Bowl season is over. It ended nearly as quickly as it started, and if we’re being honest, it wasn’t a good bowl season. Maybe it was a result of the 2020 season, or maybe it was just random chance, but the 2020 bowl season was bland, lacking drama and filled with only a few quality games.
If you don’t believe me, I’ve got numbers to back it up!
We cannot ignore that a typical bowl season that includes 40 games had already been shrunk to 28 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving us with far fewer options. Of the 28 bowls that were filled and scheduled to be played, three more had to be canceled. We also can’t ignore that a lot of teams that would typically play in a bowl game opted out, leaving us with a bunch of teams with losing records playing in games.
But more than that, there were the games themselves. The average final margin of victory in the 25 bowl games played this year was 14.8 points. Only nine of the 25 games finished with one-score margins, and as I’ll highlight shortly, even most of those were never truly in doubt.
The average margin at halftime of our 25 bowl games was 12.5 points, and at the start of the fourth quarter, teams led by an average of 12.8 points. If all of that isn’t enough to convince you, how about this: There were a grand total of 14 lead changes in 25 games. And those lead changes were limited to only six of the games with 11 lead changes in just three games!
The team that scored first went 21-4. Only Cincinnati, Clemson, Wake Forest and Western Kentucky blew leads. From a gambling perspective, favorites went 15-10 against the spread and 20-5 straight up.
In short, it was not the bowl season we deserved in 2020, but considering how the rest of the year went, it was the one we should have expected. Of course, just because it wasn’t a great season overall, that doesn’t mean some games weren’t better than others, so we’re still going to rank them. That’s what we do in this sport: rank things.
25. Myrtle Beach Bowl
Appalachian State 56, North Texas 28: I had the Myrtle Beach Bowl as the lowest-ranked bowl in my pre-bowl rankings, and it managed to live up to the hype. My biggest fear for the game was that North Texas had an awful run defense, and it was going against an Appalachian State offense that had run the ball effectively all season long. So how did things go?
Well, Appalachian State rushed for 500 yards as a team, averaging a ridiculous 12.8 yards per carry. Camerun Peoples alone (which would make him Cameron People?) rushed for 317 yards and five touchdowns. He was one of two 100-yard rushers for the Mountaineers in the game, as the other was Marcus Williams Jr. He ran for 101 yards and only needed six carries to get there. The best summary of this game is that, after Williams broke off a 70-yard touchdown to make it 28-7, App State late in the first half, North Texas responded with a quick touchdown drive to make it 28-14 with 27 seconds left in the first half. You were allowed to think the Mean Green might make a game of it for 16 seconds because on the very first play of App State’s ensuing possession, Peoples broke free for a 64-yard touchdown. Pregame ranking: 28
24. New Orleans Bowl
Georgia Southern 38, Louisiana Tech 3: Like the Myrtle Beach Bowl, the New Orleans Bowl managed to live up to the lack of hype in my pregame rankings. It was just a spectacularly ugly game that was never in doubt. The Eagles dominated from start to finish, and Louisiana Tech’s only points came from a field goal just before halftime. That field goal came after the Bulldogs managed to lose 7 yards in four plays following a 60-yard punt return to give them great field position. Georgia Southern running back Gerald Green finished with 108 yards rushing, while QB Shai Werts threw for 126 and rushed for 71, finishing with four total touchdowns. On the other side, Louisiana Tech QBs averaged 3.1 yards per attempt in the game and threw four interceptions. Pregame ranking: 27
23. Boca Raton Bowl
No. 16 BYU 49, UCF 23: This was a disappointment. I had high hopes, ranking it in my top five. I thought that we would get a fun, back-and-forth shootout that saw these teams threatening to break the century mark for total points scored. Instead, we got another game where BYU completely overpowered its opponent early, and it was over by the end of the first quarter when the Cougars had a 21-0 lead. It was a truly remarkable start. BYU’s three touchdown drives in the first quarter covered 235 yards in only 13 plays and lasted only 4:44. Had the Cougars not called off the dogs, it’s possible they’d have threatened 100 points themselves. Zach Wilson put plenty of highlights on his NFL Draft tape, throwing for 425 yards and three touchdowns. Tyler Allgeier rushed for 173 yards on only 19 carries, and BYU had five different players finish with at least 60 yards receiving. If there’s any good news, it’s that my Cover 3 Podcast co-host Danny Kanell informed me that the seats in the luxury box at FAU Stadium were comfortable. Pregame ranking: 5
22. Arizona Bowl
Ball State 34, No. 22 San Jose State 13: The Arizona Bowl was one of only two bowl games to feature a matchup of conference champions, but unfortunately, it didn’t live up to expectations. It was just before kickoff that we learned San Jose State would be without several key starters on defense and both its offensive and defensive coordinators due to COVID-19 and contact-tracing. While I’m not sure missing all those essential parts was the biggest reason things went the way they did, they surely didn’t help. Six plays into the game, San Jose State QB Nick Starkel was picked off by Antonio Phillips, and Phillips returned it 53 yards for a touchdown. Then, after a quick three-and-out by the Spartans, Ball State would score again to make it 14-0. Then you blinked, and it was 27-0 before the first quarter ended. It never got any better from there. Pregame ranking: 15
21. Montgomery Bowl
Memphis 25, FAU 10: I watched every single bowl game this season (or at least chunks when multiple were being played at once), and I hardly remembered anything about this one other than the turnovers. There were five of them in total. Even after confirming the turnovers, it didn’t do much to jog my memory of the rest of the game. That probably tells us all we need to know about it. The final score suggests the game was somewhat close, but the reality was different. The Tigers jumped out to an 18-0 lead in the first half, and it probably should’ve been more than that. Each of FAU’s first five possessions ended with a punt or a fumble. The Owls did manage to make it a one-score game following a Memphis turnover in the third quarter. The thrill didn’t last long, however, as Memphis then responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive to make it 25-10, and that’s the way the game ended, with neither team doing much of anything over the final 20 minutes of action. Pregame ranking: 23
20. Cotton Bowl
No. 6 Oklahoma 55, No. 7 Florida 20: We weren’t too far into this game before Florida QB Kyle Trask was likely wishing he’d done what so many of his teammates did and opted out. He certainly opted out of throwing the ball to his teammates. This was the first New Year’s Six game to be played, and it was over in a flash. Oklahoma received the opening kick and drove 79 yards in only five plays to take a 7-0 lead 2 minutes into the game. Two plays later, Trask was throwing his first pick of the night, as Tre Norwood took a pass back the other way for a 45-yard pick six to make it 14-0. Trask would again be picked off on Florida’s second possession, though Oklahoma only got a field goal out of it to make it 17-0. Then you’ll never guess what happened on Florida’s third possession. Yep, Trask was intercepted again, though at this point, Oklahoma began to feel bad and quickly fumbled the ball back a couple of plays later to set up a Florida field goal.
The Gators teased us all with a nice run to make it a 17-13 game in the second quarter, but they wouldn’t score again until the final minutes of the game. By then, it was far too late, as the Sooners had tacked on five more touchdowns. It was an awful end to what had been an excellent season for Trask and the kind of performance by Oklahoma that makes you think the Sooners will be returning to the College Football Playoff next season. Spencer Rattler averaged over 10 yards per attempt and threw for three scores while both Rhamondre Stevenson and Marcus Major rushed for over 100 yards. Pregame ranking: 2
19. Alamo Bowl
No. 20 Texas 55, Colorado 23: So at what point of this blowout win do you think Texas decided Tom Herman wasn’t the long-term solution? It’s weird to look back at this game now that Herman has been fired and Steve Sarkisian brought in because you got the sense while watching it that there was legitimate reason for optimism heading into 2021. Sam Ehlinger’s night (and his Texas career) ended early due to a shoulder injury, but Casey Thompson stepped in and balled out. He only threw for 170 yards, but that’s because he only threw 10 passes, and four of them were for touchdowns. Bijan Robinson rushed for 183 yards to continue the trend that saw him become a larger factor as the season wound down. Defensively, the Longhorns smothered Colorado, holding it to only 378 yards. It was one of Texas’ best performances of the season. And it was the final game of the Tom Herman era. I suppose the Alamo isn’t allowed to have a happy ending. Pregame ranking: 13
18. Rose Bowl
No. 1 Alabama 31, No. 4 Notre Dame 14: So at what point of this game do you think Alabama realized it had the game won? Do you think it was the first or second quarter? The Crimson Tide did the thing it does to nearly everybody it plays and took control early. Alabama’s first three possessions of the game all ended with touchdowns. It was somewhat comical in a way. Notre Dame’s game plan was smart. It wanted to control the ball and keep Alabama’s offense off the field because very few teams in the country can even compete against it in a shootout, let alone beat it.
So, there we were in the second quarter with Notre Dame flawlessly executing the game plan. It put together a 15-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that took over 8 minutes off the clock and cut Alabama’s lead to 14-7. Alabama responded by doing the thing Alabama does: it drove 84 yards in six plays for another touchdown in 2:30. I think that’s when Alabama and Notre Dame both realized the game was over, and from that point on, it felt like each team just wanted to get on with their lives and not see anybody get hurt. Mac Jones threw for 297 yards and four touchdowns, Najee Harris rushed for 125 yards, and DeVonta Smith caught seven passes for 130 yards and three touchdowns. Yet, it all felt pedestrian somehow. Pregame ranking: 3
17. LendingTree Bowl
Georgia State 39, Western Kentucky 21: Fun fact about the LendingTree Bowl that is not all that fun: it was the tenth bowl game to be played and the first to feature a lead change. It came early, too. Western Kentucky took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter, but after Georgia State tied it a few minutes later, the Panthers then took a 14-7 lead in the second quarter and never looked back. It was a 20-point second quarter from the Panthers that took all the air out of this one. Well, that and three Western Kentucky turnovers.
My biggest takeaway from this game was that Georgia State QB Cornelious Brown IV is an absolute roller coaster. One play, he’s doing something brilliant, and the next, he’s causing you to leap behind the couch in fear. He will age Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott at least 15 years by the time he graduates. Brown finished with 232 yards passing and three touchdowns while also rushing for 40 yards. Pregame ranking: 26
16. New Mexico Bowl
Hawaii 28, Houston 14: I had to restrain myself here. I was tempted to rank this game higher than it deserved because I was so right about how it was going to play out. This was one of the few upsets we saw in the bowl season, and I saw it coming from a mile away. I was happily telling everybody within earshot before the game started about how, unless it’s a major bowl game, Dana Holgorsen teams are awful in bowls. Well, the Cougars followed the script perfectly. Hawaii finished with only 267 yards of offense, and it still blew Houston out. Hawaii took an early 7-0 lead thanks to a Clayton Tune interception and soon made it a 14-0 game when Chevan Cordeiro hit Calvin Turner for a 75-yard touchdown pass. The Warriors scored again to make it 21-0 during the second quarter, and then the offense took the rest of the day off. Seriously, Hawaii managed 200 yards on its first six possessions and only 67 on its last nine, and it was never in any danger of losing thanks to a 92-yard touchdown return from Calvin Turner in the third quarter. Pregame ranking: 25
15. Sugar Bowl
No. 3 Ohio State 49, No. 2 Clemson 28: If this had been the Gasparilla Bowl between two non-playoff teams playing the same game, I’m not sure I’d rank it this high. Still, it was a playoff game, and it did feature a surprising upset. In the 2020 bowl season, those were few and far between. Also, it did provide plenty of standout moments for what it lacked in drama as far as the outcome, like when Justin Fields was nearly cut in half by a tackle from James Skalski that probably broke four more of Drew Brees’ ribs. It led to Skalski being ejected from the game for targeting and a lot of wincing from Fields.
Unfortunately for Clemson, it wasn’t nearly enough wincing to keep Fields from picking its secondary apart. Early on, it looked as though we were in for an all-time classic. Clemson put together a long touchdown drive to start the game, and then after both teams traded three-and-outs, they began trading touchdowns. It was 14-14 after the first quarter, but Ohio State destroyed any chance of a close game. The Buckeyes outscored the Tigers 21-0 in the second quarter to take a commanding 35-14 lead into halftime, and they never relented.
Fields threw for a Sugar Bowl-record six touchdowns, Trey Sermon rushed for 193 yards, and Chris Olave averaged 22 yards per reception en route to 132 yards. Trevor Lawrence managed to throw for 400 yards for the Tigers, but it was because he had to, seeing as how the Ohio State defense held Clemson’s offense to only 44 yards rushing on the night (2.0 yards per carry). In the end, while this game will live on as an all-time classic for Ohio State fans, for the neutral, it was one of two playoff games decided by halftime. Even if it did have its moments. Pregame ranking: 1
14. Potato Bowl
Nevada 38, Tulane 27: Even in a shortened bowl season, it feels like this game was played months ago. The Potato Bowl is boosted a little because it’s one of the few bowls that did provide us with some second-half drama. It looked like it would be yet another blowout early, as Nevada was responsible for the first three scores of the afternoon and jumped out to a 19-0 lead. It would be 26-7 Wolf Pack at halftime, but Tulane made a game of it in the third quarter, cutting the lead to 26-20 with two touchdowns. Thus we entered the final 15 minutes with a one-score game, but Nevada wasn’t much for drama. Carson Strong threw his fourth of five touchdown passes on the day early in the quarter to make it 32-20. He’d throw his fifth later to make it 38-20, and a 65-yard touchdown run by Cameron Carroll with seven seconds left made the final look a lot closer than it was. Pregame ranking: 14
13. Citrus Bowl
No. 14 Northwestern 35, Auburn 19: Have you ever wondered what a bowl game between one team that cared and another led by an interim coach who staged a coup and failed would look like? Who hasn’t?! We finally got our answer on New Year’s Day in Orlando when the team who cared (Northwestern) beat the failed coup attempt (Kevin Steele and Auburn) pretty easily. To be fair to Auburn, it looked like we were in for a blowout early as Northwestern didn’t find much resistance on its way to a 14-0 lead, but then the Auburn defense settled in and made life a lot more interesting. Unfortunately, the Auburn offense wasn’t able to do much of anything with the repeated opportunities.
There was a moment in the third quarter when it looked as if a game might break out. Bo Nix hit Elijah Canion for a 57-yard touchdown pass that featured a pretty epic stiff-arm and made it a 14-13 lead, but Auburn never threatened again. Northwestern scored three more touchdowns to make it 35-13 before the Tigers found the end zone again late in the fourth quarter. (10)
12. Duke’s Mayo Bowl
Wisconsin 42, Wake Forest 28: This game gave us a lot of what the majority of bowls didn’t this year. First of all, it was one of the six games with a lead change, even if it was only one lead change. Wake Forest put together a couple of impressive touchdown drives in the first quarter to take a 14-0 lead, but Wisconsin erased the lead with two touchdowns of its own in the second quarter to make it 14-14 at halftime. That halftime score made this the only one of our 25 bowl games to have a tie score at halftime.
Wake retook the lead with its first possession of the third quarter, but Wisconsin came back two minutes later to tie it up 21-21 thanks to a 59-yard kick return from Devin Chandler to give the Badgers excellent field position. Disaster later struck for the Demon Deacons when they drove 71 yards into Wisconsin territory when Sam Hartman was picked off by Noah Burks. That turnover led to a Wisconsin touchdown and its first lead. The Deacons responded with another drive into Wisconsin territory where Hartman was picked off again, this time by Scott Nelson, who returned the pick to the 2-yard line to set up another Badgers touchdown. Then you’ll never guess what happened on the first play of Wake Forest’s next drive. Yep, Hartman was picked off for the third straight possession and second-straight play. The good news is that Wisconsin missed a field goal, allowing Hartman a chance at redemption. It was a chance he did not take, instead deciding to throw his fourth interception of the day on the next drive.
We went from a close, exciting game to an absolute nightmare stretch that led to a blowout win for the Badgers and a few too many people hoping to see Paul Chryst get drenched in mayonnaise. Seriously, I learned a lot about many of my fellow college football scribes in 2020, but their desire to see somebody doused in mayo will be the thing that leaves a scar on my soul for eternity. Pregame ranking: 18
11. Gator Bowl
Kentucky 23, No. 23 NC State 21: The Gator Bowl was what could best be described as a good bad game. It was close, and therefore, it presented us with the opportunity for drama late. But the reason it was close had more to do with offensive incompetence than anything else. Kentucky led 3-0 after the first quarter and 13-0 at halftime. Both offenses combined for 360 yards of offense, 13 points, an interception and a missed field goal in the first half. That’s the kind of game it was and would continue to be. The only difference is that, in the second half, NC State managed to score some points and make it close. The Wolfpack opened the half with another missed field goal but put together a touchdown drive on their next possession to cut it to 13-7. Unfortunately for the Pack, Bailey Hockman’s three interceptions doomed them in the long run. When Chris Rodriguez broke loose for a 26-yard touchdown to make it 23-14 with under three minutes left, it ended the game. State did score another touchdown in the final minute to make it look a lot closer, though. (20)
10. Outback Bowl
Ole Miss 26, No. 11 Indiana 20: I mean, there’s no way a game with Ole Miss was going to be boring, was there? That’s just not the script the Rebels followed in 2020, and while I wouldn’t go calling the Outback Bowl a classic, it at least provided us with some drama. I say some because after the Rebels jumped out to a 3-0 lead, they never gave it up. Sure, the Hoosiers tied things up at 3-3, but the Rebels took a 13-3 lead into the half and never relented. Oh wait, yeah, I guess an Ole Miss game can be boring. I mean, when it comes to the Rebels this season, you’re expecting a 55-52 kind of game. Instead, this one was mostly a sluggish affair, but it was close, and in the 2020 bowl season, that proved to be enough to crack the top 10. The Hoosiers did make a game of it late, coming back from a 20-6 deficit after three quarters to tie the game at 20-20 with just under six minutes left, but the Rebels responded quickly with a touchdown of their own, and then did this strange thing where their defense came through in the clutch. Which, honestly, I didn’t know was allowed to happen. Pregame ranking: 11
9. First Responder Bowl
Louisiana 31, UTSA 24: This was not an exciting game until late in the third quarter. The Ragin’ Cajuns seemed to be in control from the start, jumping out to a 10-0 lead and holding a 17-7 lead at halftime. When the Roadrunners fumbled on the second play of the second half and the Cajuns scored a play later to make it 24-7, I thought the game was over. It wasn’t. The UTSA defense stepped its game up, forcing a fumble and a couple of punts, and it gave life to the Roadrunners offense. They managed to cut Louisiana’s lead down to 24-21 at the end of three, and early in the fourth Hunter Duplessis’ 20-yard field goal tied things up at 24. That’s when the Cajuns went and did what they do best, putting together a 12-play, 72-yard drive that chewed clock and yardage. Trey Ragas crashed into the end zone from a yard out to make it 31-24 with just over seven minutes left. The Roadrunners turned the ball over on downs on the ensuing possession, and the Cajuns squeezed the air out of the rest of the game. Pregame ranking: 22
8. Camellia Bowl
Buffalo 17, Marshall 10 — The Camellia Bowl might have been the paradigm of the 2020 bowl season. It was close throughout and included the game-winning touchdown being scored with just over a minute to play, but I still managed to fall asleep during the game! There was just so much nothing happening in this game. There was no score after the first quarter, but then things really picked up in the second as we saw 17 points put on the board with Marshall scoring a touchdown just before the break to make it a 10-7 Buffalo lead at halftime.
The third quarter featured a field goal to tie the game at 10, a missed field goal, and a punt. The first play of the fourth quarter was an interception. It led to nothing, as Marshall went three-and-out before punting back to Buffalo. Buffalo then went a whole 12 yards in six plays before punting the ball back to Marshall, who then lost three yards on three plays before punting it right back. That is when the Bulls, who managed only 90 yards on their previous four possessions, drove 88 yards on 13 plays before Kevin Marks found the end zone from two yards out to make it 17-10 with 1:09 to play. Then Marshall did something remarkable. It somehow managed to put together a 10-play, 40-yard drive in 66 seconds that ended with a turnover on downs. And that’s how the game ended. That game was good enough to finish this high. That’s how bad this bowl season played out. Pregame ranking: 16
7. Fiesta Bowl
No. 10 Iowa State 34, No. 25 Oregon 17: This game got off to such a wonderful start. Iowa State killed half the first quarter with a 75-yard touchdown drive to start the game, and Oregon responded with a 73-yard drive to tie the game. Then the Cyclones sucked up over half a quarter again, going 69 yards in 14 plays to make it 14-7. Oregon fumbled on its next possession but then put forth a goal-line stand to keep it a one-score game. The Ducks then went 98 yards to make it 14-14, and at this point, I was ready for the best bowl of the year to continue.
Iowa State then scored again to make it 21-14, but it was at this moment that Iowa State coach Matt Campbell decided to be selfish and win the game instead of allowing the rest of us to enjoy it. The Cyclones attempted a short pooch kick that caught Oregon off-guard, and the Cyclones recovered it at the Oregon 27. They’d score a few plays later to make it 28-14, and that was pretty much the end. The Ducks would get a field goal before halftime to make it 28-17, but the second half devolved into an almost unwatchable slog. It was nothing but a series of punts and turnovers with a couple of field goals tossed in for variety. Pregame ranking: 7
6. Cheez-It Bowl
No. 21 Oklahoma State 37, No. 18 Miami 34: I’ll admit, I went into the Cheez-It Bowl with a bad attitude. It wasn’t because I thought the matchup was bad — I had ranked it eighth pregame — it was because I was upset about the Cheez-It Bowl moving. You know, I’m just your typical traditionalist who believes that the Cheez-It Bowl is an Arizona staple, and for the title sponsor to just up and move across the country to Florida is a sign of capitalism run amok! I then saw all the different Cheez-It circles filling the seats in Orlando, and I was in.
Of course, the game was not promising early. Oklahoma State jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, and when Miami QB D’Eriq King left the game with a torn ACL (which, ugh), it sure didn’t seem like there was much reason to continue watching. But the Hurricanes stormed back to make it a game, cutting the Cowboys lead to 21-19 in the third quarter. Sadly, that was as close as the Canes got, as the Cowboys offense woke up again and made it a 31-19 game early in the fourth before the teams traded a few more touchdowns to finish. Still, it was a three-point game with five minutes to go, and this year, that was worth something. Pregame ranking: 8
5. Orange Bowl
No. 5 Texas A&M 41, No. 13 North Carolina 27: The Orange Bowl will go down as a great gambling story for some and an absolute horror show for others. If you had the Aggies or the over, you were thrilled with the way the last few minutes of the game played out. If you were
on the Tar Heels or the under, you have my deepest sympathies.
But aside from all of it, it was still an entertaining game. Remember, at the top of this story like 5,000 words ago when I told you how there were only 14 lead changes during bowl games this year? Well, four of them were in this game. At alternating points of this game both Texas A&M and UNC led by at least a touchdown, and that includes the Tar Heels taking a 27-20 lead early in the fourth thanks to a 75-yard bomb from Sam Howell to Josh Downs only seconds after the Aggies had tied the game at 20. The Aggies took the lead right back, but this time they never gave it back, taking on two more touchdowns in the final minutes after North Carolina twice turned the ball over on downs. Pregame ranking: 6
4. Armed Forces Bowl
Mississippi State 28, Tulsa 26: This game was close throughout and looked absolutely miserable for all involved. It was cold and wet, and it’s no surprise that things seemed chippy throughout. Still, what this game will be remembered for was the brawl at the end, and deservedly so. It was an ugly ending to the game and something you never want to see, but I was bothered by a lot of the reaction I saw to it.
Frankly, I’m surprised we didn’t see more of this kind of thing. I’m not here to make excuses for anybody involved, but let’s consider the context of what the 2020 season was for the players. These are kids who were asked to be away from their families and friends for half the year. They were basically kept in quarantine on campus and not allowed to go anywhere. Some spent weeks isolating in hotel rooms because their roommate had COVID-19 or came in contact with someone who did. Every day they were subjected to a bunch of testing and other new regulations, all to play football games in return for scholarships to classes they aren’t even allowed to attend. Is it so crazy to think that there might not be some tension that needs to be released at the very end after dealing with all of that? Again, I’m not making excuses for the players involved, nor am I saying a lot of us didn’t go through a whole lot of horrible stuff this year, but maybe we can lay off the soapboxing and get off our pedestals for a bit? Pregame ranking: 21
3. Liberty Bowl
West Virginia 24, Army 21: I hardly saw any of this game live as I was doing pre and post-game coverage of the Arizona Bowl for CBS Sports HQ, but I did go back and watch it on the DVR afterward. It’s possible knowing the outcome affected my feelings about the game, but even without the live drama, I still enjoyed it. Like the Orange Bowl, the game featured four lead changes as the Mountaineers and Black Knights went back and forth. I was also interested in seeing how the ‘Eers would work their way back into it because, given how the offense had been playing, it sure felt like the game was over when Army took a 21-10 lead midway through the third quarter.
Then in stepped Austin Kendall, and while I’m not prepared to go as far as saying he played well (he completed fewer than half his passes), he played well enough. Particularly on the second touchdown drive when he completed four straight passes, capping it off with a 20-yard throw to T.J. Simmons to give the Mountaineers the lead. Army had more chances afterward, but Quinn Maretzki missed a 39-yard field goal with just under two minutes left that would’ve tied it. The Knights got the ball back after forcing a quick three-and-out, but Josh Chandler-Semedo picked off Christian Anderson with 29 seconds left to end the game. Pregame ranking: 12
2. Peach Bowl
No. 9 Georgia 24, No. 8 Cincinnati 21: Oh man, there were so many narratives flying at me on Twitter during this game. I couldn’t keep track of whether Georgia cared and didn’t want to be there or this game proved that the College Football Playoff Selection Committee was dumber than a box of rocks for not putting Cincinnati in the field. Remember when you could just watch bowl games and enjoy them?
Cincinnati declared that it was here to play early, taking a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter. Georgia quickly responded with a touchdown of its own, and after both defenses took turns issuing body blows, the Bulldogs took their first lead late in the second quarter. A lead that lasted just under four minutes before Desmond Ridder found Josh White for an 11-yard touchdown with six seconds left in the half. The Bearcats then opened the second half with a 79-yard touchdown run from Jerome Ford to make it 21-10.
We quickly learned that Georgia didn’t want to be there again! Until the fourth quarter when it did. The Bulldogs battled their way back in the final frame, taking a 22-21 lead thanks to a booming 53-yard field goal from Jack Podlesny with three seconds left. Then, just in case the game hadn’t been fun enough, we even got a safety on the final play. In the end, it turned out both Georgia and Cincinnati not only wanted to be there but deserved to be. Crazy! Pregame ranking: 4
1. Cure Bowl
Liberty 37, No. 12 Coastal Carolina 34 (OT): Man, you got to hand it to Coastal Carolina. They know how to play entertaining football games. No, the Chanticleers didn’t finish the season undefeated, but they had a clean sweep of sorts. Plenty of people believe Coastal’s 22-17 win over BYU was the best game of the regular season (I disagree, but it was certainly top 10), and now here I am saying the Chants played in the best bowl game of the season, too. Sure, there wasn’t a lot of competition this year, but this game didn’t win by default. It was a legitimate banger.
The two teams combined for 958 yards of offense and eight touchdowns. The 71 points scored in the game weren’t the most in a bowl this year, but they were the most in any game that even resembled a close contest. We also saw a comeback. When Liberty QB Malik Willis scored his fourth rushing touchdown of the day early in the fourth to give Liberty a 31-19 lead, it felt like the game might be over. Instead, Coastal responded quickly with a touchdown, and after holding the Flames to a field goal, drove 72 yards in six plays in the final minutes to make it 34-32. Coastal QB Grayson McCall then ran in the two-point conversion to send the game into overtime. Liberty’s Alex Barbier hit a 44-yard field goal in OT to win the game.
It was the only bowl to go to overtime this season, but this game was still very on-brand for the 2020 bowl season, even with the overtime and the comeback. That’s because the lead never changed hands. Liberty struck first to take a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, and it held onto the lead until the final minutes when Coastal tied it up to force overtime. Pregame ranking: 9
Bowls not played: Music City Bowl (17), Texas Bowl (19), Gasparilla Bowl (24)