSU 9-6 in overtime, but avenged that loss in the title game 21-0. It was a dominating performance, especially for Alabama's defense.

    The defense is loaded with NFL-caliber talent, and Trent Richardson closed out a stellar career in Tuscaloosa.

    Grade: A+

LSU

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    Despite laying an egg in the BCS National Championship, LSU played one of the toughest regular season schedules in the past two decades.

    Just in September, the Tigers defeated three ranked teams in Oregon, Mississippi State and West Virginia...and not a single one of those games was played in Baton Rouge, La.

    LSU had another stellar defensive unit, but the Tigers offense cost them in the championship game with Alabama.

    Senior Jarrett Lee had a great start to the season, but after struggling against Bama in the first meeting Jordan Jefferson took over at quarterback.

    Defensive back Tyrann Mathieu was a Heisman finalist.

    Les Miles and the Tigers may have come up short of the ultimate goal, it was still was the best regular seasons I've ever seen.

    Grade: A