Cirminiello's Biggest Bowl Surprises
Posted Jan 8, 2013

Rich Cirminiello's big surprises of the bowl season.

2012-2013 Bowl Season

Cirminiello's Top Surprises

- 2012-2013 CFN Bowl Central 

Richard Cirminiello's 2012-2013 Bowl Season ...
Top Offensive Performances | Top Defensive Performances
Best Bowl Coaches | Best Bowl Games
Biggest Bowl Surprises | Biggest Bowl Disappointments

By Richard Cirminiello 

10. Central Michigan
The Chippewas weren't just underdogs to Western Kentucky in the Little Caesars Bowl—they were also playing without a pair of recently suspended receivers, including top pass-catcher Titus Davis. It mattered little. Central Michigan turned Ford Field into its adopted home field for an evening, getting three touchdown passes and a crisp overall effort from QB Ryan Radcliff for a 24-21 upset.

9. Rice
The Armed Forces Bowl with Air Force was a toss-up, but it was the way the Owls disposed of the Falcons that really stood out. When linchpin QB Taylor McHargue went down, Rice was trailing and in trouble. Yet, it scored the game's final 26 points behind rookie reliever Driphus Jackson and a D that far exceeded expectations against the Air Force triple-option.

8. Michigan State (in a close game)
It's not so much that the Spartans defeated TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl as it was that they survived a nail-biter. This is the program that lost five games by no more than four points, coming so close to finishing the year on New Year's Day. Michigan State broke through in Tempe, rallying from a 13-0 deficit, and winning on a 47-yard Dan Conroy field goal with 1:01 left.

7. The One-Point Safety
The Fiesta Bowl was the scene of one of the rarest plays in the game, college football's version of a triple play or a perfect game in baseball. It figures that high-octane Oregon would find another unique way to score, getting a one-point safety after Kansas State unknowingly carried a blocked extra point back into the end zone. How uncommon was the play? It was just the second time it occurred at the FBS level since 1996.

6. Conference USA
The league may be getting blown to pieces by realignment, but that couldn't stop it from going a tight 4-1 during the postseason. Conference champ Tulsa exacted revenge on the Big 12's Iowa State. UCF defeated Ball State. And Rice and SMU delivered upsets of Air Force and Fresno State, respectively, of the Mountain West. Only East Carolina fell in the Superdome in what was essentially a home game for Louisiana-Lafayette.

5. Clemson
C'mon, admit it. After seeing the Tigers come up short in regular season outings with Florida State and South Carolina, you never thought they'd go toe-to-toe with LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, right? And yet, that is exactly what they did on the night of New Year's Eve. Clemson played like an SEC team in Atlanta, getting pressure defensively, and rallying late behind the clutch play of QB Tajh Boyd.

4. SMU
For the first time in program history, the Mustangs have won back-to-back bowl games. This latest one was unexpected. Fortunate to even be bowling at 6-6, SMU was a 12-point underdog against streaking Fresno State in the Hawaii Bowl. Yet, it clearly prepared better leading up to kickoff, blowing out the Bulldogs, 43-10, in a game that stopped being competitive in the second quarter.

3. South Carolina QBs
The Gamecocks haven't exactly earned a reputation for stellar play out of the quarterback position. Yet, Connor Shaw, playing through a lot of pain, and Dylan Thompson, playing without a ton of experience, were unexpectedly sharp in the Outback Bowl. The pair tag-teamed Michigan for 341 yards, four touchdowns and no picks through the air in a thrilling 33-28 win.

2. The Baylor D
The Bears routed UCLA in the Holiday Bowl, 49-26, which had as much to do with Phil Bennett's defense as Art Briles' offense. Baylor, ranked 119th entering the game, held the high-powered Bruins to 1-of-17 on third downs, while sacking Brett Hundley six times. It was a total team effort, with DE Terrance Lloyd, S Sam Holl, LB Eddie Lackey, DE Chris McAllister, LB Bryce Hager and S Chance Casey each vying for game MVP honors.

1. Louisville
At least in terms of Vegas, the Cardinals upset of No. 3 Florida was the biggest in the history of the BCS. And absolutely no one saw it coming. These were the big, bad Gators. Louisville? Isn't this the team that lost to Connecticut, and labored with the likes of Southern Miss, South Florida and Florida International? Sugar Bowl was proof that with time to prepare, anything is possible in the postseason.

Richard Cirminiello's 2012-2013 Bowl Season ...
Top Offensive Performances | Top Defensive Performances
Best Bowl Coaches | Best Bowl Games
Biggest Bowl Surprises | Biggest Bowl Disappointments