Bowl Season Winners and Losers
By Jeff Falconio
All 34 bowl games are in the books and for the second time in three years the Florida Gators can savor a national championship. The one thing I do enjoy about bowl season other than the plethora of college football for two weeks is trying to sort through the mess to find the real winners and losers. Programs, coaches, coordinators and players all have their stock go up or down based on bowl season. After taking in 32 games (curse that NFL Network) here's how I see it:
The SEC: Yes Alabama was disappointing and South Carolina players must've been out way too late on New Year's Eve. But having the national champ come from your conference always helps. The SEC again proved why it's the best conference by being physical on both sides of the ball. Georgia was in lockdown mode defensively against Michigan State and of course the Gators took advantage of Oklahoma mistakes. Vanderbilt got their first bowl win in forever but most impressive was LSU completely dismantling Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
The Pac 10: 5-0 in the bowls. I guess the Pac 10 was better than everyone thought. USC is almost always a sure thing in the Rose Bowl but Oregon finished very strong with a big win over Oregon State in the season finale and a Holiday Bowl victory over Oklahoma State. Speaking of Oregon State, was the Sun Bowl the ugliest game you've ever seen? A win is a win even if the final score is 3-0. Arizona also notched a nice win over ranked BYU.
Mid-majors: Utah's win will go a long way toward leveling the playing field with the power conferences. The Utes were downright dominant against Alabama and very much deserve to be in the national championship debate. Boise State's win over Oklahoma two years ago was groundbreaking but could be tossed aside as nothing more than Bronco trickery and Sooner apathy. But this was the real deal. TCU also scored a big win, albeit against mid-major counterpart Boise State, as such the Horned Frogs finished seventh in the AP poll. Most overlooked will be Tulsa. With the win over Ball State in the GMAC Bowl, the Golden Hurricane finished the year with 11 wins.
Running backs: Is it me or is the new trend in 2009 to declare early if you're a running back? Beanie Wells, Knowshon Moreno, Shonn Greene and P.J. Hill lead a growing pack of underclassmen declaring for the draft. The bowl game is always a spotlight game for those considering the NFL. Greene and Wells were impressive but keep your eye on UConn's Donald Brown. The nation's leading rusher ripped Buffalo in the International Bowl and certainly raised a few eyebrows with his performance.
The Big XII South: All season long the South's top four teams were the darlings of college football. Then came bowl season. I mentioned Oklahoma State and Oklahoma both looking out of sorts and wow did Texas Tech turn into a one trick pony after getting smashed in the Cotton Bowl. Only Texas scored a postseason win for the South and the Longhorns didn't look that impressive against Ohio State
The Big 10: It's an annual tradition now. No matter who the Big 10 puts in Pasadena, they'll get buried by USC. Penn State looked un-Penn State like with penalties and turnovers. Ohio State lost another BCS bowl game. Wisconsin, Michigan State, Northwestern and Minnesota all followed suit. Iowa was the only Big 10 team to win. It wasn't so much losing but the way Big 10 teams just looked bad in the process.
Quarterbacks: Missouri's Chase Daniel actually got booed at the Alamo Bowl. Tim Tebow was impressive when running but throwing he was not. Tebow matched his season total for interceptions with two against Oklahoma. Not exactly championship quality. In a winning effort Georgia's Matthew Stafford looked well off his game and he is one of the more NFL-ready quarterbacks. Ball State's Nate Davis continued his late season slide, completing only nine of 29 passes, though in his defense it was pouring down rain.
USC: What?! I can hear you now, "Jeff, didn't you just say USC buries anyone they face in the Rose Bowl??" Yes but once again USC earns the title of "best team not to play in the national championship game." Due to an early season loss to Oregon State, a team thought to be bad, and unfavorable public perception regarding the Pac 10, the Trojans were never able to break through the ceiling. For the third year in a row USC is Exhibit A for some sort of playoff. The Trojans were right up there with Florida, Oklahoma, Utah and Texas but will have to settle for just another Rose Bowl win.