Alabama Rallies To Win National Title In Overtime - Bowl Season Recap

January 9, 2018 by Dave Congrove

The 2018 season concluded with Alabama winning its 14th national title 26-23 in overtime over fellow SEC member Georgia in Atlanta on Monday night (January 8th).

Freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa came off the bench to start the 3rd quarter and rallied Alabama from deficits of 13-0 and 20-7 to give Nick Saban a 6th national championship, tying 'Bama legend Bear Bryant for the most in the poll era.

Ultimately, it was Tagovailoa's 41-yard pass to the left sideline to an inexplicably wide open DeVonta Smith that won the game in the bottom of the first and only overtime. It was Smith's only catch of the game. Just seconds earlier, it appeared the young QB had put his team in jeopardy when he took a 16-yard sack to face a 2nd-and-26 with his team down by 3 after bespectacled Rodrigo Blankenship nailed a 51-yard field goal for Georgia. Blankenship had bailed out the Bulldogs after Jake Fromm, Georgia's own freshman QB, took a 13-yard sack.

Alabama kicker Andy Pappanastos missed a 36-yard potential game-winner at the end of regulation when his plant foot slid, causing the kick to get pulled far left.

When Jalen Hurts didn't start the second half, there was speculation he may be ill or injured. Instead, the sophomore who led Alabama to Atlanta, was simply replaced because Saban determined they would have to throw the ball to win the game and Tagovailoa was his choice under the circumstances. Hurts exhibited all the class in the world as he was the first to congratulate him after his first TD pass and, after the game said, "He has the 'it' factor. I'm just happy for him and our team."

Hurts was 3-of-8 for 21 yards in the first half, but did manage 47 yards rushing on 6 attempts. Tagovailoa was 14-of-24 for 166 yards and tossed 3 touchdown passes with one ill-advised throw that was intercepted.

Georgia was trying to claim its first national title since 1980, and second in the history of the school, under second-year head coach Kirby Smart. For much of the game it looked like Saban's former defensive coordinator would be the first to defeat his former boss. Instead, Saban is now 12-0 against former assistants who became head coaches.

The national title is Alabama's 5th in the last 9 seasons, and the Tide becomes the second 4-seed to win the championship in the 4-year history of the playoff format. Ohio State won the 1st college football playoff title as a 4-seed when it knocked off Oregon at the end of the 2014 season.

A week prior to the championship, the last of 39 bowls games were played. The Big Ten outperformed all Power 5 conferences by going 7-1 in their 8 bowl games with Michigan the only loser.

In the New Year's Day nightcap, Alabama knocked off Clemson 24-6 in the Sugar Bowl after Georgia defeated Oklahoma 54-48 in double-overtime in the Rose Bowl.

Alabama quickly turned a 10-6 lead into a 24-6 advantage, aided by back-to-back interceptions over a 13-second span of the 3rd quarter. First, Da'Ron Payne picked off Kelly Bryant when he was hit as he threw. The subsequent return and a personal foul penalty set up the Tide at the Tiger 27 and they scored 7 plays later with Payne, a defensive lineman, serving as Jalen Hurts' target out of the backfield. On the next Clemson play, Bryant's pass was tipped away from the intended target and into the hands of Mack Wilson who took it 18 yards to the end zone.

The two playoff games could not have been more different. Clemson and Alabama combined for 449 yards and 30 points in their game, while Georgia and Oklahoma posted 102 points (90 in regulation) and 1,058 yards.

The Sooners had a 21-7 lead with 14:12 to go in the 2nd quarter on Rodney Anderson runs of 9 and 41 yards, and a Baker Mayfield pass of 13 yards to Marquise Brown. Georgia cut that deficit to 7 on the next play with Sony Michel's 75-yard run, but the Sooners stretched it to 31-14 with just 6 seconds left until halftime when CeeDee Lamb took a reverse pitch and tossed it to Mayfield in the end zone for a two-yard score. An accidental 12-yard squib kick set up Rodrigo Blankenship's 55-yard field goal to make it 31-17 at the half and begin a 24-point run for Georgia. The Bulldogs added touchdowns on three of their first four possessions of the second half, the latter of which came after Dominic Sanders returned an interception 40 yards to the Oklahoma 4. From there, Jake Fromm tossed a TD pass to Javon Wims and it was 38-31, Georgia. The momentum swung back in Oklahoma's favor with two scores that came 1:55 apart midway though the fourth quarter as Dimitri Flowers' 11-yard TD catch from Mayfield was followed by a Michel fumble and a 46-yard scoop and score by Steve Parker. Advantage Oklahoma, 45-38. After an exchange of punts, the Bulldogs drove 59 yards and tied the game on Nick Cubb's 2-yard run with just 55 seconds left. In the first overtime, both teams made field goals but Oklahoma missed a 47-yarder in the top of the second. Georgia needed just 2 plays for Michel to race 27 yards for the game-winner.

UCF scored 21 unanswered points in the second half and intercepted an overthrown Auburn pass in the end zone with 24 seconds left to seal a 34-27 upset win in the Peach Bowl. With the victory, the Knights complete an undefeated campaign (13-0). Scott Frost, who decided to coach UCF in this game after already accepting the job at Nebraska, guided the school to a perfect season just two years after an 0-12 campaign. Frosts' first team in 2016 had a 6-win improvement to 6-7 with a bowl loss. The 2017 squad had a 7-win improvement over that team, culminating in the biggest win in school history. The Knights held a 13-6 halftime lead, but Auburn was hot out of the gate in the second half and went ahead 20-13 midway through the 3rd. McKenzie Milton then led Central Florida to drives of 65 and 59 yards to move ahead 27-20, and widened the gap to 14 on Chequan Burkett's 45-yard pick-6. Auburn cut it to the 34-27 with 4:12 to play, then breathed a collective sigh of relieve when a UCF 38-yard field goal attempt missed wide left by inches. Jarrett Stidham drove the Tigers from their own 21 to the UCF 21 before the end zone interception sealed their fate. Auburn dropped to 10-4 with two of those losses occurring in Atlanta (SEC Championship). UCF is just 4-5 in bowl games, but 2-0 in Big 6 bowls as the Knights added to their Fiesta Bowl win over Baylor (2013 season).

South Carolina closed out the Outback Bowl on a 23-0 run to rally past Michigan for a 26-19 victory in a battle of two 8-4 teams. The Wolverines stretched a 9-3 halftime lead to 16-3 on Ben Mason's 1-yard touchdown run with 9:56 to go in the 3rd, and Quinn Nordin connected on a 48-yard field goal four minutes later as his fourth kick of the game made it 19-3. But the Wolverines started prosperity in the face and promptly shot it, turning the ball over on 3 of their last 5 possessions, punting on another, and losing the ball on downs. It was the Big Ten's only loss of the bowl season as the conference went 7-1.

The Citrus Bowl was mostly ho-hum, but ended in a 21-17 Notre Dame win over LSU in dramatic fashion. LSU took a 17-14 lead on a 17-yard field goal with just 2:03 remianing, and with points coming at a premium, the kick seemd to have been a game-winner. But just 35 seconds later, Miles Boykin made a one-handed grab on the right sideline, avoided two defenders and scored on the 55-yard play that gave the Irish back the lead and ultimately won the game. Notre Dame finished 10-3 with the win while LSU fell to 9-4.

Conference Bowl Records - Final

Conference W-L Games Pct.
Independents 2-0 2 1.000
Big 10
7-1 8 .875
Sun Belt
4-1 5 .800
Big 12
5-3 8 .625
American 4-3 7 .571
MWC 3-3 6 .500
CUSA 4-5 9 .444
SEC 4-5 9 .444
ACC 4-6 10 .400
MAC 1-4 5 .200
PAC-12 1-8 9 .125
(CFP Championship game does not count in bowl standings)

Wisconsin invaded Miami's home turf on Saturday night (December 30th) and intercepted Malik Rosier 3 times en route to a 34-24 Orange Bowl win. It was the 4th straight bowl win for the Badgers who trailed 14-3 before Alex Hornibrook threw three touchdown passes in the 2nd quarter to lead 24-14 at the half. His fourth TD pass in the 4th quarter - his 3rd of the night to Danny Davis - became the final points scored in the game. Wisconsin finished 13-1 to set a new school record for victories in a single season. Miami closed out the year with 3 straight losses for a 10-3 campaign and didn't win its bowl game for the 7th time in the last 8 tries. It was Wisconsin's first-ever appearance in the Orange Bowl while the 'Canes are 6-4 all-time in this postseason classic.

A 92-yard touchdown run by Saquon Barkley put Penn State ahead 28-7 with 9 minutes to go in the first half and the Nittany Lions held on for a 35-28 Fiesta Bowl victory over Washington on Saturday (December 30th). The Huskies chipped away at the deficit and got to within a touchdown with 6:52 left in the game, but Penn State chewed up 6minutes and 18 seconds on its ensuing possession before missing a 45-yard field goal that would have sealed the win. Chris Petersen went to his bag of tricks as Washington made a multi-lateral attempt to get to the end zone that had gained 24 yards to the PSU 38 before it wound up in the opposing teams' hands. Penn State's 29th bowl win gave the Nittany Lions an 11-2 campaign while Washington finished 10-3.

Mississippi State sacked Lamar Jackson 6 times and knocked down a Hail Mary pass in the end zone on the final play of the game to preserve a 31-27 victory over Louisville in the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville on Saturday (December 30th). The Bulldogs were playing under interim head coach Greg Knox who was the running backs coach and special teams coordinator under Dan Mullen. Mullen resigned to fill the vacancy at Florida. It was the third straight bowl win for Mississippi State which now has a 13-8 overall record in bowl games and finished the season 9-4. Louisville ended the year with an 8-5 record after a second straight bowl loss with the 2016 Heisman Trophy-winning Jackson under center.

Iowa State got its first bowl win since 2009, and just its fourth in history, with a 21-20 victory at Memphis in the Liberty Bowl on Saturday (December 30th). A large contingent of Cardinal and Gold fans showed up to counter Memphis' home field advantage and witness their Cyclones finishing 8-5 for their best record since 2000 when they were 9-3. The Tigers cut the gap to the final margin late in the third quarter on a 30-yard field goal, but got no closer than the Iowa State 40 the rest of the game. It was the third straight bowl loss for Memphis which ended the season with a 10-3 mark and saw its bowl record fall to 4-6.

Ohio State jumped to a 24-0 lead and went on to stifle USC 24-7 on Friday night in the Cotton Bowl. Earlier in the day, Wake Forest outscored Texas A&M in the Belk Bowl while N.C. State handed departing head coach Todd Graham one last loss in the Sun Bowl. Meanwhile, Kentucky's 2-point conversion pass fell incomplete with 37 seconds left and Northwestern escaped with a 24-23 win in the Music City Bowl.

Ohio State led USC 24-7 at halftime and that became the final score as the second half was all about defense. The Buckeyes raced out in front when Deontay Burnett fumbled on the third play of the game and Damon Webb returned it 20 yards to the USC 19 to set up J.T. Barrett's 1-yard TD run. It was 7-0 in favor of the Buckeyes just 2:35 into the game. After a 26-yard field goal made it 10-0 at the start of the second period, Sam Darnold was picked off on USC's first play by Damon Webb who took it 23 yards to the house for a 17-0 lead. Two possessions later, the Trojans had driven to the Ohio State 23-yard line when Sam Darnold was stripped of the ball on a sack. The Buckeyes, aided by a face mask penalty, needed just two plays to make it 24-zip on Barrett's 28-yard touchdown scamper. Ohio State's only turnover of the night - a fumbled punt return at its own 15-yard line - led to the Trojan's only score on a Ronald Jones 1-yard rush. USC finished the season 12-2 as USC fell to 11-3. The Buckeyes, who last defeated the Trojans in the 1973 season Rose Bowl, snapped a 7-game losing skid in the series. Both schools were playing in the Cotton Bowl for just the second time ever as this matchup between the Big Ten and PAC-12 champs would have been reserved for the Rose Bowl were it not for the College Football Playoff.

New Mexico State remains undefeated in bowl games (3-0-1) after a 26-20 comeback win in overtime over Utah State in the Arizona Bowl. It was the first bowl appearance for NMSU since 1960 when the opponent was also Utah State. This battle of Aggies was tight throughout, but Utah State missed 4 field goals. Tyler Rogers' 11-yard pass to Jaleel Scott tied it at 20-apiece with 3:47 left and Larry Rose had a 21-yard walk-off TD run on New Mexico State's second play in overtime. NMSU's win gave the Sun Belt a 4-1 record in bowl games this season, following a 4-2 record in the 2016 bowl season.

It was a battle of attrition of star players when Northwestern and Kentucky met in The Music City Bowl's battle of Wildcats, eventually captured 24-23 by Northwestern. Kentucky RB Benny Snell was ejected after a o ount gang tackling 7-yard loss in the second quarter, supposedly for making contact with an official who was trying to help him up. Northwestern lost starting quarterback Clayton Thorson to a knee injury when he was tackled after catching a pass for a 24-yard gain on a trick play on the second play of the second quarter. Northwestern LB Paddy Fisher was tossed late in the first half after a questionable targeting call. Otherwise, it was a pretty good game. Northwestern escaped with the victory when Kentucky's 2-point conversion pass fell incomplete after scoring a touchdown with 37 seconds left. Mark Stoops could have opted for a tying PAT and an overtime resolution, but you can't blame him for wanting that game to be over as soon as possible. Northwestern has back-to-back bowl wins for the first time in school history. Kentucky lost a 4th consecutive bowl game.

N.C. State defeated Arizona State 52-31 in the Sun Bowl to hand departing Sun Devil head coach Todd Graham one last loss. The Wolfpack (9-4) darted out to a 21-3 lead with 4:42 to play in the first half on the last of three 5-yard TD runs by Nyheim Hines and never looked back. Graham was fired after ASU defeated rival Arizona 42-30 to finish the regular season 7-5 which was 4 wins better than the Congrove Computer Rankings expected to them to be. Herm Edwards, who hasn't coached a college team since serving as defensive backs coach at San Jose State from 1987-1989, now takes over as head coach.

Wake Forest outscored Texas A&M 55-52 in the Belk Bowl on Friday (December 29th). With special teams coordinator Jeff Banks serving as interim head coach, the Aggies from 31-14 down in the 2nd quarter to take the lead twice in the second half. Texas A&M's last advantage came with 5:52 to go in the game on Jhamon Ausbon's 13-yard TD reception from Nick Starkel. But the Demon Deacons answered with 2:18 to go with a 1-yard run by Matt Colburn to cap a 13-play, 69-yard drive, and then held Texas A&M on downs at its own 44-yard line. Wake finished 8-5 for its best record since 2008. The Aggies, who finished 7-6 after a 3rd straight bowl loss, now hand the reins to Jimbo Fisher for the 2018 season.

Four bowl games on Thursday (December 28th) saw Michigan State wallop Washington State, TCU edge Stanford in another Alamo Bowl comeback, Oklahoma State get past Virginia Tech, and Navy run over Virginia.

The day began with the Military Bowl on Navy's home turf in Annapolis where the Midshipmen ran for 452 yards in a 49-7 destruction of Virginia. The year 2011 was notable in this game. That's the last year Navy had a losing season, the last time Virginia had a winning season, and the last time the Cavaliers played in a bowl game. Navy finished 7-6 with the win and Virginia fell to 6-7 with the loss. It was also the third straight bowl loss for Virginia which hasn't won a bowl game since 2005. Backup quarterback Zach Abey scored 5 of Navy's 7 touchdowns while Malcolm Perry led all rushers with 114 yards and 2 scores.

Virginia Tech kept pace with Oklahoma State's high-powered offense in the Camping World Bowl, but the Cowboys prevailed 30-21. Virginia Tech fumbled the ball after reaching the 1-yard line early in the second quarter, and later turned the ball over on downs after reaching the 11. Virginia Tech also threw an interception after reaching the on the Cowboys' 29-yard line in the 4th quarter.  The Hokies hogged the ball for 15 of the game's first 20 minutes but still only held a 7-3 lead. The Hokies' defense limited the Cowboys to two field goals and two punts on their first four possessions before a 4-play 81-yard drive put OSU up 13-7 just 45 seconds before the end of the half. Tech had a chance to go ahead seconds later, but Josh Jackson overthrew a wide open Henri Murphy on what would have been a 54-yard score. Mason Rudolph threw the first of his two TD passes with 11:22 to play in the third and Oklahoma State never relinquished that lead. The loss broke a 3-game bowl winning streak for Virginia Tech (9-4) while the Cowboys (10-3) earned a second straight bowl victory.

Washington State was no match for Michigan State, especially with its' star quarterback Luke Falk in street clothes on the sideline. The Spartans rolled to a 42-17 victory in the Holiday Bowl as Cody White caught 2 TD passes and L.J. Scott ran for 2 more. In place of Falk, Tyler Hilinksi was 39-of-50 for 272 yards, 2 TD's and a pick, but the two scores came after the Cougars were down 35-3 in the second half. It was the 5th bowl win in the last 6 attempts for Michigan State while Wazzu lost a second consecutive bowl game, both of which came in the Holiday Bowl. Washington State, which began the season 6-0, finished 9-4. Michigan State completed a 7-win turnaround from a year ago by finishing 10-3 this year after going 3-9 in 2016.

Two years after rallying from a 31-0 deficit to Oregon, TCU pulled off another Alamo Bowl rally and edged Stanford 39-37. The Horned Frogs fell behind 21-3 midway through the second quarter, and still trailed 28-16 in the 3rd after Bryce Love's 69-yard touchdown run for the Cardinal. TCU cut it to 28-23 on Desmon White's 11-yard pass from Kenny Hill, but Stanford responded with a field goal to make it 31-23 (the Cardinal could have stretched the lead back to 12 but K.J. Costello didn't see a wide open receiver in the right corner of the end zone). Two huge plays at the start of the fourth gave TCU its first lead of the ball game. First, Jalen Reagor hauled in a 93-yard touchdown pass from Kenny Hill, and less than 3 minutes later, Desmon White returned a punt 76 yards to make it 36-31 TCU. Stanford answered with JJ Arcega-Whiteside's third touchdown catch of the night on a 4-yard completion from Costello with 5:07 left in the game, but a 2-point conversion try failed and the Cardinal lead was a single point. The Horned Frogs drove 59 yards in 9 plays to set up Cole Bunce's 33-yard field goal with 3:07 to play which proved to be the game-winner after Costello was intercepted on the ensuing Stanford series. The Cardinal had a 3-bowl winning streak end and finished the season 9-5. TCU finished 11-3 with two of those losses coming against Final Four playoff participant Oklahoma. Both teams now have even .500 records with Stanford at 14-14-1 and TCU at 16-16-1.

Purdue edged Arizona 38-35 in the Foster Farms Bowl on Wednesday (December 27th) to complete its first winning season (7-6) since 2011 in Jeff Brohm's first year as head coach. It was a game of scoring spurts after Arizona (7-6) went up 14-7 in the first quarter. The Boilermakers reeled off 24 unanswered points to take what seemed like a commanding 31-14 advantage at halftime, but the Wildcats responded with a 21-0 run to pull ahead 35-31 with 3:21 left in the game. Purdue answered with a 8-play, 75-yard drive that culminated with a 38-yard TD reception by Anthony Mahoungou from Elijah Sindelar with 1:44 to go and ended Arizona's last-gasp effort with Jacob Thieneman's interception of a Khalil Tate pass at the Boilermakers' 36. Purdue held the nation's 3rdf-best rushing attack (324.42 yards per game) to 128 yards, but Tate threw 5 TD passes for the 'Cats. Meanwhile, Purdue's 56th-ranked passing offense accounted for 396 yards and 4 scoring strikes from Elijah Sindelar. The Boilermakers last went bowling at the end of the 2012 season but finished 6-7 that year after a 58-14 blowout loss to Oklahoma State. Purdue won just 9 games over the previous 4 seasons combined, and the school's last bowl win had come in the 2011 Little Caesar's Bowl.

Texas (7-6) claimed a 33-16 victory over Missouri (7-6) in the Texas Bowl on Wednesday (December 27th) in Tom Herman's first year as head coach, and secured its first winning season since Mack Brown's last year at the helm in 2013. The Longhorns saw their 21-7 halftime lead dissolve into a 21-16 advantage in the 3rd quarter, but were buoyed by a safety on a snap that sailed over the head of Missouri quarterback Drew Lock to go ahead 23-16. After that, Texas added a touchdown and a field goal while Mizzou turned the ball over twice on an interception and a fumble. The Tigers, which last played in a bowl game in 2014, saw their 3-bowl winning streak come to an end. Texas, which last appeared in the postseason in the 2014 edition of this game, secured its first bowl win since 2012.

Iowa took home a 27-20 win over Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl on Wednesday (December 27th). The Hawkeyes ended a 5-bowl losing streak with their first win since 2010, and evened their overall bowl record at 15-15-1. Boston College fell to 14-12 in bowl records, including a 1-3 mark under Steve Addazio. The contest was close throughout with neither team ever holding more than a 7-point advantage. The winning points came at the conclusion of a quick 3-play drive with Drake Kulick's 1-yard run up the gut with 3:09 to play. The Eagles failed to get any traction on two following possessions and saw their 2017 record drop to 7-6 while Iowa finished 8-5.

Southern Miss (8-5) scored first in the Independence Bowl on Wednesday (December 27th), but missed the PAT, and didn't score again until it no longer mattered. Florida State's 42-13 win improved Odell Haggins' record as interim head coach to 2-0, a day after it was announced that he'll be retained by new head coach Willie Taggart. James Blackman threw 4 touchdown passes for the 'Noles who also limited the Golden Eagles (8-5) to 260 total yards. A loss in the bowl game would have given Florida State (7-6) its first losing season since Bobby Bowden's first year as head coach in 1976.

After trailing 17-7 at the half, Kansas State shut out UCLA in the second half and rolled to a 35-17 win in the Cactus Bowl, the last of three games on Tuesday (December 26th). The victory gave 78-year-old head coach Bill Snyder a second consecutive bowl win for just the second time in his career. Snyder is now 9-10 in bowl games with Kansas State while the school improved to 9-12. The Wildcats played in only one bowl game (and lost) prior to his arrival in 1989, and also played in one bowl game (and lost) when Ron Prince replaced the briefly retired Snyder from 2006-2008.

Also on Tuesday (December 26th), Duke pulled away from a 14-14 second quarter tie with Northern Illinois in the Quick Lane Bowl by scoring the final 22 points of the game in a 36-14 win. It was a second consecutive bowl win for the Blue Devils which hadn't experienced a bowl victory since 1960 before breaking through with an overtime over Indiana win in the 2015 Pinstripe Bowl. Duke has played in 5 bowl games in the last six years under David Cutcliffe after making just 8 postseason appearances in history before his arrival. Meanwhile, the Huskies lost their 5th straight bowl game.

Utah downed West Virginia in the Zaxby's Heart Of Dallas Bowl on Tuesday (December 26th) for the Utes' 5th straight bowl win. Utah is 18-4 all-time in bowl games. The Mountaineers lost in the bowl season for the fourth time in their last five tries. Both teams finished the season 7-6.

Fresno State put an exclamation point on its turnaround season under first year head coach Jeff Tedford with a 33-27 win over Houston in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve. The Bulldogs, 1-11 a year ago, finished 10-4 to tie the Miami RedHawks ' 2010 team team for the greatest single-year improvement in FBS history. The win over the Cougars also halted a 6-bowl losing streak dating back to 2007.

Underdog Appalachian State blanked Toledo 34-0 in the Dollar General Bowl to cap a 3-bowl set on Saturday (December 23). The Mountaineers held the high-flying offense of the Rockets to a measly 146 total yards and 8 first downs while forcing 4 turnovers. Toledo came into the game ranked 8th nationally in total offense with 509.9 yards per game, and 10th in scoring with 39.2 points per game. Logan Woodside had 28 TD passes and just 5 INT's all season, but was picked off 3 times by Appalachian State. The Appalachian State has gone bowling every year since they became full FBS members in 2015 and have never lost a bowl game (3-0). All three wins have come against MAC teams and the last two have come against Toledo.

Also on Saturday (December 23), Army scored 14 points in the final 18 seconds to down San Diego State Armed Forces Bowl. The 42-35 win left both teams with 10-3 records on the year, giving Army its first 10-win campaign since 1996. Darnell Woolfolk's 1-yard run pulled the Black Knights to within 35-34 and Kell Walker ran in the 2-point conversion to give Army the lead. Had Jeff Monken not decided to go for 2, the Aztecs could have let the last few seconds expire and take their chance in overtime. But needing to go for the win, SDSU tried a multi-lateral final play that ultimately ended in a fumble and a 29-yard scoop-and-score for Army. Sensational San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny did his share, toting the rock for 221 yards and 4 touchdowns. But Army dominated possession, running 91 plays while hogging the pigskin for over 45 minutes. It was the third straight bowl win for Army which ironically hasn't lost a bowl game since the 10-win season in 1996.

The first game on Saturday (December 23) saw USF rally past Texas Tech 38-34 to capture a second straight Birmingham Bowl victory. USF never led until Quinton Flowers and Marquez Valdes-Scantling teamed up for a 64-yard touchdown pass to put the Bulls up 31-27 with 4:26 to play. But Texas Tech responded with Nic Shimonek's 25-yard connection with T.J. Vasher to reclaim the lead at 34-31 with just 1:31 remaining. USF's ensuing 8-play, 75-yard drive culminated in Flowers dropping a dime down the right sideline to Tyre McCants for the 26-yard game-winning touchdown pass with 16 ticks left. The Bulls closed out the year with a 10-2 record while the Red Raiders fell to 6-7 for their 3rd sub-.500 campaign in Kliff Kingsbury's 5 seasons as head coach.

A whopping 8 turnovers doomed Central Michigan in a 37-14 loss to Wyoming in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Friday (December 22). Josh Allen took advantage of the early  miscues by tossing 3 TD passes for the Cowboys in the first quarter, and he ended the day by declaring early for the NFL draft. The fourth straight postseason loss dropped the Chippewas' bowl record to 3-8. Wyoming improved to 7-8 in bowl games while stopping a 2-game bowl losing streak with its first postseason win since 2009. Both teams finish the season with 8-5 records.

Ohio blazed past UAB 41-6 in the Bahamas Bowl on Friday (December 22), giving the MAC (1-1) its first win of the 2017 bowl season. The Bobcats finish 9-4 while UAB closes at 8-5 in its first season back on the gridiron after shutting the down the program at the end of the 2014 campaign. It was Ohio's first bowl win since 2012 as the Bobcats snapped a 3-bowl losing streak and improved to 3-8 in bowl games. UAB is still one of just 6 FBS programs to have played in, but never won, a bowl game as the program fell to 0-2 in such contests. The Blazers were making their first bowl appearance since 2004.

The Gasparilla Bowl on Thursday night (December 21) saw Temple defeat FIU 28-3 as the Owls finished the season 7-6 under first year head coach Geoff Collins. The Panthers fell to 8-5 in Butch Davis' first season, but still matched the school's best record in its 13-year history (8-5, 2011). Panther quarterback Alex McGough left the game with a fractured collarbone in the first quarter and backup Maurice Alexander was intercepted twice while the Temple defense racked up 7 sacks. FIU's last bowl appearance was in this same game in 2011 when it was known as the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl. The Owls earned their first bowl win since 2011 in their school-record 3rd straight postseason appearance. Temple has 4 straight seasons of finishing .500 or better for the first time since stringing together 6 winning campaigns from 1970-1975.

SMU turned the ball over on its first three possessions and Louisiana Tech had two pick sixes in the first half as the Bulldogs cruised to a 51-10 win in the inaugural Frisco Bowl on Wednesday night (December 20).  The early miscues set the tone for the game as SMU had 2 more turnovers in the first half and a total of 6 for the game. The loss spoiled the debut of Sonny Dykes who was introduced as the new head coach on December 12 after Chad Morris became Bret Bielema's replacement at Arkansas. Dykes was the head coach of Louisiana Tech from 2010-2012 before moving on to California which fired him in January. Both teams finished the season 7-6. It was the 4th straight bowl win for Louisiana Tech, and the 5th straight for head coach Skip Holtz. SMU, which hadn't played a bowl game since 2012, had a 2-bowl winning streak snapped. Formerly the Miami Beach Bowl from 2014-2016, the game was sold to ESPN and relocated to Frisco, Texas.

In the lone game played on Tuesday (December 19). FAU zipped past Akron 50-3 in the Boca Raton Bowl, played in the home stadium of the Owls. Earlier in the day, FAU announced a 10-year contract extension for head coach Lane Kiffin who, in his first year at the helm, produced the best season in the 13-year history of the school as an FBS program. The Owls ended an 11-3 campaign on a 10-game winning streak, including their first-ever conference championship, and a victory in their first bowl appearance since 2008. FAU also improved to 3-0 all-time in bowl games. Akron completed the season at 7-7 and dropped to 1-2 all-time in bowl games. Devin Singletary scored 3 rushing touchdowns for FAU to give him 32 on the season, trailing only Barry Sanders (37, 1988) and Montee Ball (33, 2011) for the most in FBS history.

The 2017 bowl season began on Saturday (December 16) with five games and the Sun Belt took the early lead among conferences by going 2-1 vs. CUSA.

Troy rolled 50-30 over North Texas in the New Orleans Bowl. That was followed by the Cure Bowl where Georgia State pocketed its first bowl win (1-1) with a 27-17 upset of Western Kentucky. The Sun Belt's only loss came at night in the Camellia Bowl when Middle Tennessee upset Arkansas State 35-30 to give the Blue Raiders their first bowl win since 2009, and just their second ever (2-5).

The Las Vegas Bowl saw Boise State run its all-time record vs. Oregon to 3-0 with a 38-28 win in Mario Cristobal's debut as head coach of the Ducks. The Broncos are 4-0 all-time in Las Vegas bowls. The New Mexico Bowl saw Marshall improve its all-time bowl record to 11-2 by downing Colorado State 31-28. It was the 6th straight bowl victory for the Herd which haven't lost a bowl game since 2004. It was the 4th consecutive bowl loss for the Rams.

Computer Success

Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Florida State were the four teams destined to make the Final Four this year, according to the preseason projections based on the Congrove Computer Rankings. The Tide and Sooners got in, and that means the computer has predicted half the field three times since the playoff format began. Last year (2016 season) has been the only season in which only one correct team (Alabama) was projected. One of its preseason Final Four picks has made it to the championship game in all 4 seasons.

The 2017 preseason rankings correctly projected the champions in 5 of the 10 conferences. Those include the Sun Belt's tie for first between Appalachian State and Troy, as well as the outright champs in the Big Ten, Big 12 and MAC, plus Army's tie with Notre Dame for best record among independents. It pegged both division winners in the PAC-12 and the Big Ten.

The computer also nailed the exact final regular season record of 23 teams, and came within 1 win or loss on 56 teams.

In bowl game predictions, it was 23-16 straight up, and 21-18 against the spread. The Confidence Points picks scored 468 points out of a possible 780.

 

First-Time Meetings

There were 11 first-time matchups this year, same as in 2015. Last year, there were only 7 and 3 of those same bowls have a first-time matchup again this year. The Belk Bowl had a first-time matchup for the third time in four years.

Colorado State vs. Marshall (New Mexico) - Marshall won 31-28
Akron at FAU (Boca Raton) - FAU won 50-3. Last year, this bowl also featured a first-time meeting when Western Kentucky beat Memphis 51-31.
FIU vs. Temple (Gasparilla) - Temple won 28-3. Last year, this bowl also featured a first-time meeting when Mississippi State edge Miami (O.) 17-16.
Ohio vs. UAB (Bahamas) - Ohio won 41-6.
South Florida vs. Texas Tech (Birmingham) - USF won 38-34.
Houston vs. Fresno State (Hawaii) - Fresno State won 33-27.
Duke vs. Northern Illinois (Quick Lane) - Duke won 36-14.
Iowa vs. Boston College (Pinstripe) - Iowa won 27-20.
Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M (Belk) - Wake Forest won 55-52. Last year, this bowl also featured a first-time meeting when Virginia Tech rallied past Arkansas 35-24. And in 2014, this bowl matched Louisville and Georgia for the first time (Georgia won 37-14).
Memphis vs. Iowa State (Liberty) - Iowa State won 21-20.
Georgia vs. Oklahoma (Rose Bowl - playoff semifinal) - Georgia won 54-48 in 2-OT.

Never Been To A Bowl Game

Charlotte
Coastal Carolina
Massachusetts
Texas State

First Time Ever In A Bowl Game

None

First Time In A Long Time

Of the teams that made it this year, these had the longest wait to get back to a bowl game (last season of a bowl appearance in parenthesis):
New Mexico State, 1960
UAB, 2004
FAU, 2008
FIU, 2011
Virginia, 2011
Iowa State, 2012
Purdue, 2012
SMU, 2012

Waiting To Return

This teams have the longest continuing current streak of bowl absence (last season of a bowl appearance in parenthesis)::
Kansas, 2008
Kent State, 2012
Louisiana-Monroe, 2012
Ball State, 2013
Buffalo, 2013
Oregon State, 2013
Syracuse, 2013
Tulane, 2013
UNLV, 2013

Bowl Appearance Streak

These teams have the longest continuing current streaks of bowl appearances:
Florida State, 36
Virginia Tech, 25
Georgia, 21
Oklahoma, 19

Bowl Winning Streak

These teams have the most consecutive bowl victories (last season of a bowl loss in parenthesis. CFP Championship games are NOT bowl games.):
Marshall, 6 (2004) - Won 31-28 vs. Colorado State in this season's New Mexico Bowl.
Utah, 5 (2010) - Won 30-14 vs. West Virginia in this season's Zaxby's Heart Of Dallas Bowl.
Georgia, 4 (2013) - Won 54-48 vs. Oklahoma in this season's Rose Bowl playoff semifinal game.
Louisiana Tech, 4 (2011) - Won 51-10 vs. SMU in this season's Frisco Bowl.
San Jose State, 4 (1987) - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
Wisconsin, 4 (2013) - Won 34-24 vs. Miami (Fla.) in this season's Orange Bowl.
Appalachian State, 3 (Never) - Won 34-0 vs. Toledo in this season's Dollar General Bowl
Army, 3 (1996) - Won 42-35 vs. San Diego State in this season's Armed Forces Bowl.
FAU, 3 (Never) - Won 50-3 vs. Akron in this season's Boca Raton Bowl.
Idaho, 3 (Never) - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
Kansas, 3 (2003) - Hasn't appeared in a bowl game since 2008
Mississippi State 3 (2014) - Won 31-27 vs. Louisville in this season's TaxSlayer Bowl
Syracuse, 3 (2004) - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
Tennessee, 3 (2010) - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
Troy - 3 (2009) - Won 50-30 vs. North Texas in this season's New Orleans Bowl.

NOTE: This season, Western Kentucky had its first bowl loss since 2012, losing 27-17 to Georgia State in the Cure Bowl to end a 3-bowl winning streak.
This season, Missouri had its first bowl loss since 2010, losing 33-16 to Texas in he Texas Bowl to end a 3-bowl winning streak.
This season, Virginia Tech had its first bowl loss since 2013, losing 30-21 to Oklahoma State in the Camping World Bowl to end a 3-bowl winning streak.
This season, Stanford had its first bowl loss since 2013, falling 39-37 to TCU in the Alamo Bowl to end a 3-bowl winning streak.
This season, Clemson had its first bowl loss since 2011, falling 24-6 to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to end a 5-bowl winning streak.

Bowl Losing Streak

These teams have the most consecutive bowl losses (last season of a bowl win in parenthesis):
Ball State, 7 (Never) - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
UTEP, 6 (1967) - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
Northern Illinois, 5 (2011) - Lost 36-14 vs. Duke in this season's Quick Lane Bowl.
Central Michigan, 4 (2012) - Lost 37-14 to Wyoming in this season's Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Colorado State, 4 (2013) - Lost 31-28 vs. Marshall in this season's New Mexico Bowl.
Indiana, 4 (1991) - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
Kentucky, 4 (2008) - Lost 24-23 vs. Northwestern in this season's Music City Bowl.

NOTE: This season, Fresno State ended a 6-bowl losing streak dating back to 2007 with a 33-27 win over Houston in the Hawaii Bowl.
This season, Iowa ended a 5-bowl losing streak dating back to 2010 with a 27-20 win over Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl.
This season, Middle Tennessee snapped a 4-bowl losing streak dating back to 2009 with a 35-30 win over Arkansas State in the Camellia Bowl.

Bowl Winless (at least 1 appearance)

Ball State, 0-7 - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
Buffalo, 0-2 - Was bowl eligible at 6-6, but was not invited to a game
Kent State, 0-2 - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
South Alabama, 0-2 - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
UAB, 0-2 - After a 2-year hiatus from football, UAB faced Ohio in this season's Bahamas Bowl and lost 41-6.
UTSA, 0-1 - Failed to qualify for the bowl season

NOTE: This season, Georgia State notched its first bowl win by defeating Western Kentucky 27-17 in the Cure Bowl.

Best Bowl Winning Percentage

(Minimum 20 appearances)
Utah, 18-4 (.818) - Won 30-14 vs. West Virginia in this season's Zaxby's Heart Of Dallas Bowl.
Mississippi, 24-13 (.649) - Bowl ineligible this season
USC, 35-19 (.648) - Lost 24-7 vs. Ohio State in this season's Cotton Bowl.
Oklahoma State, 18-10 (.643) - Won 30-21 vs. Virginia Tech in this season's Camping World Bowl.
Florida State, 28-16-2 (.630) - Won 42-13 vs. Southern Miss in this season's Independence Bowl.
Penn State, 29-17-2 (.625) - Won 35-28 vs. Washington in this season's Fiesta Bowl.
Syracuse, 15-9-1 (.620) - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
Mississippi State, 13-8 (.619) - Won 31-27 vs. Louisville in this season's TaxSlayer Bowl.
Georgia, 31-19-3 (.613)  - Won 54-48 in 2-OT vs. Oklahoma in this season's Rose Bowl playoff semifinal game.
Alabama, 38-24-3 (.608) - Won 24-6 vs. Clemson in this season's Sugar Bowl playoff semifinal game.

Most Bowl Wins

Alabama, 38 - Won 24-6 vs. Clemson in this season's Sugar Bowl playoff semifinal game.
USC, 35 - Lost 24-7 vs. Ohio State in this season's Cotton Bowl.
Georgia, 31 - Won 54-48 vs. Oklahoma in 2-OT in this season's Rose Bowl playoff semifinal game.
Oklahoma, 29 - Won 54-48 vs. Georgia in 2-OT in this season's Rose Bowl playoff semifinal game.
Penn State, 29 - Won 35-28 vs. Washington in this season's Fiesta Bowl.
Florida State, 28 - Won 42-13 vs. Southern Miss in this season's Independence Bowl.
Tennessee, 28 - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
Texas, 28 - Won 33-16 vs. Missouri in the Texas Bowl.
Nebraska, 26 - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
Georgia Tech, 25 - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
LSU, 25 - Lost 21-17 vs. Notre Dame in this season's Citrus Bowl.
Mississippi, 24 - Bowl ineligible this season
Auburn, 23 - Lost 34-27 to UCF in this season's Peach Bowl.
Ohio State, 23 - Won 24-7 vs. USC in this season's Cotton Bowl.
Florida, 22 - Failed to qualify for the bowl season
Clemson, 21 - Lost 24-6 vs. Alabama in this season's Sugar Bowl playoff semifinal game.
Michigan, 21 - Lost 26-19 to South Carolina in this season's Outback Bowl.

FBS vs. FCS

98 FBS teams played 98 games vs. FCS members this year, down substantially from the 110 FBS schools that played 113 games vs. FCS squads last year. FBS teams finished 89-9 (.908) vs. the FCS this season, and are now 1,219-117 (.912) since 2003.

These are the FCS victories in 2017:
September 23: Western Illinois 52, Coastal Carolina 10
September 16: North Carolina A&T 35, Charlotte 31
September 16: Idaho State 30, Nevada 28
September 9: South Dakota 35. Bowling Green 27
September 9: New Hampshire 22, Georgia Southern 12
September 2: Liberty 48, Baylor 45
September 2: Howard 43, UNLV 40
September 2: James Madison 34, East Carolina 14
August 31: Tennessee State 17, Georgia State 10.

Streaks

UCF - Won 13 straight overall (FBS longest), Won 9 straight conference games (tied FBS longest). Won 34-27 vs. Auburn in the Peach Bowl on January 1.

FAU - Won 9 straight conference games (tied for FBS longest). Won 10 straight overall. Won 50-3 vs. Akron in The Boca Raton Bowl on December 19.

Alabama - Won 39 straight regular season games (FBS longest). Won 19 straight home games (FBS longest). Won 24-6 vs. Clemson in the Sugar Bowl (playoff semifinal) on January 1; won 26-23 in overtime vs. Georgia in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Atlanta on January 8.

Oklahoma - Won 16 straight road games (FBS longest). Lost 54-48 vs. Georgia in 2-OT in this season's Rose Bowl (playoff semifinal) on January 1.

UTEP - Lost 12 straight overall (FBS longest). Season complete.

Ball State - Lost 13 straight conference games (FBS longest). Season complete.

Kansas - Lost 46 straight road games (FBS longest). Season complete.