Best, worst of the 2012-13 bowl season

We look back at the best moments of the 2012-13 bowl season, which finished with Alabama's BCS title win. (US Presswire)

For the first time in 131 days, college football fans awoke on Tuesday morning with no more games in the immediate future. We will quickly move from the fireworks in South Florida to the recruiting trail, then on to national signing day and spring practice. But before we accelerate toward 2013, we will highlight the best and brightest from the bowl season. The honors are separated below into bowl games, team/individual performances and an assorted collection of accolades.

First, we need to get something out of the way. If we are giving out awards and honors for the 2012-13 bowl season, we need to begin with addressing the play of the year. One of the most brutal yet beautiful college football plays of the season, it was a moment that highlights both physical supremacy and also awareness on the highest level. As you can probably guess by now, I am talking about Jadeveon Clowney's hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl.

The intricacies of the play -- particularly occurring just after South Carolina was on the receiving of the bowl season's worst call; a first-down measurement with the ball a few links short -- make the entirety of the situation even more amazing. It was worse than football violence; it was violence with a purpose. Entire posts have been written about this play alone, and I suggest the interested reader check those out as well.

Rating the Bowls

Most Exciting Finish: New Mexico Bowl
-- In the final 46 seconds, Arizona quarterback Matt Scott threw two touchdowns and the Wildcats recovered an onside kick to overcome a 45-28 fourth-quarter deficit to beat Nevada, 49-48.

Best Bowl for Naps: Sun Bowl -- A lot of wind and very little apparent motivation on the USC sideline made this a great game to ease into your New Year's Eve. Georgia Tech's ground attack is bruising on the field but easy on the eyes, churning clock and keeping scores low.

Biggest Upset: Sugar Bowl -- Once the game started, it was clear Louisville was unafraid of the one-loss Gators. Teddy Bridgewater and the Cardinals got a jump start on 2013 with a 33-23 win over Florida as two-touchdown underdogs.

Re-Watchable: Outback Bowl -- In addition to Clowney's hit, the game also featured a late touchdown drive to win and inspired play from both sides. Actually, I might run to the DVR now.

Un-Watchable: Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl -- UCF bounced back from a turnover-filled Conference USA Championship Game to impose its will on Ball State in a 38-17 win. The Cardinals' MAC-leading offense underperformed and was blown out by halftime, making the second half a struggle -- to play or watch.

Biggest Beatdown: Heart of Dallas Bowl -- Oklahoma State pulled out three of its quarterbacks during a 58-14 rout that was never close. The Cowboys scored touchdowns on four of their first six possessions, jumping out to a 45-0 lead before Purdue finally found the end zone in the final minute of the third quarter.

Team/Individual Honors

Best Offensive Performance (Team): Alabama
-- The dismantling of the Notre Dame defense was a clinic in downfield blocking. The Tide totaled 524 total yards of offense on the Irish in the 42-14 win.

Best Defensive Performance (Team): Florida State -- The Seminoles' defense held the smack-talking Jordan Lynch of Northern Illinois to just 15 of 41 passing for 176 yards and only 44 yards rushing on 23 carries in the 31-10 win.

Best Offensive Performance (Individual): Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M -- Johnny Heisman set a Cotton Bowl record with 516 total offensive yards (287 yards passing, 229 yards rushing) as the Aggies ran through Oklahoma for a 41-13 win.

Best Defensive Performance (Individual): Margus Hunt, SMU defensive end -- The 6-foot-8 senior defensive end forced two fumbles and led a seven-sack attack from the Mustangs' defense on Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr.

Accolades, Etc.

Best Bowl Season Sponsorship Push:
-- The online tax filing service has gone "all-in" on the bowl season in recent years. In addition to hitching themselves to the sixth-oldest bowl game, the Gator Bowl, also sponsored pregame and in-game content during ESPN bowl coverage. Getting in the minds of the average tax filing American in December and January is the marketing goal of all of these services, but few have targeted their demographic so narrowly.

Feel-Good Story of the Bowl Season: Antone Exum, Virginia Tech CB -- The Hokies' cornerback took the $470 Best Buy Gift Card from his Russell Athletic Bowl gift pack and spent it on three children from the Bahamas whom he met while in the store on Christmas Eve. The kids got a PS3, in addition to other electronics, but Exum's gift continued into the week. He intercepted Rutgers' Gary Nova in the fourth quarter of the bowl game, setting up a game-tying touchdown to force overtime. After the Hokies' won 13-10 in extra time, Exum was selected as the game's Most Valuable Player. All around good week for the junior from Glen Allen, Va.

Mother Nature Award Winner: Pinstripe Bowl -- Snow in a bowl game is nothing new. But driving snow in Yankee Stadium during a football game is something unique. Syracuse, for the second time in three years, held court in the baseball stadium-turned-football stadium.

For more college football news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnCFB on Twitter, subscribe to our RSS Feedcollege football newsletter, and get the Eye On College Football Podcast from iTunes. You can follow Chip Patterson on Twitter here: @cnpatterson3.

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CBS Sports Writer

Chip Patterson has spent his young career covering college sports from the Old North State. He's been writing and talking about football and basketball for CBS Sports since 2010. You may have heard him... Full Bio

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