With the National Championship matchup between Ohio State and Oregon all that’s left of the college football season, it’s time to take a look back at an eventful bowl season and declare who came out a winner and which teams are losers.
There were plenty of surprises of the disappointing variety, we’re looking at you SEC West, while there were other unexpected winners, hello Big Ten.
Here’s XN Sports’ list of winners and losers and what it could mean looking ahead to 2015.
WINNER: Ohio State and Oregon – Obviously the two biggest winners of the bowl season thus far are the Buckeyes and the Ducks who will forever be linked in the history books as the first teams to play in the College Football Playoff Championship Game. Ohio State slayed the giant pretty much in its own backyard in beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to earn a berth in the title game. If things weren’t going well enough for the Buckeyes in going 25-3 over the last two seasons, consider that they now will be recruiting with the extra cache of a title game appearance and having done it with their third string quarterback.
If there was any doubt before that it has arrived as a national power, Oregon has erased it with its run to the National Championship game. It boasts a Heisman winner in quarterback Marcus Mariota and it dispatched defending national champion Florida State to get to the title game, ending the Seminoles’ 29-game win streak with a 59-20 thumping in the Rose Bowl.
The loser of Monday night’s showdown will obviously be disappointed but these two programs are going to be among college football’s power brokers for years to come.
LOSER: Alabama and Florida State – Getting in to the first College Football Playoff is a feather in their cap but neither the Crimson Tide or Seminoles likely imagined their seasons would end like they did.
Alabama jumped out to a 21-6 lead on Ohio State and looked primed to earn a trip to the title game before the Buckeyes took over. The Crimson Tide were held in check for most of the second half and its defense had trouble stopping the Buckeyes offense. Now throw in the real possibility that wide receiver Amari Cooper, safety Landon Collins, and running back T.J. Yeldon are going to declare for the NFL draft (reports have indicated all three are headed to the NFL) and it’s been a rough couple of weeks for Alabama.
Florida State deserved its spot in the playoff as the unbeaten defending champs but certainly gave credence to those who said they should have been out with the egg they laid in the Rose Bowl. Now Jameis Winston is going to forgo his final two years of eligibility and head to the NFL. While his character raises some legitimate concerns, there is no doubting the on-field talent of a quarterback that went 26-1 as a starter while winning a Heisman Trophy and national title.
WINNER: Big Ten Conference – Team in the National Title game, check. Splashy off-season coaching hire, check. Important bowl wins against high-profile teams, check. It’s been a great bowl season for the Big Ten which has the Buckeyes playing for a title, Jim Harbaugh headed to Michigan, and also got nice bowl wins from Wisconsin over Auburn and Michigan State over Baylor.
With Ohio State and Michigan State already among the country’s best, Wisconsin on the verge, and Michigan landing Harbaugh things are definitely looking up for the once maligned conference. Throw in Penn State which appears headed in the right direction with James Franklin and an improving Minnesota program and the Big Ten could be vying for best conference in the country honors over the next couple seasons.
LOSER: SEC West – Well the SEC West certainly looked good when it was playing itself, but during bowl season, not so much. Alabama, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn, and LSU have something in common besides being in the same divisions of the SEC, they all have been overrated all season and all lost their bowl games.
WINNER: Boise State – The Broncos won another entertaining Fiesta Bowl. No surprise there as they have now won the game three times in the last eight years. Boise State went 12-2 this season, finished the year with a nine-game win streak and set itself up nicely to be in the mix the next time there is any conference realignment talk. The Big 12 could be a possible landing spot for the Broncos as it looks to add teams and be able to hold a conference title game.
LOSER: The Big 12 – The conference with the “One True Champion” slogan actually couldn’t settle on a champ and had no true playoff teams. Baylor and TCU tied for the league title and that presented a dilemma for the playoff committee which decided to bypass them both for Ohio State. Baylor beat TCU during the regular season but coughed up a big lead and lost to Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl. TCU trounced Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl, but even the SEC West’s lousy bowl performance, event that statement win rings a bit hollow.