The best day in the history of bowl season as the College Football playoff proved itself with two incredible games – Oregon destroying Florida State in the Rose Bowl and followed by Ohio State stunning Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Before that, the Big Ten won major points with wins for Wisconsin (over Auburn) and Michigan State (against Baylor) in the Outback and Cotton Bowl, while Missouri had no problem dispatching of Minnesota in the Citrus Bowl.
Outback Bowl – Melvin Gordon, the man who carried Wisconsin this far, rushed for 251 yards and three touchdowns to lead Wisconsin to a 34-31 win over Auburn in Tampa, despite an awful performance from Joel Stave (14-of-27, one touchdown, three interceptions). In a game filled with lead changes and turnarounds, Wisconsin rushing for 400 yards kept them in the game, while a solid performance from Nick Marshall, not throwing any interceptions this time, was almost enough. A field goal by Rafael Gaglianone in overtime clinched them the win and a 11-3 season, and the team’s first bowl win since 2009.
Cotton Bowl – Another big win for the Big Ten as Baylor couldn’t be like TCU and show that they deserve to be in the playoffs. The Spartans seemed to be out of the picture for so many times during the eventual 42-41 win, coming back from 20 points down in the fourth quarter including a touchdown pass with 17 seconds in the game to lift them to victory, helped by a blocked field goal and Bryce Petty throwing an interception on the final drive.
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl – It couldn’t be perfect for the Big Ten as Minnesota lost 33-17 to Missouri, the sole bright spot for the SEC in a very rough day. The Gophers led in the third quarter (14-13) but were held to just three points the rest of the way, succumbing to an excellent running game from the Tigers, rushing for 337 yards, including 157 by Marcus Murphy. Maty Mauk was bad (two touchdowns, two interceptions, throwing for just 97 yards) but didn’t cost his team the game this time.
Rose Bowl (Semifinal) – For one half, Florida State and Oregon cancelled each other out with very good defense and officials that kept helping the Seminoles stay in the game. But Oregon ran away with it in the second half, as Florida State cheating the inevitable had to stop at some point. Jameis Winston lost control, the defense couldn’t slow down the running game (301 rushing yards), as Marcus Mariota was accounted for 400 total yards – two touchdown throws and a late touchdown run with a 59-20 win, outscoring the Seminoles 41-7 in the second half.
Sugar Bowl (Semifinal) – The last stand for the SEC ended in another let down. Alabama managed to lose a 21-6 lead to Ohio State with their third string quarterback, as the Buckeyes rushed for 281 yards, pulled off some interesting trick plays and intercepted Blake Sims three times, returning one of them for a touchdown. For the second straight season, although this time with bigger ramifications, Alabama went into the Sugar Bowl as huge favorites and lost the game.