Washington, Michigan, and the SEC were the big winners and losers in college football's bowl season.
Washington, Michigan, and the SEC were the big winners and losers in college football’s bowl season.

Michigan will play Washington in next Monday’s College Football Playoff national championship game. That’s the last game before the break.

The Wolverines finally got over the hump in the playoffs by beating Alabama in the Rose Bowl. They will now have the chance to win the program’s first national title since 1948 that wasn’t split with another team.

Texas lost to Washington in the second playoff, but senior quarterback Michael Penix Jr. had a great game and was named the offensive MVP.

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It was a pretty good bowl season for the SEC, even though the Crimson Tide lost. The Power Five teams were beaten by Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Missouri. Georgia came back from losing to Florida State by 60 points, which was their first loss in two years.

These teams have won or lost the most during bowl season, with only the national title left to decide:

WHO WON

Michigan

Michigan made a big step forward as a team with a 27–20 overtime win over Alabama in the Rose Bowl. This came after losing to Georgia and TCU in the playoffs in a row. In the second overtime game in the history of the playoff semifinals, Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe ran right into the Michigan defenders on fourth-and-goal, which led to a strange call. That stop tells the story of the Wolverines’ whole season. In big wins over Penn State, Ohio State, and Alabama, they have just been the more tough and aggressive team.

Washington

The win over the Longhorns in the Sugar Bowl put to rest any doubts about Washington’s toughness level that had been raised by the other three teams in this year’s playoff. Plus, the Huskies have a great quarterback: Penix was great against Texas, and so was his large and experienced group of receivers. Even though the Huskies were a bit of an underdog against the Wolverines, it’s clear that they are ready to win one more game and bring back the national title to the Pac-12 before the season ends.

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Tennessee

The Vols’ 35-0 win over Iowa in the Citrus Bowl showed a lot about the future with young quarterback Nico Iamaleava at quarterback. After being a five-star recruit, the quarterback made his first start and finished 12 of 19 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. He also scored three touchdowns on the ground. Overall, Tennessee’s 383 yards of offense were the second-most Iowa had given up all season, after Penn State’s 397 yards in late September.

Mississippi

After beating Penn State 38–25 in the Peach Bowl, the Ole Miss fame train is ready to leave the station. The Rebels’ progress under Lane Kiffin was questioned all year because they lost important games against Alabama and Georgia. The win, along with the arrival of the nation’s top transfer class, gives Ole Miss a lot of momentum to be one of the best teams in the SEC going into the 2024 season. It’s easy to see why the crowd might grow now that quarterback Jaxson Dart is set to come back.

Missouri

Ohio State’s defense held Missouri in check until the last drive of the third quarter. In the last 20 minutes, Missouri scored on two plays of at least 90 yards to beat Ohio State 14-3 in the Cotton Bowl. The Tigers’ offense continued to depend on All-America running back Cody Schrader, who ended with 29 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver Luther Burden was mostly held in check until a late touchdown. Missouri had a great season under coach Eli Drinkwitz. They went 11-2 and should finish in the top seven of the final US LBM Coaches Poll.

Kansas

Kansas’s ninth win season? Under coach Lance Leipold, the program keeps going through the roof. He took over the worst school in the Power Five by a huge margin and turned the Jayhawks into one of the best teams in the new Big 12. Like everyone thought it would, Kansas beat UNLV 49–36 in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl thanks to 591 yards of offense led by Jason Bean’s 449 passing yards and six scores.

Northwestern

Northwestern had a great year. The rape scandal in the summer was one of the lowest points in the program’s history, but they still won eight games under new coach David Braun. In the Las Vegas Bowl, they beat Utah 14–7, even though Utah was having trouble finding offensive playmakers and only had 211 yards and three mistakes.

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WHO LOSE

Alabama

With less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter and Alabama up 17-13, they had a chance to put Michigan away but missed a 52-yard field goal. That let Michigan tie the game with 1:34 left in regulation and then win it in overtime thanks to Blake Corum’s 17-yard touchdown and the defensive stop. Even though both teams made mistakes, it was the Tide who lost in the semifinals, which was Nick Saban’s first loss in that game. In the end, Alabama should be praised for getting this far after a slow start in September, but they weren’t quite ready to win the national title.

Texas

Washington had the ball for more than 36 minutes and kept the Texas offense from getting going. Even so, it’s hard to understand why the Longhorns didn’t put even more effort into the running game, since they were already so good at it. Late in the game, turnovers meant the difference between going home and going to the championship game. Texas did not do a good job of defending the football and paid for it. Under Steve Sarkisian, this team is getting better, but you never know when a chance like this will come up.

Ohio State

Ohio State lost 14–3 to Missouri without their starting quarterback Kyle McCord, their star wide receiver Marvin Harrison, and Devin Brown, who was supposed to replace McCord but hurt his ankle in the second quarter. They only managed 203 yards of offense in the game. Being that McCord is now at Syracuse and Harrison is off to the NFL, this attack is in a lot of doubt going into next season. This is coach Ryan Day’s fourth loss in six playoff games.

State of Florida

Even before the game started, this wasn’t fair: FSU was playing with almost no players because dozens of them had left or transferred, quickly making this the worst bowl game of the season. Georgia beat the Seminoles 63–3 in the Orange Bowl, which makes the Bulldogs even more of a team to beat going into 2024. How you see the loss from FSU’s point of view might rely on how you saw the four-team playoff: If you thought the Seminoles didn’t deserve to be there, this 60-point loss will show you otherwise. If you thought FSU should’ve been in the top four as the third unbeaten team in the FBS, it’s easy to look at the Seminoles’ thin squad and say that the bowl game doesn’t show the whole story of their season.

Auburn

Following Auburn’s 31–13 loss to Maryland in the Music City Bowl, coach Hugh Freeze said that he “didn’t get too involved” in the Tigers’ offensive plan “because of recruiting.” It would be silly to say otherwise, so this may be true. But Freeze’s public statement makes you wonder: Can’t he coach and recruit at the same time when he makes $6.5 million a year? That looks like something other teachers do, but who knows?

Miami (Fla.)

Miami has been around for a year. On the one hand, the Hurricanes beat Texas A&M and Clemson to get into the bowl game after Mario Cristobal’s first season as head coach ended with a losing record. But in the Pinstripe Bowl, they lost to Rutgers 31–24. This was the last game of a losing streak of four in five games for Miami in the late season. In early November, the Heat looked like they were ready to get going in 2024, but now they’re limping into the summer at a new low.

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SMU

The Future A 23–14 loss in the Fenway Bowl to Boston College, which placed 10th in the conference, gave SMU a taste of what life is like in the current Power Five league. Please understand that the Eagles are not the best team in the ACC. To join, the Mustangs are also giving up nine years of payments from the ACC TV deal, which I’m sure the league respects.

North Carolina

West Virginia beat North Carolina 30–10 in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. North Carolina had been 6-0 before the second half. The only good thing about the loss was that Mack Brown didn’t have to eat a lot of mayonnaise. Other than that, this was a huge letdown for the Tar Heels. They gave up a score on the first play of the game and couldn’t get the offense going with young quarterback Connor Harrell, who is expected to take over for Drake Maye, who is going to the NFL.

Eastern Michigan

It wasn’t bad enough that Eastern Michigan lost the Ventures Bowl 69–10 to South Alabama; they made it even worse by starting a fight on the field while the Jaguars were singing their fight song. That’s a black eye that’s much worse than a 59-point damage, if that’s even possible.

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