Here are the results so far from the 2008 college football bowl season. I published my picks earlier:
2008 bowl picks.
I finished 18-16 for the 2008-2009 bowl season. I had (embarrassingly) boughten into the Big 12 South division hype — which accounted for three of my misses. But, all in all, it was another exciting end to the college football season which left some questions for next year. Will the SEC’s dominance continue? Can USC get over its yearly case of upset-itis and make it to the BCS championship for the first time in three years? And will Utah’s upset of the BCS apple cart influence another overhaul to the BCS system?
Time will tell.
In the meantime, here’s a complete recap of the 2008-2009 college football bowl season.
December 20(3-1 my picks)
Wake Forest 29 – Navy 19
Wake Forest 28 – Navy 21
Pretty close. Despite having lost a regular season contest to the Midshipmen, I felt Wake was probably the better team. It took recovering from a mistake-prone first half for the Demon Deacons to finally put this one away.
New Mexico Bowl
Colorado State 40 – Fresno State 35
Fresno State 38 – Colorado State 14
Yep. I was way off. The Bulldogs played a tougher schedule than CSU, but Fresno State was plagued with injuries which took their toll by the end of the season. Still FSU had this game under control until a disastrous 4th quarter of big plays sealed it for the Rams.
St. Pete Bowl
South Florida 41 – Memphis 14
South Florida 42 – Memphis 17
This game went pretty much as I expected. Superior talent, plus a homefield advantage meant that Memphis had no chance.
Las Vegas Bowl
Arizona 31 – BYU 21
Arizona 21 – BYU 17
Based on Arizona’s defensive play this year, I thought this one would be a little lower scoring, but a Wildcat win nonetheless. Turned out both teams had better luck passing against each other than I thought. A good win for Mike Stoops and the program. Arizona’s first bowl appearance in 10 years.
December 21(3-2 my picks)
New Orleans Bowl
Southern Miss 30 – Troy 27
Troy 38 – Southern Miss 21
Give the Southern Miss defense credit. Troy took a 27-17 lead into the 4th quarter and were driving deep into Golden Eagle territory, when Southern Miss stuffed a 4th and 1 attempt. They then held Troy to just 36 yards in the final 9 minutes as the offense tied the game. With a field goal in overtime, the Southern Miss special teams then sealed the win with a block of the Trojans’ own attempt.
December 23 (3-3 my picks)
TCU 17 – Boise State 16
Boise State 31 – TCU 28
Either TCU’s defense was as good as advertised or Boise State’s offense was not. Probably a little of both. Boise State jumped out to an early 13-0 lead midway through the 2nd quarter thanks to some trickery and a little early TCU rust. But the Horned Frog defense dug in and held the Broncos to just 118 yards the final two and a half quarters. Good enough to let the TCU offense eek out a one-point win.
December 24 (3-4 my picks)
Notre Dame 49 – Hawaii 21
Hawaii 17 – Notre Dame 14
Both of these teams were horrible during the regular season and should have considered themselves to be lucky to be in any bowl at all. I figured on Hawaii winning thanks to home-state advantage in a relatively low-scoring affair. Instead, the Irish finally found a team they could pass against (to the tune of 413 yards) and set up some nice momentum for next season. Hawaii, on the other hand, will be reeling at the start of 2009.
December 26 (3-5 my picks)
Motor City Bowl
Florida Atlantic 24 – Central Michigan 21
Central Michigan 41 – Florida Atlantic 35
I had no real take on this game before hand other than I thought FAU and CMU would put some points up on each other. Instead these Sunbelt and MAC reps played a nicely taut defensive match.
December 27(5-6 my picks)
Meineke Car Care Bowl
West Virginia 31 – North Carolina 30
North Carolina 28 – West Virginia 17
I saw this as two teams heading in different directions — North Carolina on the way up, West Virginia on the way down. That still might be the case, but the Tarheels are not as far along and the Mountaineers not as far gone as I suspected. West Virginia came out hot, scoring three touchdowns in the first quarter while, thanks to some big pass plays, North Carolina kept pace long enough to slow the game down. The Tarheels seemed to have control of the contest midway through the 4th quarter when, up by six points, they stuffed a Mountaineer 4th and 1 near midfield. But, on the ensuing drive, deep in West Virginia terrirtory, running back Shaun Draughn fumbled. Three plays later, the Mountaineers took the ball 70 yards for the game winning touchdown.
Champs Sports Bowl
Florida State 42 – Wisconsin 13
Florida State 38 – Wisconsin 21
I figured the Seminoles would look like their old 1990s incarnations against a Wisconsin team that needed overtime to beat Cal-Poly. Sure enough, Bobby Bowden has himself a nice bowl season blow out to set next season off with a bang.
California 24 – Miami 17
California 28 – Miami 17
The final score of the Emerald Bowl was nearly identical to my prediction, but this game was actually tighter than I expected. With the score tied 17-17 with less than 5 minutes remaining, a Cal sack of Jacory Harris forced a fumble, setting the Golden Bears up on the Miami two yard line and an easy go-ahead score. A heartbreaking loss for the Hurricanes whom I believe are closer to recovery than their 7-6 record would indicate.
December 28 (6-6 my picks)
Louisiana Tech 17 – Northern Illinois 10
Louisiana Tech 31 – Northern Illinois 16
A stingy Husky defense held Louisiana Tech to just 236 yards and 12 first downs. But with 3 turnovers, a failed 4th down conversion and a 97 yard kick off return, Northern Illinois handed the Bulldogs just enough gift wrap for a late Christmas present and LTU’s first bowl win since 1977.
December 29(8-6 my picks)
Rutgers 29 – North Carolina State 23
Rutgers 38 – North Carolina State 28
Rutgers got off to a slow start — looking more like the early season Scarlet Knights than the six-win-streak late season version — down 17-6 to NC State after two quarters. But a dominant second half showed why this team was good enough to blow out Louisville, South Florida and Pitt.
Missouri 30 – Northwestern 23 (in overtime)
Missouri 45 – Nortwestern 21
The Missouri Tigers looked sluggish and uninspired in their come-from-behind overtime win over Northwestern. The Wildcats played above their pay grade all night (trying to erase a 60-year bowl win draught). It was not to be as the more talented Missouri team overcame three interceptions and a slew of costly penalties to steal it.
December 30(9-8 my picks)
Maryland 42 – Nevada 35
Nevada 28 – Maryland 24
Despite winning most of the statistical categories, Nevada just never got a consistent footing against Maryland. A first quarter kick off return for a touchdown and a second quarter in which Nevada found itself across the 50 yard line only once led to a 28-14 halftime lead for Maryland. Nevada came back to tie the score early in the 4th quarter but, thanks to some spectacular runs by the Terps’ Da’Rel Scott, Maryland proved too much for the Wolf Pack.
Rice 38 – Western Michigan 14
Rice 31 – Western Michigan 28
In hindsight, this blowout should have been a little more obvious to me. Chase Clement completed 30 passes for 3 touchdowns and 307 yards against the outmatched Broncos. Rice had a 38-0 lead before Western Michigan tacked on two touchdowns in the final six minutes.
Oregon 42 – Oklahoma State 31
Oklahoma State 35 – Oregon 28
It didn’t look good for the Oregon Ducks at the end of the first quarter. Oklahoma State bolted to a 17-7 lead in the opening period and looked, quite frankly, unstoppable. But Oregon found a way to do just that. The Duck defense stopped the Cowboys on an amazing six consecutive possessions, allowing the offense to forge a 21-17 lead midway through the 3rd quarter. What had been an impressive defensive battle then quickly evolved into a wild Big 12-style shootout. Ultimately the Ducks scored 35 points in the second half and erased a 31-28 4th quarter deficit.
December 31(my picks 11-11)
Armed Forces Bowl
Houston 34 – Air Force 28
Houston 28 – Air Force 24
This was Houston’s second crack at Air Force. The Cougers dominated the first game — except for the scoreboard — and came up short. I figured Houston would make the right adjustments to pull it out this time. And sure enough. The Falcons kept in it all the way, though, cutting Houston’s lead to three midway through the 4th quarter. But Houston kept the ball for seven of the last eight minutes and tacked on another field goal to cushion the lead.
Kansas 42 – Minnesota 21
Kansas 41 – Minnesota 24
The Gophers made it competitive for one quarter, anyway. Minnesota had some success passing against the Jayhawks, but never really threatened past the first half. Kansas won bowls in back to back seasons for the first time ever in the history of its program. The Jayhawks look to be the early favorite in 2009’s Big 12 North race.
Oregon Sate 3 – Pittsburgh 0
Pittsburgh 31 – Oregon State 28
This game was played entirely between the 40 yard lines. Okay, not really. But Oregon State only made it into the Pittsburgh red zone three times. The results were a field goal, a missed field goal and a fumble. The Panthers, on the other hand, only crossed into Beaver territory five times in the entire game. The closest Pitt came to hitting paydirt was the 37 yard line where they promptly fumbled it away. Oregon State did have a shot at the endzone right before the half, but what would have been a 9 yard touchdown pass was ruled out of bounds.
Music City Bowl
Vanderbilt 16 – Boston College 14
Boston College 28 – Vanderbilt 17
Despite being heavily out-passed and out-rushed, Vanderbilt took advantage of three Boston College turnovers (including a fumble in the endzone) to steal a two-point victory. With no penalties, no turnovers of their own and a hometown crowd, the Commodores sealed their first bowl win in 53 years when the Boston College quarterback threw an interception with 90 seconds left in the game.
LSU 38 – Georgia Tech 3
Georgia Tech 31 – LSU 21
Louisiana State relieved some frustration over a near disaster of a regular season by shellacking the once hot Yellow Jackets by 35 points. The Tigers scored four touchdowns in the second quarter in a sequence in which LSU seemed unstoppable. The onslaught was aided in part by an ill-concieved Georgia Tech fake punt from their own 22 yard line. Already up 21-3, the Tigers scored just two plays later putting an official end to Tech’s previously happy season.
January 1 (my picks 15-12)
Nebraska 26 – Clemson 21
Nebraska 35 – Clemson 17
The Cornhuskers overcame a plague of turnovers (all leading to Clemson scores) and a battery of senior quartback Joe Ganz to move past a tenacious Tiger defense whose three second-half redzone stands prevented the Gator bowl from becoming a Husker rout. While Clemson’s defense kept them in the game until the end, the offense could find little going against the Pelini Brothers well-planned defense which held the Tigers to just 4 yards on the ground. Still, Clemson got to the Nebraska 10 yard line with just under 2 minutes to play, but a 16 yard sack and two hastily forced incompletions sealed the Husker win.
Iowa 31 – South Carolina 10
Iowa 24 – South Carolina 14
South Carolina’s first four plays of the Outback Bowl produced two turnovers. With Iowa moving the ball at will on the Gamecocks, things started bad and stayed bad for Steve Spurrier’s team. The Hawkeyes cruised to 31 to zero lead before South Carolina finally scored some mercy points in the 4th quarter.
Capital One Bowl
Georgia 24 – Michigan State 12
Georgia 35 – Michigan State 21
The Georgia Bulldogs looked lethargic in the opening two periods, trailing Michigan State 3-6 at halftime, but woke up in the second half to win comfortably. The Spartans stayed in it with several clock-eating drives but, frustratingly, could not find the endzone until the fourth quarter. Georgia answered the late touchdown with its own clock-eating drive. A 21 yard touchdown pass with five minutes left in the game made the upset bid out of reach for Michigan State.
USC 38 – Penn State 24
USC 27 – Penn State 24
I thought the Rose Bowl was going to be different this time around. No win for the Big 10 against USC, this time, but no blow out either. But USC smashed its way to a 31-7 halftime lead. Mark Sanchez threw 28 completions, racking up 410 yards through the air. The Lions looked helpless through three full quarters. Hats off to Penn State for never giving up. Some will no doubt criticize their 17 fourth-quarter points as junk points. But if you think the Trojans weren’t pumped up trying to stop that late Lion surge, then you weren’t watching very carefully.
Virginia Tech 20 – Cincinnati 7
Cincinnati 24 – Virginia Tech 21
Cincinnati got of to a great start, taking the ball 72 yards in six plays for a score on the Orange Bowl’s opening drive, but the Hokie defense stepped up and kept the Bearcats in check the rest of the way with 4 very costly interceptions. Virginia Tech turned one of those picks into an easy touchdown and ended a Bearcat scoring threat with another. That was a big enough swing to tilt the game.
January 2(my picks 16-14)
Ole Miss 47 – Texas Tech 34
Texas Tech 38 – Ole Miss 28
Big 12 North to the Big 12 South: “Stop embarrassing us!” Who would have expected the weaker North division to go 3-0 in its bowls while the much ballyhooed South Division would start off 0-2? But here it is, the giant killers from Mississippi have done it again, knocking off the 7th ranked Red Raiders in what many people though would be one of the biggest mismatches of the season. And the Rebs did it in a pretty humiliating fashion to boot. Despite jumping to an early 14-0 lead (thanks in part to an Ole Miss interception) Texas Tech got punched in the mouth from the second quarter on. Racking up 525 total yards, the Rebels took a commanding 47-28 lead with four minutes left to play before the Red Raiders tacked on a last minute score to bring the deficit to 14. With marquis wins over two of the nations top dogs, one can only wonder what might have been if Houston Nutt’s team would’ve been a little more consistent earlier in the season.
Kentucky 25 – East Carolina 19
Kentucky 28 – East Carolina 24
Despite a disparity in records, this just felt like a Kentucky win to me. East Carolina played tough and, really, probably should have won this game but a kick off return for a touchdown to start the second half sparked a masterful defense-fueled comeback for the Wildcats. A 56 yard fumble return gave Kentucky the go ahead score, while special teams pinned East Carolina back far enough to put the game away.
Utah 31 – Alabama 17
Alabama 31 – Utah 21
Whoa Nelly! Utah upsets the BCS apple cart. Just an all around magnificent win for a non-BCS school whom many thought had no business competing in a BCS bowl. But the Utes came out hot, scoring 21 points in the opening quarter (more than enough to win the game) and the defense played phenomenally all night. The Crimson Tide staged a mid-game comeback, cutting the lead to 4 points early in the third quarter, but Utah had control of the game throughout. Alabama gave Florida a better game than they could muster against Utah. This is something the AP voters should think long and hard about after a one-loss BCS champion emerges on January 8th.
January 3(my picks 16-15)
Connecticut 38 – Buffalo 20
Buffalo 31 – Connecticut 28
I saw momentum and a great coach in Turner Gill lifting the underdog Bulls over the Big East’s #4 UCONN. Thanks to special teams and turnovers, Buffalo certainly did carry that momentum over for two quarters, taking a 20-10 lead at 7 minutes before half time. But the Huskies superior talent and depth proved too much for the MAC champions as Connecticut finished the game with 28 unanswered points and nearly double the Bulls total yards and first downs.
January 5(my picks 17-15)
Texas 24 – Ohio State 21
Texas 42 – Ohio State 17
If I had known the results of the Holiday and Cotton Bowls early on, I would never have predicted a blow-out win in the Fiesta. The vaunted Big 12 South offenses were held in check all through the bowl season, and the Texas – Ohio State match-up was no exception. The Longhorns were capable of moving the ball against the Buckeyes — Colt McCoy through 414 yards passing. But the Buckeyes held Texas to just 54 yards on the ground, forcing Texas to become one-dimensional. That one dimension was enough to beat Ohio State, but only barely, as Quan Cosby grabbed a 26-yard touchdown pass with just 16 ticks left on the clock.
January 6(my picks 18-15)
Tulsa 45 – Ball State 13
Tulsa 35 – Ball State 28
A complete mismatch as the Golden Hurricane pounded through the Ball State defense with a nearly 7-yard rushing average. Tulsa wasn’t bad through the air, either, hitting nearly 200 passing yards on just 15 completions. The score was 24-13 at the half. And the second half was even worse for the Cardinals. They were flying sky high with a 12-0 regular season run, but Buffalo and Tulsa brought Ball State squarely back to earth.
January 8(my picks 18-16)
Florida 24 – Oklahoma 14
Oklahoma 45 – Florida 35
They were the highest scoring offense of all time. But the Florida Gators were none-too impressed. At times in the first half, you could see the ghost of that scoring machine, gobbling up over 200 yards in the first half and marching into the Gator redzone three times as they kept Florida on its toes using its infamous hurry-up offense. But the speedy SEC champs held the mighty Sooners to just 7 first half points, turning away two drives that ended on the Gator’s two-yard line. The first was a goal-line stand in which Oklahoma failed to score on a 4th and goal. It was a perplexing moment that failed to utilize the superiority of the Oklahoma offensive line. Rather than pounding the ball in, Sam Bradford continually went under center, then stood up, looked at the sideline, went under center again, then looked back at the sideline, then — SNAP. It was a strategy meant to catch the Gators off guard. But the audience had a hard time knowing whether they were watching the BCS Championship or Meerkat Manor. Whatever, the case, to Florida’s complete credit, the defense was never fooled. And what could have been a 21-7 halftime lead for Oklahoma, was a 7-7 tie.
The superior team would then be the one which made the correct halftime adjustments. The Gators racked up nearly 300 yards in the second half while holding Oklahoma to merely half that. By the middle of the fourth quarter, Florida looked so dominant and Oklahoma so flailing that, once the Gators opened a 10-point lead, the game was mercifully almost over.
A blocked PAT against Mississippi was all that stood between Florida and a perfect season. But the Gators run through a tough SEC schedule and its dominating second-half performance agaisnt high-octane Oklahoma proved — despite Utah’s undefeated season — that the University of Florida had the best team of 2008.
The conference win loss records:
Big East: 4-2
Pac Ten: 5-0
Big Ten: 1-6
Big 12: 4-3
C USA: 4-2