Just one more game remains in the 2018-19 college football season — the College Football Playoff national championship game. Before we get to that, there were some notable moments from New Year's Day's big bowl games that provide some insight on this season as well as the 2019 season.
Here are five takeaways from the bowl games on New Year's Day 2019.
1. Georgia, Ohio State make committee look smart
With 8:23 on the clock in the third quarter, Ohio State capped its impressive opening drive of the second half with a touchdown run that gave the Buckeyes a 28-3 lead. It looked like Ohio State was going to cruise to a victory and end the season with a thumping of Washington in the Rose Bowl.
Like so many times this year for Ohio State, what was expected of the Buckeyes didn’t become reality. For Georgia, the team that nearly knocked off Alabama in the SEC Championship Game clearly wasn’t on the field in the Sugar Bowl against Texas.
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No. 6 Ohio State held on to win the Rose Bowl against Washington, 28-23 in the final minute and No. 5 Georgia lost 28-21 to Texas. Had both teams blown out their opponents, there would be more of an argument of “See, they should’ve been in.” That wasn’t the case.
Ohio State and Georgia are both good teams. The Buckeyes finish 13-1 with a Big Ten and Rose Bowl championship while Georgia’s only three losses this year are going to be to either the national champion or runner-up and two teams likely to finish in the top-10 of the AP poll (LSU and Texas).
Regardless of what Notre Dame or Oklahoma did in the national semifinals, Ohio State and Georgia struggled at times when playoff teams might have won convincingly.
2. Who came out more furious, Bevo or Texas?
Screw formalities, Texas was coming for Georgia. Just about everyone loves live mascot meet-and-greets, except if you’re a giant steer and that thing you’re meeting is an English bulldog.
Bevo was just giving Uga a forewarning of what the No. 15 Longhorns were about to bring out of the gate. Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger obliterated the Georgia defense from the gun, connecting on all five pass attempts for 61 yards before he capped off the opening drive with a 2-yard rushing score. Less than a minute into the second quarter, Texas led 17-0.
The Longhorns had three touchdowns on the ground against the 13th-best defense in the country and gave up just 284 yards, including just 72 rushing yards, against the nation’s 14th-best offense (478.8 ypg) in their 28-21 Sugar Bowl victory against the Georgia Bulldogs.
If this game didn’t prove the age-old question “Is Texas back?” I’m not sure what will. With Ehlinger back next season, the Longhorns might be the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 and a potential preseason playoff pick.
3. Benny Snell, Kentucky cap phenomenal year with resounding win
Kentucky football was one of the best stories of the 2018-19 college football season. Period.
The No. 14 Wildcats beat No. 12 Penn State, 27-24, in the Citrus Bowl on Tuesday to improve to 10-3 and earn the program’s first 10-win season since 1977. The defense caused Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley enough duress that allowed its offense to win with just 297 total offensive yards. Half of that came from All-American running back Benny Snell.
Snell, who has already declared for the NFL draft, broke the Kentucky all-time career rushing record with 144 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He now holds 14 records at Kentucky.
The Kentucky defense stepped up to the task with an impressive six sacks and nine tackles for loss. Snell, once again, was the one to deliver the victory in what might’ve been the most impressive outcome of New Year’s Day action. This season will be remembered for a long time in Lexington.
4. Joe Burrow puts an end to UCF’s winning streak
What would LSU have been this year without the Ohio State transfer?
Joe Burrow ended his first season with LSU with 394 passing yards and four passing touchdowns in a 40-32 win against No. 8 UCF, ending the Knights’ 25-game winning streak and bid for another perfect season.
Burrow led the Tigers to 10 wins and was the first quarterback to throw for more than 2,500 yards since 2013. Burrow made big play after big play against the Knights, who — albeit — have a defense that ranks 86th in total defense. But the LSU offense has really struggled at times this year, and Tuesday, Burrow made sure it thrived when it could.
The Tigers will be ready for another good year in 2019 with Burrow under center.
5. UCF isn’t UCF without McKenzie Milton
UCF quarterback Darriel Mack Jr. seemed to pick up where star quarterback McKenzie Milton left off in the American Athletic Conference title game against Memphis. Mack completed 70 percent of his passes and threw for 348 yards and two touchdowns with an astonishing four rushing touchdowns. Against LSU, Milton’s absence was noticeable.
LSU held Mack to 11-for-30 passing, 97 passing yards and one touchdown with one pick. It was the second time this season that LSU held an opponent to less than 100 passing yards.
Last season in the Peach Bowl win against Auburn, Milton threw for 242 yards and ran for 116 yards with three total touchdowns. Milton’s experience and ability to make a number of plays that others can’t make are difficult to replace. UCF learned that the hard way in the Fiesta Bowl.