Welcome to the withdrawal period of the college football calendar year. After watching games from early September to January 8, now college football fans must start the eight-month wait for the 2018 season. But as the old saying goes, don’t cry because it’s over, smile because your school fired its coach. Or something like that. Let’s try to think about all the good that happened this bowl season instead of the long period of time before the next one.
Belk Bowl: Wake Forest 55, Texas A&M 52
If you had told any Tennessee fan in 2008 that a Dave Clawson offense would put up 55 on a John Chavis defense, they would have laughed in your face. But lo’ and behold, that is exactly what happened at the Belk Bowl in Charlotte. A&M jumped out to a 14-point lead in the first quarter, but Wake Forest rattled off 31 unanswered to take a 17-point lead. After 1,260 yards of offense and 107 total points, Wake Forest squeaked out the win to give the Demon Deacons an eight-win season.
Rose Bowl: No. 3 Georgia 54, No. 2 Oklahoma 48 (2OT)
This had to be the best game of the bowl season. When it looked like Baker Mayfield would not be stopped after the first half, Georgia found its groove on offense behind freshman Jake Fromm and the one of the best running back duos in college football history in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. A Sony Michel 27-yard run from the “Wild Dawg” in double overtime capped off an absolute classic.
National Championship Game: No. 4 Alabama 26, No. 3 Georgia 23 (OT)
This game had everything from a player trying to punch his coach on the sideline to a star quarterback being benched for a true freshman. Alabama fans have been wanting to see more of Tua Tagovailoa all season, and they got their wish at halftime when Nick Saban decided to make the change while down 13 points. Tagovailoa hit wide receiver and fellow freshman DeVonta Smith for a walk-off, 41 yard touchdown in overtime. Nick Saban notched his sixth career national championship and Alabama’s dynasty shows no sign of slowing down.
Best Individual Performances
Rashaad Penny, San Diego State
The nation’s lead rusher had a monster game in the Armed Forces Bowl against Army. Penny had 14 carries for 221 yards and four touchdowns in the thriller, including this 81-yard breakaway to open up the scoring. Penny could not be stopped, averaging 15.8 yards per carry, but San Diego State came up short, 42-35.
McKenzie Milton, UCF
The Hawaiian quarterback has had a great season leading UCF’s fifth-ranked offense, but there were doubts about UCF’s ability to move the ball against an SEC defense. Milton ended up leading his team in rushing and passing, going 16 of 35 for 242 yards passing yards, a pair of touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing for 116 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries as well. UCF got the win.
Sony Michel, Georgia
The Rose Bowl was a shootout that will go down in history, and Sony Michel is a big part of that history. Its hard to believe Michel played second fiddle to Nick Chubb earlier in his career, but the senior back finished out his Georgia career in stellar fashion. Michel put together 41 receiving yards and a touchdown on top of 181 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, including the 27-yard touchdown run in double overtime to send Georgia to the national championship game. Michel averaged 16.5 yards per carry.
Best Team Performances
Florida Atlantic (Boca Raton Bowl)
Only Lane Kiffin can make a 50-3 blowout fun to watch. FAU dominated the entire game right out of the gate, racking up 312 yards on the ground and 270 yards in the air while holding the Zips to 146 total yards. Kiffin also opted to go for two when up 34-3, citing an Akron official talking trash.
UCF (Peach Bowl)
The Peach Bowl in Atlanta was certainly the best fake national championship game ever played. McKenzie Milton was productive and smart with the football, while the UCF defense forced three turnovers, including a pick six to take a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter before an interception in the end zone to seal the game. The best part is, college football fans that are still in denial of Alabama’s fifth national title under Saban can choose to have UCF as their champion.
— Danny Kanell (@dannykanell) January 8, 2018
Georgia (Rose Bowl)
Kirby Smart and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker had no answer for Heisman-winner Baker Mayfield in the first half, and it looked as though Oklahoma would stamp their ticket to the national championship when the Sooners went up 17 points. Georgia made adjustments at halftime, though, and allowed only one offensive touchdown in the second half. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel could not be stopped, and kicker Rodrigo Blankenship overcame an early miss to make two clutch field goals from 55 and 38 yards, respectively.
Miles Boykin’s 55-yard touchdown catch, Citrus Bowl
This game might have gone unnoticed as Auburn was struggling with UCF at the same time, but Notre Dame wide receiver Miles Boykin reeled in what might have been the catch of bowl season, then shook off two LSU defensive backs for the go-ahead touchdown with 1:28 left in the game. Notre Dame won 21-17, locking up a 10-win season.
Baker Mayfield’s two-yard touchdown catch, Rose Bowl
Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley put on an offensive clinic in the first half of this game, capping it off with a beautifully-executed reverse toss to Baker Mayfield in the corner of the end zone. At this point, Oklahoma was up 17 near the end of the first half, and it looked as though the Sooners were rolling along.
Da’Ron Payne one-yard touchdown catch, Sugar Bowl
Who knows how long Nick Saban had this play in his back pocket? The Alabama head coach isn’t exactly known for his trickery, but this one was executed beautifully. Da’Ron Payne had just picked off Kelly Bryant, and the defensive tackle took MVP honors when he lined up as a lead blocker, but took off towards the pylon and reeled in Jalen Hurts’ pass.
Most Surprising Teams
UCF (Peach Bowl)
This one is a no-brainer. Auburn was runner-up in the SEC and double-digit favorites over the Knights despite UCF’s undefeated season and an American Athletic conference championship. Many didn’t expect the Knights to keep up with the Tigers. The Knights won 34-27 and have only intensified the argument over increasing the playoff field.
Wake Forest (Belk Bowl)
They were a three-point favorite going into this game, but most did not believe the Demon Deacons would cover against an SEC West team. Texas A&M was playing under an interim coach, but still had the athletes to take care of Wake Forest. Wake Forest won behind quarterback John Wolford’s stellar performance in one of the best games of the year.
Mississippi State (Taxslayer Bowl)
It was not shocking Mississippi State beat Louisville, but the way the Bulldogs performed without their head coach and starting quarterback was impressive. With Dan Mullen in Gainesville and Nick Fitzgerald sidelined from a nasty Egg Bowl ankle injury, Mississippi State took care of business. Interim coach Greg Knox had his team ready to play — backup quarterback Keytaon Thompson only threw for 127 yards, but he rushed for 147 more and three touchdowns. Incoming coach Joe Moorhead might have an unexpected quarterback battle on his hands.