Winners and Losers from College Football's 2019-20 Bowl Season So Far

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystJanuary 2, 2020

Winners and Losers from College Football's 2019-20 Bowl Season So Far

0 of 16

    Trevor Lawrence and Clemson celebrate a Fiesta Bowl victory
    Trevor Lawrence and Clemson celebrate a Fiesta Bowl victoryRick Scuteri/Associated Press

    It goes without saying that LSU and Clemson have been the two biggest winners of bowl season by emerging victorious from the College Football Playoff semifinals, both those two elite sets of undefeated Tigers are far from the only big stories from the deluge of bowls.

    Bowl season isn't quite finished yet. In addition to the national championship on Jan. 13, there are five more bowl games between Jan. 2-6. But with the New Year's Six concluded, it's time to reflect on the best and the worst of the past two weeks in college football.

    The best includes LSU's unstoppable passing attack, Air Force's equally unstoppable run game, a trio of incredible rushing performances on New Year's Eve, and a pair of MAC teams ending eternal bowl droughts.

    The worst includes Ohio State's fortune with video reviews, many self-inflicted wounds on offense by both Florida State and Wisconsin, Jim Harbaugh and, yes, of course, Miami getting shut out by a Conference-USA team.

    No stone was left unturned in this recap of the 2019-20 bowl season thus far.

Winner: Joe Burrow and Justin Jefferson, LSU

1 of 16

    LSU QB Joe Burrow
    LSU QB Joe BurrowJohn Amis/Associated Press

    Joe Burrow won the Heisman Trophy in the most lopsided vote in the stiff-armed trophy's history.

    And then he had the most incredible performance of his career.

    LSU scored touchdowns on eight of its first nine possessions in the Peach Bowl, and all eight came from Burrow. He threw for more than 400 yards and seven touchdowns just in the first half, and then he tacked on a two-yard rushing touchdown early in the third quarter.

    Without even attempting a pass in the fourth quarter, Burrow set new career highs for both passing yards (493) and passing touchdowns (seven).

    He's now at 5,208 yards and 55 touchdowns for the season. It's highly unlikely he'll eclipse B.J. Symons' FBS record for yards in a single season (5,833), but Colt Brennan's touchdown record (58) is in danger of being broken in the national championship battle with Clemson.

    Perhaps the most ridiculous part of Burrow's big day is that LSU's best receiver, Ja'Marr Chase, was barely involved. He had a 22-yard reception midway through the second quarter and a 39-yarder later in that period, but that was it. Two catches for 61 yards and no scores. If you had told me Chase's line before the game began, I would have lost a lot of jelly beans betting on the Sooners moneyline.

    Instead, the primary beneficiary of the Burrow bonanza was Justin Jefferson, who grabbed 14 catches for 227 yards and four touchdowns.

    In all three categories, not only did Jefferson set new career highs, but he also shattered the previous College Football Playoff records—Hunter Renfrow had 10 receptions in the 2017 national championship, O.J. Howard had 208 yards in the 2016 national championship and several players were tied with two receiving touchdowns.

    So much for that vastly improved Oklahoma defense, eh? It's revisionist history, but maybe the rest of the Big 12 just wasn't any good. I'm aware the Sooners didn't have Delarrin Turner-Yell (broken collarbone), but one absence doesn't excuse allowing an opposing quarterback to look like he's playing a video game on its easiest setting.

Loser: Ohio State's Luck with Video Reviews

2 of 16

    Ohio State's Shaun Wade and Chase Young wrap up Trevor Lawrence
    Ohio State's Shaun Wade and Chase Young wrap up Trevor LawrenceRick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Ohio State dominated the first 25 minutes of the Fiesta Bowl.

    Before an ankle injury, J.K. Dobbins looked unstoppable. Justin Fields wasn't perfect, but he seemed unflappable. And in addition to a 16-0 lead, the Buckeyes were more than tripling the Tigers in total yards (288 to 86). Sure, they left a few too many points on the field by settling for three red-zone field goals instead of finishing those drives with touchdowns, but it appeared as though they were in complete control.

    It felt like more of a lopsided affair than the first 25 minutes of the first CFP semifinal.

    Then came the targeting call that changed everything.

    On a Clemson 3rd-and-5 late in the second quarter, Shaun Wade penetrated the backfield untouched on a delayed corner blitz and rocked Trevor Lawrence's world, teaming up with Chase Young for what appeared to be both a drive-ending sack and possibly a game-ending hit for Lawrence, who was on the ground for a while after being twisted like an orange-and-white Gumby.

    Though there was no flag on the play, the officials reviewed it and controversially ejected Wade for targeting, eliminating one of Ohio State's best defenders and keeping Clemson's drive alive. The Tigers would score a touchdown five plays laterwith Lawrence in tow, as he somehow only missed one play.

    There was a less controversial roughing-the-punter penalty against Ohio State early in the third quarter, which enabled Clemson to score a touchdown two plays later.

    But the one play Ohio State fans will never forget nor understand was the fumble recovery returned for a touchdown that was later overturned.

    Justyn Ross appeared to have made a 12-yard reception on 3rd-and-19, taking three steps after "catching" the ball before he was stripped by Jeffrey Okudah. However, the replay officials didn't see it that way, instead deciding it was an incomplete pass.

    The Buckeyes still had opportunities to recover from all of that. They took a 23-21 lead early in the fourth quarter. They punted from inside the Clemson 40 with that same lead and a little over three minutes remaining. And then they got the ball back and drove inside the Clemson 25 when trailing 29-23. There were about a dozen possible turning points in the game on which they couldn't capitalize.

    The video replay officials didn't help their cause, though.

Winner: 2 MAC Teams Finally Winning a Bowl Game

3 of 16

    Buffalo RB Jaret Patterson
    Buffalo RB Jaret PattersonSteve Luciano/Associated Press

    On the first day of this bowl season, two teams from the Mid-American Conference ended a bowl drought that began in 1962.

    Buffalo got its first bowl win in the Bahamas Bowl, easily dispatching of Charlotte 31-9.

    As he did so often during the regular season, Jaret Patterson led the way for the Bulls, finishing the afternoon with 173 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. Because of that big day, he concluded his sophomore season with 2,008 yards from scrimmage and 20 total touchdowns.

    Patterson already held the program's single-season FBS records for both yards and touchdowns, but it's even more impressive now that there is a two at the beginning of each of those numbers. Get ready to hear that name a lot this offseason. He is to Buffalo what Devin Singletary was to Florida Atlantic a couple of years ago.

    Buffalo's football program disbanded from 1970 to '77, though, and it didn't return to the FBS level until 1999. Thus, its bowl drought was technically only 29 seasons.

    Kent State legitimately spent 58 years trying to win a bowl game before it finally happened in the Frisco Bowl.

    This was supposed to be Jordan Love's last hurrah at Utah State before he left early to pursue a career as an NFL quarterback, but it was Kent State's QB, Dustin Crum, who put on a show in a 51-41 victory.

    The dual-threat junior threw for 289 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 147 yards and a score. Per Sports Reference, the only other player in a bowl game in the past two decades to put up at least 280, two, 140 and one, respectively, was Johnny Manziel at the end of his Heisman-winning season.

    Liberty also got its first bowl victory, beating Georgia Southern 23-16 in the Cure Bowl. However, this was only the Flames' second season at the FBS level, so that can't really be considered a drought. All the same, winning a bowl in year No. 2 is impressive. Massachusetts has been playing at this level for eight seasons without even putting together a five-win campaign, let alone a bowl victory.

Loser: Miami Hurricanes

4 of 16

    Miami head coach Manny Diaz
    Miami head coach Manny DiazChris Seward/Associated Press

    Two years ago, it felt like "The U" was back. Miami was 10-0 and had consecutive November statement wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. The Hurricanes entered the final week of that 2017 regular season at No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings.

    That 10-0 high turned into a 10-3 disappointment in a hurry, followed by a 7-6 letdown campaign, Mark Richt's unexpected retirement, and a 6-6 record this regular season that included a loss to Florida International and a close call at home against Central Michigan.

    Facing a Conference USA team (Louisiana Tech) in the Independence Bowl was a poignant snapshot of how far the seemingly mighty had fallen.

    Failing to score even one point in that game was a fitting conclusion to a nightmarish year.

    (They are 13-16 overall since that 10-0 record.)

    Quarterbacks Jarren Williams and N'Kosi Perry were both confounded by a Louisiana Tech secondary that was shredded by Texas in its only previous game against a Power Five foe. Neither half of Miami's QB platoon threw for 100 yards or a touchdown. Each turned it over at least once and completed less than 50 percent of his pass attempts.

    Ohio State transfer Tate Martell was finally given a chance to run the offense for a series late in the first half, but he only completed one pass and took two sacks before vanishing to the bench once again.

    Miami's rushing attack wasn't any better. DeeJay Dallas was unavailable because of a dislocated elbow, and Cam'Ron Harris managed just 31 yards on 12 carries. More than half of the team's 74 rushing yards came from quarterbacks who were running for their lives.

    At least when Florida State backed its way into the Independence Bowl two years ago, it put a hurting on Southern Mississippi in a 42-13 blowout. Miami looked like it didn't want to be there, and that can't bode well for next season. 

Winner: Air Force Time of Possession in Cheez-It Bowl

5 of 16

    Air Force RB Kadin Remsberg
    Air Force RB Kadin RemsbergChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    As is the case for all of the run-dominant offenses in college football, Air Force often wins the time-of-possession battle. It's not necessarily a primary objective for the Falcons, but it tends to happen since most of their offensive snaps bleed at least 30 seconds off the clock.

    And against the pass-happy, uptempo offense of Washington State, the difference in time of possession figured to be substantial.

    Even with that expectation, it was still ridiculous to watch Air Force methodically march the ball down the Cougars' collective throat.

    After Washington State's opening drive stalled out at the Air Force 2, the Falcons went 98 yards in 20 plays, burning more than 12 minutes. The next time they got the ball: 15 plays and more than seven minutes to set up a field goal.

    In the second half, the Falcons had a pair of touchdown drives, each of which lasted more than six minutes. Kadin Remsberg (26 carries for 178 yards), Taven Birdow (20 carries for 108 yards) and Donald Hammond III (15 carries for 62 yards) took turns leading the three-headed charge.

    Meanwhile, Washington State had four possessions that used less than 80 seconds, including a fumble on the first play after the aforementioned Air Force field goal.

    All told, the Falcons rushed for 371 yards and held the ball for 43 minutes and 24 seconds in their 31-21 victory. Even though they never led by more than 10 points, at no point in the second half did it feel like they were in danger of losing.

    The real winner, though, was the woman in a pirate patch who toasted Washington State's lone second-half scoring drive with a swig of what we can probably assume was Fireball. If I had to travel to Phoenix to watch my team give up 27 first downs on rushing plays, I'd be half-blindfolded and drinking too.

Loser: BYU's Secondary in the Hawaii Bowl

6 of 16

    Hawaii QB Cole McDonald
    Hawaii QB Cole McDonaldEugene Tanner/Associated Press

    BYU's defense held seven opponents below 200 passing yards during the regular season, including Utah, Tennessee and Boise State. With the exception of a 45-19 loss to Washington in which the Huskies scored a pair of non-offensive touchdowns, the Cougars held every opponent to 30 points or fewer.

    But they had no answer for Hawaii's aerial assault.

    In last year's Hawaii Bowl, Cole McDonald's spectacular sophomore season ended with a colossal dud. He threw for just 85 yards and had a pair of interceptions in Hawaii's 31-14 loss to Louisiana Tech.

    This time, he saved his best for last, throwing for a career-best 493 yards to go with four touchdowns. He also rushed in a fifth touchdown from one yard out shortly after connecting with Jared Smart on a 58-yard strike on the final play of the first quarter.

    The Cougars defense did eventually make an appearance. McDonald led Hawaii on five consecutive scoring drives in the first half, but four straight three-and-outs after the intermission enabled BYU to come back to take a 34-31 lead.

    When that defense needed a stop the most, though, it couldn't contain McDonald. With less than two minutes remaining, he scrambled for nine yards and then connected with Nick Mardner on back-to-back plays for 38 yards and a 24-yard touchdown.

    The Warriors went the entire third quarter without getting a first down and then marched down the field with no resistance, capping off a 38-34 victory.

Winner: Offense Via Defense in the Gasparilla Bowl

7 of 16

    UCF DB Richie Grant
    UCF DB Richie GrantJohn Raoux/Associated Press

    It might seem strange to praise the defenses in a game that featured 73 combined points and 948 yards from scrimmage. However, the Gasparilla Bowl between UCF and Marshall was a defensive war in the first half.

    On the third play of the game, UCF's Richie Grant picked off an Isaiah Green pass that went right through the hands of Marshall's Obi Obialo. Grant took it 39 yards to the house.

    On the next snap, Green connected with Armani Lewis for a 45-yard gain, but he fumbled it right back to the Knights at the end of the play.

    Later in the first quarter, Marshall broke out a bit of trickery when Talik Keaton got the ball on a jet sweep before he attempted to throw the ball back to Green for what would have been a double pass. However, Kenny Turner blew the play up in the backfield, Tre'Mon Morris-Brash swatted the lame-duck lateral out of the air and scooped it for another defensive touchdown.

    Marshall also fumbled on its next possession, meaning it had already committed four turnovers barely 15 minutes into the game. Tough to win like that.

    At long last, though, the Thundering Herd got some luck of their own on defense when—one play after UCF had a touchdown called back for holding—Darriel Mack Jr. threw the ball off his back foot directly to Micah Abraham for a 75-yard pick-six.

    Before a UCF field goal at the end of the first half, it was 21-7 with three of the four touchdowns scored by the defenses.

    Starting with that last-second field goal, though, there were six consecutive scoring drives of at least 70 yards. At the end of that bonanza, there were three touchdowns scored in the span of 30 seconds. Suffice it to say, the flow of the game changed drastically.

    UCF ran for 310 yards and put up 587 total yards in a 48-25 victory.

Loser: Utah's End-of-Season Effort

8 of 16

    Tyler Huntley
    Tyler HuntleyEric Gay/Associated Press

    Heading into conference championship week, Utah had a legitimate chance of making the College Football Playoff. A convincing win over Oregon in the Pac-12 title game coupled with a Georgia loss to LSU in the SEC championship tilt might have done the trick.

    Instead, the Utes were pummeled 37-15 by the Ducks and put forth an even less inspired effort in a 38-10 Alamo Bowl loss to Texas.

    The senior quarterback-running back tandem of Tyler Huntley and Zack Moss was sensational during the regular season, but the duo was ineffective against the...(checks notes)...stout Texas defense?

    With the exception of leaving the USC game early with an injury, Moss had rushed for at least 66 yards in 22 consecutive games, and he averaged 121 over his previous eight contests. The Longhorns bottled him up, though, limiting him to 57 yards on 16 carries.

    Huntley's day wasn't much better, as he finished with 126 passing yards and 33 rushing yards. The season opener against BYU was the only game in which he had fewer passing yards (106), but that's because there was no need to pass since the Utes were running all over the Cougars. They needed him in this one, and he only had one completion of more than 12 yardsand even that longest gain only went for 19.

    The biggest disappointment was Utah's defense. After holding 10 of their first 12 opponents to 17 points or fewer, the Utes had back-to-back season-worst efforts in that department. They entered the Pac-12 title game allowing 2.3 yards per carry and 56.4 rushing yards per game. Oregon went for 239 on 5.8 yards per tote, and Texas followed suit with 231 yards 6.2 at a time.

    Given the way these teams' respective seasons played out, if either was going to win in a blowout, you would have expected Utah to be on the other end of it. But for the second straight year, Texas QB Sam Ehlinger had the type of overwhelming underdog performance (four total touchdowns) that will jump-start his offseason Heisman campaign.

    One final thought: If LSU beat Oklahoma by 35, can you even imagine the carnage that would have transpired in the Peach Bowl if Utah had received that invitation instead?

Winner: Journey Brown, Penn State

9 of 16

    Journey Brown
    Journey BrownBarry Reeger/Associated Press

    From 2015 to 2017, Saquon Barkley was the undisputed stud in Penn State's backfield. He ran for 3,843 yards and 43 touchdowns during those three seasonsmore than 10 times as many yards as the next-closest PSU back (375 from Miles Sanders) and more than seven times the next-closest touchdown mark by a PSU running back (six for Andre Robinson).

    Last year was slightly more of a timeshare, with Ricky Slade (45 carries for 257 yards) seeing about one-fifth as much action as Sanders (220 carries for 1,274 yards), but there was still no question about who the lead back was.

    This year was more like rushing whack-a-mole.

    After seven games, five different players had led the Nittany Lions in rushing: Devyn Ford, Journey Brown, Ricky Slade, Noah Cain twice and Sean Clifford twice. Backup quarterback Will Levis increased that count to six players in the regular-season finale against Rutgers. And the highest single-game mark by any Nittany Lion was Brown's 124 yards in the Nov. 9 loss to Minnesota.

    Though Penn State rushed well as a team throughout the year, we weren't expecting the Nittany Lions to produce one of the top individual rushing performances of bowl season.

    Brown pulled it off, though, carrying the ball 16 times for 202 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

    He only had one carry in the first quarter, but at least it was a 32-yard touchdown. He also broke loose for a 56-yard TD run midway through the second quarter, entering the intermission with 96 yards on just five carries. He would add runs of 44, 20 and 18 yards in the second half en route to topping the 200-yard plateau.

    In an appropriate tribute to the running-back-by-committee approach that got Penn State to the Cotton Bowl in the first place, its final five snaps were handoffs to five different players. Brown should top the depth chart next year, but the Nittany Lions needed all those guys at different points in the season.

    One other note on the Cotton Bowl before we move on: Memphis kicker Riley Patterson is a boss. After connecting from both 50 and 52 in the AAC championship win over Cincinnati, he went 6-of-6 in this one with all six tries coming from at least 37 yards out. You rarely see a kicker leave early for the NFL draft, but this might be an exception.

Loser: Florida State's Ball Security and 3rd-Down Efficiency in the Sun Bowl

10 of 16

    James Blackman
    James BlackmanOmar Rawlings/Getty Images

    After 41 consecutive seasons with winning records, Florida State put the finishing touches on its second straight sub-.500 campaign in extremely sloppy fashion against Arizona State on Tuesday.

    The Seminoles and Sun Devils wasted little time in setting the stage for a turnover bonanza in the Sun Bowl. Arizona State's A.J. Carter fumbled on the first snap of the game. FSU's James Blackman threw an interception on 2nd-and-goal from the ASU 1-yard line four plays later.

    On their next possession, the 'Noles had a field-goal attempt blocked. And after FSU forced a three-and-out, Blackman took a sack and fumbled to set up Arizona State in the red zone.

    Blackman would throw another interception midway through the second quarter as Florida State entered halftime with three turnovers and no points.

    The Seminoles offense did make a cameo in the latter half of the third quarter. The unit had an 11-play, 91-yard touchdown drive, and then Blackman threw a perfect bomb to Tamorrion Terry for a 91-yard touchdown on the ensuing possession. Despite the terrible first half, they led 14-9 at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

    Then the sloppiness returned with a vengeance.

    On his first pass attempt of the final frame, Blackman threw a pick-six to Willie Harts. And I mean he threw it right to Harts. There wasn't a Florida State receiver within 10 feet of the ball, and he hit Harts square in the numbers.

    Blackman tacked on his fourth interception on a first-down play with 3:51 remaining. And then one down after a game-extending 49-yard gain on 3rd-and-19which was only Florida State's second third-down conversion in 16 triesTerry fumbled the ball away for the team's sixth turnover in a 20-14 loss.

    The real loser of this game, though, is the sleep we're all going to lose in the next few days because of those Tony the Tiger commercials. Why did they have to be so creepy? At least the payoff was watching Herm Edwards get doused with a water jug full of Frosted Flakes.

Winner: A Trio of New Year's Eve Rushing Performances

11 of 16

    Kentucky's Lynn Bowden Jr.
    Kentucky's Lynn Bowden Jr.Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    Through the first 25 bowl games, there weren't many box-score heroes as far as rushing is concerned. Heading into New Year's Eve, Penn State's Journey Brown (202 yards) was the leading rusher and the only player with at least 180 yards in a game.

    By the time the ball dropped in NYC, though, Brown had fallen into fourth place thanks to Lynn Bowden Jr., Malcolm Perry and Xazavian Valladay.

    After a knee injury to Terry Wilson and a few games of ineffectiveness from Sawyer Smith, Bowdenpreviously a wide receiver and a return specialistbecame Kentucky's full-time "quarterback" in mid-October. But aside from Georgia (with some help from a torrential downpour), no one could figure out how to slow him down. Bowden averaged 162.3 rushing yards and had a combined 13 rushing and passing touchdowns over his final seven regular-season games.

    He saved his best for last, responding to a pregame scuffle with 233 rushing yards, 73 passing yards and three touchdowns in a 37-30 Belk Bowl victory over Virginia Tech. Not only was he great, but he was also clutch, leading the Wildcats on an 18-play, eight-minute, game-winning drive that included a nine-yard completion on 4th-and-7, a two-yard run on 4th-and-1 and a 13-yard touchdown pass with 15 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

    As that game was wrapping up in Charlotte, North Carolina, another rushing quarterback began doing his thing in Memphis.

    Navy's Malcolm Perry needed 196 yards to become the first quarterback in FBS history with at least 2,000 rushing yards in a single season, and he got there shortly after a 59-yard scamper early in the fourth quarter. He ended up with 213 yards on the ground as well as 57 through the air with a touchdown.

    Even though Perry had more rushing yards than Kansas State had yards of total offense (170), the Midshipmen needed some late trickery to win the Liberty Bowl. Facing 4th-and-3 around midfield in a tie game with less than a minute remaining, Perry pitched the ball to CJ Williams on a sweep. Williams stopped and attempted just the fourth pass of his career, connecting with Chance Warren for a 41-yard gain to set up the game-winning chip shot.

    Last but not least, Xazavian Valladay had a field day in Wyoming's 38-17 Arizona Bowl victory over Georgia State.

    The sophomore didn't become the featured back for the Cowboys until after both Trey Smith (ankle) and Titus Swen (knee) suffered what ended up being season-ending injuries, but Halladay was a freight train in the second half of the season, averaging 127 rushing yards over Wyoming's final six regular-season games.

    Fittingly, he was unstoppable in the second half of this game. At halftime, he had 15 carries for 57 yards with one eight-yard catch. But he would add a 63-yard reception, a 62-yard run and a 55-yard run on his way to finishing the night with 204 rushing yards, 91 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns, leading all players in the game in all three categories.

Loser: Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

12 of 16

    Jim Harbaugh
    Jim HarbaughJohn Raoux/Associated Press

    Rarely do you come away from bowl season feeling like a particular coach was one of the biggest disappointments. At any rate, we didn't have any coaches listed as losers in last year's edition of this piece, nor the previous year's.

    But in getting outscored 21-0 in the second half of the Citrus Bowl loss to Alabama, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh ensured he will remain one of the first names mentioned in any hot-seat conversation for the foreseeable future.

    Harbaugh actually felt like a winner at halftime. Michigan went three-and-out on its opening possession, followed by Mac Jones connecting with Jerry Jeudy for an 85-yard touchdown on Alabama's first offensive snap. But rather than instantly crumbling, Michigan battled back and took a 16-14 lead into the intermission.

    Not only did the Wolverines keep their composure, but they established the run a whole heck of a lot better than they did at the end of the regular season. After three straight games of rushing for fewer than 100 yards, Michigan had 85 rushing yards by the end of the first quarter and 135 by halftime.

    But as far as halftime adjustments go, Nick Saban destroyed Harbaugh.

    The Crimson Tide started getting better pressure on Shea Patterson while also keeping the Wolverines from getting to Joneswho ended up throwing for 327 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.

    Michigan's biggest coaching blunder came early in the fourth quarter. The Wolverines had driven 66 yards to get to the Alabama 30, but a slow-developing first-down passing play resulted in a sack and a loss of 13 yards. They did next to nothing on the next two plays and punted from the Alabama 41 when trailing 21-16.

    They might as well have just waved a white flag and called the game at that point. Worse yet, Alabama went 91 yards in five plays, and then Michigan again punted from midfield on the ensuing drive with eight minutes left in a 12-point game.

    Perhaps the worst part for Harbaugh, though, was when Saban rubbed his nose in the mess. The Wolverines were out of timeouts with less than two minutes remaining when Alabama had 1st-and-goal from the Michigan 4. Rather than going into victory formation and just bleeding out the clock, Saban ran Najee Harris three times for one final touchdown to make the 35-16 margin that much more embarrassing.

    The 9-3 regular-season record was already a disappointment compared to Michigan's preseason College Football Playoff hopes. Picking up a fourth loss in somewhat-blowout fashion against an opponent used to playing for national championships at this time of the year was the cherry on a sad sundae.

Winner: The Orange Bowl

13 of 16

    Florida RB Lamical Perine
    Florida RB Lamical PerineLynne Sladky/Associated Press

    If someone had told you at the start of bowl season that you were only allowed to watch five of the New Year's Six games, there's no doubt you would have passed on the Orange Bowl.

    It was a foregone conclusion two months ago that the SEC or Big Ten team in that game would be a heavy favorite against some undeserving runner-up to Clemson in the ACC. Lo and behold, Virginia closed as a 16-point underdog against Floridawhich would have been the widest spread if not for Appalachian State -17 vs. UAB, per Vegas Insider.

    And yet, the game was awesome.

    Florida's Lamical Perine busted loose for a 61-yard touchdown run on the third play of the night. Then, one play after Virginia's Nick Grant made a preposterous interception, Bryce Perkins dropped a 34-yard dime into Terrell Jana's arms to tie the game.

    It took less than four minutes to confirm this would be a must-watch affair.

    There would be much more from both Perine and Perkins by the end of the night. Florida's running back added a 16-yard touchdown reception and a 10-yard rushing touchdown before halftime. And playing from behind literally every time he had the ball, Virginia's quarterbackusually renowned for his runningthrew for 323 yards and a career-high four touchdowns.

    Though Perkins only rushed for 24 yards, his mobility and elusiveness came into focus in a big way in what was arguably the best highlight from any bowl game.

    On the first snap of the second quarter, Virginia was facing 3rd-and-8 from the Florida 9. The Gators brought a blitz and got a ton of pressure on Perkins, who hurdled Zachary Carter, stiff-armed Jabari Zuniga and was about a second away from getting sandwiched by Ventrell Miller and Amari Burney when he floated a pass up in the back of the end zone to Hasise Dubois, who Moss'd his defender for the touchdown.

    There was also a "big-guy touchdown" late in the fourth quarter by Virginia O-lineman Bobby Haskins, though it was overturned as an illegal forward pass. This game had a little bit of everything.

    Perine's herculean effort ended up besting Perkins' performance in a 36-28 Florida victory.

Loser: Wisconsin's Turnovers and Its Inability to Contain Justin Herbert

14 of 16

    Oregon QB Justin Herbert
    Oregon QB Justin HerbertMark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Justin Herbert is going to be an NFL quarterback in a few months, likely as a first-round draft pick. He has picked apart many quality defenses with his arm over the past four years, throwing for more than 10,000 yards and nearly 100 touchdowns.

    But winning games with his legs?

    That's a new one.

    In his previous 21 games dating back to October 2018, Herbert had rushed 87 times for 80 yards and two touchdowns. Somewhere around 40 percent of those "rushing attempts" were sacks, but the fact remains that Herbert isn't much of a runner.

    Let's put it this way: If Joe Burrow is "sneaky athletic" for rushing 229 times for 710 yards and 11 touchdowns in the past two seasons, Herbert is more of a "not even pretending to be athletic" pocket passer.

    In Oregon's 28-27 Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin, though, Herbert ran in all three of the Ducks' offensive touchdowns, including the 30-yard fourth-quarter scamper that proved to be the game-winning score.

    Aside from those three touchdown runs by Herbert, Wisconsin's defense was every bit as good as advertised, allowing just 204 yards of total offense.

    Oregon went 75 yards on its opening possession, but it didn't have another drive of 40 or more yards, nor did it have a single gain of more than 16 yards until Herbert's 30-yard run with less than eight minutes remaining.

    Were it not for Wisconsin's four back-breaking turnovers on offense, it would have comfortably won this game. Three of the four set up Oregon inside the Badgers 40, resulting in two touchdowns. The fourth was a botched punt that Brady Breeze took to the house for six.

    The Badgers have now lost four consecutive Rose Bowls dating back to 2010, each one by a single possession.

Winner: Tyler Johnson, Mohamed Ibrahim and Boat Rowing

15 of 16

    Minnesota RB Mohamed Ibrahim
    Minnesota RB Mohamed IbrahimMike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    As was the case for UCF at the end of its first undefeated season, Minnesota pretty much had to win its Jan. 1 bowl game against Auburn to validate itself to the throngs of casual fans who never bothered to watch this great team during the regular season.

    And just like those Knights in 2017-18, the Golden Gophers moved the ball well and beat the SEC's Tigers by a touchdown despite entering the game as substantial underdogs.

    In this case, Minnesota kind of dominated Auburn.

    The final score (31-24) was close. Minnesota never led by more than seven. But P.J. Fleck's guys more than doubled Gus Malzahn's squad in total yards (494-232).

    Tyler Johnson single-handedly had more receiving yards than Auburn's entire team, winning that battle by a 204-176 margin. He got wide-open down the middle of the field for a 73-yard bomb in the fourth quarter, and he scored his other touchdown on an absurd one-handed grab in the back of the end zone late in the first half.

    Mohamed Ibrahim's 140 rushing yards more than doubled Auburn's total of 56. Rodney Smith (69 yards) also out-gained all of the Tigers combined.

    Were it not for Noah Igbinoghene's kickoff return for a touchdown and the Tanner Morgan interception that put Auburn in position for a chip-shot field goal, this might have eroded into a blowout.

    Here's a fun bragging point to keep Minnesota fans rowing the boat until the 2020 season begins: Only three teams gained at least 400 yards of total offense against Auburn's defenseAlabama (515), LSU (508) and Minnesota (494). There were also only three teams that held Auburn below 300 total yardsLSU (287), Florida (269) and Minnesota (232).

Loser: Big 12 Conference

16 of 16

    Baylor head coach Matt Rhule
    Baylor head coach Matt RhuleBill Feig/Associated Press

    We can't officially enter the offseason without asking it: Is Texas back?

    The Longhorns stomped Utah 38-10 in the Alamo Bowl, and based on how the rest of the Big 12 fared throughout bowl season, they appear to be the best of a disappointing crop of teams.

    Oklahoma's 63-28 loss to LSU in the Peach Bowl was the most widely viewed display of the league's ineffectiveness. The best the Big 12 had to offer had no defense to offer the Tigers, as Joe Burrow threw for seven touchdowns in the first half.

    Iowa State's 33-9 loss to Notre Dame in the Camping World Bowl was almost as disturbing. Cyclones QB Brock Purdy was great against Big 12 defenses, but he was helpless against legitimate resistance. Ian Book didn't even have a particularly good game for Notre Dame, but the Fighting Irish still ran away with what was supposed to be one of the more competitive bowl games.

    Then there's Kansas State, which was held to 170 total yards in a 20-17 loss to Navy in the Liberty Bowl. That's the same Navy defense that allowed at least 38 points and more than 400 total yards in three of its final six games against Notre Dame, Tulane and Houston.

    Oklahoma State at least showed up early on in the Texas Bowl, jumping out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter against Texas A&M. That offense was A.W.O.L. in the final three quarters, though, only adding a touchdown late in the fourth quarter against the Aggies prevent defense. The Cowboys ended up losing 24-21.

    And last but not least, Baylor never had much of a chance in the Sugar Bowl against Georgia. The final score (26-14) doesn't look too bad, but it was 19-0 at halftime, inspiring most well-adjusted, Eastern Standard Time dwellers to turn in early. The Bears finally showed some life in the third quarter. It was too little, too late, though, as Georgia's George Pickens (12 reception for 175 yards) was more than they could handle.

    All told, that's a 1-5 record for the Big 12, which also entered bowl season on a sour note by only producing six bowl-eligible teams.

    Aside from Texas, that league is going to want to forget these bowl games ever happened.


    Recruiting rankings via 247Sports' composite. Kerry Miller covers college football and men's college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @kerrancejames.