The national championship is still to be decided between Alabama and Georgia on Monday in Atlanta, but 39 bowl games are in the books. Although the bowl season started off slowly, it picked up steam and ended up featuring several thrillers, including an all-time great Rose Bowl. Let's look back at the best games and performances from the bowl season.
Top 15 Bowl Games
1. Rose Bowl: Georgia 54, Oklahoma 48. A year after USC beat Penn State in the second-best Rose Bowl ever, Georgia and Oklahoma topped it to become the new second-best Rose Bowl ever. Monday's game can't oust USC-Texas from the top spot -- that, after all, was the best college game, period -- but the Bulldogs and Sooners staged an all-time classic Rose Bowl that stands as the best game of the 2017 season. It featured the most points in Rose Bowl history (102), the first two overtime periods in Rose Bowl history and the game's largest comeback, as Georgia erased a 17-point deficit to win against Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. It proved to be a thrilling back-and-forth game with big plays, some impressive defensive stands despite the score and national championship implications as a playoff semifinal.
2. Belk Bowl: Wake Forest 55, Texas A&M 52. The Demon Deacons experience exceptional growth on offense this season, cracking 50 points three times. That included a wild game in Charlotte in which they outlasted the Aggies in a shootout. Texas A&M, in its final game before Jimbo Fisher takes over, scored the game's first 14 points. Wake Forest scored the next 31 points … in a span of under 12 minutes. The game then became a back-and-forth affair in which the teams amassed 63 first downs, 1,260 total yards and 899 passing yards. Texas A&M's Nick Starkel threw for 499 yards and four TDs. Wake Forest's John Wolford threw for 400 yards and four TDs. Matt Colburn ran in the game-winner for the Demon Deacons with 2:18 left.
3. Armed Forces Bowl: Army 42, San Diego State 35. Army's best season in more than two decades ended on a spectacular high note, after the Black Knights had already beaten Navy for the second year in a row. They've been in a bunch of close games, with a 5-2 record in games decided by a touchdown or less in the regular season. In Fort Worth, Army couldn't stop Rashaad Penny, allowing 14 carries for 221 yards and four touchdowns to the star Aztecs running back. San Diego State averaged nine yards per play … but it ran only 31 plays. Army, which completed just one pass, ran the ball 87 times for 440 yards and held possession for 46 of 60 minutes. The Black Knights went ahead on a one-yard Darnell Woolfolk run and a Kell Walker two-point conversion with 18 seconds left, and they added another TD on an Elijah Riley fumble return on the game's final play.
4. Birmingham Bowl: South Florida 38, Texas Tech 34. South Florida's back-to-back Birmingham Bowl wins have both come in dramatic fashion. Last year, the Bulls beat South Carolina 46-39 in overtime. This year, the Bulls and Red Raiders combined for just 20 first-half points before waking up with a second-half barrage of scoring. The final 5:02 featured 24 points: a Texas Tech field goal, a 64-yard touchdown pass from USF's Quinton Flowers to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, a 25-yard TD pass from Texas Tech's Nic Shimonek to T.J. Vasher and, finally, a 26-yard game-winning TD pass from USF's Quinton Flowers to Tyre McCants with 16 seconds left. In his final college game, Flowers passed for 311 yards, rushed for 106 yards and had five total TDs.
5. Alamo Bowl: TCU 39, Stanford 37. Two years ago, TCU trailed Oregon 31-0 at halftime in the Alamo Bowl and came back to win 47-41 in triple overtime. This one wasn't quite as dramatic, but TCU trailed 21-3 in the second quarter before mounting a comeback. The Horned Frogs took a 36-31 lead in the fourth thanks to a 93-yard TD pass from Kenny Hill to Jalen Reagor and a 76-yard Desmon White punt return. They squandered the lead, then rebounded with Cole Bunce's 33-yard game-winning field goal with 3:07 left. Heisman runner-up Bryce Love ran for 145 yards, with a 69-yard run, but it wasn't enough to hold off the Horned Frogs.
6. Peach Bowl: UCF 34, Auburn 27. Group of Five teams moved to 3-1 in New Year's Six games thanks to UCF's win, which finished off a perfect season in Scott Frost's last game as head coach. McKenzie Milton led a brilliant second half for the Knights, ultimately passing for 242 yards and two TDs and rushing for 116 yards and a TD against a talented Auburn defense. UCF fell behind 20-13 midway through the third quarter and appeared to be in trouble, but it scored the game's next 21 points, including a 45-yard Chequan Burkett pick-six with 5:56 left for the points that ultimately made the difference. UCF finished undefeated, and it ended that season with a win over the team that beat both national championship game participants. Nobody else will give UCF the crown, but it hasn't stopped the school from declaring itself national champion:
7. Foster Farms Bowl: Purdue 38, Arizona 35. Khalil Tate actually passed for 302 yards and five TDs and rushed for just 58, and it wasn't enough for the Wildcats to win what turned out to be Rich Rodriguez's last game as coach. Purdue capped an excellent 7-6 debut season for Jeff Brohm with 396 yards and four TDs from QB Elijah Sindelar , who's been playing on a torn ACL. The Boilermakers led 31-14 at halftime, then blew the lead as Arizona scored three TDs, including a go-ahead Tate TD pass with 3:21 left. But Purdue responded with the game-winning drive, capped by a 38-yard TD from Sindelar to Anthony Mahoungou with 1:44 to play.
8. TaxSlayer Bowl: Mississippi State 31, Louisville 27. Mississippi State had to face 2016 Heisman winner Lamar Jackson without coach Dan Mullen, now at Florida, and QB Nick Fitzgerald, who was injured against Ole Miss. The Bulldogs nevertheless pulled off an impressive win in Jacksonville. Jackson rushed for 158 yards, including a 75-yard TD, but he completed just 13 of 31 passes with four interceptions. Meanwhile, Keytaon Thompson stepped in for Fitzgerald and rushed for 147 yards and three TDs. The Bulldogs outscored the Cardinals 14-3 in the fourth quarter, winning on Thompson's one-yard TD run with 3:39 left.
9. Citrus Bowl: Notre Dame 21, LSU 17. Notre Dame won thanks to the best play of bowl season. Brandon Wimbush went 3 of 8 for 52 yards and ceded playing time to backup QB Ian Book, who went 14 of 19 for 164 yards, two TDs and one pick. The most impressive play came because of the efforts of Miles Boykin, whose astounding 55-yard touchdown won the game with 1:28 left after LSU settled for a go-ahead 17-yard field goal.
10. Arizona Bowl: New Mexico State 26, Utah State 20. In a rematch of New Mexico State's most recent bowl game, which happened 57 years ago, the Aggies made their long-awaited return to the postseason count. In the only overtime bowl prior to the Rose Bowl, the teams had dueling kick return touchdowns early in the first quarter. Jaleel Scott caught an 11-yard touchdown pass with 6:31 left to tie the game, and Larry Rose III won it in OT after Utah State missed a field goal. In its first bowl season since 1960, New Mexico State finished with a winning record for the first time since 2002.
11. Liberty Bowl: Iowa State 21, Memphis 20. Iowa State's first bowl game since 2011 ended up being a road trip to Memphis, but the Cyclones escaped with their first bowl victory since 2009. They did a solid job containing the explosive Tigers offense, and they got 314 yards and two TDs from QB Kyle Kempt, with 10 for 142 going to senior wideout Allen Lazard. Up by one, Iowa State lost its first fumble of the season at the goal line with four minutes left, but Memphis could advance only as far as the 40 before turning the ball over on downs.
12. Orange Bowl: Wisconsin 34, Miami 24. The Badgers won by 10, but the game was close most of the way, with the Badgers pulling it out thanks to three forced turnovers and a stellar day from QB Alex Hornibrook, who threw four touchdown passes, and tailback Jonathan Taylor, who rushed for 130 yards. Wisconsin fell behind 14-3 in the first quarter, but it scored three touchdowns in the second to take control of the game. Hornibrook put it away with a six-yard TD to Danny Davis with 7:44 left, as the defense held Miami to a missed field goal and interception on its last two possessions.
13. Music City Bowl: Northwestern 24, Kentucky 23. It was far from a pretty game: Kentucky's best offensive player, Benny Snell, was controversially ejected; Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson left the game with a torn ACL; and there was plenty of questionable decision-making. And yet, the ending was still dramatic and entertaining. Northwestern took a 10-point lead on a pick-six midway through the fourth quarter. Kentucky cut the lead to seven on a 48-yard field goal. Holding the lead at its own 39-yard line with 2:36 left, Pat Fitzgerald decided to go for it, and Northwestern was stopped. Kentucky turned the short field into a touchdown, then decided to go for two and the win but missed.
14. Fiesta Bowl: Penn State 35, Washington 28. The Nittany Lions mostly controlled the game, but it still proved to be compelling throughout. Saquon Barkley's Penn State finale featured a 92-yard touchdown run and Trace McSorley went 12-for-12 on third-down passes, but the Huskies climbed back into the game and trailed by seven after Myles Gaskin's 69-yard TD run with 6:52 left. Washington got the ball back after Penn State missed a field goal, only to turn the ball over on another Chris Petersen Fiesta Bowl trick play in the closing moments.
Saquon Barkley is good at football. pic.twitter.com/psN9YfXAf9- ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) December 30, 2017
15. Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa 27, Boston College 20. The game went about as expected: In frigid conditions at Yankee Stadium, Iowa managed just 200 total yards, and yet it still won because it won the turnover battle 3-0. The Hawkeyes turned an interception into a field goal to start the game, and they took the lead on a Drake Kulick touchdown run with 3:09 left, between two more takeaways.
QB: Trace McSorley, Penn State. Yes, he was intercepted twice, but McSorley completed 32 of 41 passes for 342 yards and two touchdowns and, most impressively, went 12-for-12 for 193 yards on third downs against what had been one of the nation's best pass defenses most of the year.
QB: Ahmad Bradshaw, Army. We have to include a running quarterback designation: Bradshaw went 1 of 3 for six yards as a passer. He also rushed 32 times for 180 yards and two TDs to lead the upset win over San Diego State.
RB: Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, Georgia. Michel made up for a lost fumble with the game-winning 27-touchdown in double-OT. He ended up with 11 carries for 181 yards and three TDs. Chubb rushed 14 times for 145 yards and two TDs. Michel had TD runs of 75 and 38 yards, and Chubb had a 50-yarder. Michel added 41 receiving yards and a TD.
Nick Chubb vs the entire Oklahoma defense ….. no problem pic.twitter.com/NoyutYtgsG- SEC Network (@SECNetwork) January 2, 2018
RB: Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma; and Rashaad Penny, San Diego State. Don't blame them for their teams' losses. Anderson had 26 carries for 201 yards and two TDs in the Rose Bowl. Penny had 14 carries for 221 yards and four TDs in the Armed Forces Bowl.
WR: Cedrick Wilson, Boise State. The Broncos mostly trampled Oregon in Mario Cristobal's first game coaching the Ducks. Oregon had no answer for Wilson, who racked up 10 catches for 221 yards and a TD.
WR: Gregory Phillips, Purdue. Phillips was a machine in the Foster Farms Bowl, catching 10 passes for 149 yards and two TDs in the win over Arizona.
TE: Cam Serigne, Wake Forest. Serigne played a big role in Wake Forest's Belk Bowl offensive outburst, hauling in nine catches for 112 yards and a TD.
OL: Navy. Virginia returned the opening kick for a touchdown in the Military Bowl, then proceeded to be pulverized by Navy's option attack. Navy didn't complete a pass and rushed 76 times for 452 yards and seven TDs in a 49-7 win.
DL: Da'Ron Payne, Alabama. The 308-pound Payne was part of a dominant effort by the Alabama defensive front against Clemson. He also returned an interception 21 yards, then caught a touchdown pass a few plays later.
DL: Sam Hubbard, Ohio State. The Buckeyes dominated USC's offensive line, and Hubbard stood out the most with 3 ½ tackles for loss.
DL: J.D. Waggoner, Iowa State. Waggoner had two sacks plus another tackle for loss as Iowa State impressively held Memphis to just 20 points in the Liberty Bowl.
LB: Roquan Smith, Georgia. Oklahoma scored 48 points, but Georgia's second-half defensive performance was spectacular. As usual, it was led by Smith, who had a team-high 11 tackles and shut down the Sooners' attempts to run on the perimeter.
LB: Shaquem Griffin, UCF. The Knights shut down Auburn's running game, and Griffin capped a decorated career with 12 tackles and 3 ½ tackles for loss.
LB: Anfernee Jennings, Alabama. Unfortunately, Jennings suffered a knee injury that will prevent him from playing in the national title game. He played a big role in getting Alabama there, as he had three tackles for loss and helped the Crimson Tide defense hold Clemson to six points.
LB: T.J. Brunson, South Carolina. The Gamecocks shut down Michigan and staged a comeback from down 19-3 to win the Outback Bowl. Brunson had 13 tackles and two sacks.
DB: Mark McLaurin, Mississippi State. McLaurin intercepted Lamar Jackson three times, broke up a pass and recorded a team-high 11 tackles in the TaxSlayer Bowl.
DB: Damon Webb, Ohio State. All-America CB Denzel Ward sat out the Cotton Bowl, but, at safety, Webb stepped up with a 23-yard pick-six and a fumble recovery in the win over USC.
DB: Jaron Bryant, Fresno State. Houston had the ball trying to mount a go-ahead drive late in the game down by six, but Bryant intercepted a pass and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown to effectively seal the Hawaii Bowl win.
DB: Desmond Franklin, Appalachian State. Appalachian State shut out Toledo's high-powered offense in one of the most impressive performances of bowl season. Bryant had one of three Mountaineers interceptions, near the goal line, and returned it 35 yards on Toledo's first possession of the second half. The Mountaineers subsequently scored a TD and erased the Rockets' hopes of staging a comeback.
K/P: Michael Dickson, Texas. The nation's best punter showed it in the Texas Bowl against Missouri. Dickson landed a ridiculous 10 punts inside the Tigers' 20-yard line, earning game MVP honors.
AP: Desmon White, TCU. The wide receiver threw a 27-yard TD pass to QB Kenny Hill, caught an 11-yard TD pass from Hill and returned a punt 76 yards for a TD.