"If it doesn't matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score?" Former legendary Green Bay Packer Coach Vince Lombardi.
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2014 National Championship Game on Jan. 12:
Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX

#4 Ohio State (14-1) upsets #2 Oregon (13-2), 42-20
Key to the Game: Oregon suffered through way too much Ezekiel Elliott and Cardale Jones. The Ducks couldn’t stop Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State’s 6-foot, 225-pound sophomore running back, who used speed and evasiveness to rush for 246 yards on 36 attempts for 6.8 yards per carry and scored 4 touchdowns. Oregon defenders did an amazing job of throwing themselves at Elliott rather than risk tackling him.

And the Ducks did little to slow down Cardale Jones, Ohio State’s 6-foot-5, 250-pound sophomore quarterback, who knocked Ducks down when he ran and went 16-for-23 for 242 yards and a touchdown in the air. Not too shabby for a third-string signal-caller making only his 3rd start after Buckeye QBs J. T. Barrett and Braxton Miller were injured and unable to play.

All Ezekiel Elliott and Cardale Jones did was lead the Buckeyes to victories over Wisconsin for the Big Ten Title and then eliminate Alabama on the way to the National Championship and literally crush Oregon and its Heisman Trophy-winning QB Marcus Mariota, a junior probably on his way to the NFL. Elliott had a combined 696 yards rushing against Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon.

So Coach Urban Meyer wins his 3rd national championship in his 3rd year at Ohio State after collecting 2 national championships while coaching the Florida Gators. Meyer joins Nick Saban as the only two coaches in major college football history to win national titles at two different schools (Saban won 1 title at LSU and 3 at Alabama).

This year’s 4-team National Playoff Format was the first after 16 years of the BCS Format that generated a complicated, mixed mess from several sources to determine 2 teams for the national title.

Oregon’s legendary speed looked lame next to Ohio State’s speed, size, power and plain nastiness. The Duke defenders were one step slower in the defensive secondary, couldn’t tackle worth a snap, and they might as well have been running into each in some sort of weird football dance gone wrong.

It was a good national championship football game for the Ohio State Buckeyes, for the Oregon Ducks, not so much.

National Semifinal Games on New Year’s Day:

Sugar Bowl
#4 Ohio State (13-1) upsets mighty #1 Alabama (12-2), 42-35
Key to the Game: A two-time national champion coach beats a four-time national champion coach with better coaching, better playing and better results. When Urban Meyer won 2 national titles at Florida in the SEC and then became the new coach at Ohio State, every coach in the Big Ten (which has 14 teams) swallowed twice. Nick Saban coached against Urban Meyer in the SEC.

Meyer won 2 national titles at Florida in 2006 and 2008. He is 8-2 lifetime in bowl games, and has a 37-3 (92%) record at Ohio State in 3 seasons. Saban won 4 national titles, at LSU in 2003 and at Alabama in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Saban is 8-8 lifetime in bowl games, and has an 86-17 (83%) record at Alabama.

When push came to shove in the Sugar Bowl, Alabama’s rushing defense collapsed, giving up a Sugar-Bowl record 230 yards on 20 carries for 11.5 yards per carry to Ezekiel Elliott, who scored twice.

Buckeye quarterback Cardale (sic) Jones was also a big story. He was making only his second start at quarterback after both Braxton Miller and J. T. Barrett went down with injuries. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound sophomore is a nasty tackle in open field, like hitting a runaway locomotive head on. Jones threw for 243 yards and a 47-yard TD strike to Devin Smith that put the Buckeyes ahead for good in the 3rd quarter. Ohio State had 4 unanswered touchdowns in the 2nd and 3rd quarters.

Jones also converted a crucial third-down play with a spinning, 1-yard dive and Ohio State clinging to a 34-28 lead. On the next play, Ezekiel Elliott turned on his jets after breaking a feeble Alabama tackle attempt and sprinted for an 85-yard touchdown that essentially clinched the victory with 3:24 left on the game clock.

In the end, the Crimson Tide players thought it was just Ohio State, and forgot that Urban Meyer came with the package. Now the Ohio State Buckeyes will take on Oregon for the national title after the Ducks dispatched wannabe Florida State 59-20 in the other national semifinal contest.

Rose Bowl
#2 Oregon (13-1) routs #3 Florida State (13-1), 59-20
Key to the Game: Speed kills, and hang on to the ball. In less than 13 minutes with the score 25-20 in favor of Oregon, no less than 4 Florida State turnovers led to 4 Oregon touchdowns. It was legendary Coach Don James from Washington who said “Speed kills”. Oregon scored 6 straight times when they touched the ball in the 2nd half, with 5 of their touchdowns covering at least 21 yards and last 4 scores coming after turnovers by the Seminoles.

The Duck offense rolled up 639 yards, 301 rushing and 338 passing led by quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota. By winning, Oregon now faces Ohio State in the National Title Game. The Buckeyes upset Alabama 42-35 in the other National Semifinal Game to get the nod. Oregon means to win their first national title, and they could do it.

The Seminoles did not do a good job of protecting the ball this season (they ranked 84th nationally with a minus 3 turnover margin), and were behind in 6 games, winning 5 in comebacks before they ran out of gas racing against the Ducks. As a result, Florida State’s national winning streak came to a screeching halt at 29 after an unbeaten season and NCAA national title last year. Seminole quarterback Jameis Winston suffered his first loss as a college starter, and will probably be headed to the NFL.

Other Major Bowl Games on New Year’s Day:

Cotton Bowl
#8 Michigan State (11-2) outlasts #5 Baylor (11-2), 42-41
Key to the Game: Michigan State was down 41-21 going into the 4th quarter and rallied to score 21 points to zero, zip, nada, nothing for Baylor, nipping the Bears, who were obviously asleep in a cave somewhere.

This is what you call a huge comeback for the Spartans, who count as their only two losses this season Oregon and Ohio State, both of whom won National Semifinal Games New Year’s Day to qualify for the National Championship Game (Oregon beat Florida State and Ohio State upset Alabama). If these results do not throw Michigan State into talk as a Final 4 candidate next year, then we are living on the wrong planet.

Michigan State, which won the Rose Bowl as Big Ten champions last year, has now won 4 consecutive bowl games after trailing in each of them at halftime. Did we mention that Oregon was the Pac-12 champion this year, and Ohio State was the Big Ten champion? Some credit should go to Defensive Coordinator Pat Narduzzi, who after 11 seasons and two schools with Coach Mark Dantonio, is leaving the Spartans to take over as Head Coach at Pittsburgh.

The Spartans 4th quarter run started with an 8-yard scoring pass from Connor Cook to Josiah Price, followed by a 1-yard run by Jeremy Langford and then a 10-yard pass from Connor Cook to Keith Mumphrey after Marcus Rush (a great name for a defensive end) blocked Chris Callahan’s 43-yard field goal attempt with 1:05 left in the game. Langford ran for 162 yards on 27 carries for 6.0 yards per carry and scored 3 touchdowns.

Outback Bowl
#18 Wisconsin (11-3) triumphs over #19 Auburn (8-5), 34-31
Key to the Game: For the second time in three years, Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez led his Badgers to a bowl game victory. Alvarez coached Wisconsin for 16 seasons before retiring in 2005. Now he has twice led his team to bowl wins after losing two coaches—first Bret Bielema to Arkansas and then Gary Anderson this year to Oregon State. Anderson should love Oregon State, especially when it comes to recruiting against Oregon, Southern California, UCLA, California, Stanford, Arizona, Arizona State and Washington. Yeah, that should be a quick walk in the park.

Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon (call him Flash) ran for an Outback Bowl-record 251 yards and 3 touchdowns. Rafael Gaglianone kicked the winning field goal on the opening possession of overtime. End of game story. Gordon joined Central Florida’s Kevin Smith as the only major NCAA players to rush for at least 2,000 yards and also score 30 touchdowns in the same season.

Citrus Bowl
#16 Missouri (11-3) stops #25 Minnesota (8-5), 33-17
Key to the Game: Run the ball and stop the run. Missouri’s Marcus Murphy ran for 159 yards and Russell Hansbrough added another 114 yards and a touchdown. Minnesota’s offense came in averaging nearly 225 yards per game on the ground, and Missouri’s defense grounded the Golden Gophers to 106 yards. Result: Victory for the Tigers.

Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel operates under the national media radar, yet he has led the Tigers to 23 wins in 2 years, and won 3 straight bowl games while reaching 11 victories for the 4th time in school history. Pinkel should now get a little more media ink for the job he has done at Missouri, which plays in the SEC, and we know how easy it is to rack up a lot of victories in the SEC.

And the Rest of the Bowl Game Lineup:

Orange Bowl
#12 Georgia Tech (11-3) upsets #7 Mississippi State (10-3), 49-34
Key to the Game: Mississippi State was overrated as a No. 1 team for 5 consecutive weeks, and now you know why: They simply aren’t that good. The Bulldogs pranced and danced their way through 9 games to start their season at 9-0 and then promptly lost 3 of their last 4 games to Alabama, Ole Miss and now Georgia Tech.

“We missed some big opportunities,” Coach Dan Mullen said after the game. “We just didn’t score enough points.” Dan, dude, get with it. What you really missed was a defense when you needed it most. Like Baylor, the plan all season was to put up points and outscore the opposition.

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets rushed for 452 yards on 61 carries for a 7.4 yard average per carry. Quarterback Justin Thomas ran for 121 yards and 3 touchdowns, and threw for another 125 yards and another touchdown. Synjyn Days ran for 171 yards and 3 more scores. It was Georgia Tech’s first Orange Bowl victory in 63 years. Now that’s what you call finishing the season right.

Fiesta Bowl
#20 Boise State (12-2) stares down and upsets #10 Arizona (10-4), 38-30
Key to the Game: Just when you think a mid-major team has learned some manners, you meet Boise State, who doesn’t give a crap who you are. That includes the Arizona Wildcats from the Pac-12. Take the Broncos Jay Ajayi, who ran for 134 yards and 3 touchdowns. Bronco Grant Hedrick threw for 309 yards and a touchdown.

It was a successful first season for Coach Bryan Harsin (12-2, not too shabby), and the Broncos won their 3rd Fiesta Bowl. You remember Boise State and its trick play that upset mighty Oklahoma in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, and then knocked off previously unbeaten TCU to finish at 14-0 in 2009. Harsin replaced Chris Petersen went he left for Washington. Thank Petersen for those first two Fiesta Bowl wins. Petersen’s record at Boise State was 92-12 (88%) and he won 5 of 7 bowl games in 8 years. Petersen’s winning legacy lives on at Boise State, and now he coaches the Washington Huskies.

Peach Bowl
#6 TCU (12-1) just crushes #9 Ole Miss (9-4), 42-3
Key to the Game: Texas Christian’s defense held Mississippi to 9 yards total rushing and 129 total yards in the game. In the first half, Ole Miss had exactly 4 first downs and 59 total yards. TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin went 22-of-31 for 187 yards, 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Josh Doctson had 2 touchdown catches and Aaron Green added a running score.

The Horned Frogs, who were not selected for the NCAA’s first 4-team national playoff (that honor went to #1 Alabama, #2 Oregon, #3 Florida State and #4 Ohio State), certainly made a big-time statement—they led Ole Miss 42-to-nada after three quarters. The Horned Frogs spent the 4th quarter drinking Gatorade and playing bingo.

Foster Farms Bowl
Stanford (8-5) slams Maryland (7-6), 45-21
Key to the Game: Stanford got better as the year progressed. In this bowl game, Kevin Hogan threw for 189 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Ramound (sic) Wright ran for 2 short scores as Maryland pretty much watched. Stanford’s 45 points was the most it has ever scored in a bowl game.

Belk Bowl
#13 Georgia (10-3) steamrolls over #21 Louisville (9-4), 37-14
Key to the Game: When Georgia’s quarterback Hutson Mason went down in the 2nd quarter, Coach Mark Richt said “just give it to Nick.” Nick being freshman Nick Chubb. And Nick? Well, he rushed for 266 yards and 2 touchdowns, the 2nd highest single-game rushing total in Bulldog history, exceeded only by Herschel Walker’s 283 yards against Vanderbilt in 1980, 34 years ago.

Chubb rushed 33 times for an 8.1 average per carry. He finished his first season at Georgia by running for 1,323 yards and 12 touchdowns in his last 8 games after taking over when Todd Gurley was suspended by the NCAA for taking $3,000 for autographed memorabilia and other items.

Music City Bowl
Notre Dame (8-5) upsets #23 LSU (8-5), 31-28
Key to the Game: A 32-yard field goal by Notre Dame’s Kyle Brindza as time expired. The Fighting Irish were ranked as high as 5th before dropping 4 straight and 5 of their final 6 games, struggling in the 4th quarter against Florida State, Northwestern, Arizona State and Louisville. Not his time as they win in Nashville, deep in the south against an SEC team. Louisiana Coach Les Miles was ticked when the Tigers attempted to score on a fake field goal from the 1-yard line, but officials ruled holder Brad Kragthorpe short, and the call wasn’t reversed.

Texas Bowl
Arkansas (7-6) rips Texas (6-7) a new one, 31-7
Key to the Game: Arkansas Razorback Brandon Allen threw for 160 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Jonathan Williams ran for 105 yards and a score as Arkansas easily beat Texas, 31-7. Texas had only 29 yards of total offense entering the 4th quarter.

Texas and Oklahoma, just beaten 40-6 by Clemson, used to have powerhouse programs. Now both teams look like they have been coached by an inept rock band. Texas and Oklahoma used to be relevant, now they have become irrelevant, just like an inept rock band.

Russell Athletic Bowl
#17 Clemson (10-3) just routs Oklahoma (8-5), 40-6
Key to the Game: Cole Stoudt was 26-of-36 for a season-high 319 yards on his way to throwing for 3 touchdowns and running for another as Clemson rolled over Oklahoma. The Sooners came in averaging nearly 40 points but were behind 40-zip after 3 quarters. The Tigers (10-3) reached double-digit victories for the 4th consecutive season. Clemson was 10-4 in 2011, 11-2 in 2012 and 11-2 in 2013. Clemson Coach Dabo (sic) Swinney is doing just find. He was a wide receiver for Alabama in college.

Liberty Bowl
Texas A&M (8-5) beats West Virginia (7-6), 45-37
Key to the Game: Freshmen, freshmen and freshmen. The Aggies had them, and West Virginia did not. True Freshman Kyle Allen went 22-of-35 for 294 yards and 4 touchdowns and ran for another touchdown. The Aggies season leaders in sacks (true freshman Myles Garrett), all-purpose yards (true freshman Speedy Noll), and interceptions (true freshman Armani Watts) were too much in the end. Texas A&M has won bowl games in 4 straight seasons for the first time in school history. The Aggies won the Chick-fil-a Bowl last year, the Cotton Bowl two seasons ago, and the Texas Bowl in 2011. You might say the future is bright for the Aggies.

Holiday Bowl
#24 USC (9-4) hangs on to win over Nebraska (9-4), 45-42
Key to the Game: Adoree (sic) Jackson scored on a 98-yard kickoff return and a 71-yard pass from Cody Kessler as Southern California blew most of an 18-point, third-quarter lead before getting by the Cornhuskers. Kessler went 23-for-39 with 321 yards plus 3 touchdowns. USC logged 515 yards of total offense and Nebraska had 525, and no, it was not a defensive struggle—there was no defense worth talking about.

Barney Cotton coached Nebraska, which finally fired firebrand coach Bo Pelini on Nov. 30. Pelini was infamous for screaming, badgering and belittling officials, and his own coaches, players and fans. New coach Mike Riley (formerly from Oregon State) watched from a skybox. Nebraska has a real chance to get farther ahead without Bo Pelini.

Pinstripe Bowl
Penn State (7-6) beats Boston College (7-6), 31-30 in Overtime
Key to the Game: Nittany Lion Christian Hackenberg hit Kyle Carter for a 10-yard touchdown pass in overtime and Penn State kicked the extra point that Boston College could not. Penn State’s Sam Ficken sent the game into overtime with a 45-yard field goal with 20 seconds left, and then won the game with his extra point that Eagle Mike Knoll shanked in overtime. This was not an unusual occurrence. Boston College blew a 14-point lead, and the Eagles have missed 8 extra point attempts this season. Clearly, Boston College needs a better extra point kicker. Apply in the fall of 2015.

Independence Bowl
South Carolina (7-6) nips Miami of Florida (6-7), 24-21
Key to the Game: Dylan Thompson threw for 294 yards and 2 touchdowns and ran for another score for the Gamecocks, completing 22 of 34 passes. His favorite target, Pharoh (sic) Cooper, caught 9 passes for 170 yards, including a spectacular 25-yard grab on what proved to be the decisive drive late in the 4th quarter.

The win marked a school-record 4 straight bowl game wins for South Carolina. In contrast, Miami (6-7) ended the season on a 4-game losing streak, and the Hurricanes have not won in the postseason since 2006, 8 years ago. Miami used to be a powerhouse, and now the Hurricanes pretty much suck Louisiana pond water.

Sun Bowl
#15 Arizona State (10-3) got by unranked Duke (9-4), 36-31
Key to the Game: The Sun Devils Kalen Ballage returned a kickoff 95 yards to set up the winning score on a 4-yard shovel pass from Taylor Kelly to Demario Richard on the next play with 4:45 remaining. Richard gained 41 yards on 7 carries and scored 2 rushing touchdowns and 2 receiving touchdowns. Kelly went 24-for-34 for 240 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Military Bowl
Virginia Tech (7-6) beat Cincinnati (9-4), 33-17
Key to the Game: A spectacular play in the 3rd quarter by the Hokies knocked Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel out of the game. Linebacker Deon Clarke sacked Kiel on a clean hit, causing Kiel to fumble at Cincy’s 43-yard line, where teammate Greg Stroman scooped it up and took it into the end zone for a 27-10 lead. Without Kiel, Cincinnati was dead in the water.

The victory was a huge deal for the Virginia Tech Hokies for two reasons: It marked the 22nd consecutive winning season for Coach Frank Beamer, and also marked the Hokies 22nd consecutive bowl appearance under Beamer, who watched the game from an upstairs coaching box to avoid the risk of infection during his recovery from throat surgery.

Bitcoin Bowl
North Carolina State (8-5) upended Central Florida (9-4), 34-27
Key to the Game: The Wolfpack, on the prowl, exploded on Central Florida, which came into the Bitcoin Bowl ranked in the Top 10 nationally in fewest yards allowed per game, as well as pass efficiency, rushing defense and scoring defense. North Carolina State rolled up 488 yards in total offense. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett threw for 262 yards and a touchdown to lead the way. North Carolina State went 0-8 in ACC play and 3-9 overall a year ago. Now Coach Dave Doeren has them at 8-5; the 4-game improvement in their regular season record this year matched Mississippi State for the second-biggest jump among the 5 NCAA power conferences.

Quick Lane Bowl
Rutgers (8-5) beat North Carolina (6-7), 40-21
Key to the Game: The Scarlet Knights opened holes for, and held the line in front of three players: Freshman running back Josh Hicks rushed for 202 yards and a touchdown, freshman Robert Martin ran for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns, and senior quarterback Gary Nova threw for 184 yards and 2 touchdowns. In other words, the Rutgers offense was really good. The Scarlet Knights are now in the Big Ten. Owned and operated by the NFL’s Detroit Lions, the Quick Lane Bowl replaced the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl, which had been played in Detroit under various names since 1997.

Heart of Dallas Bowl
Louisiana Tech (9-5) dusted Illinois (6-7), 35-18
Key to the Game: Bulldog Kenneth Dixon scored 1 of his 2 touchdowns on an 80-yard reception and teammate Xavier Woods scored on a 69-yard interception return to lead Louisiana Tech. Dixon became the only FBS player with both a run and a reception of at least 80 yards this season (there are many bowl games yet to be played). Illinois was 3-5 in Big Ten play this year, and looked like it in this bowl game.

Hawaii Bowl
Rice (8-5) over Fresno State (6-8), 30-6
Key to the Game: Driphus (sic) Jackson passed for 318 yards and 3 touchdowns to lead Rice. The Owls started the season with 3 losses and then went 8-2 to finish the year at 8-5.

Bahamas Bowl
Western Kentucky (8-5) nixes Central Michigan (7-6), 49-48
Key to the Game: Sloppy defensive play by the Hilltoppers that nearly cost them the game. Western Kentucky was up 49-14 after 3 quarters when their defense stopped playing, allowing Central to outscore Western Kentucky 34-zip in the 4th quarter. Five touchdowns is a lot to give up in the last quarter when you are leading by 35 points. The last TD was a doozy and came on the final play of the game with 1 second remaining.

Imagine a 3-lateral, 75-yarder that involved 6 Chippewas touching the ball: the center, quarterback and 4 receivers. QB Cooper Rush threw deep to Jesse Kroll, who was sandwiched between 3 defenders at the 29 yard line. Kroll lateraled to Deon Butler, who lateraled to Courtney Williams, who got the ball back to Titus Davis, who caught it at the 15 and outran three defenders to the end zone. So the play went down as a pass from QB Cooper Rush to Titus Davis, the last player to touch the ball and score.

Now get this: Chippewa Coach Jeff Brohm went for the 2-point conversion and win, and the Western Kentucky Hilltopper defense finally got a life and stopped the attempt to win the game, 49-48, when Wonderful (sic) Terry broke up the pass.

Very interesting sidelight: The Hilltopper Defensive Coordinator was none other than Nick Holt, the former Defensive Coordinator for the Washington Huskies under Steve Sarkisian. Sarkisian fired him—now you know why. Holt may be the original architect of the porous defense when it you need it the most. The football gods should have given Central Michigan the win, unfortunately, in this case, it was more guts than glory for the Chippewas.

Central Michigan’s Cooper Rush threw for 485 yards and 7 touchdowns, one more than any quarterback had ever thrown in any bowl game ever. The teams finished with 1,254 yards of offense, with 647 by Western Kentucky.

Additional note of interest: The inaugural Bahamas Bowl was the first bowl game played outside the United States and Canada since 1937, 77 years ago.

Poinsettia Bowl
Navy (8-5) slips by San Diego State (7-6), 17-16
Key to the Game: A 24-yard field goal by Navy’s Austin Grebe with 87 seconds left in the contest. Both teams came in with a 7-5 record.

Boca Raton Bowl
Marshall (13-1) sprints past Northern Illinois (11-3), 52-23
Key to the Game: Thundering Herd Quarterback Rakeem Cato threw for 3 touchdowns, extending his streak of throwing at least one touchdown pass in 46 consecutive games, tying the NCAA all-division record. Tommy Shuler caught 18 passes in the game for 185 yards (10.2 yards per reception) and a touchdown.

Miami Beach Bowl
Memphis (10-3) finally outscores Brigham Young (8-5), 55-48
Key to the Game: Scoring, scoring and more scoring by both Memphis and Brigham Young. It took 60 minutes, two overtimes and the final play for Memphis to accomplish something it had not done in 76 years. Paxton Lynch threw an 11-yard pass to Roderick Proctor to seal the deal at 55-48. Lynch would throw 4 touchdown passes and run for 3 more, and the victory left Memphis with a 10-win season, something the Tigers had not accomplished since 1938.

Unfortunately, immediately following this tense, hard-fought game, a street fight broke out between players, coaches and fans on both sides, proving that, in the south, football is not a game, but a war. This was the inaugural Miami Beach Bowl, and, while very exciting, it didn’t go quite the way bowl officials had planned.

Camellia Bowl
Bowling Green (8-6) outlasted South Alabama (6-7), 33-28
Key to the Game: A 78-yard touchdown pass from James Knapke to Roger Lewis with 64 seconds remaining. The game MVP, Knapke, went 25-for-39; Lewis led all receivers with 137 yards on 4 receptions.

Idaho Potato Bowl
Air Force (10-3) triumphed over Western Michigan (8-5), 38-24
Key to the Game: Winning, winning more winning! With the victory, the Falcons finished at 10-3 after going 2-10 last year, recording one of the best season-to-season turnarounds in college football history. This may give credence to the expression that, if you can get a falcon off the ground, he can fly.

Las Vegas Bowl
#22 Utah (9-4) stormed past Colorado State (10-3), 45-10
Key to the Game: Quarterback Travis Wilson rushed for a season-best 91 yards on 11 carries (8.2 ypc), scored 3 touchdowns and passed for another. The Utes have now won 11 of their past 12 bowl games; Current Coach Kyle Whittingham has won 8 of 9.

New Mexico Bowl
Utah State (10-4) defensed Texas-El Paso (7-6), 21-6
Key to the Game: The Vigil brothers (senior Zach and sophomore Nick) combined for 16 tackles, and Nick, on the other side of the line, ran 3 yards for a touchdown. The win gave Utah State its third straight bowl game victory.

New Orleans Bowl
Louisiana-Lafayette (9-4) beat Nevada (7-6), 16-3
Key to the Game: Quarterback Terrance Broadway set a bowl game record by competing his first 14 passes on his way to 227 yards and touchdown. Nevada players stayed on the bus in the second half, going scoreless.

Cactus Bowl
Oklahoma State (7-6) hangs on to top Washington (8-6), 30-22
Key to the Game: Oklahoma State won the 1st half 24-0, and Washington won the 2nd half 22-6. Washington bounced back on a 96-yard kickoff return by John Ross and 2 touchdowns by Jaydon Mickens on a 31-yard reverse and a 16-yard catch and run. The Huskies had a chance to win on a last-ditch drive but Cyler Miles threw an interception. Washington’s defense with 3 All-Americans was not a factor, and its defensive secondary was burned twice on long passes in the 1st half.

Cowboy Mason Rudolph, a freshman making his 3rd start at quarterback, overcame 3 turnovers to go 17-of-26 (65%) for 299 yards and 2 touchdowns. James Castleman, a 300-pound defensive tackle, made two significant offensive plays, a 1-yard TD coming out of the shotgun formation, and rumbling 48 yards on a catch out of the backfield. The Husky defense was everywhere except where they needed to be, allowing the Cowboys Desmond Roland to gain an additional123 yards rushing yards.

First-year Husky Coach Chris Petersen (from Boise State) ended the year at 8-6 with a bowl game loss. Cowboy Coach Mike Gundy had his own problems. Oklahoma State opened the season with a loss, then won 5 straight, then lost 5 straight, beat rival Oklahoma in overtime to qualify for a bowl game, and then beat Washington to go 7-6. Talk about topsy-turvy.

Alamo Bowl
#14 UCLA (10-3) holds off #11 Kansas State (9-4), 40-35
Key to the Game: UCLA won the 1st half 31-6, Kansas State won the 2nd half 29-9, it was just enough for the Bruins to hold on and win their 10th game for Coach Jim Mora. Bruin Paul Perkins rushed for 194 yards on 20 carries, averaging 9.7 yards per carry, and scored on runs of 32 and 67 yards. Wildcat Jake Waters was 31-of-48 for 338 yards and 2 touchdowns. UCLA sacked Waters 7 times. Bruin Brett Huntley, who threw for 136 yards and ran for another 96 yards while scoring twice, is probably headed to the NFL.

It’s been a bowl season for comebacks. Michigan State trailed Baylor by 20 in the 4th quarter and won 42-41, and Houston scored 29 points in the 4th quarter to beat Pittsburgh 35-34. Kansas State came up short in its comeback attempt, but at least the Wildcats didn’t quit.

Armed Forces Bowl
Houston (8-5) comeback levels Pittsburgh (6-7), 35-34
Key to the Game: Finish the damn game. Pittsburgh had a 31-6 lead in the 4th quarter before letting Houston back into the game and then winning it with a 2-point conversion on Houston’s 4th last quarter touchdown.

Here is how ridiculous the Panther defense was with a 25-point lead: Cougar Kenneth Farrow scored on an 8-yard run, and Pitt answered with a field goal. Then Houston quarterback Greg Ward had an 8-yard TD pass to Deontay (sic) Greenberry and the Cougars recovered an onside kick, leading to another Greg Ward 29-yard TD pass to Demarcus Ayers with 1;58 left on a 4th-and-13 play, followed by another recovered onside kick (Houston decided that if it worked once, maybe it would work again), followed by another 25-yard Ward to Greenberry TD pass with 59 seconds left on a 3rd-and-13 play. Interim Defensive Coordinator David Gibbs went for the 2-point conversion and victory, and Ward again delivered by finding Greenberry in the back of the end zone with Greenberry making a leaping catch. This is why you watch college football.

The new Houston Cougar coach will be Tom Herman, the Offensive Coordinator for Ohio State, after the firing of Tony Levine. Pittsburgh was coached by Interim Offensive Coordinator Joe Rudolph after Head Coach Paul Chryst left to coach the Wisconsin Badgers. New Pitt Coach Pat Narduzzi was at the game, a day after his finale as Michigan State’s Defensive Coordinator. You would think they were playing musical chairs, almost stealing the attention from the players.

Be happy for Houston’s great comeback victory, it proved to be the largest comeback win in an FBS game this season, and the largest ever in a bowl game that didn’t go into overtime. Don’t be too sad for Pittsburgh’s inept defense in the last quarter. The Panthers have an FBS-high 81 returning underclassmen, including All-ACC receiver Tyler Boyd and quarterback Chad Voytik among 28 sophomores.

TaxSlayer Bowl
Tennessee (7-6) overwhelms Iowa (7-6), 45-28
Key to the Game: Butch Jones and some young, hungry players. Tennessee freshman Jalen Hurd ran for 122 yards on 16 carries (7.6 yards per carry) and scored twice, and sophomore Joshua Dobbs, filling in for injured QB Justin Worley, was 16-for-21 for 129 yards and a touchdown, and added 76 rushing yards and two more touchdowns. Second-year Coach Butch Jones delivered Tennessee’s first winning season since 2009. The Volunteers scored on their first 4 possessions to go up 28-zip. The Hawkeyes? Well, they missed tackles, made stupid mistakes and lost the game.

Birmingham Bowl
Florida (7-5) outplays East Carolina (8-5), 28-20
Key to the Game: Big plays by the Florida Gators. Treon (sic) Harris found Ahmad Fulwood deep for an 86-yard scoring pass, Brian Poole scored on a 29-yard pick six, and star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves intercepted a pass in the end zone to preserve the victory. Redshirt freshman running back Adam Lane rushed 16 times for 109 yards. The Gators were led by interim Head Coach D. J. Durkin as new Coach Jim McElwain was among the spectators.

Go Daddy Bowl
Toledo (9-4) outscores Arkansas State (7-6), 63-44
Key to the Game: Toledo sophomore Kareem Hunt ran for 271 yards on 32 carries (8.5 average per carry) and scored 5 touchdowns. Instead of taking scalps, the Arkansas State Indians gave up 9 touchdowns. This game was off the charts: There were 6 touchdowns of at least 40 yards, 3 defensive touchdowns, and Arkansas State linebacker Xavier Woodson was kicked out of game for “threatening an official”.

College Football Wrap-Up – Week 6

After 5 weeks of pussyfooting around beating up on weak teams, the possible carnage became real as eight AP Top 25 teams were upset, and 5 of the 8 were upset by unranked teams, none bigger than unranked Arizona going to 5-0 by visiting Eugene and upsetting the #2 Oregon Ducks 31-24.

The Wildcats, led by Coach Rich Rodriguez, scored 28 second-half points to give Oregon its first loss the season, plummeting the Ducks to #8 in this week’s Top 25. So, the Duck defense may have been quacking, but they were porous. Oregon was favored by 23 and lost by 7, a nasty swing of the ax no matter how you cut it.

Other teams to get whacked by unranked teams included:

Unranked Utah (now 4-1) on-the-road upended unbeaten #8 UCLA, 30-28. The Bruins, favored by 13, lost by 2 and are now 4-1. UCLA blasted #15 Arizona State last week, 62-27, and then gets beaten this week by unranked Utah. So is UCLA that good? No. Is Arizona State that bad? No. Read on:

Unranked Arizona State (now 4-1) on-the-road upset #16 Southern California, 38-34. The Trojans, favored by 12, lost by 4 and are now 3-2.

Unranked Northwestern (now 3-2) at home turned the tables on #17 Wisconsin, 20-14. The Badgers, favored by 8, lost by 6 and are now 3-2.

Unranked Utah State (now 3-2) on-the-road upset unbeaten, in-state rival #18 Brigham Young, 35-20 – The Cougars, favored by 21, lost by 15 and are now 4-1.

Three other ranked teams lost to ranked opponents:

The second biggest upset was #11 Ole Miss at home remained unbeaten at 5-0 by winning the last quarter 13-zip and the upset 23-17 over unbeaten #3 Alabama. The Crimson Tide, favored by 6, lost by 6 and are now 4-1.

Alabama was up 17-10 after 3 quarters and let the game get away from them, or you might think that the Mississippi State Bulldogs wanted the game more. Alabama’s loss brought back memories of the Tide’s loss to Auburn last year in the SEC Championship Game when a lousy lack of coverage on a missed field goal led to a field-length return for a touchdown and last second upset by the Tigers, 34-28.

Ranked upstart #12 Mississippi State at home remained unbeaten at 5-0 by upsetting unbeaten #6 Texas A&M, 48-31. The Aggies, favored by 2.5, lost by 17 and are now 5-1.

Another ranked upstart, #25 TCU at home, remained unbeaten at 4-0 by nosing out unbeaten #4 Oklahoma, 37-33. The Sooners, favored by 5, lost by 4 and are now 4-1.

Three other ranked teams escaped being upset in spite of playing other ranked teams.

#5 Auburn at home kept its unbeaten status at 5-0 by swamping #15 LSU, 41-7. The 34-point beat down left LSU at 4-2. The match between the two Tigers was not much of a match. Coach Les Miles and his LSU Tigers need a new game plan and more talent.

#9 Notre Dame at home remained unbeaten at 5-0 by beating #14 Stanford by a field goal, 17-14 – Irish QB Everett Golson found tight end Ben Koyack alone in the end zone with 61 seconds left to pull out the victory. Stanford is now 3-2.

#10 Michigan State at home held on and finally turned back unbeaten #13 Nebraska, 27-22. The Spartans were up 27-3 and then got sloppy and lazy, allowing the Cornhuskers back into the game by giving up 19 last quarter points. Michigan State is now 4-1 and Nebraska 5-1.

This week there were only 7 ranked teams that indicated sufficient strength in beating unranked opponents by at least 3 touchdowns:

+40 #1 Florida State at home refused to be an upset casualty by ripping Wake Forest 43-3 – The Demon Deacons (whatever those are) dropped to 2-4.

+32 #23 Kansas State at home beat unranked Texas Tech 45-13 – The Red Raiders are hardly able to launch at attack at 2-3.

+28 #20 Ohio State on-the-road beat unranked Maryland 52-24 – The Terrapins drop to 4-2.

+27 #13 Georgia at home beat unranked Vanderbilt 44-17 – Vanderbilt is having getting out of the huddle at 1-5.

+21 #7 Baylor on-the-road beat in-state, unranked Texas 28-7 – The Mack Brown era is over at Texas; you can pretty much stick a fork in the 2-3 Longhorns.

+21 #22 East Carolina at home beat unranked Southern Methodist 45-24 – The Mustangs can hardly pony up at 0-5.

+17 #21 Oklahoma State at home beat unranked Iowa State 37-20 – The Cyclones are not storming up on anybody at 1-4.

Two unranked teams remained unbeaten at 5-0 as Marshall’s Thundering Herd on-the-road leveled Old Dominion 56-14, and Georgia Tech at home held off Miami-Florida 28-17.

In the low-scoring game of the week, Florida on-the-road inched by Tennessee, 10-9.

In the high-scoring game of the week, Washington State at home in the madhouse that is Martin Stadium, hung on for dear life before bowing to California 60-59 after being outscored 19-7 in the last quarter. The Cougars are still having trouble learning how to close out games in the last quarter.

In a battle of winless 0-5 teams, Miami of Ohio barely nipped Massachusetts, 42-41, by winning the last quarter 14-zip.

And what, pray tell, is going on in Ann Arbor? The Wolverines lost on-the-road to Rutgers 26-24. The Scarlet Knights are now 5-1 and Michigan is 2-4. At this standing, Wolverine Coach Brady Hoke may end up packing his bags as he moves out of Ann Arbor.

Michigan’s money-boosters don’t like losing any more than they liked Rick Rodriguez bringing his spread offense from West Virginia to the Wolverine’s 3-yards-and-cloud-of-dust offense. Rodriguez is now coaching at unranked Arizona with a 5-0 record as his Wildcats on-the-road just upset #2 Oregon 31-24.

To sum up the Top 25:

#2 Oregon, #3 Alabama, #4 Oklahoma, #6 Texas A&M, #8 UCLA, #16 Southern Cal, #17 Wisconsin and #18 Brigham Young all were upset.

#5 Auburn, #9 Notre Dame and #10 Michigan all held their own against ranked opponents.

The new AP Top 10 is now 1-Florida State, 2-Auburn, 3-Ole Miss, 3-Mississippi State, 5-Baylor, 6-Notre Dame, 7-Alabama, 8-Michigan State, 9-TCU and 10-Arizona.

When this season started, who would have ever even dared to think that in Week 6 both Ole Miss and Mississippi State would be tied for #3? That’s major college, fans, and the reason it is the so great.

Now the rubber hits the road. No less than 8 AP Top 25 teams clash in 4 key contests this week to celebrate the 4th week of major college football.

The lineup includes #3 Oregon (3-0) hosting #22 Arizona (3-0), #4 Florida State (3-0) hosting #10 Clemson (3-0), #6 Oklahoma (2-0) hosting #15 Kansas State (3-0), and #11 Notre Dame (3-0) hosting #18 Michigan (2-1).

All of the 8 teams are undefeated except the Michigan Wolverines, who got their butt handed to them by Alabama, 41-14, in their opener.

New Arizona Coach Rich Rodriguez (aka Rich Rod) will have his hands full at Oregon in his first Pac-12 contest. Both Rodriguez and Oregon Coach Chip Kelly run hurry-up, spread offenses. Rich Rod runs a spread option, and Kelly runs what I would call a spread speed offense—if you blink, an Oregon Duck has already run by you. Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas (aka DAT) may be the fastest player in major college football.

Last week Arizona ran 102 offensive plays (you read it right, 102). The Wildcats are averaging 93+ plays a game and Oregon is averaging 86+ plays a game. An average college team runs 55 offensive plays during a game.

Both teams pile up the yards. Arizona ranks 4th in the nation in total offense with 604+ yards per game; Oregon ranks 7th with 596+. Both teams also pile up the points, with Oregon ranking 5th in scoring (54 points per game) and Oregon ranking 12th with 46 points per game. Could their combined score Saturday reach 100? We shall see.

Last week Southern California was upset by Stanford 21-14, Michigan State was upset by Notre Dame 20-3, Virginia Tech was upset by unranked Pittsburgh 35-17 (you remember Pittsburgh, when Tony Dorsett was there, the Panthers were good), and Brigham Young was upset by unranked Utah 24-21.

Two weeks ago saw 4 Top 25 teams losing to unranked teams. They included #8 Arkansas losing to LA-Monroe 34-31, #13 Wisconsin falling to Oregon State 10-7, #16 Nebraska getting beaten by UCLA 36-30, and #18 Oklahoma State getting whipped by Arizona 59-38.

Another interesting game on tap is Oregon State traveling to #19 UCLA, which will find new Coach Jim Mora in his first Pac-12 league game.

Buy some beer and order in the pizza or tacos and put on your favorite jersey, it’s time for week 4 in your man cave—the ultimate male sanctuary where women, children and even annoying pets are not allowed.

Leave it to Phil Steele to find the nuggets among the dust heap of ordinary to losing major college football teams last year.

Steele publishes Phil Steele’s College Football Preview, and for the last 14 years he has been the most accurate prognosticator among 12 preseason publications.

Find the link to my recent story (Who Will Be Major College Football’s Surprise Teams This Year?) to find out why you should be listening to what Steele predicts.

Here are just a few of his gems regarding Steele’s Most Improved Teams:

Last year he liked Houston coming off of a 5-7 record. The Cougars went 13-1, the largest turnaround in the NCAA, and just missed out on a BCS bowl bid. His No. 2 pick, Georgia, went from 6-7 to 10-4, losing the SEC title game to LSU.

In 2010 he liked Tulsa coming off another 5-7 season. The Golden Hurricane went 10-3, and ended up #24 in the final AP Poll. Another pick, Cincinnati, went from 4-8 to 10-3 and Rutgers went from 4 wins to 9 wins.

In 2009, SMU went from 1-11 to 8-5.

In 2007, Steele’s No. 2 Most Improved Team, Illinois, went from 2-10 to the Rose Bowl. No. 1 Memphis went from 2-10 to a bowl game, and Central Florida went from 4-8 to the Conference USA champions. Minnesota was 1-11 and Northern Illinois was 2-10 and both teams went to bowl games.

In 2006, he had Arkansas as the No. 1 MIT, and the Razorbacks went from 4-7 to the SEC West champions and rose as high as #5 in the AP Top 25 Poll. Wake Forest went from 4-7 to 11-3 to become the Atlantic Coast Conference champions. Houston went from 6-6 to Conference USA champions. Ohio went from 4-7 to Mid-American Conference champions. Troy went from 4-7 to Sun Belt Conference champions.

In 2005, Steele picked Oregon, and the Ducks went from 5-6 to 10-2 and #6 in the final AP Poll. Western Michigan went from 1-10 to 7-4. None of Steele’s top 16 Most Improved Teams had winning records in 2004, but 11 of them became bowl eligible in 2005.

In 2003, his No. 1 pick, Texas A&M, went from 4-8 to the Cotton Bowl. UTEP went from 2-11 to 8-4, and Iowa State went from 2-10 to 7-5 and a tie for the Big 12 North title.

In 2002, USC went from 6-6 to 11-2 and #4 in the final AP Poll.

In 2001, Colorado went from 3-8 to just missing out on the National Title game. Washington State, picked for last in the old Pac-10, went from 4-7 to 10-2 and just missed the Pac-10 title.

In 2000, the No. 6 MIT pick South Carolina went from a winless 0-11 in 1999 to beating Ohio State in a bowl game. Northwestern went from 3-8 to become the Big 10 champions.

In 1999, Steele’s No. 1 Most Improved Team pick, Hawaii, had the largest turnaround in NCAA history, going from a winless 0-12 to 9-4 and a bowl victory.

So let’s just say it: Steele is better at picking Most Improved Teams than anybody on planet Earth. Some people want to tell you that they can pick them just as well as Steele–the only problem is, they do not publish their picks up front for all to see weeks before the season begins.

Steele has his misses too. In 2009, he did not pick the Washington Huskies because he thought they would not make it to a bowl game, and they did not, however, the Huskies went from a winless 0-12 in 2008 with the worst coach in college football, Ty “It’s all about the players” Willingham, to 5-7 under new coach Steve Sarkisian.

In 2010, Steele had Miami of Ohio rated as his No. 1 MIT but did not pick them. The Bobcats became the first team in NCAA history to go from double-digit losses to double-digit wins.

So, who are Phil Steele’s Most Improved Teams for the 2012 season?

No. 1 is Central Florida, followed by Ohio State (#2), South Florida (#3), Bowling Green (#4), Troy (#5), Tennessee (#6), Miami of Ohio (#7), Fresno State (#8), Army (#9), East Carolina (#10), UCLA (#11), Texas Tech (#12), San Jose State (#13), Navy (#14) and Pittsburgh (#15). Steele sees the Central Florida Knights, 5-7 last year, winning the Conference USA title.

In the last 10 years, 120 of the 192 teams with losing records on Steele’s Most Improved Teams list became bowl eligible (62%).

I personally think that Ohio State, Steele’s No. 2 pick, is going to start winning a lot of football games. New Buckeye Coach Urban Meyer has a career 104-23 record (81% winning percentage), a 7-1 bowl record (87%), and 2 National Championships while coaching at Florida.

What is the cheapest commodity in the world? I’m glad you asked, because when most rabid college football fans are asked this question, their eyes get funny and they go silent.

It’s not that they are stupid; they simply don’t know, and neither do most people know because they do not pose the question, and think about an answer.

Since the long-awaited college football season starts next Thursday (8-30-2012), I will save you some time by giving you the answer: it’s opinions.

That said, if you are a crazy, excited college football fan, listen to what Phil Steele says. His No. 1 pick is none other than the Texas Longhorns, who were 13-12 the last two years and ended up unranked. Steele points out that the Longhorns two toughest games this season will be Oklahoma State and the Red River Rivalry with Oklahoma, and that no less than 4 National Champions in the last 12 years have been off 5-loss seasons. Texas was 8-5 last year.

Steele publishes Phil Steele’s College Football Preview, and for the last 14 years he has been the most accurate prognosticator among 12 preseason publications.

Steele predicted that the Top 10 preseason picks this year will be USC, LSU, Alabama, Oregon, Oklahoma, Georgia, Arkansas, Florida State, South Carolina and Michigan.

This year’s Top 25 Coaches Poll had the same teams among its first 10 picks. Not too shabby for openers, but that’s typical Phil Steele.

Here’s why you should pay attention to what Steele has to say:

In 2000, Steele had Oklahoma as a surprise team. The Sooners were a 50-1 shot to win the national title, but went undefeated and did exactly that. He also picked the Oregon State Beavers, who went 11-1 with a blowout win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.

In 2002, he picked the Ohio State Buckeyes, who were not a Top 10 pick coming off a 7-5 season, but won the National Title over Miami-FL in the Fiesta Bowl.

In 2003, he liked an 8-5 LSU team that beat USC for the National Title. USC was Steele’s No. 5 surprise team that year.

In 2004, he picked an unranked Auburn team that would go undefeated but not play in the National Title game.

In 2006, he picked an unranked Boise State team to become the second mid-major team to make it to a BCS bowl game, and the Broncos did so, beating Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, one of the great upset wins in college football history.

In 2007, Steele picked both Ohio State as his No. 4 surprise team and the Buckeyes ended up losing to LSU in the National Title game. He also picked the Hawaii Warriors, who went undefeated in the regular season before losing to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.

In 2008, he liked mid-major Utah to make it to a BCS bowl game. The Utes went undefeated at 13-0, beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

In 2010, Steele picked Auburn as his No. 5 surprise team, and the Tigers ran the table at 14-0 and beat Oregon in the National Title game.

Enough about Phil Steele, he is hands down the best at letting you know who the surprise teams are going to be this year.

So Steele’s No. 1 surprise pick this season is Texas, followed by Clemson (#2), Oklahoma State (#3), Wisconsin (#4), Florida (#5), Louisville (#6), Nebraska (#7), Virginia Tech (#8), Michigan State (#9) and Stanford (#10). Two other long shots are Tennessee (#11) and South Florida (#12).

If you are a betting man–or woman–this is information you can use before you start laying down your hard-earned money.

My first stop every year is to go find Phil Steele’s College Football Preview. Steele doesn’t pay me for all this free publicity; I do it because he and his staff of researchers and writers deserve it.


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