The college football season is almost fully over, with only Clemson and Alabama left this upcoming Monday. Here were the worst of the bowl games after 39 contests over the course of two and a half weeks:
This was the bowl game so bad, everyone was talking about it. The game was colorfully referred to as the “Cheez INT Bowl,” since so many interceptions were thrown. How many? Nine. California threw five picks, while TCU threw “only” four of them. The difference in the game was that Cal’s fifth interception was thrown in overtime. All TCU had to do was kick a field goal to win, and since overtime possessions begin on the opponent’s 25-yard line, TCU was already in field goal range. One first down was all TCU needed to get into comfortable field goal range and win the Cheez-It Bowl in overtime.
TCU won despite throwing for under 30 yards. The Horned Frogs simply could not do anything in the passing game except for one first-down-gaining pass in the fourth quarter. California threw one of its interceptions deep in TCU territory in the first half of the game. That mistake loomed large as the game wore on. Both teams carried strong defenses into this game, but a lot of the mistakes made by the quarterbacks had very little to do with the defenses on the field. TCU 10, California 7 – no one will forget it, even though everyone will try to.
The San Diego State Aztecs simply had nothing to offer in this game. They struggled late in the regular season and clearly gained no refreshment or momentum in the multiple weeks separating the end of the regular season from their bowl game. San Diego State collected only 287 yards in this game and completed only 12 of 26 passes. The Aztecs committed two turnovers. This was a very impotent performance, but as you will see, it was hardly the only such performance from the bowls.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish deserved to be in the College Football Playoff. They went unbeaten, and they played a lot of well-known brand-name schools to get there, such as USC and Florida State and Michigan, among many others. Yet, the Fighting Irish had not beaten any of the top five or six teams in the nation, which led a lot of people to think that when they faced Clemson in the Cotton Bowl – the first of two playoff semifinals – they would be overmatched.
Those worries were justified, and they emerged before a national television audience in suburban Dallas. Notre Dame simply could not handle Clemson’s defensive line, and this was with Clemson missing one of its elite defensive lineman, Dexter Lawrence. Notre Dame did not have enough speed at the wide receiver position or enough power up front to do anything of note against Clemson’s defense. The Tigers had a weak secondary, but Notre Dame’s passing game simply could not expose it. The Tigers were up 23-3 at halftime, and the game felt over. The final score was 30-3, with Notre Dame getting overwhelmed and buried in the second half.
This game was almost as bad as the Cheez-It Bowl. The team that went 2 of 14 on third-down conversions, and collected just 203 yards and 11 first downs, is the team which won the game. Oregon had those horrible numbers on offense, and the Ducks controlled the ball for under 23 minutes compared to Michigan State’s total of nearly 38 minutes. Yet, Oregon won, because Michigan State missed one field goal and botched and other field goal when the holder couldn’t get the ball down in time for the kicker. There weren’t a ton of turnovers in this game, but no offense could do anything right. Oregon failed miserably on a fake punt in Michigan State territory. This was a comedy of errors, but without the turnovers in the Cheez-It Bowl between Cal and TCU.
This is the game which led a coach, Miami’s Mark Richt, to resign. Miami fell behind 14-0 in the opening minutes and could never straighten out its own offense against Wisconsin. The Hurricanes never did score a touchdown and looked painfully out of their element in 40-degree New York weather at Yankee Stadium. Wisconsin, despite playing a backup quarterback, Jack Coan, easily thumped Miami, 35-3, in a very forgettable and lopsided game.