For the College football fan the last week in December is as exciting as waiting on the fat man falling down the chimney. This year 40 bowl games were played. Yes, some are meaningless. Yes, some are dull. All have daft sponsorship names. But the non stop action is a joy to behold and if you watched the final two games of 2017 – the two play off games, well Santa delivered big time.
The Oklahoma Georgia game is being described as the greatest game in Bowl history. It certainly lived up to the Rose Bowl hype. The Rose Bowl is the grand-daddy of them all. It is the Wembley twin towers, Madison Square Garden, the tunnel at Monaco and the Road Hole at St Andrews all rolled in to one. Was it better than the classic 2005 Rosebowl when Texas overcame the team of the decade, USC? That my friends is another debate on another day.
But back to the Bowls. You have seen them. I’m not going to replay them. But I will share with you my highlights .
Armed Forces Bowl. Who didn’t love the stat that Army receivers caught the ball only twelve times in the whole of the season? The Army running game is effective. This year they beat Navy and played their way to a Bowl game, which they won. #GoArmyBeatNavy
Alamo Bowl. Coaching genius Gary Patterson took his widely talented TCU to San Antonio to face the greatest defence in the West, the Stanford Cardinals. Both teams at the start of the season were widely tipped as Play off contenders but it was TCU who were closest to living up to the pre season hype. In a hugely entertaining game TCU took the honours in a sensational 4th quarter comeback. Up until then Heisman finalist Bryce Love had lit up the game with a 69 yard return to give the Cardinals a 18 point lead. This seemed like a fitting end to the busted up running back’s sensational Stanford career as he departs for life in the NFL. But fairy story it wasn’t and step up Kenny Hill, best known as Johnny Football’s back up at Texas A&M (and latterly equally trouble maker), to create and score 21 unanswered points. A proper Bowl game. Take a bow young master Love.
Pinstripe Bowl. Always a favourite of mine. If only for the fact it’s played in the Bronx at Yankee Stadium. Iowa 27, Boston College 20. Football in the Bronx. ‘Nuff said.
Getting to the big games – the Cotton Bowl (sadly no longer played at THE Cotton Bowl but instead at AT&T stadium). This was billed as Sam Darnold’s coming out parade, as he makes his way to the NFL. It was memorable in so much that JT Barrett took the opportunity to remind us all that he is still a great QB and even better athlete and that Sam Darnold knows how to throw a pick six or three. Young Mr Darnold has much to learn but yet has elected to enter this years draft. Giants beware young QB’s promising great things. Urban Myer collects another bowl. Ohio State 24 USC 7 – a blowout.
Perhaps the game which has thrown up the most controversy is the Peach Bowl where the UCF Black Knights overcame the much fancied and close but no cigar play-off contenders Auburn. Auburn were hot Vegas favourites pre game but were really taken to the cleaners by the Central Florida Knights. Why controversial? Well UCF are the only undefeated team left standing in FBS during 2017. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth has been had since. Cries of SEC bias are loud and strong. You may have seen since that UCF has declared itself as National Champions, ignoring the National Championship still to come. Not the first time this has happened. And it sells shirts. Just sayin’.
And on to the best game this year and as some would have us believe, maybe the best ever. Georgia Bulldogs defeating Oklahoma Sooners 54 : 48 after two periods of overtime. It was a classic. Pre game, all the buzz was about Heisman winner Baker Mayfield’s man flu. Would he, won’t he. How could he play? Well he did & in the first half he was superman. Everywhere. It was impressive. Even to a non believer such as me.
Second half? At Alabama, Kirby Smart’s genius reputation came from making game winning tweaks to his defence. He did. Cue Smart magic which shut Mayfield and Oklahoma down.
This was a game of two halves….and two periods of overtime. The running back twins of Georgia, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel turned up. We wouldn’t have known Sony Michel was playing in the first half, save an unusual fumble. But boy did they turn up in the 2nd half. And kudos to Jake Fromm, a true freshman who looked understandably nervous in the first quarter. By the 4th, he looked no more a freshman. He had popped his Peach Bowl cherry.
But to me, the win was down to the defence. Step up the very impressive Roquan Smith, the line backer who will go VERY high in the draft. Smith had a couple of crucial stops on Mayfield in Q4 halting the Sooners scoring machine which was seemingly scoring at leisure. However it was Lorenzo Carter’s stop of a Oklahoma field goal attempt which brought our old friend Mo Mentum back on the Dawgs side. A classic game which showed the very best of college ball. Many of these guys will be playing NFL next year.
Georgia will now play Alabama in an all SEC National Championship game in Atlanta. By comparison Alabama beating Clemson comprehensively (4th seed overturning 1st seed), should have been the story of the play offs. However we were all still recovering from the the Rose Bowl hangover to recognise the significance Bama’s revenge over the Clemson Tigers.
Next stop Atlanta and the National Championship. #RollTide or #GoDawgs? We will find out soon and I for one cannot wait.
This guest piece was written by George Somerville who supports the Green Bay Packers and college team Alabama. You can follow George on @geosomerville.