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What to learn from college football bowl season

Now that all the bowl games have come to a close, here are the top takeaways

NCAA Football: Sun Bowl-Stanford vs North Carolina Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

The championship game is set for an Alabama vs. Clemson rematch and the bowls are wrapped up. After teams faced off against great competition, here are the top takeaways from bowl season, headed into the time of year when rosters began to shift and change into next seasons teams. So in no specific order here are 10 things that I took from the bowls headed into the championship, the draft and looking to the next batch of college teams.

  • LSU looks to be the one of the best teams in the country behind the defenders that will come back next year and Derrius Guice looks to be a better running back then Leonard Fournette. Say whatever you want about talent but one running back has stayed healthy and one has not. This team is constantly pumping out NFL receivers, running backs, defensive backs and linemen. They will be a solid team and should start off better next season under new head coach Ed Orgeron.
  • For those of you who think Alabama does not have the edge over Clemson because they only beat the Huskies 24-7, think again. This felt far more like a team who did not want to show too much of their offensive hand against a team they knew they could beat as opposed to the Tide struggling. Not to take away anything from a good Washington team, but Alabama was perfectly content to hand the ball to Bo Scarbrough and let the defense control the game. Remember when nobody knew who O.J. Howard was before the title game? Expect a different offense on January 9th. By the way, how good is your team when you beat the 4th team in the country by 17 points and everyone thinks you are having problems.
  • Despite the fact some of them sat out in the bowl games, let us sit back and really appreciate this running back class. While the likes of D’Onta Foreman, Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette were not playing this was still a phenomenal class of running backs in this years bowls. Utah’s Joe Williams had 222 yards, San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey had 115 yards, Baylor’s Terrance Williams had 103 yards, FSU’s Dalvin Cook had 207 total yards, even under the radar guys like Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara had 77 total yards on 14 total touches all over the field or Minnesota’s Rodney Smith had 74 rushing yards and a touchdown to cap a great year. Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine had 86 yards and a touchdown in a down bowl game performance for his standards. All these players where impact players all season and all of them are leaving in the offseason.
  • In that vein there are some exciting young running backs coming in next season. Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon had 180 total yards with two touchdowns, Stanford’s Bryce Love had 164 total yards and a touchdown while Guice had 149 total yards and two touchdowns. The biggest thing to note on these three guys is that all of them are fast enough to go out and run routes or return kicks but strong enough to grind out runs between the tackles as all three (especially Love and Mixon) are forming their games to the Le’Veon Bell style of running back. To soon to call Guice the top 2017 Heisman candidate?
  • There seems to be a shift in the power of college football in the spots behind Alabama. Penn State, USC and FSU all looked incredibly good in in the last eight games of the year and in their bowl games. The oldest quarterback between the three teams is Penn State’s Trace McSorley, who will be a junior next season. These teams are set up for the future, especially USC’s Sam Darnold and FSU’s Deondre Francois who are both true freshmen who lead game tying or winning drives against top level Big 10 defenses in spotlight games. McSorley shed a two pick opening performance faster than the 49ers shed head coaches, all three of these quarterback have immense poise and leadership. Watch out for these guys.
  • In college football, it is especially easy to get caught up with the high pace spread offense. While those teams can find success, we saw at the end of the year how little else there is around Lamar Jackson. The line play on both ends was terrible against LSU and for most of December. They lacked depth in the secondary and at wide receiver and Jackson’s remarkable play held them above their mistakes. LSU has linebackers and edge rushers almost as fast as Jackson, which makes offensive line play more important. How the team beat FSU we may never know.
  • After every bowl season, people want to argue about which conference “won” the bowl season and which one is the best. But after this bowl season, the conferences look as close as they ever have. Every conference had some of their top teams win or lose in both blowouts and close edge outs. After Alabama, there are at least two teams from every power five conference that could fall into the second and third spot.
  • Can we agree that a Big 12 team should always be in the top five despite the fact that they have no title game. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State both destroyed a SEC and PAC-12 team that were both supposed to be third or fourth at worst in their respective conferences. Even Kansas State clocked an A&M team that everyone loved. The same with Baylor, who wreaked a Boise State team lots of people were maybe too high on. Think what you want about the Big 12 and how they play football, but they showed up for their bowls against really good teams.
  • In an age that is supposed to go to the offense, it was fun to see the perennially great defensive teams get a lot of wins. Clemson, Alabama, Wisconsin, FSU, Florida, LSU, Stanford, Utah and Virginia Tech all won their games and hung their hats on defense this year, it also get them wins in their bowl games.
  • The final take away was the appreciation for great games throughout almost all of the big bowl games, in comparison to last years, which involved mostly 20 point blowouts. This season the Rose Bowl, Sun Bowl, Orange Bowl, Liberty Bowl and Cotton Bowl were all great games. Even the Peach Bowl was close for the entire first half. Compared to last season and all the blowouts that happened outside of the Alamo Bowl, this was a great bowl season.