Winners and Losers of 2020 Bowl Season So Far

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2020

Winners and Losers of 2020 Bowl Season So Far

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    Steve Conner/Associated Press

    Bowl season is underway, and while the marquee matchups will not take place until New Year's Day, there has already been plenty of postseason football played.

    Ahead we have provided a rundown of the biggest winners and losers of the first seven bowl games of the season, and there are three more on tap Saturday.

    There has already been a record-setting rushing performance, a quarterback climbing up draft boards, a disappointing finish from one of the final undefeated teams of the 2020 season and plenty more.

    Let's dive in.

Loser: Louisiana Tech's Bowl Game Winning Streak

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    Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

    Louisiana Tech is rarely talked about nationally, appearing in the Associated Press poll in just two of its 40 years.

    The Bulldogs, however, had quietly won six bowl games in the last six seasons, the longest active streak among FBS teams.

    That impressive run was halted in a 38-3 loss to Georgia Southern in the New Orleans Bowl.

    The Bulldogs were outgained 448-232, failed to control the Eagles running game and turned the ball over four times. Quarterback Aaron Allen had a brutal day, completing 10 of 24 passes for 41 yards with three interceptions inside the Georgia Southern 30-yard line before he was benched.

    "He did not play very well," Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz told reporters. "He certainly hasn't played that way so far this year ... but he had a hard night tonight."

    The longest bowl winning streak now belongs to Appalachian State, which won its sixth in a row this year with a victory over North Texas in the Myrtle Beach Bowl. More on that in a bit.

Winner: Shai Werts Returns, Goes Out in Style

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    Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

    Shai Werts came to Georgia Southern as a 2-star recruit with just a handful of Group of Five offers.

    He leaves as a four-year starter who appeared in three straight bowl games after a 2-10 season his freshman year.

    The leader of the Eagles' triple-option offense, Werts was questionable for the New Orleans Bowl matchup with Louisiana Tech after missing the final two games of the regular season with a shoulder injury, but he suited up and led the team to victory.

    "I didn't want Shai to have to go out with an injury, and I don't think he wanted to either," head coach Chad Lunsford told reporters. "Super proud of him, proud of how he was able to end his career here."

    He finished with 71 rushing yards and three touchdowns and added 126 passing yards and a touchdown as the Eagles cruised to a 38-3 victory.

    He wraps up his college career with 3,072 rushing yards, 3,778 passing yards, 68 touchdowns accounted for and two of the three bowl game wins Georgia Southern has posted in seven years at the FBS level.

Loser: The Current System's Snub of BYU

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    Richard Shiro/Associated Press

    There is no reason No. 13 BYU should have played three-loss UCF in the Boca Raton Bowl.

    The Cougars were up 21-0 at the end of the first quarter and 35-7 late in the first half, cruising to a 49-23 victory over a team that had not appeared in the AP poll since September.

    Zach Wilson completed 26 of 34 passes for 425 yards and three touchdowns with two more scores on the ground in what will almost certainly be his final collegiate game. Tyler Allgeier racked up 173 rushing yards on 19 carries, and BYU tallied 655 yards against an overmatched defense.

    As bowl season progresses, we'll be treated to 3-7 Mississippi State against No. 22 Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl, 4-6 Kentucky against No. 24 NC State in the Gator Bowl and 4-5 Ole Miss against No. 7 Indiana in the Outback Bowl.

    Any of those ranked teams would have been better tests for BYU, which was among the most compelling stories of the season.

    Instead, we got to watch the Cougars blow out a clearly inferior opponent so the SEC could fill its bowl quota.

Winner: Carson Strong's NFL Draft Stock

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    Steve Conner/Associated Press

    The 2021 NFL draft is loaded at the quarterback position, with Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance appearing to be locks to be picked in the first round. Kyle Trask and Mac Jones have also played their way into consideration for the early rounds.

    That said, don't sleep on Carson Strong.

    In his second season starting for the University of Nevada, Reno, Strong threw for 2,858 yards with 27 touchdowns and four interceptions, and he was one of just eight qualified quarterbacks to complete more than 70 percent of his attempts.

    He saved his best game of the season for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Tulane, completing 22 of 28 passes for 271 yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions in a 38-27 victory.

    With a 6'4", 215-pound frame and strong arm, he certainly looks the part of an NFL quarterback, and his stock has been climbing.

    There's a case to be made for him to return to school in an effort to further raise his profile, but the 2022 draft is equally deep at the quarterback position with Sam Howell, Kedon Slovis, Spencer Rattler, Jayden Daniels and Tyler Shough among the candidates to be selected early.

Loser: Marshall's Late-Season Collapse

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    Emilee Chinn/Associated Press

    The month of December was not kind to Marshall.

    The Thundering Herd started the season impressively, outscoring opponents 262-71 en route to a 7-0 record and the No. 15 spot in the AP poll.

    That marked their highest climb in the national rankings since 1999, when Chad Pennington finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting.

    Their undefeated season was halted in a shocking 20-0 loss to Rice on Dec. 5, and that was followed by a 22-13 loss to UAB in the Conference USA Championship Game.

    Despite that stumble, Marshall still had an opportunity to end its season on a high not against a good Buffalo team in the Camellia Bowl.

    The Thundering Herd caught a break when Bulls star running back Jaret Patterson sat out with a right knee injury, but his replacement, Kevin Marks Jr., carried the ball 35 times for 138 yards and a touchdown, and Buffalo ground out a 17-10 victory.

    With redshirt freshman quarterback Grant Wells, Marshall will look to build on its success and forget about the brutal three-game stretch that spoiled what was undefeated season.

Winner: Camerun Peoples' Record-Setting Day

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    Richard Shiro/Associated Press

    After a 13-1 finish a year ago, Appalachian State suffered something of a letdown in a 9-3 season in which a number of Group of Five teams received significant national attention.

    The Mountaineers, however, finished strong with a 56-28 victory over North Texas in the Myrtle Beach Bowl.

    They ran wild against a defense that ranks 124th in FBS with 269.2 rushing yards allowed per game, and Camerun Peoples etched his name into the record book.

    The redshirt sophomore finished with an FBS bowl game record 319 rushing yards on 23 carries and scored five times to tie the record.

    The previous record belonged to Georgia Tech's P.J. Daniels, who tallied 307 rushing yards in the Humanitarian Bowl at the end of the 2003 season.

    "This is probably one of the most memorable football games I've ever played," Peoples told reporters in one of the understatements of the season.

    On the strength of that record-setting day, Peoples stands as the Sun Belt leader in rushing yards (1,126), yards per carry (6.7) and rushing touchdowns (tied, 12) in 2020.

Winner: The Biggest Victory in Liberty Flames History

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    Matt Stamey/Associated Press

    Liberty vs. Coastal Carolina was shaping up to be one of the biggest Group of Five games of the year before a COVID-19 outbreak led to the cancellation of their Dec. 5 matchup.

    The Chanticleers replaced that contest with BYU and picked up their most significant win of the season, while the Flames lost a golden opportunity for a signature victory and saw their regular season end abruptly on Nov. 27.

    The Cure Bowl righted that wrong, and the matchup lived up to the hype, with Liberty picking up the biggest win in school history in a 37-34 overtime thriller.

    The Flames looked poised to win it in regulation as they milked the clock in preparation for a chip-shot field goal as time expired, but a Joshua Mack fumble on the 1-yard line flipped the script and sent the game to overtime.

    Liberty quarterback Malik Willis, who rushed for 137 yards and four touchdowns in the game, failed to move the ball on the first possession of overtime, and the Flames settled for a field goal.

    The Chanticleers offense also came up empty with three straight incomplete passes, but their 42-yard field-goal attempt was blocked, and just like that, the Flames had their first win over an AP Top 25 team.

    Not bad for a squad that has only been playing at the FBS level for three years.


    All stats courtesy of Sports Reference.


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