For many, New Year's Day is all about recharging for the coming year—but for others it's all about college football.
For the latter group, the day was a smashing hit with a little something for everyone.
Michigan State and Stanford put on a gripping defensive battle in the Rose Bowl, while UCF and Baylor provided some contrast immediately after in a high-scoring Fiesta Bowl.
The Big Ten and the SEC squared off throughout the day, as Iowa took on LSU and Nebraska had a rematch with Georgia.
Click on for a full recap of the thrilling Jan. 1 bowl slate.
It was a fitting end to a great career for South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw.
The senior saved one of his best performances for last in the Gamecocks' 34-24 Capital One Bowl triumph over Wisconsin.
He finished a near-perfect 22-of-25 passing, accumulated 368 total yards and accounted for five touchdowns. That performance included a rare hat trick: three passing touchdowns, one rushing score and one nine-yard receiving score.
The receiving touchdown came on a nifty wide receiver reverse pass from Bruce Ellington.
After the victory, Shaw expressed pride in his battle-tested teammates, per CBS Sports:
I told the team before the game that we've faced every possible scenario we could possible face this season and that Wisconsin would be no different. I'm so glad the way we battled throughout the game and our defense came and played.
I couldn't be more proud.
South Carolina needed every bit of that effort from its leader, as Wisconsin countered with 293 rushing yards and an impressive 91-yard kickoff return touchdown by Kenzel Doe.
However, after Doe's fourth-quarter touchdown dash, it was Shaw who led one final scoring drive and punched in a one-yard rushing score to put the icing on his career, an 11-2 season and a bowl victory for the Gamecocks.
Both Wisconsin and Iowa had upsets of SEC opponents in their sights but saw those hopes come up short with backup quarterbacks leading late charges.
Badgers quarterback Joel Stave took a vicious hit late in the third quarter, suffering a shoulder injury which ended his day in Orlando. His replacement, Curt Phillips, threw two interceptions in the fourth, ending the Badgers' hopes for a comeback against South Carolina.
As tweeted by Benjamin Worgull of BadgerNation.com, Stave wisely said afterward that he was going to work on his sliding during the offseason.
Meanwhile in Tampa, Iowa signal-caller Jake Rudock left the Hawkeyes' tilt with LSU late. His backup, C.J. Beathard, was intercepted in the final frame by Craig Loston, which set up the game-deciding touchdown drive for the Tigers.
Rudock didn't perform all that well before his departure, which prompted John Sears of WHO TV to suggest that Iowa could have a quarterback battle on its hands next spring.
However, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz essentially dispelled that notion after the game, keeping the focus on his recovery, per HawkeyeSports.com:
He got hurt. He had a knee injury and reinjured that knee. At that point, he's going to be fine, much like the last game. This month helped him certainly. I think having an out of season will really get him healthy. Nothing to be alarmed about and C.J. (Beathard) jumped in there and did a great job.
If Jeremy Hill has played his last game for LSU, he'll be departing on one marvelous performance.
The redshirt sophomore tallied 216 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries to guide the Tigers to a 21-14 Outback Bowl victory over Iowa.
After Hill's enormous game to end LSU's 10-3 season, Rob Rang of CBS Sports broke down the Baton Rouge, La., native's NFL draft prospects:
Neither (Ka'Deem Carey nor Bishop Sankey) boasts unique traits like LSU's Jeremy Hill, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound semi-truck with sports car speed.
Those close to the LSU program expect Hill and several others among the Tigers' underclassmen to declare for the draft.
Before considering investing any selection in Hill, NFL teams will want to thoroughly investigate his character as he's had multiple run-ins with police. Further, with teams increasingly shifting towards committees at running back and finding talented runners in the later rounds and even undrafted free agency, investing a first round pick in the position has lost momentum.
If there is a back potentially available in the 2014 draft class with the elite traits to challenge this thinking, however, it is Hill.
Hill nearly outgained the Hawkeyes single-handedly and accounted for as many touchdowns as his opponent.
Iowa looked utterly outmatched early on in the Outback Bowl against LSU, as the Tigers built a 14-0 lead at halftime.
However, as the gritty Hawkeyes have done all season long, they fought back.
Running back Mark Weisman notched Iowa's first touchdown in the third quarter and its defense locked down, keeping its SEC foe off the scoreboard in that frame.
However, the Hawkeye offense—which totaled just 233 yards of offense on the day—didn't produce enough to complete the comeback in a 21-14 loss.
Afterward, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz lauded the LSU defense, per HawkeyeSports.com:
I don't think it was anything magical; they played us a little bit differently than maybe we had seen, and that's a credit to them. We adjusted a little bit. But they're a tough defensive ball club.
They just made it tough for us to move the ball consistently. I thought we did a little bit better job in the second half but to me it was a good defensive game. Overall, both teams were playing tough defense and sometimes that's what happens when good teams get together.
While it wasn't the ending Ferentz's squad had hoped for, the Hawkeyes should still be content with their season. After missing a bowl a season ago, they entered with minimal expectations but turned in a solid 8-5 finish.
It's been a long journey for North Texas and its head coach, Dan McCarney.
In April, the Mean Green boss underwent heart surgery. UNT hadn't won a bowl in 11 years and hadn't finished above .500 in eight seasons.
The Mean Green fell just short of the Conference USA title, but they sealed a 9-4 finish by winning seven of their last eight games.
In the ninth win against UNLV, they fell behind early but responded to the challenge, posting the next 28 points to cruise to a 36-14 victory.
After the Heart of Dallas Bowl win, McCarney praised his team and the work done by its seniors, per MeanGreenSports.com: "Really proud of my football team. I dreamed of day these seniors could go to a bowl game and win a bowl game. These 22 seniors will be remembered forever. Bowl champions. Bowl champions."
Nebraska didn't have the season it hoped for.
While the Cornhuskers fell short of their Big Ten title aspirations, the season was even more trying for their coach. Bo Pelini was peppered with criticism all year, particularly after the audio-tape incident in September (NSFW link).
But at the end of the tumultuous 2013 campaign, Pelini and Nebraska began 2014 with a much-needed positive result.
The Huskers benefited greatly from a 99-yard touchdown reception by Quincy Enunwa late in the third quarter that ended up being the difference in their 24-19 win over Georgia. Running back Ameer Abdullah added 122 rushing yards and a touchdown—his 11th 100-yard effort this year.
As star defensive end Randy Gregory attested afterward, the win came as relief at the end of a long year.
“It’s been a long season,” Gregory said, per Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald. “We’ve fought through a lot of stuff. A lot of adversity with our coach. We came together in the end, and it’s great to come out on top.”
In the rain at the Gator Bowl, Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason didn't have a perfect performance—but it left hope going forward for the Bulldogs. And if it wasn't for some untimely drops, that hope would be even greater.
Mason has been slated with the tough task of replacing Aaron Murray, who will go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks in Georgia history.
The Mason era started with a bang as he helped guide the Dawgs in a victory over rival Georgia Tech to close the regular season. However, he didn't have as strong of a start in the Gator Bowl against Nebraska.
Georgia was kept out of the end zone until the fourth quarter, but the redshirt junior settled in late, connecting with running back Todd Gurley on a 25-yard touchdown to start the final frame. After the close defeat, Georgia head coach Mark Richt praised his new signal-caller.
"I don't think anybody wants to go out there and slosh around,'' Richt said, per CBS Sports. ''But I thought Hutson, as time went on and got used to the elements, did a really good job.''
That really good job was nearly a great job, as Mason guided Georgia down to the Nebraska 16-yard line late, but his senior tight end, Arthur Lynch, dropped a pass on 4th-and-3, ending the team's comeback hopes.
In the loss, Mason's solid play gives the Bulldogs hope post-Murray, even despite a rough 8-5 season.
The Rose Bowl was every bit the physical battle it was expected to be, but the Stanford team that had won on conservative, powerful play all season long saw its biggest strength become its biggest downfall.
The Cardinal were denied on two fourth-down attempts late in the contest, including a 4th-and-1 on their final drive that sealed their 24-20 defeat to Michigan State. After jumping ahead 17-7 in the second quarter, they gave up 17 straight points.
After the defeat, head coach David Shaw defended his decision to gamble in key situations late in the game, via NMNAthletics.com:
I'm going to put the ball in the hands of our guys and put it on the offensive line, we're going to go for it on 4th down in that situation, because we'll put it back on our defense.
I think our coaches did a phenomenal job. We got beat today by a really good football team.
Stanford's loss also ended an interesting bowl season for the Pac-12 conference.
The league was largely successful, finishing 6-3. However, two of the losses came by the conference's two divisional champions: Stanford and Arizona State.
Stanford, which played in its fourth consecutive BCS bowl, finished the season at 11-3.
Anyone wearing green in Pasadena was a winner Wednesday evening, and that group included a coach, a quarterback, a rapper and a nasty defense.
First, the defense, which had to overcome the absence of one of its best players, Max Bullough, and stop a powerful Stanford offense. But with senior linebacker Denicos Allen playing out of his mind, Michigan State found "some type of way" to do it in a 24-20 victory.
That's what head coach Mark Dantonio said after the win, quoting rapper Rich Homie Quan and his hit song Some Type of Way, per Gillian Van Stratt, MLive.com:
I just knew we were going to have a special football team this year, there's no question in my mind. We had great leadership from our guys, all of our seniors. Our guys came to play. We just fought back tonight and some type of way we got it done.
We're a 13-1 football team. We just won the Rose Bowl. It can't get much better than that.
Afterward, Dantonio celebrated with that special team and Rich Homie Quan, whose song became a celebratory ritual for MSU through its charmed season.
That all wouldn't have been possible if it weren't for quarterback Connor Cook, who picked a prime time and place to have the best game of his career. The sophomore threw for a career-high 332 yards with two touchdowns, including the game-deciding connection with Tony Lippett in the fourth quarter.
In front of a crowd of 95,173, the Spartans posted a marquee win for their program and the Big Ten, ending a remarkable season in East Lansing.
Seeing its champion lose head-to-head to the title-holder from the American Athletic Conference isn't a good look for the Big 12.
Baylor entered the Fiesta Bowl, its first-ever BCS appearance, as a massive favorite over UCF but trailed for the entirety of its 52-42 loss.
The Bears offense was strong as usual, posting 550 yards behind 356 passing yards from quarterback Bryce Petty and 117 rushing from Lache Seastrunk.
However, penalties were a major detriment: The Bears committed 17 penalties for 135 yards.
Additionally, their defense turned in one of their worst performances of the season. BU was gouged for 556 yards by the balanced UCF attack, though it did force three Knights turnovers.
Afterward, head coach Art Briles took the loss on his own shoulders but added that his team's goals of a Big 12 title and making the College Football Playoff won't change next year, per Brice Cherry of the Waco Tribune-Herald.
Baylor will return several key players, including quarterback Bryce Petty and likely running back Lache Seastrunk. The Bears finished at 11-2, the most wins in school history, and they won their first-ever Big 12 title.
UCF quarterback Blake Bortles entered the Fiesta Bowl as the guy with the girlfriend "worth six million Googles."
He left with a BCS bowl win, an offensive MVP award and his NFL draft stock through the roof.
The junior, who has not yet declared for the upcoming draft, accounted for 394 total yards and four touchdowns to lead the Knights.
The 10-point win came down to the final few drives, but it was more comfortable than many of the Knights' wins this season. Seven of their victories and their one loss to South Carolina came by seven points or fewer.
Bortles was able to lead UCF with incredible poise throughout the night in Arizona. Afterward, he and coach George O'Leary made the win about the program, per John Marshall, Associated Press:
"There's not many outside of us who believe we had a chance, but we did and I think we showed what UCF football is all about," Bortles said.
"Every week was a great adventure," O'Leary said. "It wasn't always pretty, but these guys found a way to win and that's what it's all about."
Running back Storm Johnson also had a big performance, tallying 124 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries.
After reaching its first-ever BCS bowl, UCF closed out a 12-1 season—the first 12-win campaign in school history.