This article series is very simple. We are going to give a bowl grade to every single team that competed in a bowl game this year. These are the grades for the first ten bowl games, those played from December 20th-24th.
Bowl Grades: December 20th-24th
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Louisiana-Lafayette 16, Nevada 3
ULL played a solid game from start to finish. They are no world-beaters, but they had a great season and capped it off with a good bowl game against a traditionally-solid (though recently down) mid-major.
Nevada is not as good now as they have been in the past and we all know they would give anything to return to the glory year of 2010. They’re not heading in the right direction, though, and a lackluster performance (and that’s being nice) in a winnable game has to be a disappointment.
Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Utah State 21, UTEP 6
Utah State without Chuckie Keeton still had a pretty solid season and bowl game. This is a program on the way up and finished with an easy win against an outmatched opponent. Utah State should be looking for a bigger bowl next year.
UTEP made a bowl this year, which is nothing to sneeze at for this program. They seemed to make good use of their extra bowl practices and definitely took a step in the right direction this year. They never had a chance to win this game but did well to not get embarrassed.
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: Utah 45, Colorado State 10
Utah was a better team and it showed. There was no letdown for the Utes and no overlooking a top mid-major opponent. Excellent performance from a team that looks on the way back to where it was 5-10 years ago.
Colorado State was clearly outmatched but played far from their best game of the season. They are talented and could have kept it close. Losing head coach Jim McElwain certainly didn’t help.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Air Force 38, Western Michigan 24
Air Force capped off a solid season with a bowl win against one of the MAC’s better teams. A ten-win season this year is an incredible turnaround after last year’s ten-loss campaign.
Western Michigan held Air Force’s triple-option in check for much of the game, but a poor defensive fourth quarter coupled with an unfortunate fumble (returned all the way) slammed the door on the Broncos, who are now 0-6 all-time in bowl games.
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Bowling Green 33, South Alabama 28
The inaugural Camellia was an exciting and well-played football game, with Bowling Green pulling out their #Maction skills on a long game-winning touchdown pass with less than two minutes remaining.
South Alabama played a good game in their first-ever bowl appearance. Joey Jones is building a solid program there. At this rate, don’t expect them to wait too long for that first bowl win.
Miami Beach Bowl: Memphis 55, BYU 48 (2OT)
This game was short on defense but well-played by both teams. Memphis’ usually-stout D was shredded, but they didn’t play poorly. Memphis scored a touchdown on a miracle 4th-down play to force overtime then hit a 55-yard field goal to get to the second OT. I thought about giving both teams Fs for the fight after the game, but I’ll be nice and just judge these teams on the quality of football.
There really was nothing to separate BYU from Memphis. BYU gashed the Tigers’ D with some great offense. The defense clearly needs work in the offseason, but this team has plenty of good things to look forward to. Fans may view this season as a lost one after injuries decimated one of the best teams they’ve had in a decade, but there is plenty to look forward to in Provo.
Boca Raton Bowl: Marshall 52, Northern Illinois 23
Marshall may have lost some motivation and played below their talent level the past few weeks of the year (including the shocking loss to Western Kentucky that ruined their perfect season), but this is still one of the best teams Marshall has fielded since the 90s. They showed it with their domination of MAC champion Northern Illinois. Rakeem Cato is leaving but a lot of talent comes back next year. The only P5 team on next year’s schedule is Purdue, but you have to wonder if AD Mike Hamrick is making phone calls to big schools.
Northern Illinois was clearly outmatched in this game. They kept it relatively close until halftime but it was clear that they played above their talent level for much of the season. When Marshall brought their A+ game, the Huskies never had a chance.
San Diego Country Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: Navy 17, San Diego State 16
This was by far the ugliest bowl game of the season so far. It was marred by poor plays, fumbles, and awful coaching decisions. Navy came out ahead, but they certainly didn’t play well. Their only good moment was a game-winning field-goal drive when they needed it to cap their comeback.
In the 4th quarter, San Diego State threw an interception, lost a fumble, went for it on 4th and 5 in short field goal range (while up 2; the field goal would have made it a 5-point game), and missed a game-winning field goal. Yeah, it was that bad.
Grade F- (Yeah, it was that bad.)
Popeyes Bahamas Bowl: Western Kentucky 49, Central Michigan 48
Brandon Doughty played an incredible game and could have actually kept up his pace and thrown ten touchdown passes. The coaches called off the dogs at half, though, which almost led to an all-time comeback.
This is the one game where the losing team is getting a better grade than the winning one. The Chippewas never gave up and almost pulled off one of the greatest bowl comebacks ever. The play-call on the two-point conversion was questionable at best, but the all-time lateral play was just emblematic of their never-say-die 34-point 4th-quarter comeback.
Hawai’i Bowl: Rice 30, Fresno State 6
Rice got to cap off a good season with a very winnable bowl game and they didn’t let that opportunity go to waste. They played a complete game and never allowed Fresno State to get into it.
Fresno State might be, talent-wise, the worst team to qualify for a bowl this year. They got in with a losing record after being blasted by Boise State in the MWC Championship Game. They could have probably kept it competitive against Rice, but the motivation went away after Rice’s big first quarter.
Thank you for reading. Please take a moment to follow me on Twitter – @Yesh222. Support LWOS by following us on Twitter – @LastWordOnSport and @LWOSworld – and “liking” our Facebook page.
Have you tuned into Last Word On Sports Radio? LWOS is pleased to bring you 24/7 sports radio to your PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone. What are you waiting for?