The bowl season is over. The 40 games from a period of over two and a half weeks have created a lot of fascinating and important story lines. The success stories are part of it, but so are the aching failures and the brutal shortcomings. Here are the college football teams that didn’t show up and disappointed us the most during the 2016 college football bowl season.
Ohio State Buckeyes
The expectations at Ohio State are higher than they are for any other program in the country with a few very specific exceptions. Alabama is one, Michigan another, and USC another. Alabama cruised to victory in its playoff game, which only makes Ohio State’s face-plant in the Fiesta Bowl that much more disillusioning. Falling short against Clemson wasn’t the problem, because Clemson is a very good team which competed for the national championship a year ago and had a stud quarterback, Deshaun Watson, who was going to be a difficult player to defeat in a semifinal on New Year’s Eve. The shame of the performance was the offense getting completely shut out. Two missed field goals, dropped passes on third down, poor play calling, just about anything you could have imagined befell the Buckeyes. This was not an average performance; it was a terrible performance, a disaster. No team walked away from its bowl game feeling it did less than Ohio State. For Urban Meyer to watch this game must have been pure torture.
Washington State Cougars
The Minnesota Golden Gophers suspended 10 players for the Holiday Bowl. Minnesota was playing backups in its secondary. The Golden Gophers had nowhere near the team speed of Washington State. Yet, Minnesota dominated Washington State’s wide receivers. The Cougars seemed to have no plan or no real response to anything the Gophers did. Washington State’s defense actually was okay, but the offense was atrocious. After getting pummeled in the Apple Cup game by Washington, Washington State should have been an angry team intent on making things right in its bowl game. Doing nothing on offense against a depleted opponent represents a profound embarrassment for head coach Mike Leach. Washington State had a good season, but it should have been even better than it was.
Louisville’s performance on offense was roughly as inept as Ohio State and Washington State, but the Cardinals at least had the excuse that LSU’s defense was awesome. The Tigers ran down Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson on repeated instances in the open field. LSU was so fast that a lot of what Louisville did on offense probably wouldn’t have achieved too much. Nevertheless, Louisville lost two straight games to close its regular season. They looked particularly weak against LSU – especially their Jackson. He led all of college football in offense and averaged over 400 yards of offense per game himself. Now everyone will be wondering if he simply beat up on bad competition because he has struggled in his contests against the elite teams. Not being able to bounce back in the bowl game makes the Citrus Bowl a noticeable downer for head coach Bobby Petrino, not to mention Jackson as well.
Houston was a team from the American Athletic Conference which did not play well in its bowl game. However, the Cougars had a coaching change before their bowl game, which helps explain their loss to San Diego State in the Las Vegas Bowl. Memphis did not have such an excuse in the Boca Raton Bowl against Western Kentucky. Yet, the Tigers were still crushed by the Hilltoppers. It was a bizarre end to a season for a team which looked so good against Houston a month earlier. This is a Memphis program that is now clearly heading in the wrong direction. They obviously miss Justin Fuentes, who build this program up before leaving to take over the Virginia Tech Hokies last season. They also lost quarterback Paxton Lynch to the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. They’ll have to do something in the offseason to change their momentum because right now, they are trending in the wrong direction.
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