The 100 Stars of the 2007-2008 Bowl Season
West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart
Lots of bowl games equals lots of stars, coming in the form of players, coaches, units, tandems, teams and games. This past post-season followed the script, providing an array of great moments and great individual efforts to help bridge the divide between the end of the 2007 season and the start of spring ball in a couple of months.
The 100 Stars
of the 2007-2008 Bowl Season
The 100 Stars of the
2006-2007 Bowl Season
Almost three dozen bowl games equal
plenty of stars, coming in the form of players, coaches, units, tandems,
teams and games. This past postseason followed usual the script,
providing an array of great moments and great individual efforts to help
bridge the divide between the end of the 2007 season and the start of
spring ball in a couple of months. Of course, there were some memorable
flops as well that’ll precipitate a slew of head-scratching questions
that’ll linger well into the offseason. If not for that national
championship in 2000, would Bob Stoops be college football’s version of
Marv Levy? Did the Rose Bowl ever seriously consider selecting Georgia
over Illinois? Will future BCS wannabes from the mid-majors be impacted
by Hawaii’s performance in the Sugar Bowl? Is USC the best team in the
nation, after all?
Discuss, and as always, don’t be bashful about sharing your thoughts.
100. BYU DT Eathyn Manumaleuna – The Cougars appeared to
have let the Las Vegas Bowl slip away against UCLA until Manumaleuna got
his big paw in the way of a Kai Forbath chip shot field goal with no
time left on the clock. The block salvaged a 17-16 victory and a Top 25
finish for the Cougars, who’d lost their last seven games to the
99.Maryland LB Adrian Moten – The Terrapin freshman served
notice in the Emerald Bowl that he has a very bright future in College
Park, collecting five tackles and a couple of sacks, one of which
separated the ball from Oregon State QB Sean Canfield.
98. Auburn QB Kodi Burns – Yeah, other quarterbacks had much
better numbers in December, but Burns lit a spark under the Tiger
offense, giving a glimpse of what the spread offense will look like
beginning in 2008. The freshman ran threw a touchdown pass to give
Auburn a lead in the third quarter, and ran for 69 yards and the
game-winning score in overtime.
97. Wake Forest WR Kenneth Moore – In a Meineke Car Care Bowl
that was short on offensive firepower, Moore provided a spark to the
Deacons, catching 11 passes for 112 yards en route to being named game
96. Colorado TE Tyson DeVree – After falling behind 27-0 to
Alabama, DeVree helped keep the Buffs in the Independence Bowl, catching
a game-high nine passes for 94 yards and a pair of touchdown catches
from Cody Hawkins.
95. Arizona State WR Michael Jones – The offensive star for the
Sun Devils in their Holiday Bowl loss to Texas, Jones pulled down eight
receptions for 107 yards and a pair of Rudy Carpenter touchdown passes.
94. Purdue DE Keyon Brown – Where were you all year, Keyon?
In the best game of his Boilermaker career, Brown was the defensive star
of the Motor City Bowl, collecting five tackles and 2.5 sacks, setting
the stage for what could be a breakout senior season.
93. Cincinnati CB DeAngelo Smith – A player Southern Miss QB
Jeremy Young won’t soon forget, Smith picked off three passes in the
Papajohns.com Bowl, helping the Bearcats to a 31-21 victory while
propelling into the Big East lead for interceptions.
92. Colorado QB Cody Hawkins – Although he fell a little short in
the Independence Bowl, Hawkins nearly rallied the Buffaloes all the way
back from an early 27-0 deficit to Alabama. The freshman finished
24-of-39 for 322 yards, three touchdowns and two picks, saving his best
play for the final three quarters.
91. Cincinnati WR Dominick Goodman – With top receiver Marcus
Barnett out of the game with a broken leg, Goodman stepped up in a big
way in the Papajohns.com Bowl, catching a game-high seven passes for 95
yards and two touchdowns.
90. Oregon State WR James Rodgers – Just a freshman, Rodgers had
the game of his brief career in the Emerald Bowl, carrying 10 times for
115 yards and a touchdown, adding a game-high five catches for 40 yards
and another score.
89. Boston College WR Rich Gunnell – Who says Boston College has
no deep threats on the receiving corps? Gunnell burned the young
Michigan State secondary for six catches for 138 yards and two long
touchdowns in the Champs Sports Bowl.
88. New Mexico RB Paul Baker – No Rodney Ferguson, no problem.
With New Mexico’s 1,000-yard rusher on the shelf for academic reasons,
Baker exploded in his first career start for 167 yards on 22 carries in
a New Mexico Bowl rout.
87. Rutgers QB Mike Teel – The aerial portion of the Scarlet
Knights’ high-octane offense in the International Bowl, Teel was an
efficient 16-of-25 for 303 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
Displaying great touch on his deep balls, all of three of his scoring
strikes were at least 35 yards, helping Rutgers amass a season-high of
595 yards of offense.
86. Kentucky WR Steve Johnson – Andre Woodson’s big play target
in the Music City Bowl, Johnson caught seven passes for 124 yards and a
pair of touchdown catches. On his second score from 38 yards out,
Johnson left more than half of the Florida State defense behind in his
85. The Gator Bowl – Although the first 57 minutes of the Gator
Bowl were forgettable, the waning moments made it one of the best bowl
games of the postseason. Texas Tech rallied for 17 unanswered points in
the final 3:34, stunning Virginia, 31-28, on an Alex Trlica field goal
in the waning seconds.
84. Michigan RB Mike Hart – Hart finished his amateur career much
the way he started it, toughing out 129 yards and two touchdowns on 32
carries in the Wolverines’ upset of Florida in the Capital One Bowl.
Losing two fumbles, however, was highly uncharacteristic of the senior.
83. USC RB Joe McKnight – McKnight showed a hint of his vast
potential in the Rose Bowl, rushing for 125 yards and a score on just 10
carries, and catching six passes for 45 yards in the Trojan rout.
82. The UCF D – Forgotten in the Knights’ 10-3 loss to
Mississippi State in the Liberty Bowl was the play of the defense, which
limited the Bulldogs to just 199 total yards and 10 first downs. It was
a season-best performance for John Skladany’s kids, who got
progressively better as the season wound down.
81. Penn State LB Sean Lee – Serving yet another notice that he’s
the next big thing at LB U., Lee parlayed 14 tackles and a tackle for
loss into Defensive MVP honors in the Alamo Bowl. The junior sparked a
Nittany Lion defense that allowed a pair of Mike Goodson touchdown runs
in the first quarter before holding Texas A&M to just three points over
the final 49 minutes of the game.
80. Wisconsin LB Jonathan Casillas – The brightest spot in the
Badgers’ 21-17 Outback Bowl loss to Tennessee, Casillas led the defense
with 10 tackles, while racking up four tackles for loss and a forced
79. Boston College S Jamie Silva – It was a typical day at the
office in the Champs Sports Bowl for Silva, who had 10 tackles and his
seventh and eighth interceptions of the season. A big reason that
Michigan State star WR Devin Thomas was held to only four catches for 34
yards, Silva was named MVP of the game.
78. Central Michigan WR Bryan Anderson – Anderson was Dan
LeFevour’s preferred target in the Motor City Bowl, pulling down seven
passes for 129 yards and three touchdowns, the final one knotting the
game at 48 with a minute left in the fourth quarter.
77. USC QB John David Booty – Booty enjoyed an efficient cap to
his career in the Rose Bowl, carving up Illinois for 255 yards and three
touchdowns on 25-of-37 passing, while throwing an interception to Illini
DB Justin Harrison.
76. Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant – Welcome to the future at wide
receiver in Stillwater. Just a freshman, Bryant capped a breakthrough
debut season by catching nine passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns in
the Pokes’ rout of Indiana in the Insight Bowl.
75. Florida QB Tim Tebow – Yeah, Tebow has seen better days and
failed to engineer a Capital One Bowl victory over underdog Michigan,
but he did account for four touchdowns without turning the ball over in
a 41-35 loss.
74. Alabama QB John Parker Wilson – Wilson was razor sharp in the
early stages of the Independence Bowl, sparking the Tide to a 27-0
cushion, and finishing 19-of-32 for 256 yards, three touchdown passes
and a pick.
73. Cincinnati DT Terrill Byrd – Playing as if he was channeling
a young Warren Sapp, Byrd consistently blew through the Southern Miss
offensive line in the Papajohns.com Bowl for a game-high nine tackles,
three tackles for loss, and a pair of sacks.
72. Boston College QB Matt Ryan – Ryan made up for a fumble and
an interception in the Champs Sports Bowl, throwing three touchdown
passes and going 22-of-47 to cap a terrific amateur career with a win
over Michigan State.
71. The Oregon State D – The Beavers gave up a couple of
touchdown passes in the first quarter of the Emerald Bowl before
shutting out Maryland over the final 46 minutes. The veteran Oregon
State defense allowed just 11 first downs, while holding the Terps to
224 total yards and a season-low 19 yards rushing.
70. Cincinnati QB Ben Mauk – Yeah, he threw three picks and
displayed questionable arm strength, but the Bearcats probably don’t
beat Southern Miss in the Papajohns.com Bowl without the passing and
leadership of Mauk. The senior went 30-of-52 for 334 yards and four
touchdowns, adding 41 yards on the ground in the 31-21 win.
69. The Poinsettia Bowl – After a sluggish first half, Utah
and Navy put on a show in San Diego, kicking off the bowl season with an
exciting 35-32 Ute victory that went back and forth in the final
quarter. Utah won its seventh straight bowl game, yet didn’t seal it
until S Joe Dale picked off a pass in the final minute after the Middies
had successfully converted an onside kick.
68. The Chick-fil-A Bowl – This year’s game in Atlanta was every
bit as physical and tight as predicted between a pair of Tigers, Auburn
and Clemson. Auburn got a Ben Tate touchdown run in the fourth quarter
to knot things up, winning the game, 23-20, on a Kodi Burns scamper up
the middle in the first overtime.
67. The Kansas Linebackers – The unsung heroes of the Jayhawks’
Orange Bowl win over Virginia Tech, Mike Rivera, Joe Mortensen, and
James Holt were stupendous in run defense, combining for 28 tackles and
66. Oregon CB Jairus Byrd
– The defensive star of the Ducks in the Sun Bowl, Byrd led the team
with eight tackles, adding four pass breakups, a couple of picks, and a
forced fumble in an all-around dynamic effort.
65. Cal RB Justin Forsett – Forsett bolted all day through gaping
holes in the Air Force defense, leading the Bears to a comeback win with
140 yards rushing and a pair of key second-half touchdowns on just 23
64. Armed Forced Bowl – Featuring a ton of offensive fireworks
from the Cal passing attack and the Air Force ground game, the Armed
Forced Bowl was a 42-36 slugfest won by the Bears, who spotted the
Falcons a 21-point cushion in the first half.
63. Oregon State RB Yvenson Bernard – In his first game back from
arthroscopic knee surgery, Bernard ran with no ill effects in the
Emerald Bowl, carrying a Beaver offense that needed the lift. The
senior wore out the Maryland defense for 177 yards and a touchdown on 38
62. Virginia RB Mikell Simpson – Simpson was the offense
for the Cavaliers in the Gator Bowl, running for 170 yards, including an
NCAA bowl-record 96-yard gallop for a score, and catching a team-high
five passes for 36 yards and a touchdown.
61. West Virginia RB Noel Devine – With starter Steve Slaton
sidelined with an injury in the Fiesta Bowl, Devine stepped up with 108
yards and two touchdowns on the ground, adding 47 yards on a pair of
catches and 88 yards on kick returns.
60. Illinois RB Rashard Mendenhall – If only for a moment,
Mendenhall gave the Illini a hint of hope for a comeback in the Rose
Bowl with a 79-yard touchdown run shortly after halftime. He finished
the afternoon with 155 yards on the ground and five receptions for 59
yards in a losing effort.
59. Kentucky RB Rafael Little – Little gave the Wildcat offense a
dose of offensive balance in the Music City Bowl, rushing for 152 yards
on 28 carries, while catching a game-high eight passes for 50 yards and
the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter.
58. Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell – It was not vintage Harrell in
the Gator Bowl, but it was enough to set a bunch of records and pilot
the Red Raiders to a come-from-behind win over Virginia. The junior
went 44-of-69 for 407 yards and three touchdowns without turning the
ball over, establishing new Gator Bowl marks for yards, completions and
Alabama DE Wallace Gilberry – Virtually unblockable from the opening
snap of the Independence Bowl, Gilberry tore through the Colorado
offensive line for eight tackles, five tackles for loss and a sack,
earning defensive MVP honors.
56. Texas CB Brandon Foster – Foster saved the best game of his
Longhorn career for the last game of his Longhorn career. The senior
was everywhere in the Holiday Bowl, leading the team with seven tackles,
forcing and recovering a fumble, picking off two passes, and tipping
another that was intercepted by teammate Marcus Griffin.
55. Boston College – The Eagles ran their nation’s-longest bowl
unbeaten streak to eight games with a 24-21 defeat of Michigan State in
the Champs Sports Bowl, winning 11 games for the first time in 67
54. Fresno State RB Clifton Smith – In the best performance of
his Bulldog career, Smith ripped through Georgia Tech’s 12th-ranked
run defense for 152 yards and two touchdowns on only 18 carries, adding
four receptions for 57 yards.
53. Tulsa LBs Chris Chamberlain and Alain Karatepeyan – The
Hurricane linebacker tandem was otherworldly in the GMAC Bowl, combining
for 31 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, and a pair of forced
fumbles. Tulsa held Bowling Green to only seven points and 229 total
yards, well below its season averages, largely because of the
sideline-to-sideline play of Chamberlain and Karatepeyan.
52. Tennessee QB Erik Ainge – Ainge was named Outback Bowl
MVP in his Volunteer finale, going 25-of-43 for 365 yards and two
touchdowns in a win over Wisconsin. His big day against the Badgers
came despite the absence of top receiver Lucas Taylor, who was
51. The Penn State Running Game – The Lions cranked out a
season-high 270 yards on the ground in the Alamo Bowl, getting at least
50 yards and 6.8 yards a carry from RB Rodney Kinlaw, RB Evan Royster,
and QB Daryll Clark. While Kinlaw was the hero, gaining 143 yards on 21
carries, Royster and Clark gave glimpses of what the Penn State
backfield will look like in 2008.
50. The Wake Forest D – The swarming Demon Deacons kept
Connecticut out of the end zone in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, holding
the Huskies to nine first downs, 213 total yards, and a mere 3.6 yards
per play. Connecticut’s only points came on a Larry Taylor punt return
for a touchdown and a Tony Ciaravino field goal.
49. Kentucky QB Andre Woodson – Woodson took full advantage of
the abridged Florida State defense in the Music City Bowl, going
32-of-50 for 358 yards, four touchdowns and an interception, breaking
the SEC single-season record for touchdown passes with 40.
48. Texas Tech – For the second consecutive postseason, the Red
Raiders used a stirring comeback to secure a bowl victory. Down 28-14
to Virginia with a little more than three minutes left in the Gator
Bowl, Tech scored the final 17 points, capping the rally with an Alex
Trlica 41-yard field goal with no two seconds left on the clock.
47. Cal – Down 21-0 and seemingly drained of any emotion, the
Bears rallied for six touchdowns in the final 40 minutes to squelch Air
Force’s upset bid in the Armed Forced Bowl. The Bears rolled up 500
balanced yards, getting a particularly terrific afternoon from the
veteran offensive line.
46. The Hawaii Bowl – One of the most entertaining of this year’s
December bowl games, East Carolina upset Boise State, 41-38, on a Ben
Hartman field goal with no time left on the clock. The Pirates’ drive
for the victory came just moments after bowl MVP Chris Johnson coughed
up a fumble that Bronco S Marty Tadman took 47 yards for the game-tying
45. Texas RB Jamaal Charles – You’d think that over a month away
from the game might have slowed Charles’ torrid close to the regular
season. Think again. The junior with the explosive burst tore through
Arizona State’s 13th-ranked run defense for 161 yards and two
touchdowns on 27 carries in the Holiday Bowl.
44. Fresno State – The Bulldogs completed their rebound season
under Pat Hill by pounding the usually stout Georgia Tech defense for
571 perfectly balanced yards in the Humanitarian Bowl. Fresno State got
286 yards on the ground, and 285 yards from QB Tom Brandstater,
upsetting the Yellow Jackets 40-28.
43. Oklahoma State – The Cowboys dashed any thoughts that the
Insight Bowl with Indiana would be a nip-and-tuck affair, piling up 513
yards of offense and scoring touchdowns on their first five
possessions. QB Zac Robinson executed the offense exceptionally well,
and the Okie State defense, maligned all year, shut down the Hoosiers
when it mattered in the first three quarters.
42. East Carolina – One of the largest underdogs this bowl
season, the Pirates jumped on Boise State early in the Hawaii Bowl,
holding on for an impressive 41-38 victory. East Carolina rolled up 476
yards of offense, getting a record-setting performance from RB Chris
Johnson and a bowl win for the first time since 2000.
41. UCLA DE Bruce Davis – A four-quarter terror in the Las Vegas
Bowl, Davis schooled the BYU offensive line en route to seven tackles,
3.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. The senior’s
speed off the edge was too much for the lumbering Cougar linemen, who
were completely overmatched against No. 44.
40. Florida Atlantic QB Rusty Smith – The Sun Belt Conference
Player of the Year helped carry the Owls to a New Orleans Bowl win in
their postseason debut, going 25-of-32 for 336 yards and touchdown
passes to five different receivers.
39. The New Mexico D – Before the New Mexico Bowl, it had been 46
years since the Lobos had won a bowl game, and more than 27 years since
Nevada had been shut out. The New Mexico defense ended both streaks
with one hellacious effort, limiting the high-powered Wolf Pack to just
210 yards and 12 first downs.
38. Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom – With an upset of
UCF in the Liberty Bowl, Croom’s reclamation of the Bulldogs reached a
new high point. The program’s first bowl victory in seven years may not
have been pretty, but nobody in Starkville was concerned about style
points after Anthony Dixon plunged in from a yard out for the clincher
late in the fourth.
37. The TCU D – The Horned Frogs did the unthinkable against the
nation’s No. 4 offense, holding Houston out of the end zone for the
final three quarters in a 20-13 Texas Bowl win. They yielded a mere 32
rushing yards, bottling up pocket rocket Anthony Alridge all night,
while racking up five sacks from five different defenders.
36. Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger – Under the
steady hand of the 73-year old Schnellenberger, the youngest program to
ever play in a bowl game became the youngest program to ever win
a bowl game. The Owls blew past Memphis, 44-27, in the second half of
the New Orleans Bowl, pushing Schnellenberger’s postseason record to a
35. Kansas CB Aqib Talib – The physical and emotional sparkplug
of the no-name Jayhawk defense, Talib set the tone for the Orange Bowl
with a 60-yard interception return for a touchdown in the opening
quarter. From that point in the game, Kansas never trailed, holding on
to beat Virginia Tech behind the play of their MVP cornerback.
34. West Virginia QB Pat White – Showing no ill-effects from the
hand injury he suffered at the end of the season, White parlayed 150
yards rushing and 176 yards and two touchdowns through the air into
Fiesta Bowl MVP honors.
33. USC LB Rey Maualuga – When the Rose Bowl mattered in the
first half, Maualuga was an unblockable beast against Illinois, making
four tackles, collecting three sacks, forcing a fumble, picking off a
pass, and generally intimidating everything in his path.
32. Florida WR Percy Harvin – Harvin outshined Heisman-winning
teammate Tim Tebow and nearly willed the Gators to a comeback win over
Michigan in the Capital One Bowl, rushing for 165 yards and a score and
catching nine balls for 77 yards and another touchdown.
31. LSU offensive coordinator Gary Crowton – Crowton devised a
brilliant gameplan for the BCS national championship, which led to 38
points, or 28 more than Ohio State yielded per game during the regular
season. The Tigers were crisp and unpredictable, mixing the run with
the pass, and north-south running with misdirections. The Buckeyes were
outcoached in New Orleans, with Crowton getting a lot of the credit.
30. Michigan coach Lloyd Carr – One of the feel-good stories of
the postseason, Carr capped his final turbulent season in Ann Arbor with
an upset of Florida in the Capital One Bowl and a ride on his players’
shoulders in the aftermath.
29. Oregon QB Justin Roper – As far as first career starts go,
Roper was near flawless in the Sun Bowl, efficiently going 17-of-30 for
180 yards and touchdown passes to four different receivers. The
redshirt freshman with an eye on next year’s starting job was the
passing component of a Duck offense that peppered South Florida’s No. 21
defense for a season-high 533 yards and 56 points.
28. West Virginia – So much for the Mountaineers being lost
without departed head coach Rich Rodriguez. West Virginia bucked
expectations and vexed the experts in the Fiesta Bowl, pounding Oklahoma
48-28 behind an explosive offense and a speedy defense that went the
entire year without getting nearly enough credit.
27. Cal QB Kevin Riley – If the Armed Forced Bowl was an audition
for 2008, Riley may challenge incumbent Nate Longshore for the starting
assignment versus Michigan State. Replacing Longshore early in the
contest, Riley went a sizzling 16-of-19 for 269 yards, three touchdowns
and no turnovers, adding a rushing score and rallying the Bears out of a
21-0 hole to Air Force.
26. Texas – The Longhorns were determined to close out an
up-and-down season on a high note in the Holiday Bowl. And it showed.
In a game with Arizona State that was labeled a toss-up, Texas scorched
the Sun Devils, 52-34, behind the nimble feet of QB Colt McCoy and RB
Jamaal Charles, and a defense that delivered four sacks and four
25. The Mississippi State D – Facing one of the country’s hottest
offensive attacks, the Bulldogs completely shut down UCF in the Liberty
Bowl, while keeping RB Kevin Smith from breaking Barry Sanders’
single-season rushing record. Mississippi State, led by ball-hawking S
Derek Pegues, gave up three points and 219 yards, holding Smith to just
3.4 yards per carry.
24. The Motor City Bowl – Purdue outlasted Central Michigan in a
51-48 thriller that had all the elements of a memorable December bowl
game. There was no shortage of great offensive plays, a flurry of
comebacks from the Chippewas, and a last-second field goal from Chris
Summers that emptied the Boilermaker bench.
23. Michigan WR Adrian Arrington – Arrington played the game of
his life in the Capital One Bowl, catching nine passes for 153 yards and
two scores, including the game-winner late in the fourth and a couple of
the most acrobatic moves of the postseason.
22. The Missouri D – Lost in Tony Temple’s heroics in the Cotton
Bowl was the play of the Mizzou defense, which kept Darren McFadden and
Felix Jones in check, holding the high-powered Arkansas running game
well below its season average. The Tigers created five turnovers,
yielding a meaningless touchdown and getting a huge game from playmaking
S William Moore.
21. Central Michigan QB Dan LeFevour – The Chippewas’ comeback
attempt in the Motor City Bowl fell three points short, but no one can
blame LeFevour, the only reason this game didn’t end in a blowout. The
sophomore was way too much for Purdue to handle, throwing for 292 yards
and four touchdowns, while running for 114 yards and two more scores.
20. LSU QB Matt Flynn – Flynn ended his college career about as
good as a quarterback could, getting named offensive MVP in the BCS
national championship game for tossing four touchdown passes. He was in
total control of the Tiger offense, throwing just eight incompletions
and completing passes to eight different receivers.
19. Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson – Robinson might be next
year’s Chase Daniel, a Big 12 quarterback that thrusts him into the
Heisman picture. He left a lasting impression in the Insight Bowl,
roasting the Indiana defense for 302 yards and three touchdowns through
the air, while adding 70 yards and two more scores on the ground.
18. Tulsa QB Paul Smith – If you’re a high school quarterback in
the Southwest, don’t you seriously consider playing in Tulsa’s potent
offense? Smith flourished all year in Gus Malzahn’s hurry-up, no-huddle
attack, capping it by throwing for 312 yards and five touchdowns, and
rushing for 46 yards and a score in a GMAC Bowl rout of Bowling Green.
17. Michigan QB Chad Henne – The Wolverines opened up the offense
in the Capital One Bowl to the delight of Henne, who went 25-of-39 for
373 yards, three touchdowns and two picks. The senior found Adrian
Arrington for the game-winner with 4:12 left, locking up bowl MVP
16. Oregon – Few expected the reeling Ducks to hold up against
the pressure and intensity of South Florida in the Sun Bowl. It’s a
good thing they didn’t listen to their detractors. Oregon gored the
Bulls behind the running of Jonathan Stewart, the passing of Justin
Roper, and four interceptions, capping an odd year with a shocking 56-21
15. The SEC – If there was any doubt about conference supremacy,
the SEC ended it by going 7-2 in a postseason coronation, including wins
in the BCS national championship game and the Sugar Bowl. The SEC also
landed victories against Wisconsin, Florida State, Clemson, and Colorado
to pad its lead against the next best league.
14. The Capital One Bowl – Now this was a New Year’s Day
bowl game. The Capital One Bowl was a four-quarter thrill-ride, packed
with emotional storylines and great offensive performances from both
sidelines. In the end, Michigan upset Florida, 41-35, in one of the
most exciting and meaningful games of the postseason.
13. East Carolina RB Chris Johnson – Nearly the goat for his
costly fumble late in the fourth quarter of the Hawaii Bowl, Johnson put
forth a heroic effort, scoring twice and setting a bowl record with 408
yards, 223 on the ground, 32 through the air, and 153 on kickoffs.
12. Purdue QB Curtis Painter – In leading the Boilermakers to a
Motor City Bowl victory over Central Michigan, Painter went 35-of-54 for
a school-record 546 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Included in that record-setting performance was a final drive that led
to a game-winning field goal for Purdue as time expired.
11. The Georgia D – The potent Hawaii offense never stood a
chance against the Dawg defense in the Sugar Bowl. Georgia harassed
Heisman finalist Colt Brennan from the opening series, getting to the
quarterback eight times while creating a BCS bowl-record six turnovers.
Kudos to defensive coordinator Willie Martinez for formulating the
gameplan that limited the Warriors to just three points through the
first three quarters.
10. Missouri – The Tigers’ response to getting snubbed by the
Orange Bowl committee in favor of Kansas? Destroying Arkansas, 38-7, in
the Cotton Bowl, the program’s first January bowl game in nearly four
9. Georgia DE Marcus Howard – Playing like a man possessed,
Howard became the first defensive player in almost three decades to earn
MVP honors in the Sugar Bowl. He was relentless off the edge against
the overmatched Hawaii tackles, collecting three sacks, two forced
fumbles, a fumble recovery for a touchdown, and a tipped ball that was
intercepted by a teammate.
8. USC – Are the Trojans the best team in the country? They sure
looked like it in Pasadena on New Year’s Day, ambushing defenseless
Illinois for 49 points and a Rose Bowl-record 633 yards. USC pretty
much did whatever it pleased against the Illini, pulling away early and
copping win No. 11 for a sixth year in-a-row.
7. Michigan – Who could have imagined that a season which began
with a loss to Appalachian State would end with an upset of defending
champion Florida in the Capital One Bowl? The Wolverines were brilliant
against the heavily-favored Gators, racking up 524 yards of offense, and
coming back to win late in the fourth quarter, 41-35.
6. Oregon RB Jonathan Stewart – In order to beat South Florida,
the Ducks had to have a big game from Stewart, who delivered a
Sun Bowl-record and career-high 253 yards rushing and a touchdown on
just 23 carries.
5. Rutgers RB Ray Rice – If the International Bowl was Rice’s
audition for NFL scouts, he certainly improved his draft grade and
signing bonus with a monster performance. The junior exploded for a
school-record 280 yards rushing and four touchdowns against toothless
Ball State, becoming the third back this year to surpass the 2,000-yard
4. Kansas – With a 24-21 upset of No. 5 Virginia Tech in the
Orange Bowl, the Jayhawks locked down a Top 10 finish, proving to the
nation that they belonged in a BCS bowl game after all. Hailed for its
offensive firepower, Kansas authored one of its most important wins in
school history behind the play of a vastly underrated and well-coached
3. West Virginia coach Bill Stewart – Was that a life-long
assistant that out coached Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops in the Fiesta Bowl?
Yup. Stewart and his staff did a fantastic job of keeping the
Mountaineers focused during a turbulent month, becoming the only of
seven interim head coaches to win a bowl game. An assistant no longer,
Stewart parlayed his first victory into his first head job, landing the
West Virginia opening a day after the Fiesta Bowl.
2. Missouri RB Tony Temple – Overshadowed by Arkansas’ Darren
McFadden and Felix Jones before the start of the game, Temple exploded
for a Cotton Bowl-record 281 yards rushing and four touchdowns on just
24 carries. Darting in and out of Reggie Herring’s defense with
relative ease, he also overshadowed teammate Chase Daniel, a Heisman
finalist that didn’t need to be prolific for a change.
1. LSU – Ending the debate about the nation’s best team, the
Tigers ran circles around Ohio State in the BCS national championship
game, digging out of an early 10-0 hole and pulling away for a 38-24
victory. While the swarming defense had five sacks and three turnovers,
the offense executed seamlessly, becoming the first team since Florida
in last year’s title game to score more than 30 points on the country’s