The best pre-Christmas Day bowl game performances
For the most part, playing a bowl game after Christmas is what you want. With a few exceptions, bowls get increasingly more prestigious as time goes on (check out our free college football expert picks for the remaining schedule). If you’re in a New Year’s bowl, for example, you probably had yourself a nice little regular season. Alas, there are so many postseason contests these days that not everyone can participate post-New Year’s or even post-Christmas. Someone has to play in the Tropical Café Smoothie Frisco Bowl, the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, and the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl.
Through New Year’s Eve, 10 bowl games have come and gone—11 if you count the Celebration Bowl. Let’s take a look at some of the best performances.
Rashad Smith, Linebacker, Florida Atlantic
When it comes to a 52-28 scoreline, a player on the defensive side of the ball is generally not the star. Smith was, however, just that in FAU’s rout SMU in the aforementioned Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl. The senior capped off his career with 11 team-leading 11 tackles (nine solo) and two fumble recoveries, one of which was returned for a 34-yard touchdown to give the Owls a 42-14 lead going into the fourth quarter. Without head coach Lane Kiffin (left for Ole Miss), FAU had no trouble wrapping up its season in style—thanks in large part to Smith.
Darrynton Evans, Running back, Appalachian State
If you want to remain alive in your bowl pool heading into the College Football Playoff, you have to start somewhere. That somewhere for all intents and purposes was last Friday, when it would have been a rough start to people’s bowl pools if Appalachian State had lost to UAB in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. After all, the Mountaineers were favored by a whopping 17 points and were thus a trendy pick on which to wager the max 40 or 41 points in confidence pools. Evans was not about to let his team disappoint. The junior made the most of his 19 rushing attempts, turning them into 157 yards (8.3 average) and one touchdown. That helped App State win the time of possession battle by almost six minutes…and, much more importantly, win the game (31-17 after trailing 14-0 at the end of one quarter).
Cole McDonald, Quarterback, Hawaii
It will be a fun Christmas in the McDonald household—and in the entire Hawaii household. On Christmas Eve, McDonald led the Rainbow Warriors to a 38-34 victory over BYU in the Sofi Hawaii Bowl. It was a positively wild one, with the home team blowing two different 14-point leads (14-0 and 21-7) en route to a 34-31 fourth-quarter deficit. McDonald, however, delivered his fourth touchdown pass of the evening from 24 yards out with 1:17 remaining to provide for the final 38-34 margin. The junior went 28-for-46 for 493 yards with four TDs and no interceptions.