Bowl season winners and losers: SEC heavyweights dominate, Pac-12 goes winless

For the second year in a row, COVID had an impact on the bowl season.

Five games were canceled and two teams served as replacements. Exclusions were a polarizing topic of conversation. That said, a total of 38 games will have been played when the college football playoff championship is played between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia on January 10 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Here’s a look at the conference-by-conference records before the Texas Bowl between LSU and Kansas State:

Conference Cup Records

CONFERENCE W L PCT
MWC 5 one .833
CAA 3 one .750
Sun belt 3 one .750
Big 12 4 two .667
Big ten 6 4 .600
Independent two two .500
SECOND 5 6 .455
EEC. USA 3 5 .375
MAC 3 5 .375
ACC two 4 .333
Pac-12 0 5 .000

2021-22 Bowl Winners and Losers

Winner: SEC heavyweights

Alabama and Georgia flexed in the CFP semifinals and staged a rematch of their 26-23 overtime classic in the 2018 CFP championship game. That means the conference is guaranteed a fifth national championship in the past seven seasons and a third consecutive championship.

The Crimson Tide made their way through Cincinnati 27-6 with the help of 204 rushing yards from Brian Robinson, a school bowl record. Now Nick Saban is back in the CFP championship game for the sixth time.

Georgia brushed off the SEC championship game loss to Alabama and defeated Michigan 34-11 in the Orange Bowl. Stetson Bennett threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns, and the defense flexed with All-Americans Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean.

As a result, Indianapolis will get some southern exposure from Crimson Tide and Bulldogs fans.

Loser: Cincinnati and Michigan

The Bearcats and Wolverines had outstanding seasons, but their offenses were outmatched in the semifinals.

Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder finished 17 of 32 passes for 144 yards, and the Bearcats finished with 26 rushing attempts for 74 yards. The defense was unable to stop Alabama’s hasty attack.

Michigan divided the time between quarterbacks Cade McNamara and JJ McCarthy, which will start a controversy heading into next season. Michigan had just 27 carries for 91 yards, and the defense couldn’t get a sack.

Luke Fickell and Jim Harbaugh did an extraordinary job in bringing their programs to this point. However, it is clear that there is more to do to catch up with the powerhouses of the SEC.

Winner: CJ Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Ohio State rallied from a two TD deficit to beat Utah 48-45 in the Rose Bowl, and that was made possible by the remarkable combination of CJ Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

Stroud finished with a record 573 passing yards in the Rose Bowl, breaking the record of 473 set by USC’s Sam Darnold in 2017. The Ohio State quarterback had a fantastic comeback performance after the loss to Michigan.

Smith-Njigba took advantage of an open spot left by Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, who opted out at Ohio State. Smith-Njigba finished with 15 receptions for a Rose Bowl-record 347 yards and three TDs. He had six catches aged 30 and over and was unstoppable against the Utes high school. Freshman Marvin Harrison Jr. also had three TD receptions.

The Buckeyes will be back in the top five in 2022.

Loser: Notre Dame defense

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The Irish built a 28-7 lead in the first half against Oklahoma State at the Fiesta Bowl, and it looked like Marcus Freeman’s debut would be a huge success.

The Cowboys had 232 yards at halftime, but a TD late in the first half started a rally in which Oklahoma State scored 30 unanswered points in a 37-35 victory. It was the first time that Notre Dame lost a 21-point lead and lost since 2004.

Oklahoma State had 605 total yards of offense despite converting just 3 of 14 on third downs. Spencer Sanders also burned the Irish defense with 371 passing yards and 125 rushing yards.

It’s Freeman’s first game, but it’s his first loss to a top-10 team. Notre Dame opens at Ohio State to start in 2022.

Winner: Mountain West and AAC

Cincinnati came to the CFP for the American Athletic Conference, and that was the conference’s only loss. Houston beat Auburn in the Birmingham Bowl and UCF beat Florida in the Gasparilla Bowl. Those were notable scores against SEC schools, with Tulsa adding a win against Old Dominion in the Myrtle Beach Bowl.

It could have been an even better record, but East Carolina and SMU canceled their bowl games.

The Mountain West led all conferences with a 5-1 record. Utah State beat Oregon State in the Los Angeles Bowl and San Diego State beat UTSA in a G5 battle of champions at the Frisco Bowl. The Air Force scored another victory over a Power 5 school against Louisville, and Wyoming and Fresno State each earned victories. That legitimized a solid season for the conference.

Loser: Pac-12

The Pac-12 is a conference fighting for respect among the Power 5. Utah’s loss in the Rose Bowl was tough considering quarterback Cameron Rising left in the second half with an injury, but that was the loss. high profile.

Oklahoma defeated Oregon in the Alamo Bowl. Arizona State lost to Wisconsin, and Washington State and Oregon State lost to Group of 5 opponents.

The conference had some coaching changes this cycle, including the addition of USC to Lincoln Riley and Oregon hiring Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning. The conference has yet to have a college football playoff qualified team since 2016 and has not won a bowling game since 2019.

Winner: Clemson and Oklahoma

Reports of the respective disappearance of these programs are exaggerated.

Clemson capped a 10-win season with a win against Iowa State in the Cheez-It Bowl, and Dabo Swinney celebrated like any other major win. New coordinators Brandon Streeter and Wes Goodwin took on their new roles, and the Tigers won 10 games for the 11th consecutive season.

Oklahoma will start a new regime under Brent Venables in 2022, but the Sooners showed powerful offense under former coach Bob Stoops in the Alamo Bowl against Oregon. Caleb Williams, who had a bumpy freshman season, threw for 242 yards and three TDs. He’ll be better off with a full offseason as a starter.

These teams will also be back in the playoffs next season. They are not that far.

Loser: Opt-out talk

It’s part of the game. Accept it and move on. PItt’s Kenny Pickett and Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III did not play in the Peach Bowl, and the teams played a thriller that ended in the final series. Michigan State won 31-21, and it shouldn’t affect either team’s outlook heading into 2021.

Ohio State had several key players out, but wide receiver Chris Olave stayed on the sidelines and coached the other young receivers for the Buckeyes. Smith-Njigba and Harrison, Julian Fleming and Emeka Egbuka did well with their opportunity and can build on that for next season.

Of course, the high point came when Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral left the Sugar Bowl with a leg injury. Corral, who is projected as one of the top quarterbacks selected in the 2022 NFL Draft, made his intentions clear before the bowl game. It was his decision and he appears to have prevented serious injury.

If players choose not to participate, that’s fine. If they play, that’s fine too. It is your decision.