The Mountain West’s Mountain Division, thanks to bowl wins by Utah State and Air Force, produced four teams with 10 or more wins. The Mountain West West Division, due to losses by Nevada and San Diego State, failed to produce a single team with at least eight wins.
The Big Ten West had Wisconsin… and that was about it in terms of impressive bowl performances. The Big Ten East featured the main-event successes of both Ohio State and Michigan State, plus bowl conquests by Rutgers and Penn State.
The SEC East did go 5-0, but its bowl lineup consisted of injury-depleted Louisville; Minnesota; East Carolina; Miami; and Iowa. The SEC West was terrible in its bowl games, but its lineup was Ohio State, Georgia Tech, TCU, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, West Virginia, and Texas. If you switched opponents for the two divisions, the SEC East would not have finished with a winning record. It’s all about matchups… and divisions have a lot to do with them. Imagine how different college football would be with division-less conferences.
(Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
9 – Thin conferences, strong individual teams
The Big Ten and Big 12 were not very deep this season — getting shredded in bowl games will reveal such a reality. Yet, while these conferences failed to demonstrated quality depth, the top two teams in each league — Ohio State and Michigan State; TCU and Baylor — all proved to be worthy of the hype. Quality teams stood out from their conference homes.
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
8 – Replay administration continues to be spotty at best
The incorrect ruling on a goal-line play in LSU’s Music City Bowl loss to Notre Dame was just one of many instances of replay-booth failure during the bowls. Early in the Sugar Bowl, an Ohio State receiver made an acrobatic Odell Beckham-level catch… or at least, he came close. Yet, the replay booth did not ask for an extended review. It is alarming how many plays were either evaluated incorrectly or did not gain the time needed for a thorough review.
(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
7 – ACC makes three, thanks to the bees
Remember when Clemson beat LSU in the 2012 Peach Bowl to announce itself as a program that had arrived and could beat quality SEC opponents? Georgia Tech’s win over Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl has that same feel. This victory was gigantic for the Jackets and the ACC.
(Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
6 – Comeback craziness
The 34-point fourth-quarter by Central Michigan in the Bahamas Bowl, capped by the Hail Mary to end all Hail Marys, mesmerized those who watched the full game on Christmas Eve and presumably had all their shopping done in advance. Yet, Central Michigan didn’t punctuate that comeback with a winning two-point conversion. Houston, on the other hand, did finish a miraculous comeback, erasing a 34-13 deficit in the final four minutes of regulation to snatch the Armed Forces Bowl from Pittsburgh. This was a bowl season made for comebacks, including Ohio State coming from 21-6 down to beat Alabama.
(AP Photo/Sharon Ellman)
5 – The little guys stood tall
Boise State, given a chance to play in a New Year’s Six bowl, came through against Arizona. Marshall crushed Northern Illinois in the only battle of conference champions outside the two playoff semifinals. Louisiana-Lafayette won a bowl for the fourth straight year, resisting the temptation to get bored at returning to New Orleans. Power to the little people — the teams outside the Power 5 that had big opportunities mostly took advantage of them (Northern Illinois being one of a few exceptions).
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
4 – The 2015 Big 12 should remain non-traditional
The coaching staff shakeups at both Oklahoma and Texas after dismal bowl performances point to one core reality about the 2015 Big 12 race: It will once again be contested primarily by the non-traditional powers in the league. TCU and Baylor are going to go at it again. If anyone joins them, OU and Texas do not yet seem like prime candidates. Oklahoma State might be the team that can make some noise.
(AP Photo/LM Otero)
3 – Mark Helfrich is good, but Urban Meyer and Gary Patterson are great
Oregon’s head coach has Marcus Mariota to lead the way. Ohio State, on the other hand, has had to prepare multiple quarterbacks due to injuries. TCU’s Trevone Boykin is marvelously talented, but he made more than his share of mistakes in the Peach Bowl. No two coaches have done a better job with their teams this season than Urban Meyer and Gary Patterson. They simply could not have done more than what they have. Meyer gets one more chance to outflank a gifted team next Monday night.
(AP Photo/Bill Haber)
2 – The Pac-12 made its case
The Pac-12’s best team played its best on the biggest stage in the sport against the defending national champions. The league’s third-best team clocked the Big 12’s third-best team. Four other teams in the league scored bowl victories, one being Utah in a regional turf battle against 10-win Colorado State. Only Arizona gummed up the works for the Pac-12, but the point remains that the conference deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the SEC this season.
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
1 – If the BCS existed, Florida State and Alabama would have played for the national title
This is all you need to know if you’re unsure about whether the BCS or the playoff is the better and fairer system for college football.