Clemson football obviously “won” the 2018-19 season.
College football is about so much more than just the national championship. If that was the only factor in success and failure, hardly any fan would be happy at year’s end.
That is what makes the bowl season special, even if some argue it is outdated or over-inflated.
A team like Texas might have fallen short of winning the Big 12, but after beating Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, Sam Ehlinger felt confident in his declaration that the Longhorns were “back.”
Still, that also means bowl season brings plenty of losers beyond just those who fall in the College Football Playoff.
Sports Illustrated outlined the losers of the 2018-19 bowl season, and the list features some big names and teams within the sport.
Notre Dame football is the first team listed as a “loser” from bowl season.
The Fighting Irish made the Playoff, which is definitely a win, but the blowout loss in the semifinal to Clemson makes the gap between Brian Kelly’s team and a national power like the Tigers even more apparent.
From writer Daniel Rapoport:
Another huge bowl game for Notre Dame, another embarrassing defeat for Notre Dame. Brian Kelly’s team were thoroughly outmanned, outschemed and outplayed by Clemson; the final 30–3 scoring line was actually a bit flattering for the Irish. Notre Dame has now lost eight straight New Year’s Six (or equivalent) bowl games, including its infamous 42–14 beatdown at the hands of Alabama in the BCS title game that wrapped the 2012 season. It’s hard to argue that the Irish didn’t deserve a spot in the playoff based on their résumé, and Kelly did his best to spin the loss as an X’s and O’s thing rather than a major talent disparity. But another comprehensive defeat on a national stage is inarguably damaging to the program’s reputation.
Another big inclusion: Penn State head coach James Franklin. SI points to his handling of the end-game situation in the Citrus Bowl loss to Kentucky.
After battling back from a sleepy start to cut a 20-point deficit to 27–21 with 4:21 left in the Citrus Bowl, Penn State faced a fourth-and-seven from the Kentucky 14-yard line. The Nittany Lions would have had multiple good reasons to go for it. Quarterback Trace McSorley had led back-to-back touchdown drives and deserved to have the ball in his hands to close out his final game, and even if Penn State didn’t convert, it would have a chance to get the ball back needing a touchdown to win the game. Instead, Franklin chose to kick a field goal to cut the deficit to three. That effectively took the game out of his team’s hands, and Kentucky converted two first downs to salt the victory away.
Franklin has recruited extremely well at Penn State, and has elevated the program over the last three seasons. His on-field decisions can leave something to be desired though.
Head to Sports Illustrated for the full list of bowl season losers, as well as the winners.