It is the ultimate week of the season for college football fans. The days between Christmas leading to New Year’s Day are full of some of the most intriguing matchups of the season including the College Football Playoff. We learned that top-ranked Clemson and No. 2 Alabama will meet in this year’s national championship, and we also witnessed some of the top performances of the season. Here’s a look at the past week’s bowl winners and losers.
Heading into the Russell Athletic Bowl, Baylor appeared to be headed for disaster. Head coach Art Briles would play without his top two quarterbacks, leading rusher, the nation’s best wide receiver, and one starting offensive tackle. The result? Briles worked his magic to the tune of a bowl-record 645 rushing yards and a 49-38 victory over North Carolina. Five different players lined up at the quarterback position as Briles and Bears found a way to tear the Tar Heels defense apart. Johnny Jefferson led the Baylor attack with 23 carries for 299 yards and three touchdowns. His bowl total gave Jefferson exactly 1,000 rushing yards for the season.
After faltering down the stretch of the regular season, LSU and Leonard Fournette got back to what they do best – run the football. The Tigers rushed for 384 yards – Fournette had 212 on 29 carries – as they beat Texas Tech 56-27 in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl. The dynamic Tigers sophomore running back rushed for four touchdowns and added a fifth on a 44-yard reception. The win gives LSU a 9-3 record for the season.
Cal had not won a bowl game since 2008 and was just 1-11 two seasons ago, but junior QB Jared Goff tossed a Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl record six touchdown passes to lead the Bears to a 55-26 victory over Air Force. Goff, who will enter the NFL Draft this year, threw for 467 yards and finished the season with 43 TD passes, a new Pac-12 record.
It will be a few years before college football sees another player like Navy’s Keenan Reynolds. In the Military Bowl presented by Northrup Grumman, the senior QB at one point led both teams in rushing, passing, and receiving…and that was in the third quarter! Reynolds accounted for 317 of Navy’s 590 yards. He rushed 24 times for 144 yards and three touchdowns establishing NCAA records for career rushing touchdowns and career total touchdowns with 88. Reynolds is also the career leader in rushing yards for an FBS quarterback with 4,559. The 5-11, 195-pounder also completed 9-of-17 passes for 126 yards and another score and had one reception for 47 yards as the Midshipmen defeated Pittsburgh 44-28. With the win, Navy sets a school record with 11 wins in a season.
When TCU head coach announced QB Trevone Boykin would miss the Alamo Bowl because of an altercation with a police officer and a subsequent arrest, he probably didn’t think it would lead to an XX-XX shellacking by Oregon. Boykin, who broke curfew and was arrested for his role in a bar fight, did not play, and it showed as the TCU offense was horrible. Give Oregon credit as the Ducks…
Like TCU, Florida State played the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl without starting quarterback Everett Golson albeit for different reasons. Golson was dealing with a personal matter and did not make the trip to Atlanta. Sean McGuire started the game instead, got hurt, but then returned to lead a valiant comeback attempt, but it was too little too late in a 38-24 loss to Houston.
After starting the season 8-0 and appearing to have a shot at a New Year’s Six bowl game, Memphis dropped four of its last five games and watched as its head coach, Justin Fuente, headed off to become the new head man at Virginia Tech. They were also handled by Auburn, 31-10, in the Birmingham Bowl. Memphis QB Paxton Lynch, one of the nation’s best, was humbled completing just 16-of-37 passes for only 108 yards. The Tigers managed just 205 total yards.
In their final six games of the season including the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl, the Texas Tech defense gave up 63, 70, 31, 44, 45, and 56 points. LSU torched the Red Raiders defense for 638 total yards. Even LSU quarterback Brandon Harris had a big day with 254 yards passing on 13-of-22 completions. For the season, the Red Raiders gave up an average of 42.6 points per game. Defense is surely something that head coach Kliff Kingsbury will work on this offseason.
Speaking of defense, how does it feel to give up 38 first downs and 756 total yards? Just ask North Carolina, which got ripped by a supposedly undermanned Baylor offense. The Bears had a 200-yard-plus rusher in Johnny Jefferson (299), a 100-yard-plus rusher in Devin Chafin (161), and 97 yards from Terence Williams. Baylor ran the ball 84 times and averaged 7.7 yards per carry. It was against a Tar Heels defense that actually had improved by leaps and bounds from 2014 under new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik.
Oklahoma State was 10-0 prior to their final two regular season games against Baylor and in-state rival Oklahoma. The Cowboys were promptly drilled by both opponents and still wound up in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. They were thumped by 12th-ranked Ole Miss 48-20 as QB Chad Kelly passed for 302 yards and four touchdowns, three of which were to WR Laquon Treadwell. Oklahoma State did not have an answer for the Rebels offense which rolled up 554 total yards.