The 2014 Bowl Season’s Biggest Winners

The national championship will be decided in one week as Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota and Oregon take on Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes. While all that remains of the college football season is one game, the bowl season was nothing short of entertaining. Some teams managed to prove themselves while others disappointed. Here’s a look at this year’s big winners during bowl season:

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The Winners

Oregon

Against a team that had not lost in 29 games, second-ranked Oregon put on a show at the Rose Bowl. The Ducks’ offense accounted for more than 600 yards while the defense forced five turnovers in a 59-20 thumping of Florida State. Oregon sits just one win shy of its first national championship.

Eric Kendricks, UCLA

In his final game as a collegiate, UCLA linebacker and Butkus Award winner, Eric Kendricks was nothing short of stellar in the Bruins’ 40-35 win over Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl. Kendricks led UCLA with 10 total tackles, three tackles for loss, and two sacks.

Urban Meyer, Ohio State

Urban Meyer is just one win away from joining Nick Saban as the only other coach in the last 50 years to lead two teams to national championships. With a third-string quarterback, Ohio State defeated Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl, 42-35.

Houston

Against Pittsburgh in the Armed Forces Bowl, Houston completed the biggest comeback in bowl history. The Cougars trailed by 25 points early in the fourth quarter and by 21 points with under four minutes to play. After recovering a pair of onside kicks, a touchdown pass and two-point conversion from Greg Ward Jr. to Deontay Greenberry put Houston ahead for good in a 35-34 victory.

Pac-12

Not only does the Pac-12 have one of the two remaining teams, the conference had the best record of the Power 5, going 6-2 during bowl season. Oregon handled Florida State, but UCLA, USC and Utah were all very impressive in bowl victories as well.

Georgia Tech

One of the few bright spots for the ACC, Georgia Tech took it to Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl, 49-34. The Yellow Jackets racked up nearly 600 yards of offense. Quarterback Justin Thomas accounted for four total touchdowns while fullback Synjyn Days added three scores.

Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

After a lackluster performance against Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game, Wisconsin junior running back Melvin Gordon was back to form. In the Badgers’ 34-31 overtime win over Auburn in the Outback Bowl, Gordon carried the ball 34 times for 251 yards and three touchdowns.

Conference USA

Often-forgotten Conference USA performed very well during the bowl season, going 4-1. The most impressive of the league’s victories may have been Marshall’s 52-23 triumph over Northern Illinois in the first Boca Raton Bowl.

The Bahamas

It was hardly a dream matchup, but the first-ever Bahamas Bowl was wildly entertaining. Starting quarterbacks combined to throw for 12 touchdowns as Western Kentucky nipped Central Michigan, 49-48. The final play (below) was one of the wildest anyone will ever see: Central Michigan scored a 75-yard touchdown on a Hail Mary and a series of laterals. Unfortunately for the Chippewas, their two-point conversion try went awry.

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Cole Stoudt, Clemson

After losing his job to a freshman during the season, Cole Stoudt’s final performance as a Clemson Tiger was by far his finest. Stoudt passed for 319 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for another score in Clemson’s 40-6 drubbing of Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Boise State

If you’re going to play Boise State, don’t do it in the Fiesta Bowl. For the third time in nine years, the Broncos were Fiesta Bowl champions, with a 38-30 win over Arizona. Boise State running back Jay Ajayi rushed for 134 yards and three touchdowns while the Broncos’ defense was able to stand tall with its back against the wall at the end.

TCU

Texas Christian didn’t seem overly bothered by being left out of the first College Football Playoff, as the Horned Frogs “gigged” Ole Miss at the Peach Bowl, 42-3. TCU outgained Ole Miss by nearly 300 yards and forced four Rebel turnovers. Quarterback Trevone Boykin passed for three touchdowns in the victory.

Xavier Woods, Louisiana Tech

In a 35-18 victory over Illinois in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, Louisiana Tech cornerback Xavier Woods may have changed the game with a second-quarter interception return for a score. The Fighting Illini were driving to take the lead when Woods intercepted a Reilly O’Toole pass and took it 69 yards the other way to give Louisiana Tech a 21-9 lead.

SEC East

All season long, the SEC East played little brother to the Western division, but it was the East that saved the conference from embarrassment during the bowl season, going 5-0. The most impressive wins came from Georgia and Missouri, which each defeated ranked opponents.

Penn State

In its first bowl appearance since the scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, Penn State overcame a 21-7 deficit to top Boston College 31-30 in overtime at the Pinstripe Bowl. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg passed for 371 yards and four touchdowns, but it was kicker Sam Ficken’s 45-yard field goal that forced the extra period. After a missed extra point by Boston College in overtime, Hackenberg found Kyle Carter from 10 yards out to tie the game. Ficken won it by adding the extra point. The bowl victory is the first for the Nittany Lions under someone other than Joe Paterno since 1961.

Nick Chubb and Dominick Sanders, Georgia

A pair of freshmen shined brightest for Georgia in the Bulldogs’ 37-14 victory over Louisville in the Belk Bowl. Running back Nick Chubb rushed for 266 yards and a pair of touchdowns while cornerback Dominick Sanders came up with a pair of interceptions.

Kareem Hunt, Toledo

In one of the better bowl rushing performances ever, Toledo’s Kareem Hunt was a man possessed in the Rockets’ 63-44 victory over Arkansas State in the GoDaddy Bowl. On 32 carries, Hunt rushed for 271 yards and five touchdowns. Fredi Knighten passed for five touchdowns for Arkansas State, but Hunt’s performance stole the show.

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Mike Ferguson is a Bloguin contributor and the editor of Bloguin’s Florida State site, Noled Out. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson and Noled Out @Noled_Out.

About Mike Ferguson

Mike Ferguson is a Bloguin contributor, the editor of Noled Out and a lifetime Florida State sports enthusiast. Mike vividly remembers watching Warrick Dunn run down the sideline in Gainesville in 1993, the "Choke at Doak" in 1994 and Monte Cummings' driving layup to beat #1 Duke in 2002. Mike has worked as a sports reporter in both print and online. For isportsweb in 2013, Mike gave press coverage of Florida State football's run to the 2013 national championship. Mike has been featured on SI.com, FoxSports.com and Yahoo Sports while interviewing major sports stars such as 2013 National League MVP Andrew McCutchen. Mike graduated from Florida State University in 2009 with a major in Religion and a minor in Communications. Mike currently resides in Haines City, Florida with his wife Jennifer and daughters Trinity and Greenly. Mike is a full-time reporter at Polk County's newspaper, The Ledger, in Lakeland, Florida. Mike can be followed on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.

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