As the year came to a close, we were given some great games to watch. With a line-up of six games, there were bound to be some exciting match-ups, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted how close most of these games were. Though we were handed a rout in the last game, four games were decided by five points or less, and a fifth had a wild swing in the third quarter. Such an end to the year was appropriate, as there continues to be parity at all levels of college football except the top, where championship contenders continue to dominate.
The first bowl of New Years Eve had the makings of a blowout coming in, but turned into a very competitive game. Cincinnati came into the game with 10 wins, facing a 6-6 Virginia Tech team looking for its 26th straight winning season. The Bearcats had other plans, however, as a back-and-forth game turned their way in the end, giving Cincinnati a 35-31 win. RB Michael Warren had a stellar performance, running for 166 yards and two touchdowns.
In the Sun Bowl, strange things happened to allow Stanford to escape with a 14-13 victory. Even though they were outplayed in every facet of the game, Stanford’s defense kept them in the game until the fourth quarter, where one of the oddest plays you will every see happened. As QB K.J. Costello was being sacked at the 4-yard line, he fumbled the ball over his head… directly into the hands of RB Cameron Scarlett standing in the end zone. The improbable play propelled Stanford to its second Sun Bowl victory in three years.
The Redbox Bowl played more like a boxing match than a football game, as Oregon and Michigan State battled it out to the tune of 13 total points. Heading into the half at 0-0, it looked like whoever scored a touchdown first would win. Ducks QB Justin Herbert shoved his offensive woes aside and threw a touchdown in the fourth quarter to pull ahead 7-6. The Spartans lost despite holding the Ducks to 203 total yards. At least they have a defense to build on.
In a throwback to the old Big 12 days, Oklahoma State squared off against old foe Missouri in the Liberty Bowl. In true Big 12 fashion, the two teams produced 1,139 yards of offense in an exciting shootout. Pokes QB Taylor Cornelius narrowly out-dueled Tiger QB Drew Lock to win 38-33. The record-setting Lock will be leaving, but Missouri fans shouldn’t feel too bad; former Clemson standout Kelly Bryant is said to be transferring to Columbia next year.
I will admit, I did not watch the Holiday Bowl, but I was keeping up with the score online. After seeing Utah up 20-3 at halftime, I had given up hope on Northwestern winning. Imagine my shock when the next time I looked at the score, the Wildcats were up 24-20. Northwestern turned two fumble recoveries into a 28 point swing in the third quarter, beating Utah 31-20. Northwestern handed the Utes just their second loss in their last 13 bowl games.
The last game of the year started out competitive enough, with Texas A&M looking like the better team in the first half, going into the locker room with a 21-13 lead. The second half was no contest, however, as the Aggies rode RB Trayveon Williams to a convincing 52-13 win. Williams torched the NC State defense in the second half, finishing with 236 yards and three touchdowns. Aggie coach Jimbo Fisher finished his first season a respectable 9-4, putting the rest of the SEC on alert.
Here at the Strong Rock office, Trip has vaulted to the top of the list. It looks like she’ll finish that way, too, as there is no way for the rest of us to catch her with the way our picks fell. All hail Trip, the Office Queen!
1. Trip (26-9)
2. Stride (24-11)
3. Sprinkles (23-12)
4. Rambo (22-13)
5. Scoot (20-15)
6. Leo (19-16)
Our challengers are now neck and neck with the office staff, as Mike Barnhouse stays in the top spot on the list. After an improbable two day run, William Lupo has dropped out of the top three. Maybe next year William!
1. Mike Barnhouse (26-9)
2. Cricket (25-10)
3. Zachary Godfrey, Doug Markott (24-11)
1. The Strong Rock Family now sits at 24-11. I don’t know if I’m just average, or I just pick what everyone else does.
2. The SR Office Staff is collectively 20-12-3. I don’t know what that says for Leo, who is the only staff member who currently sits under 20 wins.
3. The Liberty Bowl was the only upset of the day, as only 37.74% of contestants chose Oklahoma State.
4. Only 3 people picked all six of the New Years Eve bowls correctly: Jennifer Koy, Cricket, and yours truly. Congrats to my other two professional pickers; we done good.
“This is a question of Star vs. Swift more than actual football.” – Leo
For those unfamiliar with our staff, Leo is referring to our NC State staff member (Star) and our Texas A&M staffer (Swift). Not only does it show how diverse our staff is, but it also shows how some of us pick our bowl winners! Maybe next year Leo won’t bet against Swift.
Your perfect New Years Eve Staffer,