The 2013 collegiate football season ended on November 20th. The first weekend of December gave us the championship games for several conferences. The bowl season kicked off on December 21st. The Pac-12 conference is sending 9 teams to post-season play. A luxury Pac-12 fans get to enjoy. Let’s check in and see how the Pac-12 conference is fairing and what the remaining bowl games have in store for us.
Saturday December 21
GILDAN NEW MEXICO BOWL
Washington State vs. Colorado State
Colossal meltdown by Mike Leach and the Cougars. With less than 2 minutes to play and Colorado State down by eight points the Rams made their improbable comeback against Washington State. The Cougars fumbled on their own 33 setting up a CSU 1-yard run score and two-point conversion run that tied the game at 45 with 33 seconds left. Then, Washington State fumbled the kickoff return at the 24, setting up a 41-yard field goal as time expired giving Colorado State a 48-45 victory in the bowl season's opening game. It was a quarterback shootout that saw close to 800 passing yards combined and a game largely dominated by Washington State until the last 2 minutes. Once down by as many as 22 points Colorado State did not have a lead the entire game until the winning field goal
"Colorado State finished the game. We didn't," Washington State coach Mike Leach said. "They finished the game better than we did. The lesson to be learned from that is it doesn't matter where you're at. You need to go out and finish the game."
Colorado State had not played in a postseason game since 2008. Washington State had not been in a bowl game since 2003.
ROYAL PURPLE LAS VEGAS BOWL
#25 USC vs. #20 Fresno State
In perhaps a surprise to most pundits USC blew out Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Bulldogs were coming in with only one loss all season long while the Trojans brought with them their baggage from the 2013 season, which included the firing of Lane Kiffin and the resignation of Ed Orgeron all before their fourth head coach in less than three months takes over. The win perhaps signals that the Trojans are back on the rise after a roller coaster season. USC quarterback Cody Kessler passed for a career-high 344 yards and a bowl-record four touchdowns in the Trojans' 45-20 victory over Fresno State. This is the Trojans first postseason victory since 2009. The Bulldogs meanwhile, who won the Mountain West conference this year, haven’t won a bowl game since 2007, losing six of their last seven.
Tuesday, December 24
SHERATON HAWAII BOWL
Oregon State vs. Boise State
Oregon State made the most of their final chance to stop a costly losing streak. Corner back Rashaad Reynolds returned two fumbles for touchdowns, helping the Beavers beat Boise State 38-23 in the Hawaii Bowl. Oregon State won six of its first seven games of the season. Then a 20-12 home loss to then-No. 8 Stanford started a five-game slide that came to an end when the Beavers (7-6) set several records in handing Boise State its worst loss in two months. Biletnikoff Award-winner WR Brandin Cooks grabbed eight balls for 60 yards and a touchdown. He extended his Pac-12 single-season record to 128 receptions and broke the conference record for yards receiving with 1,730, passing Southern California's Marqise Lee.
Quarterback Sean Mannion threw for 259 yards and a touchdown, giving him a Pac-12-record 4,662 yards passing for the season. Oregon State kept Boise State (8-5) out of the end zone until the third quarter; well after the Beavers had opened a big lead.
Friday, December 27
FIGHT HUNGER BOWL
Washington vs. BYU
The departure of head coach Steve Sarkisian has made for an eventful past couple of weeks for Washington. Interim coach Marques Tuiasosopo will try to lead the Huskies to their highest win total in 13 years when they face the Cougars of BYU on Friday at the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco. Tuiasosopo was given the opportunity to coach Washington (8-4) after Sarkisian left to take the job at Southern California following a 27-17 Apple Cup win over Washington State in the regular-season finale Nov. 29. Sarkisian finished his Washington career 34-29 over five seasons, directing the Huskies to eight wins for the first time since 2001 this year. Chris Petersen, who went 92-12 at Boise State with five conference titles and two Fiesta Bowl victories, has been hired to take over the program starting next season.
A three-game losing streak in October took the Huskies out of contention in the Pac-12, however the team has bounced back to win four of their last five and secure a fourth straight bowl appearance. They had missed out on the postseason for seven straight years from 2003-09. Washington has dropped its last two appearances, including 28-26 to Petersen's Boise State team in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 22, 2012.
The Huskies have split eight all-time meetings with the Cougars (8-4), though BYU has won the last three. In the most recent matchup, the Cougars pulled out a 23-17 victory in Provo on Sept. 4, 2010. Following a five-game winning streak that made the program bowl eligible for a ninth straight season, BYU lost two of three before capping the regular season with a 28-23 win at Nevada on Nov. 30. The Cougars go for their seventh victory in eight bowl games. Since BYU head coach Mendenhall took over in 2005, the Cougars have won six of eight bowl games and four straight following last season's 23-6 victory over San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl.
In a fun battle Friday afternoon the BYU Cougars came up short as the Washington Huskies led by junior running back Bishop Sankey in what is expected to be his final college football game went out with a bang on his two touchdowns and 96 yards rushing on 21 carries moved the Huskies to victory 31-16 in the Kraft Hunger Bowl as Washington finishes the year at 9-4 and BYU falls to 8-5.
Current Pac-12 Performance: 3-1
Monday, December 30
VALERO ALAMO BOWL
#10 Oregon vs. Texas
The backstory here might be the last game Mack Brown coaches at Texas but for the Longhorns they will have their hands full when they contend with Oregon. From 2001-09, Brown's teams at Texas averaged 11.2 wins, recorded two Big 12 titles, won the national championship during an undefeated 2005 and played for another four years later. However, since losing 37-21 to Alabama in the title game of the 2009 season, the Longhorns are 30-20 and endured Brown's only losing season with a 5-7 record in 2010. Texas (8-4) began this season ranked 15th, but lost two of its first three games. The Longhorns faced then-No. 9 Baylor with the Big 12 title and a BCS bowl berth on the line Dec. 7, but lost 30-10 to fall to 1/3 against Top 25 opponents.
Oregon meanwhile comes into this matchup loaded and ready. The Ducks rank second in the FBS averaging 573.0 total yards and third at 46.8 points per contest. Quarterback Mariota has completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 3,412 yards with 30 touchdowns and four interceptions. The sophomore has thrown a TD in each of his 25 career games and set a single-season school record with 3,994 total yards in 2013. A Heisman Trophy candidate most of the season, Mariota announced he will return for his junior season. Perhaps to finish some unfinished business, Mariota will be motivated to put a stake in the heart of the Texas Longhorns. Even though the Ducks did not earn an at-large bid to their fifth consecutive BCS bowl game, they expect to finish strong. Oregon beat Texas 35-30 in the teams' most recent meeting in the 2000 Holiday Bowl. Look for Oregon to beat Texas again this year.
NATIONAL UNIVERSITY HOLIDAY BOWL
#14 Arizona State vs. Texas Tech
Arizona State saw its regular season end in sour fashion with a loss in the Pac-12 title game. However, the Sun Devils can still claim an 11th victory for just the sixth time in program history. ASU is a heavy favorite to do so due to Texas Tech's recent free fall. The Sun Devils look to avoid falling to 0-4 in the Holiday Bowl when they take on a Red Raiders team that lost five straight to end the season. Despite losing its Pac-12 opener at then-No. 5 Stanford, Arizona State (10-3) secured home-field advantage for the conference title game by winning its next eight games in league play by an average of 19.7 points, including victories over ranked Washington and UCLA squads. But the Sun Devils still couldn't topple the Cardinal, suffering their worst loss in more than three years with a 38-14 defeat. A win would have sent them to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1996 season. Arizona State still has a shot at one milestone it hasn't reached since that 1996 season, however: 11 wins. The Sun Devils will have to reverse their fortunes in San Diego to accomplish that feat, as they are 0-3 all time in the Holiday Bowl. Their most recent trip resulted in a 52-34 loss to Texas in 2007.
Arizona State won the only previous meeting with Texas Tech, 31-13 in Tempe on Sept. 6, 1999. The Sun Devils are 13-12-1 all-time in bowls while the Red Raiders are 13-21-1. Expect ASU to prevail in this one.
Tuesday, December 31
ADVOCARE V100 BOWL
Arizona vs. Boston College
Hard to believe but this is the first meeting between these two programs. With no past history to reference only this year’s present performance can be used to evaluate and predict the potential game winner. A couple of All-American running backs figure to play prominent roles in deciding whether Boston College or Arizona bounce back from disappointing regular-season finales.
The Eagles go for their first bowl victory in six years, while the Wildcats seek a second consecutive eight-win season. Coach Rich Rodriguez has led Arizona to bowl games in each of his first two years. The Wildcats, who dropped three of their last four, try to finish on a high note by securing consecutive eight-win seasons for the first time since 2008-09. They're going for a second straight bowl victory after scoring two touchdowns in the final 46 seconds in last season's 49-48 win over Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl.
The Eagles on the other hand have lost three straight postseason games, with their last one coming to Colin Kaepernick and Nevada in the Fight Hunger Bowl on Jan. 9, 2011. They haven't had a bowl victory since beating Michigan State in the 2007 Champs Sports Bowl.
This matchup will prove to be a tight one with the outcome to close to call. Hopefully the Wildcats can pull out a victory and add to the Pac-12’s dominance.
HYUNDAI SUN BOWL
#17 UCLA vs. Virginia Tech
The UCLA Bruins are on the cusp of its best season in eight years as they face their first meeting against the Virginia Tech Hokies in the Sun Bowl. UCLA (9-3) is on the verge of winning 10 games for the first time since going 10-2 in 2005. That was also the last time it finished among the Top 25, ranking 16th. The Bruins fell just short of reaching double-digit victories last year, losing 49-26 to Baylor in the Holiday Bowl. Quarterback Brett Hundley leads the Pac-12 with a 67.8 completion percentage, throwing for 2,845 yards with 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He's been picked off once while tossing eight scoring passes over the past five games. Hundley also leads the team with 587 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. He reached the end zone twice on Nov. 30 in leading the Bruins to a 35-14 win over then-No. 23 Southern California in the regular-season finale.
Head coach Fran Beamer is leading Virginia Tech into a 21st consecutive bowl game. That's the longest active streak for a coach, while it's second among active bowl runs by a team behind Florida State's 32.
The Bruins are hot and look to continue their winning streak after their emotional victory over USC. Look for the Bruins to take care of business over the Hokies.
Wednesday, January 1
#5 Stanford vs. #4 Michigan State
The granddaddy of them all. Stanford represents the Pac-12 in the crown jewel of the bowl games. The Cardinal return to Pasadena after winning the Rose Bowl last year. However a trip to Pasadena may be a little more special for Michigan State than it is for Stanford. The Spartans haven't been to the historic venue in 26 years. The Spartans (12-1) upset then-No. 2 Ohio State 34-24 in the Big Ten championship game Dec. 7 to win their first outright conference title since 1987, when they went on to beat Southern California in their previous Rose Bowl appearance.
While this will mark Michigan State's first appearance in any BCS bowl, coach David Shaw has guided Stanford (11-2) to one of college football's marquee games in each of his three seasons since taking over for Jim Harbaugh in 2011.
The Cardinal won their first Rose Bowl in 40 years when they beat Wisconsin 20-14 last season.
The Spartans, who last were ranked this high in the AP poll when they were No. 3 to begin the 1967 season, have won nine straight since suffering their only loss to Notre Dame on Sept. 21.
Stanford earned its trip to the Rose Bowl with a 38-14 win over then-No. 11 Arizona State in the Pac-12 title game Dec. 7. While Stanford is in Pasadena it may have been for the national title game Jan. 6 if not for a few letdowns. The Cardinal was upset twice by unranked teams: 27-21 at Utah on Oct. 12 and 20-17 at USC on Nov. 16.
Stanford seems to stack up well against Michigan State. Michigan State's offense often has left something to be desired, ranking ninth in the Big Ten.
These teams last met when the Cardinal beat the Spartans 38-0 in the 1996 Sun Bowl.