With the college football season sadly over, let's take a look at the best and worst of the 2012-13 bowl season.
The hit heard 'round the world: No single play better defined the bowl season this year than South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney's tackle of Michigan running back Vincent Smith as soon as the Wolverine was taking a handoff. Throw in the fact that Smith's helmet flew off and the ball came loose, and it was the play of the day on January 1. Twitterverse went bananas, with many football observers saying it was the best defensive play they have ever seen. Hyperbole aside, Clowney's dominant effort will be replayed on his highlight reel for years to come.
US PRESSWIRELes Miles and LSU let their bowl game slip away against Clemson.
Worst play-calling ever?: LSU had its Chick-fil-A Bowl game won. Had it won. The Bayou Bengals were up on Clemson 24-22 in the final minutes and faced second-and-2 at its own 47. All LSU had to do was call for a couple of run plays and punt, and Clemson would have needed a miracle to pull off a field-goal attempt. But for some reason, LSU called for back-to-back passes. And they both fell incomplete. Tajh Boyd and the Clemson offense took over with all of their timeouts, and 1:39 was left on the clock. Dabo Swinney's squad moved into position for a field goal, completing a fourth-and-16 pass along the way, and shocked LSU 25-24, leaving Bayou Bengal fans scratching their heads all the way into the New Year.
Johnny Encore: Texas A&M dual-threat quarterback Johnny Manziel set a Cotton Bowl record with 516 yards of total offense, showing that there was no such thing as a Heisman hangover. His celebrity status can now only grow. The question is how will he do with the SEC having a full offseason to prepare for him and the Aggies offense?
Worst game: Did anyone even watch the Heart of Dallas Bowl? Oklahoma State jumped on Purdue early and never let up. The Boilermakers played horribly in falling behind 45-0 and eventually fell 58-14, which was the largest margin of defeat in any bowl game. The Boilers turned the ball over five times and gave up 524 yards of offense. The Darrell Hazell era can't come soon enough in West Lafayette.
Best game: This was a toss-up between the LSU-Clemson game and the Michigan-South Carolina Outback Bowl contest. The Chick-fil-A Bowl was definitely dramatic, especially after the head-scratching play calls by LSU late. It is almost a little surprising that Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd isn't using his strong bowl effort toward early entry into the NFL Draft after he led three fourth-quarter scoring drives. But for best game I am going with the Wolverines-Gamecocks matchup. There was a little bit of everything — the Clowney hit, big offensive plays and multiple lead changes in the fourth quarter. And the game finally turned on the Dylan Thompson 32-yard touchdown pass with 11 seconds to go.
Most dominant performance: Alabama's effort in the BCS national championship game was quite impressive. The Crimson Tide played turnover-free, had two 100-yard rushers, a 100-yard receiver and a quarterback who actually looks ready for the 2013 NFL Draft (AJ McCarron, however, will return to Tuscaloosa for a final season). Nick Saban's team simply beat up Brian Kelly's squad at Sun Life Stadium, continuing the SEC's dominance in the national title game.
Most disappointing performance: Florida. The Gators fell behind almost immediately and were down 33-10 to Louisville midway through the fourth period before they actually began to play in the Sugar Bowl. Andre Debose scored on a 100-yard kickoff return and quarterback Jeff Driskel threw a touchdown pass to tight end Kent Taylor with 2:13 left. But Driskel, who threw just three interceptions coming into the game, turned the ball over three times and the defense could not contain Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The most surprising aspect of this game was how the Cardinals' questionable offensive line held its own against the Gators' front.
Best coaching performance: Paul Johnson finally earned his first bowl win as Georgia Tech's head coach, leading the Yellow Jackets to a Sun Bowl victory over USC. He thought he had the postseason win last year before the Jackets blew a late lead and fell to Utah. Back in El Paso, GT took on the preseason No. 1 Trojans and outplayed Lane Kiffin's squad in every facet. The Trojans were held to seven points in the Jackets' best defensive game of the season, and Johnson thoroughly out-coached Kiffin.
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