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Thursday, January 10, 2008
Updated: January 11, 2:04 PM ET
What's hot (and not) from bowl season

By Mark Schlabach
ESPN.com

Running backs and high-powered offenses were hot during college football's postseason. So were the SEC and Mountain West. Academic suspensions, interim coaches and the ACC? Not so hot. Here's a look at the best and worst from college football's bowl season:

What's Hot and Not from the 2007 College Football Bowl Season
HOT
NOT
SEC. Its teams went 7-2 in bowl games, with LSU beating Ohio State 38-24 in the Allstate BCS Championship Game, and Georgia drilling Hawaii 41-10 in the Sugar. Arkansas and Florida were the only losers. ACC. The league continued to struggle in the postseason with a 2-6 record in bowl games. Boston College and Wake Forest were the ACC's only winners. ACC champion Virginia Tech lost to Kansas 24-21 in the FedEx Orange Bowl, leaving the ACC with a 1-9 record in BCS bowl games since 1999.
Lame-duck Lloyd. Michigan sent coach Lloyd Carr out a winner, beating Florida 41-35 in the Capital One Bowl in one of the biggest surprises of the bowl season. With quarterback Chad Henne and tailback Mike Hart finally healthy, the Wolverines had 524 yards of offense against the 2006 national champions. Interim coaches. Teams with part-time coaches went 1-6 in bowl games, with West Virginia beating Oklahoma 48-28 in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl for the only victory. Navy, UCLA, Houston, Texas A&M, Georgia Tech and Arkansas all lost their bowl games with new coaches on the sideline.
Mountain West. It might have surpassed the WAC as the hottest non-BCS conference going into the 2008 season. BYU, New Mexico, TCU and Utah won their bowl games, and Air Force had a 21-0 lead over California in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. The Falcons lost after quarterback Shaun Carney suffered a knee injury in the second half. Big Ten. The much-maligned conference sent eight teams to bowl games and won only three. Ohio State was pummeled in the BCS Championship Game by an SEC opponent for the second season in a row, and Illinois was annihilated by Southern California 49-17 in the Rose Bowl presented by Citi. Big Ten teams are 6-9 in BCS bowl games since 2000.
Running backs. Missouri's Tony Temple (281 yards in a 38-7 rout of Arkansas in the AT&T Cotton Bowl) and Rutgers' Ray Rice (280 yards in a 52-30 blowout of Ball State) produced two of the three highest rushing totals in bowl history. Oregon's Jonathan Stewart had 253 rushing yards in a 56-21 win over South Florida in the Brut Sun Bowl, and East Carolina's Chris Johnson had 223 yards in a 41-38 upset of Boise State in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. Kevin Smith. The Division I-A rushing leader went into the AutoZone Liberty Bowl against Mississippi State needing 180 yards to tie the NCAA single-season record of 2,628 yards set by Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders in 1988. The Bulldogs' stout defense held Smith to only 119 yards in State's 10-3 victory. Smith averaged only 3.4 yards on 35 carries and didn't score a touchdown.
Drought breakers. New Mexico beat Nevada 23-0 in the New Mexico Bowl, ending a 46-year drought in bowl games. It was New Mexico's first victory in a bowl game since beating Western Michigan 28-12 in the 1961 Aviation Bowl. Still on the clock: Northwestern (last bowl win in 1949 Rose Bowl), Rice (1954 Cotton Bowl), Vanderbilt (1955 Gator Bowl) and New Mexico State (1960 Sun Bowl). Losing streaks. Houston lost to TCU 20-13 in the Texas Bowl, the Cougars' eighth consecutive loss in a bowl game. The Cougars' losing streak is second longest in the country. Notre Dame didn't play in a bowl game, so its nine-game losing streak remained intact. The Fighting Irish haven't won a bowl game since beating Texas A&M 24-21 in the 1994 Cotton Bowl and their nine-game losing streak in the postseason is an NCAA record.
Replacement QBs. Oregon's Justin Roper helped Ducks fans forget about injured starter Dennis Dixon. In his first career start, Roper completed 17 of 30 passes for 180 yards with four touchdowns in the rout of South Florida in the Sun Bowl. California's Kevin Riley completed 16 of 19 passes for 269 yards with three touchdown passes and one scoring run in the Bears' 42-36 win over Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl. Colt Brennan. Hawaii's offensive line couldn't protect Heisman Trophy finalist Colt Brennan from Georgia's defense in the Sugar Bowl. Brennan completed 22 of 38 passes for 169 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions. Brennan was sacked eight times and fumbled twice, including one that Georgia defensive end Marcus Howard recovered for a touchdown.
Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane routed Bowling Green 63-7 in the GMAC Bowl, the most lopsided score in bowl history. The 56-point margin surpassed Alabama's 61-6 victory over Syracuse in the 1953 Orange Bowl. Tulsa quarterback Paul Smith passed for 312 yards and five touchdowns, setting an NCAA record with his 14th consecutive 300-yard passing performance. Smith also became the seventh player in NCAA history to throw for 5,000 yards in a season. Nevada. New Mexico shut out the Wolf Pack 23-0 in the New Mexico Bowl, the first time Nevada was held scoreless in 330 games. The Wolf Pack's previous 329-game scoring streak was the longest in the country and second longest in NCAA history. Nevada hadn't been shut out since a 10-0 loss to Weber State on Sept. 27, 1980, and hadn't been held scoreless since moving to Division I-A in 1992.
First win. Florida Atlantic won its first bowl game by beating Memphis 44-27 in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. The Owls won their first bowl game under 73-year-old coach Howard Schnellenberger, who started the program from scratch seven years ago. Florida Atlantic didn't move to the NCAA's Bowl Subdivision until 2005. First (December) loss. Florida State's Bobby Bowden has led the Seminoles to 26 consecutive bowl games and two national titles, but Kentucky handed him his first loss in a December bowl game, 35-28 in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl. Bowden had a previous record of 7-0-1 in bowl games played before New Year's Day. Bowden, major college football's winningest coach, remains one victory ahead of Penn State's Joe Paterno with 373 career victories.
Winning streaks. Boston College won its eighth bowl game in a row, beating Michigan State 24-21 in the Champs Sports Bowl. The Eagles' winning streak is the longest in the country. Utah is second with a seven-game winning streak after beating Navy 35-32 in the San Diego Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. Oregon State and Texas each have four-game winning streaks in bowl games, third longest in Division I-A. Losing seasons. Four teams that lost bowl games finished the 2007 season with 6-7 records, not the kind of momentum coaches prefer to take into the offseason. Colorado, Maryland, Nevada and UCLA failed to earn winning records by losing their bowl games. Alabama, California and Oklahoma State avoided such fate by winning their bowl games.
Joe Paterno. Penn State's 81-year-old coach won an NCAA-record 23rd bowl game in his 500th game on the sideline, beating Texas A&M 24-17 in the Valero Alamo Bowl. Paterno became only the second man to coach in 500 games, joining Amos Alonzo Stagg (548 games). Paterno has three more bowl victories than Florida State's Bowden and eight more than legendary Alabama coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. Bob Stoops. Stoops led Oklahoma to the 2000 national championship, but the Sooners haven't fared well in BCS bowl games since. Oklahoma was embarrassed by West Virginia 48-28 in the Fiesta Bowl, the Sooners' fourth consecutive loss in a BCS game. The Sooners were stunned by Boise State 43-42 in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, after losing to USC 55-19 in the 2005 Orange Bowl. LSU beat the Sooners 21-14 in the 2004 Sugar Bowl.
Great finishes. BYU's Eathyn Manumaleuna blocked a field goal as time expired to beat UCLA 17-16 in the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl. Purdue's Chris Summers kicked a 40-yard field goal as time expired to beat Central Michigan 51-48 in the Motor City Bowl. Texas Tech erased a 14-point deficit in the final three-and-a-half minutes and then kicked a 41-yard field goal with two seconds to go to beat Virginia 31-28 in the Gator Bowl. Auburn beat Clemson 23-20 in overtime in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on quarterback Kodi Burns' 7-yard touchdown run. BCS blowouts. The biggest bowl games -- Fiesta, Orange, Rose, Sugar and BCS Championship Game -- were decided by an average of 20 points. Kansas' 24-21 victory over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl was the only BCS game decided by fewer than two touchdowns. USC beat Illinois by 32 points in the Rose Bowl. Georgia beat Hawaii by 31 in the Sugar Bowl. West Virginia beat Oklahoma by 20 in the Fiesta Bowl. LSU beat Ohio State by 14 in the BCS title game.
Fantastic finish. Wake Forest's Micah Andrews never fully recovered from a torn ACL he suffered two years ago, but the senior tailback put the Demon Deacons on his back in the fourth quarter of a 24-10 win over Connecticut in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Andrews ran for 64 yards in the game and his 9-yard touchdown run with 29 seconds left was a fitting end to the season. Unhappy endings. Several teams were hit with academic-related suspensions for their bowl games. Florida State had as many as 20 players suspended for the Music City Bowl, and the Seminoles arrived in Nashville without 36 of the players on their roster. New Mexico lost leading rusher Rodney Ferguson because of academic problems, and Tennessee lost leading receiver Lucas Taylor and five other players because of poor grades. Boise State, Clemson, Michigan State and Oklahoma also dealt with suspensions before their bowl games.
"The Hat". Les Miles delivered LSU's second national championship in five years, a few weeks after turning down an opportunity to coach Michigan, his alma mater. After Miles led the Tigers to a decisive win over Ohio State, the Wolverines were lamenting losing a coach who could actually beat the Buckeyes. "The Vest". Ohio State's Jim Tressel faced serious questions after his team lost badly in the BCS title game for the second year in a row. But give the head Buckeye credit: Tressel faced the masses, flying commercial out of New Orleans the day after his team lost.
Ball-hawking defensive backs. More than a few players had multiple interceptions in bowl games. Cincinnati's DeAngelo Smith (three), Boston College's Jamie Silva (two), Oregon's Jairus Byrd (two), Mississippi State's Derek Pegues (two) and Texas' Brandon Foster (two) each provided game-changing plays. Kansas' Aqib Talib had only one interception, but returned it 60 yards for a touchdown in the Orange Bowl. Brian Hoyer . The Michigan State quarterback ended a pretty good season with a bowl performance to forget. Hoyer was intercepted four times in the Spartans' 24-21 loss to Boston College in the Champs Sports Bowl. He threw an interception in the Eagles' end zone and at the BC 11. Hoyer also lost a fumble at the Michigan State 11 and threw an interception to end the Spartans' final drive.
Great beginning. West Virginia coach Bill Stewart parlayed the Mountaineers' 48-28 upset of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl into a full-time job. Less than 24 hours after the game, Stewart was named Rich Rodriguez's full-time replacement. At a time when West Virginia needed healing, Stewart delivered. Tacky endings. Give college football players an inch, and they'll take a yard. The end zone flip became the celebration du jour this bowl season. Once game officials let it slide during Alabama's win over Colorado in the Independence Bowl, the practice became a near-pandemic. Players from Florida State, Southern Cal and West Virginia were flagged for excessive celebrations.
Sylvester Croom . The Mississippi State coach won his first bowl game, leading the Bulldogs to a 10-3 victory over Central Florida in the Autozone Liberty Bowl. It was Mississippi State's first win in a bowl game since 2000 and came on the same field where Croom worked as an Alabama assistant in Paul "Bear" Bryant's final game a quarter-century ago. Chris Jessie . Texas coach Mack Brown's stepson cost the Longhorns the football when he came off the sideline and, according to officials, touched the football after Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter fumbled. Texas was called for illegal touching. and the Sun Devils were given the football back. The play ultimately led to an Arizona State touchdown, but the Longhorns won the game handily, 52-34.

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.