B/R's College Football Weekly Awards: Bowl Season, Part 1

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistDecember 20, 2021

B/R's College Football Weekly Awards: Bowl Season, Part 1

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Welcome to the Bailey Zappe Victory Lap(pe)!

    Western Kentucky's quarterback opened bowl season in style, breaking a couple of prominent FBS passing marks in the Hilltoppers' win over Appalachian State. Zappe's record-setting day headlined the eight-game opening weekend of action.

    As we've done all year, Monday is time to hand out awards. We'll dig into Zappe's performance, along with a couple of terrific upsets and other individual stars.

    This edition is focused solely on Dec. 17-18. Next Monday's release will include the bowls from Dec. 20-25.

Player of the Week: Bailey Zappe, Obviously

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    Move over, Joe Burrow. There's a new QB in charge.

    While the 2019 campaign for the former LSU star is still arguably the finest year in college football history, Burrow is no longer atop the single-season list for touchdown passes. Bailey Zappe surpassed Burrow during the Boca Raton Bowl and also leaping 2003 Texas Tech's B.J. Symons for the single-season passing yardage mark.

    On this particular day, Zappe racked up 422 yards and six touchdowns to lift the Hilltoppers past Appalachian State 59-38. The victory capped an incredible year for the Houston Baptist transfer.

    More notably, however, he finished the season with 5,967 yards and 62 scores. Zappe eclipsed the previous records of 60 touchdowns (Burrow) and 5,833 yards (Symons).

    "It's been the best year of my life," Zappe told reporters afterward.

    Since he's now a likely selection in the upcoming NFL draft, hopefully 2022 will be good to Zappe, too.

Team of the Week: UAB Blazers

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    Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

    UAB drifted outside of the national conversation this year, but the Blazers managed to land a major headline in their final game.

    Seven years ago, the school decided to shut down the program. After receiving fierce backlash, UAB determined it would take a two-year hiatus and return in 2017.

    Under the leadership of Bill Clark, UAB has put together four eight-win seasons, plus a 6-3 mark in the pandemic-shortened 2020. Most notably, the Blazers won Conference USA titles in 2018 and 2020. They also won 21 straight home games from 2017-20.

    But the 2021 campaign was pretty quiet. Georgia blew out UAB early, and the Blazers fell to Liberty, Rice and UTSA during the regular season. No shame in 8-4, but not nationally newsworthy, either.

    Not until the Independence Bowl, at least.

    As seven-point underdogs, the Blazers upset No. 13 BYU thanks to a late touchdown. Dylan Hopkins found Trea Shropshire to give UAB its decisive 31-28 edge with 6:17 to play in the fourth quarter. UAB finished off the victory and ended the year 9-4.

    At this rate, Clark deserves a statue in Birmingham.

Controversial Milestone of the Week: Coastal Carolina Picks Up 1st Bowl Win

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    Back in 2017, Coastal Carolina made the jump to the FBS and joined the Sun Belt. After going 13-23 in their first three campaigns, the Chanticleers had a perfect regular season in 2020 and went 11-1. They followed up that breakout year with an 11-2 record this year.

    No matter the team's result in the Cure Bowl, 2021 would've been a terrific season for the Chants. But a 47-41 triumph over Northern Illinois also gave Coastal its first-ever bowl victory.

    How the Cure Bowl ended, though, is worth a second look.

    Trailing by six with seven seconds left, NIU converted a 4th-and-1. An official initially waved to stop the clock, then motioned for time to start once the ball was placed—and when the center judge did that, he didn't clear the center before the referee wound the clock. So, NIU never had a chance to snap the ball.

    We don't know whether the Huskies would've scored. Coastal Carolina may have survived anyway. Still, the Chants landed this momentous win without the nerves of a clock-expiring play.

U-Turn of the Week: Jake Haener Returns to Fresno State

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    Andres Leighton/Associated Press

    When Jake Haener entered the transfer portal in late November, he seemed destined for Washington, a program he spent two years at but saw little playing time.

    UW—who had fired Jimmy Lake after he hit and shoved one of his players during an in-game altercation—hired Fresno State coach Kalen DeBoer. DeBoer oversaw a 9-3 regular season that featured Haener leading one of the Mountain West's top offenses.

    Haener, however, reversed course on Dec. 8, withdrew from the transfer portal and announced he'd be staying. Yet because preparations had begun for the New Mexico Bowl, it was unclear if Haener would start or Fresno would turn to a backup.

    As it turns out, Haener had a chance to finish what he started.

    Haener completed 26 of 41 passes for 286 yards and a touchdown, helping the Bulldogs defeat UTEP 31-24. Jordan Mims also rushed for 165 yards and two scores, as Fresno State celebrated a 10-win season and the program's first bowl win since 2018.

Underdog of the Week: Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

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    Ten-point underdog? No problem.

    In a 31-24 triumph over Toledo in the Bahamas Bowl, the Blue Raiders earned their second win of the season as a double-digit 'dog. Marshall was an 11-point favorite in October when Middle Tennessee upended the Thundering Herd 34-28.

    Among the eight completed bowl games, MTSU is the largest underdog to win outright. Based on the latest DraftKings odds, the only matchup with a larger spread is the Cotton Bowl—the College Football Playoff semifinal between Alabama (-13.5) and Cincinnati.

    Pretty decent title to hold, right?

    According to Steve Berkowitz of USA Today, the victory also exercised an automatic one-year extension worth about $800,000 for MTSU coach Rick Stockstill. The underdog paid out in two ways!

Best Upcoming Bowls to Watch

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    Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

    What's your flavor?

    If you like to spend bowl season watching a few Group of Five programs you normally don't see, be sure to check out the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 21. Conference USA champion UTSA (12-1) is seeking its first-ever bowl victory when it challenges Mountain West runner-up San Diego State (11-2).

    Or, maybe you like a feel-good story. Old Dominion opted out of the 2020 season, started 1-6 this year and still reached the Myrtle Beach Bowl to play Tulsa on Dec. 20. Meanwhile, North Texas has dropped four straight bowls—the fifth-longest streak nationally—but takes on Miami (Ohio) in the Frisco Football Classic on Dec. 23.

    How about a rare in-state matchup? UCF takes on Florida in the Gasparilla Bowl on Dec. 23. Separated by only 125 miles, the programs only have two all-time meetings and last played in 2006.

    Yes, the most exciting matchups are coming soon. But this week offers a few interesting storylines to follow.


    All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from NCAA.com, cfbstats.com or B/R research. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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