Grading Every College Football Team's Bowl Performance

Amy DaughtersFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2013

Grading Every College Football Team's Bowl Performance

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    After 35 bowl games spanning three weeks, frankly it’s a bit overwhelming to try and piece together what happened during the closing stanza of the 2012-13 season of college football.

    Indeed, when you’ve got 67 teams representing 11 FBS conferences, along with three independents travelling to 15 different states and our nation’s capital to square off for 35 trophies, it’s easy for things to get hazy.

    But, have no fear gridiron enthusiasts because the following slideshow serves as a bold guide to the 2012-13 bowl extravaganza by virtue of handing out grades to the 70 teams which participated in the festivities.

    Each squad receives an overall mark on its single-game bowl performance, and along the way, our grade book not only assesses the quality of play, but it also serves as a sweeping handbook of the 2012-13 postseason.


1 of 70

    Bowl: BCS National Championship

    Result: Beat No. 1 Notre Dame 42-14

    Alabama made No. 1 Notre Dame look like just another college football team in its national championship rout, and frankly, it’s difficult to pinpoint an element of the Tide’s game that wasn’t honed to perfection.

    The Crimson Tide made the Irish’s No. 1 nationally ranked scoring defense that had given up 10.3 points per game in 2012 look like the West Virginia D that gave up 38 points per game.

    Alabama has effectively answered any and all questions regarding which team is the best of the best in college football in 2012.

    Grade: A+

Arkansas State

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    Bowl: Bowl

    Result: Beat No. 25 Kent State 17-13

    Arkansas State executed its game plan to perfection in the 2012-13 Bowl and captured its first bowl win in school history.

    What may have been the most impressive element of the Red Wolves win is the fact that they held the No. 17 rushing offense in the land to one 16-yard TD run and two field goals.

    Sure, Arkansas State gave up 193 yards of rushing to Kent State, but that worked out to be the magic number in terms of pulling off a three-point win.

    Grade: B

Air Force

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    Bowl: Armed Forces Bowl

    Result: Lost to Rice 33-14

    After what has to be considered a disappointing 2012 regular season, Air Force took what looked to be one of the biggest mismatches in this year’s bowl festivities and wound up with an ugly loss.

    This season’s Armed Forces Bowl featured a Falcon option offense that managed a No. 2 national rank in rushing yards vs. a Rice D that ranked No. 92 vs. the run coming into the game.

    What resulted was not a Falcon O that exposed a shaky D, but instead, an Owl defense that stiffened to the tune of allowing a mere 166 ground yards.

    In total, Air Force only managed 214 total yards of offense on its own behalf, turned the ball over three times and gave up 503 yards of offense to a Rice team that ranks No. 44 in total O.

    Not pretty.

    Grade: F


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    Bowl: New Mexico Bowl

    Result: Beat Nevada 49-48

    The Wildcats' No. 107 nationally ranked rush defense gave up 403 yards to Nevada but still managed to beat the Wolf Pack via a thrilling 21-point fourth-quarter comeback.

    Other than turnover ratio, Arizona got beat by Nevada in every statistical category, but still they managed a gritty win that earned the Wildcats their first bowl victory since knocking off BYU in the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl.

    Though their overall grade isn’t an "A+", Arizona gets high marks in not giving up and playing till the final whistle.

    Grade: B-

Arizona State

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    Bowl: Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

    Result: Beat Navy 62-28

    The fearers of the mystical fork were nearly perfect in their 62-28 triumph over Navy which included 36 first downs, 380 yards of rushing and a whopping nine TDs.

    The feat is even more impressive when you throw in the fact that Navy’s defense had only given up an average of 27 points per game in 2012 and that two of the Midshipmen’s scores came in the fourth quarter when ASU had called off the big dogs.

    Though Navy wasn’t necessarily Oregon, the Sun Devils have got to feel great about the momentum they’ve built coming into the offseason.

    Grade: A+

Ball State

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    Bowl: Beef O’Brady’s Bowl

    Result: Lost to UCF 38-17

    The Cardinals fell short of scoring their first bowl win in program history with a loss to a quality UCF team that finished as the runner-up in the C-USA race.

    As far as why they lost, Ball State’s rushing offense that had averaged 200 yards per game was held to a mere 71 ground yards, and then, the Cardinals struggling D was exposed by a surging UCF offense.

    Ball State finished the season ranked No. 93 in scoring defense, and after giving up an average of 32 points per game this season, allowed 38 points in the postseason meeting.

    It will likely be improvements defensively that will be necessary for the Cardinals to take the next step forward as a football program.

    Grade: C-


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    Bowl: Holiday Bowl

    Result: Beat No. 17 UCLA 49-26

    Perhaps, the most impressive bit of Baylor’s dominant win over UCLA was the fact that the Bears managed to hang up 306 yards of rushing (not passing) on a Bruin D that, on average, gave up only 165 yards per game on the ground in 2012.

    Baylor held a 35-7 advantage over UCLA with two minutes left to go in the first half, and even three lost fumbles couldn’t stop the Bears from winning the 2012 Holiday Bowl.

    If you’re looking for more statistical wizardry to make your head spin, how about the fact that a Baylor rushing D that gave up an average of 178 yards on the ground per game this season held UCLA’s No. 38 ranked rushing attack to a mere 33 yards?

    Grade: A-

Boise State

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    Bowl: Las Vegas Bowl

    Result: Beat Washington 28-26

    The Broncos leveraged one of the least experienced teams in college football coming into 2012 and hit 11 wins via their narrow defeat over Washington in this season’s Las Vegas Bowl.

    As was the case all season, Boise State’s offense didn’t dazzle but its opportunistic defense forced turnovers that sealed the deal.

    The Broncos finished the season ranked No. 4 nationally in take-aways this season with 36; a number that includes one fumble recovery and two INTs in the bowl victory over Washington.

    Aptly the game ended with a Boise State pick ending a Husky drive that could have resulted in a winning score.

    Grade: B

Bowling Green

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    Bowl: Military Bowl

    Result: Lost to No. 24 San Jose State 29-20

    Even though the Falcon’s No. 12 nationally ranked rush defense squashed San Jose State’s O to the tune of giving up minus-15 yards on the ground, their pass D cost them what would have been their first bowl win since 2004.

    Bowling Green’s 13th-ranked passing D had given up on average a mere 190 yards per game through the air in 2012 which makes the Spartan’s 395 passing yards stick out like a sore thumb.

    But despite the letdown, the Falcons were in the game until the fourth quarter and came within one-point of victory with 10 minutes left to go.

    Grade: C+


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    Bowl: Poinsettia Bowl

    Result: Beat San Diego State 23-6

    Flying way under the radar as an independent in 2012 BYU achieved a quality win in the Poinsettia Bowl over a very good San Diego State squad.

    What was really impressive about the Cougars in the win was the fact that they held a Aztec running game that had averaged 220 ground yards per game this season to a mere 119 yards rushing.

    What also helped BYU was the fact that it forced five SDSU turnovers (two fumbles and three picks) which helped cover for the fact that the Cougars QBs combined for three INTs of their own.

    Grade: B-

Central Michigan

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    Bowl: Little Caesars Bowl

    Result: Beat Western Kentucky 24-21

    Though the Chippewas didn’t necessarily sizzle in their three-point victory over Western Kentucky in this season’s edition of the Little Caesars Bowl, they did what they had to do to pull off the win.

    CMU was basically error-free in the victory, and most impressively, it somehow managed to harness its rushing D that struggled to a No. 91 ranking nationally in 2012 and hold a WKU rushing attack that ranked No. 41 in rushing yards coming into the game to 128 ground yards.

    Grade: B+

Central Florida

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    Bowl: Beef O’Brady’s Bowl

    Result: Beat Ball State 38-17

    The Knights put together what was one of the best total performances of the bowl season in their 38-17 win over Ball State in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl.

    Statistical highlights of the victory include a balanced offensive attack that pumped out 272 passing yards and then 222 rushing yards—numbers which combined nicely with zero turnovers.

    On the other side of the ball, the UCF D held Ball State to only 288 yards of total offense and a stingy 71 yards of rushing.

    The Knights held a 28-7 advantage at the half and never looked back in what was a total team effort that led to UCF’s second bowl win in program history.

    Grade: A



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    Bowl: Belk Bowl

    Result: Beat Duke 48-34

    Despite giving up 560 yards of total offense and a whopping 36 first downs to Duke, the Bearcats found victory in the 2012 Belk Bowl in large part due to the Blue Devils’ four turnovers.

    But, regardless of this disparaging storyline, Cincinnati managed to rack up 554 yards of its own vs. Duke and scored a win, despite being virtually coach-less.

    Though it wasn’t pretty, you have to give the Bearcat players credit for pulling out a postseason win without a lot of help in terms of sideline assistance.

    Grade: C+


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    Bowl: Chick-fil-A Bowl

    Result: Beat No. 8 LSU 25-24

    In one of the most thrilling bowl contests of the season, Clemson’s high-flying offense passed its biggest test of 2012 by socking it to LSU’s top-ranked defense.

    The orange Tigers hung up 445 yards of total offense on a purple Tigers unit that had on average given up 307 yards per game in 2012 and sealed the deal with 12 points in the final 10 minutes.

    On the other side of the ball, Clemson’s D shone and managed to hold an LSU rushing attack that averaged 173 yards per game this season to a paltry 99 ground yards.

    If Clemson could have erased its two lost fumbles, the margin of victory arguably could have been bigger, even though this would have diminished what was one of the best finishes of the year.

    After Clemson’s Orange Bowl debacle from a year ago, what could be sweeter than icing No. 8 LSU in the 2012-13 postseason?

    Grade: A-



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    Bowl: Belk Bowl

    Result: Lost to Cincinnati 48-34

    Though from a national perspective, it was difficult not to root for Duke in its valiant quest to win is first bowl game since upending Arkansas 7-6 in the 1961 Cotton Bowl, it was the Blue Devils own miscues that cost them a huge win.

    Duke came into the game with 17 total turnovers on the season, making the two picks and two fumbles in the Belk Bowl devastating—and somewhat shocking.

    What really sunk Duke were two fumbles inside the red zone that cost the Blue Devils points and momentum.

    It’s impressive that Duke managed to hang up 560 yards of offense and 34 points on the No. 14 nationally ranked scoring defense, but it’s heartbreaking that they came up short in a game they had in the bag late in the fourth quarter.

    Grade: C-

East Carolina

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    Bowl: New Orleans Bowl

    Result: Lost to Louisiana-Lafayette 43-34

    East Carolina gave up 591 yards of total offense in its 43-34 loss to ULL in this season’s edition of the New Orleans Bowl.

    Though it’s not a big shocker that the Pirates’ 109th-ranked passing D gave up 324 yards through the air to the Cajuns, it was a bit more disheartening that their 55th-ranked rushing defense got beat up as well.

    ECU had allowed an average of 155 yards on the ground this season and gave up a whopping 267 yards rushing to a ULL team that had averaged 193 yards per game in 2012.

    Grade: D



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    Bowl: Sugar Bowl

    Result: Lost to No. 22 Louisville 33-23

    What really sticks out in the Gator’s 10-point debacle to Louisville is a Florida defense that gave up 23 first downs, 336 yards of total offense and 33 points to a team from the Big East.

    And since most of the scoring occurred in the first half (the tally was 24-3 Louisville until Florida scored with 10 seconds to go in the half), the Gator defense put their struggling O in a position to force a comeback that never came.

    The other statistical anomaly from the Gator’s devastating loss is the three turnovers which were shocking for a team which had committed only 12 gaffes total in the 2012 regular schedule.

    Overall, this has to be considered a poor showing by a Florida team that may have been overrated but was still talent-rich enough to win the game.

    Grade: C-

Florida State

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    Bowl: Orange Bowl

    Result: Beat No. 15 Northern Illinois, 31-10

    You have to give Florida State credit for getting it done in an Orange Bowl that presented a no-win situation for the ‘Noles.

    Indeed, it was win big or look bad in this year’s Orange Bowl and FSU represented the BCS leagues by squashing Northern Illinois’ high-flying offensive attack by holding it to 10 points and 259 total yards.

    Though it took the Seminoles a while to click in this game when they did it was fairly obvious which team would come out on top.

    Minus a single fumble, Florida State put together a solid game in its first Orange Bowl win since edging Notre Dame, 31-26, in 1996.

    Grade: A

Fresno State

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    Bowl: Hawaii Bowl

    Result: Lost to SMU, 43-10

    In what looked like a mismatch on paper, Fresno State got shut down on the ground and coughed up the ball four times on its way to getting blown out by a six-win SMU team in the Hawaii Bowl.

    Though Fresno State’s 362 passing yards made sense for a team that ranked No. 12 this season in passing yards, it's minus-17 total rushing yards look devastating for a team that averaged 150 ground yards per game in 2012.

    Add in two INTs and two fumbles for a Bulldog team that came into the game with a mere 16 turnovers all season and you begin to see how it all went terribly wrong for Fresno State.

    Grade: F


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    Bowl: Capital One Bowl

    Result: Beat No. 16 Nebraska, 45-31

    Though Nebraska had fallen hard all year long to teams that could effectively run the ball, Georgia beat the Huskers by throwing the ball.

    Nebraska’s defensive strength in 2012 had been stopping passing attacks to the tune of a No. 5 national ranking fueled by a unit that gave up a mere 168 yards through the air per game this season.

    This makes the Bulldogs' 427 yards passing in the Capital One Bowl look like pure genius, and when you combine it with a UGA D that forced three turnovers, you get a 12-win season.

    Grade: A

Georgia Tech

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    Bowl: Sun Bowl

    Result: Beat USC 21-7

    Other than Louisville icing Florida by 10 points in the Sugar Bowl, Georgia Tech drubbing USC in the Sun Bowl is arguably the most shocking outcome of the 2012-13 bowl season.

    The Yellow Jackets managed to hold a USC offense that had averaged 32.1 points per game in 2012 to a single score and this is more shocking given the fact that Georgia Tech’s scoring D allowed an average of 28.3 points per game this season.

    Though many will point to USC QB Matt Barkley being out of the game from top to bottom it’s hard to argue that the Trojans aren’t the more athletic and talented of the two squads.

    Therefore it’s impossible not to give full credit to the Yellow Jackets for holding the Trojans a mere 205 yards of total offense, picking off three passes and hanging up 21 points on USC, despite three turnovers of their own.

    Grade: A

Iowa State

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    Bowl: Liberty Bowl

    Result: Lost to Tulsa 31-17

    Ultimately, it was a mismatch of strength vs. weakness that cost Iowa State an opportunity to finish the 2012 season over the .500 mark.

    This year’s Liberty Bowl featured Tulsa’s ninth-ranked rushing attack squaring off with Iowa State’s 77th-ranked rushing D. The result was a 317-yard explosion on the ground and a 31-17 loss.

    Of course, it didn’t help that  the Cyclones were held to 268 yards of total offense, went 2-of-14 on third downs and turned the ball over three times.

    Grade: D

Kansas State

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    Bowl: Fiesta Bowl

    Result: Lost to No. 4 Oregon, 35-17

    The combination of a slow start, the failure to stop Oregon from making big plays and two picks thrown by star QB Collin Klein effectively sunk K-State’s bid to win their first BCS game since 1997.

    In a similar, yet not as extreme, way to how Baylor managed to knock off the Wildcats earlier in the season, Oregon jumped out to a 15-point lead over K-State in the first quarter and never looked back.

    From beginning to end, it was fairly obvious that the scale of speed completely tipped in the Ducks favor which is illustrated by a 94-yard kickoff return and two scores on 25-yard passes.

    To further the Wildcats woes, the normally sure-handed Collin Klein threw two INTs in the Fiesta Bowl which, to be fair, came via forced passes late in both the first half and then at the end of the game.

    Grade: C-


Kent State

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    Bowl: Bowl

    Result:  Lost to Arkansas State 17-13

    What ultimately cost Kent State both the Bowl and more than likely an opportunity to finish the season ranked for the first time in program history was a INT in the first quarter of the game.

    It was the Golden Flashes only turnover of the contest and though it didn’t cost them the game early on it came on a 3rd-and-goal situation on the Arkansas State and ended a drive that would have at minimum resulted in three points.

    This is a huge deal when the final score is 17-13.

    Other than this miscue the Flashes played the Wolves ever so closely and had a chance to tie up the game with on a 4th-and-8 with four minutes left to go on the Red Wolves 25-yard line.

    Grade:  C


25 of 70

    Bowl: Chick-fil-A Bowl

    Result: Lost to No. 14 Clemson 25-24

    What’s more surprising about the 2012 Chick-fil-A other than the final score and the way the game ended is the fact that LSU’s defense got schooled by Clemson.

    On average LSU gave up 17.5 points per game (No. 12 nationally), 206 passing yards per game (No. 28), and 18.5 first downs per game (No. 27) this season making Clemson’s offensive output devastating.

    Clemson hung up 25 points, 346 passing yards and 32 first points on a first rate LSU offense validating all of the Tigers high ranking offensive stats.

    Really it’s no surprise that LSU’s offense only pumped out 219 yards of total gains but the Tiger defense giving up 12 points in the final 10 minutes was shocking.

    Grade: C-


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    Bowl: New Orleans Bowl

    Result: Beat East Carolina 43-34

    The Ragin' Cajuns triumph over ECU in the New Orleans Bowl earns ULL a 2-0 mark in bowl history and back-to-back postseason wins.

    The Cajuns win came via a combination of exposing ECU’s struggling defense and containing the Pirates' potent pass attack.

    The stat that shines the brightest in this contest comes via a ULL pass D that ranked an awful No. 115 nationally this season holding an ECU pass offense that ranked No. 36 to zero TDs through the air.

    That’s just good stuff.

    Grade: B


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    Bowl: Independence Bowl

    Result: Lost to Ohio 45-14

    What really cost ULM in its bid to win the first bowl game it has ever participated in were the three picks thrown by junior QB Kolton Browning.

    Of course, the struggles of a defense that coughed up 556 total yards to Ohio didn’t help, but the turnovers were costly and shocking for a squad that had only suffered 16 gaffes all season coming into the bowl game.

    Grade: D


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    Bowl: Sugar Bowl

    Result: Beat No. 3 Florida 33-23

    In the biggest single upset in the upper-tier bowls, Louisville led a Big East revival and knocked off SEC Florida in the 2012-13 Sugar Bowl.

    Though there are lots of glad tidings to glean in the Cardinals' 10-point triumph, what stands out is an offense that hung up 33 points and 266 yards of passing on a Gator D that averaged an allowance of 14.5 points and 192 air yards in 2012.

    Beyond that, you’ve got to love it that the 36th-ranked scoring defense in the country exposed Florida’s offensive unit as a haphazard group that isn’t well-suited for a comeback bid.

    Overall, high marks go to coach Charlie Strong for having his Louisville team chomping at the bit and determined to win a game that looked very loseable.

    Grade: A+


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    Bowl: Outback Bowl

    Result: Lost to No. 10 South Carolina 33-28

    The Michigan defense held the Gamecocks to a scoreless third quarter, allowing its offense to blaze back to a narrow one-point lead only to lose the game to 12 South Carolina points in the final stanza.

    Really, it was the second of two turnovers (off a nasty, but clean, hit by USC DE Jadeveon Clowney) and the second of two fourth-quarter drives that iced the Wolverines in a thriller vs. South Carolina.

    If the Michigan defense, which had held its 2012 opponents to an average of only 19.8 points per game (No. 19 nationally), could have prevented the final Gamecock drive, or more specifically, the final 32-yard pass play, then the Wolverines would have won the day.

    The knife pushes even deeper for Michigan fans when you consider that the Wolverines lost the game on what has to be considered their statistical strength this season—a pass defense that ranks No. 6 in the FBS.

    Grade: B-

Michigan State

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    Bowl: Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

    Result: Beat TCU 17-16

    In what was one of the more unlikely finishes in the 2012-13 bowl season, the Spartans rode an unexpected second-half offensive surge to nip TCU 17-16 in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

    Michigan State lived up to its No. 110 ranking in scoring offense and No. 9 ranking in scoring D by squashing TCU’s offense when it needed to and then eking out just enough offense to win the game.

    Overall, you’ve got to give Mark Dantonio and the Spartans a load of credit for hanging in there with a young offense and a great defense and beating a quality opponent.

    Stats to remember are only 288 yards of total offense for TCU and then masterfully squeezing 17 points out of 227 yards of total offense for Michigan State.

    Grade: B+



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    Bowl: Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas

    Result: Lost to Texas Tech, 34-31

    What cost Minnesota in its three-point loss to Texas Tech was what seemed like a concerted effort to abandon a successful running attack for a passing game that never quite took hold.

    The Golden Gophers hung up 222 yards of rushing on the Red Raiders vs. only 146 through the air, and it was easy to get a sneaky feeling that if Minnesota could have managed to run the ball down Tech’s throats a few plays more, it would have won the game.

    Though Minnesota only committed a single turnover, it was a pick in the final seconds that set up the Red Raider’s unlikely winning field goal.

    Grade: C+


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    Bowl: BBVA Compass Bowl

    Result: Beat Pittsburgh, 38-17

    Other than throwing two picks and giving up a late score, Ole Miss is among the programs that put together the best total bowl performances in 2012.

    The Rebels held Pitt to 266 yards of total offense in the win and a mere 81 yards on the ground, validating their No. 26 national ranking vs. the run.

    Offensively, Ole Miss took it to a top-25 ranked Panther defense by hanging up 23 first downs, 387 total yards and 224 yards of rushing on a unit that gave up a total of nine points in its final two regular-season games.

    Overall, Rebel fans have to be thrilled with how Hugh Freeze’s first season went in Oxford, an effort that included the first bowl win since the 2009 campaign.

    Grade: B+



Mississippi State

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    Bowl: Gator Bowl

    Result: Lost to No. 20 Northwestern, 34-20

    What shut the door on the Bulldogs bid to become the next foe to extend Northwestern’s long bowl-win drought was an inability to convert third downs and an alarming four INTs.

    After struggling to a No. 102 national ranking in 2012 in terms of third-down conversions, Mississippi State took its 34.55 success rate and dropped it to an unthinkable nine percent by going 1-of-11 on third downs vs. Northwestern.

    But other than this ugliness, what really killed MSU in the Gator Bowl was junior QB Tyler Russell’s four picks, a shocking number, given that he’d thrown six INTs total in 2012 coming into the bowl game.

    It would have been interesting to see what the Bulldogs could have done vs. the Wildcats with the turnovers split in half.

    Grade: D


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    Bowl: Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

    Result: Lost to Arizona State 62-28

    Navy’s defense opened the floodgates in its 2012 postseason game and allowed the Sun Devils to come screaming through for an alarming 648 yards of total offense.

    The numbers are astounding: 36 Arizona State first downs, 380 yards of rushing, two 50-plus yard TDs through the air and two 30-plus yard TDs on the ground.

    Even given Navy’s somewhat marginal defensive showing during the 2012 season, this was not pretty.

    Grade: F


35 of 70

    Bowl: Capital One Bowl

    Result: Lost to No. 7 Georgia, 45-31

    Though it was blaringly obvious that the Huskers needed to prevent the Bulldogs from going off on the ground on their 92nd-ranked rushing D, Georgia pulled a fast one and whipped Nebraska through the air.

    Indeed, the Bulldogs made the Huskers pass defense ranking of No. 5 nationally look inflated by ringing up 427 yards and five TDs through the air on Nebraska.

    The real story in this one is told by listing UGA’s scores via passing: 29-yard and 75-yard passing TDs in the first quarter, a 49-yard passing score in the third, and then, 24-yard and 87-yard TDs through the air in the final quarter.

    And Nebraska’s three turnovers (one lost fumble and two picks) certainly didn’t help either.


    Grade: D


36 of 70

    Bowl: New Mexico Bowl

    Result: Lost to Arizona 49-48

    The Wolf Pack walloped Arizona in every major statistical category other than turnovers and still managed to lose the New Mexico bowl by one point.

    What ultimately cost run-dominated Nevada was its 102nd-ranked scoring defense that managed to stay in the game until opening the floodgates in the fourth quarter and allowing a 21-point surge that propelled Arizona to victory.

    If the Wolf Pack D could have managed just one more stop, Nevada would have won the game and the day.

    Grade: C+

North Carolina State

37 of 70

    Bowl: Music City Bowl

    Result: Lost to Vanderbilt 38-24

    The story behind the story of NC State’s loss to Vandy in the 2012 Music City is all about a team that outplayed its opponent, but also won the battle of which team could make the most mistakes.

    N.C. State held the Commodores to 225 yards of total offense and then hung up 424 yards on Vandy’s D only to lose the game 38-24.

    This all makes a lot more sense when you throw in the fact that the Wolfpack committed five turnovers and racked up 90 yards in penalties.

    And things become even clearer when you consider N.C. State’s No. 116 national ranking in giveaways.

    Grade: D

Northern Illinois

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    Bowl: Orange Bowl

    Result: Lost to No. 12 Florida State, 31-10

    Though the Huskies gave it their best shot in the 2012-13 Orange Bowl, at the end of the day, their high-flying offense was no match for what is statistically one of the best defenses in the FBS.

    Northern Illinois came into the Orange Bowl with the 12th-ranked scoring O in the nation, a unit that pumped out an average of 38.6 points and 469 yards per game.

    What happened next was not shocking as Florida State’s sixth-ranked scoring D held the Huskies to 10 points and a mere 259 yards of total offense.

    Though you have to give credit to Northern Illinois for playing its way into the BCS and fighting hard once they got there, this single game explains the need for the FBS to split into two divisions where teams play for titles on an even playing field.

    Grade: C


39 of 70

    Bowl: Gator Bowl

    Result: Beat Mississippi State, 34-20

    More impressive than the fact that Northwestern’s win over Mississippi State in the 2012 Gator Bowl marked the Wildcats' first bowl win since the 1949 Rose Bowl was the fact that its beleaguered pass defense took care of business.

    Yes, Northwestern struggled to a No. 86 ranking vs. the pass in 2012, and with an average of 250 yards per game allowed through the air, the prospects of facing MSU looked scary.

    But, the Wildcats D held the Bulldogs to a paltry 106 yards of passing and also managed to pick MSU QB Tyler Russell four times to win the day.

    The only real downside to Northwestern’s historic victory was the three combined picks tossed by the two Wildcat QBs, but when the final score tells of a two-TD win, all is soon forgotten in the haze of sweet victory.

    Grade: A

Notre Dame

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    Bowl: BCS National Championship

    Result: Lost to No. 2 Alabama, 42-14

    After managing to pull off 12 consecutive wins during the 2012 regular season, Notre Dame got out-gunned, out-coached and out-played by Alabama in the BCS title game.

    The No. 1 nationally ranked Irish scoring D, which had given up an average of 10.3 points per game this year, gave up 28 points in the first half alone and basically got exposed—especially in the secondary.

    Though Vegas had the Tide as the clear favorite in the title game, it would have been impossible to imagine the complete on-field collapse of the Irish in the only postseason game with a legit title on the line.

    Grade: D


41 of 70

    Bowl: Cotton Bowl

    Result: Lost to No. 9 Texas A&M, 41-13

    Frankly, it’s difficult to imagine Oklahoma’s season ending in a more devastating fashion than it did in what was a gut-wrenching Cotton Bowl.

    The Sooners defense—which struggled all season long—performed at an all-time low by giving up 633 total yards and 41 points to Johnny Manziel and company.

    Perhaps, even more unsettling was the fact that Oklahoma’s offense, which ranked No. 15 in scoring in 2012, got held to a mere two TDs by an Aggie D that ranked No. 88 vs. the pass this season.

    With both teams committing a single turnover and coming in fairly even in penalties, the only way to describe the 2012 Cotton Bowl is a good old-fashioned beatdown.

    The only thing that saves the Sooners from receiving an “F” is the fact that at least they were playing a Top 10-ranked team.

    Grade: D-

Oklahoma State

42 of 70

    Bowl: Heart of Dallas Bowl

    Result: Beat Purdue, 58-14

    Even though pitting a 6-6 team from a struggling Big Ten conference with a high-flying, seven-win squad from the Big 12 looked a bit scary on paper, the 2012 Heart of Dallas Bowl may have been the least competitive game of the bowl season.

    Oklahoma State looked unbeatable vs. Purdue and managed a 45-0 advantage, before the Boilermakers finally got on the scoreboard with 18 seconds to go in the third quarter.

    What may have been most impressive about the Cowboys dominant win over Purdue was a plus-five turnover margin which amps up Oklahoma State’s cumulative margin on the season to a flat zero.

    Grade: A+


43 of 70

    Bowl: Independence Bowl

    Result: Beat Louisiana-Monroe, 45-14

    Despite committing two turnovers, Ohio dominated ULM in every facet of the game in its 45-14 Independence Bowl triumph.

    In terms of the most impressive bits, how about hanging up 559 yards of total offense on a ULM D that had averaged 418 yards allowed per game in 2012 or holding a Warhawk defense that averaged 33 points per game scoring to two TDs?

    Grade: A- 


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    Bowl: Fiesta Bowl

    Result: Beat No. 5 Kansas State 35-17

    Oregon’s second consecutive BCS triumph came on the back of an always speedy offense and a defense that dazzled.

    Indeed, the Ducks putting on a sizzling offensive display is no shock, but when their defense holds an offense that averaged 38.8 points per game to 17, it’s time to get up and applaud.

    Further accolades should be handed out for Oregon’s zero turnovers and two picks gained earning the Ducks honors as the No. 1 team in the FBS in terms of turnover margin with plus-21.

    Oregon’s win over K-State was a complete team effort, and the Ducks made beating the No. 5 team in the country look easy which is no small feat.

    Grade: A+

Oregon State

45 of 70

    Bowl: Alamo Bowl

    Result: Lost to No. 23 Texas, 31-27

    If it hadn’t been for the fourth quarter, the Beavers would have beaten Texas and scored their first bowl win since nipping Pitt 3-0 in the 2008 Sun Bowl.

    Yes, Oregon State was up 27-17 going into the final period, only to give up two scoring drives, sealing its fate on a nine-win total in 2012.

    What cost the Beavers the game was the inability to throw the ball as freely as they did for most of the season, combined with three turnovers and a defense that broke down when the game was on the line.

    Grade: C


46 of 70

    Bowl: BBVA Compass Bowl

    Result: Lost to Mississippi, 38-17

    In one of the two games neatly tucked between the BCS bowls and the national title game, Pitt’s well-heeled defense got manhandled by Ole Miss’s rushing attack in the BBVA Compass Bowl.

    The Panthers held foes to 136 yards per game on the ground this season (No. 32 nationally), making the Rebels 224 ground yards look pretty darn special.

    Overall, Pitt finished 2012 ranked No. 23 in scoring D with an average of 21.3 points per game allowed, which gives you an idea of where the Panthers fell short in terms of their 38-17 defeat to Ole Miss.

    Grade: D


47 of 70

    Bowl: Heart of Dallas Bowl

    Result: Lost to Oklahoma State, 58-14

    Frankly, there aren’t many, if any at all, redeeming qualities of Purdue’s lopsided loss to a good Oklahoma State team in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

    The Boilermakers did earn 367 yards of total offense in the beatdown, but the flip side is that they gave up 524 yards to the Cowboys and turned the ball over five times.

    No matter how you slice it, three lost fumbles and two picks and a 45-0 deficit with five minutes remaining in the third quarter are no way to start the New Year.

    Grade: F


48 of 70

    Bowl: Armed Forces Bowl

    Result: Beat Air Force 33-14

    What really stands out in Rice’s bowl win over Air Force is the fact that an Owl rushing defense that ranked No. 89 nationally vs. the run held the Falcons No. 2 ranked rushing O to a mere 166 yards.

    Though that might not sound like the stuff dreams are made of, consider the fact that on average Air Force rushed for 316 yards per game in 2012.

    On the minus side, Rice coughed up the ball three times, but still managed its first bowl win and over .500 finish since 2008.

    Grade: B+


49 of 70

    Bowl: Russell Athletic Bowl

    Result: Lost to Virginia Tech, 13-10, in OT

    After holding the Hokies scoreless for the first three quarters of the game, the Knights D gave up 10 points in the span of three minutes in the fourth to send the game to overtime.

    The second score, and what amounted to Virginia Tech’s only TD, came three plays after Rutgers QB Gary Nova threw a pick deep in Scarlet Knights territory.

    Overall, Rutgers did everything it possibly could of done to knock off the Hokies with the exception throwing the pick and then giving up a field goal in OT.

    The No. 4 scoring defense in the land held Virginia Tech to 196 yards of total offense and forced three turnovers but it was a lack of offense and a pick that ultimately cost Rutgers its sixth consecutive bowl victory.

    Grade: C+

San Diego State

50 of 70

    Bowl: Poinsettia Bowl

    Result: Lost to BYU, 23-6

    The Aztecs inability to run the ball effectively combined with a wild rash of turnovers cost them the opportunity to bring home SDSU’s third bowl win in program history.

    San Diego State had averaged 220 ground yards per game in 2012 and managed only 112 rushing yards vs. BYU, a dismal result that was made worse by the fact that the Aztecs pumped out a mere 144 yards through the air.

    The real stinger for SDSU in the Poinsettia Bowl was the five turnovers committed that cost the offense momentum and the defense a chance to contain BYU.

    The two fumbles lost and three picks are even more alarming given the fact that the Aztecs had only suffered 20 turnovers during the 2012 regular season.

    Grade: D

San Jose State

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    Bowl: Military Bowl

    Result: Beat Bowling Green, 29-20

    San Jose cashed in on its prolific passing offense and reached 11 wins for the first time since 1940, with a win over Bowling Green in the Military Bowl.

    The Spartans 395 yards of passing offense vs. the Falcons are even more impressive when you consider the fact that Bowling Green ranks No. 13 nationally against the pass this season, giving up only an average of 190.1 yards per game through the air.

    Minus a single fumble, San Jose State had as complete of a team win in their postseason clash as did any team on our list.

    Grade: A-


52 of 70

    Bowl: Hawaii Bowl

    Result: Beat Fresno State, 43-10

    SMU dismantled a very good Fresno State team with a defensive performance that defied its No. 112 national ranking in pass defense.

    The Mustangs did give up 362 yards through the air to the Bulldogs, but they allowed a mere negative 16 yards on the ground and forced four turnovers.

    The takeaways are even more impressive when you throw in the fact that Fresno State coughed the ball up only 16 times total coming into the bowl game, making the Bulldogs one of the top teams in the nation in terms of turnover prevention.

    SMU’s 33-point triumph over a nine-win Bulldog team has to be considered one of the best overall performances in this season’s bowl extravaganza.

    Grade: A+

South Carolina

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    Bowl: Outback Bowl

    Result: Beat No. 18 Michigan, 33-28

    In one of the most thrilling and evenly matched bowl games of the 2012-13 slate, South Carolina and Michigan went toe-to-toe for four full quarters of football.

    What ultimately won the day for the Gamecocks was the combination of a Jadeveon Clowney hit that gave South Carolina the ball back after a questionable spot leading to the first of the Gamecocks' two go-ahead, fourth-quarter TDs, and then, the final, backbreaking drive.

    South Carolina went 70 yards the hard way (minus the final 32-yard TD toss from Dylan Thompson to Bruce Ellington) and sucked up all but 11 seconds of the game, icing Michigan 33-28.

    What was most impressive about the Gamecocks was that they never quit and ultimately pulled out what may have been the most thrilling victory of the postseason.

    Grade: A-


54 of 70

    Bowl: Rose Bowl

    Result: Beat Wisconsin 20-14

    Stanford pulled off its first Rose Bowl victory since 1972 by doing what it had successfully done all year: playing blistering D and then scoring just enough points to narrowly win.

    The Cardinal held Wisconsin to a mere 83 yards through the air, and the 218 yards of Badgers rushing needs to be seen through a looking glass that remembers that Wisconsin finished the year ranked No. 13 in rushing yards per game.

    What may have sealed the deal for Stanford was the fact that it made zero mistakes in the way of turnovers and only racked up 48 yards in penalties.

    The truth is you have to play perfectly to continue to win big games by a narrow margin.

    Grade: A


55 of 70

    Bowl: Pinstripe Bowl

    Result: Beat West Virginia, 38-14

    What may be the most startling stat to come from Syracuse’s shocking 38-14 triumph over high-flying West Virginia is the fact that the Orange held the No. 2-ranked Mountaineer passing offense to 201 yards through the air.

    In total, West Virginia earned only 15 first downs and 304 total yards of offense vs. the Syracuse D. It was a remarkable piece of statistical evidence for a Mountaineer team that averaged and 25 first downs 500 total yards per game this season.

    From a purely defensive standpoint, this is one of the most quality wins of the postseason.

    Grade: A+


56 of 70

    Bowl: Alamo Bowl

    Result: Beat No. 13 Oregon State, 31-27

    Statistically speaking, Texas and Oregon State played a fairly even game in the 2012 Alamo Bowl, with the exception of turnovers where the Beavers out-gaffed the Longhorns three to one.

    What stood out in Texas’ narrow victory over OSU was a 14-point fourth-quarter comeback fueled by an athletic bunch that refused to give up in front of what was basically a home crowd in San Antonio, Texas.

    Defensively, you’ve got to tip your hat at the Longhorns for holding a Beaver pass offense that averaged 300 yards through the air per game this season to 194 yards.

    Grade: B 

Texas A&M

57 of 70

    Bowl: Cotton Bowl

    Result: Beat No. 11 Oklahoma, 41-13

    Led by Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, the Aggies handed Oklahoma its worse loss in a bowl game since the Sooners fell, 55-14, to USC in the 2004-05 BCS title game.

    Though the A&M defense gave up 401 yards of total offense to the Sooners, it bent, but refused to break, allowing a mere 13 points to an offensive unit that had averaged 38.2 points in 2012.

    The real highlight in this game, and all season, was the offense that racked up 633 yards of total offense on a Sooner D that struggled to a No. 65 ranking in total defense this year.

    But still, this can all be put in perspective by pointing out that Oklahoma gave up, on average, 399.5 yards per game in 2012, a far cry from the 633-yard nightmare that was the Cotton Bowl.

    Johnny Football’s 287 yards of passing and 229 yards of rushing combined to account for 82 percent of A&M’s output, which pretty much sums up the Aggies thrilling 11-win campaign.

    Grade: A+


58 of 70

    Bowl: Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

    Result: Lost to Michigan State, 17-16

    After holding a Michigan State offense that struggled all season to a pointless first half, the TCU D folded in the final two quarters giving up 17 points and a chance at postseason glory.

    Though it wasn’t impressive, the Spartans managed a mere 227 yards of total offense to come up with 17 points and a win.

    This made the Frogs No. 30 scoring D look not so much generous, but questionable, when the chips were down.

    If TCU could have managed just one single stop, they would have won a game that was absolutely winnable.

    Grade: C-

Texas Tech

59 of 70

    Bowl: Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas

    Result: Beat Minnesota, 34-31

    At the end of the day, there isn’t much in the way of positive feedback to give in Texas Tech’s, 34-31, win over Minnesota in this season’s Meineke Car Care Bowl.

    Tech gave up 368 yards and 34 points to one of the worst offenses qualifying for a bowl game and won the game on a timely turnover that came off a tipped pass.

    What you can say about the Red Raiders is that they kept themselves in the game and never gave up, despite only having a skeleton crew in terms of a coaching staff that had prematurely fled for higher ground.

    Grade: C


60 of 70

    Bowl: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

    Result: Lost to No. 22 Utah State, 41-15

    Toledo gave up a whopping 353 yards of rushing to Utah State and got spanked in this season’s Potato Bowl.

    The Rockets had struggled in 2012 vs. the run to the tune of giving up an average of 182 rushing yards per game but were exposed fully by the Aggies in the bowl rout.

    Big plays included Utah State rushing TDs of 62 yards, 63 yards, 25 yards and 24 yards, putting the game totally out of reach for Toledo.

    Grade: D


61 of 70

    Bowl: Liberty Bowl

    Result: Beat Iowa State, 31-17

    Other than throwing one INT and losing 73 yards to penalties, Tulsa put together an almost perfect game in its win over Iowa State in this season’s Liberty Bowl.

    The Golden Hurricane outgained the Cyclones 410 to 268 in total yardage, held a 23 to nine advantage in terms of first downs and forced three turnovers.

    Add to this the fact that Tulsa was down 10-0 in the first quarter and you begin to understand how this gritty team earned 11 wins and a conference championship in 2012.

    Grade: A-


62 of 70

    Bowl: Holiday Bowl

    Result: Lost to Baylor 49-26

    After showing so much improvement in 2012 (including the two gritty losses to Stanford), UCLA ended its season with a thud via a beatdown at the hands of Baylor in the Holiday Bowl.

    The Bruins never turned the ball over and only suffered 59 yards in penalties, but they gave up 306 yards of rushing to the Bears, including two back-breaking rushing TDs of 26 and 43 yards in the second quarter.

    Offensively, UCLA got shut down on the ground and was held to a mere 33 yards on the ground by a Baylor defense that had been questionable all season.

    Grade: D 


63 of 70

    Bowl: Sun Bowl

    Result: Lost to Georgia Tech, 21-7

    Capping off what is, perhaps, one of the most dramatic free falls of the last decade, USC ended its 2012 campaign with a thud with a 21-7 loss to a six-win Georgia Tech team.

    The stats aren’t pretty: On offense, there were a measly 10 first downs, 205 total yards, a 3-of-15 mark on 3rd-and-3 picks.

    Defensively, the Trojans gave up 294 yards of rushing to the option-minded Yellow Jackets but forced three turnovers.

    Though USC senior QB Matt Barkley was out of action and super-stud WR Marqise Lee saw limited action, it was reasonable to expect, based solely on athletic ability, that, at the very least, this game would have been close.

    And it wasn’t, which makes you wonder where the Trojans go from here.

    Grade: F

Utah State

64 of 70

    Bowl: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

    Result: Beat Toledo, 41-15

    The Aggies capped off a historic double-digit win season with a total drubbing of a good Toledo team in this season’s Potato Bowl.

    Though Utah State’s defense gave up 315 yards of total offense to the Rockets, it only gave up 15 points and managed to hang up 353 rushing yards on Toledo’s defense.

    If the Aggies wouldn’t have fumbled the ball twice and could have minimized penalties that totaled 89 yards, the final score could have been even uglier.

    Grade: A-


65 of 70

    Bowl: Music City Bowl

    Result: Beat NC State, 38-24

    Though it’s difficult not to stop and stare with a measure of wonder at Vandy’s best finish since 1915, the Commodores bowl win over N.C. State is more than meets the eye.

    The bottom line here is that the Wolfpack beat the Commodores in every major statistical category other than turnovers and penalties.

    N.C. State outgained Vandy 424 yards to 225, meaning that one team played better defense than the other as well.

    What flipped the score were five Wolfpack turnovers, which were decisive regardless of if you classify them as the fault of a sloppy O or the fruits of an opportunistic D.

    On the plus side for Vandy, it racked up only 10 total yards in penalties which supports a theory that the Commodores did what they had to not to lose this game.

    Grade: C+

Virginia Tech

66 of 70

    Bowl: Russell Athletic Bowl

    Result: Beat Rutgers, 13-10, in OT

    Really, you have to give a very young Virginia Tech team a lot of credit for hanging around and winning a game that it didn’t score in until the fourth quarter.

    Though the Hokie D gave up 10 points in the first quarter, it held Rutgers pointless for the remainder of the contest, and overall, allowed only 196 yards of total offense.

    What sealed the deal for Virginia Tech was a pick in the fourth quarter that set up the Hokies only TD and sent the game to overtime. 

    On the minus side, Virginia Tech managed only three total yards of rushing (keep in mind that Rutgers owns the No. 7 D vs. the run, nationally) and turned the ball over three times.

    Grade: C+


67 of 70

    Bowl: Las Vegas Bowl

    Result: Lost to No. 19 Boise State, 28-26

    It was a series of turnovers that cost the Huskies a bid to beat Boise State and capture their first bowl victory since beating Nebraska in the 2010 Holiday Bowl.

    Washington went toe-to-toe with the Broncos statistically speaking, but its two picks and one fumble combined to sink the Huskies.

    What hurt the most was a Keith Price INT with less than a minute on the clock, ending the final Washington drive and sealing the deal for Boise State.

    At the end of the day, this scenario is less shocking, looking back over a season when Washington struggled in the turnover department, ranking No. 102 nationally in giveaways. Boise State’s D was opportunistic enough in 2012 to rank No. 4 nationally in takeaways.

    Grade: C-

West Virginia

68 of 70

    Bowl: Pinstripe Bowl

    Result: Lost to Syracuse, 38-14

    Despite all that went oh so wrong in the 2012 season for West Virginia, when you own the No. 10 passing offense in the FBS, you should not rack up a mere 201 yards through the air vs. the No. 62-ranked passing defense in the land.

    But that’s precisely what went down in the Mountaineers loss to Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl, and the situation is made even worse when you throw in the fact that the Orange hung up 369 yards of rushing on West Virginia.

    And remember that the Mountaineer D ranked No. 61 against the run vs. No. 122 against the pass.

    The worst-case scenario just got, well, worse.

    Grade: D-


Western Kentucky

69 of 70

    Bowl: Little Caesars Bowl

    Result: Lost to Central Michigan, 24-21

    Prior to this season’s Little Caesars Bowl, Western Kentucky had never competed in a college football bowl game, and this makes it even more heartbreaking that they fell just a field goal short of a win.

    Really, both the Hilltoppers and Chippewas played well enough to win the game, and other than CMU trumping WKU in first downs and edging them in total yards, the contest was fairly even.

    What ultimately cost Western Kentucky the win was a failure to convert a 4th-and-2 from Central Michigan’s 19-yard line with under a minute left on the clock.

    If the Hilltoppers could have converted, or instead, opted to send in their freshman kicker Garrett Schwettman to tie up the game with a field goal, the outcome could have easily been different.

    Grade: B-


70 of 70

    Bowl: Rose Bowl

    Result: Lost to No. 6 Stanford, 20-14

    In what was the narrowest contest of the four regular BCS bowl games in 2012-13, you have to give unranked Wisconsin a ton of credit for squaring off with a great Stanford team and falling just short of a win.

    Statistically speaking, the Badgers were equal with the Cardinal throughout the game with the one blaring exception: the late INT by Curt Phillips that thwarted Wisconsin’s bid to retake the lead with just over two minutes left in the game.

    What’s most impressive about Wisconsin in the loss is that they managed to hang up 218 yards of rushing on a Stanford D that had given up, on average, only 97 ground yards per game in 2012 (No. 6, nationally).

    Overall, this was, perhaps, the most quality loss of the bowl season if there can be such a thing.

    Grade: B+