Last night, another college football season came to an end as the LSU Tigers won their second BCS championship since the era began in 1998. It was far from a classic game, and ratings wise, it garnered only a 15.6 nationally. In contrast, last year’s BCS Championship Game generated a 19.1 national rating.
Let’s recap the bowl season, by looking at 10 memorable moments.
10. Best Game: Believe it or not, the best game may have been the season’s first, the Poinsettia Bowl as Utah held off Navy 35-32 in San Diego.
9. Most Inspirational Story: It was likely watched by very few, but Florida Atlantic’s New Orleans Bowl win over Memphis was heartwarming, particularly when the Owls doused 72 year old coach Howard “The Program Builder” Schnellenberger with Gatorade. Ten years ago, there was no football program at the Boca Raton campus. The Old Dog has now built up three programs: Miami, Louisville and now Florida Atlantic.
8. Biggest Flop: Hawaii. The Warriors certainly deserved a BCS bid after runnng the table on a 12-0 regular season, but they looked awful against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. They not only lost their first game on Jan. 1, they eventually lost their coach, June Jones to SMU. What was puzzling was how bad Jones was outcoached.
7. Most Puzzling City: Jacksonville is supposedly a football city in a football state, but what is wrong with the fans in this city? They cover thousands of seats for the NFL Jags, the ACC Championship had thousands of empty seats, prompting it to be moved in 2008, and the Gator Bowl was not even close to being sold out.
6. Most Disappointing Conference, Volume 1, Conference USA: This is not a very good conference. Champion Central Florida lost to Mississippi State in the Liberty Bowl; Southem Mississippi was beaten soundly by Cincinnati at the Papajohns.com Bowl; Houston lost to Texas Christian in the Texas Bowl in an old Southwest Conference matchup; Memphis lost the New Orleans Bowl to the above mentioned Florida Atlantic. The only team to win was Tulsa who pounded Bowling Green in the GMAC Bowl. And, not only is the football conference struggling, basketball wise, it may be worse with Memphis and 11 stiffs.
5. Most Disappointing Conference, Volume 2, MAC: Years ago, the Mid American Conference was lucky to get one bowl bid, in fact, the Motor City Bowl was created by the MAC so the champion would have somewhere to play. Now, they get three bowl slots, and the question may be if three is three too many. Bowling Green and Ball State were torched by Tulsa and Rutgers and although Central Michigan rallied late in the Motor City Bowl, they were fried for 51 points by Purdue.
4. Best Non-BCS Conference: The Mountain West has a lot going for it. Big, state, public universities and some pretty good football. You don’t see a ton of SEC, Big 12, and Big 10 teams playing Mountain West teams in the regular season. This year, the MWC went 4-1 in bowls with BYU, Utah, New Mexico and TCU winning. The only belmish was Air Force’s hard fought 42-36 loss to California in the Armed Forces Bowl.
3. Most Impressive Performance: USC was great, Georgia showed Hawaii how the big boys play, and LSU showed off its athletic prowess, but the award has to go to West Virginia, which routed Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. Playing with a then interim coach, the Moutaineers could not be stopped, even after Steve Slaton left the game. How this team lost to Pittsburgh is more than puzzling.
2. Best Sendoff: To the Michigan seniors and coach Lloyd Carr. The last four years have been tough for the Maize and Blue senior class. They were 0-4 versus Ohio State and 0-3 in bowl games. Few gave them much of a chance against Florida and Heisman winner Tim Tebow, but Chad Henne threw well and Mike Hart ran well, and Carr goes out with a win in the Capital One Bowl.
1. Best Surprise: The biggest surprise was all of the upsets and rankings shufflings, but in a year where surprises were the norm, the Kansas Jayhawks were the biggest surprise of the season. Coach Mark Mangino has been building a solid foundation, but nobody saw a 12-1 season and an Orange Bowl victory coming. In fact, Kansas not only was the only BCS school to have only one loss, they were the only team to not have a “bad loss,” losing to Missouri at Kansas City in their final game. They shook off that loss and beat favorite Virginia Tech in Miami.
There you have it. 32 games, 64 teams. And, only a few months until spring practice.