Who Were the Biggest Winners of the Bowl Season?
Florida State Seminoles
Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston looked shaky early but found his rhythm in the second half, as the No. 1 Seminoles beat No.2 Auburn 34-31 in the national championship game. This win puts Florida State back on the national stage in college football. The victory also put an end to the SEC’s seven-year title game dominance. Look for coach Jimbo Fisher to ride this momentum into National Signing Day, which Florida State will need considering most of the team’s star players will be playing on Sunday next year.
Michigan State Spartans
The No. 4 Spartans showed the nation what great defense was all about on New Year’s Day, beating No.5 Stanford 24-20 in the Rose Bowl. Coach Mark Dantonio actually cracked a smile after the game, which should speak volumes to how important the win was for the program going forward. It was also a crucial win for the Big Ten Conference, as the Spartans got a huge victory over arguably the Pac-12’s best team. Unfortunately for the Michigan State, it will lose a lot of playmakers on defense this offseason.
Okay honestly, who thought No. 11 Oklahoma would stand a chance to beat No.3 Alabama? The Sooners looked inspired in the 45-31 defeat of the two-time defending national champs in the Sugar Bowl. What’s even more exciting about the win is that the Sooners know who the quarterback of the future will be. The freshman Trevor Knight threw four touchdowns against a Nick Saban-coached defense. I think it’s safe to say that the Sooners will be ranked among the top teams next season.
In probably one of the most exciting games of this year’s bowl season, No. 12 Clemson defeated No. 7 Ohio State 40-35 in the Orange Bowl. The talented duo of quarterback Tajh Boyd and star receiver Sammy Watkins were a little too much for the Buckeyes. The win also gave the Tigers their first BCS victory. With Boyd and Watkins leaving for the NFL, coach Dabo Swinney will have to recreate this explosive offense to keep pace with the Seminoles for next year's ACC Championship.
The No. 17 Bruins rolled Virginia Tech 42-12 in the Sun Bowl. Star quarterback Brett Hundley simply shined in the win as he threw for 226 yards with two touchdowns, while also rushing for 161 yards for two more scores. But even better news for coach Jim Mora and UCLA fans, Hundley has decided to return for his redshirt junior year. The Bruins could be an intriguing team next year with it's quarterback returning and an opportunistic defense. Don’t be surprised to see Hundley on the Heisman ballot next season.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Texas Tech, where was this play the past five games?! First-year coach Kliff Kingsbury couldn’t have wrote a better ending for this game. The Red Raiders dominated No. 14 Arizona State 37-23 in the Holiday Bowl, as the they racked up 484 yards on the Sun Devils' usually stout defense. The Texas Tech offense was led by freshman quarterback Davis Webb, who was told he would start just before the game. Things are looking bright for this young team.
Central Florida Knights
When watching this game you would have thought No. 15 Central Florida was from the Big 12, but the American Athletic Conference champions came to play in the Fiesta Bowl, defeating No.6 Baylor 52-42. The Knights' star quarterback Blake Bortles was as good as advertised in this game, throwing for three touchdowns and also scoring one with his legs. But more importantly, Central Florida finally got the signature win on the national stage that will put it on the map.
Anytime a Big Ten team can knock off an SEC power you take notice, and that’s exactly what Nebraska did when it beat No. 23 Georgia 24-19 in the Gator Bowl. The Big Ten Conference went 2-5 in bowl games this year, so this win made Husker fans proud. Georgia definitely missed out on quite a few opportunities in this game, but give the Huskers credit for sticking it out until the very end. The victory should give Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini some breathing room and gives life to the program.