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Bowl thoughts and impressions

Thoughts and impressions after spending New Year's Eve watching college football bowl games ...

For sheer drama, it will be hard to beat Clemson's 25-24 victory over LSU in the Chick-fil-A bowl. It was fun to watch Chad Morris' version of the Gus Malzahn offense wear out LSU's defense.

But what did it really mean long-term? Just like all bowl games that don't decide championships, not much.

Auburn's 43-24 win over Virginia in that same bowl created a surge of optimism a year ago. Turned out, the five blowout losses that preceded it meant more. We all know how that story ended.

Four years before that, Tony Franklin installed his offense in nine days and Auburn beat Clemson in overtime in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31, 2007. Before a year had passed, Auburn had gone 5-7, Franklin had been fired at midseason and Tommy Tuberville had resigned as head coach.

In 1998, Alabama had one of its all-time worst bowl performances, falling to Virginia Tech 38-7 in the Music City Bowl. In 1999, Alabama won the SEC championship. In the midst of one of the great runs in SEC history, Alabama's Bear Bryant was winless in eight consecutive bowl games.

The truth is that teams lay eggs in bowl games (see Alabama's loss to Utah in the Sugar Bowl after the 2008 season) and go on to do big things the next season. Teams do great things in bowl games and fall flat the next season. There is nothing to indicate bowl successes or failures significantly impact recruiting, significantly impact preparations moving forward or significantly impact much anything other than the final polls. ...

Southern Cal's arrogance was on full display in the days leading up to Monday's game against Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl. The Trojans were more than an hour late for a required function, leaving Georgia Tech players and officials fuming. Two USC players had to apologize for tweets ridiculing the city of El Paso and the bowl.

Led by head coach Lane Kiffin, the Trojans made it clear they thought their 7-5 record deserved better than playing a 6-7 Georgia Tech team in the Sun Bowl. Georgia Tech, which had to get a waiver just to go to a bowl game, dominated the mighty Trojans and won 21-7.

USC became the first team ever to lose six games after being ranked No. 1 in the preseason polls. And I ask again: What is it about Kiffin that makes people want to hire him? ...

You have to give second-year Vanderbilt coach James Franklin a ton of credit. The Commodores decked turnover-prone North Carolina State 38-24 in the Music City Bowl to win nine games in a season for the first time since 1915.

That's a big deal, for sure. But we probably shouldn't get carried away. The best team the Commodores beat was Ole Miss. They lost 48-3 at Georgia. They had a senior-laden team in a season in which opponents Auburn and Tennessee were far below normal strength, Kentucky didn't win an SEC game and Missouri was bad. North Carolina State, at 7-6, is the only team with winning record they've beaten. Franklin isn't the first Vanderbilt coach to have a good season. No Vanderbilt coach in my lifetime has been able to sustain it. Can Franklin be the first? ...

Until next time ...

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