Florida Gators featured in our grading of team's 2022 college football bowl season performances

Pass Or Fail? Grading Teams’ Bowl Performances

The 2022 college football bowl season is sadly nearing its close with one kickoff left. We’re saving the best for last as the national championship stage is set with the reigning champion Georgia Bulldogs (14-0) meeting the TCU Horned Frogs (13-1). Didn’t see that one coming back in August.

But leading up to the title game, over 40 other bowl games have been played. As always with college football, there were plenty of upsets and surprises. So, how did your team perform this bowl season? Did they pass or crash? Let’s find out!

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Tulane Green Wave (Grade: A+)

If you didn’t catch the Cotton Bowl, you seriously missed out. The No. 14 Tulane Green Wave (12-2), the AAC champions, were 2.5-point underdogs ahead of their meeting with the No. 8 USC Trojans and Caleb Williams, their Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. The New Year’s Six matchup marked Tulane’s first major bowl game since 1940 and just its 15th appearance overall. 

Williams set a Cotton Bowl record with five passing touchdowns to put the Trojans up by 15 points with less than five minutes left on the clock in the fourth quarter. But Tulane, which posted its best record since 1998, kept responding. When a fumbled kickoff following a Tulane touchdown put USC at its own one-yard line, a Green Wave safety inched them even closer. As the clock was ticking to its final seconds, Tulane QB Michael Pratt found TE Alex Bauman to give the freshman his first touchdown and complete the 46-45 comeback, giving the Green Wave their first bowl win in six years.

Luckily for Tulane, it has a group of promising freshmen and committed juniors returning next season. The program has acquired five players through the transfer portal, including OT Cameron Wire from the LSU Tigers. With the roster stacked with familiar faces, let’s see if Tulane can ride the wave of its success into next season.

TCU Horned Frogs (Grade: A)

I love this team. Just when people think the Horned Frogs have nothing left to give, they show us even more. Entering the Fiesta Bowl as a 7.5-point underdog and the first Texas school to make the CFP, few thought TCU could take down the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines (13-1), who were undefeated with a school-record 13 wins.

Yet the Horned Frogs defense was smoking hot, scoring the first touchdown off a pick-six and holding Michigan to six points in the first half. QB Max Duggan, originally named the backup at the start of the season, rushed for two touchdowns and tossed for two more.

The teams combined for 69 points in a high-scoring second half. But as always, TCU kept grinding. The Horned Frogs fight to the finish – nine of their last 10 games have been decided by 10 points or less and they average 10.8 points in the fourth quarter, the fourth-best mark in the country. Only one fight remains, the toughest yet, as TCU heads to the national championship against the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs. But this group has defied the odds and continues to be nothing less than impressive.

Alabama Crimson Tide (Grade: B+)

The Alabama Crimson Tide (11-2) had a tough season, missing the CFP for only the second time since the format was adopted. So, playing the Sugar Bowl against the Big 12 champion Kansas State Wildcats (10-4) meant a lot needed to be proved. Though Alabama faced a 10-point deficit after the first half, it regrouped to score five touchdowns and complete a 45-20 victory. I’m adding bonus points to the Tide’s grade for showing dedication with no players opting out, including QB Bryce Young and LB Will Anderson Jr.

LSU Tigers (Grade: B-)

The LSU Tigers (10-4) headed into bowl season as the best in the SEC West and they blew the Purdue Boilermakers (8-6) out of the water in the Citrus Bowl, rolling to a 63-7 triumph. The quarterback tandem of Jayden Daniels and Garrett Nussmeier collected over 300 passing yards and three touchdowns. Daniels, along with a chunk of the defense that held Purdue to a single score, will be returning next year to build on what they’ve started.

Ohio State Buckeyes (Grade: C+)

There’s no denying the Ohio State Buckeyes (11-2) had a solid run but did they really need to end the season like that? A late-game sack and a brutal attempt at a 50-yard field goal practically gifted Georgia the Peach Bowl in a 42-41 finish. Maybe I’m being harsh, but I expected more. There’s no doubt the Buckeyes will bring in reinforcements next year, but it’ll be tough to replace a talented list of athletes who are headed to the NFL draft.

QB CJ Stroud will likely pack up his 42 touchdown passes and take them to the draft alongside teammates like WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, OT Paris Johnson Jr., LB Tommy Eichenberg and RB Miyan Williams. Smith-Njigba is the only one to officially declare, while the others have big decisions to make about their future. Regardless, expect some holes on the Ohio State bench.

Florida Gators (Grade: D+)

The Las Vegas Bowl didn’t offer any favors to the Florida Gators (6-7), who were at risk of being shut out for the first time since 1998 – the longest active streak in college football. When kicker Adam Mihalek stepped onto the field with less than 40 seconds remaining, fans knew what was on the line. A 40-yard field goal preserved the streak, but truthfully it didn’t make the 30-3 scoreboard look any prettier.

Kentucky Wildcats (Grade: D-)

Seriously? The Wildcats (7-6) couldn’t even snag a field goal to make the Music City Bowl a tad more interesting. The Iowa Hawkeyes (8-5) put up 21 points in the second quarter and dozed off in their seats for the rest of the game on the way to a 21-0 victory. Kentucky starting QB Will Levis declared for the draft and didn’t play in the contest, so Destin Wade was thrown in. The freshman couldn’t even reach 100 passing yards and his two interceptions represented the most notable number of his stat line.

Both teams were without key players, but I wasn’t expecting the showcase to be as boring as it was. The good news? NC State Wolfpack signal-caller Devin Leary, one of the top-ranked QBs in the transfer portal, will be in a Kentucky uniform next year.

Purdue Boilermakers (Grade: F)

Three scoreless quarters and one lousy touchdown in the final 14 minutes. Not only was Purdue’s offense sleeping, but I also don’t even think its defense showed up to the Citrus Bowl – allowing the LSU Tigers 63 total points.

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