For the second year in a row, COVID impacted the crop.
Five matches were canceled and two teams substituted. Opting out is a polarizing topic of conversation. That said, a total of 38 games will be played when the College Soccer Qualifier championship between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia is played on January 10 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Here’s a look at the profile of each Texas Bowl pre-conference between LSU and Kansas State:
Conference Bowl Recording
|Belt of the Sun
2021-22 Winners and Losers at Bowl
Winner: SEC heavyweights
Alas. fifth national championship in the last seven seasons and the third in a row.
The Crimson Tide overcame Cincinnati 27-6 with the help of Brian Robinson’s 204-meter scoring record. Now, Nick Saban is back in the fight for his sixth CFP championship.
Georgia lost to Alabama in the SEC championship game and overcame Michigan 34-11 in the Orange Bowl. Stetson Bennett came through for 313 yards and three TDs, and the defense was snappy with Americans Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean.
So Indianapolis will get some Southern exposure from Crimson Tide and Bulldogs fans.
Losers: Cincinnati and Michigan
The Bearcats and Wolverines had breakout seasons, but their offense was rectified in the semifinals.
Cincinnati full-back Desmond Ridder completed 17 of 32 144-yard passes, and the Bearcats finished with 26 dashing attempts in 74 yards. The defense could not stop the onslaught of Alabama.
Michigan splits time between quarterbacks Cade McNamara and JJ McCarthy, which will spark a controversy next season. Michigan only made 27 executions for 91 yards, and the defense failed to get a bag.
Luke Fickell and Jim Harbaugh have worked considerably to bring their show to this point. However, it is clear that there is more to do with the powerhouses of the SEC.
Winner: CJ Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba
Ohio State bounced from a two-TD deficit to beat Utah 48-45 at the Rose Bowl, and that was made possible thanks to the remarkable combination of CJ Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
Stroud completed the Rose Bowl record with 573 passing yards, breaking the record of 473 set by USC’s Sam Darnold in 2017. The Ohio State quarterback had a great comeback performance after the loss to Michigan.
Smith-Njigba took advantage of the void left by Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson of Ohio State. Smith-Njigba finished with 15 catches for the Rose Bowl—a record 347 yards and three TDs. He’s had six catches over 30 years and is unstoppable against the Utes second-place team. Freshman Marvin Harrison Jr also has three TD catches.
The Buckeyes will be right back in the top 5 in 2022.
The Loser: Protector of Our Lady
The Irish took a 28-7 first-half lead against Oklahoma State at the Fiesta Bowl, and it looks like Marcus Freeman’s debut will be a resounding success.
The Cowboys had 232 yards at halftime, but a TD kick late in the first half started a rally in which Oklahoma State scored 30 no-answers in a 37-35 win. This is the first time Notre Dame has taken a 21-point lead since 2004.
Oklahoma State had a total of 605 yards of fouls despite converting only 3 of 14 on the third inning. Spencer Sanders also ignited the Irish defence, going 371 yards and dashing 125 yards.
It was Freeman’s first game, but it became his first loss against a top 10 team. Notre Dame opens in Ohio State in early 2022.
Winner: Mountain West and AAC
Cincinnati did CFP for the American Athletics Conference, and that was the conference’s only failure. Houston beat Auburn in the Birmingham Bowl, and UCF beat Florida in the Gasparilla Bowl. Those are notable scores against the SEC schools, and Tulsa added a win over Old Dominion in the Myrtle Beach Bowl.
That could have been an even better record, but East Carolina and SMU have had their games canceled.
Mountain West led all games with a 5-1 record. Wyoming beat Oregon State at the Los Angeles Bowl and San Diego State beat UTSA in the G5 champions’ game at the Frisco Bowl. The Air Force scored another Power 5 victory over Louisville, and Wyoming and Fresno State won. That legitimized a solid season for the conference.
The Pac-12 was a respectful fight conference among the Power 5s. Utah’s loss at the Rose Bowl was tough as quarterback Cameron Rising left in the second half with an injury, but it was a big loss. .
Oklahoma moved to Oregon in the Alamo Bowl. Arizona State lost to Wisconsin, Washington State and Oregon State lost to Group of 5 opponents.
The conference featured a number of coaching changes this cycle, including USC bringing in Lincoln Riley and Oregon in hiring Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning. The Games have yet to have a team qualify for the College Rugby Round since 2016 and have not won a single since 2019.
Winner: Clemson and Oklahoma
Reports of the respective demise of these programs are exaggerated.
Clemson ended the 10-game season with a win over Iowa State at the Cheez-It Bowl, and Dabo Swinney celebrated like any other big win. New coordinators Brandon Streeter and Wes Goodwin have settled into their new roles, and the Tigers have won 10 games for their 11th consecutive season.
Oklahoma will begin a new regime under Brent Venables in 2022, but the Sooners displayed a strong offensive behavior under former coach Bob Stoops during the Alamo Bowl against Oregon. Caleb Williams, who had a high and low freshman season, made it past 242 yards and 3 times TD. He would be better off with a full season as a starter.
These teams will also return in the knockout stages next season. They are not too far away.
Loser: Opting out of the conversation
That is part of the game. Accept it and move on. PItt’s Kenny Pickett and Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III did not play in the Peach Bowl, and the teams played a horror movie going down to the final leg. Michigan State won 31-21, and that won’t affect either team’s prospects for 2021.
Ohio State has some key players sidelined, but receiver Chris Olave stayed on the sidelines and coached other young players for the Buckeyes. Smith-Njigba and Harrison, Julian Fleming and Emeka Egbuka have done well with their chances and can build on that for next season.
Of course, the flash point came when Ole Miss midfielder Matt Corral get rid of the sugar bowl with a leg wound. Corral, who is predicted to be one of the top quarterbacks to be included in the 2022 NFL Draft, made his intentions clear ahead of the botched game. It was his decision, and he appears to have avoided serious injury.
If the player opts out, that’s fine. If they play, that’s fine too. That is their decision.