B/R's College Football Weekly Awards: Bowl Season, Part 3January 3, 2022
B/R's College Football Weekly Awards: Bowl Season, Part 3
Alabama and Georgia reigned supreme in the busiest week of the 2021 college football season.
Despite a few cancellations, the most recent seven-day stretch featured 21 bowl games—including the much-anticipated pair of College Football Playoff semifinals. The action-filled slate brought a little bit of everything for us rabid fans.
Well, everything except a Pac-12 victory.
This edition of Weekly Awards—one packed with memorable performances and a few oddities—covers the matchups from Dec. 27 through New Year's Day. Part 1 and Part 2 are also available.
Teams of the Week: The SEC Powers
Ho-hum, just a matchup we've seen before.
If you're feeling that way, it's understandable. Alabama has reached the national championship in six of the last seven seasons, which is both utterly preposterous and an understandable reason for fatigue. The opponent is Georgia, setting up a rematch of the 2017 title game when Tua Tagovailoa stole the show for Alabama.
After watching the Crimson Tide cruise past Cincinnati and Georgia obliterate Michigan, though, it's safe to say Lucas Oil Stadium will be hosting the country's most deserving teams on Jan. 10.
Alabama leaned on running back Brian Robinson for 204 yards while holding Cincinnati to 217 yards in a 27-6 win. Georgia raced out to a 24-point halftime lead on Michigan and crushed the Wolverines 34-11, only giving up a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
You might not have preferred this All-SEC title showdown, but it's a fitting conclusion to the 2021 campaign.
Player of the Week: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
Watching the Rose Bowl with a couple of friends, the theme of the conversation was simple: No. 11 has the ball again.
And again. And again.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba put himself in the history books while propelling Ohio State to a 48-45 victory over Utah. In short, the second-year receiver had a decent month of production in one game.
JSN caught 15 passes (Rose Bowl record) for 347 yards (school record and most in an FBS bowl ever) and three touchdowns (Rose Bowl record). He shared the latter mark with teammate Marvin Harrison Jr., too. The monstrous performance gave Smith-Njigba the Ohio State mark for single-season receiving yards at 1,606.
Next season, Ohio State needs to replace star wideouts Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave—who both opted out of the Rose Bowl. Clearly, that level of concern won't be terribly high.
Interim of the Week: Bob Stoops
Such a neat story.
After the departure of Lincoln Riley to USC, Oklahoma needed an interim coach. While the administration conducted the search for his replacement, a familiar face—Sooners legend Bob Stoops—temporarily took control of the program.
Hired prior to the 1999 season, Stoops spent 18 years at the helm. He posted a tremendous 190-48 record, winning 10 conference titles and one national championship.
And now, he's 191-48.
Caleb Williams tossed three touchdowns, while Kennedy Brooks scampered for 142 yards and three scores in the Alamo Bowl victory. Oklahoma built a 30-3 halftime lead en route to a 47-32 triumph, handing Stoops a memorable win as the program begins the transition from Riley to Brent Venables.
Faceplant of the Week: Pac-12's Winless Bowl Season
On the second day of bowl season, Utah State knocked off Oregon State. Not an ideal start for the Pac-12, but this post-Christmas slate included five of the conference's six scheduled bowls.
Well, the results never improved.
To be clear, this doesn't include UCLA. The program bowed out of the Holiday Bowl against North Carolina State because of health and safety protocols. Four other Pac-12 teams took the field, however, and none of them exited with a victory.
Oklahoma hammered Oregon in the Alamo Bowl. Wisconsin edged Arizona State in the Las Vegas Bowl, and we'll explore that contest momentarily. Central Michigan earned some to-be-discussed history when it stunned Washington State in the Sun Bowl, and Utah couldn't stop Smith-Njigba or Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.
Excluding the heavily altered 2020 postseason, not since 1983 had a power conference not managed a single bowl victory.
Bowl results do not define a conference, but a winless year certainly doesn't help the Pac-12's struggling reputation.
Drive of the Week: Wisconsin Burns the Clock
Nothing like a football death by a thousand cuts—or, more precisely, an agonizing drive that burned the clock.
Around the nine-minute mark of the third quarter, Arizona State trimmed Wisconsin's lead to 20-13 in the Las Vegas Bowl. The teams traded punts for two possessions apiece, putting the ball in Wisconsin's hands with a healthy 9:57 to play in regulation.
Plenty of time for ASU's defense to force another punt and the offense to make a run at either a win or overtime! No reasonable person would argue with that, either.
The problem is Wisconsin did not assemble a reasonable drive. This was a masterclass in time management.
Wisconsin converted a 3rd-and-1, and then a 10-yard completion moved the sticks again on 2nd-and-9. Graham Mertz and Chimere Dike connected for a key 3rd-and-12 conversion, and the Badgers added another first down two snaps later.
Arizona State used all three timeouts during this next stretch, but Braelon Allen's 14-yard run and a back-breaking offsides penalty on 3rd-and-4 sealed the Sun Devils' fate. Their offense never touched the ball in the last 9:57 of a 20-13 loss.
Just an incredible drive from Wisconsin, which had a frustrating season yet still finished 9-4.
Best of the Rest
Team Player of the Week: Shane Beamer Takes the Mayo Bath
To the victor goes the mayonnaise. That hilarious, absurd truth headlined the Duke's Mayo Bowl, which promised to donate $10,000 to the winning team's charity of choice if the head coach had a cooler full of mayo dumped on his head. South Carolina toppled North Carolina 38-21, and Shane Beamer followed through. "It is everything I dreamed of," he said afterward, per Harry Lyles Jr. of ESPN.
Day of the Week: Wednesday, for the Big Ten
Wisconsin's stellar game-sealing drive in the Las Vegas Bowl also capped a terrific day for the conference overall. Earlier at the Music City Bowl, Purdue clipped Tennessee in a 48-45 overtime win. In the Peach Bowl, Michigan State rattled off 21 fourth-quarter points to overcome an 11-point deficit and topple Pitt 31-21.
Streak-Buster of the Week: Central Michigan's Big Win
We mentioned Washington State's loss in the Sun Bowl, but the result doubled as a historic moment for the MAC. Entering the day, the MAC held an 0-21 all-time record against the Pac-12/10. Not just bowl games—all games. Central Michigan ended the drought.