Friday, November 22, 2019

The most important takeaway for each bowl game - ESPN

The most important takeaway for each bowl game - ESPN


The most important takeaway for each bowl game - ESPN

Posted: 01 Jan 2019 12:00 AM PST

Here's the most important thing we've learned from each bowl game:

Jan. 1

Allstate Sugar Bowl
Texas 28, Georgia 21

So much for being one of the best four teams. Georgia's claims of being playoff worthy were rendered moot on Tuesday when the Bulldogs were outplayed for most of the night by an double-digit underdog Texas squad. Kirby Smart's crew will be back in the playoff hunt next season, but the Dawgs did themselves no favors with some critical early errors. Texas, meanwhile, was fast, physical and aggressive and played like the team Tom Herman ideally envisions on a weekly basis. Sam Ehlinger continued to show why he's a big-time quarterback, scoring three rushing touchdowns and leading the Horns' offense with efficiency and mostly smart decisions. It looks like something is brewing on the 40 Acres. -- Sam Khan Jr.

Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual
Ohio State 28, Washington 23

For the second straight year, Ohio State was left out of the College Football Playoff despite winning the Big Ten title, and while there wasn't an abundance of griping from the Buckeyes this week -- they understood the ramifications of their lopsided loss to Purdue -- it's only natural to wonder how they would have fared had they ended up in the four-team field. The Buckeyes' near collapse against Washington, though, won't buy them any sympathy. Had they built off their 28-3 lead, maybe, but after getting outscored 20-0 in the fourth quarter, there shouldn't be much second-guessing about if the Buckeyes should have gotten a shot against Alabama. -- Kyle Bonagura

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl

LSU 40, UCF 32

UCF finally met its match. His name is Joe Burrow. The LSU quarterback guided the Tigers with four touchdown throws to a school-record fourth victory over a top-10 foe this season and snapped the Knights' 25-game winning streak. Without its own star QB, the injured McKenzie Milton, UCF stalled on offense in the second half and buckled against LSU's strength in the trenches. The loss Tuesday in Arizona denied the Knights a second straight postseason takedown of the powerful SEC, but it did nothing to diminish the accomplishments of these past two memorable seasons. -- Mitch Sherman

VRBO Citrus Bowl

Kentucky 27, Penn State 24

Mark Stoops and Kentucky had been building toward this season, and the Wildcats ended it in historic fashion Tuesday with a 27-24 victory over Penn State, marking the first 10-win season for Kentucky since 1977. The Kentucky administration had been patient with Stoops, who's in his sixth season as the Wildcats' head coach, and he built a team deep in the line of scrimmage and long on experience. In the end, the Wildcats jumped on senior running back Benny Snell Jr.'s back to close out the victory over the No. 12 Nittany Lions, and he finished his career as the school's all-time leading rusher. Penn State made it a game after falling behind 27-7 and rallied behind senior quarterback Trace McSorley, who was limping around and playing hurt. But the Wildcats were able to stiffen defensively to culminate one of the best seasons in UK football history. -- Chris Low

Outback Bowl
Iowa 27, Mississippi State 22

Close losses haunted Iowa this season, to the point that the Hawkeyes may think all offseason about what might have been. But at least they will go into that offseason with some momentum after holding off Mississippi State for a 27-22 victory in the Outback Bowl. Iowa ended the season on a three-game winning streak. That's after losing three in a row to Penn State, Purdue and Northwestern by a total of 12 points. It's the fourth straight season that Iowa has won at least eight games. -- Chris Low

Dec. 31

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl
Texas A&M 52, NC State 13

Jimbo Fisher's first season at Texas A&M qualified as a success even before its bowl win against NC State. After such a dominating performance, it is easy to see why the arrow is firmly pointed up with the program. The Aggies made major strides everywhere, winning nine games in a season for the first time since 2013, while adding its first bowl win since 2014. Trayveon Williams broke the school single-season rushing record with a 93-yard touchdown run in the bowl game, and now has a decision to make about his future. As for NC State, it was a disappointing way to end the season. Dave Doeren was hoping to get NC State to 10 wins for just the second time in school history, but without several key players, the Wolfpack were simply overmatched and overpowered at the line of scrimmage. With Ryan Finley and several other key players moving on to the NFL draft, there will be plenty of questions about the Wolfpack headed into 2019.-- Andrea Adelson

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl
Northwestern 31, Utah 20

If the third quarter represented an epic comeback for Northwestern, it only happened because Utah had an epic meltdown. With 6:40 left in the third quarter, the Utes had first-and-goal at the 6, seemingly poised to take a 27-10 lead. But a Northwestern scoop and score, and then another Utah fumble that led to a second straight Wildcats touchdown turned the tide. Northwestern ended up scoring 28 points in the third quarter, tied for the Holiday Bowl record for most points by a team in a quarter. Utah, meanwhile, had four turnovers in the third quarter alone. Northwestern notched its third straight bowl win, a program record, and also set a new program record for wins over a five-year span (41). But it is more impressive beyond the stunning third quarter. It is almost impossible to beat Utah in a bowl game. Kyle Whittingham went into the game with an 11-1 bowl record. -- Andrea Adelson

AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Oklahoma State 38, Missouri 33

True to form as college football's most mercurial team this season, Oklahoma State came up with a late defensive stand to upset No. 23 Missouri 38-33 in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. The Cowboys, who finished with four wins over ranked opponents, went just 6-6 during the regular season. But Monday, their offensive capability was on full display, as freshman Chuba Hubbard rushed for 145 yards while Tylan Wallace, Tyron Johnson and Dillon Stoner combined for 20 receptions and four touchdown grabs. All four should be back for Oklahoma State next season. If the Pokes can find the answer at quarterback, their offense could be devastating in 2019. -- Jake Trotter

Redbox Bowl
Oregon 7, Michigan State 6

Four years ago, the Spartans and Ducks met in a top-10 matchup that featured a slew of highlights and more than 800 yards of offense. Their first meeting since made it clear both programs are no longer in such good standing. Michigan State's defense was once again stellar in holding back an Oregon group that scored 37.2 points per game during the regular season. Justin Herbert, who plans to return to Eugene in 2019, will have better days with the Ducks' offense next fall. He threw one touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, and that was all he needed against a Spartans offense that didn't solve any of its offensive woes during bowl prep. That side of the ball is in need of some offseason soul-searching after failing to reach the end zone in three of its final four games. -- Dan Murphy

Hyundai Sun Bowl
Stanford 14, Pittsburgh 13

In a win that was as underwhelming as it was emblematic of season-long offensive struggles, Stanford sputtered to a season-low 208 yards against Pittsburgh. With RB Bryce Love sitting out to prepare for the NFL draft, the Cardinal leaned heavily on senior backup Cam Scarlett (94 yards rushing, 2 touchdowns), and quarterback K.J. Costello had his worst performance of the season, going 6-of-17 for 105 yards. Pat Narduzzi's defense did more than enough to win, but Pitt didn't fare much better than Stanford on offense outside of Darrin Hall's 123 yards and touchdown, the Panthers' only touchdown of the game. -- Joel Anderson

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman
Cincinnati 35, Virginia Tech 31

Luke Fickell and the Bearcats wrapped up a remarkable season with a 35-31 win over Virginia Tech in the Military Bowl on Monday, getting Cincinnati to 11 wins after back-to-back four-win campaigns. That the Bearcats' offense saved the day despite an early injury to starting QB Desmond Ridder only highlighted the depth Fickell has helped build at a program that had fallen on hard times prior to his arrival. The 11 wins is the most in a season for Cincinnati since 2009. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech's defense continued to struggle, and for the first time in a quarter-century, the Hokies finish the season with a losing record. -- David M. Hale

Dec. 29

Capital One Orange Bowl

Alabama 45, Oklahoma 34

Tua Tagovailoa showed after one quarter against Oklahoma his sprained ankle would not be an issue, leading Alabama to a quick 21-0 lead as he placed one ball after another into places only his receivers could get. All-American nose guard Quinnen Williams made his presence felt, too. But give the Sooners this: After going down 28-0 early, they did not quit. Rather, Oklahoma outplayed the Crimson Tide for large stretches of the second and third quarters, outscoring Alabama 20-3 to climb back into the game. But the truth is, Oklahoma never really had a chance in this one with its defense, the same issue that has plagued this program for over two seasons now. Lincoln Riley might be breaking in a new starting quarterback for the third straight season in 2019, but the top priority is bringing in an elite defensive coordinator to fix its myriad issues so this team can put together a unit that is worthy of complementing its high-powered offense. Alabama made enough mistakes to keep this from being a much bigger route, between missed tackles, assignments and far too many penalties (enough mistakes that Nick Saban busted a headset). There's no question Saban is going to point out all the flaws and have something motivate his team for its biggest test of the season. -- Andrea Adelson

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

Clemson 30, Notre Dame 3

The gap between the very top tier in college football and the group right below them is significant, and Notre Dame isn't in that rarest of air. No. 2 Clemson looked like a complete team during its 30-3 victory at AT&T Stadium Saturday evening. The Tigers' defense, even without star tackle Dexter Lawrence, held Notre Dame under four yards per play and kept it from ever really sniffing the end zone. Freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence made a handful of eye-popping throws - two of them for long touchdowns to build a sizable gap in the first half -- and his group eventually wore down Notre Dame's defense. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney deserves to start jumping into the conversation of all-timers for the consistent level of dominance his program has been able to main in the College Football Playoff era. -- Dan Murphy

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

Florida 41, Michigan 15

Michigan didn't just lose its third consecutive bowl game on Saturday. It was walloped 41-15 by No. 10 Florida, which has a first-year coach and lost by three touchdowns to Missouri at home. That's what $7.5 million per season gets the Wolverines? In Year 4? Harbaugh, the former Michigan quarterback, has won 38 games in four seasons at his alma mater. But he hasn't won a Big Ten title, hasn't beaten Ohio State and is now 1-3 in bowl games. The Gators, meanwhile, have to be excited about their future under Mullen, who inherited a team that went 4-7 last season, and went 10-3 in Mullen's debut, which is one more than Meyer and the beloved Steve Spurrier won in their first seasons. Mullen squeezed everything possible out of this team, upsetting LSU, ending a five-game losing streak to Florida State and then winning the school's first New Year's Six bowl game since 2012. -- Mark Schlabach

Belk Bowl

Virginia 28, South Carolina 0

Throughout the closing minutes of Virginia's 28-0 Belk Bowl victory over South Carolina, head coach Bronco Mendenhall's facial expression was a mix of relief and disbelief. Those emotions were shared by a fan base that hadn't celebrated an eight-win season since 2011 or a bowl win since 2005. The most stunning aspect of the upset was holding South Carolina QB Jake Bentley to 17 of 39 passing for just 219 yards with no touchdown passes and a pair of interceptions. A month ago he scorched CFP semifinalist Clemson for 510 yards and five TDs. "In 2016, we won two games," Mendenhall said, recalling his first season in Charlottesville after leaving BYU. "This is the kind of performance, a shutout of a heavily favored SEC team in their backyard, that says we're building something for the future." -- Ryan McGee

Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl

Nevada 16, Arkansas State 13 (OT)

Nevada had struggled to just 186 yards and 3 points before its final drive, but QB Ty Gangi shrugged off 58 minutes of misery to engineer a 10-play, 74-yard touchdown drive to take a late lead, then won it 16-13 in overtime when Gangi connected with Reagan Roberson on a third-down pass. It was a stunning turnaround for Gangi, who'd been awful in the early going. In fact, both QBs -- Gangi and Justice Hansen had combined for 0 touchdowns and five picks prior to that last-gasp touchdown drive -- but Gangi converted a fourth-and-7 and hit Ben Putman for a 44-yard bomb to set up the first score and then delivered the winner in overtime. It was the first bowl win for Nevada since 2015 and caps a remarkable turnaround from a 3-9 campaign last year to an eight-win finish in 2018. -- David M. Hale

Dec. 28

Valero Alamo Bowl
Washington State 28, Iowa State 26

Washington State's victory puts an exclamation point on one of the best seasons in school history. The Cougars won a program-record 11 games, and they have a chance to land in the postseason AP top-10 for only the fifth time. (The Cougs came in ranked No. 13; they have never finished better than No. 9.) Quarterback Gardner Minshew passed for 299 yards to set the new Pac-12 single-season record for passing yards (4,776). Despite the loss, Iowa State coach Matt Campbell's star continues to rise. The Cyclones will enter next year looking to win at least eight games in three consecutive seasons for the first time since the 1970s. -- Kyle Bonagura


Camping World Bowl
Syracuse 34, West Virginia 18

The Orange sent four-year starting quarterback Eric Dungey out as a winner to close one of the best turnaround stories nationally under third-year coach Dino Babers. Dungey threw for 303 yards to complete his career with 9,340 yards -- surpassing Ryan Nassib for the all-time school record. Syracuse finished with 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to secure its first 10-win season since 2001 after four consecutive losing seasons. Old Big East rival West Virginia, without NFL-bound QB Will Grier, reached the end zone just once and was held under 35 points for the second time this year. -- Mitch Sherman


Music City Bowl
Auburn 63, Purdue 14

So just maybe Gus Malzahn should have been calling plays all along for Auburn. Of course, it's never that simple when it comes to bowl games, but Malzahn returned to his roots Friday in a 63-14 beatdown of Purdue, marking the most points ever scored by an SEC team in a bowl game. Malzahn, whose Tigers suffered through a dysfunctional year offensively, took over the playcalling duties after losing offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey to Kansas. The results were better than anyone could have expected. But what that means going forward on the Plains remains to be seen for Malzahn, who despite a massive financial buyout faced an undercurrent of key booster pressure to push him out all season. The good news for the Tigers is that they should be better on the offensive line next season, but they do have to replace Jarrett Stidham at quarterback. Either way, this is Malzahn's show on offense the rest of the way. -- Chris Low


Dec. 27

Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl
Baylor 45, Vanderbilt 38

What a turnaround for Baylor. The Bears went from one win in 2017 to seven this season, a six-win improvement -- most among Power 5 teams nationally. Matt Rhule's squad played hard and played well. In a game that was full of offensive fireworks -- Vanderbilt looked like one of Baylor's usual Big 12 foes -- it was quarterback Charlie Brewer who stood tallest. The sophomore playmaker showed why he's so valuable to the Bears, accounting for 493 yards (384 passing, 109 rushing) and three scores (two passing, one rushing). Trestan Ebner (199 yards of total offense, two touchdowns) and Denzel Mims also played big roles, and junior receiver Marques Jones caught the game winner, a 52-yard catch-and-run that was his only reception of the game. The Bears have something to build on. -- Sam Khan Jr.


New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Wisconsin 35, Miami 3

Jonathan Taylor is coming back to Wisconsin. Nothing could make the Badgers happier after the sophomore rushed for 205 yards in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl -- upping his 2018 total to 2,194, seventh on the FBS single-season list -- in a second straight postseason mauling of the Hurricanes. The Badgers also might have peered ahead with QB Jack Coan, who burned his sophomore redshirt to play in place of injured Alex Hornibrook. After disappointing seasons from both of these programs that began this season in the top 10, the Badgers enter 2019 on a high note. -- Mitch Sherman


Walk-On's Independence Bowl

Duke 56, Temple 27

With its win over Temple, Duke has won three straight bowl games for the first time in school history -- all under coach David Cutcliffe. Before Cutcliffe was hired in 2008, Duke had three total bowl wins in program history. Temple's stingy defense, which entered the game allowing just 24.7 points per game, snagged two turnovers early but had no answers in the second half. Duke set a school record for points in a game (56), and Daniel Jones set the school record for passing touchdowns in a bowl game (five). -- Heather Dinich


Dec. 26

Cheez-It Bowl

TCU 10, California 7 (OT)

It wasn't quite a bowl record - imagine being around for the 12 thrown between Auburn and Arizona in the 1968 Sun Bowl -- but the nine interceptions were the entire story of a game that featured a pair of lopsided offense-defense matchups. "This game defined our whole season," said head coach Gary Patterson after a Cheez-It Bowl performance that might've been considered impressive in every way except the most critical: quarterback play. Fifth-year senior Grayson Muehlstein flopped in his third career start, going 7-for-20 for 27 yards with four interceptions. But Muehlstein was upstaged by Bears quarterbacks Chase Garbers and Chase Forrest, who combined for 164 yards and five interceptions. If not for TCU running back Sewo Olonilua and his career-high 194 yards rushing and touchdown, there would have been virtually no offense to speak of Wednesday night. -- Joel Anderson


Quick Lane Bowl

Minnesota 34, Georgia Tech 10

Minnesota beat Georgia Tech at its own game, controlling the line of scrimmage and the clock, and spoiling coach Paul Johnson's sendoff. P.J. Fleck's young team executed a smart plan in what shaped up as a limited-possession contest, storming out to a 13-0 lead and out-gaining Georgia Tech 141-3 in the first 18 minutes, and maintaining at least a two-score lead throughout the second half. Redshirt freshman Mohamed Ibrahim surged past the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season, surging for 224 and two touchdowns, while All-Big Ten wide receiver Tyler Johnson added two touchdown grabs. Minnesota's late-season defensive coordinator change continued to pay off, as Joe Rossi's defense stifled the triple option and kept Georgia Tech out of the end zone until the final minute of the third quarter. Despite some ugly losses, Minnesota's second season under Fleck featured wins over Fresno State, Purdue and Georgia Tech, plus an emphatic reclamation of Paul Bunyan's Axe after a 14-year drought. The future is filled with promise for Minnesota. Georgia Tech's future, meanwhile, is new coach Geoff Collins, although Johnson deserved a better finale. -- Adam Rittenberg

Dec. 22

SoFi Hawai'i Bowl

Louisiana Tech 31, Hawai'i 14

For those who stayed up late enough, Louisiana Tech cornerback Amik Robertson put on a show in the second half of the Bulldogs' 31-14 win against Hawai'i in the Sofi Hawai'i Bowl. At 5-foot-9, 180 pounds, he doesn't have ideal size, but his athleticism and ball skills stand out. After being named a FWAA freshman All-American last year and a first-team All-Conference USA selection this year, Robertson's trajectory points toward the NFL. His two second-half interceptions stood out in an excellent defensive performance from Louisiana Tech. -- Kyle Bonagura


Dollar General Bowl

Troy 42, Buffalo 32

Buffalo held a 17-14 lead at halftime and even led 24-21 in the third quarter after taking a fumble recovery back for a touchdown. Buffalo had turnovers of its own, though, with three in the first half and a costly fumble in the fourth quarter that led to an eventual Troy touchdown, taking a 42-32 lead and putting the game out of reach. That was one of three touchdowns for Troy in the fourth quarter. Trojans quarterback Sawyer Smith was a big part of the win, completing 31 of 44 passes for 320 yards and four touchdowns. -- Tom VanHaaren


Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

Army 70, Houston 14

The Black Knights were dominant from start to finish, winning in record fashion (the 56-point margin of victory is tied for the largest in FBS bowl game history, matching Tulsa's 63-7 win over Bowling Green in the 2008 GMAC Bowl). Houston -- shorthanded on defense and with an interim defensive coordinator -- was no match for Army's triple option as it rolled up a whopping 507 rushing yards and did whatever it wanted offensively. Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. (five touchdowns) operated the offense to perfection. The Black Knights scored 70 points on only 62 plays and didn't punt once (every possession except one ended in a touchdown; the one that didn't was cut short by a fumble). Army ended its season on a nine-game winning streak and coach Jeff Monken has led the team to back-to-back double-digit win seasons as well as its first 11-win season in program history, an impressive feat. -- Sam Khan Jr.


Jared Birmingham Bowl

Wake Forest 37, Memphis 34

Wake Forest continues to play some of the most exciting bowl games every year, and Alex Bachman's touchdown grab with 35 seconds to play to beat Memphis fits the bill. The bigger question for the Deacons moving forward might be at QB, where Sam Hartman was solid before getting hurt in November, only to see Jamie Newman blossom down the stretch. On the other side, Memphis has to be reeling from blowing yet another big first-half lead. It was a decent season for Mike Norvell's team, but it could've been so much more if they'd closed games out. -- David M. Hale


Dec. 21

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

BYU 49, Western Michigan 18

BYU was facing a 10-7 halftime deficit against Western Michigan but came back in a big way with a 28-point third quarter -- a BYU bowl record -- and coming out with a 49-18 win. A big part of that comeback was because of quarterback Zach Wilson, who completed all 18 of his pass attempts before being pulled in the fourth quarter. Wilson had 317 yards through the air with four touchdowns. He now owns the BYU record for consecutive completions in a game, passing Steve Sarkisian and Steve Young, each of whom had 14. -- Tom VanHaaren


Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl

FIU 35, Toledo 32

FIU's chances of winning nine games in a season for the first time in school history seemed to take a big hit when coach Butch Davis announced that starting quarterback James Morgan, the Conference USA Newcomer of the Year, would be sidelined because of a sore throwing arm. But his replacement, junior Christian Alexander, filled in just fine against the Rockets in the Bahamas. Alexander, who before the bowl game had attempted only 29 passes this season, completed 17 of 26 passes for 209 yards with one touchdown. He also ran 11 times for 83 yards. The Panthers trailed 10-0 after the first quarter and 17-14 early in the third, but then they scored consecutive touchdowns with time-consuming drives to win their first bowl game since the 2010 Little Caesars Bowl. -- Mark Schlabach


Dec. 20

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl

Marshall 38, South Florida 20

USF made a bit of history, and not in a good way, in its loss to Marshall. The Bulls are the first team to finish 7-6 after starting 7-0. Not even playing on their home field served as much of an advantage, as the same issues that plagued the Bulls during their slump in the second half of the season plagued them again. That starts with inconsistency at quarterback, and interim playcaller Justin Burke could not fix it. Marshall, which came into the game known more for its defense, racked up nearly 300 yards of offense in the first half alone as it took control of the game early. The Herd were particularly effective running the ball, gaining over 220 yards on the ground with five rushing touchdowns. Coach Doc Holliday is now an impressive 6-0 in bowl games at Marshall. -- Andrea Adelson


Dec. 19

DXL Frisco Bowl

Ohio 27, San Diego State 0

The Bobcats ended the season winning their sixth game in seven, while the Aztecs dropped their fifth of six. Ohio did it in much the same fashion as in its previous victories: offensive balance and a couple of timely turnovers. Ohio's rushing offense, which entered Wednesday eighth nationally in yards per game, finished with 215 yards against a defense that had allowed only an average of 95 per game. The Bobcats also got some big plays from quarterback Nathan Rourke, whose 10 completions went for 206 yards and a touchdown. Rourke, a junior, is expected to return in 2019 and will be a solid foundation for longtime head coach Frank Solich to chase a third-straight nine-win season -- or better. But the Bobcats will lose star runner A.J. Ouellette, who finished the night with 164 yards to end the season with 1,142. -- Joel Anderson


Dec. 18

Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl

UAB 37, Northern Illinois 13

Two years after UAB football returned, the program can claim a series of firsts: its first C-USA title, its first 11-win season and its first bowl victory. Although the team that beat Northern Illinois in the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl won't be the same next season, with a reloaded defense and no Xavier Ubosi, who went off for three touchdown catches, the person throwing those long passes, Tyler Johnston III, will be back. The redshirt freshman improved to 4-1 as a starter and gives the Dragons reason for continued success. -- Alex Scarborough


Dec. 15

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Appalachian State 45, Middle Tennessee 13

Brent Stockstill's final game playing for his dad ended on a low note, while Appalachian State's first game without Scott Satterfield showed that there's plenty to like about the team new coach Eli Drinkwitz will inherit next season. Much of the talent on App's depth chart is back for 2019, making the Mountaineers the obvious favorites to win the Sun Belt again next season. -- David M. Hale


Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

Georgia Southern 23, Eastern Michigan 21

Georgia Southern went back-and-forth with Eastern Michigan in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl before Tyler Bass hit a field goal with no time remaining to win 23-21. The Georgia Southern option offense gave Eastern fits in the first half, but Eastern Michigan opened the second half with a 75-yard touchdown and scored a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The win gave Georgia Southern its first 10-win season since the program joined the FBS in 2014 and stopped Eastern Michigan from winning its first bowl game since 1987. -- Tom VanHaaren


Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl

Fresno State 31, Arizona State 20

Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford has completed one of the most impressive two-year turnarounds in college football history. He inherited a 1-11 team following the 2016 season and in 2018 coached the team to its best season in school history. The Bulldogs set a school record for wins in a season (12) and, after entering the Las Vegas Bowl ranked No. 19 in the AP poll, will surely finish with their best final ranking, surpassing the No. 22 finish in 2004. The game didn't mean as much for Arizona State, but it was another forgettable performance for the Pac-12, which is in desperate need of a good showing this bowl season. -- Kyle Bonagura


AutoNation Cure Bowl

Tulane 41, Louisiana 24

Steady is the word for coach Willie Fritz and Tulane. The program Fritz inherited was coming off back-to-back three-win seasons, and now, after winning four games and five games in his first two seasons, the Green Wave have won seven games, tied for first in the American Athletic Conference West and won the Autonation Cure Bowl. The 41-24 victory over Louisiana wasn't pretty at times, as Tulane nearly coughed up a three-touchdown lead, but a strong finish signaled progress. Senior quarterback Justin McMillan must be replaced, but running back Darius Bradwell, who rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns against Louisiana, should be back for his senior season. -- Alex Scarborough


New Mexico Bowl Presented by Progressive

Utah State 52, North Texas 13

Utah State had only four full-time coaches for the game following the departure of head coach Matt Wells to Texas Tech, but it didn't matter. The Aggies were dominant from the start and closed out their second 11-win season in school history, leaving incoming coach Gary Andersen a strong foundation for continued success. Utah State's only other 11-win season came in 2012, the final year of Andersen's first stint leading the program, before he departed for Wisconsin and then Oregon State. -- Kyle Bonagura


Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl

North Carolina A&T 24, Alcorn State 22

North Carolina A&T couldn't run the football at all against Alcorn State, but it didn't matter -- not when Lamar Raynard was able to throw for nearly 300 yards, and certainly not when Malik Wilson returned a kickoff 79 yards -- the longest in the history of the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl -- for a touchdown late in the third quarter to seal the victory. It will be tough to replace the senior Raynard next season, but the good news for the Aggies is the two wideouts he found for touchdowns, Elijah Bell and Zachary Leslie, should return. -- Alex Scarborough

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