Tag:Bowl Grades
Posted on: January 1, 2011 8:48 pm
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Bowl Grades: Rose Bowl

Posted by Tom Fornelli

TCU says "Hello, BCS!" and beats Wisconsin 21-19 in the Rose Bowl to finish season 13-0

TCU


Offense: It wasn't a great game by the TCU offense in this one, as while the Horned Frogs came out blazing in the first quarter and scored touchdowns on their first two drives, they only managed 7 points over the final 45 minutes.  Still, the Frogs got as many points as they needed, and didn't turn the ball over, using field position to their advantage throughout the second half.

Andy Dalton was on fire out of the gate, but TCU then got a bit pass-happy in the second half and his performance fell off a bit.  He did finish the game with 247 total yards and two touchdowns, running the offense efficiently enough to win the offensive MVP of the game.  That being said, had TCU been a bit more productive with the ball late, it wouldn't have had to sweat so much at the end.  Grade:B

Defense: His name is Tank Carder, and this game wasn't as much the Rose Bowl as it was the Tank Carder Show.  Carder was everywhere on the field for the TCU defense.  Knocking Scott Tolzien to the ground repeatedly, swallowing runners in the backfield, and knocking down passes at the line of scrimmage.  If you didn't know Carder's name before this game, you do now.

The only problem for TCU was its interior run defense.  While it was able to utilize its speed every time Wisconsin tried to stretch runs outside, the defensive line was getting manhandled up the middle quite a bit.  Still, considering how impressive Wisconsin's offense was over the final month of the season, holding the Badgers to 19 points is nothing to be ashamed of.  Grade: B+

Coaching: The only complaint I have about the job Gary Patterson and the TCU coaching staff did in this game was abandoning a game plan that was working so well at the start.  Andy Dalton was having successful early throwing the ball and running out of the read option, but for some reason TCU ditched this attack after the first quarter.  Instead Dalton just kept dropping back to pass, and things got a bit too predictable.  Grade: B

Wisconsin


Offense: Just looking at the statistics and not the scoreboard, you'd think Wisconsin won this game.  The Badgers rushed for nearly five yards a carry, converted nearly half of its third downs, both of its fourth down attempts and didn't turn the ball over a single time.  So what went wrong?  Well, once the Badgers got to the red zone things seemed to stall and the team had to settle for field goal attempts, one of which they missed.

Which was a big miss given the final score.

The big problem on offense was that Wisconsin just wasn't very efficient throwing the ball.  The Badgers have never been a passing team, but they've utilized play-action all season to pick up big chunks of yards and move the ball down the field.  Tolzien couldn't do this against TCU on Saturday, and it cost Wisconsin points in the end.  Grade:C+

Defense: Aside from the first quarter, Wisconsin's defense played pretty well.  It's just Wisconsin had trouble getting off the field on third down, which lengthened TCU drives and took more gas out of the tank as the game wore on.  The Badgers did a good job stopping the run and made life difficult for Dalton at times, but in the end, the Badgers defense had to make a play, and they simply didn't.

A turnover or two would have gone a long way in this game.  Grade:B

Coaching: Why did Wisconsin lose this game despite the stats? Coaching decisions.  Now, I loved Bret Bielema calling a fake punt deep in his own territory in the first half, but other than that, he left me scratching my head quite a bit.  There was the questionable clock management at the end of the first half that forced Wisconsin to settle for a field goal, as it seems Bielema thought unused timeouts carried over to the second half.  The biggest gaffe, however, came at the end of the game.  On Wisconsin's final drive the Badgers ran the ball right down TCU's throat with John Clay and Montee Ball.  After finally punching the ball into the end zone, the Badgers had to go for two, so what did Wisconsin do?  They spread it out with four receivers and decided to throw.  A Tank Carder fly swat later and TCU was Rose Bowl champions.  Grade:F

Final Grade


The first quarter gave me the feeling that this was going to be an epic Rose Bowl, one that would go down in history.  Things didn't quite play out that way, but it was still a very interesting game up until the last few minutes.  It was a huge win for TCU, and one I thoroughly enjoyed watching.  With or without the questionable decisions at the end.  Grade: A-
Posted on: January 1, 2011 8:00 pm
 

Bowl Grades: Gator Bowl

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Mississippi State crushed an overmatched, undermanned Michigan defense, 52-14.

Mississippi State

Offense: Quarterback Chris Relf wore #36 in honor of teammate Nick Bell , who passed away this season after battling skin cancer. He most certainly represented Bell admirably today, rolling up 281 yards on 18-23 passing and throwing three touchdowns. Michigan's secondary essentially had no answer for anything MSU wanted to do on offense. The Bulldogs' rushing attack was good for over 200 yards, even though it only gained 3.5 yards a pop. But above all else, MSU scored 52 points and gave Michigan its worst bowl beating ever. Grade: A

Defense: The MSU defensive performance basically defined "bend but don't break" today; Michigan gained 16 first downs and over 300 yards of offense, but only scored 14 points (all in the first quarter) and gave the ball up twice -- not including the partially blocked punt that gave TCU the ball on the Michigan 29. Only Ohio State held the Wolverines to fewer points this year. Grade: B+

Coaching: Dan Mullen went 5-5 on fourth downs in this game. 5-5! These weren't do-or-die situations, either; Mississippi State did beat Michigan by 38 points, after all. His team stayed aggressive even after it was garbage time, shutting Michigan out in the last three quarters. Right now, Mullen looks to be worth every penny of the $10.6 million he figures to make over the next four years. Grade: A

Michigan

Offense: Michigan actually started the game on a roll, and led 14-10 at one point. Then Denard Robinson threw an interception, and things quickly went downhill. Robinson accounted for over 300 yards once again, but as per usual, the rest of the team didn't contribute much. Roy Roundtree and Martavious Odoms both looked solid at receiver, and both figure to be weapons next year. The Wolverines definitely missed Tate Forcier (ineligible) in the second half, when passing became the highest priority. Grade: B-

Defense: Statistically, this is the worst defense in Michigan history. This was Michigan's worst defensive performance in a bowl game ever. Greg Robinson should not only be fired, he should never coach defense in college football ever again. Michigan's defense was awful, wretched, putrid, horrific, horrible, and horrendous in every respect of the game. Grade: A new, worse grade than F should be invented and given to Michigan's defense

Coaching: Rich Rodriguez may have gotten himself fired with this one game. There were a litany of problems associated with Michigan's preparation and execution, as the 38-point margin would indicate, but let's just point this out: Michigan went 0-5 on fourth downs. Denard Robinson threw an incomplete pass on all of them. Robinson is the most feared rushing quarterback in college football this year; why is Rodriguez making him stand still and throw on every single fourth down? Use his legs, for crying out loud! Grade: F

Final Grade

This was not a good game for anybody but Mississippi State fans. It's great to see Dan Mullen breathe life into the historically inferior program, but it became quickly apparent in the second half that Michigan is just a mess. If it's Rich Rodriguez's last game on the Michigan sidelines, it's disappointing, but fitting. Grade: D

Posted on: January 1, 2011 5:20 pm
Edited on: January 1, 2011 5:20 pm
 

Bowl Grades: Outback Bowl

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Urban Meyer goes out with a win and a complimentary Bloomin' Onion as Florida defeats Penn State 37-24

Florida


Offense: Florida scored 37 points on Saturday, but don't think that means the Gators offense finally figured things out.  Fourteen of those points came courtesy of the defense and special teams.  Meanwhile, the two offensive touchdowns Florida did manage came on two drives totaling 40 yards thanks to Penn State turnovers.

In total, the Florida offense managed only 287 yards on the day, with its trio of quarterbacks combining to complete 14-of-27 passes for 102 yards.  If there was a standout player for Gators on offense, it was Omarius Hines who had 59 all-purpose yards and a touchdown.  Other than that, there wasn't much to celebrate on offense.

If the Gators were to hand out an offensive MVP for the game, it would likely go to kicker/punter Chas Henry or safety Ahmad Black. Grade:D

Defense: Thankfully for the Gators, while they still don't have an offense, the defense made the trip down south to Tampa on Saturday.  Ahmad Black had a huge day in his final game as a Gator, including the deciding pick-six in the final minutes that put an end to Penn State's chances.  All in all the Gators forced five turnovers on the game, all via the interception, and held Penn State to only seven points in the second half.  Grade: B+

Coaching: You'd think that with over a month passing between Florida's last game and this one, the coaching staff might have been able to come up with an offensive game plan that wasn't as terrible as the one we'd seen all season.  Unfortunately, even though Steve Addazio accepted the head coaching job at Temple, he stuck around Gainesville for this game.  Still, since it was Urban Meyer's final game, and his beloved special teams unit got him a touchdown, the Gators staff still gets a decent grade.  Grade: B-

Penn State


Offense: To put it simply, Penn State's offense cost them a win on Saturday.  Particularly Matt McGloin, who on one play would make a throw that completely surpassed your expectations, and on the next would throw a pass that completely defied logic.  McGloin threw five interceptions on the day.  Five.

You're not going to win many games turning the ball over that often.

Penn State's offense actually out-gained Florida's offense by 70 yards in this one, and Evan Royster rushed for 99 yards, but the interceptions and McGloin's overall decision-making killed the Nittany Lions.  Grade: F

Defense: You can't pin this one on the Penn State defense at all.  It did it's job and smothered a lackluster Florida offense, but the Nittany Lions found themselves in too many bad spots thanks to the turnovers.  Really, the defense played well given the circumstances, holding Florida to field goals a lot of the time.  Nobody on this Penn State defense has anything to be ashamed of following this game, and Matt McGloin owes everybody on this unit a free meal. Grade: B

Coaching: I did not like what Joe Paterno and the Penn State coaching job did on offense in this game.  I'm sorry, but when my quarterback has had trouble with deeper routes all season long and is turning the ball over frequently, I'm not going to drop him back and have him throw 42 times.  It just doesn't make any sense.  If you feel you have to throw so much, then run plays with shorter routes.  Yes, McGloin had a bad game, but his coaches didn't do him a lot of favors. Grade: D+

Final Grade



This game was not pretty.  Not at all.  Still, given the action going on around the state of Florida and in Texas elsewhere on Saturday at the same time, at least this one had a bit of drama in it at the end.  It's for that reason, and that reason only, that this grade is even this high.  Grade: C+
Posted on: January 1, 2011 5:19 pm
Edited on: January 1, 2011 7:20 pm
 

Bowl Grades: TicketCity Bowl

Posted by Chip Patterson

Texas Tech withstands a late Northwestern charge to win the inaugural TicketCity Bowl 45-38


TEXAS TECH

Offense: Senior Taylor Potts spent most of his career at Texas Tech in the Air Raid system that basically hands the keys of the offense to the quarterback. When the Red Raiders hired Tommy Tuberville as Mike Leach's replacement, that system left with Leach. But when Northwestern shut down the rushing game early, Potts was given the green light to fire at will. Using accurate throws on intermediate passing routes, the Red Raiders marched up and down the field all day on the Wildcats. Potts finished his career as a Red Raider with one of his finer performances of the season, completing 43 of 56 passes for 369 yards, and five total touchdowns. GRADE: A-

Defense: A matter of days ago Texas Tech found out that not only would defensive coordinator James Willis be leaving after just one season, but he would not even coach the Red Raiders in their bowl game. Considering the disruption this must have caused in the unit's preparation, the Red Raiders put together a pretty impressive performance in the first half. Unfortunately, when Northwestern got their dual-QB offense going in the second half the defense was caught on their heels. GRADE: C-

Coaching: When the rushing game failed, head coach Tommy Tuberville was forced to do the one thing he truly distastes: airing the ball out. But Tubs was able to come to terms with abandoning the running game because of how accurate Potts appeared, particularly early. Tuberville even let a trick play go down on the double-pass that set up Potts' rushing/receiving touchdown. The Red Raiders came into the game with basically no defensive coordinator, and yet still held the Wildcats to just one score in the first half. GRADE: B

NORTHWESTERN

Offense: In the first half, Northwestern looked helplessly lost without quarterback Dan Persa and running back Mike Trumpy. Their offense was stagnant, and their defensive counterparts could not do anything to stop the Red Raiders either. Needless to say, things looked bleak. But after the break, the Wildcats were able to utilize their two-quarterback package to move the ball down the field on Texas Tech. Running a scheme that utilized both Evan Watkins and Kain Colter, occasionally on the field at the same time, the Wildcats were able to keep the defense guessing and take advantage of some open field to score quickly and get back into the game. With Watkins primarily throwing and Colter primarily running, the two freshmen combined to do their best Dan Persa impression. Unfortunately, it was not enough to overcome the 24-6 halftime deficit. GRADE: C

Defense: Northwestern's defense was their one consistent flaw throughout all four quarters of the TicketCity Bowl. Time and time again, they were unable to create the big third down stop to keep the Red Raiders from moving the ball, and eventually, burning up the clock. The best chance the Wildcats had was when they cut the lead to 38-31 early in the fourth quarter. When Texas Tech got the ball back, Potts put together a 10 play, 69 yard touchdown drive that temporarily deflated the Northwestern sideline. Were it not for Jordan Mabin's pick-six two minutes later, the final result could have been much worse for the Wildcats. GRADE: F

Coaching: Preparing for Texas Tech team was a challenge for Patrick Fitzgerald and the Northwestern coaching staff, particularly on offense without Persa or Trumpy. Luckily, they had plenty of time to put together the scheme for Colter and Watkins. The Wildcat-esque package they ran was not anything groundbreaking, but it was good enough to create some quick scores to give Northwestern a chance at the end of the game. GRADE: B-

FINAL GRADE: Northwestern hasn't won a bowl game since 1949, and for a moment in the second half it looked like this COULD be their triumphant moment. But no Persa and no Trumpy really hurt the Wildcats in the first half, falling into a deficit that was just too much to overcome. For Taylor Potts, it was good to see him air it out one last time. Not often this season has he gotten to complete 40+ passes now that Mike Leach's Air Raid offense is gone. At halftime, this snoozer was an F. But thanks to a furious comeback by the Wildcats, the game ended up being quite entertaining. GRADE: C+
Posted on: January 1, 2011 4:41 pm
Edited on: January 1, 2011 7:21 pm
 

Bowl Grades: Capital One Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Alabama dominates Michigan State from start to finish, bludgeoning the Spartans 49-7.

ALABAMA

Offense: The Tide were entirely too physical for the Spartans from the get-go, with both members of the Mark Ingram-Trent Richardson tag team at running back punishing State tacklers of all varieties, particularly at the goal line. The Alabama offensive line mauled the Spartan defensive front, giving the backs huge lanes and quarterback Greg McElroy all day to throw. Julio Jones simply abused the defensive backs assigned to cover him (as shown). And McElroy showed off the precision that marked his 2009 national title run, completing 13 of his 17 passes for a whopping 12.9 yards per attempt.

Yes, that should about cover it. But somehow, given the degree of domination -- 265 first-half yards to Sparty's 67 and an easy touchdown on the first possession of the second half to push the lead to 35-0 -- it doesn't. GRADE: A

Defense:
Just as overwhelming as the Tide offense. Led by a huge game from linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Nico Johnson, the Tide so limited what had been one of the Big Ten's best rushing attacks that the Spartans finished the day with -48 rushing yards. (Yes, that's right: 48 rushing yards fewer than no rushing yards at all.) The Tide pass rush did everything to poor pounded State quarterback Kirk Cousins (who left the game in the third quarter after a particularly brutal sack) but tap dance on his helmet. It took until the dying minutes of the third quarter (by which point 'Bama had already pulled many of their starters) for the Spartans to even crack triple digits in total offense. In all, a total whitewashing. GRADE: A

Coaching: The Tide came out focused and motivated, immediately applied the boot to Sparty's throat, and never removed it. Can't ask for anything more than that. GRADE: A

MICHIGAN STATE

Offense:
Cousins led a couple of nice first-half drives, one that reached the Alabama 32 and another the Tide 2. But he also had a major hand in submarining both those drives, throwing a Robert Lester interception to end the first and (following a crucial illegal substitution penalty that pushed the ball back to the 7) fumbling on yet another sack to end the second.

After those, well, the Spartan offense's day would be best summed up by a montage of quarterbacks desperately scrambling back to cover a ball 10 yards behind them, State receivers dragged down 10 yards behind the line-of-scrimmage on futile end-arounds, and wobbly players of various positions limping off the field. It was U-G-L-Y past the point of alibi. GRADE: F+

Defense:
With the kind of talent boasted by the Tide, when Alabama (and particularly McElroy) is on their game, there's not always a lot any defense can do. But the "tackling" display by the Spartans -- proud, always-energetic All-American middle linebacker Greg Jones mostly excepted -- would have been borderline-embarrassing if they'd been facing the New Orleans Saints. Alabama's first five possessions, not counting the run-out-the-clock situation at the end of the first half, covered an average of 69 yards and ended: touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown. That, folks, is not good. GRADE: F+

Coaching: Mark Dantonio
and his crew did an excellent job with this team during the season and were facing a substantial talent deficit today, but his team was far too sloppy to hang with the likes of Alabama and showed zero fight after going in at the half down 28. Offensive coordinator Don Treadwell did one of the best jobs in the country this year, but his attempts to use misdirection on slow-developing end-arounds and screens were never goign to work against a team with 'Bama's speed. GRADE: F

FINAL GRADE:
Unless you were an Alabama fan or the sort who enjoys burning insects to death with a magnifying glass, this game was interesting for the 120 seconds or so Sparty drove inside the Tide 10 and a forgone-concluded utter slog for every minute thereafter. Grade: D-

Posted on: January 1, 2011 1:35 am
 

Bowl Grades: Chick-Fil-A Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

South Carolina loses Marcus Lattimore to an early head injury and can't rally from a 13-0 hole, falling 26-17 to Florida State.

FLORIDA STATE

Offense: The Seminole offense rarely looked like a well-oiled machine, particularly after quarterback Christian Ponder left the game for good with a first-quarter concussion, and a few more touchdowns in place of field goals would have salted the game away sometime in the third quarter. But in a game defined by blown chances and mistakes on both sides, that the 'Noles managed not to screw up four potential (and eventually converted) Dustin Hopkins field goal opportunities counts for a lot, and backup E.J. Manuel's two clutch throws on FSU's game-clinching fourth-quarter drive -- one on third-and-eight to set up first-and-goal, the other to score the touchdown -- count for even more.

But what counts the most was the 218 yards rushing stunningly piled up on what had been the nation's eighth-ranked run defense. Even without any real passing threat once Ponder left the game, the Seminole line blasted hole after hole in the Gamecock front seven, and Chris Thompson took advantage to the tune of 147 game-changing yards. GRADE: B

Defense:
When FSU corner Greg Reid -- the game's best player by a wide, wide margin -- walloped Lattimore on Carolina's first drive to dislodge the ball, end a Gamecock scoring threat, and (cleanly) knock Steve Spurrier's biggest weapon out of the game, the tone was set. Maybe the Seminoles were going to give up some yards here and there (414 in all by the time the whistle blew), but it wasn't going to matter as long as they had a big play waiting ... and they nearly always did. The 'Nole pass rush recorded only two official sacks but harassed Stephen Garcia into poor throws all game long; the defensive backs turned three of those throws into interceptions; and Reid, a demon all night, separated Alshon Jeffery from the ball as well late in the third quarter for another crucial turnover, Carolina's fifth of the game. In short: yardage allowed, schmardage schmallowed. GRADE: A-

Coaching: In a game where both teams appeared equally motivated and (almost) equally sloppy, the star of the game from a coaching standpoint was FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, whose blitz packages the Carolina offensive line never developed an answer for. But credit also goes to Jimbo Fisher and his offensive staff for never asking the clearly-limited Manuel to do too much. GRADE: A-

SOUTH CAROLINA

Offense: Particularly considering they were forced to play nearly the entire game without the linchpin of their offense -- a situation that had already seen the Carolina offense roll over and die a couple of times this season -- the Gamecocks as a whole weren't that bad. 414 yards of offense ought to be worth a lot more than 17 points. But it's not when your quarterback has the kind of nightmare game Garcia had, throwing three picks-to-zero touchdowns, missing multiple open receivers, and generally looking every bit as lost as he'd looked in his previous two bowl starts (blowout losses to Iowa and UConn).

He didn't get a whole lot of help -- no Lattimore, Jeffrey's fumble, blown assignments in pass protection, etc. -- but it was Garcia's loose screws that first let the Gamecocks' wheels come off. GRADE: C-

Defense:
There shouldn't be much shame in the Gamecocks' defensive performance; allowing only 308 yards of total offense should be enough to win most games, and if not for a whole series of huge stands from the Carolina D following offensive (and special teams) miscues, the game would have been well out of hand before the halftime whistle.

At the same time, there might have been more time for a Gamecock comeback if not for all the clock burned off by Thompson's runs, and allowing Manuel to go 7-for-7 on the deciding touchdown drive directly after the offense had scored to cut the lead to 19-17 will stick in coordinator Ellis Thompson's craw all offseason. The Gamecocks were good, but it's not true to say they were good enough. GRADE: B

Coaching:
Spurrier's perenially lackadaisical approach to blitz protection caught up to him again, but aside from that, there's not much to take issue with in Carolina's coaching performance; the coaches can't be held responsible for Lattimore's sudden injury, Garcia having one of those games, the defensive line getting beat straight up in the running game, etc. Unlike the last two years, the Gamecocks at leats played like they wanted to be at their bowl game. GRADE: B+

FINAL GRADE:
The 2010 Chick-Fil-A Bowl provided some drama in the late-going, but between the insistence on South Carolina's part to hand the game over to Florida State and FSU's insistence on politely kicking another field goal to keep the Gamecocks in it anyway, you can't call it a classic. And with the final five minutes an anticlimax following Manuel's final touchdown toss, this blogger isn't sure he'd even call it "good." Grade: B

Posted on: December 31, 2010 9:56 pm
 

Bowl Grades: Liberty Bowl

Posted by Adam Jacobi

A late touchdown gave Central Florida its first bowl victory ever as the Golden Knights beat Georgia, 10-6.

Central Florida

Offense: Sometimes winning football is pretty. And sometimes it's what Central Florida did. UCF's freshman phenom quarterback Jeff Godfrey didn't exactly set the world on fire in today's game, going 16-29 for 117 yards (a paltry four yards per attempt) and throwing two interceptions -- including one on a truly lousy fade in the end zone in the second half. But when it came down to it, UCF put together a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, complete with several 3rd down conversions, and on that drive Godfrey was more like his 2010 self, as he led the C-USA in passing efficiency. The hero of the day was Latavius Murray , who scored the lone touchdown and rushed for over 100 yards on the day. Grade: C

Defense: Hard to argue with six points allowed. Georgia had been scoring at a clip of nearly 40 points per game after A.J. Green came back from suspension, and even in its losses after Green's return, Georgia scored nearly 30 points a game. Shutting the Dawgs down like this, then, was a Herculean task and never something one would expect from a Conference USA team. But here it is and here we are. Grade: A

Coaching: First bowl win and it comes on a fourth-quarter comeback against an SEC team? That's enough for an A in our book any day. Grade: A

Georgia

Offense: Aaron Murray (no relation to Latavius), Georgia's own freshman phenom quarterback, was just about as wretched as Godfrey; Murray was 21-38 for 198 yards and two of his own interceptions. More troubling was the fact that Murray was in gloves all day, and several of Murray's throws were well off-target and/or absolute ducks in the air. He got quite a bit of help from Green and Tavarres King at wideout, each of whom made some highlight-reel catches, but all in all the Georgia offense was as out of whack as Murray's throws all day long. Grade: D

Defense: Normally, allowing 241 yards, 3-10 3rd down conversions, and 10 points is more than enough to ensure victory. That's what Georgia did, and putting this loss on the defense's shoulders since the lone touchdown allowed came in the fourth quarter is pretty short-sighted. When taking the opponent into consideration -- no offense, Vanderbilt -- this was the best performance by the Bulldog defense all season long. Grade: A

Coaching: In the first quarter, Mark Richt's Bulldogs started a drive at their own 2-yard line. 95 -- 95! -- yards later, Georgia faced a 4th and inches at the UCF 3-yard line. A touchdown was nine feet away, and a first down was one foot away. Up went a field goal, and Georgia took a 3-0 lead. The Bulldogs would not treaten to score a touchdown again until the very last drive, when Aaron Murray was forced to heave a pass into the end zone as time expired. Why Mark Richt didn't go for the touchdown in the first quarter is, frankly, a mystery. That's a statement of absolutely no faith in the offense by Richt, and his players responded with their worst offensive showing of the season. Grade: F-

Final Grade

Hey, we'll take any game that ends with the ball in the air and a win in the balance. Aaron Murray's Hail Mary would fall harmlessly to the turf, but still, the two teams used all of the 60 minutes in this struggle. Moreover, UCF's win only further proved that despite what the BCS conferences maintain at every step, the difference between AQ teams and non-AQ teams erodes further every year. That's scant consolation for Georgia fans who just watched their team drop a 10-6 decision to some C-USA school with no bowl tradition, but tradition's always been an overrated factor in college football anyway. Grade: B

Posted on: December 31, 2010 7:09 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2010 7:11 pm
 

Bowl Grades: Sun Bowl

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Notre Dame never breaks a sweat during 33-17 win over Miami in El Paso

Notre Dame

Offense: Tommy Rees probably isn't the best quarterback on scholarship at Notre Dame, but he's proven that sometimes there's more to the quarterback position than talent.  The Irish improved to 4-0 on the season when Rees starts, though even Rees would tell you it's a lot easier to play quarterback when you have a talented wide receiver like Michael Floyd at your disposal.

Floyd says he hasn't made a decision as to whether or not he'll return for his senior season, but there are likely some NFL scouts drooling after his Sun Bowl MVP performance on Friday.  Floyd finished the game with 6 receptions for 106 yards and two touchdowns.  Still, as nice as Floyd was for the Irish, the real key to their success was the running game, which racked up over 200 yards behind Cierre Wood, Robert Hughes and Theo Riddick.  If it weren't for the Irish offense slowing down a bit in the second half -- which is understandable considering the game was already over at halftime -- I'd be giving them a higher grade than this.  Grade: B+

Defense: The Notre Dame defense had flown a bit under the radar this season, and came into the Sun Bowl allowing only one touchdown in the last 12 quarters of play.  That one touchdown was by USC, and it was a four-play three-yard drive following a turnover.  The Irish stretched that streak to 15 quarters before Miami found its way into the end zone, and forced four turnovers on the day with safety Harrison Smith intercepting three passes by himself.

Miami finished the game with over 400 yards and 17 points of offense, but just about all of those came when the game was well out of reach late. Grade: A

Coaching: Brian Kelly didn't come to South Bend with the same fanfare that Charlie Weis and Ty Willingham did, but it's starting to look as though he may finally be the head coach that restores the winning tradition of Notre Dame.  The Irish attacked Miami's defense early and built a big enough lead that it was able to coast through the second half, and Bob Diaco's defense stuffed Miami's running game and forced Jacory Harris to throw.  And when you force Jacory Harris to throw, it's but a matter of time before the turnovers happen.  Grade: A

Miami

Offense: It was really a tale of two quarterbacks for Miami.  Jacory Harris came into the game looking to redeem himself and just made things worse.  Here's what you need to know about Harris' day: he completed seven passes.  Only four of them were completed to Miami receivers, the other three ended up in the hands of Notre Dame.

Stephen Morris came on, and though he threw an interception of his own, Miami's offense looked a lot better while he was in the game.  Morris threw for 283 yards and two touchdowns, and even though a lot came in garbage time, the fact he didn't quit says a lot about him.  Had he played the entire game, the outcome may have been a bit different.  Grade: D

Defense: I can't blame Miami's defense for this one, as Jacory Harris didn't put them in a very good position in the first half. Hard as it may be to believe given the outcome of the game, I was actually impressed with Miami's defense in this game for the final three quarters.  Even though the outcome of the game was never really in doubt, Miami's defense never stopped playing, and kept holding Notre Dame to field goals.  Marcus Fortson, in particular, was impressive in the second half, frequently disrupting life in the Notre Dame backfield. 

All that being said, however, Miami's defense never made a play to bail out its offense either. Grade:C+

Coaching: I do not envy the task that Jeff Stoutland had going into this game.  A lame duck coach filling in for the recently fired Randy Shannon, and in charge of a team that seemed to lose interest in the 2010 season over a month ago.  My only qualm with anything he did was starting Harris over Morris at quarterback, but given the fact that Morris sprained his ankle in practice, I can't even blame him for that. Grade: Incomplete

Final Grade

If you were tuning into this game hoping to see a classic like the meetings between these teams in the late 80s, then you were no doubt disappointed. Still, the game was a microcosm of the directions these once mighty programs seem to be going.  Each team has plenty of work left to do, but Notre Dame seems to have already taken the first step back to respectability, while Miami needs to build a foundation first.  Grade: D

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com