College Football Rankings: B/R's Updated Top 25 After NY6
The New Year's Day bowl schedule isn't what it used to be, and it's been overshadowed by the College Football Playoff. But there are still some important games, and fans were treated to a long day watching some fun football contests.
The day started with Alabama taking care of business against Michigan in the Citrus Bowl while Minnesota shocked Auburn by controlling the game in an upset Outback Bowl win.
Then came the highlight games: a riveting Rose Bowl that saw Oregon come from behind and hand a turnover-prone Wisconsin team a 28-27 loss before Georgia, playing without several of its top players, throttled Baylor in a mostly one-sided Sugar Bowl.
No, the nightcap wasn't the competitive affair for which everyone hoped, but the day didn't disappoint. So, how did Wednesday's outcomes affect Bleacher Report's rankings?
B/R experts Matt Hayes, David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller and Brad Shepard evaluated the play and hammered out the results. Each panel member submitted a ballot, with a first-place vote worth 25 points, followed by 24 points for second, 23 for third, etc.
B/R's Post-New Year's 6 Bowl Games Top 25
3. Ohio State
11. Penn State
14. Notre Dame
18. Appalachian State
21. Boise State
22. Air Force
T25. Texas A&M
Others receiving votes: SMU, Florida Atlantic, Louisiana Tech, Texas
Who's Hot: Justin Herbert Capping Oregon Career with Twilight Zone Game
Justin Herbert is a potential first-round NFL draft pick because of his stature, rocket arm and ability to be an elite dropback passer.
But in a classic 28-27 win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, his unconventional heroics with his feet elevated the Ducks to a victory over a tough Badgers team that controlled the ball for much of the first three-and-a-half quarters with its offense.
Despite having just three rushing touchdowns in the past two seasons, Herbert finished with three against Wisconsin on nine carries, and the biggest came on a 30-yard scamper that put the Ducks up for good with 7:41 to go.
The Ducks needed a couple of first downs to keep the ball away from the Badgers at the end of the game, and Herbert found Penn State transfer Juwan Johnson for a 28-yard gain on 3rd-and-3 to allow them to run out the clock and win the game.
"It was a tough day," Herbert told ESPN's Rece Davis on the postgame telecast. "Wisconsin's got a great defense, but you've got to get yards any way you can. It doesn't matter whether it's through the air or on the ground. We scored, and I think that's the greatest part."
Herbert capped an up-and-down career on a high note. He was booed at one time by Oregon fans disappointed in his inconsistency, and he struggled to win big games throughout his first three seasons. But he returned for his final year to do things like this.
Though Oregon was a frustrating Arizona State loss away from the College Football Playoff, winning the Rose Bowl is a strong consolation prize.
Herbert finished his career completing 14 of 20 passes for 138 yards and an interception to go along with his three rushing scores. Blessed with short fields after turnovers, he took advantage after the Oregon offense stagnated following a strong touchdown drive the first time it touched the ball.
Wisconsin couldn't put the game away due to four turnovers, and Herbert capitalized to give the Ducks a massive win.
Who's Not: Baylor and Its Blundering Offense
Baylor's offense waited an entire half to get going in Wednesday night's Sugar Bowl. Against a team as good as Georgia, that ultimately spells disaster, and it did in a 26-14 loss.
Despite a third-quarter flurry, the Bears dug themselves a 19-point hole that was too much to overcome against a swarming UGA defense. Baylor stormed back with a couple of third-quarter scores, but head coach Matt Rhule did not call his best game as UGA pulled away.
A decision to go for it on fourth down near midfield while trailing 19-7 backfired when the Bulldogs got the stop then marched for their own touchdown. There was another Baylor scoring drive afterward, but the Bears failed to find any offensive continuity the rest of the night.
It was every bit as inconsistent a performance as the Big 12 Championship Game struggles when quarterback Charlie Brewer went down with a concussion. Brewer was hurt again on a sideline hit in the fourth quarter Wednesday night, but he was mostly ineffective before then.
Much of that was because of Georgia's talented, attacking defense. Kirby Smart's team put to rest all that ridiculous talk about how the Bulldogs weren't going to be ready to play. There would be no repeat of last year's embarrassing bowl loss to Texas.
Instead, the Dawgs shrugged off the myriad playmakers who were injured or sat out and still smothered Baylor on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Jake Fromm had a bit of a revival after struggling much of the season, and the Bulldogs showcased a future star in receiver George Pickens.
But the real stars of the show were on defense. Baylor finished the first half with just 97 yards and seven first downs, and it trailed 19-0 at the break. It was like there was a lid on the field at the 50-yard line, and Georgia swarmed like it was playing with 13 defenders.
The talent discrepancy was that great.
With lots of talk about Rhule potentially bolting for the NFL, Baylor played like a team without direction. And with so much talent coming in thanks to Smart's elite recruiting, Georgia put to rest its big-game struggles, at least for a night.
Baylor fared much the same as Oklahoma when the Sooners went up against a dynamic SEC team in the national semifinal loss to LSU. Wednesday night wasn't quite that bad, but Georgia had no issues with Baylor. Even with Brewer on the field, the Bears offense was anemic, made to look pedestrian by UGA's dizzying defense.
Fun Fact: Alabama and Auburn Have Still Never Won a Bowl Game on the Same Day
Apparently, Alabama and Auburn can't tolerate each other's company to such an extent that the teams even eschew mutual prosperity.
Basically the entire Yellowhammer State shut down Wednesday afternoon as Alabama and Auburn concluded their seasons with bowl games at the same time. Even though the Crimson Tide took care of business with a cakewalk 35-16 throttling of Michigan in the Citrus Bowl, the Tigers were thoroughly outplayed by Minnesota in a 31-24 Outback Bowl loss that should have been much worse.
P.J. Fleck's Golden Gophers were one of college football's most exciting stories in 2019, and they took care of business against Auburn with a huge day from receiver Tyler Johnson, who finished with 12 catches for 204 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, this was the 10th time the bitter Iron Bowl rivals played a bowl game on the same day. It was the seventh time the teams split the decisions, and they have still never won bowl games on the same day.
Given all those years of winning from two of college football's blue-blood programs, the fact they've never celebrated a postseason victory on the same day is wild.
For head coach Gus Malzahn, it sours a season that saw the Tigers beat Alabama at Jordan-Hare Stadium and trot out a dominant defense. Minnesota mixed up a strong running game and read-option attack to confuse Auburn, though, and interim offensive coordinator Matt Simon had a heck of an audition for the job.
Fleck had to replace Kirk Ciarrocca, who left Minnesota for Penn State a week ago, and Simon came through.
Meanwhile, Nick Saban's Tide had a disappointing season that included a porous, young defense and an unfortunate injury to Heisman Trophy-hopeful quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. But Mac Jones had a brilliant bowl game as he auditioned for a starting gig that would become available if Tagovailoa leaves for the NFL, going 16-of-25 for 327 yards and three touchdowns.
It was a tale of two divergent days for the Iron Bowl rivals, but that's status quo for their bowl history.
What to Watch for
College football is almost over, and just one marquee game remains. We've all got to wait nearly two weeks until Jan. 13's National Championship between top-ranked LSU and No. 3 seed Clemson from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
Until then, there's a little bit to whet our appetites but not much in the way of substance.
The two best remaining games including Power 5 opponents happen Thursday when Boston College enters life without fired head coach Steve Addazio by taking on Luke Fickell's Cincinnati Bearcats in the Birmingham Bowl at 3 p.m. ET.
The Bearcats were close to winning the AAC title but lost two close games to Memphis during two consecutive weekends.
The 7 p.m. nightcap features a Tennessee team that stormed all the way back from a 1-4 start to go 7-5, turning around both its season and the excitement of the Jeremy Pruitt era. In the Gator Bowl, the Vols will take on upstart Indiana, which was probably the biggest surprise in the Big Ten.
Other games afterward include Nevada-Ohio on Friday in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Southern Mississippi-Tulane on Saturday in the Armed Forces Bowl and Louisiana-Miami (Ohio) on Monday, Jan. 6 in the LendingTree Bowl.
Of course, we'll probably watch because we're college football fanatics, but all of it is just to tide us over for the main course on Jan. 13 when Joe Burrow leads LSU's record-setting offense against Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne and a Clemson team trying to repeat as national champions.
It'll be a tilt between two undefeated programs that have looked better and better as the season has progressed. We're into the home stretch now, and it's going to be interesting to see what college football has in store for us in its grand finale.