Time to take a look at the best and worst of bowl season in the ACC.
Best game: Chik-fil-A Bowl, Clemson 25, LSU 24. How many bowl games delivered more drama than the Chick-fil-A Bowl? None. Just when LSU fans thought they would see their Tigers cruise to yet another win against the ACC, Tajh Boyd said, "Not so fast my friends!" Entering the fourth quarter down 24-13, Boyd engineered three fourth-quarter scoring drives. The most impressive? Clemson got the ball at its 20 with 1:39 remaining, down two. None of the 10 plays in the drive were more impressive than a fourth-and-16 completion to DeAndre Hopkins that went 26 yards. Chandler Catanzaro kicked the 37-yard, game-winning field goal to give the Tigers the win and 11 wins for just the fourth time in school history.
Best coaching performance: Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech. We could have gone a few different directions with this category. Dabo Swinney deserves major credit for beating LSU, but I am going with Johnson here because he needed a win in the Hyundai Sun Bowl against USC more than Swinney needed a win against LSU. Johnson had the big oh-fer next to his name under the bowl record category. His team was sent to El Paso, again, to take on the former No. 1 team in the nation. Nobody really thought the Jackets would compete. Well, they did more than compete. They blasted USC, holding the Trojans to seven points in their best defensive game of the season. USC was not who we thought they were, but who cares. Johnson deserves credit for beating a team that had a talent advantage at just about every position.
Best celebration: Speaking of Swinney, I know you all saw him bear hug ESPN sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards after the victory. Best. Candid. Celebration. Ever.
Best performance in a loss: Sean Renfree, Duke. The Blue Devils gave it the ol' college try in the Belk Bowl against Cincinnati, jumping out to a quick 16-0 lead before losing it, then taking a 31-27 lead early in the fourth quarter before losing it for good. Renfree did his part to get the Blue Devils their first bowl win since 1960, setting Belk Bowl records for completions (37), attempts (49) and passing yards (358), and adding a 10-yard touchdown pass to Conner Vernon. He did have two interceptions, but Duke would not have been in position to win without the way Renfree played.
Best defensive performance: Florida State. There were four excellent defensive performances during bowl season, but I am giving the nod to Florida State for a variety of reasons. First, the Seminoles were playing a team with a pretty prolific quarterback. Georgia Tech, Clemson and Virginia Tech most certainly did not. And the story all week leading into the game was how Florida State would stop dual-threat quarterback Jordan Lynch. Well those questions were answered, as Lynch had his worst game of the season with 176 yards passing, 44 yards rushing and one total touchdown. Northern Illinois managed 83 yards rushing, the first time all season it was held below 100 yards on the ground.
Best quote: “First off, I was just proud to be a part of this organization, honestly. The good and the bad, I understand that. That's what you're going to get as a quarterback, and Coach Fisher and I have had plenty of conversations. It's a part of the job. You're going to take the blame and you're going to get the credit, even though sometimes it's not deserved when you win. Good or bad, I'm just happy for my team. We won a BCS game. It doesn't get any better than that. We won 12 games, we won all my bowl games I've had an opportunity to play in my career. The biggest thing, we wanted to leave a legacy. A lot of the guys that came in the ‘08 and ‘09 class, we wanted to leave a legacy here at Florida State and … change the culture of what we do here. It wasn't an overnight process, but you're reaping the benefits right now, and that's why we're here, and that's why we won this game.” -- FSU quarterback EJ Manuel
Best performance: Clemson's Hopkins: He set a Chick-fil-A Bowl record with 190 receiving yards. The bowl was first played in 1968. Hopkins also caught a touchdown pass in 10 straight games, breaking the ACC record. Virginia’s Herman Moore caught a touchdown pass in nine straight games in 1990. Hopkins had touchdown catches in 12 of Clemson’s 13 games this season. No other ACC player has caught a touchdown pass in more than 10 games in the same season.
Best stat: 4-2, the ACC’s first winning bowl record since 2005.
Worst bowl game: The Russell Athletic Bowl: Zzzz. Even if you love defense like Bud Foster, this game was painful to watch. A Russell Athletic Bowl record for total punts was set with 21. It was the lowest-scoring game in the bowl’s history. The Hokies had 3 yards rushing. And won.
Worst offense: Virginia Tech. Out of 70 bowl teams, the Hokies tied Rutgers for the worst offensive output during bowl season. Each team managed a paltry 196 yards of total offense. No other team finished with under 200.
Worst stat: Five turnovers by NC State in the 38-24 loss to Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl.
Worst stat II: Two turnovers by Duke in the red zone, including a fumble at the Cincy 5 with 1:20 left to play.