Bowl Bonanza Round Up Day 5: Underdogs and Big Dogs

What a weekend! The past two game days have given us some very different results.  On the one hand, Friday provided a pair of wins by some large favorites and an upset that many saw coming.  Saturday, however, showed us in the first three games why Bowl Bonanza is so hard to predict.  The three teams that fell were on average 70% favorites, meaning the standings have changed a good bit.  The final two games of the night, the College Football Playoff Semifinal Games, showed us that the big dogs are still the big dogs.  Alabama and Clemson will once again face off in the CFP, giving us a match-up of the clear two best teams in the nation.

It’s a strange feeling to watch all of your picks lose, but somehow still enjoy the games.  There’s something about seeing an underdog win that is enjoying, no matter who you pick.  Alas, this elated feeling does nothing for my record, as I took a tumble in the standings with all the craziness that happened this weekend.  Add the terrible record to my Sooners losing, and finding solace in some well-played football was about all I had left.

Friday started off with a blowout in the Music City Bowl.  Auburn stormed to a 28-7 lead in the first quarter, then went into the locker room with a 56-7 lead.  Tiger QB Jarrett Stidham was nearly perfect, throwing for 373 yards and 5 touchdowns.

I will admit, the Camping World Bowl is a pick I wish I had back.  After I heard Will Grier would not be quarterbacking the Mountaineers in lieu of NFL Draft preparation, I knew I would regret this pick.  The Orange made me pay.  Although the the final score did not show it, the game was much closer that 34-18.  This game featured seven lead changes in the first three quarters, with an eighth and final lead change in the fourth.  Syracuse scored 17 in the fourth quarter to put the game way out of reach.

Friday’s night game gave us “The Stache”, as Washington State QB Gardner Minshew and his glorious facial hair defeated Iowa State to win the Valero Alamo Bowl.  The 28-26 victory came courtesy of a big game by Minshew, who threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for another.  Though the Cougars led the entire game, the Cyclones nearly completed a stunning comeback.  This win marks the most ever for Washington State (11), and gave Minshew the record for most passing yards in a season in Pac-12 history (4779).  They don’t call it the Air Raid for nothing.

Saturday got the upsets rolling.  The Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl proved to be a mess of a game, with five combined turnovers, one missed field goal and another blocked to produce a total of 29 points.  Arkansas State gave the game away, racking up 499 yards of offense but only scoring 13 points, in part because of two turnovers in the red zone.  Nevada in turn decided not to play offense until their last drive, when they tied things up with a touchdown.  After a Red Wolf field goal in overtime, the Wolf Pack scored a touchdown to win it.

The Belk Bowl was another unfathomable upset, as Virginia not only won, but absolutely destroyed South Carolina 28-0.  The Cavaliers won every single facet of the game, including time of possession, where they held onto the ball for over 42 minutes.  It’s a good sign for Virginia, who won their first bowl game since 2005.

The last upset of Saturday came by way of another blowout, as Florida handled Michigan easily in a 41-15 win.  Florida’s victory came by way of a team effort, not one individual standout performance.  The Gator’s put an exclamation point on what has been a great first season for Dan Mullen.  Unfortunately for the Dawgs, it looks like Florida is back on the map.  Michigan, meanwhile, needs to figure out how to win big games, as this is their second straight blowout to a top-tier team.

As the CFP kicked off, there were two obvious favorites: Clemson and Alabama.  Saturday showed why.  Clemson never looked uncomfortable in their win over Notre Dame, and they came away with a convincing 30-3 victory over what was supposed to be a very good Fighting Irish defense.  The triple Ts of Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, and Tee Higgins are going to cause a lot of trouble for Bama and opposing defenses next year.  The Tiger defense was also dominant, even without standout DT Dexter Lawrence.

The second game was a bit more exciting, although no one would have blamed you if you had shut the game off after the first quarter.  Alabama jumped out to a 28-0 lead, as Kyler Murray and my aforementioned Sooners were both clumsy and ineffective.  The Sooners fought back, although I could have done with much less actual fighting off the field.  You couldn’t help but notice all the unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, scuffles, red-faced coaches and broken headsets.  It wasn’t all the way Coach Saban would have wanted, but Alabama cruised to an easy 45-34 victory in rout to their fourth straight National Championship game.

Oh, the agony of defeat.  Well, maybe that’s a bit premature, but it sure doesn’t feel like it after a 3-5 weekend for me.  I guess there’s still room for me to make a move, but Sprinkles has had the lead in the office for a while, and continues to stay on top.

1. Sprinkles (22-7)

2. Trip (21-8)

3. Rambo, Stride (18-11)

5. Scoot (16-13)

6. Leo (15-14)

As mentioned before, there was a lot of turnover in the rankings.  Janelle Sanchez ending a magnificent run and has fallen to 19-10, which is still respectable.  She still has a chance to claw her way back, but Mike Barnhouse and William Lupo now share the prominent position atop the rankings.

1. Mike Barnhouse, William Lupo (21-8)

3. Zachary Godfrey, Brande Grantham, Montanna Jones, Doug Markott (20-9)

Fun Stats

1. Only 4 people chose Oklahoma or Notre Dame as their eventual champion, meaning 92% still have their team in play.

2. The Strong Rock family is now collectively 19-10 on all bowl games.  Not a bad record!

3. The SRC Office Staff is now collectively 16-11-2.  Still behind, but we’re catching up!

4. Sprinkles was our big winner in the office over the weekend, going 7-1.

5. William Lupo continues his string of incredible picks, as he went a perfect 8-0 this weekend.  That makes it 11-0 counting Thursday.  What a run!

Best Comment

“It was a lot more fun throwing the oranges.” – Nick Saban

This was in response to Coach Saban tossing some of the oranges out of the Orange Bowl trophy during the post-game celebration.  He famously destroyed a poor headset after one of his players made a mistake, but at least he can laugh it off now.

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