Home Sports Ranking the 37 college football bowl games for 2021-22: Rose delivers as Orange, Cotton disappoint – CBS Sports

Ranking the 37 college football bowl games for 2021-22: Rose delivers as Orange, Cotton disappoint – CBS Sports

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Ranking the 37 college football bowl games for 2021-22: Rose delivers as Orange, Cotton disappoint – CBS Sports

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The 2021 college football bowl season has concluded, and what a bowl season we got. While we lost five games due to cancellations, 37 were still played, which is a lot more than last year. As is the case every postseason, some bowls were amazing and made you wish there were 100 more being played. Then some made you question the purpose of the bowl system existing at all.
In the end, it was an average year. The good news is that while not every game was a thriller, there weren’t a lot of blowouts. Of the 37 games played, 14 finished as one-score affairs while 11 finished with margins of at least three scores. The average margin of victory was 13.9 points per game, which is less than last year’s 14.8.
Of course, these are all just numbers, and numbers aren’t as fun as opinions. So let’s get to the opinions. I ranked all 42 of the bowl games before they were played, so now I will rank the 37 that were played. It’s college football, after all, and in college football, we rank things.
Maryland 54, Virginia Tech 10: The game that spawned a tweet that sailed 1,000 takes. Yes, when my Cover 3 Podcast co-host Danny Kanell tweeted out there were “too many bowls” and set off a firestorm, it happened during this game. I can’t blame Danny for feeling that way watching this, nor can I blame anybody else for preferring to get into an argument than watch any more of this game. Virginia Tech showed up with a skeleton coaching staff and a very thin roster, and it showed Maryland was also missing plenty of player, but it looked like a team actually interested in playing football. Pregame ranking: 37 (E)
WHAT. A. HIT. 😤

Maryland’s defense cashes the over (55.5)!

pic.twitter.com/1j6MutZMvI
No. 3 Georgia 34, No. 2 Michigan 11: There’s at least one College Football Playoff game every year that ends in a rout, and this year we got two. This was the worst of the duo. Still, I maintain this game was close to going in a different direction. After Georgia marched down the field and scored on its first possession, Michigan drove right back down the field against that vaunted Bulldogs defense. Then, facing a fourth-and-4 inside Georgia territory, Cade McNamara’s pass to Erick All was just out of reach, resulting in a turnover on downs. Georgia got the ball back and scored as things snowballed. If Michigan gets that first down, I think it scores. I don’t think the game’s result would’ve changed, but I think it would’ve been a lot more entertaining to watch. Pregame ranking: 1 (-35)
Liberty 56, Eastern Michigan 20: This was a rout in the purest sense of the word. Malik Willis and Liberty led by 10 at the end of the first quarter, 23 at halftime and 39 after three. At no point did Eastern Michigan look like it would make a game of it, and it didn’t. The Eagles scored 10 points in the final 5 minutes of action to make things look a little better. Pregame ranking: 35 (E)
Texas Tech 34, Mississippi State 7: So much for the Mike Leach Revenge Game. The Red Raiders jumped out to an early lead against the Bulldogs and never relented after figuring out quickly that they’d be able to run the ball on the Bulldogs. By the time the game was over, the Raiders had rushed for 260 yards and three touchdowns while averaging 6 yards per carry. Mississippi State could never get out of its way on offense, turning the ball over three times and helping make sure you didn’t have to watch any more than you wanted. Pregame ranking: 30 (-4)
Kansas State 42, LSU 20: The final bowl game of the season didn’t provide much of an exciting end. LSU was without roughly 11 billion players and started wide receiver Jontre Kirklin at QB. He did pretty well, all things considered, but Kansas State was simply too good for the Tigers. Skyler Thompson finished his Kansas State career with 259 yards passing and three touchdowns while Deuce Vaughn rushed for 146 yards and accounted for four total touchdowns. Still, while the game stunk, I have to give LSU credit. Other teams in similar situations couldn’t play a bowl this season, and the Tigers had every reasonable excuse in the book to back out of the Texas Bowl but didn’t. Pregame ranking: 27 (-6)
No. 1 Alabama 27, No. 4 Cincinnati 6: When I was in college, I saw two guys get into a fight at a bar. Well, at least one of the guys wanted to get into a fight. He had been slightly over-served, and for whatever reason, decided that this other person had a problem with him. So the drunk guy swung at the other, unprovoked, but this other guy was much larger than the drunk one. So after evading the punch, the large, docile man quickly wrestled the drunk man onto the ground and then just laid on top of him. Seriously, he just sat on top of him, let the drunk guy wear himself out, and waited for security to show up to escort the drunk man off the premises. I had not thought about that night and how hard I laughed about it until I watched Alabama beat Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl. I’m not saying Cincinnati was drunk or picked a fight it shouldn’t have. I’m just saying it felt like Alabama was sitting on top of Cincinnati for a few hours, waiting for the clock to run out. Pregame ranking: 2 (-30)
No. 17 Wake Forest 38, Rutgers 10: First of all, kudos to Rutgers for taking this game on short notice after Texas A&M was forced to back out due to COVID-19 protocols. Unfortunately, as you’d expect in a bowl game between a team that nearly won its conference against a team that didn’t win enough games to go bowling during the season and accepted the invitation on short notice, it wasn’t worth watching for long. Rutgers hung tough early, but Wake was the much better team and put things on cruise control in the second half. Wake’s Sam Hartman finished his career with 304 yards passing and three touchdowns as A.T. Perry caught 10 passes for 127 yards. Rutgers only had 276 yards as a team. Pregame ranking: 9 (-22)
Western Michigan 52, Nevada 24: There was never any drama in this one. Nevada was without most of its coaching staff, while stud QB Carson Strong and leading receiver Romeo Doubs opted out. It should not come as a shock to anybody that Nevada can’t afford to lose its NFL-caliber QB and still play as well as it did during the regular season. The Broncos led 14-3 after the first quarter and just kept building their lead from there as running backs Sean Tyler and Jaxson Kincaide balled out. The duo combined for 251 yards rushing on only 31 carries, as WMU averaged nearly 7 yards per carry as a team. Pregame ranking: 26 (-4)
Minnesota 18, West Virginia 6: Did you stay up late for this one? Did you regret doing so? I know I stayed up late, but I didn’t regret it because even ugly games need love, too. And this one was quite ugly. Minnesota won by 12 points, but it was never that close, in reality. The Gophers missed a field goal on their first possession and fumbled the ball away inside the red zone on the next. Meanwhile, West Virginia had 11 possessions, and only three of them lasted more than five plays. One was their lone touchdown drive, one ended in an interception and the third in a turnover on downs. The Mountaineers finished the night with only 206 yards of offense, 43 yards fewer than Minnesota had rushing — including this 2-yard bulldoze from offensive tackle Daniel Faalele. Pregame ranking: 24 (-5)
pic.twitter.com/RIiH0uxihg
Georgia State 51, Ball State 20: Every Christmas gathering had that one relative who kept making their way near a television to watch a college football game nobody cared about, and that game was the Camellia Bowl. At my Christmas gathering, I was that person. If you were the person at yours doing the same, high-five! I suppose these teams did us a favor by not playing a competitive game and forcing us not to continue ignoring our friends and family. Anyway, it was a great introduction to Georgia State QB Darren Grainger if you did watch. Grainger threw for 203 yards, led the Panthers in rushing with 122 yards and had four total touchdowns. Pregame ranking: 38 (+10)
Tulsa 30, Old Dominion 17: It’s possible I’m overrating the Myrtle Beach Bowl slightly. You see, it was played on a Monday morning and was the only bowl game featured that day. It gave me something to watch during a time when I usually wouldn’t have had anything to watch, and that’s the kind of value that can’t be adequately quantified. So if you think this is too high, that’s fine; you just don’t have an appreciation for a football game being there in somebody’s time of need. That need being “something to do besides what I probably should be doing.” As for the game itself, there wasn’t much drama in it. While the first half was close, Tulsa scored 16 unanswered points between the very end of the first half and the early fourth quarter to put things out of reach. The trio of QB Davis Brin, RB Shamari Brooks and WR Josh Johnson was too much for the Monarchs to overcome. Pregame ranking: 40 (+13)
No. 19 Clemson 20, Iowa State 13: This was definitely a game between the 2021 versions of Clemson and Iowa State. There was a whole lot of defense and very little offense. Every yard felt like a struggle. On the one hand, it made the game feel a lot more exciting than it really was because neither team could pull away from the other. On the other hand, the game felt over once Clemson went up 13-3 late in the third quarter. When Mario Goodrich picked off Brock Purdy for a pick-six less than a minute later, it definitely was. Of course, even if the game wasn’t that exciting, it did give us an all-time bowl sponsor mascot. Pregame ranking: 10 (-16)
The most royal coin toss of them all. pic.twitter.com/yzrMG6tEvs
No. 16 Oklahoma 47, No. 14 Oregon 32: First, let me give Oregon credit for fighting back and trying to make a game of it in the second half. While it never did, at least the Ducks made the second half more fun to watch as both teams traded touchdowns. The problem is Oregon didn’t do anything in the first half. Oklahoma jumped out to a 30-3 lead at halftime. That 27-point deficit was the largest halftime deficit of any bowl game this season. Still, 79 points and over 1,000 yards of offense isn’t the worst way to spend a few hours on a Wednesday evening, so I can’t knock the game too much. But I’m not going to put it any higher than this since Oklahoma led by at least two scores for 50 minutes. OK, so I might’ve bumped it up a few more spots if this touchdown counted. Pregame ranking: 21 (-4)
As called on Oklahoma radio: pic.twitter.com/6JC2Gk58XT
Wisconsin 20, Arizona State 13: Nobody will blame you if you admit to falling asleep during this one. Sure it was close, and that’s worth something. But hardly anything happened during it. Wisconsin won with 20 points and only 294 yards of offense. Arizona State had only 219. And while the final score suggests it was close, Wisconsin sucked up the entire fourth quarter. Seriously, the Badgers finished the game with an 18-play, 90-yard drive that took 10 minutes off the clock. Arizona State punted the ball away with 10 minutes left, thinking it could trust its defense to get the ball back, and Wisconsin just laughed at it. The Badgers slowly salted the game away, 3 yards at a time. Running back Braelon Allen finished with 159 yards rushing because what else could he do? He’s a 17-year-old in Las Vegas. He isn’t allowed to do anything worth doing while there except run the football. Pregame ranking: 11 (-13)
No. 7 Baylor 21, No. 8 Ole Miss 7: A game that would have been a lot more enjoyable if Ole Miss QB Matt Corral hadn’t sprained his ankle in the first quarter. Once that happened, the game became nothing but a reason to debate whether players should opt out of bowl games. Even the broadcast seemed lost once Corral left, as if they’d spent hours preparing to talk about him. When he was gone, they realized there was a game to call. Still, while Ole Miss fans will tell you the result doesn’t matter because Corral was injured, I would point out that Ole Miss hadn’t done anything with Corral, either. The Rebels didn’t score while Corral was in the game, and he finished 2 of 6 passing for 10 yards passing and threw a pick. The sack that knocked him out of the game was the third time he had been sacked in the quarter. Baylor would pick up seven more sacks on backup Luke Altmyer. Still, my favorite stat from this game is that Baylor QB Gerry Bohanon was 7 of 17 for 40 yards with a touchdown and an interception — and he was the winning QB. At times I wondered if Baylor would’ve been better off just putting Abram Smith (25 carries, 172 yards) in a wildcat formation. Pregame ranking: 5 (-18)
Central Michigan 24, Washington State 21: How about those Chippewas? After Boise State was forced to drop out of the Arizona Bowl, Central Michigan quickly pivoted to the Sun Bowl to replace Miami. Not only did the Chips get a bigger bowl payout in the process, but they picked up a win over a Pac-12 team, too! However, things did get a bit tense as Central took a 21-0 lead into halftime and Wazzu spent the second half working its way back into the game. The Cougars cut the lead to 21-14 late in the third quarter, but after Wazzu failed to convert a fourth down in its territory, the Chippewas got a field goal that proved to be the game-winner. The Cougars scored with over 3 minutes left and got a defensive stop to get the ball back, but they couldn’t get anything going on their final possession. That means it was Central Michigan’s Jim McElwain who got to spend the next three hours picking Frosted Flakes out of places he didn’t know existed. Pregame ranking: 20 (-2)
The Frosted Flakes belong to Jim McElwain and @CMU_Football!
Central Michigan takes the @TonyTheTigerSB. pic.twitter.com/hleu70Zre8
South Carolina 38, North Carolina 21: South Carolina showed up in Charlotte missing a bunch of regulars and took down a North Carolina team that was a 12-point favorite when kickoff rolled around. What did the Gamecocks get for it? Their coach got a bucket of mayonnaise dumped over his head. That alone was worth five spots in these rankings because there wasn’t a lot of drama to be had. The Gamecocks led 18-0 after the first quarter, and it never felt like the Tar Heels were a genuine threat to get back into the game. Kevin Harris led the way for the Gamecocks with 182 yards rushing while Dakereon Joyner did everything else, throwing for 160 yards (while completing all nine of his pass attempts) and rushing for 64 yards. In short, South Carolina showed up ready to play and have fun, while North Carolina showed up looking like Mack Brown begged them not to be doused with a bucket of mayonnaise. Pregame ranking: 34 (+13)
MAYO BATH pic.twitter.com/GQh03Beue1
Miami (OH) 27, North Texas 14: This might seem like a high ranking for those of you who didn’t watch, but if you did watch the Frisco Football Classic, you understand why it’s here. It was a back-and-forth affair that saw the lead change hands four times in the first half. Unfortunately, not a whole lot happened in the second half. The RedHawks led 20-14 at the break and got the ball to open the second half. They would score a touchdown to make it 27-14, and then nothing else happened. The final eight possessions of the game featured five punts, a missed field goal, a turnover on downs and Miami running out the final 9 minutes of the clock with a 15-play drive. It was a game with a great start but lacked the finish to match. Pregame ranking: 39 (+19)
Utah State 24, Oregon State 13: While it wasn’t the most exciting game, I gave the LA Bowl plenty of bonus points for behaving as a non-prestigious bowl game should. It’s an exhibition that is supposed to be fun, and the organizers treated it that way. That’s not to say there wasn’t plenty of entertainment. It looked like it could become a blowout early, as Utah State QB Logan Bonner left the game with an injury. He was replaced by Cooper Legas, who had never thrown a pass in college before, and his first snap was a 62-yard bomb for six. Still, Legas was not the game’s MVP. No, that honor belongs to ESPN’s Laura Rutledge. Not only did Rutledge pull the ultimate friend move of holding Jimmy Camel’s hair back as he vomited off a pier (you had to be there), but she also got gravy on her jacket while eating a sandwich on the sideline and played through the stain. Just an all-around gutsy performance. Pregame ranking: 22 (+3)
This was the first pass of Utah State QB Cooper Legas’ college career. pic.twitter.com/j6bhHP0C3V
Air Force 31, Louisville 28: If you’re wondering how a three-point game like this could be ranked this low, there’s a simple explanation. Yes, it’s true that this game was close and the margin was never greater than 14 points at any point. That’s awesome! The problem is Air Force led the entire game. That 14-point lead came early in the second quarter when the Falcons took a 14-0 lead. Every time Louisville scored to cut it back down to a touchdown, Air Force answered right back with a touchdown of its own. It was a 31-21 game when Malik Cunningham took off for a 22-yard touchdown run to make it 31-28, but the Cardinals never saw the ball again. Air Force recovered the onside kick and ran out the final few minutes. It was close in the end, but the result was never in question. What is in question is where the Air Force got this crazy juking technology. Is it from aliens? Because it looks like it’s from aliens. Pregame ranking: 23 (+5)
The Air Force learned this by watching all those UFOs maneuver.

pic.twitter.com/PtkaG4vKgR
No. 21 Arkansas 24, Penn State 10: There was a little more drama in this game than the final score suggests. The first half was low-scoring but it was also entertaining as both teams took turns taking control and then giving it back. There were turnovers, ridiculous fake punts and all kinds of silly things that can help make a bowl game fun. Unfortunately, Arkansas scored 17 points in the third quarter to go up 24-10 and Penn State never mounted a serious challenge from there. Still, considering all the players the Nittany Lions were missing for this game, I was pleasantly surprised with the effort they put up for the first 30 minutes. But once the dam broke, there was no fixing it. The Hogs ran wild for 353 yards. K.J. Jefferson rushed for 110, Raheim Sanders had 79, Dominique Johnson 77 and Malik Hornsby had 67. Everybody got in on the fun. Pregame ranking: 12 (-5)
Penn State just ran arguably the funniest fake punt of the season pic.twitter.com/ugwDgZElPL
No. 24 San Diego State 38, UTSA 24: This was my highest-ranked non-New Year’s Six bowl before the games began, and while it didn’t live all the way up to the hype, I wasn’t disappointed with it, either. It had just about everything you wanted from a game between two of the top Group of Five teams in the country, but UTSA couldn’t quite overcome the absence of stud RB Sincere McCormick. Still, there were plenty of points scored, a lot of big plays, and even if there wasn’t much drama late, the game was always somewhat up for grabs. The biggest shock was that San Diego State could throw the ball all over the field. The Aztecs aren’t known for aerial mastery, but Lucas Johnson showed out, throwing for 333 yards and three touchdowns while outdueling UTSA’s Frank Harris (271 yards, two TD). Pregame ranking: 7 (-9)
No. 20 Houston 17, Auburn 13: I grew up in Big Ten country watching Big Ten football. I know Big Ten football when I see it, and this was a quality Big Ten football game. It was low-scoring, close and both teams were in control at times. Houston led 10-0 only to see Auburn battle back to take a 13-10 lead late in the third quarter. Then the Coogs put together an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 26-yard pass to Jake Herslow that served as the game-winner. Not every fun game needs to be high-scoring, and while there wasn’t enough here to put the Birmingham Bowl in the top 10, I still enjoyed it a lot. Pregame ranking: 18 (+3)
JAKE HERSLOW!!!!#GoCoogs pic.twitter.com/b8AuVK1gQ7
No. 10 Michigan State 31, No. 12 Pittsburgh 21: The whole world spent so much time complaining about this game not having either Kenny Pickett or Kenneth Walker that they probably didn’t notice the game was still pretty decent. Truthfully, it didn’t have much right to be that entertaining. I can’t pretend not having Pickett or Walker — two players who finished in the top five of Heisman Trophy voting — improved the game, but it didn’t destroy it. In fact, things got downright interesting when Pickett’s replacement, Nick Patti, injured his shoulder while scoring a touchdown and had to leave the game. In stepped Davis Beville, and he played well for a third-stringer nobody expected to see. He and Jordan Addison (142 total yards) helped build a 21-10 lead after three quarters, but Michigan State took control in the fourth. A 15-yard touchdown pass to Connor Heyward cut the deficit to 21-16, and later Payton Thorne hit Jayden Reed for a 22-yard score to give the Spartans a 24-21 lead. A couple of minutes later, Beville was picked off by Cal Haladay, who took it 78 yards to the house to make things look a lot less closer than they were. Pregame ranking: 4 (-10)
🚨MICHIGAN STATE WITH THE DAGGER PICK SIX!!!!!! 🚨 Cal Haladay took it 78 yards to the house!! #Sparty pic.twitter.com/MzRX1X1Tl8
Western Kentucky 59, Appalachian State 38: Honestly, I don’t care who they’re playing or what game they earn a berth into; if you put the 2021 Western Kentucky offense in a football game, I’m going to enjoy watching it. It’s every offense you ever ran on your PlayStation or Xbox. The Boca Raton Bowl’s final ranking is hurt by the fact it was a 21-point game in the end, but it was a 21-point game that featured 97 points and 1,247 yards of offense. Appalachian State QB Chase Brice threw for 317 yards and four touchdowns but was an afterthought because WKU’s Bailey Zapper threw for 422 yards and six touchdowns. Those numbers helped Zappe set new single-season FBS records for passing yards in a season (5,967) and touchdowns (62). Pregame ranking: 17 (+4)
LEGEND 🐐

Bailey Zappe throws Touchdown Pass #61 this season and holds the ALL-TIME RECORD FOR TD THROWS IN A SEASON

congrats @baileyzappe04 !!! pic.twitter.com/2nbux3VArw
No. 22 Kentucky 20, No. 15 Iowa 17: This isn’t the kind of matchup that’s for everybody, but I feel like it was scheduled with me in mind. Don’t get me wrong, this was not a great game. Nobody will look back a decade from now and want to tell you about the 2022 Citrus Bowl, but it was a solid New Year’s Day bowl game. It was close while featuring some questionable decisions and late drama. Oh, and turnovers. It featured plenty of turnovers, particularly from Iowa. It also featured a huge performance from Kentucky’s Wan’Dale Robinson, who couldn’t beat Iowa while at Nebraska but found a way to do it with Kentucky. Robinson finished with 170 yards receiving, including a 52-yard pickup late in the fourth quarter to set up the game-winning score. That honor went to Kentucky’s Chris Rodriguez, who broke a couple of the roughly 50 billion tackles he broke in the game en route to a 6-yard touchdown with 1:48 left. Iowa mounted a comeback attempt, but DeAndre Square picked off Spencer Petras to end the threat. Pregame ranking: 14 (+2)
WANDALE ROBINSON pic.twitter.com/QBbkdjag1k
Middle Tennessee 31, Toledo 24: Why don’t we play more games in island locales? I mean, if a bowl game is supposed to be a reward for the teams, why are we sending them to Shreveport, Louisiana, when we can send them to the Bahamas? The first bowl game set a nice tone for the rest of the season, as Middle Tennessee and Toledo kept this one close for nearly the entire 60 minutes. Toledo led the game 17-14 at halftime, but the Blue Raiders took control after a scoreless third quarter. MTSU opened the final frame with a 17-yard touchdown run on the first play and would go back to the well with a 59-yard touchdown pass to make it 28-17 with under 7 minutes left. When Zeke Rankin’s 35-yard field goal split the wind and uprights with 4:34 left to make it 31-17, it was game over. The Rockets would add a touchdown with a minute left but failed to recover the onside kick afterward. Pregame ranking: 36 (+25)
UAB 31, No. 13 BYU 28: Another excellent early bowl game saw UAB and BYU going at it in, well, uh, Shreveport. Seriously, Shreveport, I’m not trying to pick on you here. You’re a lovely town. You’re just not the Bahamas, but you did have a better bowl game than the Bahamas, so what would you rather have? Great weather and beautiful beaches, or slightly better bowl games? Anyway, UAB jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead but BYU answered with 14 points of its own. From that point on, it was just both teams exchanging scores. BYU would take the lead for the first time early in the fourth quarter when a Tyler Allgeier touchdown made it 28-24, but the Blazers responded with an epic drive. UAB milked over 8 minutes off the clock as it went 75 yards over 15 plays before Dylan Hopkins hit Trea Shropshire for a 14-yard touchdown to go back ahead 31-28. BYU moved the ball to midfield on its next drive, but Samson Nacua fumbled and UAB’s Mac McWilliams (great name) got on top of it. The Blazers ran out the final few minutes to leave beautiful Shreveport with the win. Pregame ranking: 13 (+3)
No. 9 Oklahoma State 37, No. 5 Notre Dame 35: This one was a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Marcus Freeman’s first game as Notre Dame coach started spectacularly for the Irish. Notre Dame jumped out to a 28-14 lead at halftime, as Irish fans and former players alike were all over social media talking about how the reins had finally been taken off the offense now that Brian Kelly was gone. Well, I guess Kelly somehow figured out a way to put them back on at halftime because the offense stalled in the second half. Spencer Sanders took the game over and led Oklahoma State on an incredible comeback. Sanders finished with 371 yards passing and 125 yards rushing as the Cowboys outscored Notre Dame 23-7 in the second half — and that seven by Notre Dame is slightly misleading because it came with just over a minute left when Oklahoma State was up 37-28. After the game, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said it was the biggest win in Oklahoma State history, which is a wild statement to make considering everyone is always telling you how these bowl games are meaningless. Anyway, as for Freeman and Notre Dame, I would consider blocking the Fiesta Bowl’s phone number. Absolutely nothing good happens to you when it calls. Pregame ranking: 6 (-3)
UCF 29, Florida 17: Sorry, Florida fans, but you’re going to be hearing about this loss for a long time. Let’s not forget that UCF celebrated a fictional national title, so who knows what the Knights will do with a Gasparilla Bowl victory over the Gators. This was another game that saw the lead change hands five times. Unfortunately, none of the lead changes came in the fourth quarter. The Gators failed to make anything happen after Daniel Obarski’s 21-yard field goal gave the Knights a 19-17 lead late in the third. They had a chance to cut it to a one-score game again in the fourth, but Chris Howard’s 45-yard field goal attempt missed. A few minutes later, Obarski made a 33-yarder to make it 29-17, and it was all she wrote for Florida. Pregame ranking: 31 (+23)
Wyoming 52, Kent State 38: If there’s one common theme among the games ranked this highly, it’s that they were back-and-forth affairs. The Potato Bowl is a perfect example. Yes, Wyoming won by two scores and there wasn’t a lot of doubt about the outcome late in the game, but it was wild early. The teams traded leads three times in the first half as Kent State took a 24-21 lead into the locker room, and then Wyoming took it right back at the start of the second half. The Cowboys would never give it up, as Levi Williams threw for 127 yards and rushed for 200 more with five total touchdowns. Then Williams did something we’re probably going to see a lot of players doing in the future: he entered the transfer portal. The Wyoming QB that I thought would make the Cowboys an exciting team in the Mountain West next season has joined the reigning Mountain West champion Utah State Aggies. Pregame ranking: 41 (+34)
Who needs tempo when you have this explosiveness. Levi Williams sending the MAC Conference to 0-4 with an 80 yard scamper@wyo_football | #GoWyopic.twitter.com/0jtFLgytCn
No. 23 Louisiana 36, Marshall 21: The final score does not do this game the justice it deserves. After jumping out to a 10-point lead in the first quarter, Louisiana needed a 20-point fourth quarter to come back and avoid the upset loss to the Thundering Herd. It was an epic performance by Marshall running back Rasheen Ali that put the Herd in a position to win. Ali rushed for 160 yards and three touchdowns, including a 63-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. His third touchdown of the evening gave Marshall a 21-16 lead late in the third quarter, but the Cajuns started Ragin’ again in the fourth. Louisiana had four possessions in the final frame, and the first three resulted in touchdowns. The fourth ended in victory formation. Pregame ranking: 15 (+9)
Army 24, Missouri 22: So, I talked to a friend who went to Missouri after this game about the rough start that the SEC was off to in the bowl season. My friend quickly reminded me that with the SEC having two teams in the College Football Playoff, the rest of the conference was forced to “play up” in its bowl games. In other words, they were getting tougher matchups than they’d typically get. I had two reactions to this. The first is that an SEC fan can find an excuse for any loss, and the second was that it has to be incredible for a service academy like Army to be seen as a “step up” for any SEC program. As for this game, while it’s always somewhat of a surprise to see an SEC team lose to a service academy, it shouldn’t have been given this matchup. Mizzou had one of the worst rush defenses in the country this season, and it played right into Army’s hands. While the Knights rushed for only 211 yards in the game, they were able to control the clock and limit possessions, allowing them to hang close and come back from an early 10-0 deficit. Army didn’t take its first lead until early in the fourth quarter, but after Missouri scored to take a 22-21 lead with 1:11 left, the Knights quickly drove into field goal range. Cole Talley’s 41-yard boot as time expired sealed the victory. Pregame ranking: 32 (+27)
Texas born Cole Talley with the winner‼️#GoArmy
pic.twitter.com/7QoCjYLxy9
Fresno State 31, UTEP 24: Seriously, the first 48 hours of the bowl season were probably the best two days of all because, aside from the LendingTree Bowl, they were all solid games (you might’ve noticed I haven’t even ranked the Cure Bowl yet). This was another example, as the Bulldogs and Miners put on an entertaining show for us all. There were four lead changes in this game, and the largest lead either side had was a 26-17 Fresno lead late in the third — a lead that lasted all of 2 minutes before UTEP cut it to two. In the end, the game would be decided on a safety when Arron Mosby sacked UTEP’s Gavin Hardison. The sack forced a Hardison fumble and UTEP’s Elijah Klein recovered the ball in the end zone to give Fresno two points and a 31-24 lead. UTEP would force a quick three-and-out, but its next drive ended with another fumble. Fresno ran out the clock from there. But even though UTEP lost, the Miners were still responsible for the best play of the game when they faked a QB sneak and instead tossed a 50-yard touchdown. Pregame ranking: 28 (+24)
What a play. pic.twitter.com/zTlt09SA8b
No. 6 Ohio State 48, No. 11 Utah 45: Is there another bowl game that manages to deliver absolute bangers as consistently as the Rose Bowl? I mean, not only was it the host of what might’ve been the greatest college football game of all time, but in the last few years alone, we’ve seen an incredible semifinal between Oklahoma and Georgia, a fun 28-23 Ohio State win over Washington, Oregon’s 28-27 comeback against Wisconsin and the insanity that was this game. For real, since the 2017 shootout that saw USC beat Penn State 52-49, the average final margin of the Rose Bowl has been 5.8 points. That’s including last year’s “Rose Bowl” between Alabama and Notre Dame in a College Football Playoff semifinal that was played in Arlington, Texas. Remove that game from the equation and the last five Rose Bowls have been decided by 18 points total.
This game was simply incredible. Ohio State was missing several key players, Utah was without so many starters that it had to start a running back at corner, and it all led to beautiful football. Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud threw for 573 yards and six touchdowns, and Jaxson Smith-Njigba rewrote the record books with 15 receptions for 347 yards and three touchdowns. The game included a 2.5-minute stretch of game time in the second quarter that saw five touchdowns scored and only one from fewer than 50 yards outside the end zone. It only got better from there. Ohio State didn’t take its first lead until there was 4:22 left in the game, and at that point, you thought the game was over because Utah starting QB Cam Rising had been knocked out of the game with a concussion. But it wasn’t. Bryson Barnes led the Utes on a 57-yard touchdown drive to tie the game at 45 before the Buckeyes went 56 yards to set up the game-winning, 19-yard field goal with 9 seconds left. It was a game I never wanted to end. Pregame ranking: 3 (E)
Purdue 48, Tennessee 45: There were games better than the Rose Bowl!? Yep, and the Music City Bowl was one of them! You see, as awesome as the Rose Bowl was, the Music City Bowl matched and exceeded it in a lot of ways. Like Utah, Tennessee built a big lead early, going ahead 21-7 after the first quarter. But, unlike Ohio State, Purdue didn’t wait until the second half to begin its comeback, instead opting to start in the second quarter. The Boilermakers outscored Tennessee 16-0 in the second to take a 23-21 lead into halftime, and then each team traded the lead back and forth a couple of times in the third quarter before things really went off the rails.
Tennessee led the game 31-30 after three, and the score hadn’t changed through the first 9 minutes of the fourth quarter. That’s when Purdue scored and went ahead 38-31. A little under 90 seconds later, Tennessee scored to tie the game at 38. Forty seconds later, Purdue scored again on a 70-yard touchdown pass to Broc Thompson to go back ahead 45-38. How did Tennessee respond? Well, it went 72 yards in four plays and 82 seconds to tie the game 45-45 and force overtime. In overtime, Jaylen Wright was, or wasn’t, it depends on who you ask, stopped short of the goal line on fourth down as the refs ruled his forward progress had been stopped. Purdue then kicked the game-winning field goal. While the ending was controversial, it doesn’t change the fact the game was incredibly entertaining for all neutral observers. The 1,293 yards of offense the teams combined for was the second-most overall in bowl history, behind only the 2011 Alamo Bowl (1,397 yards). Pregame ranking: 16 (+14)
Coastal Carolina 47, Northern Illinois 41: And so we come to the best bowl game of the postseason. I’m assuming a lot of you are perplexed about how the Cure Bowl can rank ahead of the Rose Bowl and Music City Bowl, but that’s just because most of you probably didn’t watch it. You should have because the second bowl game of the season was incredible. Not only were there a bunch of points scored, but it was a one-score game the entire time. The game’s biggest lead came when Miles Joiner caught a 12-yard TD from Rocky Lombardi to put Northern Illinois ahead 24-16 late in the first half. Even that deficit was short-lived as Coastal got a field goal a minute later to make it 24-19.
Not only was it a one-score game the entire time, but the lead changed seven times. It was nonstop, back-and-forth football entertainment. Coastal couldn’t stop Northern Illinois, and the Huskies couldn’t stop the Chanticleers. Aside from the final possession of the half, the first 12 possessions of the game ended with points, and only three of them ended in field goals. When Coastal’s Charles Ouverson came onto the field for the contest’s first punt, he did so with only 54 seconds left in the third quarter.
It came down to the very last play, too. Northern Illinois had the ball at the Coastal 8-yard line with 2 seconds left, but Lombardi’s pass to Joiner was stopped short of the end zone and the Chanticleers held on for the win. Pregame ranking: 19 (+18)
Bowls canceled in 2021-22: Holiday Bowl (pregame rank: 8), Fenway Bowl (25), Arizona Bowl (29), Military Bowl (33), Hawaii Bowl (42)
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