Like everything else in this college football season, the bowl season was an adventure. There were 42 bowl games originally scheduled and one added after the season started, but ultimately, only 25 were played. All but four of the 18 cancellations came before those games' matchups were announced.
COVID-19 problems canceled the Frisco, Gasparilla, Music City and Texas bowls after their teams had been announced. That kicked out two of the four SEC teams that got bowl bids despite records of 3-7 or worse. A third, Tennessee, had to drop out of the Liberty Bowl; however, it was replaced by Army West Point.
No. 15 Iowa was the only ranked team to have its bowl canceled. The Hawkeyes were to play Missouri in the Music City Bowl, but the Tigers could not play due to COVID-19. The only other team of note that ended up not getting to play in a bowl was UAB, the Conference USA champions. The Blazers were originally scheduled for the Gasparilla Bowl, but South Carolina had to drop out.
One of the unique things about this bowl season is that, for many teams, these were their first nonconference games. The SEC, Big Ten and MAC did not play any nonconference games during the regular season. Colorado played the only nonconference game the Pac-12 allowed.
Normally, I tell you not to read too much into bowl results outside of the College Football Playoff because you never know what you are going to get from teams in bowl games. Different attitudes toward the games and roster changes due to opt-outs and other things mean you are not always seeing the best of the teams in these games. That is probably truer than ever this season, but when these are the only nonconference games many teams are playing, it is hard to not judge teams by how they performed.
The Big 12 had a banner year, sweeping its five games. The MAC also had a perfect bowl season. On the other hand, Conference USA and the ACC had bowl seasons to forget.
Here is a breakdown of how each conference performed and what was expected based on the odds for each bowl game.
What a turnaround from last season for the Big 12. In 2019, it was an underdog in all six bowl games and managed to win just one. This season, every Big 12 team was favored, and all five took care of business. Only West Virginia failed to cover. No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 10 Iowa State each won their New Year's Six games.
The MAC allowed only the two teams that played in the league title game to go on to bowls. Ball State had a historic postseason. The Cardinals won the MAC for the first time and followed that with their first-ever bowl win. They beat Mountain West champion San Jose State in the Arizona Bowl and are now 1-8-1 in bowls.
A terrific season for the Sun Belt ended on a high note. The league earned the respect of oddsmakers as they were favored in all five games. Only No. 12 Coastal Carolina lost, falling to Liberty in the only overtime game of bowl season.
The SEC put several sub-.500 teams into bowls due to the NCAA waiving eligibility rules. Three of those won their games. The conference originally had 12 teams in bowl games, but three had games canceled, and Tennessee had to drop out. The SEC was 2-1 in the New Year's Six, including No. 1 Alabama's win over No. 4 Notre Dame in the College Football Playoff semifinal. The only real disappointment was No. 7 Florida's blowout loss in the Cotton Bowl.
Given the Big Ten's mess of a regular season, there are not many complaints about the postseason. No. 3 Ohio State drilled No. 2 Clemson in the CFP semifinal to avenge last year's loss. The only loss was by No. 11 Indiana, one of those teams we see every season that complains about their game only to go out and lose it. The Hoosiers took their discontent to a new level by covering up the Big Ten logos on their uniforms in protest. They lost to Ole Miss, which was 4-5 entering the game.
It was a pretty good postseason for the independents. BYU won big over UCF in the Boca Raton Bowl, and Liberty upset Sun Belt champion Coastal Carolina in the Cure Bowl. Even Army acquitted itself well, losing late to West Virginia as a touchdown underdog.
The MWC bowl season featured the biggest upset win and one of the biggest upset losses. Hawaii was a 13.5-point underdog to Houston in the relocated New Mexico Bowl, but it won 28-14. One of the best stories of the college football season was No. 22 San Jose State putting together an undefeated regular season, but the Spartans lost their bowl game to Ball State as a 9.5-point favorite.
A true bowl season to forget. No. 7 Cincinnati lost late to No. 8 Georgia in the Peach Bowl after leading much of the game. No. 24 Tulsa lost to 3-7 Mississippi State in the Armed Forces Bowl, which was marred by a postgame brawl. Houston was the heaviest favorite to lose its bowl game, and UCF got smoked by BYU. Only Memphis, which beat FAU in the Montgomery Bowl, kept the league from getting shut out. Hey, at least this was better than the Pac-12 and the ACC!
|Pac-12||0-2||0-2||Little went right for the Pac-12 in the regular season, and that continued into the postseason. Oregon, the league champion that was not a division champion, got drilled in the Fiesta Bowl 34-17 by Iowa State. Colorado put up a fight early against Texas but got stampeded in the second half in a 55-23 loss. |
|ACC||0-6||1-5||Ugh. Clemson was the only team favored to win its game, so not much was expected, but this was bad by any measure. The Tigers and Notre Dame were each blown out in their CFP semifinals. North Carolina was in the game with Texas A&M until the end at the Orange Bowl, and Miami only lost by three to Oklahoma State in the Cheez-It Bowl. Those are your highlights. This was about as ugly as a bowl season can get.|
Conference USA was an underdog in every game and lived down to those expectations. The only team that was favored was the one that had its game canceled. League champion UAB was a 6.5-point favorite against 2-8 South Carolina, but the Gamecocks had to bow out. Most of the games were blowouts, but Marshall and UTSA at least keeping their losses to single digits.