Every Bowl Team's Best Bowl Moment

Posted Dec 14, 2011

The best games and the brightest moments for all the 2011-2012 bowl teams

2011-2012 Bowls

Best Bowl Moments - Part 1 


The 2011-2012 Pre-Bowl Rankings
- No. 1 to No. 9 | No. 10 to No. 17 | No. 18 to No. 27 | No. 28 to No. 35  

- Best Bowl Moments - the pre-BCS Bowls  

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas
December 31, 2011 Houston, TX, 12:00 pm ESPN
Payout: $3.4 million
Northwestern vs. Texas A&M 
Line: Texas A&M -10  O/U: 64.5

Best Wildcat Bowl Moment: No contest. When you're the Big Ten's perennial doormat and you haven't been to a bowl game in 47 years, an unexpected berth in the Rose Bowl is more than a great bowl moment—it's the modern day high point for your program. Such was the case for the 1995 ‘Cats, which shocked the world by winning the conference title and earning a trip to Pasadena. They led favored USC early in the fourth quarter before succumbing, 41-32.

Best Aggie Bowl Moment: In one of the most important wins of the modern era, the Aggies shackled Heisman winner Tim Brown and defeated No. 12 Notre Dame, 35-10, in the 1988 Cotton Bowl. The A&M attack was spearheaded by a couple of freshmen, quarterback Bucky Richardson, who was named game MVP, and running back Darren Lewis, who tossed a game-tying touchdown pass on a halfback option play.

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
December 31, 2011 San Francisco, CA, 3:30 pm ESPN
Payout: $1.675 million
Projection:  UCLA vs.  Illinois 
Line: Illinois -3  OU: 46.5

Best Bruin Bowl Moment: UCLA was almost unbeatable in the 1980s, winning seven of eight bowl games, including three Rose Bowls. However, the 1960s were home to its most unforgettable postseason victory. Before 1964, the Bruins had played in five Rose Bowls, losing each one. The 1965 squad blessedly ended that futility in a thriller with No. 1 Michigan State that ended when three Bruin defenders stopped a game-tying two-point try by the Spartans with under a minute left in the game.

Best Fighting Illini Bowl Moment: Big Ten teams make memories in the Granddaddy, and this was certainly true for Illinois in the 1964 Rose Bowl. Taking the field in Pasadena as the No. 3 team in the AP poll, the Illini polished off Washington, 17-7, to complete one of the best seasons in school history. A fellow you might have heard of – Dick Butkus – led Illinois's bonecrushing defense, while running back Jim Grabowski carried the load for the Illini on offense.

Hyundai Sun Bowl  
December 31, 2011  El Paso, TX, 2:00 pm CBS
Payout: $4 million
Georgia Tech vs. Utah  
Line: Georgia Tech -3.5  O/U: 50.5

Best Yellow Jacket Bowl Moment: Tech boasts more than 20 bowl wins. The Jackets did most of their big-game damage in the 1940s and 1950s; however, it was the 1991 Florida Citrus Bowl which means the most to today's generation of Tech fans. Led by the passing of Shawn Jones and the running of William Bell, Bobby Ross' team pummeled Nebraska, 45-21, en route to an unbeaten season and the UPI's share of the national championship.

Best Ute Bowl Moment: The Utes set the bowl bar pretty doggone high for future teams to reach, beating Pitt in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl and becoming the first non-automatic qualifier to ever get invited to a BCS bowl game. In January of 2009, Utah raised the bar a notch higher if not several, shocking Alabama, 31-17, to finish unbeaten and No. 2 in the country behind Florida.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl
December 31, 2011  Memphis, TN, 3:30 pm ABC   
Cincinnati vs. Vanderbilt 
Line: Vanderbilt -2.5  O/U: 49.5

Best Bearcat Bowl Moment: Even a broken hand and unseasonably cold weather in Texas couldn't keep Cincinnati quarterback Gino Guidugli from carving up the Marshall defense in the 2004 Fort Worth Bowl. The senior threw for 231 yards and a pair of touchdowns, leading the Bearcats to a 32-14 victory, their first in postseason play in seven years.

Best Commodore Bowl Moment: Four bowl appearances have produced two victories for Vanderbilt, one of which occurred more than half a century ago in the 1955 Gator Bowl. Facing SEC rival Auburn, Vanderbilt pulled away behind the heroics of quarterback Don Orr, who was questionable to even dress for the game. Still recovering from a dislocated elbow suffered a month earlier, he rebounded with a touchdown pass and two touchdown runs to earn game MVP honors.

Chick-fil-A Bowl
December 31, 2011 Atlanta, GA, 7:30 pm ESPN
Payout: $6.9 million
Virginia vs. Auburn
Line: Auburn -1.5  O/U: 48.5

Best Cavalier Bowl Moment: Virginia didn't play in its first bowl game until 1984, but has made up for lost time with nearly 20 postseason appearances since then. The most exciting of the group took place in the 1995 Peach Bowl. Just moments after the Cavs had fumbled away the lead against Georgia, Demetrius Allen returned the ensuing kickoff 83 yards to stun the Dawgs with only 57 seconds left on the clock.

Best Tiger Bowl Moment: Over the years, the Tigers have given their fans plenty to cheer about in the postseason. High on the list of shining moments was a 9-7 triumph over Michigan in the 1984 Sugar Bowl. Just over two decades later, the Tigers won the 2005 Sugar Bowl over Virginia Tech to complete a 13-0 season. However, it was last season's 22-19 win over Oregon in the BCS National Championship Game which stands as the most treasured moment in Auburn football history. A season for the ages from quarterback Cameron Newton reached its gleaming, glittering goal in Glendale, Arizona.

TicketCity Bowl
January 2, 2012 Dallas, TX, 12:00 pm ESPNU
Payout: $2.2 million
Penn State vs. Houston
Line: Houston -5.5  O/U: 57.5

Best Nittany Lion Bowl Moment: In one of the most memorable bowl games of all time, Penn State shocked Miami in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl to earn its second national championship in four years. With a record-breaking 70 million viewers watching, the Lions intercepted Heisman winner Vinny Testaverde five times, the last one by Pete Giftopoulos at the Penn State one-yard line, to seal an unexpected and heart-stopping 14-10 win.

Best Cougar Bowl Moment: The last second upset of Nebraska in the 1980 Cotton Bowl warrants real strong consideration; however, it's the 30-21 win over unbeaten Maryland in the 1977 Cotton Bowl that has a special place in the hearts of Cougar fans. The school's first trip to a New Year's Day bowl game was the finishing touch on an unforgettable season that saw Houston stun the Southwest Conference by winning the league in its debut as a member.

Capital One Bowl
January 2, 2012  Orlando, FL, 1:00 pm ESPN
Payout: $9.2 million
Nebraska vs. South Carolina 
Line: South Carolina -1  O/U: 48

Best Husker Bowl Moment: Nebraska's massive bowl resume includes an unheard of 30 New Year's Day appearances. You can go in so many directions with this question, such as pasting No. 2 Alabama in the 1972 Orange Bowl; pounding Notre Dame 40-6 in the 1973 Orange Bowl in Bob Devaney's final game; or winning the national title with a win over Miami in the 1995 Orange Bowl. However, no game stands out more than the 62-24 demolition of Florida in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl. In a matchup of No. 1 vs. No. 2, the Huskers rushed for a bowl-record 524 yards, putting forth one of the most dominant big game performances the sport has ever witnessed.

Best Gamecock Bowl Moment: South Carolina hasn't been particularly impressive in its most recent string of bowl appearances, but in the 2002 Outback Bowl, the Gamecocks got the job done. They allowed Ohio State to rally from a 28-point deficit before Daniel Weaver booted a game-winning 42-yard field goal for a sigh-of-relief victory. It was South Carolina's second straight win over the Buckeyes in Tampa and a symbol of just how far the program had progressed under then-coach Lou Holtz.

TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl
January 2, 2011 Jacksonville, FL, 1:00 pm ESPN2
Payout: $5.4 million
Ohio State vs. Florida   
Line: Florida -2  O/U: 44

Best Buckeye Bowl Moment: Beyond the plethora of Rose Bowl wins, nothing could compare to the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. In one of the most thrilling college football games of all-time, Ohio State upset Miami in overtime to capture its first unanimous national championship in 34 years. A distant runner-up was the come-from-behind win against USC in the 1969 Rose Bowl that put the finishing touches on the school's other moment in the bright sunlight of national championship glory.

Best Gator Bowl Moment (as opposed to the best moment in the history of the GATOR BOWL event): How good was the 41-14 thumping of Ohio State in the BCS Championship Game in January of 2007? Good enough to trump the 52-20 annihilation of No. 1 and unbeaten Florida State in the 1997 Sugar Bowl as the best moment in Florida bowl history. Considered by many to be out of the top-ranked Buckeyes' league, the Gators feasted on their slower opponent, holding Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith and Ohio State to just 82 yards of total offense.

Outback Bowl
January 2, 2012 Tampa, FL, 1:00 pm ABC
Payout: $7 million
Michigan State vs. Georgia
Line: Georgia -3.5  O/U: 52

Best Spartan Bowl Moment: While rival Michigan has a timeshare in Pasadena, it's been a long time since Michigan State has played a meaningful game in January. The Spartans are 3-1 in the Rose Bowl, including a couple of wins over UCLA in the 1950s. In the 1954 game, No. 3 Michigan State rallied from a 14-0 halftime deficit to pull out the win, getting a touchdown run and a back-breaking punt return for a score from running back Billy Wells.

Best Bulldog Bowl Moment: Georgia has a very rich bowl tradition that includes 45 invites and victories in the Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Gator Bowl, Orange Bowl, and Sugar Bowl. Fueled by freshman sensation Herschel Walker, the Dawgs took a perfect mark into the 1981 Sugar Bowl, where No. 7 Notre Dame awaited. Walker shook off a dislocated shoulder in the first quarter to score a pair of touchdowns, leading Georgia to a 17-10 win and the national title.

AT&T Cotton Bowl  
January 6, 2012  Arlington, TX, 8:00 pm FOX
Payout: $7.25 million
Kansas State vs. Arkansas 
Line: Arkansas -7   O/U: 64

Best Wildcat Bowl Moment: Kansas State's one win in a signature January game was the December 1997 thumping of Syracuse in the Fiesta Bowl. There were two 1997 Fiesta Bowls due to the quirks of the Bowl Alliance system used at the time. Penn State defeated Texas in January of 1997, but Kansas State squeezed the Orangemen on December 31 of that same year. Michael Bishop outdueled Donovan McNabb at quarterback, giving KSU coach Bill Snyder a win which joins the 2003 Big 12 Championship Game as his most special triumph.

Best Razorback Bowl Moment: The Hogs have been victorious in less than a third of more than three dozen bowl appearances, and only a handful of times in the last two decades. One of their sweetest wins came in the 1978 Orange Bowl against heavily- favored and second-ranked Oklahoma. Arkansas got a bowl-record 205 yards rushing and 52 yards receiving from third-string tailback Roland Sales, cruising to a 31-6 win over the Sooners. Sales was pressed into action when the team's top two backs were suspended for the game.

BBVA Compass Bank Bowl
January 7, 2012, Birmingham, AL, 1:00 pm ESPN
Payout: $1.925 million
Pitt vs. SMU  
Line: Pitt -5.5  O/U: 48.5

Best Mustang Bowl Moment: SMU has only recently returned to the postseason on an annual basis, a welcome change from the two decades which followed the 1987 death penalty. However, those many dry years should not lead one to think that the school lacks history in this area. The Mustangs' most memorable moment came in the 1983 Cotton Bowl, a 7-3 win over Pittsburgh to finish the season with no losses and just a tie to Arkansas. Though Dan Marino was the more heralded quarterback entering the game, Lance McIlhenny was the hero, scoring the game's only touchdown and deftly running the option with the help of Eric Dickerson and Craig James.

Best Panther Bowl Moment: Ranked No. 9 before the 1976 season began, Pittsburgh wrapped up the national championship with an authoritative 27-3 win over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Heisman winner Tony Dorsett rushed for a Sugar Bowl-record 202 yards, and the Panther defense one-upped the vaunted Junkyard Dawgs, keeping the Bulldogs out of the end zone for the first time all season.

GoDaddy.com Bowl   
January 8, 2012   Mobile, AL 9:00 pm ESPN
Payout: $1.5 million
Northern Illinois vs. Arkansas State
Line: Arkansas State -1.5  O/U: 62

Best Husky Bowl Moment: There wasn't much involved in the way of drama or many style points, but Northern Illinois' 34-21 win over Troy in the 2004 Silicon Valley Classic was a landmark victory for a program that was breaking a 21-year postseason dry spell. That win slightly outranks last year's inspired – and inspiring – blowout of Fresno State just two weeks after coach Jerry Kill took the Minnesota job.

Best Red Wolf Bowl Moment: The only bowl Arkansas State has played in was a rather meager affair. The 2005 New Orleans Bowl wasn't even played in New Orleans due to the damage done inside the Superdome by Hurricane Katrina. ASU lost to Southern Mississippi on the campus of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. This time, Arkansas State gets to throw a real party by celebrating its first outright Sun Belt Conference championship.

Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO 
January 2, 2012 Pasadena, CA, 5:00 pm ESPN
Payout: $17 million
Wisconsin vs. Oregon
Line: Oregon -6.5  O/U: 73

Best Badger Bowl Moment: Wisconsin won three Rose Bowls under the watchful eye of Barry Alvarez, but none generated more electricity in Madison than the 1994 victory. The 21-16 triumph over UCLA was the school's first on New Year's Day, adding to the luster of the Badgers' first Big Ten title in 32 years. More than 70,000 rabid fans made the trip to Pasadena, giving Wisconsin a unique home-field advantage in the Bruins' home stadium.

Best Duck Bowl Moment: There have been Rose Bowls, a Cotton Bowl and a slew of minor bowls in Oregon's history, all of which paled in comparison to the 2002 Fiesta Bowl. Joey Harrington threw four touchdown passes, Steve Smith picked off three passes, and the No. 2 Ducks put a bow on the most successful season in school history by pummeling No. 3 Colorado, 38-16.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl 
January 2, 2012 Glendale, AZ, 8:30 pm ESPN
Payout: $17 million
Oklahoma State vs. Stanford 
Line: Oklahoma State -3.5  O/U: 75

Best Cardinal Bowl Moment: When you're a member of the Pac-12, success is measured by Rose Bowl victories. For Stanford, that hasn't happened since the early 1970s. The Cardinal actually won back-to-back games in 1971 and 1972 under the guidance of head coach John Ralston. In 1971, it handed Ohio State its first loss of the year, 27-17, behind Heisman-winning quarterback Jim Plunkett. In 1972, it gave Michigan its lone blemish, 13-12, on the strength of a clutch effort from quarterback Don Bunce and a game-winning field goal from Rod Garcia with 12 seconds left. The 2011 Orange Bowl rout of Virginia Tech was special, but the Granddaddy means so much more for Stanford.

Best Cowboy Bowl Moment: One of the great offensive displays in postseason history, Oklahoma State ambushed Wyoming 62-14 in the 1988 Holiday Bowl. The Cowboys cranked out 698 yards and 34 first downs behind Heisman winner Barry Sanders' 222 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, and a near- perfect passing performance from current head coach Mike Gundy.

Allstate Sugar Bowl
January 3, 2012   New Orleans, LA, 8:30 pm ESPN
Payout: $17 million
Virginia Tech vs. Michigan
Line: Michigan -2   O/U: 51.5

Best Wolverine Bowl Moment: 40 bowl games, 19 bowl victories and 20 trips to Pasadena ensure there are plenty of viable candidates. Slipping by Alabama in overtime in the 2000 Orange Bowl. Beating Washington in 1981, the school's first Rose Bowl win in 16 years. Or, try this: capping a perfect 1947 season by trouncing USC, 49-0. Still, it's tough to deny the 1997 squad, which got past Washington State 21-16 in the Rose Bowl. While it wasn't the sharpest Wolverine effort, it was enough to give the program its first national title in nearly half a century.

Best Hokie Bowl Moment: Meeting Florida State for the national championship in the 2000 Sugar Bowl was quite an accomplishment, but whooping a one-loss Texas team in the 1995 game was even better. Led by big plays from receiver Bryan Still and an attacking defense, the Big East champs won their tenth straight game, earning a second helping of national respect.

Discover Orange Bowl
January 4, 2012  Miami Gardens, FL, 8:00 pm ESPN
Payout: $17 million
Clemson vs. West Virginia 
Line: Clemson 3   O/U: 60.5

Best Mountaineer Bowl Moment: The postseason had been a horror show for West Virginia…until the 2006 Sugar Bowl and the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. The same program that had lost 11 of its previous 12 bowls jumped all over heavily-favored Georgia in the Georgia Dome on the second night of 2006, holding on for a 38-35 win that ranks among the most important in school history. In January of 2008, the ‘Eers, seemingly a rudderless ship, rallied around interim coach Bill Stewart to stun Oklahoma in Arizona, 48-28, behind the heroics of Pat White and Noel Devine.

Best Tiger Bowl Moment: It's been 30 years since Clemson participated in one of college football's marquee bowl games. Back in 1982, the Tigers played No. 4 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, with national supremacy hinging on the outcome. Danny Ford's underrated defensive unit frustrated the star-studded Husker offense in a 22-15 win that gave the Tigers a perfect season and their only national championship. How fitting it is that Clemson, in its hour of renewal and joy, comes back to the Orange Bowl on the 30th anniversary of the school's biggest gridiron achievement.
BCS Championship
January 9, 2012  New Orleans, LA, 9:00 pm ESPN
Payout: $17 million
LSU vs. Alabama
Line: LSU -1  O/U: 39

Best Crimson Tide Bowl Moment: With an NCAA-record 57 invites and 31 victories, you can make a credible argument for about a dozen different games. By a sliver, the nod here goes to the 1979 Sugar Bowl over the 1993 Sugar Bowl. Both produced national championships, but the 14-7 win over top-ranked Penn State more than 30 years ago featured an epic, game-saving goal line stand from the ‘Bama defense that is etched in the memory of everyone that witnessed it.

Best Tiger Bowl Moment: Look no further than the 2004 Sugar Bowl, a more-dominant-than-the-score-indicated 21-14 win over Oklahoma, which gave LSU a share of its first national championship in 45 years. The Tigers harassed Heisman winner Jason White from the opening drive, getting just enough of an offensive spark from freshman running back Justin Vincent to lift the championship crystal in the Superdome.

- Best Bowl Moments - the pre-BCS Bowls