Armed Forced Bowl
Pittsburgh (-3) vs. Houston
Houston won as underdog, 35-34
The Pittsburgh Panthers held a 25-point lead in the fourth quarter. After swapping a touchdown for a field goal, the Panthers still led by three touchdowns with less than four minutes to play. Pitt's defense and special teams then allowed 22 straight points. They allowed the Cougars to score three touchdowns on three drives while surrendering back-to-back onside kick recoveries. To cap it off, Houston went for the game-winning two-point conversion and got it to win 35-34. It's a good thing their new coach next season is defensive minded!
Incoming head coach Pat Narduzzi was interviewed during the ESPN broadcast and struck me as someone who will consider staying in the Steel City for a while. He may be capable of building them into a respectable eight-win type program with the occasional year in which they threaten to win the pitiful Coastal Division. They lose just seven total starters and return both their starting QB Chad Voytik and their star RB James Connor.
Quick Lane Bowl
North Carolina (-3.5) vs. Rutgers
Rutgers won as underdog, 40-21
North Carolina made a big statement about their annually under-achieving program, but not the type they wanted. They entered as favorites, but were carved up by the Scarlet Knights. It appears that UNC football has a culture problems - and I'm not even referring to their academic cheating.
Marquise bluntly says it's obvious certain guys 'don't care'. Tim Scott says lots of ppl 'we're happy losing as long as they got their stats— Mark Armstrong (@ArmstrongABC11) December 27, 2014
But don't worry, UNC has reportedly hired Gene Chizik as their new defensive coordinator so they'll get some hype and enter next season severely overrated, as is an ACC tradition.
St. Petersburg Bowl
NC State vs. Central Florida (-2)
NC State won as underdog, 34-27
NC State's bowl win is big because it's a national announcement that Dave Doeren has gotten things turned around in Raleigh. They weren't up to snuff against the ACC's best (FSU, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Louisville), but shellacked Wake Forest and North Carolina and then made a statement for the Power Five conferences by beating one of the best and most nationally respected teams from the Group of Five.
Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati (-2)
Virginia Tech won as underdog, 33-17
Virginia Tech also made a statement regarding the Power Five vs. Group of Five by dispatching the favored Bearcats, whose defense looked suspect.
Miami (-3) vs. South Carolina
South Carolina won as underdog, 24-21
Two programs with negative momentum met and South Carolina did all they could to stop the bleeding. Miami missed a field goal and committed two turnovers en route to scoring just 21 against the Gamecock defense. Only one Power Five team scored fewer points against South Carolina - Missouri, and they beat the Cocks.
South Carolina loses their star running back and their quarterback while Miami loses an all-time great in RB Duke Johnson and their star defensive player LB Denzel Perryman. South Carolina may fade as their hall of fame coach plans his retirement, but Miami is more curious.
Since joining the ACC in 2004, Miami has gone just 2-5 in bowl games, dropping their overall bowl record to 18-18, one win worse than Clemson at 19-18. The 'Canes finished 9-3 in their first two seasons in the ACC, but have compiled a 63-51 record since. For his part, Al Golden is just 28-22. He will likely enter 2015 as the ACC coach on the hottest seat. I thought he might turn around the 'Canes program - which would be good for the ACC and potentially bad for FSU recruiting. That is beginning to look doubtful.
Boston College (-3) vs. Penn State
Penn State won as underdog, 31-30
Boston College's poor kicking did them in. After missing a PAT in OT, Penn State scored a touchdown and knocked in the game-winning TD.
Duke vs. Arizona State (-7.5)
Arizona State won 36-31 but did not cover the spread
Duke held a 31-30 lead with only five minutes left to play, but allowed a huge kick return that Arizona State finished off for the go-ahead TD. Although they lost, Duke showed the country they're not merely a product of a weak conference.
Louisville vs. Georgia (-7)
Georgia won 37-14 and covered the spread
The Bulldogs' rushing attack performed at a national championship caliber against one of the ACC's best defenses. The Dawgs outgained the Cards 292 to 62 on the ground. Nick Chubb had an amazing 266 rushing yards.
The Dawgs' home loss to Georgia Tech doesn't look ridiculous anymore, but this team had no business losing to Florida or South Carolina. It'll be interesting to see how they rebound next year with a new offensive coordinator and QB.
Russell Athletic Bowl
Clemson vs. Oklahoma (-6)
Clemson won as underdog, 40-6
Clemson dropped to a 6-point dog before kickoff in Orlando, largely because Cole Stoudt was starting rather than Deshaun Watson. Even with their star QB out, a new co-offensive coordinator situation, and MLB Stephone Anthony suspended for the first half, Clemson came out swinging. A quick three-and-out got Clemson the ball. Then on the Tigers' first offensive play, Stoudt fired a screen pass to Artavis Scott which went for a 65-yard TD. Clemson didn't slow down as they went up 17-0 by the end of the first quarter and 27-0 at halftime.
The Sooners are left to ponder how they fell so far down the totem pole in the Big 12 even while Texas is down. Meanwhile, with consecutive bowl wins over LSU, Ohio State, and Oklahoma, Clemson has proven that they are part of the nation's elite football programs.
Georgia Tech vs. Mississippi State (-6)
Georgia Tech won as underdog, 49-34
If any single game could ever lend credence to the F/+ statistic this was it. Georgia Tech entered with the nation's top F/+ offense and showed it off to the tune of 452 rushing yards. All season I had been looking suspiciously at Georgia Tech. Their defense is average at best and looked very bad in some fortunate wins early in the season. A loss to UNC seemed to vindicate my theory, but they managed to end the season by beating Clemson, Georgia, and Mississippi State. Unfortunately, I have admit fault. It looks like Georgia Tech was legitimate this year. F/+ was right and I was wrong.
The four year gap between their last good season and this one highlights how quickly they can fade back into irrelevance, but they only lose three starters on defense. They also return all but one starting O-lineman. We'll find out how important skill position players are for their system as their top two wide receivers, and four of their A and B-backs depart.
Florida State vs. Oregon (-7.5)
Oregon won 59-20 and covered the spread
Florida State kept it close in the first half, despite Oregon's tempo attack clicking on all cylinders, but the 'Nole defense ran out of steam in the second half and watched their 29-game win streak crash hard. Winston threw an interception and had a hilarious looking fumble returned for a touchdown while his teammates added another three fumbles.
FSU fans (and many others) complained that the committee was treating them unfairly when two one-loss teams were ranked above the Seminoles, but this blowout loss justifies the committee's "eye test" decision.
The 39-point loss was their worst since the '80s and even worse than Clemson's epic Orange Bowl loss to West Virginia. Florida State, likely the most hated team in the country, will surely have a long offseason of seeing things like:
a live-look at FSU/Oregon https://t.co/LYtz613SZi— SPORTS ONLINE (@SportsOnIine) January 2, 2015
After they teach FSU how to hold onto the football - maybe the coaches could give the players a tutorial on sportsmanship.— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) January 2, 2015
Pathetic showing by FSU during game and after the game not shaking hands. Total embarrassment.— Adam Schein (@AdamSchein) January 2, 2015
All point spreads from TeamRankings.com.