Instant classics in college football bowl season

Clemson running back Will Shipley leaps over a Tennessee defender. The Tigers lost 31-14 in a game dubbed by many to be “The ‘Orangest’ Orange Bowl ever.” // Photo courtesy of USA Today via Jasen Vinlove

The 2022 college football season came to a conclusion following the National Championship game on Monday, Jan. 9. A season which held the most parity college football has seen in a long time did not disappoint in its culminating games. 

Kicking off with the Bahamas Bowl between the UAB Blazers and the Miami of Ohio Redhawks, UAB jumped out to an early 10-0 lead which crumbled behind a stout Miami defense. The Redhawks offense rallied behind their defense to give them a 20-17 lead late in the fourth quarter, but UAB would not be turned away so easily, as they marched down the field to take the lead 24-17 with 1:33 left in the game. Miami mounted a last ditch effort to win that would end up falling 2 yards short of the endzone and resulting in the UAB Blazers hoisting the trophy in the end after a 24-20 win. This was an electric start to bowl season and foreshadowed some of the intense match-ups to be played later on. All the minor bowls went by as expected with no major upsets, but all were closely contested. 

Dec. 28 opened the thrills of competitive power five matchups. Kansas and Arkansas met in the Liberty Bowl to once and for all decide the right way to pronounce “kansas.” 

Arkansas jumped out to a commanding 31-13 halftime lead behind an electric 24 point first quarter; however, the Hogs were stifled after that, as Kansas would mount a furious 25 point second half comeback, scoring twice in the final minute of the game, to send the game to overtime. 

Both teams would answer the call through two overtimes, landing the game in a third overtime period where Arkansas put the nail in the coffin, finishing off Kansas 55-53 in an amazing game. 

Later that evening, Oregon and North Carolina kicked off in the Holiday Bowl. North Carolina, looking to break a three game losing streak, came out strong and jumped to a 24-14 lead in the fourth quarter, but just could not put the game away. 

Behind poor defensive play and the will of Oregon quarterback Bo Nix, the Ducks scored a go-ahead touchdown to put them up 28-27 with just 19 seconds left in the game. 

There was no miracle for North Carolina and they finished with four straight losses, a losing streak that Georgia Tech started, and no trophies. 

The New Year’s Six games were just around the bend and on paper were going to be thrilling matchups. The ACC Champion Clemson Tigers matched up against the Tennessee Volunteers in the Orange Bowl to start the New Year’s Six Bowls. Behind the inspiring performance of Tennessee quarterback Joe Milton, the Volunteers prevailed 31-14 over the Tigers, despite being outgained by Clemson in every statline. 

The next day brought three of the New Year’s Six games, the first being the Alabama Crimson Tide versus the Big 12 Champion Kansas State Wildcats in the Sugar Bowl. Despite jumping out to a 10-7 lead after the first quarter, Kansas State could not handle all of Alabama’s weapons and quickly let the game slip out of reach as Alabama routed the Wildcats 45-20. The College Football Playoff kicked off with the Fiesta Bowl pinning the Big Ten Champion Michigan Wolverines against the TCU Horned Frogs. In a game that was projected to be a Michigan blowout win, it quickly turned on its head to look like TCU would be the ones blowing out Michigan as the Horned Frogs led 21-6 at halftime. 

The third quarter led to an explosion of offense as Michigan and TCU combined for 44 points, the most ever scored in a quarter of a playoff game, but TCU had built up too much of a lead in the first half for Michigan to fully climb back. TCU punched their ticket to the National Championship game in Los Angeles behind a huge 51-45 upset win. Right after came the Peach Bowl with the SEC Champion Georgia Bulldogs going head to head with the Ohio State Buckeyes. After a good defensive first quarter ended at 7-7, both offenses found rhythm and combined for 38 points as Ohio State went into the locker room up 28-24. Ohio State then built up their lead to 38-24 at the end of the third quarter. Georgia would not be turned away so easily and marched back to take the lead with a minute to go 42-41. 

Behind an incredible effort by Buckeyes quarterback CJ Stroud, Ohio State got within field goal range and as the ball dropped to declare the new year, Ohio State’s kicker shanked his chance to send his team to the national title game, and Georgia emerged the victor. 

The Rose Bowl was no classic, as Pac-12 Champion Utah once again floundered in the granddaddy of them all, and the Penn State Nittany Lions took the game 35-21 with little contest. 

The last New Year’s Six game pinned the USC Trojans against the American Athletic Champion Tulane Green Wave. In an underdog story for the ages, Tulane scored 16 points in 4 minutes to beat the Trojans and become the first group of five team since UCF to win a New Year’s Six bowl. 

A sensational bowl season with comebacks, underdog victories and upsets galore came to an end in the least climatic way possible. 

The National Championship game saw the Playoff Semifinal winners, TCU and Georgia, match up in Los Angeles. 

In a game that quickly got out of hand, Georgia won back-to-back national titles, prevailing over TCU 65-7. Despite the lopsided finish, the entire bowl season was remarkable and truly a college football fan’s dream.