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Fantastic Slate of Games Shows That Lesser College Football Bowls Still Matter

Published by Bleacher Report on Sun, 28 Dec 2014

Nebraska had plenty of times to call it a night.The Cornhuskers could have given up when they fell behind by 14 points in the third quarter to USC in the Holiday Bowl. They could have given up the second time they fell behind by 14 points, or when they fell behind by 18 pointsall in the third quarter.Nebraska didn't have to show up at all, really. Every year, there are a handful of bowl games where it's evident one team didn't want to be there. With players still visibly upset about the firing of head coach Bo Pelini, it could have been easy to mail it inespecially for future pros like running back Ameer Abdullah.But Nebraska battled back from each deficit. Itsefforts ultimately came up short in a 45-42 loss, but this game should be viewed as anything but a disappointment. It was wildly entertaining late-night television with plenty of momentum swings and big plays.It was everything a bowl game should be. All but one of Saturday's games were. From Penn State's come-from-behind 31-30 overtime victory against Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl to the 36-31 shootout in the Sun Bowl between Arizona State and Duke, four of Saturday's five bowls were decided by five points or fewer.It was a day that gave us trick plays from the Blue Devils, who converted a fake punt and a wide receiver pass on the same drive.It was a day that saw one kicker, Boston College'sMike Knoll, brutally miss an extra point in overtime. Meanwhile, Penn State's Sam Ficken, who once missed four field goals in a one-point loss to Virginia in 2012, had a moment of vindication by winning the game on the following possession.It was a day that came agonizingly close to giving us a fat guy touchdown (but was called back for an ineligible-receiver penalty).Bowl season thus far has silenced any remaining doubters who claim that there are too many postseason games. Not all of them are created equal, of course. With 38 bowls plus the College Football Playoff championship game, some are bound to be stinkers.However, for every Hawaii Bowl (Rice 30, Fresno State 6), there's a Bahamas Bowl waiting to give the gift of a Hail Mary with three laterals.Even the Miami Beach Bowl, which went into two overtimes and ended with BYU and Memphis players brawling on the field, was memorable. It just wasn't the memory the inaugural game wanted to make.In that vein, however, bowl season has been unforgettable this year. That's not always the case. Furthermore, early bowl games provide an escape from the playoff conversation. From Week 1 to "Selection Sunday," anything and everything is about the playoff. It's exciting and novel, but it also gets redundant.When USC and Nebraska played, there were no playoff implications other than a possible look-ahead conversation to 2015. When South Carolina held off Miami 24-21 in the Independence Bowl, there was no evaluation about what it meant for the Gamecocks' strength of schedule.The playoff semifinals and major bowls are approaching in earnest on New Year's Eve/Day. There will be more than enough time then to dissect the matchups and bigger-picture storylines.The games on Saturday' They were just gamesones that mostly came down to the final play. That's more than good enough for all of us as spectators. The sentiment of the day was captured by Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian, per Josh Webb:On Saturday, that description applied to more than just one team.Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football.
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