College Bowl Wrap-Up: I Thought the Big East Was Weak
This year's bowl games were like any other year. There were some upsets, surprises and a lot of good games. There were also some bad games and ugly games.
Every year, there is a "trophy" for the best conference. The award goes to the conference that has the highest winning percentage.
There is always scrutiny because some argue the winners do not play in the toughest games. This year, the winner is the Mountain West Conference. They went 4-1 against their opponents.
The best conference out of the Big Six was the Big East at 4-2. Here is a look at all the conferences, including the independents and who underperformed and over—performed.
Mountain West Conference (4-1): Over—performed
The Mountain West Conference had four wins out of five teams. That is a pretty good percentage for bowl season. Its only loss was Utah to Boise State, and we all know how Boise State does in bowl games.
Many thought Texas Christian University did not deserve to go to the Rose Bowl and gave them less than half a chance to win against mighty Wisconsin. TCU did not disappoint.
The MWC had two victories over Big Six opponents, including Wisconsin and Georgia Tech. Air Force and Georgia Tech struggled on offense, but Air Force pulled it out in the end.
San Diego State killed Navy 35-14 as did BYU against UTEP with a 52-24 score.
Sun Belt Conference (2-1): Right On
Out of three teams in all 50-50 match-ups, this was about where everyone expected the Sun Belt to be. They had a couple nice wins and a loss. All three games were against Mid American Conference opponents.
In the R & L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Troy enjoyed a win over Ohio 48-21. This was somewhat of an upset as Ohio almost made the MAC Championship game. Ohio also had the better record. Troy dominated in all aspects of the game.
Typically the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl features the eighth team from the Big Ten against a MAC school. With not enough Big Ten teams to fill the allotted slots, Florida International traveled to Detroit to face Toledo.
This was almost a home game for Toledo, however, Florida International managed to escape in an exciting 34-32 game.
The only loss was Middle Tennessee to Miami (OH) in the Godaddy.com Bowl. Miami (OH) won the MAC, so it would have been an upset had Middle Tennessee won.
Independents (2-1): Right On
Notre Dame entered the season with mixed expectations. They had a new coach that is successful, but lost a lot of players, including the quarterback and best wide receiver. Starting quarterback Dane Crist also was hurt throughout the season.
Notre Dame faced a tough Miami (FL) team who relied on quarterback Jacory Harris. The Irish shut down Harris and won 33-17.
Army beat SMU in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl 16-14. Despite out gaining Army 413 to 229 total yards, SMU threw two interceptions and had a fumble, leading to Army's victory.
The only independent loss was that of Navy to San Diego State. SDSU dominated Navy 35-14 in the SDCCU Poinsettia Bowl. The bowl game was played in California, so SDSU did have a nice home following.
Western Athletic Conference (2-2): Right On
Let's face it: Boise State performs in bowl games. They have had a few losses in recent years, but also some big wins. With a Utah team that was struggling towards the end of the season, most people picked the Broncos to come out on top. They did, winning 26-3.
Nevada also got hot towards the end of the season. They beat Boise State to share the WAC title with Hawaii and Boise State. The Wolfpack jumped in to the top 15 after that win and finished the season 13-1 with the bowl win over Boston College.
The two losses were somewhat expected. Fresno State lost to Northern Illinois, who won the MAC West going a perfect 8-0 in conference play. Fresno State was just outmatched.
Hawaii usually gets to play in the Hawaii bowl and does better than they did this year. You could call this game a bit of an upset. Tulsa had a tough offense this year, averaging over 500 yards per game. Hawaii could not stop Tulsa's offense and helped create some points by throwing interceptions for touchdowns. They lost 35-62.
Mid American Conference (2-2): Right On
Northern Illinois won the MAC West this year, going a perfect 8-0. They lost to Miami (OH) in the MAC Championship game. The Huskies bounced back by beating Fresno State 40-17. Fresno State technically finished second in the WAC, as there was a three-way tie for first. This was an expected victory for the MAC.
Miami (OH) faced a barely-.500 Middle Tennessee team in their bowl game. Middle Tennessee won its last three games to become bowl eligible. Miami (OH) won 35-21.
The MAC lost two games to Sun Belt opponents. Ohio lost to Troy and Toledo lost to Florida International. Troy was favored in its game while Toledo and Florida International had no spread. Both teams also tied for the Sun Belt Championship.
The MAC won the games they were expected to win and lost the games they were expected to lose. The Sun Belt and MAC faced off in three bowl games this season.
Conference USA (2-4): Underperformed
Any time a smaller conference has six teams in bowl games, they are expected to at least go .500. Conference USA had only two wins, and they were the least expected teams to win.
Tulsa beat Hawaii in Hawaii 62-35 after having two interception returns for touchdowns. Tulsa has averaged over 500 yards of offense for the season, so with that kind of defensive support, they are destined to win.
Central Florida upset Georgia 10-6. In a game that featured quite a bit of offense, the only touchdown was scored with just over nine minutes to go in the game. Also, each team had two turnovers.
UTEP lost to BYU 52-24. UTEP went in to halftime down 21 points. It was UTEP's first bowl game since 2005, and it was the first bowl game of the 2010-11 bowl season.
Southern Mississippi lost to Louisville 31-28. Louisville, from the Big East, came in to the game at 6-6, with Southern Miss at 8-4. The Golden Eagles have been to eight straight bowl games. They lost a couple key players at the end of the season, including linebacker Martez Smith.
East Carolina lost to Maryland of the ACC. The game was played in Washington DC. East Carolina came in to the game at 6-6, having lost four of its last five games.
Army beat Southern Methodist, the co-champion of Conference USA's West Division (along with Tulsa). Army barely got in to the bowl game at 6-6 only after MWC sent TCU to the Rose Bowl and did not have enough teams for all their slots.
Big East (4-2): Over—performed
Many said the Big East does not belong in the Big Six conferences and does not deserve an automatic BCS bid.
"They are too weak. They don't play anybody."
"Their champion is only 8-4."
While Connecticut did lose to Oklahoma (as expected), they put up a good fight. UConn was picked to finish fourth in the Big East after losing a few key starters on offense and defense. While the score was 48-20, they never gave up.
The Big East had victories against Conference USA, the Big 12, the ACC and the mighty SEC. The other loss was West Virginia losing to North Carolina State. Apparently, the top of the Big East does not hold its own as well as the bottom.
In almost every match-up, the consensus was the Big East would fall on its faces against opponents. The Big East did better than expected.
Pacific 10 (2-2): Over—performed
Arizona lost to Oklahoma State 36-10. The Alamo Bowl was played in Big 12 country when a favored 10-2 Oklahoma State team faced a 7-5 Arizona team. No one gave Arizona a shot and they never had one. Arizona lost its last four games coming in to the bowl game.
The Pac-10 and Big 12 faced off again when Nebraska played Washington. Again, the Pac-10 team had no shot. These teams had played previously this year with Nebraska killing Washington 56-21.
Nebraska came in to the game as Big 12 North Champions. Washington got in by beating California and Washington State. On paper, Washington never stood a chance. The Huskies ended up surprising everyone and winning 19-7.
Stanford faced the ACC Champion Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Virginia Tech came in to the game on an 11-game winning streak. Stanford's only loss was to undefeated Oregon. Stanford was favored by three, but ended up winning 40-12.
In a game that could have easily been 52-49, Oregon lost to Auburn on a last-second field goal. Defense was key in the BCS National Championship game. The first quarter featured no score. Auburn was favored by two, but this was a game that could have gone either way.
Southeastern Conference (5-5): Underperformed
When a team from your conference wins the National Championship, it is hard to say you underperformed as a conference. Auburn and Oregon faced off in a game where either team could have won, but more people picked Auburn than Oregon.
Arkansas lost to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. Ohio State could not beat SEC teams, and Arkansas came in with a tough offense to beat.
Kentucky lost to Pittsburgh 27-10. Pittsburgh came in to the game with a new coach after Dave Wannstedt decided not to coach the bowl game. Kentucky backed in to a bowl game after losing its last two games of the season.
LSU beat Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. LSU was favored by one point, but ended up winning 41-24. Texas A&M came in to the game having won its last six games. LSU came in to the game with one of the tougher schedules on the season.
The SEC did very well on Jan. 1. Alabama crushed Michigan State 49-7 in a game where Alabama was favored by 10. Mississippi State played much more offense than Michigan, winning 52-14 in a game where the Bulldogs were favored by five.
Florida, who had struggled this season, was favored by seven going in to the Outback Bowl against Penn State. PSU made it interesting but Florida won 37-24.
Although South Carolina, SEC Eastern Division Champions,was favored by three, they lost to Florida State, ACC Atlantic Division Champions.
Georgia lost a big upset game to Central Florida. Despite UCF being ranked, Georgia was favored by six and expected to win. This was UCF's first bowl win and snapped Georgia's four-game bowl winning streak.
North Carolina beat Tennessee in double overtime in the Music City Bowl in Nashville. Tennessee had won their last four games. North Carolina had ups and downs all season with injuries and suspensions.
Atlantic Coast Conference (4-5): Right On
The ACC had its ups and downs this season, with some tough losses against other conferences. Most notably, Virginia Tech lost to Boise State and FCS James Madison. North Carolina struggled with suspensions and injuries all season.
That being said, having nine teams in bowl games and going just under .500 is about what people expected from the ACC.
Virginia Tech, the ACC Champions, were pummeled by Stanford in the Orange Bowl 40-12. Stanford was just a tougher team, with its only loss versus Oregon. Virginia Tech entered the game on an 11-game winning streak.
Boston College lost to a ranked Nevada team, who was favored by nine. Nevada was just the better team, getting help from its punt team with a punt return for touchdown.
Florida State beat South Carolina 26-17. Both teams came in as divisional champions in their conferences with losses in the championship games.
Notre Dame upset Miami (FL). Notre Dame had a first year head coach while Miami (FL) had Jacory Harris. Harris was shutdown throwing three interceptions before being pulled. Notre Dame was playing without starting quarterback, Crist, who went down for the season.
South Florida upset Clemson in the Meineke Car Care Bowl 31-26. Clemson lost three of its final five games. South Florida won four of its final six. Clemson was favored by five.
North Carolina beat Tennessee in their own backyard in the Music City Bowl in double overtime. North Carolina was riddled with injuries and suspensions all season, but came out on top with a 23-yard field goal.
Maryland beat East Carolina 51-20. East Carolina had no answers for Maryland's offense. The Terrapins used big plays to beat the Pirates, including a 61-yard and 91-yard run. They also had a 45-yard pass for a touchdown early in the game.
North Carolina State beat West Virginia, co-champions of the Big East. UConn got the automatic BCS bid, leaving West Virginia to face the Wolfpack. NC State had a tough passing attack, ranked 19th in the country.
Georgia Tech lost to Air Force 14-7. Air Force had a tough offense, including the second-ranked rushing offense in the country. Georgia Tech also had a prolific offense with the top-ranked rushing offense in the country.
Big 12 (3-5): Underperformed
Oklahoma won the Big 12 Championship Game to get to the Fiesta Bowl against Connecticut. Most critics did not give UConn a shot and they lost to the Sooners 48-20. The Huskies put up a fight and never gave up, but the Sooners were always in control of the game.
Texas A&M, a Big 12 member, lost to LSU in the Cotton Bowl. Texas A&M came in to the game with a six-game winning streak, but LSU had one of the toughest schedules in the country.
Texas Tech beat Northwestern in a game that came down to the wire. Texas Tech was up 14 when Northwestern intercepted the ball and returned it for a touchdown. Texas Tech got the ball back, but ended up punting. Northwestern could not put it in the end zone.
Nebraska was upset by Washington in a game where no one gave the Huskies a chance. This was a huge upset as Nebraska came in to the game ranked at 10-3. Washington had to win their last two games to become bowl eligible.
Kansas State lost to Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl. Kansas State scored with just over a minute to go, but failed on the two-point conversion. Syracuse recovered the onside kick to win the game.
Oklahoma State killed Arizona 36-10. Arizona had limped in to the bowl game, having lost their last four games on the season. Oklahoma State came in to the game ranked with a 10-2 record.
Baylor was upset by Illinois in a game played in Texas. Baylor had no answers for Mikel Leshoure, who was the Big Ten's best running back. He had three touchdowns.
Missouri was upset by Iowa in the Insight Bowl 27-24. Missouri was ranked in the top 15 in all polls at 10-2. Iowa had some upsetting losses and came in at 7-5.
Big Ten (3-5): Underperformed
The Big Ten began its bowl season on a high note, with two wins right away.
Iowa beat Missouri in the Insight Bowl. Missouri was ranked in the top 15 in all polls. Iowa endured some painful losses, including their final game against Minnesota. Iowa sealed the win with an interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Illinois, at 6-6, barely made a bowl game and beat Baylor in Texas. Baylor had no answers for Illinois's Mikel Leshoure, who had three touchdowns on the afternoon.
The Big Ten looked decent until Jan. 1 hit. They suffered all five losses that day.
It began with Northwestern losing to Texas Tech. They got the ball back with little time on the clock, down by seven, and could not put a drive together for a touchdown. The Wildcats ran out of time.
Penn State battled Florida until the fourth quarter. Florida scored 17 unanswered points to down the Nittany Lions 37-24.
Michigan State forgot to show up for its bowl game against Alabama. MSU was disappointed with their non-BCS bid after going 10-1 and sharing the Big Ten Championship with OSU and Wisconsin. Alabama took advantage of this and scored like crazy, winning 49-7.
Michigan has not played in a bowl game for the past three seasons because they too, forgot to play against Mississippi State. The game began on a high note with a couple nice touchdowns, but then the Bulldogs settled in. They won 52-14.
Wisconsin faced TCU in the Rose Bowl. They were expected to win with their size and running game, but TCU looked like the better team. They hit harder and looked like the stronger opponent. Wisconsin lost when its two-point conversion failed and couldn't recover the onside kick.
Ohio State finally got the SEC monkey off its back, beating Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. OSU proved they deserved the BCS bid by beating a team with a prolific offense. Arkansas tried to fight back at the end but OSU did not give up the lead.