Bowl Rankings: “Bowl Games Matter”
They were fun bowl games worth the watch. They weren’t life-chasing, but they made the bowl season interesting.
It started great and fizzled out. The offenses were working with a 20-14 Miami lead at halftime, and that was about it for the fun with just one more touchdown the rest of the way. The RedHawks came up with 17 unanswered points – the North Texas offense struggled – but it was still close late and it wasn’t all that bad for a last-second creation of a bowl game for a December Thursday afternoon.
24. Duke’s Mayo Bowl
It was a wake-and-bowl game for most of the country – an 11:30 ET start – and it turned into one of the most puzzling of the entire bowl season.
The SEC and South Carolina fans will certainly take it.
All of a sudden, the Gamecocks became … explosive? Kevin Harris and the running game were great, Dakereon Joyner hit all nine of his passes, and the team got out to an 18-0 starts and ended up cruising from there. The game wasn’t that great, but in terms of it being a marking point and a possible changing event, it mattered.
The final score makes the bowl look far worse than it was. No, Louisiana didn’t roll until late.
The Ragin’ Cajuns got up early, Marshall came back, and it was a nip-and-tuck fight deep into the fourth quarter before Louisiana rolled with a 20-point run in the final 8:20.
Marshall RB Rasheen Ali was amazing – 160 yards and three scores – but the Louisiana balanced offense controlled the clock. There was energy, drama, and the two very good teams brought the fight.
San Diego State 38, UTSA 24
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 37
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: NA, 2019: 8
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This was unfairly ranked in the Pre-Bowl Matchup Rankings mainly because San Diego State didn’t play an aesthetically pleasing style, but it turned out to be one of the stronger bowl game with the Aztec offense opening it up a bit.
There were way too many penalties – 23 in all – and UTSA never had the ball, but there were points, a few big plays, and it was a one score game deep into the fourth quarter before Lucas Johnson put it away at the end of his huge day.
It wasn’t what it was supposed to be, but it was a big moment for the Mountain West and the full rebound of a Utah State program that pushed out of the doldrums of 2020.
The Aggies won the Mountain West championship, but that was against a depleted San Diego State team missing close to half the key players. They proved they were just that good with a brilliant defensive performance, allowing just two field goals after giving up a score in the first minute of the game.
It was ugly. 18 penalties – 13 from Oregon State, five turnovers, and Utah State doesn’t care. It got the big win.
UCF 29, Florida 17
Pre-Bowl Matchup Ranking: 23
Post-Bowl Ranking: 2020: NA, 2019: 30
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The game itself was just okay, but as an event – and a bowl game that mattered – this was big.
Start with a sold out pre-Christmas bowl game – this was a thing in Florida. It was close into the fourth quarter, but the Gators could never get the offense going after taking a 17-16 lead midway through the third.
UCF closed out with 13 unanswered points helped by a defense that came up with big stop after big stop, and then came the total joy for a program and base that got the win over that school up the road.
There weren’t any big expectations for this, but it turned out to be a shockingly strong game because 1) Fresno State and QB Jake Haener weren’t sharp and 2) UTEP played well. It was close deep into the fourth quarter with Fresno State finally pulling away a wee bit on a field goal and a safety, but both teams played hard and it was way more entertaining than it should’ve been.
18. Outback Bowl
It wasn’t a bad game to kick off 2022, but it wasn’t anything special – the lack of Penn State offensive punch and a whole slew of key opt-outs saw to that.
The Nittany Lions were up 10-7 at halftime, but that was it for the fun. Arkansas scored 17 unanswered points, stopped Penn State time and again over the final 30 minutes, and it became a big moment for Hog head coach and a program that had its breakthrough moment.
It actually went almost exactly like it was supposed to.
Wisconsin was in more control than the final score let on, Arizona State showed it had the guys to hang around, and in the end, the amazing Badger D allowed just 219 yards of total offense with big play after big play in the backfield.
The final score was close, but for those of you who went to bed before 2:30 am ET, Wisconsin could’ve punched it in for one last score, and didn’t – much to chagrin of a whole lot of investors out there.